After hitching a 2 hour ride down the logging road out of Port Alberni— full of potholes, narrow bridges, and enormous trucks— I arrived in Bamfield East. I had no good reason to go there, other than how I didn’t know a single thing about the place. I had even failed to realize that the road I would be taking wasn’t paved. All I knew was that it was there, at the end of the road, and that I wanted to be at the edge of the world. Also, there was only a 40% possibility of the precipitation, compared to the 70% in Ucluelet. That’s mostly why I went there.
I stepped out of the car under gloomy grey skies and wandered down to a park. The streets were empty, lined with boarded up buildings and boat trailers, and the park was not exactly worth the trip. It came as a shock when I ran into a woman getting the campground ready for summer.
“You can’t just come all this way and not see Bamfield West,” she said, as she poured gas into a generator. Bamfield West, she explained, was definitely the cooler half of town, but it was on a peninsula with no over-land access. The water taxi was 5 bucks, and once I was there, I could apparently walk wherever I wanted to go. She handed me a map and told me to go to the general store and ask them to call the guy who owned the boat for me.
I was a little nervous, because I had my sleeping bag hanging off the bottom of my giant backpack, and according to the map, there wasn’t anywhere to camp. However, the man greeted me with a smile and gave me directions to Brady’s Beach, mentioning that there was a water tap there, and I could put my tent right on the sand.
He asked me what I was looking for, and I told him I was trying to get to the end of the earth. He said, “Well, Japan’s out there somewhere.”
To sum it all up simply, Bamfield West is awesome…
There’s a mini Bamfield for Cats!
The public toilets are composting, covered in fish facts and called tree houses!
I went into not one, but two abandoned cabins with the doors sitting wide open!
The tidal pools are off the hook! Botanical Beach has nothing on this place.
And you actually can camp right down on the beach. As long as you’re respectful, the locals are happy to see you, and there’s nobody to enforce rules, even if there were any.
Speaking of locals, I met a couple wonderful ones. The first was an older man named Les, who lived in a home known among his friends as “Les Vegas” because of his pool table and weekly poker nights. He had a dog that ran right up to me and sat down, waiting to be pet. Les pointed at the pile of wood I’d gathered and asked me if I had a hatchet. When I said no, he asked if I at least a had a good knife. I told him that I’d forgot mine in Vancouver, but was getting by alright. Then, he looked at me like I was an idiot and launched in to a fire building 101 lesson, starting with the principle of burning small sticks before you try burning bigger sticks. I cut him off telling him that I’d been a girl guide and that this wasn’t my first rodeo. He shut up and got me to follow him into one of those abandoned cabins I mentioned, where he kept a stash of cardboard for fire starting.
“I spent my first night here camping on the beach too,” he said, “Now I’ve been here 15 years. That’ll probably happen to you.”
Later, once I had my fire going, a guy about my age walked by with a can of beer in his hand. I thought he looked like fun, and wanted him to sit down, so I said hi maybe a little too enthusiastically, but he kept walking. So I carried on shamelessly talking out loud to myself (which is a hobby that I’ve recently gotten very, very into) until the guy came walking back the other way. He came right up to me, sat down at my fire, threw a few extra logs on it, and offered me one of his beers. He worked for the West Coast Trail and through a beautiful coincidence of small town magic, turned out to be the son of the last guy I’d talked to. We ended up hanging out until 2 o’clock in the morning, huddling around the fire, long after the light faded and the rain started falling.
The next morning I woke up to about 50 children swarming the beach in matching life jackets. When one of them yelled, “Hey, there’s a tent!”, I figured it was time to leave. As I packed up, I decided that Brady’s Beach is quite possibly my favourite beach of all time. And we all know how hard I love my beaches.