Walking on the empty beach this morning under a blue sky, feeling the warm round pebbles under our feet and watching the waves pick themselves up and flop onto the shore, we decided to stay another night here. I mean really this is as good as it gets so why rush off. We packed up and saw an empty space backing onto the sea so I wandered over with a lawn chair to reserve it, just as a couple on a Harley pulled in to it. Rats. I really wanted to look over the sea but it turned out they had stopped for coffee and were only too happy to let us move over. Philippa dropped the money for the space into the slot and we set off for another hike.
Back we went up the rollercoaster road, past the Skyline trailhead and on for another ten minutes or so to a parking area for the Fishermen’s Cove trail. There was one other car parked there. Perfect. This trail is altogether longer and steeper than yesterday’s. The guides differ on exactly how long it is but we are sticking with the one that says its a 9.8 mile round trip to a cove that had a tiny fishing village in it decades ago.
We began in a high meadow with tall grasses almost obscuring the narrow track and as we worked our way down into the valley the white barked birches grew more dense, as did the bleached skeletons of long dead spruce and fir trees. Thick brush lay all arond, a tangle of rotting tree limbs and ferns. The trail was steep and rocky – boggy in places – cutting along the side of a steep sided valley and narrow enough to feel like a goat track in places. A river the colour of tea crashed about in the bottom. There were piles of moose dung all over the place and we disturbed some little brown snakes which shot out of our way and then sat still on the slope hoping not to have been seen. The sun was hot but dappled through the trees and a cool breeze made twigs creak and grasses swish.
Two hours later we emerged beside a perfect steep-sided cove; orange cliffs topped with green foliage plunging into a sweep of azure water. The river had widened and deepened and was held back by a natural dam of beach pebbles to for a dark pool which rushed through a narrow channel into the sea. We could see a couple of people on the far side of the cove and a young guy at one of the wooden camping platforms, but that was it. We all changed into swimming gear and tried the river, which was freezing, then the sea, which was surprisingly warm. So many beaches here bill themselves as the warmest north of Florida or Virginia, but the water really was nice.
The young lad came down to point out a Bald Eagle sitting regally on a dead branch with shoulders like a fifties suit. Such a big solid bird with its white head and thick yellow beak. When it flew off, it simply extended its big wings and flapped once, then soared around the headland. Later we watched birds we thought were kingfishers flitting along the cliffs. One had a silver flash of fish in its mouth. The pebbles were hot from the sun and I lay back and dozed while Philippa swam and Tom discovered a real actual dinosaur skeleton. It was a rare and beautiful place. Higher up on the grassy slope of the headland there were big piles of stones which must have been something to do with the original settlement. It would have been a peaceful place to live that’s for sure.
The walk back was hard work but felt quicker somehow. On a new route, your brain is always wondering whether you are nearly there and what’s round the corner. On the way back it seems to just relax and let you get there, ticking off the big rock with the moss or that dead tree as you pass. There was one strange thing though. At one point we came across a long dead tree which had split and fallen across the path and which hadn’t been there on the way down. Embedded in it was a rusty old spade and lying on the trunk, the broken spade handle. It too was rusted and pitted iron, with an ancient weather-worn wooden handle. It almost looked as if the tree had fallen with the spade stuck in it, snapping the handle off as it did so. It was a very strange sight and we couldn’t work it out.
Despite the plentiful evidence of moose we never did see one but it was a great walk and we pulled some ice-creams out of Harvey’s freezer in the dusty car park.
We drove back through the early evening sunshine, enjoying the fact that as it is now Sunday night, we seem to be sharing the park with far fewer people. We hardly saw another car, just a group of bikers by the roadside, one of whom gave us an enormous grin as we passed. Bikers seem to notice Harvey.
Back at the campside we backed into our spot overlooking the sea, with the lowering sun creating a brilliant strip of golden light across the waves. We saw the tail end of some dolphins vanishing around the point and whale spouts off in the distance – fin whales coming up from the deep. We couldn’t quite see the whales though the people next to us did. We also saw lots of seals swimming together just offshore. I don’t think I have ever seen them swimming in groups like that before but there were several groups of five to ten, all swimming in the same direction across our bay, rolling in the waves and looking over to us from time to time.
Tom went to bed very late after we all watched the sublime “Up”, with its story of love and adventure. I pulled him out of his covers so we could all see the stars outside. The air was clear and the sky was a pricked with a million tiny lights. Days don’t get much better than this.