Ucluelet

When I look at this photo, the first thought that always comes to my mind is not my cousins or hiking or a crashed plane.  No, the first thought is of wet, cold, black, sucking mud. 

On a cousin’s weekend in April of 2015, we had a beach side condo in Ucluelet, Sherrie who was working in Uke that year had won a weekend at the condo through a local contest.  The second-floor deck had patio chairs, a soft sided hot tub and overlooked the ocean inlet.  We explored the town, not fully open for tourists yet, some restaurants and galleries still closed, but enough happening to be an interesting walk.  We walked the long sandy beaches, watched the spring surfers.  We did all the usual hikes, up to the light house, over to Black Rock Resort, the marina.  One narrow trail up a mountain side found us on a platform that stretched out from the cliff overlooking Chesterman beach, the platform had an old couch on it, we did not sit, just imagine what might have been living in it.

Sherrie was absorbed in her newfound love of photography and mentioned how she wanted to get some shots of the downed WWII bomber that was in the woods, she knew where the trail entrance was but hadn’t wanted to go in alone. Tammy and I were up for adventures, so we all decided to hike into the site that afternoon.  During the war, the Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 was a long-range patrol bomber that was flown out of Ucluelet and Tofino, patrolling up and down the Coast looking for submarines and enemy ships.  It remains where it crashed in 1945, in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

I read recently that there are now boardwalks installed all the way to the plane site, but this was not the case when we went.  We parked the car at the Radar Hill parking lot. After a walk up the highway counting the telephone poles to number 15, we found the path leading in.  The first part of the hike was decent, taking us to the old cement bunker that had been used to house radar and radios during the war.  Now it is a canvass for graffiti, inside and out, dark, dank, and dripping.  After exploring the bunker, we continued downhill, through to the trail that would guide us to the plane crash site.  There were a few markers, even a rope for part of the way but also lots of game trails, it would be so easy to get on the wrong path.   The trail quickly dissolved into a mud bog layered with rotting roots and tree branches.  We met a few young surfer types coming out on our way in, they would grin at us and say, “keep going you are almost there!”  They were probably amused at seeing three 50 something women venturing in, knowing what we were in for.  For the first part of this bog walk, we carefully picked our way finding a dry spot, hopping onto a rock, then stepping to the next slippery log or dry spot.  We all had socks and running shoes on, boots would have been the better choice.  The time and effort to find dryer spots to walk on became more and more impossible till there came a point when I thought, “roll up your pant legs and just walk Kim, walk right through what ever is there” and so it became the mud walk.  Mud up to our shins and knees, sucking our feet down, pulling each foot up and out with each step, a slog through the mud for 2 km’s one way!  When we came across what appeared to be a perfectly round pond in the middle of the bog, we knew were getting close, this was the site of one of the bombs that had been unloaded before the plane crashed. 

By this time there was only us, sucking mud, and dripping trees on the trail.  Finally, we caught the first sight of our destination. The plane hung precariously in the trees, nose down, tail up, surprisingly in tack after 70 years of hanging there.  I remember the quiet of the space, and an unexpected feeling of reverence.  There were signs not to climb on or in the plane, we read the plaque that told the story of the crash, 12 on board, no lives lost.  I was struck by the thought that during the war, the damage to countries throughout Europe was so catastrophic. Being a continent away, our own countryside, our buildings and monuments remained unscathed.  And yet here in the middle of the rainforest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, was a small sampling piece of the destruction from the war. 

Sherrie who had packed her precious camera through the treacherous trail, got it out and started snapping. She set it carefully on a log with the timer set, racing back to get our photo together.

Now, for the hike back to the highway, the incentive no longer was about adventure and discovery, now it was getting out of these muddy socks, washing feet, and sinking into the hot tub with a glass of wine!

4 thoughts on “Ucluelet”

  1. Great story Kim. We have been there a couple of times and I don’t think we knew about the plane…. I know for sure we were up on Radar Hill so must have been close ?? Sent from my iPad

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