My Life on Vancouver Island
Story: Charity Munro
Photos: James Wood
My life on Vancouver Island has been framed by Nootka Island & Friendly Cove
When I was a young girl my family traveled to Nootka on our boat, as we lived in the married quarters in a logging camp in Kendrick Arm. I was visiting Friendly Cove during the 70s, climbing up the enormous chain ladder from our 21 foot boat, strolling through the sweet aroma of wild roses (still my favourite smell in the world), and playing with the endless bounty of beautiful polished stones on the beach. When I had the chance to do the Nootka trail 15 years ago, I jumped on it. It was my first multi-day hike and one of the best ever and I was able to spend my birthday at Friendly Cove with friends.
In the 70s, Stoltze Logging in Kendrick Arm had a thriving community of families, a one-room schoolhouse, and an outside play structure for the little ones. John Barton, one of the best teachers I ever had, helped lead us through the mud flats on Narnia adventures and read to us tirelessly. I am a teacher today partly because of him. The Uchuck featured predominantly during this time, as our family used it as transportation. The boat would pull up to our camp dock and the large arm would pick up our family van, placing it directly on the deck. While we sailed, us children (who were largely unsupervised), ran amuck throughout the ship finding nooks and crannies to crawl up on or hang out in.
This July, I met James. It was clear immediately that we had everything in common. I was surprised that was even possible. He is a stone sculptor and painter who adores dogs (combined we now have three), mushrooms, being outside and finding out-of-the-way places to explore. I am a high school teacher who plays in several bands – we both call ourselves rock stars! We met on July 4th and moved in together by the end of the month. There seemed to be no need to jump through standard relationship hoops when we were ready to leap into adventures and a life together. Early on James mentioned the Nootka Trail and I didn’t think twice about accepting an invitation to do it again. He is also a fossil hunter who studied academic papers on the fossil findings on Nootka Island. We were not going to let a chance go by to find some fossils on this six-day hike, so we brought the ‘lightest’ hammer/pick tool we could. Our pilot, Scott, raised an eyebrow to see us board the plane with such a heavy item, but he’s likely seen many strange things in his time flying in the area. This being James’ first flight, he sat up front, asking many questions about the Island and noting formations below that would likely be fossil-friendly.
Our hike on Nootka was amazing and magical. We hiked beaches and headlands, often holding hands or dallying among the stunning tidal pools, rock formations and rock concretions, which promised to hold treasures. We walked detours around rooting bears and experienced a wolf three feet outside the tent window. At times, we dropped our packs to make our way for, what seemed a kilometer, out on the shale to get to the ocean waves. Looking back where we came from, we could no longer see the spot we left our things but got a wonderful view of the beach we had just been traversing. We stopped many times to look for concretions and break some open in order to find the coolest fossil crabs. And we did. So we added them to our pack, along with the other fossils we discovered. It didn’t matter how much we ate, our packs became heavier by the day. I believe we left Nootka with 35 pounds of rock. In the evenings, we were often on our own beach, watching the myriad of birds, listening to the waves and talking about big ideas, little ideas, silly ideas, and our future plans.
Showing James a part of my childhood and my spiritual connection to Nootka was important to me. He fell in love with the headlands, tidal pools and vast landscape, believing it to be the most meaningful trip he has ever taken. Being able to hike the trail with the love of my life was a gift neither of us will ever forget.