We spent Easter weekend in Tahsis, a small town, and I do mean small, at the end of Vancouver Island. It was good to get away, and the company was great, but in some respects it was a troubling trip.
On the way there we saw two dogs who’d been killed by a car. The black lab and white husky lay at the side of the highway, a few feet apart, and there was something ineffably sad about the two of them lying there, an indefinable sense of betrayal.
Our first look at Tahsis was almost shocking. I’m not sure what we expected it to look like. Perhaps like a small version of Tofino, studded with beautiful teens in wetsuits and picturesque people in gumboots. Not so.
Tahsis greets the new arrival with the most sorry-ass waterfront I’ve ever seen. There’s a large derelict mill on one side and huge refuse piles of colour-coordinated tin, the remains of another bankrupt mill, on the other side.
Tahsis is, or rather it was, a logging town. It calls itself the “birthplace of BC” because it’s where Cook first landed his ship. It looked to me like the Town That Ate Itself, huddling as it does at the end of a long narrow inlet. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, all of which have been ravaged by logging, the town is desolate. Most of the houses are in disprepair and “For Sale By Owner” signs hang crookedly from every second one.
We stayed at a little motel that was clean and quiet. The few locals we met informed us that this was the “off-season”, but there was something about their astonishment at our presence that made me suspect every season in Tahsis is the off-season.
Decent food was hard to come by at any of the three establishments (two of them bars) that offered menus. Perhaps it was an off-season thing, but neither of the two places we tried seemed able to cook a potato. We had hashbrowns that managed to be both cold and burnt for breakfast and french fries that had an odd white cast to them that made their odd, chewily uncooked texture even more offputting. I asked for a grilled cheese sandwich (a bulletproof item in most of your more basic dining establishments) and was told “there’s no bread”.
We drove up a winding old logging road for a picnic at a high viewpoint that sat in the midst of a giant clearcut. The drive was heartbreaking, the violence done to the landscape almost pornographic. But, hell, that was some view of the inlet.
On our last morning, we took a boat out to Friendly Cove, which is at the tip of Nootka Island. It was an idyllic spot with a lighthouse perched on the point, paths overhung with Nootka rose in full bloom, and a softly pounding surf gleaming in the sun. The weather was in full global warming mode, a freakishly hot 23 degrees, a hundred year high, making even Friendly Cove seemed tentative and endangered in its beauty.
On the way back, we stopped when we saw what we thought was a dolphin. To our shock the fin came straight for us and we realized it was Luna, or L98. http://www.reuniteluna.com/ He’s the young killer whale who was separated from his pod three years ago.
Luna swam up, rubbed himself all over the boat to our awe and consternation. People aren’t supposed to interact with Luna. He’s been hurt by boat propellors, had a near miss with a float plane and been endangered by the stupidity of people (like the one in Gold River who tried to put a beer bottle in his blowhole). Soon Luna will be captured by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the hopes of reintroducing him to his pod.
We’d all read about Luna but hadn’t expected to see him. He was friendly in a desperate and vulnerable sort of way that made us feel weirdly guilty and sad. At one point, he rolled on his side and stared up at us with his little eye. I wanted to warn him. “Humans are awful Luna. Swim! Swim away!” But instead we watched him and felt him push the boat around in a companionable fashion and worried about hurting him when we had to leave. Something about the whole situation reminded me of the dogs we’d seen on the way into town.
Good luck Luna.