As the parents of young children, we’ve spent much of the last six years in search of beaches. At the start of the 4:00 crazy hour(s), we sought out beaches. On what-should-we do-today weekend days, we sought out beaches. On short boat trips, we anchored and immediately went ashore to explore the beaches. When we traveled to the UK and Iceland two years ago, we wisely booked our rooms on beaches. And when we started on this new boat adventure, we expected to be going from beach to beach with our sand-crazy kids. But expectations are meant to be dashed, I suppose, and we have found it difficult to find that elusive sand.
After heading north from our San Juan Islands backyard, we found no end to oyster strewn beaches, kelp-covered rocks, and expansive low tide mud flats covered in bivalves. We would see a light strip of land from afar, point Tinker in its direction, and then feel our faces drop as the light color was yet more oyster and barnacle shells, crammed in so tightly together that they looked like white sand from a distance.
The kids, to their credit, learned to walk carefully on those rocky oyster beaches, and they are becoming more adept at at navigating slippery kelp covered rocks (not without some falls along the way). But mud flats are now avoided, as we have had to retrieve one too many shoes from the mud and had to carry overwhelmed kids one too many sticky steps back to real land. And so we are willing to drive our little Tinker around every inch of an anchorage to find any hidden strip of sand.
One of the great joys of the west coast of Vancouver Island – other than its stunning desolate beauty – has been the reappearance of sand. Real sand. Sand castle sand. Sink-your-toes-into-the-softness sand. I never realized sand could be stunning. The joy on Dylan’s face as doffed his shoes and ran around on a strip of silk in the Bunsby Islands was priceless. “Mommy, this is the best sand in the whole world!” he joyfully declared. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – and more appreciative.
Rugged Point Marine Provincial Park at the entrance to Kyuquot Sound was a child’s heaven. A long, powdery gray beach stretched for a mile in front of our wavy-but-worth-it anchorage. Dylan happily rolled in the powder and ran down the beach in utter amazement. A short half mile hike to the ocean side of the park opened up a wild playground for the boys. Beach after beach of “rainbow sand” (Dylan’s term) extended for miles upon this shore, separated only by small volcanic peninsulas covered by low-tide abundance.
And as a friend drove us back to Ucluelet from Tofino yesterday evening, we got a glimpse of the extensive sands of Long Beach. Crowds spread out over the sand and the rows of low waves. It was heartbreaking to have to say no to Dylan, who wanted so badly to run down the precious sand and leap into the low surf.
The kids aren’t yet wondering about the geologic reasons why a watery terrain so dotted with rocky reefs and pillars can also be home to the softest, sandiest beaches. They aren’t yet wondering why some beaches are white, some are gray, and some are mottled rainbow. They might later. For now, they are simply experiencing the pure joy of a resource whose value we used to take for granted.
Beaches are likely to be more common along our route as we head south to Mexico and hopefully across the South Pacific, but I hope none of us will ever forget the happiness that these beautiful strips of sand have provided us on this too-brief shakedown cruise around Vancouver Island.