Explore: Sombrio Beach

The sultry voices of the Ladies of the Canyon filled the Jeep as I slid my foot from the gas to the brake to enter another curve.  Tall evergreens crowded close to the road, moss coating the rocks and logs between the trees.  I pressed my foot to the gas as we came out of the curve, pushing the odometer just past 70—as fast as the windy road would allow.  On the map, this road was marked as a “secondary highway,” which always made me compare it to secondary highways in Alberta and laugh.

It was Wednesday afternoon and we were en route to Sombrio Beach, just a couple hours south of Victoria.  In front of us, Sunshine rode with her five-year-old friend and her dad (our neighbours) in a black Toyota 4Runner.  Behind me, Lily was fast asleep—she’d crashed within twenty minutes of driving.  Beside me, my husband was trying to catch up on some fun reading before he started classes again on Monday.  Other than the Ladies of the Canyon, the Jeep was silent, and I was basking in that—and the fun of driving a windy road through a forest.

I’d waffled back and forth about this trip for most of a week, thinking about the work involved in camping—packing, unpacking, cleaning, organizing.  On Tuesday, the girls had a bad night and I woke up with a bad cold.  The prospect of another sleepless night in a tent wasn’t appealing.

But at 11 am, I found myself flying around our house, filling fuel bottles for the stove and debating whose backpack we should stuff all the gear into.  (My husband’s, of course; I had to carry Lily.)  By 1 pm, we were on the road, despite the fact that Sunshine wasn’t her usual energetic, happy self.  She hadn’t thrown up, and she didn’t want to cancel the trip, so I said go for it.

At Sombrio Beach, we hiked our gear the ten minutes down the hill from the parking lot to the beach.  Then I waited with the three girls while their daddies went to look for a place to pitch camp.  A group of tents already occupied the grassy space above the beach that our neighbour had been thinking of.  A man in a black wetsuit bobbed on a surfboard in the grey water, making me shiver just watching him.

When the men returned, we carted our gear over to the clearing they’d found—just around the corner from the outhouse and the food cache, behind a couple trees, and up from the beach.  We set up our tents (avoiding the swampiest part of the clearing), spread out our sleeping bags, and then headed back to the beach to make a fire.

Our neighbour is an ex-smoke jumper from northern BC, so he managed to turn some dry moss and pieces of drift wood into a crackling fire.  I made Kraft dinner on our camp stove and we ate, then stashed our things behind a log and went exploring.

Sunshine still had little energy, but wanted to follow her friend. Lily alternated between the baby carrier on my back and trying to chase the older girls.  My husband and I watched the waves crashing over a whale-shaped rock while the girls played on a log.  We followed the beach around a corner, stopping to peer into tide pools or climb over water-carved boulders, before following a trail away from the beach.

Our neighbour had told us about the waterfall, so as we followed a small stream into a narrowing crack in the cliffs, I was expecting something pretty.  The waterfall was still amazing—a sheet of misty water plunging from the mossy cliff above our heads to a pool below, then running down into the stream that we’d zigzagged across in our quest for the waterfall.

The men stuck their heads in the cold water while I watched the girls giggling.  Spray filled the air around us.  It was easy to see how the water had carved itself back further and further into the cliffs.

From there, we visited a natural cave, clambering over and under rocks until we were hiding under the cliffs in a clam-shaped area.  Loose rocks dotted the sandy floor while the beginnings of stalactites dripped from the ceiling.  I was curious about what the rest of the beach held, but tired children necessitated a hike back to our fire.  The promise of marshmallows kept the girls going, though our neighbour had to start the fire again when we returned.

As I lay in the tent that night, the smell of smoke in my hair and the taste of roasted marshmallows on my tongue, listening to the waves roar as they rolled in and out and in and out, it didn’t matter that I’d have a lot of laundry and dishes to wash when we got home.  It didn’t matter than raindrops were pattering against the tent now, or that our tent was on a slope so my sleeping bag kept sliding down.

The waterfall, the cave, the beach, the chance to hang out with my family and friends—that was all worth it.  And so as we left Sombrio Beach on Thursday morning, I said it was a successful first camping trip of the season, because we’ll be back.

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