Chris took me way up the north Island for my birthday. It’s a secret spot, and the only clue I can give you is what a couple of surfers we met up there said they tell people: “It’s east of Port Hardy.” Let me know if you really, really want to know where it is, and I’ll trade you for some smoked fish or something.
We arrived in the dark, hoping the cabin wouldn’t already be taken. But there was a car in the parking lot, so—out of luck. It turned out to be the best thing that could’ve happened, though. The weather was so great that weekend, warm and sunny, that it would’ve been a shame to be holed up in the cabin for most of it.
A five-minute hike through cedars and salal, we stumbled across a few tent platforms just above the beach, and set up there. Chris built a fire, we had some wine, and then we were done for the night. Driving 6 hours, the last part on logging roads, finding a brand new spot, and setting up in the dark takes it out of you. But there we were, all set up for the rest of the weekend.
Chris made us an awesome breakfast of bacon-egg muffins and coffee & Bailey’s. I wandered off with coffee, the way I always do, and explored the beach in both directions. Around the headland to the north was a small beach packed with driftwood logs, and no route to go farther. That seemed unbelievable to me, but when we saw the headland from a different vantage point later on, I saw that it really was a dead end. To the south, I went and found the trail over the southern headland, that would take us to the cabin. It would’ve been tough to find in the dark; it starts at the end of a rock crevasse.
We had a lazy morning, and then packed a lunch and water and raingear, and headed south to explore. After some bushwhacking and a few wrong turns, and some separations punctuated with “My darling! Where are you?? It’s this way!” we got on the right trail. Beach, woods, beach, woods, beach . . . Every beach different. A huge plastic fishing float, covered with net, came into sight around the next corner, and we’d reached the cabin.
It’s just a squatter’s cabin, popular with surfers, and anyone can stay there if they can find it. There’s a wave out front that works sometimes, and another good wave about a 45 minute hike to the south. We stayed and had a beer with the two guys who were there that weekend, a South African and an Australian. They live in Vancouver, but spend a lot of time in Tofino and the rest of Vancouver Island, anywhere they can find surf.
The beach outside the cabin was great for beach glass, and I spent a long time collecting while the boys hung out.
A huge rain and wind storm blew through that evening, but Chris had already cooked most of the meal. I found a few tarp poles and he pulled out the big tarp, and we stayed warm and dry by the fire. You can’t go wrong with fire-cooked steak with shallots and potatoes. The next day was the warmest. We wandered our beach again, and it felt like early summer. I’m pretty sure we saw the blows of an early grey whale, on its migration from Baja to Alaska. Best birthday ever.