British Columbia Hot Springs

Hot Springs Cove: A Hot Time in the City Tonight

Tuesday, August 13, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

We departed Rae Basin this morning, running into heavy fog as we exited Hesquiat Harbour, and made way for our next destination, Hot Springs Cove.  With less than 100 feet of visibility, it was a little nerve wracking, to say the least, but something we’ve grown accustom to in the month that we’ve been cruising these waters.   

Once inside the cove, it was sunny and warm.  And busy.  After days of solitude and peace and quiet along the“wild coast”, nothing can quite prepare you for the immediate assault on the senses from the hustle and bustle of water taxis, whale watching boats and the endless arrival and departure of float planes with groups of tourists aboard.  It begs the question: where’s the solitude now?  So we spent the afternoon sitting in the cockpit watching the constant flow of arrivals and departures, attempting to make it fit within our experiences of sailing down the West Coast, but it was an impossible task.

As the name implies, Hot Springs Cove is home to a natural hot spring, the only one along the coast, and is an incredibly popular spot during the summer months.  The best advice to visiting yachts is to go to the pools in the morning or evening in order to avoid the crowds, so we waited patiently for the tourists to leave before making the trip . . . but not without some resentment.  We worked hard to get here and the fact that you can walk up to window in nearby Tofino and purchase a ticket simply doesn’t seem right . . . or fair.  But it is what it is.
The boardwalk leading to the hot springs

The trail to the pools consists of a two-kilometre stretch of wood boardwalk that takes you through a beautiful section of coastal rain forest, a highlight of the park that’s often overlooked.  Many of the planks have been carved with the names of boats that have visited the over the years, a tradition first started by the fishermen who sought refuge from bad weather in the cove.  Some have been professionally crafted while others are merely a rudimentary attempt at leaving a mark behind.  But they all make for interesting reading during the 30-minute hike to the hot springs.

The hot springs at quieter times

The water that feeds the spring travels along a fault, five kilometres deep, where it’s heated before pressure forces it back to the surface through fractured rock at a temperature of about 50° C (122° F) – a little too hot for comfortable bathing.  The smell of sulfur hangs in the air and steam rises from a creek that finds its way down a ten-foot granite wall before spilling into three rocky pools that form small tubs, each with a decreasing temperature, on its way to the Pacific Ocean.  I’m sure under the right circumstances it’s very beautiful, but our timing was bad.  The Pacific Swift, part of a summer sailing program for kids, had arrived in the anchorage while we were eating dinner and made their way to the hot spring – all 39 of them – without our realizing it.  The pools, which can hold 10 to 15 people comfortably, were littered with bodies and it was difficult to find a spot to squeeze into; but we managed and had a nice chat with one of the volunteers aboard the ship who told us more about the program, which certainly has merit (even if it does impose on your own personal adventure). 

We’d hope to steal away a few minutes on our own, but by the time the SALTS group left, it was getting dark and we were overheating so we made the long trek back to the dock with the aid of dimming flashlights feeling somewhat disappointed.  Back aboard Cambria, we sat on the deck of the boat and watched the beautiful square-rigger swing at anchor in the moonlight while we discussed our plans.  With the realization that we’re more than half way through our trip, our reluctance to move on has grown (along with our desire to gain some space between ourselves and the Pacific Swift) and the decision came easily – we’ll give Hot Springs Cove another chance while we wait out some strong southeasterlies and higher seas that are forecasted to move through the area.

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