Day 3 – San Josef Bay: Seastacks, Bears, Vows & Other Oddities

San Josef Bay

The darkening clouds above a seastack, San Josef Bay

On Day 3 of our trip we decided to drive to Cape Scott Provincial Park, on the very northwestern end of the island. Not too far from Port Hardy, the road turns into the bumpiest, pot-holed, gravelly unpaved road which takes about an hour and a half to cross. Luckily, unpaved roads are Alex’s thing and he didn’t seem to mind. As a matter of fact, I think he was eager to see what his recently purchased (but used) Toyota 4 Runner could do.

Be prepared for the unexpected

A sign presumably warning about the logging in the area

black bear

A Black Bear up close

shoe tree, vancouver island

Marcy taking a photo of the “shoe tree”

On the way we were lucky to see a bear on the side of the road (the first of four we’d see that day, but the only one I was able to photograph). I think someone told me that bears out number people on that part of the island. He (or she) was so cool, just grazing along the side of the road, as calm as you please, despite a vehicle with excited passengers watching its every move. We also passed several lovely lakes and a couple other oddities, like the “shoe tree” where tons of shoes cover what was once a very tall tree, and Ronning’s Garden, where we would stop on the way back.

Crossing a bridge on the trail to San Josef Bay

San Josef Bay

River reflection of the perpetually cloudy sky

San Josef Bay

David admiring the large ferns growing on the bottom of an enormous fallen tree

This day was as rainy and grey as all of the other days so far, maybe even more so, but we were pretty undaunted. We parked at the trail head and hiked the easy 2.5km trail to the bay, passing some enormous trees, ferns and other rainforest/woodland features.

San Josef Bay

The large sandy beach at San Josef Bay

San Josef Bay Seastacks

The unique and mysterious looking seastacks

San Josef Bay

The green plants growing on the beach

San Josef Bay

The caves at the north end of the beach

Me photographing Marcy photographing Alex

One of the neatest things about San Josef Bay are the gorgeous and somewhat mysterious rock pillars, cliffs and caves at the north end. At low tide you can walk across a sand bridge to the second beach, and to a coupld of other outcroppings, which we would explore later. Today we just took tons of pictures of the seastack, enjoyed the huge stretch of sand and admired this remarkable natural area shared by only a few other people.

false chanterelle mushrooms

One of the many picturesque mushrooms flourishing in the forest

Ronning's Garden

The sign for Ronning’s Garden at the parking area

Ronning's Garden

The cultivation of little monkey trees

On our way back later in the day, we stopped and hiked the half mile to Ronning’s Garden, with its unusual trees, shrubs and flowers. Being early fall, there wasn’t too much in bloom, but it still a pleasant surprise to come upon so much cultivated beauty seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Luckily there was an informational sign and pamphlets so we could give ourselves a self-guided tour (and someone even thoughtfully provided deet-free insect repellant). A pamphlet mentioned that one of the crowning glories of the garden were a matched pair of huge male and female monkey trees. However, one must have been damaged and removed because there was only a single tree left. Alex and Marcy have a monkey tree in their front yard, which I think they had been debating about whether to keep (monkey tree branches are covered in very sharp thorny leaves). I think seeing the one here gave them greater appreciation for their own.

Port Hardy, Vancouver Island

An evening shot from the Port Hardy wharf #1

Port Hardy, Vancouver Island

An evening shot from the Port Hardy wharf #2

We returned pretty late and stopped into Port Hardy to buy steaks and asparagus to grill for dinner. Being an island, there is just so much beautiful water everywhere. David and I walked out onto the wharf and admired the evening colors before returning to the cabin. Alex decided that this was the night he wanted to surprise Marcy with some specialty items we had packed secretly for just this purpose, including string lights, many candles and champagne. Once dinner was grilling and Marcy was in the shower the three of us scrambled to clean up, set out the dinner table, and hang lights all around. It worked out pretty well and she was definitely surprised. That night, after dinner, they exchanged their thoughtful and beautifully written private vows. It was quite a night. For them, September 3rd is going to be the day they will celebrate as their “true” wedding anniversary for the rest of their lives.

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2 Responses to “Day 3 – San Josef Bay: Seastacks, Bears, Vows & Other Oddities”


  1. 1 gen6tex September 12, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your photos. I used to live in western washington and almost forgot how beautiful it is up there.

  2. 2 Don May 30, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Your blog / pics gave me goosebumps, I have a place in Winter Harbour that I visit frequently and San Josef Bay is one of my favorite sites in amongst all that beauty…..


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