I hiked the Tapaltos Beach & Cape Beale Lighthouse trail last weekend in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. We drove up Friday evening after work and stayed at the drive in Pachena Bay campsite as we did on the previous trip to Keeha Bay. On that visit back in April this campsite was empty, and on this trip it was packed to the rafters! I guess the camping season is officially open. We made camp and then played campfire bingo, walking around and chatting to to the various campers on the beach. Most were there to party and drink for the weekend, but everyone was fresh and friendly on Friday night so we had some good interactions.
In the morning we broke camp and head into Bamfield for a great breakfast at the Tides and Trails Cafe. We also took our time exploring the harbour in Bamfield. Before leaving town we head out to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre a shared campus of the Universities of Victoria, British Columbia, Alberta, Calgary, and Simon Fraser University. There were many students around as the centre provides laboratory space and can support marine research in a variety of disciplines. We popped into the campus cafe and had a final coffee before heading to the trailhead.
The Tapaltos Beach & Cape Beale Lighthouse trail is closely related to the Keeha Bay Trail which we did a month ago, as they share the same trailhead. On this trip we made the right turn at the Keeha Bay and Cape Beale fork. The trail was about as rugged as the Keeha Bay trail, but it was slightly less wet then our last trip. This trail also benefits from not being wedged between a lake and a marsh. The hike is short, only 3km from the trailhead to the beach, but it took us roughly 2 hours with packs navigating puddles and fallen tree obstacles. As we approached the beach we knew our efforts were not in vain, the sand was golden and the sea a deep gorgeous blue. We were so inspired we dropped our packs and jumped in the ocean! The water was brisk but with the sun out and temperatures in the mid 20’s we all had a good swim before setting up our camp.
We spent the afternoon exploring the north end of the beach, sea stacks and viewing the awesome flowers and foliage around the beach. Late in the afternoon a whale cruised by our camp expelling his blow hole a couple times. We had a great fire in the evening and were treated to a spectacular sunset and clear views of the stars above.
The following morning we planned to continue hiking 5km out to the lighthouse at Cape Beale. We departed our camp taking only the essentials for the day leaving our heavy packs behind. The trail was in better shape here which provides access to a few more beautiful beaches. We crossed a small hill and a marsh before coming down to the flats which lead to Cape Beale. The flats are only passable at low tide, as the area floods at high tide, so we timed our entry to coincide with the tide.
I always enjoy visiting lighthouses, there is something really neat about these isolated outposts. We were greeted by one of the lighthouse keepers who was filling in for the primary lighthouse keeper who was off on holiday sailing to Alaska. We were greeted very warmly and given a full tour of the grounds and associated geographical features, including a rock bridge and sea cave which does right under the lighthouse. There were some amazing views from the lighthouse looking west out across the Pacific Ocean and north to the Deer and Broken Group Islands. We met the secondary lighthouse keeper with equally warm reception and we all shared lunch on the heliport. The lightouse was also home to a beautiful dog and cat who showed us some love. It was hard to leave the lighthouse as they keepers were so nice and were happy to keep chatting. We did have to beat the tide to get back to our camp so we departed after spending a few hours at the lighthouse.
On the way back to camp I was highly anitipating another swim! I ended up spending the entire rest of the afternoon playing in the waves. The water was brilliantly clear and became deep just offshore due to the large waves coming in. This is now one of my favourite spots to swim on the west coast.
Another awesome sunset, camp fire and clear night of stars provided us another inspiring evening.
In the morning we broke camp and head back down the trail. What a tremendous weekend!
Matt has shared his reflections and photos on his own blog, make sure to check it out!