I'm Matt, a software engineer and boating enthusiast based in Washington State (but on the move). I started Hermit Cove Boats, offering cool skin and frame boat plans and kits. Check it out!
Perhaps THE destination on the west coast of Vancouver Island, we saw more people at this remote anchorage than in all the settlements north on the island combined. They hire boats and planes and travel up from Tofino. We on the other hand sailed in from the north late one evening. There is a culture shock, inevitable really: The guests have taken planes, ferries, buses and water taxis. They have traveled far, the majority we met were European. “Where do you live? London. You? In our boat over there…“ Of course they are jealous that we don’t have to leave on the 3:30 boat, but anyone could have their boat anchored there, given the right effort…
We dropped the hook and hiked at sunset down the 1.3 mile long boardwalk. The boardwalk is almost as impressive as the hot springs, sturdy and well used it lets one travel from the landing dock to the springs without standing on unadorned ground. It goes up and down with many staircases, twists, and turns. It runs past old growth trees. It speaks to the long habitation and use these springs have seen.
Way back when, boaters would bring planks to help maintain it, and naturally they would carve their boat name into their plank. These days the boardwalk is maintained by the parks system. But boaters still carve their names. We carved ours. It helps to have all your tools with you, I used my chisels and hammer.
The springs themselves are hard to even believe. We arrived at sunset all alone, and it was incomparably beautiful. Across the bay bull kelp fields swayed in the waves. The sun lit up the horizion pink, orange and dusky. The springs sprung up from a dark cut in the earth. They then ran over a milky sulfurous path around rocks and under trees before pouring over a cliff and down a series of pools into the sea. At low tide more pools appear as the hot water finds its way through tidal pools. Mussels grow to a well defined line where the seas must rise to cool the hot waters enough to support sea life. Fun fact: barnacles can take it hotter than mussels. Waves rush in and suddenly change the temperature of seaward pools.
The springs are a study in change - with the tides, day and night, and the daily rush of tourists. A given hour might offer anything. Our first night there offered low tide and solitude. Our last night offered low tide and 37 screaming teenagers from a “sail training tour” aboard the schooner Pacific Swift. Like any band of teenagers they were ill mannered, shampooing in the springs and leaving trash. A morning found Kristin there all alone in unusually hot water. Another morning found us with the world travelling crew of the Alcyone, waves having rushed in to moderate the temperature. I suspect one could spend a life watching the changes. The new keeper of the park hopes to do just that. Lucky.