Traffic Jam

A newcomer’s reflections on migrating to the Strathcona region.




Oh no! What? Wait for another traffic light? Simultaneous laughter, as our eyes connect, and we realize we have become Islanders. No longer are our lives at the mercy of overcrowded roads, freeway crawl, and urban sprawl. Time is no longer a lottery, a gamble to be wagered according to traffic jams.

Newlywed seniors no longer pinioned by careers, we sought an adventurous path. We chose to migrate to Campbell River where we could create a new home,
a garden, and a life.
Campbell River does not disappoint. Each morning we see sunrises that reveal the ocean’s moods and the Coast Mountains’ snow-capped peaks. Sometimes sulky Mother Nature gives us dense fog that makes Quadra Island disappear. We watch the weather roll in and bash with storms that rival Tofino’s storm watching adventures. The storms’ winds leave a salty crystal patina-like frost on our patio windows.

We have learned the power of the wind in this coastal town. Umbrellas are useless in rainy windstorms; the rain hits sideways but does not deter walkers on the foreshore, where waves crash and hurl driftwood logs like ping-pong balls. Our souls and spirits revive. It does help to have waterproof clothes.

Calm seas mirror the clouds and the sky’s colours. We can walk, bike, or drive along more than 10 kilometres of unobstructed shoreline. Sometimes a small traffic jam occurs because people pull over and get out of their cars to photograph the orcas in their playground. The sea is speckled with sailboats, fishing craft, hardworking barges, tugs, and cruise ships. The ocean highway is never quiet, but colourful and mutable.
We watch the heron, a stealthy sentinel, balanced on his long limb, waiting to snatch unsuspecting salmon in the creek run-offs delivered to his tide pool dinner table. The eagle stares atop the firs and cedars, his white head bold against the azure sky. Thumbprint-sized white birds glide in the frothy waves, jet-black cormorants claim the rock crags, and seagulls dart and dash from the heavens.

The tide pools and reefs are home to anemones, moon snails, and sea stars. One day the reef was a mass of purple sea stars clinging to the rocks, looking more like heather spread across a moor.

The forests hold their own mysterious creatures. A swish in the underbrush signals a snake, a hare scampering across the trail, or a heart-stopping bear. Nightfall reveals bright eyes staring from the road edge. Deer claim their territory to the delight of some residents and the dismay of gardeners.

In the morning, birds much less raucous than roosters or car horns rouse sleepy heads. Pileated woodpeckers, finches, swallows, jays, and crows make their music. Hummingbirds swoop as if every breath is pure joy. Concealed emerald tree frogs croak their own notes. The forest symphony has begun. Creek beds, carpeted in fawn lilies, trilliums, and bleeding hearts add their own inaudible chorus trumpeting spring’s arrival.
We see the power of Elk Falls plunging into the canyon and cascading into the potholes, the colours reminiscent of lakes in the Rockies. For the brave or bribed, a walk across the suspension bridge reinforces the falls’ incredible beauty. The walk back to the parking lot shows fire damage from 1938, but also thriving new growth intertwined with magnificent old growth forests.

Campbell River does not disappoint. Natural beauty is abundant and our memories of smoggy traffic jams are fading.