It was 4:30 in the morning and we were just loading the truck for a trip to San Josef Bay. It was going to be a long drive from Sayward and we wanted to get an early start. A friend was visiting from Holland and he was stoked on seeing the sea stacks that have formed in the bay. The bay is located just past Holberg and is on the southern end of the Cape Scott Provincial Park.
We also had plans to stop at Ronning’s Garden on the way. These gardens are beautiful and a must-stop for travelers heading further west from Holberg. In 1910 Bernt Ronning was a young settler from Norway who had homesteaded 5 acres of land, he never left when most others had and lived here until the 1960s. He was known far and wide for his incredible gardens of rare plants and trees.
Bernt also loved to get together with his friends and neighbors for dancing. He had a huge pump organ and had built a hall where they could gather and dance. There is a short trail that runs off the Holberg road that takes you into the gardens, just watch for the signs.
The first European settlers began arriving in this area in 1897 and attempted to build farms in what is now the provincial park. They had a difficult time trying to work the rocky land and left after a few years. They left behind cleared patches and fields that are now semi-wild as well as many place names, including Hansen Lagoon, and Nissen Bight. You can find fruit trees growing in many places and sometimes see the remains of settlers cabins that have, for the most part, returned to the land. Most of the original settlers eventually moved to Malcolm Island where they create a better life, building farms and communities like Sointula. There is much history on the island and its people and I will write about this in a future story.
The Cape Scott Provincial Park itself is a wondrous place, a real jewel that can be found at the northwest end of Vancouver Island and contains many fascinating bays and beaches. One of the more noticeable bays is San Josef Bay with its sea stacks. Many people visit the bay just to see these formations. The area has had the presence of a first nation here for some time. Middens and other remains of settlements serve as evidence that they have been using the area for many thousands of years.
The sea stacks at San Josef Bay are beautiful. Water surging through the sandy passages at high tide has slowly eroded the softer outer rock, leaving behind these harder formations. They can only be found in San Josef Bay on Vancouver Island. They are quite beautiful. Our Dutch friend was completely taken by these formations, as we stepped out onto the beach he stopped and all he could say was “wow” and that statement pretty much sums up the whole area.
As part of Cape Scott Provincial Park, San Josef Bay is easily accessible on well-maintained trails and boardwalks. From the nearest parking lot and trailhead, there is a three-kilometer hike. It’s an easy hike on level ground, the trail could easily handle a buggy or even a wheelchair.
The road in from port hardy is quite long but fairly well maintained, but please drive with caution as these roads are active logging roads. Turn your lights on and give these trucks the road, they can’t stop very easy and they depend on you to drive carefully. Give them the right away. As you get near to Holberg, keep an eye out for the shoe tree, hikers that have hiked the North Island Trail leave their worn-out boots here.