As the summer winds along I gaze upon blue green mountains with pale peaks that stack on top of a darkening vista, late in the afternoon still float on an asure sky. Crickets chirp, "Try", says a resident, "to ever find one." Indeed despite kicking some dandelions and sending wishes on their way, I cannot. A cabbage butterfly lands on a random note then takes flight to a path of crushed purple shells and sand.
I am facing Saratoga Beach BC, home to some great Vancouver Island Resorts, at the North end of the Comox Valley, adjoining Miracle Beach, Vancouver Island B.C.. Over a quarter of a mile of shimmering sand and pebbles make it an idea spot to contemplate life or take a load off.
As I learned from a trip to the museum located in the small tranquil town of Courtenay, on Vancouver Island, a short ride up the Coast-hugging Island Highway, the Comox Valley was once mainly a saltlake lagoon home to gigantic reptiles as well as other diverse and exciting marine creatures.
One 80 million year old fossil at the museum looked ferocious as it spanned metres of a circular display, frozen in time, hunting its prey. Another creature in the downtown museum, is living, looks more like a giant newt or salamander than a Loch Ness Monster. Her name is Pam, my friend informed me, as she pressed her strange distorted face to the glass of the tank and observed us. Pam is an African lungfish and seemed friendly enough, she is a genetic link to the past, a surviving ancestor of what once was, but she seemed unaware of the fact.
Today Saratoga beach is home to all sorts of equally interesting creatures although thankfully less dangerous than the Canadian Nessie. On a recent walk across the beach, wading through the shallow waters of an out-going tide, I uncovered all sorts of curious creatures. In amongst the mussels and green weed, a stunning creature the size of my foot glittered silver in the sun through its blue marine surroundings. On closer inspection I discovered it to be a very large purple starfish, five stout rays of purple glittered around an ill defined disc, it was a strong indication of how healthy and clean the seashore at Saratoga beach is.
Archeological finds around the Commox Valley suggest First Nations made this their home over nine thousand years ago. Before European settlers first arrived in 1862 the Commox valley was known as "Komoux" (land of plenty). The ocean provided an abundant food supply of salmon, ground fish, clams and oysters, and seaweed.
Today shore fishing for salmon is still popular in the Commox Valley from August to November. Saratoga Beach is not such a great location for it, the waters so shallow even at the highest tide, but I still saw a girl trying her luck at shore angling on a slightly rainy late summers' day. "Didya catch anything? " I asked her and she directed me to a bucket of angry put-out crabs that fought amongst themselves.
I am staying in a log cabin only a moment's breath from the seashore. Staying in a log cabin in Canada would never have struck me as the best place to holiday in the sun had I not visited here. The weather has been outstanding, I spent more than a week wishing I had worn sun cream to protect me from the UV rays...so be forewarned! A recent swim in the ocean was surprisingly comfortable, the sun having heated sand and stone to such a degree that it was just as warm as bath in some areas.
A sandy beach hosts several resorts and campgrounds in the area featuring fully equipped cabins or RV parks, or tenting with facilities. Visitors range from excitable and enthusiastic children to layed back and relaxed seniors. There are several beachside resorts to stayn, perhaps with hammocks facing the ocean at the top of the beach, or maybe garden BBQs and Kayak rentals. There is a local grocery store a short drive or bike ride away and stocked with locally grown produce, fresh new potatoes and green beans to locally caught fish. It also offers a wide range of grocery's, milk,bread and eggs. For those who want a glass of wine the local liquor store has a large selection, and a pizza cafe offers something unique to even the most discerning palette.
Saratoga Beach has been a welcome sight to visitors for well over 60 years.