China Creek Marina is a great way to spend an afternoon away from fog-bound Port Alberni and do a little sun-seeking. SANDY MCRUER PHOTO

PAC RIM ACTIVE: An overlooked beach for an off-season walk

China Creek Marina is off the beaten path after the fishermen have gone home

SANDY MCRUER

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Sunday is the day when my wife and I like to go somewhere for a walk and retire to a café for a fancy-schmancy coffee. Sometimes we are at a loss as to where—out of all the wonderful trails there are for an afternoon stroll—to go. Until we think of China Creek Marina.

It is off the beaten path after the fishermen have gone home. As it is not visited much in the winter, the Harbour Authority locks the gate to discourage vandalism and theft. Oh, there are one or two hangers-on. But at this time of year, they are the only ones who come and go.

But there is a back way in. It’s a trail from the parking lot for the Alberni Inlet Trail down to the campsite. It’s quite a well-marked trail through a stand of mature second-growth forest, likely originating from some of the first logging done along the Alberni Inlet. So the trees are big and tall, and scattered through it are a few big old veterans overlooked in that logging.

On the way down I came across a log that had fallen across the trail. Rather than cut the log at the trail and throw the block away, someone cut a block from the log off the trail and used the block to create a ramp for a mountain-bike. It was a good idea, but if you are on foot and there are bikes around you might want to be ready to hop out of the way.

The trail comes out on the road just before it reaches the campground. If you walk further you will see the inlet on the left, and the start of a lovely cobble beach. It is only 500 meters long, but it faces south and provides wonderful views down the inlet. The campground is far enough away from Port Alberni that it gets sun when the city is shrouded in the inversion fog that seems to pervade the end of the inlet.

In the late fall and winter you’ll find a nice variety of ducks and other waterbirds hanging around: mallards, wigeons, scoters, grebes and loons. On the other side of the campground, if you’re lucky, you might also find a family of river otters cavorting around in the boat slips or boat ramp. There is also a small playground if you are on a family outing with little kids.

The campgrounds are generally deserted. But some of the campers are so fond of the campground that they have “moved in,” leaving their trailers and building additional structures to break the wind and create patios outside.

Speaking of wind, dress warmly! In the off season, the wind can seem very cold if you don’t wear something to break the wind.

As there is no traffic on the road, I’d recommend walking back up along it as the trail is much steeper. However, the road is a little longer. It gives you an opportunity to marvel at how steep the slope to the sides of China Creek is there. It’s as much as a 60-meter drop to the creek. I’ve often thought about exploring the creek up from tidewater to see if there is a waterfall upstream somewhere.

So that’s about it. China Creek Marina is a great way to spend an afternoon away from fog-bound Port Alberni and to do a little sun-seeking. The trail is only about 600 metres long and the way up is perhaps a kilometer back along the road. The drive to get there is about 15 minutes from the south end of town, depending on the condition of the road. Happy trails.

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