The tide is going out at Parksville Beach on Vancouver Island, rapidly exposing a great swath of wet sand punctuated by shallow depressions filled with bathtub-warm water that make perfect splash pools for kids.
Our nine-year-old son plays in the distance, and my husband and I marvel that he can wade out seemingly forever yet the water only reaches his thighs. Our daughter, 11, discovers live critters stranded as the tide recedes, and runs them to us for show and tell. These tide-pool denizens include purplish-black sand dollars and sea snails that struggle to bury themselves beneath the hard-packed sand. While the kids swim and comb the beach, we toss a Frisbee. We spot glaciers atop the distant Coast Mountains across the Salish Sea that separates the island from mainland British Columbia, and relish the contrast.
Tomorrow, we’ll join a tide-pool tour, hike to see Little Qualicum Falls as it plunges down a slot canyon into a series of clear pools and end the day sea kayaking among frolicking harbour seals. Then we’ll drive south to Victoria for a few days of urban hiking and whale-watching.
If all this sounds exhausting, consider this: we’re an active family. My husband and I are adventurous travellers, so we initiated the children early into the world of road trips, tropical getaways, off-the-wall tours and daring street food.
As we explore new places together and collect family memories, we learn things about ourselves. For me, highlights include those joyous personal accomplishments of balancing on a moving surfboard, penning cattle on horseback or bravely jumping into the Caribbean Sea to snorkel with eagle rays and nurse sharks.
More impressive, however, are the talents I’ve discovered my children possess. That nudge out of the ordinary has led to the extraordinary. Through family holidays, I’ve come to know they are far more capable than I thought.
On Vancouver Island, I see my daughter portage her end of a heavy kayak and handle sea stars and shore crabs like a seasoned marine biologist.
I recognize that my son knows his limits in the water and can also hike straight uphill for several kilometres, without complaint, and then balance on an abandoned train trestle high above the forest canopy.
I burst with pride, grateful that a vacation has afforded me these snapshot moments. Travel, I realize, not only takes our family to new places, it challenges us to discover new abilities within ourselves that might otherwise lay dormant.
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Secrets of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve from Bram Dams
To mark Canada's 150th anniversary, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, making it easier than ever to explore the country’s vast wilderness. Here, Bram Dams, interpreter at Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, shares his love for Canada's national parks.