On Vancouver Island, the road dribbles to an end in a gravelly dirt parking lot 350 miles northwest of the prim and dainty city of Victoria, the island destination most visitors know.
A trail disappears into the rain-forest gloom, where a sign helpfully posted by BC Parks warns: be aware this is a wilderness park and be prepared to handle emergencies unassisted.
Well, what would you expect? The end of the road is seldom accompanied by teeming civilization, which is the essence of its seduction. But it's also a truism that the end of the road usually turns out to be a disappointment.
Not on Vancouver Island.
There aren't many temperature-friendly and easily accessible places left in North America that offer as much as northern Vancouver Island does: a shortage of pavement and people, a profusion of serrated mountain peaks, remote lakes, pristine seacoasts, and ubiquitous (but harmless) black bears. Sure, you can find these things in other places ― Antarctica, Nova Scotia, remote parts of South America. But not without braving temperature extremes and traveling long, long distances. Getting to northern Vancouver Island involves only a flight or ferry ride to Victoria and a three-hour drive north to Campbell River. It's a major payoff for relatively minimal effort ― especially in May, when the remoter parts of North America are still under ice.