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A veritable supermarket on a stick, cattails were once a source of sustenance as well as comfort to Pacific Northwest natives. Young shoots can be eaten as greens in the spring while young flower spikes can be roasted and eaten like cobs of corn. Young roots or rhizomes (underground stems) can be peeled and eaten as is—sashimi-style, hold the wasabi—or dried and pulverized into flour. Early settlers too discovered that cattail pollen could be harvested and added to bread or pancakes. Cattail down or fluff was collected in autumn for use as a wound dressing or for stuffing pillows and bedding. Cattail leaves found use in native basketry.
Illustration by Manami Kimura
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Written by Brian Grover   
Dare Pt to Walbran Cr 16 km
You'll start the day on the forest footpath again but only for a kilometre or so. Once past Dare Point [km 37] the beach is again accessible except when tides are running below 2.1 metres. Wreckage including the anchor from the steamer Santa Rita which ran aground in 1923 can be found in a surge channel about halfway between Dare Point and Dare Beach. The headland before Dare Beach is passable at low tide but the forest route, being both faster and safer, is recommended. From Dare Beach the trail moves inland and includes some sections of boardwalk leading to Carmanah Point Lighthouse. Before leaving the beach note the unique natural breakwater off shore called the Cribs [km 40.]

The Carmanah Point Light Station [km 44] was first manned in 1891 as a complement to the Cape Beale Light Station which was established in 1874 as a reference point to assist mariners searching for the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait.

Beyond the lighthouse you'll regain the beach once again. The trail follows a beach-only route for the next 7 km to Vancouver Point. If time is on your side, take a break at Carmanah Creek [km 46] and wade upstream 1.3 km unencumbered with packs for a look at the Carmanah Giant, the world's largest sitka spruce tree. The Carmanah Giant is 95 metres tall and 3 metres thick at the base. Carmanah Creek is also an excellent place to camp though I have seen the river and the beaches in the vicinity absolutely polluted from tens of thousands of krill-feasting herring gulls. The overwhelming stench made camping impossible.

Continuing on from Carmanah Creek looks easy. Do not be misled. The powdery sand places unique demands on your calf muscles, knees and lower back. While you will move forward at a rapid pace you'll find it exhausting work. Even at the water's edge, where the wet, packed sand is firmer, walking is never easy. Mercifully, the rocky sandstone shelves provide some relief when the tide is low. If the tide is below 3.7 metres it is possible to walk around Vancouver Point [km 51] and on to the mouth of the Walbran River [km 53.] Wading the river will be necessary, however, so this route is not recommended during spring runoff or following heavy rains. After 16 km of steady trudging you'll be more than eager to pitch the tent at this picturesque site.


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