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Vancouver Island has a rich history geologically and culturally. It has played home to an interesting melange of diversity that all mingle in one common area making it rich with different traditions and attributes. A British colony from 1849 to 1871, the cultural effects of this heritage remain strong, but the aboriginal groups who inhabited the area thousands of years before them have made their mark as well. Reading up on the history and culture of Vancouver Island can definitely enhance one's understanding while visiting. Picking up a guidebook will also help you immensely unless you have the skills of Captain James Cook who landed here over two hundred years ago.
To delve back into the area's geological past, pick up West Coast Fossils: A Guide to the Ancient Life of Vancouver Island by Rolf Ludvigsen and Graham Beard or The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia (2 vols.), first published in 1866 by John Keast Lord.
The Frommer's Portable Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands doubles as a guide packed with history making it a top choice for this region.
Another way to get you prepared for the great outdoors here is by reading Where to See Wildlife on Vancouver Island by Kim Goldberg or Hiking Vancouver Island: A Guide to Vancouver Island's Greatest Hiking Adventures by Shannon Cowan and Lissa Cowan.
Club Tread is an Internet site, including a discussion forum, that is dedicated to sharing information about hiking in British Columbia and Alberta.