In this series of posts about kayaking in the Gulf Islands using Salt Spring Island as a launching point I have focused only on destinations doable as day paddles. For those who want to get out there and do some exploring for more than a day, the possibilities are numerous. In the northern section fo the Southern Gulf Islands chain is Valdes Island. Running nearly parallel to Vancouver Island with its back to the Strait of Georgia it is a terrific base to explore the eroded sandstone cliff galleries near the Blackberry Point camping area, to the Pylades chain of islands including De Courcy Island, former home to Aquarian cult leader Brother XII. in the late 1920’s. Did I mention yet that the sunsets from Blackberry Point are spectacular? Well, they are!
Blackberry Point is about a three-hour paddle from Southey Point on Salt Spring Island, and the route there is relatively simple with only one major crossing to tackle. Leaving from Southey Pt. paddle over to Penelakut Island (formerly named Kuper Island) and follow its shores to the spit then paddle across Clam Bay to reach the southern shore line of Thetis Island. Continue onwards to the northern tip at Pilkey Pt. and you will see Shingle Point on Valdes to your left. This will make you think it is Blackberry Point, but don’t be fooled. However, Shingle Point is a good landmark for your crossing of Trincomali Channel. An alternate route is to cross to the Secretary Islands from Salt Spring and meander through them to reach Reid Island. There is designated camping on Reid Island Islet which is deceivingly hidden against the backdrop of the larger island, until close up. Access to this islet is tough with a very rocky landing. At low tide there is a small section of crushed shells allowing access for one kayak at a time. From Reid Island make a diagonal crossing to Shingle Point. The distance from here to Blackberry Point is less than half an hour of easy shoreline paddling. Keep and eye peeled for raccoons in the rocks and eagles atop trees.
At Blackberry Point you will find a dog-legged shaped beachfront with ample tenting spots and a short trail leading to a composting outhouse. This was the first campsite established by Peter McGee as park of the newly founded BC Marine Trails Network in the early 1990’s. On a hot sunny afternoon it is hard to leave this beach but there are several spots to take in while camping here. The main feature of Valdes is the high eroded sandstone cliffs a short hop from the campgrounds.
The natural erosion caused by saltwater and wind carve honeycombs and intricate patterns in the age-old rock and makes for a lovely pre-dinner paddle once camp is set up. You may even encounter a local character on the island, Pete. I must confess it has been a few years since I visited the beach and at the time of this post I do not know if Crazy Pete as some might call him is still there. If so I am sure he would be happy to escort you and your group on a hike up the mountain.
Day tripping from your camp along the Pylades group is safe, and pleasant paddling. There is even camping available on the tiny Whaleboat Island tucked in with Ruxton Island. This campsite I have yet to find. Beyond Ruxton is De Courcy Island and a camp ground in Pirates Cove. On the west side of De Courcy you will find more carved sandstone galleries. Keep in mind that the passage between De Courcy and Link Island is not useable at low tide. After Link Island is the last of the Pylades group, Mudge Island at the head of False Narrows. There is a nice picnic spot here but watch that you stay clear of the narrows as the currents run fast.
As a restful destination after a good long day of exploring by kayak, Blackberry Point will not disappoint. Did I mention the sunsets are spectacular?