Posts Tagged kayaking salt spring island

Salt Spring Island Kayaking Trips – Blackberry Point, Valdes Island

A summer sunset at Blackberry Point, Valdes Island. Photo by Dave Barnes

A summer sunset at Blackberry Point, Valdes Island.
Photo by Dave Barnes

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.

Wandering the beach at Blackberry Point, and it was all mine!

Wandering the beach at Blackberry Point, and it was all mine!

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.

The enormity of the sandstone cliff gallery is stunning. Photo by Dave Barnes

The enormity of the sandstone cliff gallery is stunning.
Photo by Dave Barnes

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?


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Kayaking All the Way Around Salt Spring Island, part 1

My foot is wet and I knew that would happen…

Sorting out my gear for the marathon day around Salt Spring Island.

Sorting out my gear for the marathon day around Salt Spring Island.

I have lived on Salt Spring Island most of my life with emphasis on ‘lived on’. Though aware of the ocean and that awareness only heightened from my kidhood days walking to or from school to our waterfront home via a crushed shell beachfront, it, the water was only a fact of life. My off the island life has been in the seat of a sea kayak and to my regret only began in my mid-thirties. Until then, land-lubber that I was I had no idea what a spectacular bubble I had chosen as a home. My water-side perspective has altered my perception and only increased my love of place, this oddity always in social flux, tourist-centric in summer months and left to sleep in the autumn and winter weeks, but yet remains my community, my Salt Spring.
From the vantage point of my wooden kayak I see the island for what it is, what it will always be long after I, and all I know are mere dust in the wind. A lovely lump of rock thrust up on the ragged coast of BC. Not covered with a sprinkling of salt as my childhood imagination saw things before moving to the island in the 70’s. Instead Salt Spring is coated deer, forests, sheep, vineyards, retirees and youthful exuberance. A small town surrounded by water with all the love, joys and local gossip of any small village, and all of the above very transitory in the big scheme of things.
It is this that I ponder along with my sanity as I wake long before sunrise and am paddling away from a beach north of Fernwood dock aiming for Southey Point where I will meet the start of the ebbing tide that will help me down and eventually shoot me wildly through Sansum Narrows. My mission on this tender morning, to start a circumnavigation of the island in one shot, all 72 kilometres of it. It was quiet and quite dark when I staggered back and forth to the car by the headlamp light with the required gear for a marathon. Tent, sleeping bag, (just in case) stove, fuel, emergency food and water, clothing life jacket, paddles etc. It never fails to amaze me that whether on a day paddle or a two-week excursion the amount of bits and pieces needed is about the same.
A mild light begins to rise around me as the air chills my face and I switch off and then remove my headlamp (I hope not to be needing it by evening). A sun waking and yawning from its southern travels is about to greet me, but I am cold and wearing my paddle jacket and toque knowing in a couple of hours I will have to stop to strip down for the warm spring day ahead. My foot is wet, and I knew that would happen. One Wet Foot should be my native moniker. I am blissfully aware that my day has begun uncivilized in the dark, and decaffeinated. Somehow to me a big drink of water, an Ibuprofen and a few sips of Gator-Aid are no match for a good cup of coffee. Coffee is forbidden on a marathon day.

I have spent the previous day loading my body with the nuts and bolts and fuel to at least make this long 12 plus hours of non-stop paddling less painful. I am hydrated to the point my ears are leaking, I have carbs burning and a box of goodies to keep me fueled all day long. Peeking tentatively over the wall of silhouetted treetops of Wallace Island to my right is the sun at long last.  I paddle by sleeping seals floating blissfully unaware of my presence and the cacophony made by the geese nesting on every rock in the channel.My nerves were up in the dark, wondering what the day would have in store. Would the forecasted light winds be mythical, or would I round Ruckle Park facing northward to home in blissful calm waters? Would I fatigue part way and have to call for a ride? Would the playlist in my head keep me occupied paddle stroke after paddle stroke. Now that the day has officially broken and I am well on my journey it is time to turn the corner on the day, around the northern tip of Salt Spring Island and begin my southern run.

The easy part.

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