Posts Tagged water


148 1Water, water everywhere but not a drip to drink!

Seen here on a log at my lovely beachside camp near Port Renfrew BC is my water bottle. “Life is Crap” makes me laugh as a touch of outdoorsy snark in the face that no matter where I am with my kayak, it is anything but crappy. That said, today I would like to mention something we take for granted, as the news from Detroit worsens and the memory of not having running water at home for a time still fresh as a mountain stream to my mind.

It is suddenly summer here after a noncommittal beginning and long spring. The heat and humidity of the past week has been a challenge. A morning paddle the other day began with the idea that if I got out on the water early enough I could beat the heat. How wrong I was as it met me clearly as I unloaded the kayak and gear. My only saviour was my Life is Crap buddy who along with two more one litre bottles of water rolled around between my legs as I paddled against the tide for an hour in the heat.

We tend to forget about it. I get lazy with taking in enough water while kayaking. I towed a paddle boarder home to shore once after she ran out of gas on a late summer evening that was too warm not to remember water. She had none! I gave her the last of mine, hooked her up and dragged her across to safety. I am waiting for a new drinking tube kit to attach to the dromedary bag I keep filled with fresh water behind my seat. This removed the issue of cumbersome water bottles and sipping sun-heated liquid from the bottle on the deck and I am more likely to sip on the fly instead of stopping to take in water.

My outdoorsy tip for this week which will be closing in on the 30 celsius out here in the rain belt is the bring more water than you think you will need. Likely, you will want it. Stay hydrated, stay cool. Try not to paddle during the peek heat hours of the day. Dunk your sun hat in the water to cool your head and remember to drink, sipping small amounts every half hour or so and your life will remain heat stroke and crap free.


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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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Paddle to a Pub

Living in the Gulf Islands we wait patiently through long wet winter months of seemingly endless grey skies crying down buckets of tears. We wait with anticipatory visions of gliding through the water in the summer heat. The reality is startlingly different when summer does arrive and all we can hope for is that the local islands will grow a mile or two higher to give some early shade as we paddle. Where is the relief from the humidity gathering in the cockpit under the spray skirt? Where can we refresh ourselves? How about on a patio overlooking the sea under the protection of an umbrella with a cold pint of amber ale in hand. What could be better than a paddle to the pub?

At low tide the cut between the two islands means getting out and pulling. Photo by Dave Barnes

At low tide the cut between the two islands means getting out and pulling.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The paddling day begins from Southey Point eccentrically placed at the northern tip of Salt Spring Island on a day the islands surrounding us would never grow high enough to cast any shade, we pointed to Penelakut Island. This island is native land and formerly named, Kuper Island. The spit near the village of Penelakut is visible from Southey Point and we chose to cruise the shallow sandbars of Penelakut. The water was still around our kayaks and in the clarity it was easy to view schools of frantic fish zigzagging to avoid our approach. Crabs nestled face down in the sand were no match for a tag-team effort between two paddle blades scooping them up at will. Dinner would be simple if it were crab, not the grog and burgers that was our prey that day.

Higher tide navigation of the shallow cut in the sandbars between Penelakut and Thetis Islands.

Higher tide navigation of the shallow cut in the sandbars between Penelakut and Thetis Islands.
Photo courtesy Peter Mede

In the heat haze on the water the white stick ahead was thought a marker of some sort, but only recognizable as a man when our group paddled closer. Walking waist-deep along the shore, but still far from shore a resident of the island was flicking up crab into a garbage bag with a garden rack with the handle cut short. We chatted and he offered some of his quarry to which we refused gracefully. Onwards around the jetty where the chop rose slightly in the confusion of water not knowing how to go, and into the cut.

We had planned out outing around the tides, something not entirely crucial in the Gulf Islands baring any needs to sneak out into the Strait of Georgia where the narrows between islands can get up to 10 knots of current. To get to the Thetis Island Marina Pub from this direction requires a higher tide to navigate ‘the cut’. This shallow groove meanders through high sandbars, once prime clamming beds in between Penelakut and Thetis Islands. At low tide be prepared to get out and push, pull or drag your kayak, and at higher water levels keep and eye out for small motor craft coming and going from the marina. The cut narrows and becomes shallow in a bottleneck forming a muddy land bridge at low tide before opening to deeper water at the marina.

Finding new friends along the way.

Finding new friends along the way.

Thetis Island Marine Pub is nothing fancy and the patio is a slender deck facing the docks but the food is great and the beer is cold, except on this day. A large pleasure boat had left the bay dragging its anchor and thus severing the underwater cable giving power to the island. The sandwiches and room temperature beer was delightful, and in the many return visits to the pub I have enjoyed much of the menu of good pub fare while sipping a cold pint. As I lazed on the patio watching eagles admiring boater life from high snags on Penelakut as though separated in time.

A rest stop on Tent Island in the sunshine. Photo by Dave Barnes

A rest stop on Tent Island in the sunshine.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The day ending with the return paddle in Stuart Channel, a belly scrapping slip in between Penelakut and Tent Island before crossing back to Southey Point. The beer refreshed us only if for a few moments as the late afternoon sun slowed our progress accompanied by digestion. We stop at Tent island for a brief stretch which resolves to be an afternoon nap. The only thing better than paddling to a pub is the kayak nap soon after on cool pebbles.

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Above the Clouds

After a few days of Salt Spring Island being held hostage by a lingering fog it was time to rise above it with a hike. The best escape from the damp cold hovering at sea-level was to hike to the top of the island’s notable landmark, Mt. Maxwell. Below us the fog bank moved, rose and fell, and played in the moving air caused by this thermal inversion. As we hopped from one rocky ledge to the next in search of the ultimate place to park in the sunshine we could not believe it was January as it could easily be confused with a springtime walk. The inversion created rising waves of air and our layers of clothing fell away in the long lingering hours of sunbathing. If this blog posts offends the rest of the country gripped and unfortunate in its dealings with ‘real’ winter, or comes across as another example of the annual west coast gloating, well it is a risk I take.  Love me or resent me, here is what I saw from the three mountain perches was enjoyed all afternoon.

Hiking up out of the fog to several ledges for some well-deserved mid-winter sunshine. Photo by Dave Barnes

Hiking up out of the fog to several ledges for some well-deserved mid-winter sunshine.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The sun highlights the ebbing tide in the narrows separating Salt Spring Island from Vancouver Island. Photo by Dave Barnes

The sun highlights the ebbing tide in the narrows separating Salt Spring Island from Vancouver Island.
Photo by Dave Barnes

An afternoon watching the fog rising, falling and flowing below our perch.

An afternoon watching the fog rising, falling and flowing below our perch.

Rising fog at the mouth of the narrows and a perfect winter sunset. Photo by Dave Barnes

Rising fog at the mouth of the narrows and a perfect winter sunset.
Photo by Dave Barnes

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Undersea Gardens

It is not all glory in the waves while paddling my wooden kayak along the shores of the west coast, there are some land-based thrills as well and one of my favorites is exploring the beaches.

Something the kayaker interacts with, hopefully gingerly so are the intertidal zones. This most precious and fragile area that is neither in the ocean, nor entirely on land. It is the limbo between the moon’s comings and goings and in incoming and outgoing tides. Pockets of sand, or divots in the rocks or deep holes eroded over time that capture eco-systems of their own. What lands in them as the sea climbs the beach are fish, crabs, shrimp, shellfish, sea anemone , grasses, and assorted hearty underwater life that don’t mind the pools heating up during the day while exposed at low tide.

On a trip to Tofino I found a humble tidal pool at the end of the tombolo (sand spit) that connects North and South Chesterman Beach with Frank Island. Chesterman Beach, unlike the famous Long Beach in the Park does not come with parking fees and is equally spectacular, pleasant and less populated during the tourist season. Although in this section of Vancouver Island’s skirting of bare sand stone is covered in sand it is not easy to find these tidal potholes. However, at the fringe of Frank Island nestled in the exposed rocks I found a sandy anemone garden. A few hermit crabs wandered about and skittish fish darted away when I lowered my camera under the water for close-ups. Here are some of the results.

Tide Garden 1

Tide Garden 2

Tide Garden 3

Tide Garden 3

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There is no Place Like Home, inside the little bubbles

The bubble still surrounds this island home of mine. To someone sitting in a Starbucks as city traffic rumbles by creating white noise, the bubble I talk about is utter nonsense. It makes no sense to anyone living ‘off-island’ where the world is in full-swing warts and all. However, to a near life-long islander such as myself this bubble of which I speak is a very real concept. I call it the bubble, but it comes in other names as well. Perhaps the best word for describing the bubble effect is the word, denial. While sitting in a coffee shop on Salt Spring Island with the loud chatter of locals and tourists at tables around my table the bubble is thick. We are safe in our understanding that the outside world, while well and truly existing does not affect our enjoyment of a morning coffee. No insurgence, no car-bombs, no rabble in the streets chanting for us all to rise up. In much of the world that hum of city traffic sending your nerves on extra edge with your double Americano grande deluxe would be the least of your troubles. Ask that limbless kid in Cambodia looking for a meal, or in any country torn by the acts of those living in their own, if nastier versions of the bubble.

We Salt Springers pride ourselves on this lovely island life and our relative safety and distancing from the evils of what lies on the other side of the water. It is artifice and silly to think that the rest of the world, wars, economic tail-spinning, and the acts of limited minded folk can not get to us here. They do, if only in small ways, which the current island economy is beginning to realize. That is when we mutter at the headlines and swig a second cup at Barb’s Buns, or T J Beans, or the Roasters. Then, we islanders do what we do best, go about out daily lives. Concerned with mending that fence that the sheep keep leaping over, or getting crafts or produce ready for this Saturday’s market in the park, or getting up in arms over metal recycling, CRD, Islands Trusts, etc.

On the outer rim of the bubble there is a corner table with an old leaning and rustic looking wooden sign that says, community. It is this place that I try to hang around as much as possible. These are my people, a tribe of sorts. There is a welcome acceptance of each other and that ever-present (us against them) mentality. As the summer season approaches we see less and less of each other around town. Hibernating until the Fall Fair in September, avoiding the crush of visitors as best we can and making stealth runs with sorties to the grocery store at odd hours in hopes for an easy entry and exit to our hide-aways in the woods.

It’s this sense of community that I felt around me in the past few days, and a reminder during two small incidents that none of us, islanders or off-islanders should ever take for granted, that one word, community. A few days ago, a fellow long-term island resident who like many (not me but who am I to judge?) afford the luxury of avoiding the wet season from October to April with a second life down under. No not Australia, but Mexico. Snowbirds of the wet coast relocate a part of the Salt Spring community to warmer climes for the winter months. Sadly, last year one of our tribe was killed at the Mexican vacation home owned by the above mentioned well-known and loved local full-time real estate guy and part-time comedian. Overhearing a short conversation sent back and forth in the busy coffee house about his experience this winter. A somber returning literally to the scene of the crime that occurred during a home invasion resulting in the death of a friend. It was a conversation not told in whispers across a table but across the entire room for all to hear. We all understood his plight and the off-hand remarks about ceremonial smudging with sage that took place a few dozen times to remove any lingering musty bad juju of the murder. We all confessed inwardly to the slightly awkward moment at hearing how he felt uneasy for the first few weeks and the 24-hour party on the date of the attack. Good vibes replacing old bad ones.

Some might ask why he did not attempt to sell the place last year, be rid of the thing and the sad memories of what took place? The bubble.

The second reminder came just this morning as I sat with a friend who was recovering from an assault to him that occurred early this winter on a frozen pond. Arm now out of the sling but the nagging pain and lack of full movement evident from the separated shoulder injury that resulted from the attack. This event was a step outside the bubble by someone disturbed and not of the bubble tribe.

As we talked he realized that though he had arrived on time to get the early breakfast special our chatting had distracted him from the time. It was past 9am, the cut-off time for a cheaper breakfast. At a quarter past nine our server stopped by the table and he commented on missing out. “No you didn’t.” she told him with a smile reserved for known bubble dwellers and regulars, and she took his order for the dairy free version of the special. It arrived minutes later, at special price with a brown paper bag with a toasty treat for his dog a well-known mischievous companion of a Blue Healer. My friend’s breakfast was without toast when it landed in front of him. No matter he said but she informed us that the cook had accidentally buttered it and a new batch had already been ‘put down’ meaning in the toaster. In seconds, a plate of plain toast arrived displayed in an interlocked pin-wheel design that was almost too nice to disturb.

When asked why I stay on this island, why when I have a constant struggle to make ends meet, why? The bubble. That sense of safe belonging and the knowledge that if you are a regular you can actually warp time, get a treat on the house for your dog, have the calm demeanor to tell your tales of loss publicly without concern or personal embarrassment and above all, get your toast served unbuttered and in a pretty display.

Oh, and there is a lack of car bombs here as well.

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