I’d been hankering to head outdoors for the long Memorial Day weekend – though I didn’t really plan anything in advance. The Monday prior to Memorial Day, I got a bright idea to try out a bike camping weekend up in one of the British Columbia Gulf Islands. I searched some travel blogs of people who had biked the islands and decided to check out Galiano Island. The provincial park there still had a tent site available in the Walk-In section! If this was a Washington State Park, there is no chance of finding any campsites the week before a long holiday (though, of course, Canada does not observe the U.S. Memorial Day).
With my last minute preparations, I figured out a vegan food menu and stocked up on supplies. I departed Friday afternoon towards the Tsaawassen Ferry Terminal just north of the Canadian border. Being a Nexus card holder, my wait at the border crossing was pretty much non-existent. I made it to the ferry terminal in time to park, pack up the bike and get my ticket with over an hour to spare.
The ferry sailing to Galiano was comforting. Sitting in the forward lounge overlooking the ferry boat’s route across the icy Strait of Georgia, I briefly nodded off to sleep. When I woke up, I ran through a list of things I may have forgotten – and nothing of importance came to mind (the one thing I thought was the plug-in wall charger for my iPhone – but I had two portable batteries, so I should be fine).
At the Sturdies Bay ferry dock on Galiano Island, I was one of the first to disembark. There were two choices to travel to the Montague Harbour Provincial Park campground. According to a very handy map of Galiano Island which I had bought and propped up in my handle-bar map case, I decided to take the much less hilly of the two routes. However, the route I took (along Porlier Pass road instead of Montague Harbour Road) was still rather hilly. I got the campground just after 6 PM – not bad timing, I thought. There were a few other arriving car folks unpacking their cars to walk their gear to the Walk-In campsites. I seemed to be the only person who actually arrived to the campground under human power. The campground is quite beautiful. The setting is right along Montague Harbour on the southern end of the island – and my Hiker/Biker campsite was perched looking over a lagoon which separates the park from Gray Peninsula. I gotta hand it to Canadian Provincial Parks – they are very beautiful and much more quiet and private than the ones here in WA State. In no time, I had set up camp and started cooking one of my meals – mango curry with lentils and basmati rice. Not having any beer nor wine, I downed the food with good ol’ water.
A park employee came around on a small John Deere 4-wheel drive tractor-like machine with firewood for sale. I bought some and he warned me of the raccoons in the area – and to pack my food in my tent. Odd, I thought. I’ve never packed my food in my tent before. He seemed to know what he was talking about, so I obliged that night. After eating, I washed my dishes and sat at my fire ring (without a fire — I am the absolute worst at trying to start a fire…I don’t even know why I bought the wood) with my Kindle reading about how my vegan diet prevents and, indeed, reduces many kinds of diseases – particularly heart disease. It was a little bit breezy, so I put on another layer as I finished off the night reading and thinking about the adventure ahead. I was probably in bed by 10 or 10:30.
Saturday morning, I slept in a bit, until 8 or so and then crawled out of the tent to fire up some water for coffee and oatmeal. I also downed a bagel with peanut butter before deciding taking a little hike around the Gray Peninsula which juts out just across the lagoon down from my campsite. It’s a very short and yet beautiful hike through some old forest with views of the water. I heard countless birds chirping away in the forest as I traipsed around taking photos and observing the beautiful scenery.
After the hike (and well before noon), I thought I’d check out the nearby Montague Harbour. According to the map, there seemed to be some businesses around that area – so I got on my bike and rode the mile or so and parked it near an Ice machine behind the harbor. I inquired with a kayak shop about guided tours, and they had a 3-hour tour headed out at 1 PM with a group of eight other cyclists. Kayaking is a great outdoor activity, especially in this neck of the woods where the wildlife is so abundant. There was plenty of time for milling about and eating lunch before the tour, so I popped into a little curio shop just next door to the kayak office. There, I talked to the husband and wife owners at length about American Memorial Day Holiday, my road trip across Canada a few years ago, Hillary Clinton, and Stephen Harper. Quite a fun couple they were!. Next, I stopped in the tiny little grocery store nearby and picked up a head of broccoli, some paper towels, and an apple for tomorrow’s dinner. Next to the store was a tiny little cafe where I inquired about vegan options. Believe it or not, they had some delectable options on the menu! I ordered the veggie wrap (no cheese nor dairy on it) and a bowl of pea soup which the proprietor made in the morning. She said it had some cream in it, though it looked and sounded delicious, so I decided to try it anyway. At an outdoor table, I sat and read the Victoria newspaper for a bit and listened to the group of eight cyclists who all sat down near me. They seemed like a jolly fun bunch – so that was reassuring considering I was going to be spending 3 hours with them on kayaks. The proprietor brought the food and talked to me for a bit about the beautiful weather before taking orders for the group (I thanked her for taking my order first). The wrap and the soup were quite delicious. I practically devoured them – and downed them with water. After eating, I rode back the campsite to drop off my provisions and brought back my Crocs shoes for the kayaking adventure. When I got back to the dock, the guide was going over the basics of kayaking to the group as some of them had never been out on a sea-kayak before. I had, so I didn’t need to pay too much attention to the overview.
The group all got in our individual kayaks and we pushed off from the dock out into the marina, then the main habour. The weather was, indeed, quite nice. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much wind and the skies were partly cloudy, so no fear of too much sun exposure. I paddled around towards the front of the pack and snapped some photos along the journey. The guide and his assistant were extremely knowledgeable of the flora and fauna of the area. Indeed, the main guide was born and raised on the island. A true local! There wasn’t a question I could ask about the history, culture, geography, politics of the area which he couldn’t answer. I was very impressed with his knowledge and his passion for teaching us.
At a couple points along the journey, we gathered the kayaks together and he would talk about the local wildlife. He retrieved one of the many starfish from the shallow shoreline and passed it around as he described how they ate and life out their lives. I was amazed at how hard and prickly the starfish were. For some reason, I thought they’d be soft and squishy.
We paddled on some more and hugged the shoreline as the wind picked up a bit. With about 30 minutes to finish the trip, we turned around, paddled around Julia Island (which is, conveniently, for sale) and then allowed the wind to gently guide us back to the marina were we docked and said our good-byes. It was a really wonderful 3-hour adventure. Initially, I had wanted a longer trip, but I learned quite a bit about the island’s history and wildlife from just that short 3-hour trip. I highly recommend Gulf Island Kayaking for anyone who wants to explore the beautiful area of Galiano Island from a sea kayak.
After the adventures around the harbour, I biked back to camp and took a little sponge bath in my tent before setting out for the night. I was going to catch the bus to the Hummingbird Pub for drinks and grub. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of pub food – though I did want to socialize with the locals and tourists a bit. Besides, it was a Saturday night after all. I cleaned up and put on some “town clothes” and walked the short distance to where the bus picked up people from the campground. What I thought was just a regular bus which went back-and-forth from the campground to the marina to the pub was rather quite an experience! Already waiting for the bus were two women. I got to talking to them and they mentioned if I was ready for the bus! I inquired why would I need to be ready for it. They mentioned the great fun and spirit of the driver – Tommy Transit. He plays ’60s music on the bus, passes out musical instruments and the bus riders sing and perform on the bus during the short journey to the pub! These ladies were quite fun and interesting. They’d been together for what seems like 30 years or more and lived on Salt Spring Island. They just sailed over for the night on their newish sailboat. Soon, the bus came and already the driver (Tommy) was wild-eyed and smiling and laughing as he opened the door to greet us onto the bus!
He tossed a maraca to me and I sat down near the front and started shaking it to the sounds of Led Zeppelin.