Another May Long Weekend
One dinner Jeremy lifted his glass and said this
was the ninth May
Long Weekend trip we have done together. Nine years of group
trips is pretty good in my books. Over the years we have learned
tricks to make the trips a
little easier - reserve ferries well in advance, alternative expensive
and cheap trips, centralize shopping. This trip showed off a new
learning - if you can, make it a four day trip! Most of us took
Friday off and headed over to the island early to make a longer trip.
I'm sure it won't be long before someone puts
goats on the roof of some
green building in Vancouver. Coombs has had goats on the roof
since I was a little kid and while what the general store has stocked
has changed over the
years (and the strip of stores around it has blossomed like a
well fertilized but unfocused garden), it's still the same feel.
We grabbed a quick lunch, bought a few items and unwound a little.
Even on a Friday afternoon, this place is full of tourists. The
band playing for coins was quickly followed by another band when their
shift was up. Separating tourists from their dollars is a big
Englishman River Falls
Englishman River is an interesting set of
The falls drop into a
narrow canyon and it's actually quite hard to get a sense of how far or
even how much water is falling - it's just a lot. Usually we
the water and the move on, but Mike decided he wanted a closer
look. Walking past the fence, we found access to the canyon to
really appreciated where all this water is going. Given
that the rock is quite slippery and down really wouldn't be friendly,
I'm glad we all made it back alive.
The walk between the upper falls and the lower
falls takes you through
a few different biomes - wet areas where maidenhair ferns thrive, dry
sunny areas where Arbutus grow and lots of Douglas Fir in
between. I found a patch of forest that I visited a few years ago
- looking at the old pictures, you can see the same plants are there,
but they are hardly static.
Getting close to the lower falls, we found a nice patch of White Fawn
Lilies. I think any gardener would be proud to have a path of
these flowers in their garden.
Denman and Hornby Island
The next day we decided to dedicate to Denman
and Hornby Island.
These two Northern Gulf Islands are similar to the Southern Gulf
Islands - quite roads, a vibrant community and a history of
farming. The ferries run quite frequently so we didn't have much
of a wait. While waiting we watched a colony of Purple Martin's -
a large species of swallow that is recovering in the area.
Our first target was Helliwell Provincial
Helliwell is one
of my favorite parks in the Gulf Islands. Unlike the Southern
Gulf Islands which are dominated by sandstone, this park is build on a
loose matrix of soft stone and pebbles which erodes to form
The gulf islands are generally gems of
many tiny niches. Sadly, similar niches on the mainline have long
ago been paved, trampled or "developed". On the grass
bench above the cliffs there are number of rarely seen or highlight
plants. My personal favorite was discovering a small patch of
prickly pear cactus.
The park has two distinct forests to see - a
of Arbutus hugging the coast, a stand of old growth Douglas Fir further
inland. Unlike our earlier foray at Englishman river falls, these
trees are widely spaced and there is a lush green undergrowth.
The bark on the larger trees is amazingly thick - I wonder if there
were fewer forest fires on the island.
I probably could have spent the whole day
walking around this forest and cliff side environment, but new
destinations awaited. Our clever plan was to meet with the second
later car and enjoy lunch at the Hornby
Island Farmers Market. This farmers market would make
Mark happy - it doesn't open until 11am and stays open until 2pm.
I really enjoy the farmers markets on
presentation is novel compared to the polished or commerical
presentation you seen
Vancouver (for instance, the Gabriola market
Island food is local, in season and nice to look at (for example, see
). Many of the artisans are extremely good but because
locally, they are only known by locals. The setting of
Island farmers markets are often well beyond a parking lot.
Hornby uses a forest near the RCMP detachment which provides enough
space that seeing all of the vendors is actually a stroll.
The products were a mix of pottery, wood carving, clothing, fresh food
and preserved food. Unlike most markets, this market had a strong
collection of "services" - people offering massage (several different
vendors) and a variety of readings.
I'm told the population of Hornby grows from at most a thousand in the
winter to more than ten thousand in the summer. I imagine the
market is an excellent way to keep more of that tourist money on the
Island. We had lunch featuring two loaves of freshly cooked local
then caught the ferry from Hornby Island back to Denman so we could
the Denman Island Pottery Tour.
I was put onto the tour by my Mom who happened
visiting with a local the next day. This tour's reputation is
starting to grow because of the quality of the work on display.
I'm not much of a pottery guy, but what really attracted me was the
locations where these potters work. Often they are beautiful
homes on expansive properties, several far away from any major
road. When the workshop is surrounded by such a lush environment,
it can't help but to rub off on the work.
The work itself varied as much as the settings. Some potters
specialize in glazes - others in building. Some potters showed a
half dozen different styles, some concentrated on just a single
presentation. Elements of many cultures were brought into the
At first we were planning on seeing only
5 of the 9 potters available. I enjoyed myself so much we took
the time to visit the other 4. Thankfully the last potter was
patient and didn't mind that we arrived well after hours.
The next day we walked around a few other sites. First, we
stopped by Little Qualicum falls. This isn't so little - there is
a massive waterfall that forms a big swirling cauldron and then follows
a steep cut canyon down to the lower falls. You imagine the
pictures that must be available from half way down the canyon, but
there is no way to get there except on a one way trip.
Just up the road is Cathedral grove - a large stand of Douglas Fir
trees. It's always fun for a short walk so we went for a pre
There is a giant tree that people like climb
up to and
demonstrate how it dwarfs them. Just turn your head to the side
and there are amazing scenes, but most people (myself included) rather
take pictures of their friends next to a big tree.
Life at the Beach
Every place we stay has different
accommodations on Saltspring Island
was an active sheep farm so we watched the sheep munch their way around
the property. One of my favorite activities on Mudge Island
was to watch the
great blue Herons fight for territory to feed. Our rental in
Bowser had an amazing number of Bald Eagles.
What was amazing to me was to watch the bald eagles feed in the
inter tidal zone. Most of the time I've seen eagles, they take a
branch on a high tree and survey a large area of water before flying
out. Here the birds stood on the beach rock, much closer to the
water. The fed by flying to the near shore and grabbing fish with
their talons (unlike a Heron which stands and stabs).
It was not uncommon to count six or seven
birds on the
rocks feeding at low tide. The trees behind the house provided
good perches and at high tide some trees had two or three eagles in
them. When the eagles were on the beach, they were quite
easily scared into flying - with several attempts I made no progress
getting close to them.
We were quite lucky with the weather so any
outdoors was pleasant. Mike got a game of "Order of the Stick"
going and it ate up a few hours of an afternoon.
And of course there is always the eating. We had an excellent
selection of meals this trip, and some chefs really spoiled us.
Our kitchen was a good size and had no problems accommodating 9 people
Another nice feature - an elevated fire pit. We scavenged
driftwood and hung out around the fire for a few hours. The glow
from Nanaimo and Vancouver dominated the horizon, but between the
passing clouds we could sometimes see stars.
Thanks everyone for coming!
Tags: bird(7), pottery(4), fire(4), beach(4), flower(4), art(3)
People: Eric(4), Michael(4), Jeremy(2), Stephen(2), Gabi(1), John(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > May Long Weekend in Bowser
From: John Harvey Photo > Blogs for 2018 to 2005 > May Long Weekend in Bowser
Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 01:42:34 Edit
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