Gulf Islands in the Sun
Gulf Islands Travel Tale
A distinct quilt covers the Gulf Islands. Their beauty, weather, isolation and country lifestyle attracts -- past and present
-- an individualistic people. Historical patches of Coast Salish Indians; Spanish, British and Portuguese explorers and
pioneers; African Americans who fled from slavery; gold hunters seeking shelter; and today's sheep farmers, sculptors,
painters and poets; doctors, fishermen, carpenters, bankers and merchants. Together, they create a unique cosmopolitan
Only a few of the islands are inhabited. In pursuit of photographs and flavor, we visited two of them.
The wind blew the night before and the weatherman predicted rain. We woke up to sunshine. Huh! I was told to
disregard the weatherman. The gulf islands are protected by the mountains on Vancouver Island and get less rain then
anywhere else on the wet west coast.
In search of the perfect picture and the perfect story we drove up and down side roads. Deeper and deeper into unruly
forests of giant trees -- undisturbed forests, but, maybe not for long. Logging is in progress.
We chanced upon a high bluff with views of the magnificent ocean. Other islands could be seen in the distance -- green
emeralds floating on blue water. Next we came upon a beach. The shores were white with broken bits of clam shells.
The ocean clear. The seagulls fat and clean. A lone kayak glided by.
We were forty-five minutes by ferry from Tsawwassen on the mainland. Truly, on a clear day the island is visible from
the harbor, yet, we could have been on the other side of the planet.
Back on the highway we pulled over to shoot a sinking barn in a golden field. A rider appeared over the horizon. She
stopped to chat. Retired, she was, originally from Britain.
Were we Realtors she wondered? It seems the land is quickly being bought up.
"No, if anything," I said, admiring the landscape, "we are potential buyers."
It was the same on Salt Spring Island. Minutes after arriving we were cruising by sweeping farmland and more
Our first stop was a bright red barn and a honey stand owned by Mr. David Harris whose family has lived on Salt
Spring forever. Well, since 1863. That's forever, isn't it?
Mr. Harris invited us in for tea and cookies. His home overflows with memories. Plates belonging to his mother form
a china border in the kitchen. Photographs of old and new relatives hang precariously on the walls. Books of history
and adventure rest in disarray on the table.
We sweetened our tea with honey from his bees and listened as he spoke of his ancestors in great detail, pointing
outdoors at a tree or a stump or a building that his great-uncle or his
Grandfather or his mother or his mother's brother moved or built or planted. It was incredible. He had an unbroken
line to his past right in his own front yard.
Our next stop was Ganges. The big city of the islands. From the wharf lined with brand new shops and blooming
flower pots we looked out to sea; gilnetters and sailing yachts swayed in the foreground. Behind us a lone man played a
clarinet to no one in particular.
We hung around the wharf breathing in the salty air and relaxing until it grew dark.
The next morning we woke up to grey mist. Well, that's it for our picture taking, I thought. Not so. In a few hours the
sun was shining bright, streaking through the trees, creating rainbows, silver linings and other magical things. I didn't
want to leave.
Note: Be sure to read Places to Stay
for information on lodging on the Gulf Islands.
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