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Gulf Islands Adventure – Day 4 – Flat Top to Descanso

We said goodbye to the Crown Islets and worked our way through the other Flat Top Islands, heading northwest around Gabriola. This part of the trip hinged on good weather because we were out on the relatively-exposed Straight of Georgia. The weather held and it was bright and sunny for most of the day. There were more seals and sea lions that we saw near a lighthouse. I also tried to call Canadian Public Health and some company called “Purloator” about picking up my Covid test, but didn’t really learn much. I turned my phone to airplane mode for most of the day.

The cliffs here had dark staining that sometimes looked like faces to me.

The main paddling challenge today was that Vincent’s boat seemed to be sinking. It had started earlier, but after he’d paddle for a little while, his boat would get lower and lower, and when we would stop we’d have to pump out the rear hatch.

Vincent H Paddling along Gabriola Island
passing waterfalls (photo by Paul M)

I backed into this slot around a corner so I could hide and surprise Alice and Diana when they came around, but some boat wake interrupted my cunning plan.

so sneaky
Guillemots (photo by Tom F)
Descanso Bay

We reached our campground in Descanso Bay, across from Nanaimo, and, according to our original plan, this would be as far north as we would go. Am I hinting enough that things won’t go to plan? There were two potential beaches to land at. One with a nice beach but a bit of a carry to get to the campsites, and one right next to our campsites, that was full of sinking mud and broken, sharp, oyster shells. I noped out of the oyster-beach and was later joined by everyone else when the tide started to go out and threatened to leave everyone’s boat trapped in the mud. We saw otters here and a pileated woodpecker.

That evening we walked about a mile to town and went to a very fancy pizza restaurant & I bought a mojito because I’m fancy. These wild turkeys were standing in the parking lot when we got out.

Turkeys looking for some lumber
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Hilarious stuff my daughter says to me:

This is on the heels of our dinner conversation where my son asked if there was any health reasons to avoid cannibalism and my family responded that 1) humans are full of human diseases and 2) apex predators accumulate toxins. So my daughter helpfully suggested it’d be okay to eat vegetarians. That’s not alarming at all, right?

As for today. She relayed the story about getting a phone call when she was alone at the ice rink so she vaulted over a gate that she never bothered to open when no one could see her. It was security. They could see her on camera and made the call to prank her. Then she talked about hopping over a 7 foot fence so she could weed a (closed) public garden for hours, but the security guard who caught her doing so was the former landscaper for the garden and thought she was an official volunteer until she confessed otherwise.

Then a quick story about the time she almost got a grown man to throw himself face first into the ground because pretending to fall and catching herself in a plank is a trick she’d been practicing.

But the real kicker was just an off comment. She talked about skipping in public and being asked why she was so happy? No real reason, she said she’d just gotten off work. And they said, “wow, work must be awful if you’re so happy to leave.” And her casual, imaginary, reply was “Oh, it’s not bad, but I have to stop eating out of the trash.” This was said in such a deadpan manner. As if ‘stop eating out the trash’ was one of those personal goals she had set for herself in a performance review. Like ‘eating out of the trash’ was just too tempting and while her supervisor had spoken to her about it, she just couldn’t quite resist the temptation yet. I lost it. Her attempts to explain why it was really okay just made it worse.

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Gulf Islands Adventure – Day 3 – Wallace to Flat Top

June 6th – we had some rain overnight but it was dry when we had to pack up. Today our timing mattered because we needed to go through Gabriola Pass near the slack. We were told, and I’ve since seen some video, that currents in the pass can get up to 8 knots and we didn’t want to deal with that in our fully-loaded boats, many of which had gear or wheels strapped to the deck.

After packing and oatmeal for breakfast (I’ve decided that oatmeal is always a good breakfast – it’s quick, it’s warm, and I can put as much dried fruit in it as I want) we were on our way. We set out northwest past the Secretary Islands and along the west side of Reid before making a big crossing, diagonally, to Valdes. This area is full of tankers and container ships waiting for a slot to open at the port in Vancouver. They made me a little nervous as we are very small and they are huge, but they luckily never moved while we were there.

Our lunch spot was a bit north of Blackberry Point and we waited for a while, looking at a Gary Oak to make sure we were hitting the slack, and then we entered the pass. The sandstone cliffs along Valdes were impressive, and we saw many sea stars – which I found encouraging because they had suffered a big die off a few years back.

Sandstone cliffs making us look small
Sandstone formations on Valdes
Purple Sea Star (photo by Tom F)

The pass turned out to be … nothing impressive. We even wondered if it really got as bad as they say, but we took a few minutes to explore the marina and then paddled through, looking for our mysterious islet in the Flat Tops.

Most of the Flat Top Islands are privately owned and off limits, but there are two tiny islets that are open to camping, with NO services. When I first saw them I was highly skeptical that we could even fit 6 tents on them – one was basically a grassy rock with one tree on it. The other didn’t even have a tree. But we did, and once we were settled in I was so glad we had stayed there. It was magical.

We saw many seals and one sea lion as we pulled in.

are we really going to put 6 tents on THAT?
Alice’s method of letting the tide lift the boats to us (photo by Alice V)
The Magic Happens
Sunset from the Flat Top Islands
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Gulf Islands Adventure – Day 2 – Montague to Wallace

June 5th we packed up at Montague and prepared for a 10 mile paddle along Galiano Island and across to Wallace Island. This is where we got our first look at some of the impressive sandstone sculpture that we would follow for most of the trip, and also, I think, where we first met some of the seals that would keep an eye on us for the rest of the trip.

My camera / phone has no zoom capabilities, so it was hard to capture animals and birds, and I don’t now recall where we first saw them, but we saw many seals, otters, some feral mink and a variety of birds, including eagles, vultures and guillemots. The weather remained good for our paddle, cloudy at times but no rain during the day. The Sandstone had an interesting variety of textures including something that looked a lot like honeycomb. I’m curious as to how that may have formed.

We passed this house that I think might be Rivendell. I didn’t get a photo of the shed next to it, but it had a very hobbit-hole look to it.

Seems like this house should be in the Lord of the Rings
Carrying the boats up at Wallace

We arrived at Wallace Island around 4pm and I had to think about my scheduled Covid test. We had a few bars of service, it was better up on the cliff, so I set up my tent, prepped my test kit in it, and went up to wait for my call in time. The video worked and we weren’t cut off. I was able to take the test and finally talk to a human who agreed I might have a hard time turning in the test, but couldn’t do more than make a note in my file. I didn’t get the kind of reassurance I was looking for that Canada wasn’t going to mad at me and the best she could offer was the number for Public Health Canada, and the lab’s help line (the one I spent 40 minutes on hold for already). This may surprise you, but it’s challenging to keep your phone charged out there. My last call to their help line burned through 20% of my phone battery and I didn’t have enough to try again now. Time to go for a walk and watch the sunset.

Small cove on Wallace Island
Sunset from Wallace Island
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Gulf Islands Adventure – Day 1 – Tsawassan to Montague

On June 4th I set out with 5 friends from my sea kayaking club on a 9-day trip to the Gulf Islands in BC. This is considered a relatively sheltered area, but it’s still just off the Straight of Georgia and has some big crossings and some areas where we had to time it just right to avoid strong currents. Our plan was to launch from Mayne Island, head north almost to Nanaimo, then return south through False Narrows, around Salt Spring Island, and finally returning to Mayne Island to take the ferry back to Tsawassan, BC. All told, 120 miles. The longest day would be around 18 miles.

The Plan

We met at 4AM to make sure we could cross the border at 6, and arrive in plenty of time to figure out how to unload, get the kayaks on wheels, figure out where long term parking was, and get ourselves onto the 9:20 ferry. This all went relatively smoothly except for the part where I was randomly selected to take a Covid test at the Canadian border. That seems simple enough, right? I’ll just do the swab in the car, box it up and drop it in the post before I get on the ferry. Ah… how optimistic of me! While reading the instructions I was able to gather that they wanted me to register online (okay, did that), then I have to install some video software because they want to WATCH me do the swab. Then I’m supposed to book an appointment online. I decide I can’t think about this right now because we have to unload.

Threading the needle: getting our 17 foot kayaks through a sharp angle.
Loaded and ready! (photo by Alice V)

On board the ferry I discover that I can’t take care of the whole Covid thing before I leave the ferry. I can’t book an appointment until the next day, Sunday, because they want you to be able to get the swab sample to Fedex within 24 hours of taking it. This is going to be a problem because by Sunday I’m going to be paddling from Island to Island, frequently to places with no roads, much less a fedex office. I try to call their help line to explain the issue and I’m pretty confident she hung up on me on purpose (after I waited on hold for 40 minutes).

One of my fellow travelers has been to Canada multiple times and felt I could probably throw the whole thing in the trash for all it was worth, but it had threatening language about “$5000 fine” and I’m nervous about these things, so this is going to remain an issue.

We arrive at Mayne Island, roll off the ferry and through a gate where we have to lift our very heavy kayaks down to the beach. Luckily we have some straps to make this a 4-person carry and we get everyone down and ready to go.

Our first leg takes us across from Mayne Island to Galiano past the opening to the aptly-named “Active Pass”. We had to keep an eye (and an ear) out for the ferries, and crossed a pair of sizable current lines before we got close to the calmer area near Galiano.

Letting the ferry go by outside of Active Pass
Along the cliffs of Galiano Island (photo by Alice V)

It’s cloudy but fair weather, and we make our short hop across the channel and along the coast to Montague Harbor Marine Provincial Park. It’s sheltered behind another, small island, and seemed popular spot for boaters. All is well for camp the first night.

At our first campsite
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Sucia Island

I haven’t posted in over a year but I’ve been doing things! Mostly I’ve been out hiking and kayaking, and in September I started riding horses again. I may or may not fill in the past year, but for now, here’s the 3 day trip from this week. I’ve been hearing about kayaking trips to Sucia Island (north of Orcas) for years now and I finally got to go with NSSKA.

The entire island is a state park and can only be reached by boat. There is no ferry service to the island. Most people arrive by motor boat, and we saw a few professional tour groups while we were there, but we made the 2 mile crossing after first visiting a Cascade Marine Trails campsite at Point Doughty.

Our original plan was to stay two nights and explore Matia and Patos islands, but forecasted high winds convinced us to return after only one night. We spent our second night at Moran State Park, paddled two of the lakes there, and went for a hike.

Arriving at Fox Bay Camp
Looking back at our campsite from a hiking trail
Some of the views around Sucia
Hike around the island
Fossil fish on Sucia
Sucia, Patos and Matia islands from Orcas
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Larrabee Park South – Kayak Trip Report

This is from April 26, but I’m just updating my blog now. We launched from Larrabee State Park and paddled south. We had a bit of wind at the start but that soon died down and on our return it was glassy smooth. We seemed to have encountered a nude beach and another good resting point that was occupied so we kept going until we found ourselves in what looked like a commercial oyster bed, so we exited that quickly and started on our way back. What we did find that was interesting was a rock carving (I assume modern) and a bunch of wind-sculpted Chuckanut sandstone. Overall I found the paddle south to be not as interesting as going north, but it was a good day to be on the water.

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I haven’t been painting as much as I planned but I’ve started sketching again so hopefully I’ll start turning those into paintings again soon. I have two new ones, the first is a small color study in oil of Cutthroat Pass and the second is a somewhat larger (but still small) painting of some hay and a house we saw in France.

Cutthroat Pass Blueberries
8×10 oil on panel
11×14 oil on panel
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Early 2021

So – what am I working on now? I was joking that I’m no longer making art, I’m just looking at it. But it’s probably more accurate to say that I’m not finishing any art.

I’ve got 3 oil paintings in various stages of done-ness, one of which I had previously put away for over a year and now I’m trying to salvage it. One is a bottle painting where I decided i was unhappy with the composition so I may not finish it. Third is another portrait of my dog, because everyone loves my dog.

Other than that – I’ve just been making tiny sketches to see if I like the layout – to avoid the problem of not liking a composition once I’m half way through. I think the rock in the forest and the sketch of Chain Lakes have potential. The other looked better in my head. The chameleon was just for fun and because I wanted to see if my multimedia paper would take watercolor (it does). The glass of water was a practice study. And the portrait is about half done, I’m letting it sit a few days to see if the proportions still look right when I’ve been away from it.

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Last of 2020

There’s no theme here, but I wanted to get in the last few things I did at the tail end of 2020. Two of my previous pastel frogs are promised to family members and I wanted to have one to keep for myself. The still life is the latest in what’s turning into a series of light shining through glass bottles. For a while in the middle I regretted my decision to paint green light shining on green apples, but I think it turned out in the end.

Are those words?