My late June visit to Vancouver Island had begun with Girl Guiders at a gathering to say farewell to one of our own. Several of us left Victoria the following day and met again in Courtenay to enjoy our annual get-together in active pursuits. Somehow, heavily loaded backpacks have been replaced by day packs!
Canada Day in Courtenay saw brilliant sunshine once again and, after strolling by Tsolum River where friend Heather had shown me spectacular lilies and trillium in April, we became part of a friendly neighbourhood gathering in the park beside our hostess Barb’s home. At the appointed time, an array of mismatched tables were set up, red and white tablecloths adorning them. People arrived, many wearing Canada’s colours, bearing chairs and delicious food. Flags decorated the small park, but in front of us all the largest flag, securely attached to a bicycle, fluttered in the breeze.
“He rides here with it every year,” we learned.
Much more was happening in downtown parks after Courtenay’s parade, but we were delighted by the camaraderie of this group of some 64 “neighbours and friends”.
Two days were now left of our allotted time and for these we were more tourists than hikers. Amazingly, none of us three “inlanders” had visited any smaller islands in the vicinity of Vancouver Island. Now we have checked out four of them: Denman and Hornby, accessed south of Courtenay came first, followed by Quadra and Cortes Islands.
On Hornby, a five km walk in Helliwell Provincial Park took us, including Heather, out of a lofty, old-growth forest to an incredible oceanside loop past a rocky shore and along spectacular bluffs.
“You can’t top this,” we said – but Tribune Bay with its white sandy beach and warm ocean water came close!
The following day saw us driving north to Campbell River and catching the ferry to Quadra Island. At Cape Mudge, south of the ferry landing, the First Nations museum describes earlier traditions in detail, and has superb displays of masks, costumes, totem poles, dugout canoes and much more. From here we drove to visit other coves before reaching Rebecca Spit on the opposite side of the island. Once again, an ocean view provided the décor for our picnic.
Nearby, we boarded yet another ferry for Cortes Island with more beaches and interesting sights. After driving straight across the island to Squirrel Cove, we turned south and visited Hollyhock, a “lifelong learning center,” offering either holidays or programs along with organic meals produced from their abundant gardens. (The brochure does not mention the naked neighbour man out there for his daily swim!)
Best of all, we eventually decided, was Manson’s Landing with sand galore, its tiny opening hiding a large “lake” beyond. At our final stop of Smelt Bay Provincial Park, an odd-shaped seal’s head staying above the water had me digging for binoculars. The seal was eating a fish, chomping at its middle section. In a way, we copied it for supper that night – dining on fish and chips when back in Campbell River.
In between our island-hopping days, one daughter of our much-missed “Good Ole Gal”, whose service we had attended in Victoria a few days earlier, joined us for supper. Kim told us of her mother’s “journey” into the mountains not long before she died.
“She was reliving her adventures with you ladies,” Kim concluded.
Being a member of Girl Guides has introduced me to wonderful activities and trips – but best of all are the ladies and girls who have been part of these experiences.