One, Two, Ruckle My Shoe

24 August 2018 – “R” not “B” — my shoes have laces not buckles, and they’re walking me through Ruckle Provincial Park. At 486 hectares, it’s the largest park in the Gulf Islands.

Getting here is part of the fun: first a bus from Ganges to the village of Fulford, then 15 minutes or so before another bus comes along for the trip across this south-easterly knob of Salt Spring Island, on over to the park.

The village is clustered close to Fulford Harbour, its shops geared not only to residents but also to transients waiting for one of the ferries than run from here to assorted other islands. I hang out on the dock, slowing down & settling into all this space and beauty. (Marred still by wild fire haze.)

Our bus arrives, and away we go.

I’m looking forward to Ruckle, even though I know nothing about it other than that it exists, and it can be reached by public transit. That’s enough for me! So, with lunch & water in my daypack, off I go. It becomes a figure-8 sort of exploration that keeps me close to water, first ranging well beyond Beaver Point going this way, and then looping back that way as far as Bear Point.

But really, I don’t care exactly how many klicks I walk or which landmarks I reach. As far as I’m concerned, everything is a delight.

The park offers dirt trails, here with the flourish of a tree-gate …

dirt trails with a footbridge …

rocky climbs …

and clearings with picnic tables.

The path in front of this table …

leads on to a secluded cove.

 

There are peek-a-boo views of the Swanson Channel …

and panorama views from high rocky ledges (with a sailboat and a ferry ghost-visible in the haze).

While well out beyond Beaver Point in my first loop, I realize I am coming to a camp ground. Tents only, no looming RVs, but I’m still working up to a pout. I want Nature, not campers.

Oh, all right, says Nature. Here!

If he’s not bothered, why should I be?

So I calm down, and promptly discover a second reason to appreciate the camp ground.

Isn’t this the best? I have to wait a moment to meet the host, though. At the moment — and you can almost make it out, in the shadows under the tent awning — he is pouring a bucket of rinsing water over his wife’s freshly washed hair. I wave at him to take his time, and a few minutes later he and his be-turbanned wife join me, smiling and happy to talk.

Turns out they are a retired couple, not islanders but quick to join other volunteers who take turns camping here each summer, living among the visitors, answering questions, generally being a helpful (and watchful) presence on-site.

They are typical of my day. Everyone I meet is affable, happy, having a good time and up for a moment’s chat. Just the right number of day-trippers, I decide: plentiful enough for the occasional exchange about where-are-we-now and what-a-great-day … but rare enough that there’s lots of time to enjoy the solitude.

Mid-afternoon I’m on the bus and back to Ganges. It’s a small  community, but after a day in the park’s tranquility how bustling and big-city it seems!

And then it offers its own enchantment.

I pass another of those painted pianos, watch two little girls fall under its spell, and promptly fall under their spell. Plink, plunk… giggle, giggle …

Then it’s up the hill toward my Airbnb, walking along the playing field by the school yard — and look, it’s a village soccer game. A couple of islanders have hunkered down to watch, I find a convenient spot on the edge of the skate park opposite, and join them.

It’s Yellow Vests vs. The Other Guys, all ages on both sides, and a female ref, her thick black braid bouncing on her back as she keeps up with the play.

I am a tourist, just another in the endless chain of tourists that come and go, doubling the island’s population each summer.

But, just for a moment, I feel like I belong.

An Arrow to the Islands

23 June 2018 – Just an arrow on the sidewalk, with a number, leading to a bus bay. My feet, among many others, obediantly follow the arrow. I am agreeably fizzing with delight, because this arrow, this bus, is the start of an adventure.

It’s the magic link – the hop from Vancouver’s city transit system to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and all those connections to the islands beyond. Tsawwassen was jump-off for my trip to Victoria in May; today I’m a day-tripper, curious about the islands that be-jewel the Strait of Georgia between the B.C. mainland and Vancouver Island.

My destination is Galiano — an easy 1-hour trip; population 1,000; 27 km X 6 (at its widest); named for Spanish explorer Dianiso Alcalá Galiano, who came through in 1792 (but who cares? the Coast Salish people arrived 3,000 years ago). These Southern Gulf Islands are tightly woven, and I still need simplified maps to help me sort out what’s where.

Galiano is orange, with the ferry’s dotted line hooking in to Sturdies Bay, where the boats come & go. I try to pin Mayne (turquoise), Saturna (purple), Pender (blue) & Salt Spring (“SSI” – green) in memory. I smile at SSI: I have a vacation date with that island in August, you’ll get to visit it with me.

But, today, I’m on Galiano. I’ve never been here before, but I feel warm with familiarity. I have lived on small islands and visited others; for all their differences, they also have some transcending commonalities – services, signs, ways of life.

Small islands have great bookstores. Always.

I loiter for more than an hour, buying a book but resisting — with difficulty — the matched set of Schrödinger’s Cat coffee mugs (one alive, one dead, but you’d already guessed that).

Then another any-island tradition: lunch at the local café/bakery.

I resist the cinnamon buns (yet another any-island staple) but devour a sweet potato-etc wrap, warmed on the grill. I shamelessly eavesdrop on conversation at the next table. Two young local women are planning to open some sort of food facility this summer; two local guys join them — with the dogs of both parties settling in just as amicably — and ask for an update. Q: “So when you gonna open?” A: “Soon. Or never.” Laughter.

It’s 4-5 km or so from the dock to the main cluster of shops. Given the lack of week-day bus service, I decide to stick closer to Sturdies Bay. My wander-about has already yielded the bookstore and the café; more emerges as I prowl.

All the signs (some literally so) of island life. A reminder of local water service …

the Community Development office …

the local laundromat …

the RCMP emergency telephone line …

numerous bulletin boards, all shaggy with notices …

local entrepreneurship, the Galiano Coffee Roasting Company

more local entrepreneurship, a freight service. So hum-drum, you might say, and in a hum-drum metal building, but with a wonderfully island-fey detail.

I doubt the plane is part of the service! Don’t care. Love it.

On down the road, bargaining with island gods as I go: “Well, here I am, open to whatever the island can offer to day-tripping, on-foot me. And it’s all fine as is, really it is, but still … if some near-ish destination were on offer, that would be nice.”

And, shazam, the island gods smile.

I ignore the little crafts-cum-museum shop on the right, and turn left for Bellhouse Provincial Park.

More island-being-island as I go. A startled deer, glimpsed from the steps of the little Anglican church …

attractive driveway markers …

a line of mailboxes, where residents can post mail as well as collect it …

and a line of snake fencing, absolutely my favourite fencing, flipping me back to memories of my Laurentian Mountains childhood.

I arrive at the park, the generous gift of the eponymous Mr. Bellhouse, and look across parched grasses to the channel beyond.

Down to the water, of course. Past the hammock on adjoining private property (she is asleep now, later laughing & lively on her mobile phone) …

to a waterfront view through dramatic tree stumps to island ridges beyond …

and to a B.C. Ferry probably (given its size) enroute Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

I crouch to read the small metal plug in one of the folds of rock, a reminder of the continuing but unnoticed work of Hydrographic Service Canada …

then stand up again, admiring the sculpted sweeps of rock that delineate this stretch of coastline.

I spend a lot of time just … being where I am. Letting the sounds and sights and breeze come to me.

But eventually I do have to check my watch. There is a Last Boat to catch, back in Sturdies Bay. Or I may have to bed down on this beautifully sculpted, but exceedingly hard, rock for the night.

I’m back at the dock in plenty of time, of course I am. So I follow the shrub-arched path to the public-access beach, right here at the terminal. The beach is rich with logs, rock, pebbles, gulls, the dark heads of seal or otters  — even a boat wreck.

Oh dear. I try to find it picturesque, but keep rebelling at its synthetic materials.

Doesn’t matter, the larger view is wonderful. Ferry terminal and public wharf on the left, a private wharf on the right, a Canada Goose and her gaggle of half-grown goslings in-between.

Finally I climb back up to the dock. I wait with other visitors, including cyclists, for the trip back to Tsawwassen.

Where I again follow that arrow, this time in reverse, and make my way back to Vancouver.

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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