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.

Across the Salish Sea

21 August 2018 – I wouldn’t say this sign could only be found on an island, but it does have island DNA woven through its message — a cry of welcome, an invitation to adventure, and a reminder to behave yourself.

Read the fine print: I’m on Salt Spring Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands scattered so generously across the waters of the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland coast.

The waters may be a constant; their name is another matter. In 1791 Spanish explorers named the expanse for Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera; in 1792 British explorer George Vancouver promptly renamed it in honour of King George III. And so it is still officially named.

On its own, that is.

But it is now also collectively identified with Puget Sound and Juan de Fuca Strait as a larger maritime entity, which is officially recognized — by both Canada and the United States — as the Salish Sea.

photo credit: straight.com

Long before those 18th-c. explorers came around, long before Spain or Britain even had empires, the Coast Salish peoples populated this area and sailed these waters.

When BC Ferries ordered three new ships (to replace two aging ones named Queen of This-and-That), all three had Salish embedded in their names. And so I arrive at SSI’s Long Harbour terminal aboard the Salish Raven.

She may have been built in Gdansk, Poland, but her imagery is the work of the young Coast Salish artist Thomas Cannell.

One more bit of name-game: Ganges, the main community and the one where I’m staying, is a nod to the Royal Naval battleship HMS Ganges, which conducted land surveys in the area on and off in the mid-19th century.

All good to know, but I’m thinking about nature, not linguistic politics, as I accept that “Everybody Welcome!” invitation. I start down the stairs, paying due attention to slippery/uneven surfaces as I go. Which they are. And who cares.

The view into Ganges Harbour, as I come ’round a staircase angle … well, it’s just what a Vancouver tourist hopes to see.

(Except for that milky sky. It’s the wildfire haze that still blankets the province, & will for a while yet.)

Back up the steps, on down Lower Ganges Rd.

Show me your village! I want shops & cafés, galleries & produce outlets, all the wonders of this amazing island of micro-business and nature. A total of some 11,000 residents and, boy, do they ever punch above their weight.

A quick reconnoitre into  artcraft, a showcase for Southern Gulf Islands artists & craftspeople, run by the Arts Council. I almost stop for an early latte at the outdoor café right beside it, but instead only slow down long enough to admire its painted piano and vow to return later on.

I ration crafts-shop visits once I hit town; one could overdose. I wander along the Harbour edge of Centennial Park, no such thing as overdosing on nature. More boats, more haze, and — thanks to the arbutus trees — lots of blaze as well.

I am always mesmerized by the arbutus…

‘Round the next bend, and look, another painted piano.

Bunnies, this time.

I come closer, the lid is up — showing its polite request to keep it closed, to protect the keyboard from rain.

I close it.

More bunnies. Cute as can be. (My old Toronto self thinks for a moment of street artist Poser-bunnies. Whole different genre…)

The grass in the park, like grass everywhere here, is parched to pale yellow. Doesn’t matter. I know how quickly it rebounds. So I don’t fuss about that for even a moment, I focus entirely on the fibre art hanging from the tree branches.

Later, next to Transitions thrift shop — run to support Island Women Against Violence — another decorated tree: the Gratitude Tree.

You’re invited to write your own message of gratitude on one of the leaves. Lots of messages, from a single word (e.g. “Hope”) to long descriptions of specific events.

And this one …

My sentiments exactly.

I visit Transitions, buy a couple of paperbacks, and set off for that café next to artcraft. Where, at a companion food truck, I buy a compose-your-own salad to go with my latte, and settle down to enjoy both …

with the painted piano and a leaping recycled-steel & cedar orca (Breachin Orca IV, Carl Sean McMahon) to keep me company.

 

 

 

  • 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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