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Logs line the high-tide mark of a cove on Pender Island. During this covid isolation I’m enjoying spending time in nature. Bays, coves and headlands, that fascinating transition between land and the sea, fascinate me. On Pender and the other southern Gulf Islands, the shores are seldom covered in glistening white sand. Instead, rocky outcrops abound, rows of bleached logs mark the high-tide line and many lifeforms skitter here and there. It’s wonderful.

I have to tread carefully for the shoreline usually is composed of rock, sometimes conglomerations of rounded stones, Broken red bricks cover Bricky Bay, Pender Island. sometimes like rows of cogs in a factory assembly line, other times grey sandstone with beautiful whorls and patterns created by erosion.

These sedimentary rocks were laid down about 70 million years ago in a basin. The collision of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, which is still ongoing, subsequently folded, faulted and contorted the sedimentary layers into the island archipelago we see today.

The seashore is blessed with a cornucopia of life. The broad-leaved stonecrop with its yellow flower perches precariously on rocky cliffs. The brilliant orange of California poppies brightens many locales. I enjoy sitting beside them with a grand vista before me. Down below, the shallow water embraces many seaweeds, but I’m Bull kelp lies like a snake on the sedimentary rocks of a beach.attracted to sea lettuce, which is delicious in salads. The mighty bull kelp is often washed up, looking like a long python coiled among the rocks.

The intertidal zone is alive with movement. Herons poise in inches deep water patiently waiting. Gulls screech overhead. Every lifted rock reveals skittering crabs. And in secret places I dig for clams and harvest oysters.

Many coves provide glimpses into the activity of humans in past times. White beaches and layers of broken clam shells (middens) show that Coast Salish First Nations have lived in this area for millennia.

A factory at Bricky Bay on Pender Island manufactured bricks from 1910 to 1920. Many still rSandstone cliff attractively eroded by wind and water.emain, transforming the beach into a red colour.

Another favourite spot is Georgina Point on Mayne Island with its lighthouse guarding the eastern entrance to Active Pass. The grey sandstone along the water’s edge is like an art gallery with fascinating whorls and pits like alien eyes and faces.

Driftwood logs fascinate me. I can sit for hours on one of the sun-warmed logs that form a wooden necklaces for coves, admiring the view and feeling content Knot holes in a driftwood log look like eyes.to be part of the glorious complexity of nature.

Skunk cabbage aka swamp lanterns among alder trees.When skunk cabbages rise in roadside ditches still wet from winter rains, my pulse quickens. The bright yellow flowers appear almost overnight and are like bursts of sunshine signalling that a re-awakening is near. Shortly after, spring sneaks around the corner.

I love seeking out quiet nooks adorned by wildflowers. Sometimes I am rewarded by a clutch of calypso (aka fairy slipper) orchids, one of six orchids found in the Gulf Islands. Sadly, they are rapidly being lost and I hold their locations a close secret.

The broad-leaved stonecrop is usually perched on a rocky cliff or outcrop. It staCalypso orchids on Pender Island.rts as a low almost moss-like plant, but then a yellow flower bursts forth and it grows much higher, towering over the leaves below.

To see chocolate lilies, I head to a grassy meadow near Gowland Point on Pender Island. Although quite rare, for a short period, hundreds of these lilies are scattered here like jewels amongst the grass.

Near Boat Passage on Saturna Island with a sparkling early morning sun, I stood among dozens of white fawn (aka Easter) lilies, still wet with dew, their white flowers dangling from slender straight stalks.

Chocolate lily at Gowlland Point, Pender Island.In late spring, the foxglove grows up to 2-metres high with the purple and sometimes white flowers lining up like small bells. I love to watch bees humming from flower to flower, often burrowing right of sight.

In springtime, the bright yellow flowers of Scotch broom are ubiquitous. Though a lovely sight, the broom is a rampant invasive with prolific seed production, up to 18,000 seeds per plant. The plant can live 15 years, and on hot days you can hear their seed pods popping open like popcorn. Each seed has the astounding ability to lie dormant for up to 30 years before germinating.

Fawn lilies at Boat Passage, Saturna Island.Who cannot admire a rose, the very symbol of love? The Nootka (aka wild) rose sports pink flowers and can reach as high as 3 metres, favouring open habitats such as meadows, roadsides and shorelines.

Native plants are excellent for gardens because over the centuries they have adapted to the regional weather and soil. They need minimal fertilizer, very little watering, minimal Wild rose lying on board walk of forest trail.weeding and no pesticides. Best of all, they attract birds, bees and butterflies, providing colour and movement that soothe the soul.

 

During the pioneer days, community halls in the southern Gulf Islands were the vibrant centres of island life. Today, they remain important heritage icons and, in spite of inroads by television and wifi, continue to be where islanders gather and socialize.

Old Community Hall, Saturna Island.Saturna Island, for example, has recently built a large recreation centre with a gymnasium, kitchen, medical clinic and a large firehall/emergency-services building. The Old Hall, built in 1933, however, continues to be popular, particularly for cultural presentations, which benefit from the building’s excellent acoustics, its cozier size and its unique historical ambiance. Currently, renovation work is underway to significantly improve the old building.

A post-and-beam, two-storey community hall, opened in 2000, is Pender Island’s heart and soul. It hosts the Saturday Farmers Market; the annual Fall Fair; concerts; movie nights; art exhibitions; seminars; dances; weddings; yoga, Taoist Tai Chi and fitness classes; summer camp for youngsters; card games; carpet bowling; meetings of island organizations; a weekly social with soup and music; and much more. But there’s another proud story. At the entrance you are greeted by three imposing First Nations welcome poles consisting of female bears. They were carved by island women, directed by Victor Reece, an indigenous master carver.Totems at front of Community Hall on Pender Island.

Mayne Island has two community halls. The new Community Centre, topped by solar panels, offers a variety of programs for fitness, health and well-being, arts, crafts and education. It also hosts meetings, community events, concerts, weddings and banquets. Out back is a thriving community garden, and on the side are tennis courts. More than a century old (1900), the much smaller Agricultural Hall hosts community events such as presentations, meetings, workshops, movies, theater productions and small special events.

Galiano Island also has two community halls, one at each end of the long island. The one at the south end opened May 1929 with the BC Lt. Governor present. It is operated by the Agricultural Hall (1900) on Mayne Island. Community Centre on Mayne Island.Galiano Club, and is a hub of the community with many local events such as concerts, dances, weddings, plays, exhibitions, lectures, etc. held there. The quaint North Hall, a renovated 1930s school house with a new commercial kitchen, is a hub of north Galiano community events including the Canada Day Jamboree, the Robbie Burn’s Supper, the Great Chilli Cook-off, weddings, receptions, workshops, weekly Scottish Country dancing and a monthly Luncheon Games. It is also the reception centre for the Emergency Preparedness program, and is the home of the Galiano Garden Club and it’s library. The hall at the north end is also a social hub and features soup-and-bread Mondays.

Community Hall at south end of Galiano Island, BC.With their many social events, community halls are invaluable in uniting our island communities. They are also a bridge into the past.

 

Community Hall north end Galiano Island, BC.

 

 

 

Credits: Thanks to Richard Blagborne, Saturna; Allan Forget, Judith Hamilton, Galiano; and Facebook pages for photos and information.

 

One day in April, I peered from a cliff down into an eagle’s nest balanced near the top of a Douglas fir tree. A bald eagle mother with a two-metre wing span and lethal talons and beak was ever so gently placing food into the tiny beak of her three-day-old chick. A touching scene.

We’re fortunate, for eagles are an iconic sight in the Gulf Islands. Their nests are near the tops of tall Douglas fir trees anHandsome bald eagle posesd usually within 100 metres of the sea. Over four months I watched as the eagle mom incubated two eggs and then lovingly nurtured the single chick (the other egg never hatched).

For four years I studied this eagle pair and bonded with them. I learned that eagles mate in February and usually lay two eggs around the end of March. The female incubates the eggs for about 35 days, with occasional help from the male. Once hatched, eaglets are fed by both parents; at six to seven weeks they start feeding themselves.

By the end of June chicks are as large as their parents but still have not left the nest. They are dark brown in colour, and do not develop the

Mother bald eagle stands guard on nest edge with two eggs, Gulf Islands BC

distinctive white head and tail feathers until they reach adulthood at about four to six years.

Finally, in early July, eaglets are ready to fledge although it takes some coaxing by the parents to get them to take that first flight.  Surprisingly, they are bigger than the parents because the initial, temporary feathers are larger to help them fly.

In September, most eagles leave their territories to catch salmon and socialize in spawning areas, returning later in the fall. Then the young eagles find their own territories and start the life cycle once more.

Mother bald eagle feeding three-day-old chick, Pender Island BC

 

Teeing up at hole 2, Pender Island disc course

Hidden away in the forest deep in the Magic Lake area is one of the finest — and least known — treasures of Pender Island: a disc golf course.

On a recent weekend the forest resounded to thumps, clangs and happy shouts as I arrived to play. With its hilly contours and stately Douglas firs, western cedars and gangling arbutuses, the course is considered one of the most picturesque in North America.

Disc golf is just like regular golf but instead of hitting a ball, you throw a plastic disc that looks like a Frisbee. Starting in the tee box, you keep throwing down the course until your disc lands in a chain basket or strikes a pole covered in metal so it makes a ringing sound. The objective is to take the minimum number of throws. The top players carry more than a dozen discs, using different ones for driving, putting and curving around trees, which have an annoying habit of getting in the way. Novices play along just fine with one or two discs. The game is totally casual. There are no waivers to sign, no tee-off times; you just show up and start to play. Best of all, it’s free (except for tournaments)!

Sign for Hart Memorial Disc Golf Course, Salt Spring Island BC

Sign for Golf Island Disc Park, Pender Island BC

Disc golf is played around the world and is particularly popular on the west coast. Courses are also found on Salt Spring Island and Mayne Island.

I joined three friends and started. With many errant shots my score climbed embarrassingly quickly. But it was a lot of fun.

After the game, I nursed a bottle of amber fluid and thought I detected the smell of a well-known BC product wafting through the forest. What a wonderful day!

                       Hanging tone pole at Hart Memorial Disc Park, Salt Spring Island BC

If You Want to Play

– Pender Island: Disc Golf Island is in Magic Lake

– Salt Spring Island: Hart Memorial Disc Park is at Mouat Park

– Mayne Island: Disc park is at Dinner Bay

I suffer from incurable islomania. I confess: I’m crazy about islands. They attract me and hold an immense power over me. They are addictive. I am in their thrall.

Off the southwest coast of British Columbia is an archipelago, a gaggle of glorious islands, that draws me like a super-magnet. Mother bald eagle feeds three-day-old chick in nest, Gulf Islands BCAlthough they are near major centres of population, these isles are largely undiscovered. The Gulf Islands bask in the balmiest weather in the nation, and are populated by odd characters ranging from artists to aging hippies. The islands overflow with good eats thanks to abundant organic produce and seafood, not to mention four wineries and a brewery. Furthermore, seals, killer whales, eagles, deer, pileated woodpeckers and more live here in harmony.

It is easy to see why I chose to settle in the middle of the archipelago on perfect little Pender Island. There is no better place to launch a kayak and laze on the water, letting the tidal currents gently carry you along. Or to sip a glass of wine while watching the sun turn the island-bestrewn horizon into breathtaking mauves, oranges and crimsons. I love living on Pender Island.

Here is photographic proof of paradise.

Kayaking on the Salish Sea BC     Sheep in winter mist, Pender Island BC    Sunset sparkles against driftwood, Pender Island BC