Mathew L, Michael P and Matthew Lettington ventured out on the water just off Cedar by the Sea. From Good... Friday Morning to Easter Monday afternoon. All told the group did more than 50 km of paddling and hiking as they toured De Courcy, Valdes and a variety of other small islands. The Days were fair with little rain, a little sun and a lot of good times between friends.
Friday Morning Matthew Lettington and Michael P met Matthew Light at the boat launch in the area known as Cedar by the Sea. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and there were white fluffy clouds in the sky. We there were in high spirits as we packed our boats and set out around 10:45. We had a rough route planned but on the fly made some decisions based on tides and current and changed our original route to eliminate a paddle through the Gabriola Passage. Instead we headed for the Hole in the Wall between Link Island and De Courcy, our intent to head to Blackberry Point and use that location as a launching point for the next few days. When we reached the Hole in the Wall the tides were against us and we chose to do the shot portage with loaded boats to the far side of the island, the portage being only 25 feet. We paddled east in a straight shot to Valdes Island. The whole time the skies were becoming more turbulent and the winds were slowly growing. We took our first break at a beautiful little cove that offered a great place to land our boats and walk up to the grassy hill above. The area was beautiful offering a variety of different camping areas, including a few with excellent views of the straight. The best part in my opinion were the rock crabs that I was able to pluck off the floor of the ocean with very little effort. We took note of this location but continued on our way toward Blackberry Point. We arrived at Blackberry Point around 2:30. The winds were coming up and a very light sprinkling of rain had accompanied our arrival on the beach, though it shortly stopped. We set up our tarps, tents and set up the camp. After a good rest we set out north along the shore looking for the path up to the caves that we read about. Although we didn't find the caves, we did manage to summit the cliff/ridge and hike along that for a spectacular view of De Courcey and Cedar from a height of about 70 meters. More importantly the hike up the ridge provided some amazing scenery, unlike other areas I have hiked. The fractured cliffs provided crevasses, gullies and holes through the landscape that offered views of secret areas where chocolate lilies, untold numbers of mosses and a wide variety of trees were growing. Magical.
Day two our intent was to paddle to Dionisio Point or Wallace Island, depending on currents, weather etc. The seas were not perfect, the winds were hovering around 20 knots, the sky's gray and dark clouds threatened rain and the water was changeable, at time rough and sometimes calm. We made only one stop on our route, at what appeared to be an abandoned village. We gingerly explored, trailers both big and small, old trucks and even children's toys. It was eerie to say the least and my mind ran rampant creating mysterious narratives about why the people would leave. We didn't stay long.
By the time we made it to Porlier Pass we were tired and the possibility of reaching Wallace Island and return to Blackberry seemed unlikely so we made a short lived attempt to cross Porlier Pass. The tide was not quite slack and though we made it to the halfway point we revaluated the crossing based on our skill level and preparedness, we turned back.
We were following seas the entire way back to Blackberry Point and as we arrived at the camp the winds whipped up significantly and there was a little rain. Matthew Light stayed on the water a little longer after reaching camp, attempting to fish from his kayak. As the winds picked up he gave up the attempt as his line was running parallel with the water because of the winds and current. The high winds diminished to moderate, keeping us active throughout the night avoiding conflict with the smoke from our lovely beach fire. I am happy to report that we faced no challenge in terms of rain, we were dry as a bone all night long.
In the morning of day three we were greeted with light wind but a little bit of swell on the ocean. We broke camp and the three of us paddled together north along Valdes, toward the area we viewed a few days earlier. Once there Matthew Light carried on toward Nanaimo, he had a meeting the next day. Michael and I pulled our boats out of the water and greeted the sailing party that had taken up in the small cove for that evening. They were in the process of packing up their camp and were generous enough to leave their wonderful fire! How fortuitous, a great camping spot with a fire already burning!
That after noon Michael and I did two short hikes, one heading north along the cliffs and one heading south. Of the two I was more interested in the south. The trail was evident throughout the trip and offered endless views of both Valdes' variety of flora and the coastline adjacent the island. We only wandered for about an hour before turning back as it was clear that the trail would probably take us the entire way back to Blackberry point, or someplace similarly far away. The two of us made a vow that we would return to do some backpacking around the island, to explore and map the different trail systems and roads that seem abundant across the island.
Monday, Day Four. Although I love to hike, kayak and beyond when it comes to the final day of a trip there is always the bitter sweet feeling of returning to civilization. The pressures of work creep into the back of my head and I start to obsess about all the things I need to do when I get home but I also want to live in the moment and soak up all the camaraderie and natures offerings. The paddle back was spectacular. We decided to avoid the hole in the wall and instead headed for the northern tip of Ruxton Island. The paddle back to Cedar was the best conditions of the weekend, on the water. The surface was glassy providing excellent views through the clear surface to the anemones, nudibranchs and urchins. While on the surface we were greeted by thousands of birds of varying species, otters, sea lions, seals and even a racoon and several mink to boot! What a glorious weekend!