With its hilly terrain, Salt Spring Island is a popular one-day, 55-km figure-eight ride for cyclists in training. Us, we go because it’s apple season. By stopping at every farm stand, viewpoint, and shoreline access, it takes us four days to accomplish our Island cycling tour.
“A chance to visit Apple Heaven while still on earth!” The announcement for the Salt Spring Apple Festival captures our attention. More than 450 varieties of apples are grown organically on Salt Spring, and Doug wants to sample crisp apples, raw or baked into apple pie.
Salt Spring is the biggest, most populated, and most visited of the Gulf Islands. It is accessed via BC Ferries routes to Fulford, Vesuvius, and Long Harbour. After an easy two-hour ride on the Lochside Trail, we pay two dollars each at the toll booth and roll our bicycles onto the one o’clock ferry from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour.
About two kilometres from Fulford Harbour we make a little detour to The Salt Spring Island Cheese Company set in the woods. We see the goats, watch through viewing windows as fresh goat cheese is being made, then head into the shop to taste some samples from the cheese menu. We buy a container of Ruckles, a soft goat cheese with herbs and fresh garlic in grape seed oil. Laughing Apple Farm comes next, and here we buy a bag of luscious prune plums.
Congestion ahead! It’s the Tuesday Farmers Market in Ganges, Salt Spring’s main village. Doug wades into the crowds who have come in search of fresh, locally-grown veggies, berries, fruits, and flowers. He emerges, arms full of apple desserts.
The next day we tackle the hilly Walker Hook loop, which heads north on the eastern shoreline, then returns inland via St. Mary Lake. Watercolour artist Carole Evans painted Shoreline at Walker Hook. We have one of the limited editions prints, a gift from Doug’s brother Steve, so Walker Hook is a special place for us. Continuing north, we come to Fernwood Wharf, then the Hudson Point boat ramp, where we have launched our canoe for numerous trips to Wallace Island and beyond. Turning inland, North End Road is much less bicycle-friendly, with narrow or non-existent shoulders and some super-fast drivers, but the Phoenix farm stand has tart, crisp apples.
Day three we brave North End Road once more, then head down the west shore along Sunset Drive to Vesuvius Bay. Near the northern tip is an access point for the Jack Foster Trail, which runs through the woods, past moss-covered fences, and down a set of wooden stairs to a rocky beach with a view of Wallace Island’s Chivers Point, where we have camped so many times.
There are hills (up to 16 per cent) on the west side, too, and steep paths at the shoreline access points. We stop at the Duck Creek trails, a pleasant stroll and popular with dog-walkers, and make a detour to Booth Canal, an inlet that is muddy at low tide.
Day four we re-trace our lower island route along Beddis, Stewart, and Beaver Point roads. Signed “bike route,” these roads are quieter and prettier than the Fulford-Ganges Road. Waiting for the ferry, we sit in the sunshine, sipping coffee and chatting with two cyclists who have ridden down from Comox. One of them tells us he has cycled the Pacific Marine Circle three times; we add this to our wish-list.
What about Ruckle Provincial Park and Mount Maxwell, Salt Spring’s two five-star hikes? Not this trip; we were too busy cycling the hilly roads in various states of repair – and eating apples and triple-berry pie.