Whirling eddies, overfalls, submerged rocks, currents up to ten knots. Porlier Pass can be the most dangerous of the Gulf Island passes, but we have two certified and experienced guides leading our Dioniso Point Kayak Adventure. Humpback whales, baby seals, and new friends are highlights of the four-day kayak tour, a nautical deviation from the Three Ferries Cycling Loop, and a classic bike ride from Victoria to Salt Spring Island to the Cowichan Valley and back.
“Being a senior is no problem for us,” responds Wyatt. We have paddled to Wallace Island and Dionisio Point many times – on our own in our tandem canoe – but those trips were more than twenty years ago. “I’d like a bit of help,” admits Doug, so we contact Salt Spring Adventures, and Wyatt invites us to join the upcoming Dionisio Point Multi-Day Kayak Tour.
Lead guide Lukas brings his guitar and his home-grown lettuce, and guide Wyatt contributes stand-up comedy and his imitation of a baby seal. Guests Svenja and Carmela pack cheerfulness, kindness, and a sense of adventure. We bring our Helinox chairs. This small but congenial multi-generational group launches from Hudson Point on Salt Spring Island on Friday, July 29.
Wallace Island Marine Provincial Park
Long and skinny, Wallace Island has an interesting history. Gold is hidden somewhere, and there’s a connection to blonde actress Marilyn Monroe. David Conover, who claimed to have discovered Marilyn Monroe, used his life savings to buy the island and build a resort.
Salt Spring Island to Wallace is a short crossing (about thirty minutes). Close to Wallace, the rocks are crowded with hauled-out seals, the numerous babies making a loud, distinctive “maaa” sound.
Recreational boat traffic is lighter than expected on a holiday weekend, and we find tent pads available at our preferred camping area, Chivers Point. Perhaps the record-breaking heat wave and recent ferry disruptions have kept boaters and paddlers at home.
We walk the leaf-strewn trail that runs the length of the island, then settle down to enjoy a sunset serenade, courtesy of Lukas and his guitar.
Dionisio Point Provincial Park
The delightful Dionisio Point is our destination and our base for two nights. Getting there involves a transit of the famously fast and furious Porlier Pass, and timing is critical. Slack water provides a short window when the water is its least treacherous, and Lukas times our arrival precisely. Even so, there are eddies to cross and chop to conquer, as the current is beginning to flow against a building easterly wind.
Between Wallace and Porlier Pass, aren’t we lucky? In front of us, a mama humpback whale pops up, with her baby at her side. The gentle humpbacks are coming back from near-extinction, and they seem to like the Salish Sea as a summer location.
Dionisio Point has at least thirty backcountry campsites in two separate camping areas. We pitch our tents in the upland Parry Lagoon campground, which is closer to the beach and the water pump (boil water advisory in effect). Sandstone Campground has a kayak rack, but water access is challenging because the landing is on a sloping rock ledge exposed to the Strait of Georgia. Cyclists like this campground, though, and it is completely full when we arrive.
Day three brings options: an all-day paddle to Blackberry Point and back, chilling out at the sandy beach or hiking the park’s numerous trails through the forest and along the shoreline. After considering the heat wave and everyone’s wishes and energy levels, we agree on a modest group hike: three hours to wander the Raymond V. Smith Interpretive, Maple Bay, and Porlier Pass Trails, with a stop to watch Lukas leap from a dock. We spend the rest of our day enjoying our Helinox chairs, while Wyatt gets a lesson in rolling a kayak.
Day four the current pushes us back to Hudson Point. We stop to listen to the baby seals again and learn about tafoni (geological formations of sculpted rock), but all too quickly we are saying goodbye to our new friends and hopping back onto our bikes.
Peace, love, and eggs
Challenging, beautiful, and delicious is how Russ Hay’s Bike Shop describes the Three Ferries Cycling Loop.
Three Ferries is a classic hill-training ride, often done in one day by cyclists more serious than us. We devote four days to the Loop. This allows time to explore the beautiful and delicious aspects and a chance to regain our composure between the challenging sections.
Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour, Vesuvius-Crofton, and Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay are the three ferries on the route. Adding detours – Salt Spring’s Upper Island Loop via Walker’s Hook Road, Genoa Bay Road to Maple Bay Marina, and Cobble Hill Road to Cobble Hill Mountain Regional Recreation Area – brings our odometer total to 184 kilometres.
The beautiful and delicious category includes farm stands with cute signs such as “Peace, Love, and Eggs”, hilltop views of the Gulf Islands, beach accesses, and the interesting communities, food trucks, and wineries of Ganges, Cowichan Bay, Maple Bay, and Cobble Hill.
Salt Spring Island has some sixteen percent hills. For e-bikes, the hills are not a big problem, but there are other challenges: narrow or non-existent shoulders, blind corners, heavy traffic in summer and on market days, loose gravel, and bumpy patches. Some drivers are friendly, asking if you are lost or need help when they see you stopped at the side of the road. Other drivers are super-fast and impatient. Island Pathways offers a seven-minute video about riding a bike on Salt Spring’s roads.
Rejoice, Island cyclists! Two new Vancouver Islands cycling guidebooks were released this summer: