John Harvey Photo

Kayaking in The Southern Gulf Islands
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Exploring Canada's newest National Park



I've done a number of Mothership Kayaking trips with Due West Charters including Aristazabal Island and the Mid Coast of British Columbia.  Jan was running a weekend trip in the southern Gulf Islands, and even though work was crazy busy, I jumped at the opportunity to take a few days off to go Kayaking.

Foggy Morning In Sydney Harbour
This was my first trip leaving out of Sydney Harbour, and one of the first times in a long time I had seen thick fog.  Jan welcomed us on board and gave the safety talk and introduced the crew.   Before we left, we poked around the dock looking at the local wildlife. 


The floats are actually quite productive footholds for sea life.  What at first looks monotonous is actually quite diverse - different floats had starfish, urchins and shrimp. 

Anemones And Jelly FishSmall UrchinFlipped Over Ochre Star

Sydney Spit Marine Park, Sydney Island

We set off in the fog to find our first destination - Sydney Island.  Half of

Foggy Morning At Sydney SpitFoggy Point At Sydney IslandKayaking Off Beach
 
First we kayaked around the shallow harbour area and then pulled into a sand beach to go for an inland hike.

Mushrooms On Tree
Like most of the Gulf Islands, Sydney Island at one point was used for farming.  There is a network of slowly overgrowing roads and a few large open fields that were once used for grazing.   The area had rain in the few weeks before we arrived and the mushrooms were loving it - every turn in the road showed off a new crop of ever different species of mushrooms.  Some mushrooms were extremely localized - others were common.  The scale varied tremendously, from the soccer ball sized Bearded Tooth to the marble sized Puff Ball Mushrooms.

Bearded ToothBuff Ball MushroomsMushrooms Growing In Leaves

Mushrooms Growing In MossRing Of Larger MushroomsReally Friendly Mushrooms

Snake In The Grass
The open field (now bumpy with large tufts of grass) had a surprise for us - a small garter snake.  It always amazes me when small animals make it to these islands and set up a breeding population.

Walking In The Large FieldGarter Snake In Hand

We kayaked back to the boat for lunch.  After a great lunch, we kayaked back to the spit area for a bit more exploring.  

Line Of Exposed Pilings
The spit has a line of pilings along it's back, but it no longer follows the straight line of wood.

S Bend In Sydney Spit

Only after I had walked much of the spit did I see signage recognizing this as a national park.  Most of the provincial park signs are still there (don't walk on a steep slopes, don't bother the wild life - that kind of thing), but they have little stickers blocking out the BC Parks logo.  I believe we were far enough into the season that the ferry service was no longer running.

New National Park SignDock On Sydney IslandArbutus In Full Bloom

We kayaking back to the curve and while we enjoyed dinner, Jan moved us to our next location - Pender Island

Beaumont Marine Park (South Pender Island)
 
Arbutus Over Bay
Some of us were feeling the upper body workout from yesterdays kayaking so a walk was a good complement for the morning.  We rode out in the Zodiak to the Midden beach at Beaumont Marine park and started our walk.  The walk follows the shore for about a kilometer and then heads inland and up to Mount Norman.

Oak Tree On PenderZodiak Coming Into Bay

Walking through the forest was again a mycologist's delight. 

Orange EruptionMushrooms Growing In Grass
 
Spiral In MossSpiral Mushroom And MossBlue Growing Out Of Ground

As we hiked up from the shore line (lots of arbutus trees), the ecology changed.  We started to see maples, and then douglas fir's.  At the top of Mount Norman, the ecology was completely different than what we experienced at the shore line.

Mt Norman View
 
  Group On Mount Maxwell

We soaked in the sights and appreciated the mountain that we had climbed.  We considered an alternative landing spot (the sand bar near the split between the islands), but we decided to walk all the way back.

On our Zodiak ride back to the curve, we happened to flag down a high speed whale watching boat from Vancouver that day trips across to the gulf islands.  The whale forecast was grim - no significant sightings in the gulf Island for a week.  There were two humpbacks further down toward Victoria, but they were in the opposite direction.  We got back on board for lunch, and set off for our next destination.


Winter Cove, Saturna Island

Of the major gulf islands, Saturna is probably the least populated.  It's the last stop on the ferry route.  It's also surrounded by wildlife.  The curve set down anchor in Irish Bay closest to Samuel island - a privately owned island that is mostly used for farming.  We went out for a kayak.  Hugging the shore of Samuel Island, we spotted 4 heads bobbing up and down in the water - too small to be seals - River Otters!  (Sea Otters don't yet occur this far south that I know of).  They weren't particularly curious (they didn't approach), but we later spotted them on land.

Four OttersThree Heads Up


Cypress From Kayak Level
We paddled round they bay looking at the trees growing low to the water (not the Arbutus and Oak we had seen earlier).  We paddled over to Winter Cove Marine Park on Saturna island and got out for a short look around.  The marine park includes a spit of land that reaches out toward Samuel island leaving a small gap for high speed flows during tide changes.

Cypress On BayRunning Water Sea Asparagus

Sunset From The Crows Nest
It was getting on (6pm?) by the time we started back for the boat and we enjoyed a sunset paddle. 

Sunset From Kayak

Curved Rock And Arbutus
The next morning we got up for a paddle out between the islands.  We started hugging the coast of Samuel island was we came out of Irish Bay.  The sandstone here is carved by the wave action, and although not as dramatic as other galleries in the gulf islands, it is beautiful none the less.

Shelf Of Eroded Sand StoneLarge Sandstone Outcropping

As we rounded the point, we were treated by a very patient Harbour seal.  Generally harbour seals don't like being approached when they are on land.  This seal was very patient while we glided past, my camera shooting the whole time.

Just the Head of a SealSeal Looking Around Corner
Seal On Eroded RockSeal On Slide
 
Very happy experience.  We continued paddling up the now flooding channel and tried to cut across to Mayne Island.  My kayaking had an "exciting experience", and I wound up going for a swim.  Thankfully all of my camera gear was in a sealed pelican case and no camera gear was lost.  (There is a carbon fiber tripod slowly eroding on the ocean floor though).   A little cold, but none the worse for wear, we paddled back to the Curve and enjoyed a warm shower.
 


Three Heads Up
Species: Lontra canadensis (northern river otter)
Tags: BC fauna, beach, gulf island
Really Friendly Mushrooms
Tags: mushroom
Kayaking Off Beach
Tags: beach, gulf island, kayaking
Mushrooms Growing In Leaves
Tags: mushroom
Cypress On Bay
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, tree
Four Otters
Species: Lontra canadensis (northern river otter)
Location: Go To...
Tags: BC fauna, beach, gulf island
Snake In The Grass
Species: Thamnophis ordinoides (northwestern garter snake)
Tags: BC fauna, gulf island
Blue Growing Out Of Ground
Species: Phaeolus schweinitzii (Dye Polypore)
Tags: mushroom
Spiral Mushroom And Moss
Tags: mushroom
Just the Head of a Seal
Species: Phoca vitulina (Harbor Seal)
Location: Go To...
Tags: BC fauna, gulf island, marine mammal
S Bend In Sydney Spit
Tags: gulf island, piling
New National Park Sign
Location: Go To...
Tags: gulf island, sign
Sea Asparagus
Species: Salicornia virginica (Pacific Samphire, Sea Asparagus, Virginia glasswort )
Tags: beach, plant
Large Sandstone Outcropping
Tags: beach, gulf island, rock
Zodiak Coming Into Bay
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach, gulf island
Dock On Sydney Island
Tags: dock, gulf island
Seal On Slide
Species: Phoca vitulina (Harbor Seal)
Tags: BC fauna, gulf island, marine mammal
Mushrooms On Tree
Tags: mushroom
Group On Mount Maxwell
Arbutus In Full Bloom
Species: Arbutus menziesii (Arbutus)
Tags: tree
Cypress From Kayak Level
Location: Go To...
Tags: gulf island, kayaking
Bearded Tooth
Species: Hericium erinaceus (bearded tooth)
Tags: mushroom
Sunset From The Crows Nest
Location: Go To...
Tags: coast, sunset
Spiral In Moss
Tags: mushroom
Seal Looking Around Corner
Species: Phoca vitulina (Harbor Seal)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal
Mushrooms Growing In Moss
Tags: mushroom
Ring Of Larger Mushrooms
Tags: mushroom
Mushrooms Growing In Grass
Tags: mushroom
Walking In The Large Field
Location: Go To...
Tags: gulf island
Oak Tree On Pender
Species: Quercus garryana (Garry Oak)
Tags: beach, gulf island
Seal On Eroded Rock
Species: Phoca vitulina (Harbor Seal)
Tags: BC fauna, gulf island, marine mammal
Sunset From Kayak
Tags: sunset
Anemones And Jelly Fish
Species: Metridium farcimen (Giant Plumose Anemones), Aurelia aurita (moon jelly)
Tags: jellyfish
Shelf Of Eroded Sand Stone
Tags: beach, gulf island, rock
Flipped Over Ochre Star
Species: Pisaster ochraceus (Ochre Star)
Tags: sea star
Mt Norman View
Tags: gulf island, twin, vista
Running Water
Tags: beach
Foggy Morning In Sydney Harbour
Tags: boat, fog, marina
Small Urchin
Tags: sea urchin
Orange Eruption
Species: Hypomyces lactifluorum (Lobster Mushroom)
Tags: gulf island, mushroom
Curved Rock And Arbutus
Tags: beach, gulf island, rock
Garter Snake In Hand
Species: Thamnophis ordinoides (northwestern garter snake)
Tags: BC fauna, gulf island
Line Of Exposed Pilings
Tags: derelict, gulf island, piling
Arbutus Over Bay
Tags: beach, gulf island
Foggy Point At Sydney Island
Tags: fog, gulf island
Buff Ball Mushrooms
Tags: mushroom
Foggy Morning At Sydney Spit
Tags: fog, gulf island
Tags: gulf island(24), mushroom(12), beach(12), BC fauna(8), marine mammal(4), fog(3)
From: John Harvey Photo > Kayaking in the Gulf Islands
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Kayaking in the Gulf Islands

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Last Modified Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 00:59:31 Edit
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