Ibike USA/Canada Program
Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea

   
 

 

Photo essay: Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea: Chemainus

   

Sidney to CHEMAINUS  (50km, 30mi) (plus ferry ride)
Points of interest: Sidney, Swartz Bay, Salt Spring Island, Japanese, Sikh and Hawaiian heritage, St Anne’s Church, Chemainus

  Sailing through the Canadian Gulf Islands on BC Ferries. Sailing through the Canadian Gulf Islands on BC Ferries. Sailing through the Canadian Gulf Islands on BC Ferries. Sailing through the Canadian Gulf Islands on BC Ferries. Sailing through the Canadian Gulf Islands on BC Ferries.
  St Anne Church, Folford, Salt Spring Island Grave, St Anne Church, Folford, Salt Spring IslandFrom Swartz Bay, you arrive on Salt Spring Island at Fulford, a settlement with a couple of shops and a ferry dock.  The neighborhood's historical site is St Anne Church, founded in 1880, dedicated in 1885.  The adjacent cemetery has Hawaiians, African-Americans, and Japanese, reflecting the early multi-racial composition of the citizenry built-up the island in the late 1800's.  It is a rich history that seems to have been largely lost in Salt Spring Island's rush to commercialism.
  It doesn't take long to begin to understand the rural-progressive contemporary character of Salt Spring Island.  The signs along the road announce;  "pesticide free golf coarse", "organic hops", "free range chicken eggs", "environmental farm", "rural yoga center", "artist studios" and so much more.

Salt Spring Island has over 60 bed & breakfasts, another 60 self-catering cottages, uncounted campgrounds, resorts, hotels and inns, more than 40 residential art studios and various specialty farms (organic, cheese, lavender, vineyard (below left), llama (below), aquafarm, etc).  The community event board on the Fulford Community Center reads simply "True Love" (below right)

  Salt Spring Island vineyard  Farmland on Salt Spring Island Lone llama in a pasture
 

Skidding bicycle caution sign

Bicycles parked under a big tree in Ganges, Salt Spring IslandIn some sections it seems like every other house had a shingle out front promoting some kind of good or service.  The one to the left stood out because it was creative, utilized a bicycle and was non-commercial.

Staying with the bicycle theme for just a moment:  To the right, the touring group's bicycles are parked under a tree in Ganges, Salt Spring Island, while we picnicked out on the lawn.

Ganges commercial district, Salt Spring IslandGanges is the commercial hub of Salt Spring Island, though maybe not the spiritual soul.  The architecture is faintly western facade over strip-mall modern structures.  Between the buildings are wide streets dominated by automobiles.

Outside of Ganges, most of the roads on Salt Spring Island are narrow, but the volume of cars sufficient to erode away at the otherwise idyllic ambience.  To their credit, with only the rarest exception, the drivers on the island are extraordinarily courteous and patient to bicyclists and pedestrians. The sign on the left, with the skidding bicycle is new to me and a bit of a hoot.

    Don't jump to any conclusion that Salt Spring Island is out-of-touch with contemporary culture.  Salt Spring Cinema, which sets up at the Central Hall (built in 1896) (right), was introducing the local population to "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows 2" at the same time the rest of the world was seeing the cinematic release -- the summer of 2011.
 

Besides bicycling, another popular activity in the Canadian Golf Islands is kayaking.  There is probably a company on every island that can set you up for a tour of several hours, an overnight, or a multi-day trip.

The photo (right) is of picking blackberries in the morning, but these ladies didn't restrict themselves to morning hours for plucking the succulent morsels.  The cry "BLACKBERRIES" was heard at all times of the day, at which time all other activities (namely bicycling) ceased and they were back reaching and arching into, or hopefully, slightly over, the foliage.  The blackberries ripen at the end of July and last for about a month.

  Vesuvius Cafe, Salt Springs Island On the west side of the island Vesuvius fulfills the role that Fulford serves on the south end -- it is a ferry dock, cafe and a few adjacent shops.

But all is not well in paradise.  Both near Fulford Harbor and Vesuvius, the large, old pubs are shuttered (right).  On Salt Spring Island, if you want to share a brew with some friends, and want it served to you, you'll have to head to Ganges.

   
  Mayne Is, St Mary Magdalene Church, founded 1897. If you take a side trip to Mayne Island you can do a loop that, at a comfortable speed, with assorted stops, takes about three hours.  One of the oldest buildings you will pass is St Mary Magdalene Church, founded 1897.
  Georgina Point Lighthouse, at the entrance to Active Pass, the straight between Mayne Island and Galiano Island
Georgina Point Lighthouse
Georgina Point Lighthouse is at the entrance to Active Pass, the straights between Mayne Island and Galiano Island.  Mr. Georgeson built and maintained the lighthouse from 1885-1923.  Active Pass is so named because the first steamship to pass through was USS Active, a 107 feet long, 296-ton tug, launched in 1888, sunk in 1926, raised and sold in 1929 to interest in Puget Sound, and continued in service until 1963.

Seal at Georgina Point, Active Pass, Mayne IslandIn 1967, BC Ferry passengers saw what they claimed to be a mermaid sitting on rocks at the entrance to Active Pass. Reports indicated that the mermaid had long blonde hair, the lower body of a porpoise and was sitting on the rocks eating a salmon. Photos taken by a man in an aircraft support the ferry passengers' description. The best that I could manage was seal hauled out on the rocks at Georgina Point.  If you have better luck you can see orcas passing through.

  Mayne Island Japanese Garden
Mayne Island Japanese Garden

Mayne Island Japanese Garden

Mayne Island Japanese GardenThe Mayne Island Japanese Garden was developed to commemorate the Japanese families who settled on Mayne Is. From 1900 to 1942. The Japanese community eventually comprising a third of the island's population. They provided more than half of its economy. With the
outbreak of hostilities with Japan they were forced to leave in 1942. The school closed for lack of students. With their properties expropriated and their possessions sold very few returned to the island, yet close friendships wereMayne Island Japanese GardenMayne Island Japanese Garden maintained and still endure. These friendship led to the creation of the Japanese garden which was created by volunteer and donations. The garden includes a pond, lanterns, bridges, paths and dozens of varieties of plants.
  health deer population on Mayne Island health deer population on Mayne IslandThere must be a very health deer population on Mayne Island because you can't seem to take an early morning or late afternoon ride without seeing at least one, and more likely a half dozen, of the animals.
  Another good day, with more beautiful weather, and engaging traveling, warrants another hearty dinner, al fresco.  It is clear that there is no dissent at  this table.
  Sunset, Active Pass from Mayne Is Sunrise on Active Pass from Mayne IsSunset and sunrise on Active Pass from Mayne Is.
   
  Crofton, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Crofton, BC
Leaving Salt Spring Island for Vancouver Island you see the two sides to Crofton, BC: the quiet village (left) and the controversial paper mill (right).
Crofton paper mill, Vancouver Island"Each day approximately 25 million cubic meters of exhaust gases leave the Crofton paper mill, carrying with them roughly 1500 kg of fine particulate matter, 4500 kg of sulphur dioxide, 2500 kg of volatile organic compounds, 2500 kg of methanol, 1000 kg of hydrochloric acid, etc. The plume also contains some of the most dangerous substances known to life: dioxins and furans, chlorine dioxide, formaldehyde, lead, and hexavalent chromium." (Source: Environment Canada's National Pollution Release Inventory (NPRI) 2003; data supplied by NorskeCanada.)
  Farmland, between Crofton and Chimainus Farmland, between Crofton and ChimainusJust north of the Crofton paper mill, the land transforms back into  bucolic nature.  The landscape mostly alternate between farmland and forest.  The entire area was logged recently enough that there are no grand forests in the area, but the trees are starting to get some height and form a green canyon for the road.
  Chimainus mural
Chemainus mural
Chimainus muralChimainus muralChemainus is known for its historical murals. The project was started in 1982.  There are now more than 35 murals and 13 sculptures depicting the towns history, economy, ethnic diversity, cultural activities and civic leaders.
  Chimainus mural Chimainus mural

 

Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural Chimainus mural
  Chimainus, Horseshoe Bay Inn Chimainus, old gas stationChimainus, Horseshoe Bay InnOne of the lodging options in Chimainus is the Horseshoe Bay Inn, established in 1892 -- complete with the "Shoe Pub."  This road house, with the exception of the electricity, CRT television and some indoor plumbing, looks and feels like it has hardly been change since, which is good.
   
 

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