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Cyclists in the Mist


The mist came, the air so laden with water that we were soaked through. The mist particles grew, becoming so heavy they fell from the sky as rain. It was not a pleasant omen for three cyclists on a winter day.

 

© John Koh

Gary and John, my cycling partners, and I had arrived on Galiano Island west of Vancouver, British Columbia by ferry early that morning. After setting up camp above a dark colored lagoon in Montague Harbor, we set off to see the island. We were soaked through before we'd hardly begun.

As we neared the end of this long, pencil-shaped piece of land, Gary, a regular visitor to the island, filled our heads with images of a cozy café just around the corner. He described a solidly built construction hanging over a bay, the interior warmed by a wooden stove where a beautiful waitress would bring us hot homemade soup. The image intensified as we peddled around each corner only to be promised that the splendid cafe was around the next bend.

When we arrived, it was all I had hoped for: a charming weathered wooden building overlooking a beautiful bay where the fishermen brought in their catch. Alas, it was closed, permanently. It would not be the same sitting out on the wooden verandah exposed to the cold and damp, eating soggy sandwiches, so we kept peddling. We were almost at the tip of the island and soon we could turn around and head back, satisfied we had biked its entire length.

A little farther on the right stood a community center bustling with life. The doors were wide open as the locals, smiles on their faces and crafts in their hands, came and went. The smell of hot bean soup wafted through the doors. We sat in the kitchen of the community center in our soaking wet biking clothes eating soup and drinking tea. We were happy; we had found our warm oasis in a cold sea of mist. The islanders could not have been friendlier as they chatted away to what must have seemed like an apparition of soaking, shivering cyclists.

Our ultimate goal was to enter the marine access only provincial park at the far north side of the island. We had given up hope, but the locals buoyed our spirits and spurred us on. They revealed secret access points and one rather tall fellow drove John to the best trailhead to ensure we would find our way. Gary and I browsed the local crafts while we waited for John to return.

Out in the rain once more, we stopped at an Indian reserve where Gary promised us a beautiful narrow bay lined with colorful, derelict shacks. Rumor had it that one of the natives liked to fire a gun at trespassers to scare them away. The locals assured us it was all show. All we saw on that bay was a lighthouse a stone's throw over the water. We hastily departed fearful of angry shotgun toting natives.

Disappointed at not finding these picturesque shacks, we followed the locals’ secret trail. It hugged a long, steep and muddy private driveway before jogging left into a grove of trees shading a sea of soaking ferns. The trail wove through mud and over hills. Strangely, we soon hit a well-traveled gravel road, which we followed to an abandoned lighthouse. We had found the tip of the island and a gem of history amongst a forest of trees in this controversial marine park. It was the same lighthouse we had spotted an hour earlier from the Indian reserve. The original road to the marine park cut through private property. The owners reacted by throwing up road blockings and building gates. The government eventually gave up and declared it marine access only. The road has deteriorated and is now marked with Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted signs and blocked with gates. Few know of the road's existence, and fewer know how to navigate the maze of private roads it has become.

 

The rain began to worsen and the sun set, leaving us with little time to navigate a different, but shorter, route home. We left any additional exploration for a warmer day and followed our instinctive sense of direction through puddles, over washboard and around mud as the road continuously split to destinations unknown. As pure blackness fell upon us, we sighted pavement. My hands and feet went numb as the rain and cold took its toll. John’s energy dropped and he slowed to a crawl. Only I had thought to bring a bike light to pierce the night. The others were cycling blind, with nothing but my flashing red taillight as their guide. Without a light, corners appeared to be straight and straight stretches of road appeared to be corners. Miraculously, no one strayed off into the dark unforgiving forest.

Hours passed before we arrived safely back in camp and the warmth of our tents. We promptly set up a tarp as extra protection against the incessant rain.

© John KohThe rain had created a moat around the dirt pad where we pitched our tents. We cooked dinner in our sleeping bags. Only our heads and arms extended from the door of the tent to the stove. The tarp kept our cooking area dry and our spirits warmed up while our food rehydrated. Exhausted, we fell asleep quickly.

The morning came, but the sun did not rise. It just got lighter, but at least the rain had stopped. Grudgingly, I rose from my warm, cozy sleeping bag and faced the cold, damp air. I looked at my watch. It was already 10 a.m. Our kayak rental had been scheduled for 6 o'clock, but nobody had been willing to face the day that early.

The kayaks were ready and waiting. They had been put out the night before in preparation for our arrival. Nobody was there to greet us. It was Sunday, and still too early for most. The water was smooth; not even a ripple scratched the surface of the bay. The kayaks cut through the water straight and true as we paddled effortlessly towards Parker Island. A California Sea lion startled us with his curiosity. He appeared with a snort of air, took a quick peek and effortlessly glided back into the depths from which he had come. His body delicately scraped the surface as he took time to show off the gracefulness of his dive.

© John KohPicking through the kelp beds was like navigating a maze. Slim stalks extended down into the unknown and leaves caught the driftwood. The shore consisted of intricately sculptured rock. The constant tidal ebb had created smooth rounded crevices and other geologic features. Brilliant starfish shone from below the water. Sea otters frolicked with their families on the shore and played peekaboo with us as we approached. Coarse white sand beaches extended below us into the freezing water and crabs scurried beneath. Oysters sat peacefully below, blending into rock and seaweed. Not a soul inhabited the shoreline houses. Not a boat cut the water. We were at peace with the world, like children exploring its beauty.

Yet I still yearn for a more tropical setting -- a place where I don’t have to sit in a freezing cold tent pounded by constant rain.

Tropical Hawaii beckons. I eagerly anticipate her 4,000-foot hill climbs and scorching heat. She beckons me with her wet tropical rainforest and molten lava flows. I eagerly accept the challenge. In my heart I know the only way to experience her true beauty and diversity is from the saddle of a bike.

Take me to her.

I am on my way.

For more information on Galiano Island, visit the Galiano Island Chamber of Commerce website at: http://www.galianoisland.com/
 

For more BC information go to travel.bc.ca
Disappointed at not finding these picturesque shacks, we followed the localsí secret trail. It hugged a long, steep and muddy private driveway before jogging left into a grove of trees shading a sea of soaking ferns. The trail wove through mud and over hills. Strangely, we soon hit a well-traveled gravel road, which we followed to an abandoned lighthouse. We had found the tip of the island and a gem of history amongst a forest of trees in this controversial marine park. It was the same lighthouse we had spotted an hour earlier from the Indian reserve. The original road to the marine park cut through private property. The owners reacted by throwing up road blockings and building gates. The government eventually gave up and declared it marine access only. The road has deteriorated and is now marked with Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted signs and blocked with gates. Few know of the road's existence, and fewer know how to navigate the maze of private roads it has become.

The rain began to worsen and the sun set, leaving us with little time to navigate a different, but shorter, route home. We left any additional exploration for a warmer day and followed our instinctive sense of direction through puddles, over washboard and around mud as the road continuously split to destinations unknown. As pure blackness fell upon us, we sighted pavement. My hands and feet went numb as the rain and cold took its toll. Johnís energy dropped and he slowed to a crawl. Only I had thought to bring a bike light to pierce the night. The others were cycling blind, with nothing but my flashing red taillight as their guide. Without a light, corners appeared to be straight and straight stretches of road appeared to be corners. Miraculously, no one strayed off into the dark unforgiving forest.

Hours passed before we arrived safely back in camp and the warmth of our tents. We promptly set up a tarp as extra protection against the incessant rain.

© John KohThe rain had created a moat around the dirt pad where we pitched our tents. We cooked dinner in our sleeping bags. Only our heads and arms extended from the door of the tent to the stove. The tarp kept our cooking area dry and our spirits warmed up while our food rehydrated. Exhausted, we fell asleep quickly.

The morning came, but the sun did not rise. It just got lighter, but at least the rain had stopped. Grudgingly, I rose from my warm, cozy sleeping bag and faced the cold, damp air. I looked at my watch. It was already 10 a.m. Our kayak rental had been scheduled for 6 o'clock, but nobody had been willing to face the day that early.

The kayaks were ready and waiting. They had been put out the night before in preparation for our arrival. Nobody was there to greet us. It was Sunday, and still too early for most. The water was smooth; not even a ripple scratched the surface of the bay. The kayaks cut through the water straight and true as we paddled effortlessly towards Parker Island. A California Sea lion startled us with his curiosity. He appeared with a snort of air, took a quick peek and effortlessly glided back into the depths from which he had come. His body delicately scraped the surface as he took time to show off the gracefulness of his dive.

© John KohPicking through the kelp beds was like navigating a maze. Slim stalks extended down into the unknown and leaves caught the driftwood. The shore consisted of intricately sculptured rock. The constant tidal ebb had created smooth rounded crevices and other geologic features. Brilliant starfish shone from below the water. Sea otters frolicked with their families on the shore and played peekaboo with us as we approached. Coarse white sand beaches extended below us into the freezing water and crabs scurried beneath. Oysters sat peacefully below, blending into rock and seaweed. Not a soul inhabited the shoreline houses. Not a boat cut the water. We were at peace with the world, like children exploring its beauty.

Yet I still yearn for a more tropical setting -- a place where I donít have to sit in a freezing cold tent pounded by constant rain.

Tropical Hawaii beckons. I eagerly anticipate her 4,000-foot hill climbs and scorching heat. She beckons me with her wet tropical rainforest and molten lava flows. I eagerly accept the challenge. In my heart I know the only way to experience her true beauty and diversity is from the saddle of a bike.

Take me to her.

I am on my way.

For more information on Galiano Island, visit the Galiano Island Chamber of Commerce website at: http://www.galianoisland.com/

For more BC information go to travel.bc.ca