Last weekend we went cycle camping on Galiano Island. Holy smokes! Cycle camping is the best! It is...the wheel of the future! Well, I think it's in our future, because we really enjoyed it. On the ferry home I was already scheming to design another cycling holiday - three weeks of cycle camping (with some B&Bs and maybe the odd hotel) around Italy in the summer. Not next summer, but in a few years maybe. How great would that be?
Friday morning we traveled by bus down to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and caught a morning ferry to Galiano. Our reserved site at Montague Harbour Marine Park was in the walk-in and cycle camping area so no cars or generators in neighbouring sites to annoy us. The site overlooks Montague harbour and is a 10km ride from the ferry terminal. The camp site view:
One thing we knew but hadn't internalised before the trip is that the Gulf Islands are hilly. Those 10km took a while and we worked up an awesome sweat. We borrowed panniers from friends and it felt great to not have a backpack making the sweat situation worse, but, man, bikes loaded with a weekend of gear + island topography + a set of commuter gears on Rocco's bike (they are missing the lowest gears, designed for city riding) made the going tough. But, it's so worth it! The big difference we noticed between backpacking and cycle camping is that when you arrive at camp, your feet don't hurt from hiking and you've been sitting all day on the saddle, so you still have leg energy to set up camp, do your cooking, and explore around a bit.
Since we had beautiful clear blue skies and summer heat, we sat on the beach for a while then took a meander around a nearby point. This tree was delicately balanced in the water, forming a kinetic sculpture that we shook hands with. It also looks like a shark. Maybe a megalodon. Rocco had heard all about arbutus trees but couldn't remember having seen one before. This shot is of the blood red arbutus bark molting away. That first night we made it back to the beach just in time for a beautiful sunset. The camera never captures it completely, does it?, but here is the requisite shot anyway.
It has been a terrible summer for us in terms of getting outside and getting any tent time. We kept getting foiled by sick cats, broken cars, exams, blah blah blah, so this weekend was all about quintessential camping. We built fire. Lots of fire. I brought Jiffy Pop, and we used fire to make Jiffy Pop. Hallelujah, it doesn't get any better!
Saturday morning dawned a bit cloudy and breezy but dry. We had kind of a lazy morning, savouring fantastic camp pancakes, then cycled out to see the island. Mount Galiano is 341m elevation and we climbed up for an amazing view of the South Gulf Islands, the San Juan Islands in the US, and Vancouver Island. There's a panoramic shot on the camera but it isn't stitched together yet. Here's a sample:
On the hike up to the viewpoint the trail leads you past the wreck of a small plane! Rocco figures it might be a beaver, and that it's been there for at least a few decades. We couldn't find anything about it on Google when we got home so there's finally proof that Google is fallible and will never know everything. Mwah hahahahah!
After the hike (we guessed it was about 6km round trip), the clouds cleared and we cycled up to the Hummingbird Pub for a late lunch and a beer on the sunny patio. The resident cat Bart joined us as we basked in the sun. The Hummingbird Pub runs a shuttle service from the campground every hour on the hour, so for future reference, it's an excellent pub with great food and good tap choices plus they'll drive you to and from your camp site. Brilliant.
But of course we were on our bikes. Saturday night we were back at the campsite for another fire and star gazing since the night was completely clear. Again, an almost empty campground even on a gorgeous Saturday night.
Sunday morning we had the option of breaking camp quite early to make it to the ferry for a 9:25am sailing, but that sounded less like a holiday schedule. Instead we lazed about in the dry tent, listening to the rain on the fly. Sweet! Eventually we got up and made breakfast (and another fire) in the group shelter down the lane. Here's a pic of everything packed up and on the bikes, ready for the ride out, and a very grubby Me showing three days of hard, sweaty work and no showers.
I think we traveled even more lightly than we would have if we'd been backpacking. We did have extra space leaving Vancouver so could have brought a few more things but we did have everything we needed. It's surprising how compact it all gets, packed into panniers and strapped to the rack. Leaving the campsite, we had a few hours to kill before the 5pm ferry sailing (yes, only two a day at this time of year!) so we checked out Bellhouse Park for a bit. Saw some seals, or maybe sea lions, cavorting in the waves, and some crazy rock formations.
After the park, we headed back to the Hummingbird Pub and spent most of the rainy afternoon playing travel Scrabble, cuddling Bart, and generally relaxing. The trip home was uneventful, we made all our transfers between ferry, bus, and bus, very smoothly although it did take us ages and hours to get home. Being at home in our own bed with loving cats last night felt fantastic after such a superb weekend.
Here are the stats: 52kms cycled, 6km hiked, 1 pair of long underwear worn (me), 2 deer spotted (Rocco), 3 or 4 seals or sea lions, 2 pub lunches, 3 campfires, 1 Jiffy Pop, countless stars, and wild ambition to do it again! The distances don't look that impressive, but remember that it is a small island, and we wanted to ease our way into cycle camping with a plan that was not to strenuous. I tell you, it was a perfect weekend, and cycle camping is the only way to go.