Monday, October 26, 2015

Going "home" again...paddling our old pal, "Gabe".

For a number of years, we had a lovely little cabin on Gabriola Island..a simple and functional 650 square feet. It was truly...a very "Canadian cabin" - a nearby retreat for those weeks when a day or two (or even a few hours) was the best tonic for busy schedules. The view over the Salish Sea from Mt. Baker to Vancouver City, to Howe Sound, and along the majestic coastal range refreshed and inspired. 

And, of course, the kayaks almost always came along, strapped to the top of the High Mobility Kayak Transport Vehicle.

We sold the cabin two years ago and haven't been back to "Gabe" much since, having been out of the country most of that time. Back from the UK for awhile, and with plans to spend the winter here, the nearby Gabriola waters called out. 

One always wonders...will it feel the same? Will the same thrill be there? Novelist Thomas Wolfe titled his book, "You can't go home again." Sometimes it's difficult to go back "home". Life changes, perspectives change, places change, people change...we change. It's not always possible to recapture those special vibes that make up fond memories and cherished past experiences...but just as often, it is possible.

Gabriola Island sits just a 20-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo, the "Harbour City". We launched from Descanso Regional Park, with the plan to have lunch at Sandwell Provincial Park, on the other side of the island. We would pass by some amazing sandstone formations! It would be an easy paddle out with overcast and calm winds but forecast to rise to a breezy F3 by mid-afternoon. It could be a bumpy paddle back, under sunny skies.

It had been quite a while since I had used my narrow, wooden, Greenland paddle. It felt good but I realized very quickly that I was out of practice. If it got bumpy, I just wasn't very confident with braces. 

The first stop would be the Malaspina Galleries, a rare geological treat...after which, I would switch back to the trusty Cadence (Euro) paddle.

The "galleries" are an amazing formation composed of late-Cretaceous rocks - more than 65 million years old. (This was the same period of the earth's history that dinosaurs flourished - and the Tyrannosaurus topped the "food chain" here in North America.) The formation, consisting of sandstone, appears very much like a giant, curling, wave.

The galleries were not formed due to wind, waves, surf, and frost, as is commonly believed. Minerals in the sandstone are weathered by oxygen and groundwater, which seeps out through tiny fractures. Sandstone can act as a "sponge" and holds both the salty groundwater and sea water. The theory is that when the water, that is temporarily absorbed by the sandstone, evaporates, the salt crystals expand, and loosened grains of the sandstone fall away.

The roof, or "visor", is composed of a harder sandstone with fewer "voids" or spaces (and is therefore less porous), and is more resistant to weathering. 

One day, the roof will fall, but hopefully not when someone is walking on it...or paddling beneath it.

Is some places, the visor seems to "melt". This, however, is a small piece of the original outer surface of the cliff face. It really does look like melted wax.

Time was passing and there were a good number of kilometres to paddle to get to the beach...and first lunch. With the backdrop of the coastal mountains of the North American continent, we joined other (and much bigger) marine traffic on the Salish Sea: ocean going tugboats towing immense barges of wood chips...

...BC Ferries, transporting visitors and Islanders from the mainland... 

...and then it was just us...making straight for the Entrance Island lighthouse, some stunning sandstone "sculptures"...and lunch on the beach.

Although we miss paddling along the rugged coastlines of the North Sea and the Moray Firth, and the magical west coast of Scotland, the familiar waters of our old pal, "Gabe", was as wonderful as it had always been...and it felt like "home". 

You can go home again. :)

More to come...


  1. That old saying "home is where the heart is" seems very appropriate Duncan; in which case (thankfully) there are hundreds of places to feel at home! I don't think I've ever seen anything like those rock formations - absolutely fantastic :o)

    Warm wishes

  2. Right you are, Ian. The heart resides in many places...and feels very much at home in each. I too am thankful for that. Yes, the Malaspina "galleries" are amazing formations, and more to come in a few days. :) Warm wishes. Duncan.

  3. Hi Duncan, I agree. Here, where I live amidst the mountains, is where I live and love to be, but there are many other places where I've left a big part of my heart. I feel at "home" in those places too. It seems the heart can be divided, with no ill effects. :>) Cheers! Gen.

  4. Hi Gen, nice to hear from you, thank you for your comment. Yes, a "divided heart" is probably all the more rich. And when we leave a piece of our heart somewhere, whether it be on a favourite trail or in a faraway seems to grow. It's a nice thought. Warm wishes. Duncan.