The Labour Day weekend has traditionally heralded the end of summer, since for a lot of our lives, it meant kids going back to school. But when you live on the Island and are retired, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ll admit, when I booked the campsite on Cortes Island for these dates I didn’t realize it was the long weekend, we just wanted to book the same dates as our friends. So we had a great weekend together.
We discovered that Cortes Island, at the start of Desolation Sound, is beautiful. It sports a rugged coastline with lots of bays and inlets to explore by kayak. There are only just over 1000 residents, and most houses are hidden deep in the forest, not visible from the road, probably because they are perched on a cliff with gorgeous water views. We thought we heard strains of Dueling Banjos at some point, indicating that there are likely many interesting characters that choose to live on an island which requires two ferry rides to reach.
We were lucky enough to get side-by-side sites with Kim and Brad so we spent a lot of fun time together. Their daughter and son-in-law were also camping, with their 2 young girls, who loved spending time with Grandma and Grandpa. It was fun to spend time with small kids again!
But the highlight of the weekend were the two paddles we did. The first one was directly from the marina where we were camped. Gorge Harbour is a large protected bay with a narrow entry (hence the name) to the ocean. It was a fairly windy (17 knots/30 kmh/20 mph) that day, with some waves and white caps, so we enjoyed a bit of surfing when we had the wind behind us, and lots of spray in our faces when we returned into the wind. The cliffs by the gorge entrance were spectacular, the focal point for that trip.
On the day that had a dire forecast of 20-30 knot winds and 10 mm of rain, we opted to drive around the island and view the many launch sports. This was the 4th trip for Kim and Brad, and they have yet to repeat a paddle. There are so many great places to launch and explore. The day was windy, but the rain did not materialize, so we enjoyed the tour guiding from Brad and Kim.
Yesterday, under windless, endless blue skies, we did a wonderful paddle along the shoreline out of Coulter Bay. The water was crystal clear so it was a spectacular aquarium paddle. In Carrington Bay we saw endless oyster beds. Then leaving the bay, we were mesmerized by hordes of small jellyfish floating and gliding through the water. I’ve never seen so many in one place. It was fascinating to watch them move.
We were also treated to endless sea stars of many sizes and colours, both along the cliffs and even just on the bottom in the shallow water. We saw so much because the water was so clear and the sun was shining.
Out in the more open water we were on the lookout for whales. We were treated to about 5 humpbacks on our ferry ride to the island, and campers who arrived the next day said they saw orcas AND humpbacks. Sadly, the whales did not get the notice that the show was to continue when we were paddling, but we did see some porpoises. The beautiful scenery of mountains and islands all around us, and the smooth water with gorgeous reflections, made up for the lack of whales.
All in all it was a perfect paddling day, with great company. We all loved it. And we don’t believe summer is over; warm weather and more adventures still ahead!