WILD ADVENTURES IN THE DISCOVERY ISLANDS
If you’re looking for a slice of paradise this summer, look no further than Feather’s Cove on Maurelle Island. This small, barely known isle in the Discovery Passage is home to The Flow Wilderness Retreat, a small, family-owned destination where guests spend five all-inclusive days kayaking across the clear, aquiline water. They take soul-nourishing forest walks to pristine lakes no-one has heard of and end their days in a cedar-smoking hot tub overlooking a bay untouched by time, as still and serenely beautiful as it was centuries ago.
Integral to this magical experience is Cristina Fox and Brody Wilson, hosts with a deep love and respect for their island home. The pair hand-built five cozy cabins that nestle at the base of Maurelle’s Dome Mountain and created peat-fed, composting latrines beneath the boughs of massive cedar, hemlock and maple trees. They grow herbs and flowers in their island garden, serve guests a diet rich in locally harvested ingredients – including ling cod and spot-prawns Brody fishes from these very waters - and deliver an experience rich in kindness, adventure and the still, quiet beauty of the northern Gulf Islands.
A father of two, Brody grew up in a land co-op on the island and, after inheriting an old float house, returned as an adult to make it his home. For 12 weeks each summer he shares the treasures of his childhood playground with visitors, guiding them to some of the Discovery Passage’s secret hideaways and revealing their treasures. Our first day we paddle 10 kilometers north through the Okisolo Channel in water so exquisitely flat that the only ripples are those created by our strokes. We pass forests of lush, healthy bull kelp, following their bulbous, rubbery heads to see long tendrils of seaweed submerged beneath us. Seals poke curious heads from the water and a family of raccoons scavenges on the shore at low tide. Apart from the odd homestead nestled into the cliffs above us, these islands feel blissfully empty of human fingerprints, sheltering a rich, thriving ecosystem.
Our destination is the Octopus Islands, a provincial marine reserve encompassing a group of eight islets scattered close together. Brody points out a clam garden built by first nations thousands of years ago to permit easy collection of butter clams. “They knew that when the tide goes out, the table is set,” he explained, gesturing at the large clam shells on the ocean floor beneath us. We pull our kayaks to the shore of one island for lunch, picnicking outside a 1970s barn fondly referred to as the Driftwood Museum. The old, weathered structure is decorated by driftwood inscribed by hundreds of intrepid explorers who have kayaked and sailed this way over the past 20 years, a repository of their adventures and memories. As we kayak back to our base camp the rich, woodsy aroma of cedar logs fills the air. The hot tub beckons irresistibly and we ease our tired limbs in its sumptuous warmth, watching evening descend over the steep, heavily forested cliffs of Feather’s Cove. The quiet, soft stillness is utterly mesmerizing and a cathartic peacefulness descends over us.
The next morning we paddle over to Main Lake, a provincial park on Quadra Island, hiking along an old logger’s road through the lush forest. It’s the heat of summer and the water is warm and clear, a perfect respite for a lazy day on the shore. On our final day we ride the gentle, slack current south through Surge Narrows, following the curve of the shore line to examine the marine life exposed during low tide. Limpits and plump, okra sea stars cling to the rocks, and we stroke the prickly spines of sea urchins and the soft back of a sea cucumber. As we pass a seal rookery the seals perform a series of dramatic belly flops for us, splashing noisily in the water. Brody directs us to a nearby rock face, where he’s spotted a healthy bunch of edible seaweed. Knife in hand, he balances on the kayak to harvest handfuls of dulce, frying it into a delectable appetizer a few hours later for our dinner.
I marvel at his skill, this modern-day Robinson Crusoe who skillfully lives off the wealth of the ocean from his island home, modestly sharing its riches with his guests. “I’ve always felt such a strong connection to this island,” he admits shyly. “The Flow Wilderness Retreat is a labour of love and a dream come true for us. Introducing our guests to this island life and sharing our passion is the ultimate reward.”
IF YOU GO:
The Flow Wilderness Retreat offers five-day experiences that include accommodation, meals and kayak excursions, June through September each year. Guests make their way to Campbell River or Quadra Island and travel by water taxi to Maurelle Island. Info: www.theflowretreat.com or call (888) 435-2925
PHOTOS: As accredited below
1. 125-2516: This isolated spot in the northern Gulf Islands has a pristine, Eden-like quality that is both intriguing and timeless . (credit: Flow Wilderness Retreat)
2. Beautiful nature bc: After a long day of kayaking it is blissful to sink into a cedar-heated hot tub overlooking the inlet. (credit: Flow Wilderness Retreat)
3. 5199: Kayakers paddle through the gentle currents, exploring the marine life near rocky outcroppings and lunching on remote islands. (credit: Flow Wilderness Retreat)
4. 0287: Hand-built cabins decked in soft linens and sheltered by massive trees create a nourishing retreat. (credit: Lauren Kramer)
5. 0540: breakfasts and dinners are gourmet, health-focused and served waterside as the tide creeps slowly up the shoreline. (credit: Flow Wilderness Retreat)
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