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By Liz Clark
For Travel Writers' Tales

Do boaters have all the fun cruising British Columbia's Gulf Islands? What about we landlubbers who only travel by car and ferry? Exploring from the inside out, my husband and I set about to discover many places of natural beauty inaccessible by boat on Texada, the largest island in the Strait of Georgia.

Arriving by car ferry from Powell River on the 'North Island Princess," an excellent profile of Texada proved wrong the rumor that the island was "flat as a pancake." Lofty Mount Pocahantas is only one of many great slopes enjoyed by hikers, mountain bikers and rock climbers. And as we pulled into the dock at Blubber Bay, a stark reminder of this once-booming mining community greeted us. A huge limestone quarry, still successfully operating, gave us our first clue that mineral resources had been an important aspect of Texada's history. A short distance up from the ferry landing, the Texada Museum artifacts and photographs revealed an exciting past where international mining magnates once scrambled for riches in the island's geological formations: limestone, iron ore, copper and precious gold.

Towering second-growth forest soon welcomed us as we drove south down a winding road to the Gillies Bay area where green and picturesque patches of pastures and farmland offered a more pleasant visual impression of Texada. Although a beautiful location with extraordinary views across the Strait to snow-tipped Vancouver Island mountains, low tides over a shallow sandy shoal make moorage in the Bay impossible. From the deck of our cozy waterfront cabin, we watched in amazement as the sea slowly receded to reveal golden sandbanks looking like giant stepping-stones leading to the under sea world of Atlantis. The treasures here are succulent clams, oysters and for good luck souvenirs, ubiquitous sand dollars.

To celebrate the Summer Solstice, we prepared a grand barbeque with particularly delicious food from the local general store. With all modern conveniences in the cabin and a wonderful hot tub on a deck large enough to entertain a family gathering, it seemed like a little bit of heaven. Had we arrived one month later, the highlight of many evenings would be watching the sparkling lights on cruise ships as they ply from Vancouver north to Alaska.

Early every morning, chattering birds flew back and forth to nests in the nearby woodland and hungry hummingbirds made regular visits for nectar from the colourful and fragrant flowers surrounding the cabin. At times, the faint drone of diesel engines could be heard across the open water as tugboats hauled heavily laden barges to and from mills up and down the Strait.

Unfortunately we arrived too soon for one of the Island's largest and most favourite events - a celebration of the lowest tide of the year. In mid-July, the annual Sandcastle Competition at nearby Shelter Point Park is fun for everyone. Rivalry is keen and often the creator of the scariest and largest sand serpent wins the prize. Then at the end of July, all sorts of small aircraft fly around and down over the bay to land at the Gillies Bay airfield for an annual get-together. It's Texada Fly-In time. Good eats and "hanger talk" highlight this event.

With so many beachfront activities and beautiful views all around, a game of golf was another treat. Located not far from Blubber Bay, the nine-hole Deer Leap course offers an "honor box" for nominal green fees. Not concerned about pull carts on this casual holiday, we happily set out with a few clubs in hand. Mature trees alongside the fairways provided some shade on a sunny afternoon and although an easy walk with few hazards, the greens were a challenge. Even after mowing, lush, fast-growing grasses and weeds insisted on poking back up so our balls seemed to hop toward the hole, but not into it. Our recovery tactic for weary feet walking on bumpy terrain called for a return to the cabin and a restorative dip in soothing hot tub waters. What a treat after a fun game of golf.

Before saying our goodbyes to this beautiful island within the "rain shadow" of Vancouver Island's mountains, we read this message left by landlubbers visiting in wintertime :

"Snow, rainstorms, frost, sunshine - Wonderful! We're so glad we came."
After our own great experience at Texada, we fellow landlubbers wondered, could this be the place for our own winter get-away?


By land from Vancouver, take BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale; travel up Highway 101 to Earls Cove and board the ferry to Saltery Bay, then continue on 101 north to Powell River for the thirty-minute ferry connection to Texada Island; or from Vancouver Island, take BC Ferries from Comox to Powell River, then transfer to the Texada ferry.

Further information:
Deer Leap information: 604-486-0072

PHOTOS by Liz Clark:
1. Limestone Quarry at Blubber Bay
2. Mining Face Shovel
3. Gillies Bay General Store
4. Beachcombers and snowcapped mountains
5. Beachcombers
6. Sand Dollar Log Cabin with low tide view

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