The islands off of the northeast coast of Vancouver Island are not well traveled.
A double handful of people live on the little dots of land that honeycomb the inlets and channels between the mainland and the big island. A network of a very few ferries connect the largest of these. Beyond that, access is only by private boat, which means that if you’re out here, you either know someone or you’ve booked into one of the very remote resorts accessed by very long boat rides or float plane. The remote communities here are serviced by the last floating post office in Canada, serviced by float plane, and the last remote school, operating just three days a week.
Your smartphone won’t work here. An old school flip phone might, if you have the special signal booster and the tide is just right. There is no such thing as an internet connection. There is electricity: produced out of a fast flowing stream & a truck alternator through a modified sine wave inverter.
It is a bit off the beaten track, which is just how my brother likes it.
There is no medicine for road weariness like toddler giggles and baby nephew cheeks to kiss. No antidote for the rush of re-entry like a cast iron pot of venison chili simmering on a wood stove and a brother’s bear hug. Going to bed with the sun and waking as the purple haze lingered in the channel with the only sounds being the lap of the waves and the rush of the stream behind the cabin soon worked their restorative magic.
For four heartwarming days we unplugged, stepped off of the magic carpet ride that’s sweeping us east and rested. We don’t do that often enough.
The boys rowed and kayaked within a couple of miles up and down the coast and across the channel. We hiked to the top of the waterfall and Josh pointed out the boundaries of the logging operation that they’re hoping very much won’t come to fruition. We watched seals poke their heads out of the frigid water and blow clouds of mist between birds floating on the surface in the mornings. We sipped hot cocoa on chilly afternoons while Johanna and I made felt bowls as the baby napped. We climbed 1,700 feet up a little mountain on another island with “neighbours.” The view from the top was breathtaking and the climb was just what jet lagged muscles needed to remember what it is to adventure. The hour’s boat ride through the warren of channels and across three sets of rapids to the sea lion colony was worth the frozen noses and chilly toes. The kids romped all over the island collecting bald eagle feathers and driftwood while we watched dozens of majestic birds swoop down amid hundreds of gulls to skim hake from the surface of the roiling waters; the little fish pushed to the surface by the swirling currents of the tide. That was a sight I won’t soon forget.
“You should really stay another day or three,” my brother lamented this morning, “We haven’t had our shop day yet!” Referring to a woodworking day in his boat building shop.
Of course he is right, and we’re wishing we had the day or three to spend, but for once in our lives, we’re on a schedule. We have a long line of hugs waiting for us in the coming weeks, and a lot of miles to cover.
Josh and I have been a bit like ships passing in the night for the last decade and a half.
He spent five years sailing around the world while I had babies. When we were on the same continent, it was on opposite sides and we’d converge once every year or two on the island, with my parents. Then we were off traveling, just about the time he was getting settled down.
His little boys, tiny elves, sitting in the laps of my giants were a squeezable reminder of how fast time is passing. I’ve been remiss in letting miles and continents, kids and realities become excuses for not showing up. As I hugged them goodbye this morning, in the freezing cold, with babies crying, it was with a promise to be back this summer, and to stay longer. I have nephews to spoil rotten, a man-brother to get to know again, and Johanna to cook and felt and hike with as we share the journey of raising this wily group of cousins. Four days was not enough.