Travelling the BC Coast

I’ve recently realized that the longer I spend living far away from my family, the more of them I begin to see in myself (for better and for worse…)

Ruckle Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island

I’ve inherited all of my Mum’s quirky food preferences, from black licorice to roasted beets, as well as her ability to function very well on very little sleep, her perfectionist tendencies, and her naturally speedy walking pace.

Just like my Dad, I always want to understand the world from a big-picture perspective, I love staying up-to-date on current events, I firmly believe that a morning run is the best way to start the day, and I’m a chronic future-thinker. My parents somehow succeed at being two of my best friends, biggest critics, and greatest role models, all at the same time.

While my older brother, Hayden, and I may seem quite dissimilar at a surface level, we actually get along very well. He’s a successful, young urban professional who lives in downtown Toronto, works as an engineering consultant, and plays in a casual rock band on the side.

I’m an outdoor enthusiast and plant-based foodie who lives in coastal British Columbia, studies generically ‘earthy’ things, and spends my free time trail running, knitting, dumpster diving, and baking vegan cookies. Nonetheless, Hayden and I both have a knack for story-telling, are highly opinionated, eat way too much peanut butter, and happily belt out song lyrics together while cruising in the car at night with all the windows down.

Ahhh, yes, I love my family. And how lucky I am that they’re willing to travel across the country to come visit me here in beautiful British Columbia! At the beginning of August, my parents, Hayden, and I were all finally re-untied for a 10-day family vacation around Vancouver Island and some of the surrounding Gulf Islands. Since this was their first visit to BC since I moved here last September to begin my degree at UVic, I was granted the special privilege of planning our itinerary and playing tour guide, with visits to many of my favourite places that I’ve discovered.

Where did we go? What did we do? What breath-taking views did we see? How many mountainous hikes did I drag my family on? These are all very good questions! Follow us along on our journey with this brief overview of our travels on and around Vancouver Island.

August 3rd to 5th: Salt Spring Island  

On the first day of our vacation, I met my family on sunny Salt Spring Island, where we were kindly invited to stay with some long-lost cousins of ours who own a lovely house on the water.

Some of the highlights of our Salt Spring visit include wandering around the unbeatable Saturday morning Farmers’ Market (purchases: chickpea curry and locally grown bean sprouts), a hike to the summit of Mt. Maxwell with its spectacular South-facing view of the Gulf Islands, a much-anticipated visit to Salt Spring Wild Cider, multiple ocean swims, lots of wild blackberry picking, and enjoying many home-cooked meals with family.

View of the Southern Gulf Islands from the top of Mt. Maxwell, Salt Spring Island

Very happy (and slightly tipsy) at Salt Spring Wild Cider

August 6th to 7th:Victoria

From Salt Spring Island, we rode the ferry over to Victoria to snag a glimpse of my day-to-day life in the city, and spend two nights with my roommates at our new house there. Despite my great plans for us to go out on the town and take some scenic day-trips to nearby beaches, our time in Victoria ended up being largely centered around running errands and delving in to a couple of home-improvement projects. Evidently, I come from a family of task-oriented ‘do-ers.’

Just exploring.

Though less relaxing than I’d intended, we did succeed in planting a new front garden, making a giant batch of blackberry jam, buying and moving a bed (which is a much larger task than one might anticipate), visiting Whole Foods, roaming around Beacon Hill park, and hanging out at the spectacularly secluded Hollydene beach, which is only a short walk from UVic.

Having heard countless stories about my family over the past year, my roommates were very excited to finally meet them, and it brought me a lot of happiness to have so many people who I love all together in one place at the same time.

August 8th to 9th: Quadra Island

Heading Northwards, we travelled up the coast to Campbell River, where we then hopped on a short ferry ride over to Quadra Island. On Quadra, we rented a quaint little farmhouse that sat at the end of a quiet, rural road.

During our short time there, we felt ourselves quickly relax in to the restful pace of the island, and didn’t get up to too much other than some casual hiking in the Morte Lake area, swimming at warm ocean beaches, taking in the sunset at Rebecca Spit, playing Frisbee, and enjoying delicious meals on our vine-covered backyard terrace. The island life is hard to beat.

Elk Falls, near Campbell River

August 10th to 12th: Strathcona Provincial Park

Last, but certainly not least, I brought my family to the majestic and mountainous Strathcona Provincial Park, where I’ve been working as an Outdoor Education Instructor for the past four months. Showing my family around Strathcona felt like inviting them in to my own big backyard, as I’ve become very familiar with the park through many adventures during my time here.

We dedicated one full day to hiking the Elk River Trail, which is easily one of my favorite trails (I’ve hiked/ ran it five times this season!) It winds along the Elk River through a steep mountain valley with some sections of dense old-growth forest, before eventually reaching the spectacular Landslide Lake with its clear, turquoise waters at the base of Mt. Colonel Foster and Elkhorn. At 24km long with about 500m of elevation gain, this trail makes for a very full day, but the hike is relaxed, interesting, and well-worth the effort.

The rest of our time at Strathcona was spent canoeing and paddle boarding on Upper Campbell Lake, and taking a few other short hikes up to some mountain viewpoints.

Landslide Lake, Strathcona Provincial Park

Hiking along the Elk River Trail, Strathcona Provincial Park

Spending these 10 days together was easily the longest period of time that my family and I have all been in the same place since my older brother moved out four years ago. It also gave us an opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives, as a lot has changed for all of us in recent months, with career changes, travelling, new relationships, etc. After our trip (all too quickly) came to an end, I was left with a few overall thoughts and reflections:

  • I felt immensely proud to be able to show my family the new life that I’ve created for myself here in BC, complete with meaningful relationships, my own home, a sense of belonging, and beautiful places to explore.
  • I noticed now, more than ever, how much of who I am has been influenced by my family. At the same time, I became aware of all the ways in which I’ve consciously decided to construct my own identity, independent of where and how I was raised.
  • I found myself able to better connect with my older brother in a way that’s been missing from our relationship since he moved away from home back when I was 15. I remember feeling blindsided when he first came back for the summer after being away at university, and suddenly seemed like a different person. While this created some tension and misunderstanding between us for a few years, I feel like I’m now at a place where I can relate to his reality, and find common ground around many of the struggles and triumphs of young adulthood that I’m now also experiencing myself.
  • Sharing the beauty of Vancouver Island with visitors re-ignited my own appreciation for this amazing natural landscape. Living here every day, it’s far too easy to begin taking the massive trees and rugged peaks and endless coastline for granted.

At home in the mountains.

Ultimately, I’m so grateful to have people in my life who love me more than I know it, and who will support me in everything that I do. I’m grateful to be living, working, and learning in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And I’m grateful for the freedom to create my own reality; continuously exploring, adventuring, and discovering to my heart’s content.

You may also like...