Thursday, September 22
I just happened to be up and saw the sunrise with waning crescent moon.
Shortly after breakfast the wind started picking up and blew right into our little bay. It’s a good thing we were planning on leaving. We checked out another bay right across the Passage, called Herring Bay, that would have been a good place to go with the current wind but we had a longer journey in mind than just half a mile. So we headed South to Wallace Island in growing wind and waves. By the time we got there it was blowing 12-15 knots with 3 foot waves. We were glad to leave those conditions.
There are two coves on Wallace Island, Conover Cove and Princess Cove. Since Conover had waves in the anchorage in the current wind conditions we went to Princess, anchored all the way at the end then carried a stern tie line ashore. That operation went smoothly despite the cross wind and the people watching. With the boat secure we decided to go for a hike.
Wallace Island is long and skinny (the coves are near the middle), with trails between the coves and to both ends of the island. The longest trail goes to the northernmost point which is low and rocky and has great views out into the channels on both sides of Wallace. It’s so popular there are established kayak campsites there, but no kayakers this time of year. The point is a great place to have lunch, which we did. On the hike back we went over to Conover Cove. It’s the site of a former homestead and one of the old buildings has been adorned, inside and out, with name boards of visiting boats, many carved or painted on pieces of driftwood, We spent some time and found the boards of friends from Seattle. Fun.
By the time we got back to our boat the wind had shifted direction and our bay was calm, though the wind strength was undiminished – we could hear it moving the trees on the hillside behind us with the same force as before as we sat in the cockpit. And Madona bark shreds rained down on the boat and the water. Things constantly change when you are on a boat.
Friday, September 23
The wind fell to calm overnight but during the morning it picked up again, though not quite to the same force as the day before. We decided to stay put anyway and enjoy more of the trails of Wallace Island, even though the beautiful blue days had given way to gray skies and occasional light showers.
Yesterday we hiked to the point on the north end of the island. Today we decided to go the other way, to Panther Point at the south end, and other trails around the island exploring the tidal areas along the way.
We took lunch with us, intending to eat at the point, but it was exposed to the full force of the wind so we had to abandon that plan. There were a few boats out and some of the sailboats were actually sailing. They looked like they were having a good time, even though the ones going upwind were making slow progress. The point is marked with a small Buddha shrine.
When we were further north at least half the boats we saw were flying the US flag. But now that we are close to Vancouver Island civilization almost all the boats are Canadian. Everyone is trying to get a last cruise in before winter. But it definitely is not crowded. Most people have to work, I suppose.
Saturday, September 24
The wind died overnight and the thin haze settled back in. The mixture of sun and clouds was welcome, nonetheless. We left Princess Cove for Genoa Bay, about 13 miles away.
Genoa Bay is a good news/bad news kind of place. On the one hand it’s large with room for a number of boats, the depth is modest and the bottom is good for anchoring. On the debit side, both north and south winds tend to funnel through the bay. With current calm conditions, Genoa Bay is a good stop. But our main reason for coming is the hike up Mt. Tzouhalem.
The trail is named “Mad Dog” and begins right out of the Genoa Bay Marina. It is but one of a large number of hiking and mountain biking rails that cover the mountain and, according to my trail map app, most of them have names. Mad Dog is so named, I think, because it climbs 1000 feet straight up a steep, open south-facing slope. On a warm summer day it must be brutal, but on a cool September afternoon it is perfect. Once the bulk of the elevation has been gained the trail continues along a ridge of easy ups and downs to a series of viewpoints.
The payoff for us is a small viewpoint at about the 1540 feet elevation level which sits right on the edge of tall vertical cliffs looking out over the entire Cowichan valley. The actual summit of Mt Tzouhalem is a little distance away but is tree covered and as it’s only about 30 feet higher we’ve never been there. From our viewpoint we often see turkey vultures soaring along the cliff face below us, though today we only saw one on the hike down.
We were pretty tired after our hike so after nice hot showers and an easy dinner we went directly to collapse mode and tried to make it till bedtime.
Sunday, September 25
It was wonderfully clear last night and we say the string of satellites again. But they faded out sooner, perhaps due to the increased sky glow as we near the major population centers of Vancouver Island.
Another beautiful day and the forecast is for light winds. Being late September decided to try for Sidney Spit in the hopes the summer crowds won’t be there. We were wrong.
We got to the Spit in early afternoon, in time for a nice hike around the Marine Park. There are mooring buoys in the park but we prefer to avoid them. The combination of light wind and opposing current always seems to place our boat with the buoy right up against the hull outside our berth going bong, bong, bong, usually in the middle of the night. So we always want to anchor. There’s lots of room but there are obstacles, too, in the form of areas too shallow for our boat. But we managed to find a place and rowed to the dock for our hike.
The hike is nice and varied. It goes through all the different terrain in the park: mature woodland with lots of big, old trees, open grasslands, salt marsh and sandy shoreline. It’s an interesting hike and easy, without much up and down. And we didn’t see many other hikers, despite there being over 50 boats in the bay by this time. The signs warning of native “harvesting” activity using firearms may have had something to do with it, though we didn’t see any hunters or hear any gunfire.