I made a last minute decision to hop the boat from Pender to Saturna, arriving at 8:30pm. The ferry sailed between islands, passing through Pender on the right and Mayne on the left—a different island viewpoint, realizing how closely connected all the southern Gulf Islands are.
Upon unloading onto Saturna well into the evening, I drove the long roads, and found the reason why I never really heard much from Saturna. It is forest. It is protected land. It is barely paved. Few cars, fewer people, and even fewer houses. Lots of deer. A quick google shows a population of ‘around 350.’ Ay, there’s the rub.
It made it hard to find an inconspicuous place to sleep, but it made it easy to discover the long and thin island until it became dark. I found a spot, got woken by ferry people, then headed to a beautiful little waterfront park I had found the night before.
It was a glorious morning. Coffee, reading, sun, boaters trudging their way from the bay to the outhouses. A group of 20 local women arrive to exercise in the park—they exist! I head to the East Point Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada, and meet with the interns stationed there to document whales and make sure boaters are complying with the water’s laws.
I then wander to the little village where there is a tiny grocery store and a tiny post office. No bananas on the shelves. The locals know I’m not from there and the welcoming vibe is lacking a tad. Makes sense--there’s a reason you choose such a rural island. I head to Mount Warburton Pike. An offroad mountain drive which offers the most stunning views over the American islands. I then head to the ferry lineup and get to enjoy some pub food while I wait to head to Mayne Island, as all the other tourists are doing as well.
Mayne Island’s ferry terminal is big! Reminiscent of the ones in the cities—giving off a city vibe that isn’t realized once I’m on the little island. Turns out Mayne Island is a big stop on the way to Vancouver. The waters there are a highway, really. Mayne is tiny with a population of 1000. I was welcomed by a friend of a friend, plus many people I had connected with over FOLKLIFE online. Linda Dzus housed me. Married to a long time Mayne Islander, I got to hear stories of the past before city dwellers started making their way over and changing things. I met with Katherine Cox Stevenson, the ‘writer’ from the first edition. I met with Ian Mcleod and Kerry Johnson, a duo who brought a vibrancy to Mayne that I hadn’t thought existed from seeing the corner store and grocery store—very rural vibes (and only one bunch of bananas available!). They talked about glitter at halloween parties over a happy hour glass of wine or two, surrounded by the top quality furnishings that only a pair of designers could have. You’ll definitely hear more about them and their beautiful work, that’s for sure.
I dropped off FOLKLIFE at the local bookstore, and two people came to buy it even while I was there talking to the bookstore employee who spoke of being a failed gay farmer.
Next door was a reason Id consider moving to Mayne: The Farm Gate Store. I may be ridiculous, but I just love little shops like this. Healthy food, earthy smells, community-feeling. Just love it. Well that store, and the mountain I found to run up that morning, plus the beautiful Japanese Gardens you can sit in all day, all punctuated by ferry horns. Just lovely.
Mayne is one of those islands that seem quiet, but that also seem like they have much going on, if you meet the right people—even more than just the Campbell Bay Music Festival. It’s very rural, but there’s a thread of vibrant underground city vibe too, kind of like Denman. I'll be back. I wave goodbye to Linda and head to Galiano, having a tailgate picnic in the lineup from goodies I’d collected at The Farm Gate Store. Boy I love my #vanlife. It makes ferry waits the best.
I head straight to the campground upon arrival on Galiano, as this is the one time I thought it’d be nice to not have to pretend I wasn’t sleeping in my van. Turns out Galiano is one long, thin strip of land, which I had heard put a division into the local folks’ community. A shame to hear about, really. Galiano does have many pockets of lovely shops! Of course, not open because it was a Wednesday ;). I tried to connect to the 1st edition people but all were busy—c’est la vie.
After a delicious breakfast on the beach, I drove the long roads to get the island vibes. I spoke for a long time with the owner and long-time resident of a clothing store, who told me all about Galiano life. Then found my way to the oh-so-cute Looseleaf Tea Company, also acting as the only post office, filled with special goods. They were more than stoked to sell FOLKLIFE and our stickers. I wish I had been able to book a dinner in advance at Pilgrimme, featured in the 1st edition! Next time.
Galiano wasn’t what I thought it would be. Definitely more rural. But to be honest, that was the same for Saturna, Mayne, and Galiano. Probably just due to a lack of previous research though, because all one has to do is look at the populations (1000 or less), and it makes total sense. That being said, there are many wonderful things happening between the beach and the trees and the little shops (who sometimes lack bananas), and I so can’t wait to find out more! And I can't wait to share it with you, too!