During our last day on Salt Spring Island we are scheduled to take a two-hour kayak trip to Goat Rock Island, a private ecological reserve. We're late arriving for our scheduled outing with Island Escapades, but when we get to Ganges the girls disappear into the trade fair and have to be rounded up. Then It takes a long time for our guides, Jack and Nathan, to outfit us with the right size pdf vests and rubber boots for carrying our kayaks on the muddy shore, store our cameras in waterproof bags, hand out paddles and pair us off into double kayaks.
I'm used to a kayak but this is my first time in a sea kayak. In the stern I quickly learn how to operate the foot pedals that turn the rudder. It's windy and my buddy isn't used to any kind of paddling, so we quickly fall behind the rest of the group. I've brought a waterproof camera, but can't stop paddling long enough to take any photos until we reach Goat Rock Island.
On the way we pass Grace Point, where we see a Great Blue Heron standing stock still in the shallows, watching for fish.
When Nikki and I finally pull up on the white sand beach, Jack tells us that is composed of pulverized oyster shells from the middens of First Nations people, who must have eaten millions of oysters over thousands of years. Jack and Nathan serve us hot tea from thermoses and cookies. I dig my camera out of the waterproof bag and snap a couple of photos.
Bits of translucent seaweed -- green and red and brown -- float in the shallow waters like miniature sea dragons.
Since we started so late, we don't have time to explore the island, but we do have time to visit the outhouse at the top of the hill. It is by far the most beautiful outhouse I've ever seen, with a peaked shake shingle roof, a Japanese moon window and a carved crescent moon on the door.
The woods are filled with the snaky branches of arbutus trees, which love to grow near salt water. These seem healthy, but elsewhere I've seen them with dying leaves. Unfortunately, they're very susceptible to pollution and various fungal diseases.
On the way back we see a Cormorant standing on a rock, holding its long wings out like a black W to dry them. Then we pass a Native bird sanctuary, its shores lined with the most amazing rocks, all riddled with holes from the salt water eating the soft sandstone. When we pull over to have a closer look, Jack carefully extracts a bright orange starfish from a rock and hands it around, then puts it back. He calls it a sea star, which is the proper scientific name and feels more appropriate and also more beautiful.
As we head back to Ganges harbor, Nikki and I are bringing up the rear again. Jack is at the head of the group but Nathan, our other guide, stays right with us. He spots some harbor seals out in the open water and says if we make a high-pitched sound, they'll be curious and come closer to investigate. We have fun yodeling and watching one of the seals raise up out of the water to get a better look at us.
Back in Ganges we have lunch at an open air restaurant. I ask the waitress about the vivid blue and red polyester blankets with fringe shaped like fat fingers which are piled high on a chair. She says it's for customers to wrap themselves up in when it gets chilly. The weather is so mild they're open all year around here.
After lunch I stroll around the trade fair, by now nearly finished for the day, stopping to admire handmade rugs, pottery and felted owls. I'm just looking, not buying, but the artisans enjoy talking about their beloved creations.
And finally, I stop at a little boutique to buy two pairs of cotton tights with wild designs, to remind me of our magical stay on Salt Spring Island.