Adventures on a Small Island (Part II)

(A very belated posting… you can read Part I here)

The second day dawned at our cabin in the woods. Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, we’d made it through the night without being attacked by chainsaw wielding madmen, a zombie redneck torture family, or brought unspeakable evil to life by reading aloud from an old book found in the cabin.

In fact, the only book in the cabin was “Hikes of Quadra Island”. I doubted it would be doing much raising of ancient evil.

It did, however, have some good suggestions for what we could do with our one day here. We decided to climb Mt Seymour, the highest point on the island. Okay, so that highest point was only 600 metres, it still sounded like a fun way to spend the day.

Quadra Island was everything Twin Peaks had promised North America to be*. Brooding, grey and desolate, with towering forests, and gaunt winter trees. There was a strange mix to the buildings here; rundown shacks sat next to expensive, well maintained houses. We passed a miniature castle (complete with turrets) while, two doors down, a burnt out car sat outside what I’m pretty sure was a meth lab.

Turning off the island’s single paved road, we headed up a small gravel logging track, looking for the hike. That we had to drive up and down the road several times before we found it – an overgrown path marked by a small, weather worn sign – was probably our first indication that things weren’t going to go as planned.

We headed up the trail. Tall pines and cedars loomed over us, while small ferns broke through the undergrowth. The low-lying fog gave everything a flat, surreal light. Moss dripped from the trees in the damp morning air.

Then we came to the first small patch of snow on the ground.

You wouldn’t think this would be such a surprise, it being Canada in winter and all, but oddly enough, it doesn’t really snow in Vancouver. In fact, it had only snowed once all winter;  the snow arrived late Monday night, and was gone by the time we woke up Wednesday morning.

Accordingly, neither of us had really taken snow into consideration when planning our hike.

But it was only a small patch, and I like snow, so I amused myself bouncing through it before it disappeared and we continued our hike upwards.

Then we came to a longer, deeper patch of snow. Snow fell inside my boot. It turns out I like snow a lot less with cold, wet feet.

The snow grew steadily deeper, soon covering the landscape. My feet kept plunging through the fresh snow, sinking me to my knees. I adopted the “stamp, stamp, step” method of walking.

Going was slow.

The trail became overgrown, with thick trees rising through the middle of the path. We scrambled carefully up some ice-covered rocks and looked around.

Everything looked the same. A thick blanket of snow hid all trail markings. I wondered if this was even still the trail.

We kept on.

No matter how carefully I stamp-stamp-stepped, I would still plunge thigh deep every third step or so. I’d been hit by a car a few weeks earlier, injuring my rib cage. Hiking was fine, but the pain from constantly pulling myself out of a Sarah-shaped hole in the snow was beginning to make me very grumpy.

The trees got thicker and the path more overgrown. Eventually, we had to face facts: this wasn’t a trail. God knows what it was, but generally hiking trails don’t have large copses of trees in the middle of them that you have to climb over.

However, as I’ve mentioned, I’m stubborn. Even though I was cold, wet, miserable and in pain, now that I’d made it most of the way up the hike, I was damned if I’d let a little thing like “not knowing where to go” prevent me from getting to get to the top.

The hiking book indicated that the trail would cross a stream at some point. Listening, I could hear running water to my right, so I headed towards it, making sure I felt into at least three snow drifts along the way.

A fast-running river of snowmelt ran between rocks, with a broad patch of snow on the other side. Possibly the trail, possibly a deep, snow-covered crevasse.

My boyfriend – the less klutzy of the two of us – carefully picked his way across the river, where the verdict came back: not the trail.

At this point it was 2pm. We were lost, cold, soaking wet, and it would be getting dark soon.

In a rare display of intelligence, we turned back.

Back at the car, we took off our waterproof hiking boots and wrung out our socks. We were cold and hungry, but not about to admit defeat. Instead, we decided to check out the ruins of an old gold and copper mine on the island.

Lucky Jim’s Mine, it turned out, wasn’t so lucky for Jim. Started up in the turn of the century, the continual drainage problems from the island’s wet climate meant that the mine lasted barely fifteen years before closing down. According to our not-so-trusty “Hikes of Quadra Island” there was an old flywheel and several log cabins still at the site.

Unfortunately, time and the perpetual damp had long since destroyed the wooden cabins, and the forest had grown back in to reclaim the land as its own, leaving almost no trace that there was ever a mine here. Only the flywheel and mine shaft remained as testament to the history of the area.

The winter woods had a quiet eeriness to them. No birds sang. The low fog muffled all sounds. We were far away from any other cars or people.

It was the perfect time to realise we had a flat tire.

Luckily, our rental car had a space saver spare tyre, so, exhausted and cold, we changed the flat and headed back to our cabin, where we got to spend the last of our relaxing holiday trying to find a tyre repair place open on a long weekend.

Not surprisingly, this wasn’t terribly successful.

As you can only drive so far and so fast on a space saver tyre before it might explode and send the car careening off the road to a fiery death, and, since our exorbitant car insurance also covered Roadside Assistance, we called Thrifty to see if they would come and repair the tyre.

Unfortunately, they didn’t want to do that. Their advice instead was to “drive over the bridge to Vancouver and take it back to the rental office”.

After a confused silence, I explained we were three hundred kilometres – and a ferry crossing – away from Vancouver. The person on the other end of the line asked how far that was in miles.

It turned out the call centre was in Texas.

With nowhere open, and Thrifty no help, that left one final option: buy a tyre puncture repair kit from a petrol station and try to fix it ourselves.

One messy and frustrating half an hour later, all we’d managed to do was waste $10, entertain some bored locals, and get glue everywhere.

Out of options, and with a ferry we needed to catch in a few hours, we climbed back into our car, and began a slow, cautious drive south.

The ferry crossing back to the mainland was uneventful, remarkable only because, by this point, I was expecting the ferry to get hit by a meteor and sink, and it didn’t.

Once back on land, however, things swiftly went back to normal, when we took a wrong turn out of the ferry port of Tsawwassen, and ended up on a highway headed straight to the US border.

Of course.

We finally managed to get ourselves heading in the right direction, and arrived home close to midnight. Then we simply had to find an open car wash to remove the worst of the off-road evidence from our rental car, drop it back at Thrifty, and catch a late bus home to unpack, before starting the working week in a few hours.

It had been a fun weekend.

Climbing Mt Seymour

The last remaining relic of Lucky Jim's Gold Mine
The single remaining relic of Lucky Jim’s Gold Mine


*Well, hopefully minus the murder, incest and creepy demonic entities.


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