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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

‘On roading’ with Jerry!

This morning we had to leave our cozy little nautical themed cottage in Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, B.C. What a great spot to spend a January weekend, even if we did keep bumping our heads on the sloping ceiling upstairs!

Our cottage was named after this sign hanging above the kitchen door frame.

We had to be out of the cottage before 11am and we were packed up and on the road by 10:15am, in the pouring rain and +4C. We had lots more of the island that we wanted to explore before catching the ferry in Vesuvius this afternoon.

First up on our travels was to drive up the road our cottage was on to see if we could see a lookout at the top of Mount Tuam. We drove as far as the windy, very hilly, 11% grade road would let us, before it ended and unfortunately the road ended at private residences, so we could not get out and see anything. We did stop on the descent from Mount Tuam and this was our view.

Fulford Harbour from Mount Tuam area, Salt Spring Island.

After driving down from Mount Tuam we wanted to drive up Mount Maxwell to get to the lookout at the top of Mount Maxwell as we were told this was something that was not to be missed while we were on Salt Spring. Even though the weather was cloudy and overcast, we headed towards Ganges and took the sharp turn up the road to Mount Maxwell.

Mount Maxwell Provincial Park located on Burgoyne Bay and the Sansum Narrows was originally established in 1938 for its distinctive landmark viewing point. Mount Maxwell contains one of the highest points on Salt Spring Island at 580m above sea level. The peak of Mount Maxwell is called Baynes Peak, after Admiral Sir Robert Lambert Baynes and offers amazing views of Vancouver Island, the surrounding Gulf Islands and the mainland of B.C.

We didn’t know what we were in for going up the road to Mount Maxwell. About 5 km from the peak the signs for “mandatory 4 wheel drive” and “snow tires and chains mandatory from October to April” started.

The picture is a bit blurry because poor Jerry was bumping up and down. I’ve got a Facebook video I will post on how we got down from here. At this point in the trip up to the summit of Mount Maxwell I thought we were going to have to turn around. We had this boulder in the road on the left hand side of the road, and the right side of the road was very narrow.. In addition, we didn’t know whether there were pot holes on the other side of this boulder! There was no way we wanted to be stranded part way up the mountain so we did the prudent thing and stopped driving, assessed the situation and determined Richard should go to the right, very slowly, in first gear and creep up the road. We had a van following us up until this point in our ascent. I’m not sure he was reading the signs about needing 4WD and snow tire/chains. There is no way a Dodge Caravan would be equipped with 4WD!

No problem unless you have a tall vehicle!

Finally the sign to the park.

I’ve done a lot of crazy driving in my time with Land Rovers in ‘grass gravel snow’ or ‘hill descent’ and with a professional driver beside me helping me to articulate those very expensive, capable, off road vehicles down a hill on 3 wheels on a log, over a river, etc etc, but I’ve never been in a little, low clearance Jeep on what they called a ‘ROAD’ driving up a mountain in these conditions! Richard sure deserved a medal for getting us out of there and Jerry in one piece!!

The final potholes before the summit. Now we have snow on the road too!

Jerry at the summit. The parking lot was full of pot holes and snow. Jerry sure needed a rest after the very treacherous drive to the top. If you will notice there were no other crazy people at the summit with us!

Maple Bay on Vancouver Island in the distance.

We are up pretty high here looking over to the snow covered Vancouver Island mountain ranges in the background.

Burgoyne Bay and sailboats below us.

Pretty cold and windy at the summit at Bayne‘s Peak.

Oh for a clearer day to be able to have better views!

We did not feel like hiking around at the summit of Mount Maxwell although there are a lot of hiking trails and if we had hiked around, we would have been able to see to the mainland of B.C. It’s ok we didn’t go hiking. We will leave that adventure for a warmer, dryer day!

Heading down from Mount Maxwell we saw a lot of farm stands. Most every farm stand on the Island sells eggs and some sell baked goods, coffee, produce, etc and we found one today that sold homemade soap! All of the farm stands are on the honour system. With the amount of eggs sold on Salt Spring, I’m sure there is a lot of baking and brunches being eaten!

Richard choosing soaps. He brought them to the car for me to smell and then I approved them for purchase!

Beautiful organic farm stand soaps we came home with. They are also shampoo bars too! $5/soap.

We headed into Ganges to get some gas at the Co-op gas station. We had to line up for gas, but since there are only 2 stations in Ganges and one charges $1.39 a litre at the Ganges station and the Co-op charged $1.27 a litre, we understood why the line up!

We had yet to visit the Salt Spring Island Golf & Country Club which is located just north of Ganges, so after gassing up Jerry, we headed up the road to the golf course.

Golf, tennis and squash at this location!

Golf course club house.

Driving range off mats

Putting green

First tee, just heading out for 9 holes.

9th green.

The Salt Spring Island Golf Course was established in 1928 and is a modestly challenging 9-hole, 3037 yard, par 36 course of undulating fairways, water features and mature forests, with the north east slopes of Mount Erskine providing the backdrop for many holes. Alternate tees provide a full-length “Back 9” if you prefer to play 18 holes. There did not appear to be any problem booking a tee time because I did check for us. Unfortunately we had left our clubs in Newman this weekend, as we did not think we would have had time to play golf. It sure looks like a nice little ‘gem’ of a golf course and if we go back to Salt Spring we will definitely have to find the time to play!

We wanted to drive all around the Island and we saw a point with a pier on the map, on the Northeast area of the Island called Fernwood Point, so we headed there next. We were really surprised by the elevation on the Island and we were not expecting the hilly, windy, roads. It made getting from one short distance to another, longer, because we could not go very fast on these roads. Most roads were paved, but some were not.

Are you looking at me? Fernwood Point. At the end of the Point there is a fishing pier.

And as chance would have it, a fisherman is hanging out on the pier fishing. Galiano Island is in the background across the water from us.

Wallace Island immediately behind Richard and beyond Wallace Island is Galiano Island.

Fernwood Point had a coffee shop called the Fernwood Cafe, which had erected tents for people to sit outside and enjoy a coffee. We saw a ton of people walking up the road in Fernwood. It seemed like the Sunday afternoon thing to do on Salt Spring Island.

To say that we had been all around the Island we wanted to get to the most northern point of Salt Spring Island. Southey Point was our destination. A bit of an oxymoron if you ask me calling the northern most part of the Island Southey Point?!

Just before we got to Southey Point we saw these very cool cottages at ‘Mineral Springs Resort’.

Self contained cottages at Mineral Springs Resort. The resort is proud to be Canada’s only seaside mineral springs resort, named by Indigenous settlers who first visited Salt Spring Island. In the 1970’s while drilling for water, a spring was found, pumping at 20 gallons a minute, in a well 150 feet below the ocean floor. What at first was believed to be sea water, actually contained less than 10% of the salt found in the ocean, 21 minerals and trace elements were found after testing and today the water’s contents remain the same. The spacious self-contained villas provide a two person mineral bath, with a fully equipped kitchen, living area, BBQ grills, sundeck and either an ocean or forest view. What a cool spot! Maybe next time! Rooms start at $220 a night and they are only accepting reservations from Canadians!

Down a few steps to a rugged beach at the end of Southey Point Road we came upon a beautiful blue canoe and a few boats stored here by their owners.

Views over to Penelakut Island from Southey Point Cove.

Views of Southey Point cove.

Beautiful homes on Salt Spring off Southey Point Road

Southey Point cove.

After exploring the rest of Salt Spring Island today we were hungry! We knew that if we headed to Vesuvius we would find somewhere to eat close to the ferry.

Jerry is 2nd in line for the 3pm ferry to Crofton from Vesuvius and our restaurant for lunch is in the background.

Richard went into Seaside Restaurant and asked if we would be able to get lunch before the 3pm sailing, as it was approximately 2:10pm when we got to the ferry dock. The server told us that lots of people park and then order food at the restaurant, so there would be no problem leaving Jerry in line for the ferry, while we had lunch.

Seaside Restaurant has been a fixture of Vesuvius Bay for decades. In the 1940s when it was Vesuvius Marine, they used to rent boats, sell bait, pump gas and have a small ice cream, snacks and coffee shop. Paddle wheelers would come from Ladysmith on Vancouver Island and beyond with supplies for Salt Spring Island. As business increased, the original owners turned their living room into a coffee shop and their bedroom into the dining area. Over the years the restaurant has changed several times, but it has kept its charm and reputation for being a locals favourite seaside kitchen.

When they say famous they mean it!

Halibut and chips. The batter was very light and the meal was delicious!

Caesar salad.

We finished out lunch and headed to Jerry at 2:50pm, just in time to roll onto the ferry for the 30 minute ride over to Crofton, B.C. on Vancouver Island. The ferry was a bit smaller than the one we had come over from Swartz Bay on Friday and since we had already paid for a return ferry ride, there was no need to pay again to take the ferry.

Heading off the ferry in Crofton, Vancouver Island.

We arrived home in Fanny Bay at 5pm and had already unpacked and settled into Newman within 30 minutes. It was lovely to go away for the weekend and see Salt Spring Island. We did not have time to visit any artisans -other than the cheese factory, but we felt like we got a good flavour for the Island, based on the time we were there. Of course because of Covid, and because we are ’off season’ things are not as vibrant on the Island as we imagine the summertime would be. We kept asking ourselves the question we always ask when we go somewhere new -“Could we live here?” I think the jury is out on Salt Spring. It’s beautiful, rugged, and spectacular, but remote. Could we live with the inconveniences of not being near a “BIG“ city? We never did answer the question, preferring to have wonderful memories of our weekend getaway on a dreamy Island.

Jerry will definitely need a car wash tomorrow! He’s been through a lot this weekend and he needs some TLC after all he has been through!

It might be raining instead all day tomorrow, so that might take care of the mud on Jerry!

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