Another Trip ‘round Salt Spring Island

Thursday, September 26, 2019 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

Outdoor Pursuits is a small program at Brentwood, but in my (admittedly biased), opinion, no other sport comes close to paralleling the adventure and diversity of activities that ODP offers. Early last week, less than three weeks into the first term,  ODP launched ourselves into preparations for a camping and sea kayaking trip. The five-day, four-night adventure took us approximately 55 nautical miles (100 km) in a circumnavigation of Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Salish Sea’s Gulf Islands.

After classes on Wednesday, we headed down to the waterfront, waterproofed sleeping bags and dry bags in hand, to finish loading our kayaks. Food, tents, stoves, fuel, sleeping bags, and dry clothes all packed, we lugged the heavy double kayaks down to the docks, and donned spray decks and life jackets. Appreciating the sunshine and calm waters, we pushed off, and had disappeared around Whisky point in fifteen minutes.

With intermittent water and snack breaks, we paddled for most of the afternoon, arriving at our beautiful campsite in Sansum Narrows just as the sun was sinking behind the coastal mountains. With limited daylight hours remaining, we worked quickly to set up our tents and kitchen area, and make dinner. After eating dinner gathered around a campfire in the dusky evening, we enjoyed each other’s company and a large bag of marshmallows before crawling into our tents for the night.

Thursday morning dawned foggy, but by the time we had cooked and eaten breakfast, taken down camp, and packed everything back into the kayaks, the mist had started to burn off, revealing hints of blue skies above. The day was our longest, taking us all the way up the west coast of Salt Spring Island, and around the Northern tip, to Wallace Island. It was made slightly easier, however, by stops for a beautiful opportunity to test our bouldering skills on a section of rock overhanging the water, and a lunch break on the tiny but beautiful Idol Island. Even the afternoon drizzle and the six hours of paddling did not discourage us, and singing, riddle-telling, and laughter were abundant throughout the day. Exhausted, we all welcomed the warmth and relative dryness of our tents early, after a filling dinner with warm brownies for dessert.

Day three was a short paddle, and we arrived at Prevost Island in time for a late lunch. The afternoon was spent drying out wet gear, harvesting apples from the historic orchard for a delicious apple crisp, and experimenting with crab catching techniques (including long pieces of cedar tied together with kelp to fashion makeshift tongs). These efforts resulted in more laughter than results, though we did manage to retain one crab big enough to cook and eat, which we all relished as an appetizer! Grade 12 ODP veteran Aatya U remarked that “Going camping with Outdoor Pursuits doesn’t feel like a mandatory sport, and it’s something that can teach you life skills” which I think is one of the things that sets ODP apart from other sports.

With the wind and current against us, the going was slow on the morning of day four, but our distance was short, and we arrived at Portland Island by mid-afternoon. After setting up camp once more, we took the opportunity to join another group of volunteers, led by a Parks Canada naturalist, and help remove an invasive blackberry species from the local environment! The evening passed in typical ODP style: intense card games, a delicious dinner, hot chocolate, and lots of laughter.

Rain was the prevailing element of day five, but that did not prevent us from enjoying our last day of paddling, to complete our circumnavigation. We rounded the point back into Mill Bay at slightly before noon, and despite being wet and exhausted, worked together to hang gear to dry, rinse kayaks, and complete all the other clean up tasks, before rushing gratefully for warm showers. As new ODP member Vincent Y, Whittall ‘22 commented, “Parts of [the trip] were hard, but I would do it again”.

Mr Norman observed that despite being comprised of mostly beginner paddlers, the group was very strong, and was always there to help when  needed. Thank you to Mr Norman and our volunteer leader, Dawn R, for all the preparation and hard work they put into making this trip happen!

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

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