Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Foggy Day on Salt Spring Island

I've been really stressed out at work lately so I decided to take a loner mental health day and go to Salt Spring Island for the day. Salt Spring Island is part of the Gulf Islands, is on the east side of Vancouver Island and you can get there in only 35 minutes via ferry from Swartz Bay. The entire island has only a population of about 10,000 people and I believe that there may be more sheep than people inhabiting the island. OK, that may not be true, but there are a lot of sheep. Since moving here I have wanted to check out the Saturday Farmer's Market and explore the little hippie island that people around here tell me that I would appreciate.

So my plan today was to take the 9am ferry, check out the market and the little communities on the island, then hike to the top of Mt. Maxwell for the famously amazing view that I heard so much about. Unfortunately the weather did not really work in my favour. The Weather Network said it would be sunny and semi-warm, but it ended up being very cool and extremely foggy. I went to the island anyway hoping that the temperature would increase and the fog would lift. I drove around enjoying nature, the market, the towns and the very friendly people who were eager to ask questions about where I was from and recommend things for me to do while visiting for the day. Unfortunately they all recommended me to skip the hike due to the fog and the conditions of the road to the trail head. Apparently unless you have a 4x4 or something equally helpful to dodge massive potholes and crumbling roads, it's not worth the trip for short stature vehicles (like my little Honda). Plus the fog would make the view from the top non-existent.

A foggy afternoon by the water

I killed some time by driving around, checking out some of the art studios, tourist attractions and beaches, all in hopes of the weather lifting so that I could conquer the hike.

What I loved about the island is that it reminded me so much of Nelson BC. People living off of the land, producing their products themselves and enjoying a laid back kind of lifestyle. The population consists hugely of artists, musicians and farmers who are all involved in contributing to the community. Organic, natural, home-made, home-grown and "made with love" were the kinds of products you see on the tables at the markets and on the shelves at the stores. As you drive along the windy roads throughout the island, every minute or so you come across a stand at the end of a family farm driveway with a product for sale, such as fresh eggs, vegetables, jams/jellies or lavender. All of these stands are based on the "honour system", meaning that you take the product and leave money behind. Honestly, every turn and bend had one of these stands full of products for people passing by to take a look at and purchase if desired. I love that there are places in the world that still have honourable people inhabiting communities that can follow a system such as this.

Eventually I decided to give up waiting for the weather and headed back to my larger and busier island. Luckily on the way back towards the ferry I saw a sign saying "Brewery" and took a sharp right up a farm road and went to check out Salt Spring Island Ales brewery. When I pulled up to the building, I could not help but produce an ear-to-ear smile.

It was perfect.

It was exactly what the brewery on the island should have looked like.

Small, old, semi-dilapidated and hidden in amongst the trees and mountains that make BC as wonderful as it is.

The brewery is just an old barn with two big tanks in the back and a natural spring running beside it (which is the water they use to make the beer with). The organic hops for the beer are grown just up the road and all of the beer production happens on the island. After a minute of trying to figure out where the shop was to purchase the beer, I found the narrow staircase heading to the top of the barn/brewery which lead me to a small room with one counter, a keg, a beer fridge and a very friendly woman who explained to me everything there was to know about the product and brewery. We chatted for some time, talked about beer, travel and PEI and I left with 3 bottles of delicious ale to take back with me.

So even though I didn't get to hike a mountain today, I still got to experience Salt Spring Island and enjoy my day away from my worries. I know that since I went in the middle of October that I missed out on the true Saturday market (a lot of vendors aren't around this late in season) and the outdoorsy experiences that one gets in the warm summer months. But I got some amazing local coffee, beer, spices and body lotions to remind me of the lovely little island nestled up close to Vancouver Island. I'll definitely head back to the cozy and colourful island when the weather warms up again and I'll see the view from the top of Mt. Maxwell.

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