Pender IslandAugust 21, 2017 in Canada
Our trip to Pender Island started off on a bit of a hangry note. After driving up the West Coast (and back down), moving on to Butchart Gardens (and deciding not to visit), we made our way to the ferry terminal in hopes of grabbing something to eat and saying farewell to our German travel buddies.
Turns out that the ferry terminal is just, well, a ferry terminal, and a busy one at that. Only ticketed passengers could visit the cafe so we had to say farewell much earlier than originally planned. Even though the terminal was very busy, the Land's End Cafe was a much smaller version of a US truck stop, only worse. With limited food options, we opted for an Amy's Organic bean & cheese burrito and a four cheese individual sized pizza.
We hadn't done much planning for Pender except pick our camp site which was accessible only via water or hiking in. Since we would be hiking in and had read about the island's car stop system (civilized hitchhiking with signs and benches), we decided not to take a rental car. Our minimal planning also left us a little strapped for food due to the limited cafe choices and the lack of mobility on the island with no car. We grabbed a couple bags of chips, a banana, and a cookie to accompany our selection of trail mix and granola bars for dinner.
Once on the island, we started on our way to find a car stop in hopes of hitching a ride to get at least somewhat closer to the trailhead. We had no takers, but fortunately the island's community shuttle (donation based) took us within 30 minutes walking distance of it. Nico had mentioned that it was an easy hike in but after the initial climb and signs warning of a steep trail, we knew it wasn't going to be a walk in the park. Wanting to get to the campsite with enough daylight to set up our tent, we booked it as quickly (and safely) as we could along the ~1.5 miles down to the water.
Upon arrival, we were bummed to find that someone had set up camp in our reserved spot. There were other vacant spots, but the one we had chosen was more private and off the main path. We set up at another site just in time to watch the sunset while snacking on our "dinner". The campsite looked over a bay and part of the northern side of the island.
After an early wakeup call by an inquisitive bee, we packed up and were on our way. We couldn't pass up a detour to the island's highest point, Mt. Norman, towering above the sea at 240 meters. Despite only being 1 km, the track provided an early morning bun buster with a nearly continuous incline. It was well worth the effort - we were rewarded with pretty spectacular views over the Gulf Islands and Salish Sea on yet another clear day.
Worried about the reliability of the car stop system, we headed back down and towards town. We only waited about 5 mins at the nearest car stop when a friendly resident gave us a ride to the local mall. We stopped at Jo's for brunch - a true hidden gem with friendly service and delicious bennies and skillets (side note: breakfast bennies appear to be the bee's knees in Canada as every breakfast place we visited served a variety of them). Since we sat outside, we could also follow the solar eclipse along with a group of locals. The Vancouver area saw ~90% eclipse - it was pretty cool to see the sky noticeably darken at 10 AM.
It didn't take long to hitch a ride back to the ferry from another friendly local on her way to picking blackberries, and then we were en route back to Victoria followed by our flight back home. We got some more awesome views over the Salish Sea on the way out, all the way from Vancouver down to Washington. Future trip note: check out Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks.Read more