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DISCOVERING QUADRA ISLAND


Story and Photos by Margaret Deefholts

"There...look there! A bear! Can you see him?" Our Zodiac operator, Jeff, cuts back the outboard motor, and steers us across the choppy ink-blue waters of Discovery Passage. I scan the stony shoreline with my binoculars and zero in on a small black dot. As we get closer, the dot grows into a roly-poly cub, who is so engrossed in foraging among the rocks for his breakfast, that he totally ignores us. A couple of moments later the baby bruin perhaps bent on finding his mom, takes off without a backward glance at us and climbs up the rock strewn hillside with astonishing speed.

Bears aren't the only wildlife we encounter during our Zodiac excursion through the labyrinthine waterways of the Discovery Passage. At the mouth of Johnstone Strait bald eagles glide the thermals, their serrated wings fanning a cloudless sky. Hugging the shore line at Frederick Arm, the waters are emerald, reflecting stands of massed evergreens fringing the high water mark. A deer pauses for an instant and then nimbly bounds away into the foliage. A little further along a colony of harbour seals and their pups sun-bathe and flop across a rocky outcrop. One of them with big soulful eyes in his doggie-like whiskered face, watches us a little apprehensively, before diving underwater.

Aside from a wildlife thrill, our Zodiac trip is also a wild-ride thrill. Approaching Seymour Narrows, Jeff opens throttle and, Zodiac tilting sharply, we circle several greedy whirlpools formed by the ebbing tide. Despite my penguin-like flotation-padded suit, I hang on white-knuckled to the seat frame in front of me. We straighten out and head towards the mad, froth-spittled waters over the infamous Ripple Rock-twin fangs that once constituted the worst navigational hazard in Canadian waters. The cruel razor-sharp projections a mere seven feet below the surface of the channel, sheared away the hulls of as many as 120 ships, and caused over a hundred drownings. Ripple Rock was eventually blown to smithereens on an April morning in 1958.

Our three-hour Zodiac adventure ends at the April Point Resort and Spa wharf on Quadra Island. The group disperses, some in the direction of the Aveda Spa to indulge in soothing massages, others book fishing trips or whale-watching expeditions. My sister and I board the complimentary water shuttle to Painter's Lodge on Campbell River's waterfront where we soak up the sunshine on the deck of the Tyee Pub. Kayakers dot the waters below, and a couple of rugged-looking sports fishermen make their way down to the dock. We sip frosted fruit punches and nibble golden brown breaded Fanny Bay oysters.

Then, stuffed appropriately to the gills, we return to April Point Resort to spend the rest of the afternoon on a trip around Quadra Island. The largest of all the Discovery Islands, it's an unspoiled world of gentle delights: sun-dappled roads winding past sequestered beaches, placid fresh water lakes, broad undulating meadows and hiking trails through resin-scented evergreen forests. Rebecca Spit today is lively with picnickers and sunbathers and at the little shopping arcade at Quathiaski Cove, we are invited to come back for the Saturday Farmers' Market.

Like many other Gulf Islands further south, Quadra is also renowned for its artists, its studios and craft galleries. By appointment through the April Point Resort staff, we visit Chris Rose's studio filled with his arresting sculptures in soapstone, bronze and marble, and Richard Pelieu's workshop, displaying his hand-crafted guitars-as much works of art as they are musical instruments; and finally, William Van Orden's workshop with its moulds of esoteric and often bizarre looking fish species. Among them is an extremely rare female Northern Sea Devil, covered in what looks like nubbly gold foil, and bearing a "rod and lure" affixed to her head, with a teensy parasitic male attached to her abdomen. Her blood system feeds him and his only duty is to provide sperm! Male bliss - food and sex on tap!

Back at our luxurious suite at April Point Resort, my sister and I sit in companionable silence on our private patio. As the dusk deepens and the shadows lengthen, the only sound is the soft lap of wavelets against the shore, and the occasional baritone horn of a passing ship. Presently an enormous silver-plate full moon rises above the treetops, and sets a shimmering sequined pathway across the waters of Discovery Passage.

IF YOU GO:

Getting There:

By air: Pacific Coastal Airlines http://www.pacificcoastal.com/?id=2 flies from Vancouver's South Airport to Campbell River.
By ferry & car: B.C. Ferries www.bcferries.com/ have regular sailings from Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, thence north to Campbell River along the Island Highway.

When There:

There is no lack of activities at the twin lodges of Painter's Lodge and April Point Resort & Spa. A free water shuttle service links the properties so that you can sample the amenities of both lodges. At April Point Resort & Spa, you can rent cycles and scooters to explore Quadra at your own pace, or do an artists' studio circle tour. Their luxuriously appointed suites have deep patios facing the water, and their king size beds with fluffy duvets allow you to sink into blissful slumber. Enjoy sumptuous meals in the glass fronted dining room, overlooking Discovery Passage or, weather permitting, on their patio. Some package deals offer free flights from Vancouver. To find out more, click on /www.aprilpoint.com/

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PHOTOS by Margaret Deefholts.

1. Baby Bruin foraging for breakfast
2. Harbour Seals in Discovery Passage
3. Wild life quest on a thrilling Zodiac ride
4. Mould of Northern Sea Devil with blissful tiny male attached - William Van Orden's workshop.
5. Important Warning Notice on April Point Lodge deck
6. "Wind Surfer" at Chris Rose's Studio
7. Wedding at April Point Lodge

 


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freelance travel writers Jane Cassie and Margaret Deefholts

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