No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without kayaking. Whether they be hearty adventurers seeking to travel many miles up the coast and/or between the smaller Gulf Islands, or parents just taking the kids out for a paddle, kayakers always enjoy these world class waters.
Paddling Sooke Basin
On this day, I choose to take my kids up to Sooke Basin. This body of water is large enough to get the ocean kayaking experience, yet sheltered to protect against the larger waves on the strait of Juan de Fuca to which the basin is connected by a narrow channel. Renting a kayak for a couple hours from a local shop – my son in the middle, my daughter in front, and I at the back – we set out along the shoreline, enjoying the cool salt air, the warmth of this late August sun, and the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull.
Allaying any fears my kids have that some large ocean-going mammal may surprise us, I let them know that we are perfectly safe. Perhaps it is the fact that the idea has now entered my mind that causes my heart to skip a beat when I hear a sudden, wet exhalation of water and air behind me. “No, it couldn’t be!” I think to myself, about to turn around to see what it is. Seeing the familiar, round, grey, bespeckled head of a seal poking up from the water directly behind us, I laugh at myself. Pointing him out to the kids, we smile at his naturally friendly expression as he seems interested enough in us to follow as we continue paddling on.
French Beach Provincial Park
Continuing our day trip up the west side of the Island, we arrive at French Beach. This long, continuous, arching expanse of fine, shell-laden sand is one of my favourite places on Vancouver Island. The beach is very accessible, yet rarely very busy. More rustic than luxurious, this beach is for exploring as opposed to swimming as the water is cold, making for fun splashing but not the most comfortable swimming. Walking along this beach, we inspect shells, play with the bulbous bull whip kelp that has washed ashore, and of course take our lunch alongside the massive tree trunks that long ago fell into the water to become driftwood, bleached by the sun and warn smooth by the waves.
After lunch, we continue further down the beach toward the rocky outcropping at its southern point. Here, the tide pools collect tiny crabs, mollusks attach themselves to the rocks, and tiny minnows find themselves caught in micro-ecosystems that change with every passing tide.
This day nearing its twilight, we head back up shore, reflecting on the specialness of this day, and glad to have our warm sleeping bags awaiting us back at Goldstream Provincial Park campground, our home-away-from home for these all-too-few days on Vancouver Island.