Sometimes it takes a trinity of serendipities to create a wonderful experience. My recent trip to Cortes Island started with my friend Angela from Toronto wishing to visit; this combined with my own desire to see my property after the ravages of winter then coincided with Vancouver’s first spell of glorious early summer weather. During the winter breaking branches from an early winter storm took out my power and damaged the house. $6,000 and four trees later my yard looked like a blowdown area. Combined with a lack of rental income, a $1000 power bill, the need for a water purification system I had been feeling less enthused about owning a distant rural property. Yet here I was sitting on my deck in the fading evening sun appreciating the exquisite peace of this pristine spot feeling my angst fade with the setting sun. Showing off the wonders of Cortes Island helped to reactivate my own love of the area together with the energy and hard work of my dear friend Philip, and the diligence of my cleaner Josee that resulted in Potlatch Haven looking so sweet and homelike that I fell in love all over again.
Going to Cortes Island starts with a journey. It takes a minimum of six hours and requires three ferries from Vancouver yet it can be an integral part of the experience. The sun, the scenery, the ferry ride, oceans and mountains all contribute to a gradual entry and set the scene for the peace and calm of arrival. It starts with the ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo for a relaxing hour and forty minutes then a drive from Nanaimo to Campbell River that is only an hour and a half, followed by a quick fifteen minute ferry to Quadra, a jaunt across the island for the final forty minute ferry to Cortes. Potlatch Haven is a quiet twenty-five minute meander through the tree-lined byways of Cortes.
Any visit to Cortes starts with one of my favourite walks from Potlatch Haven to Hollyhock. It begins with a beach walk along stunning Smelt Bay
Beach then through the forested Provincial Park to Hollyhock where you can enjoy some old growth forest, the beautiful garden and ocean views. (Hollyhock is a special part of Cortes with its learning programs, spa and organic food.)
For our second day we greeted by sunshine and blue skies. After a slow start relaxing in the morning sun overlooking the fresh cut lawn, we set out on a cross island walk to Manson’s Dock where the prawn boat would be selling its wares less than hours after the pots were hauled up. It took about an hour along forested trails with three bald eagles traversing our track as we
crossed the grounds of the local school before we reached the shore and a crowded dock. Half an hour later we left with five pounds of Cortes prawns taking a different route along side Manson’s Lagoon, a prolific place for clams at low tide. Upon our return home, it was down to Smelt Bay Beach, only five minutes away, to pick fresh oysters from the beach as our evening appetizer. Fresh prawns and oysters accompanied by Cabernet, it does not get any better than that. My friend Philip joined us for dinner and his expert photographer’s eye captured the moment.
Sunday we visited Philip’s beautiful place near Squirrel Cove, with its spectacular vistas of the ocean and mainland mountains. He has over 400 feet of ocean front set in pristine forest, the theme of tranquility is maintained. After a delicious lunch of scones, quiche and his speciality cappuccinos, Angela and I hiked to
Easter Bluff, a steep half hour ascent up a rocky bluff where there are sensational views of Cortes Bay and Desolation Sound in the background.
Monday was again beautiful but there was work to be done. About a cord of heavy maple wood was sitting in the driveway and required stacking in the wood shed. Angela offered to help and with two of us the workload seemed much lighter. Then I hung my new prayer flags from Bhutan, finished planting my balcony pots with new flowering annuals then ensured they were out of the reach of voracious deer. Pretty to look at but not to be trusted around spring blooms; they even will climb the steps onto my deck for a succulent feed of begonias. Then we completed a brief hike to an old growth Douglas Fir that still amazes every time I gaze in awe at its magnificence. What must these old forests have been like? The trail took us to a convenient bench overlooking a lake view reminiscent to Angela of her Ontario home. Once again the sheer perfection of absolute peace and tranquility reminded us both of that Cortes Island is a very special place.
Finally the commercial. For anyone wishing to experience this for themselves I have space this spring and summer. You can find more details at www.potlatch-haven.com I am considering spending more time there by myself and renting by the room, I may even do breakfast. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org