Cycle Touring and Hiking on the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia – COVID-19 Style!

As I mentioned on the previous page, I visited Galiano Island’s Montague Harbour Provincial Park a couple of times in the Summer also. The first visit was just prior to that busy time that I went to Saltspring Island when the campground there was full.
Unlike Ruckle Park, all of Montague Harbour’s many campsites are reservable, whereas only 20 or so out of the 78 sites are reservable at Ruckle. Prior to leaving for Montague Harbour, I checked online to see what campsites were available there, zilch! But I did know that there was a decent first come, first served (FCFS) area there, and that with Galiano Island being a little less accessible than Saltspring, due to the less frequent ferry service, I would probably be ok for a campsite in the FCFS area there. Panniers were packed once again then Basil and I set off for another campout.

The BC Ferry that I had to take, sails from Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island to Village Bay on Mayne Island then a transfer to another ferry bound for Sturdies Bay on Galiano Island is required. For me from Swartz Bay, and although pleasant, it is a much longer ferry ride to Galiano than to Saltspring.
On the first venture to Galiano, I arrived at Sturdies Bay in fine weather, bloody hot actually! After waiting for the ferry to unload all the vehicles, I set off to tackle the hills of Galiano on the way to Montague Harbour. There is a store and cafe/bakery almost adjacent to the ferry terminal and another bakery and restaurant 200 metres north for supplies if required, but I had packed everything for a two day stay in my panniers so no need to linger there. I cycled off on Sturdies Bay Rd. for about 2.5 km to where there is a junction; Porlier Pass Rd. to the right and Georgeson Bay Rd. leading to Montague Harbour Rd. to the left, both of which can be ridden to the park and are roughly the same distance at about 9 km, so not a long ride. Also around the area of the junction, there are the Hummingbird Pub, another small grocery and also a delicatessen.
For this trip I elected to take Porlier Pass Rd. to the park, planning to return on the Montague Harbour Rd. in a couple of days. As far as hills, climbing, and elevation there isn’t much to choose between the two routes, but it is a grind either way!

After the sweat-fest riding the hilly Porlier Pass Rd., I turned left for a nice downhill run on Clanton Rd. almost to the park. Then I rode into the park and immediately saw that there were several empty FCFS sites to set up camp. I picked a very nice site, left some gear there to “protect” it from someone else nabbing it, then rode through the camping areas of the park to see if by chance there was a vacant regular site, no dice! The regular sites are nice and shady with wooden platforms slightly off the ground to set the tents on. The FCFS sites are in full sun but do have a picnic table but no platform, just grass – fine by me. I had a sil-tarp that I could set up for shade anyway and with the weather as hot as it was, it was necessary on this occasion.

Montague Harbour is also a Marine Park so after my evening meal, I wandered over to see the many boats anchored in the harbour then went over to the west side of the Park where there is a nice very popular beach area where I sat and people-watched for a while. It was good to see that most people were having fun in the outdoors whilst practicing physical distancing as recommended during the COVID pandemic.
The sun was slowly setting as I left the west side to return for a peaceful night at my campsite.

The next morning after my breakfast I set off for a hike to find the trail to Stockade Hill, a trail I had never hiked before. I found the information of this trail on Open Street Maps and thought that it would be a nice venture to the top of the hill at 240 metres (790 feet). Of course I was camped virtually at sea level so a little bit an uphill venture. To get to a trailhead area required a walk up hilly Montague Harbour Rd, for about 2 km. The trailhead is not marked but I found a rough road/track at the point where it should have been and headed out into the unknown!

Stockade Hill Summit is at the Top of This Escarpment

Quite soon it was obvious that no one had hiked this trail for a very long time as there were many overgrown areas. Without the offline mapping app (Maps.me) on my phone, I could have veered off trail quite a few times. I continued with a little bushwhacking hiking uphill for quite a while marvelling at the peaceful surroundings albeit lacking any distant views.

The "Prize" at the Top of Stockade Hill

Perhaps the “prize” would be the view at the summit, I thought to myself? Hmm, well I arrived at the summit of the hike to see my prize – a communication tower and no view 😦

Well it was a nice hike up there all the same and I could have returned by retracing my route, but decided to continue on the trail which showed on the map as ending at Pattison Rd. just off Porlier Pass Rd. The trail continued to be quite overgrown and with quite a few fallen trees and branches to negotiate. Eventually the trail widened and was less overgrown. I followed my map’s GPS, but near where I should have exited onto Pattison Rd. there was no exit nor evidence of an exit other than some serious bushwhacking to the road. I spotted a residence and trekked over there to ask the owner how to get to the road, he told me just to use his long driveway to get onto Pattison – thank you! I reached Pattison and from there had a 5 km walk on the roads to get back to my campsite. Needless to say, I met no one on this forgotten trail.
Later I studied the map and realised that it was named “Communication Tower Trail,” and in fact had another trailhead off Georgeson Bay Rd.
I was feeling quite tired when I returned, so just hung around at my campsite for a while then went to the beach area for some more reading and relaxation. The next morning I packed up and rode up the brute of a hill just outside the park on Montague Harbour Rd. back to the ferry and ultimately my home in Sidney, BC.

Just Arrived

In September I returned on the bike for another two-day campout and easily managed a regular campsite in the main campground at Montague. I had a decent view of the harbour from this site although mostly shaded rather than sun filled. The low-lying area of the FCFS sites were all available but as a result of some rainy days since the heat of the Summer, now in mid-September were waterlogged. I’ve noticed before that the FCFS sites are definitely for fair weather camping!

The next morning I decided to hike up to Stockade Hill again, but to begin from the opposite direction to try and find the actual trailhead. When I reached Pattison Rd., I searched, checked my map app again and entered the bush at the point that the trailhead should have been. “Should have been” is the operative phrase, as I had to seriously bushwhack for a while to find any evidence of the trail. Eventually I saw the rear of the house where I had visited before, then recognised the trail from there. Still no evidence that anyone else had hiked there and the trail was no less overgrown.
So another enjoyable hike and campout close to home.

Continued on Page 3…

3 thoughts on “Cycle Touring and Hiking on the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia – COVID-19 Style!

  1. dannimw

    Hi Adam,
    Thanks for the intel on Stockade hill. Strava shows me there is a trail (the Communication Tower trail) and I’m staying quite close to it, so I’ll have a look, but I am not committed to bushwhacking! You seemed quite dedicated to try to hike it twice.

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    1. AdamK's Cycling & Travel Post author

      Hi Dan:
      I’ve looked for the Communications Tower Trail trailhead on Georgeson Bay Rd. when riding past where it should be, but have seen little evidence of it. It should be just north of Manzanita Hill Rd., but I’ve looked twice (by GPS location) and no luck so far. I didn’t look too hard as I was cycling to get the ferry home. If I get out there in a few weeks, I may try to hike it from the Tower back down to Georgeson Bay Rd. and see where I end up?
      Trying to find the trailhead from Pattison Lane is also a bit of a challenge, definite bushwhacking there but the trail is close by and easily seen as it is quite wide there until it gets higher.
      Good luck! Send me an email as to what you discover.

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