Going Full Nomad - Winter on an Island in the Pacific

For one hundred thirty-three days our winter home was on a small acreage in the traditional territory of the Hul’qumi’num people. They call this place Quw’utsun’, the “land warmed by the sun’’. There's really no better way of describing it.

PROLOGUE - WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

Normally we'd have traveled to a sunny far-off destination to escape winter, ride bikes, and get wicked tan lines. With international travel being somewhat impractical during the pandemic, we'd be riding out winter on an island in the Pacific. Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Insert preconceived notions here... All it does is rain... It's damp and cold... There's no sun for months... Anecdotes of the Island's inhospitable, damp, dreary winter climate conjure mental images of an island filled with clammy grey-skinned people akin to Gollum. There's good weather and bad weather. Sure it rained a lot, but it didn't matter. We didn't count the good weather days or the bad. No matter how gloomy things got, there was always something to do, and a sunny day would inevitably come around.

Life is a lot like the weather. There are good times and bad times, when it rains it pours, and trying to forecast what's coming next is little more than a guess. In a world that has a metric for every aspect of life, it's hard not to measure our happiness by tallying up those good and bad times in some ridiculous effort to compare ourselves to glimpses of those we see around us. And just like the weather, we're finding it's not necessarily how much good or bad there is, but what you do with it. Some years ago we sold nearly everything we owned, moved into a 300 square foot home on wheels, and started chasing more good weather and more good times. But there's plenty of fun to be had, even when it's pouring rain. It is said that we're happiest when we recognize the impermanence of the good and bad moments in life, and rather than dwelling on them or keeping score, we make the most of whatever situation we're in. Who knows? Maybe we're happiest when we just say "the heck with it, let's go ride bikes!"

"Save it for a rainy day" always seemed like sound advice. It rained cats and dogs the entire 500km journey from the mainland to our destination on Vancouver Island. Shortly after arriving on the island, both of our trucks died, both of our computers died, and then the camera died. When it rains, it pours!

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose..."
Kristoffer Kristofferson

NOVEMBER - LAND WARMED BY THE SUN

Ask nearly anyone around the globe to describe winter in Canada, and when the obligatory comments about igloos, toques, and maple syrup subside, they're likely to attempt a thick Newfoundlander accent to say something like "it's flippin' cold and snowy up there eh". But Canada is a big country, not every Canadian has as much flannel in their wardrobe as a lumberjack, and snow doesn't blanket the entire nation, not even in the depths of winter.

For one hundred thirty-three days our winter home was on a small acreage in the traditional territory of the Hul’qumi’num people. They call this place Quw’utsun’, the “land warmed by the sun’’. There's really no better way of describing it.

Land warmed by the sun - Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Rocky Mountain Ridge

"My, oh, my, what a wonderful day, Plenty of sunshine headin' my way, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!"
Allie Wrubel / Ray Gilbert

Luck... When you use the google machine to choose a place to spend the winter and then find this in the back yard... That's the best kind of luck!

Shinrin-yoku moments on bikes - Vancouver Island is rich in culture, from thousands of years of Indigenous presence, to the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. We constantly found ourselves pausing silently in the forest to take it all in.

Super macro - Pearls of water on the smallest blades of grass imaginable.

Water is life.

Hartland (aka ‘The Dump’) - Trail: Who's Your Daddy

Sometimes one just needs a different perspective on things.

Fairy tales

The wonderful thing about memories is they allow you to hold on to fleeting moments.

DECEMBER - ROOTS

Being nomadic is in our roots. Until about twelve thousand years ago, we were all nomads, moving from place to place in search of more. We were never meant to settle, never meant to stay in one place. We instinctively seek more. More travel, more bikes, more ice cream!

Old growth in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht people.

Putting down roots... The oldest living trees in Avatar Grove have been around for 500-1000 years.

Botanical Beach – Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

Fresh wood courtesy of the Cowichan Trails Stewardship Society - Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Show Time

Christmas Day. Truth is, winter on an island in the Pacific wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. With perfect timing, it actually snowed and we indeed had a white Christmas. But just a few minutes down the road, the trails were snow free for a Christmas Day stroll.

Single track, double track, multi-track? - The first section of track on the island from Esquimalt to Nanaimo was complete in 1886 with the southern and northern sections following some time later. It's been a long time since these tracks saw a train, but they still draw plenty of people every day.

Technical trail feature?

JANUARY - TWENTY TWENTY HINDSIGHT

"No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business."
Arnold Zack

Greasier than the all-night diner blue plate special.

Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Show Time

Shadows and light on the Juan de Fuca trail

Mystic Beach - Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

Water dripping from the mouth of the sea cave looking like surreal stars in the daylight.

Maple Mountain - Trail: Tony's Arbutus Ridge

Illusions of grip on wet green rock.

Completed in 1920, the Kinsol Trestle, now a path for walking and cycling is one the tallest free-standing timber rail trestles in the world.

Finding flow on and off the trails. Who knew there was more than one Niagara Falls?

There's no shortage of mind-blowing places to explore on Vancouver Island.

A rather European-looking stone arch behind the Tim Horton's

FEBRUARY - RIDING AND RUINS

It doesn't get much more Canadian than this. Maple Mountain - Trail: Maple Syrup

We never found any pancakes. Weird eh?!?

This was to be Canada’s largest log-burning fireplace, the centrepiece of a long-abandoned luxury resort that never saw a paying guest.

Not all dreams come true, but that doesn't make them any less incredible.

Drac's Castle

Columns, light, and graffiti.

The Headquarters Mill, completed in 1913 was never used.

Finding gaps in the weather and between the trees.

Brown River Falls.

Glimpses of the Pacific.

There are tales to tell. Maple Mountain - Trail: Story Trail

MARCH - MOVING ON

Nomadically following the seasonally available riding from place to place has an intoxicating rhythm. But there's a sweet spot of being in a place for enough time to relax, enjoy, discover, without getting too attached. Stay in one place for too long, our roots work their way into the soil and it’s painful to tear them free. There are trees here that are hundreds of years old for a reason, this land has everything they need, they're connected to it, there's no reason for them to move. In one hundred thirty-three days our roots started to take hold. It's not easy, but it's time to move on before getting too attached.

Nomads of the sea.

Ocean glamping

Winter on an island in the Pacific. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

"Until my fantasy becomes reality I'll keep on dreaming until my dreams come true."
Jack Greene

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