The way to squeeze in a lot of activities into one weekend is to start it early, my sister Valerie from Quesnel and I discovered. By leaving Clearwater in the early hours of Wednesday, May 6, we arrived in time to watch her 16-year old granddaughter play softball in warm evening sunshine. The drive south had been a colourful one filled with every shade of green, flowering trees and shrubs in yards and along roadsides, and sparkling blue water during the ferry ride. Nanaimo treated us to more perfect weather for the next few days as Wendy, my niece-in-law, showed off their new location.
My nephew’s job involves a lot of travel, but we were there in time to have one day with him before he left. (He initially thought he was off to Chile but showed up on schedule in a town in Arkansas with the same name!) Blues sky drew us to the shore of Departure Bay to clamber along the rocks, peer into crevices to find anemones closed up tightly with the tide out, spot tiny crabs scrambling for cover when they saw our shadows, look at battered barnacles and shells, and note innumerable types of seaweed. Other essential ingredients for that day with my nephew included a picnic lunch at a water-side park, and fish and chips, then ice cream, for supper at Nanaimo’s downtown waterfront park.
The following day, as my nephew changed planes and my two great-nieces attended to lessons at school, Wendy and Valerie went shopping. I happily escaped that by lunching with a friend from Courtenay, sitting outside the small cafe so her dog could be part of the party. Later, with my younger great-niece and her buddy (both with the same name) leading the way, we climbed the many steps to the top of Sugar Loaf. Here we tromped around the gently undulating rocky surface of this mossy-green, almost treeless hill, finding tiny flowers at our feet and watching ferries come and go amongst the islands. The word “scenic” does not even begin to describe the 360° view.
Next, Wendy efficiently packed another picnic lunch and we set off for the beach at nearby Parksville. Many other families had the same idea, but all found space since beach and park combined cover an extensive area. That sand will be transformed into a wild variety of fascinating shapes during the sand-sculpting competition in mid-summer. We dined out towards the point where Heidi the dog splashed around in the salt water and several of us tried skipping rocks that were every shape except flat; soon the sun sank beyond us all, orange rays reflected on the calm water.
Saturday saw us on the ferry to Gabriola Island seeking a map to identify spots of interest. On our exploratory drive we missed its unsigned Petroglyph Park but our lunch-time waitress gave precise directions to Malaspina Galleries. There we walked beneath a wave-shaped limestone arch before strolling along the rocky shore looking for sea stars hiding in damp places. We left a few stones unturned for our next visit to that pretty island.
Sunday was both Mother’s Day and our last day so off we went to the Farmers’ Market at Cedar Point, sampling delicious home-made goodies! Later, we stopped at Nanaimo’s Petroglyph Park where indigenous shapes were carved into rocks over 1000 years ago. Red-trunked Arbutus trees, which grow everywhere along the coast, Calypso orchids and clematis, added colour.
For the final event and perfect ending, we joined several members of Wendy’s family, who had preceded her in moving to Nanaimo, around a long table for a Chinese Buffet: parents, grandmother, great-aunt, siblings, and those two active great-nieces of mine.