Every time a British Columbian license plate came into view through our cracked windshield, we smirked.
It reads, British Columbia: The Best Place on Earth.
How conceited. How assuming. How….true? The longer we stayed, the longer we began to agree.
Through the rain and long hours on the road, we took a ferry over glassy water from Campbell River to Vancouver Island and then drove north through thick evergreen forests and boarded another ferry to arrive on Quadra Island, the heart of the Discovery Islands. I’ve visited my Grandmother since I was in utero, where she has owned property since 1979. Quadra has always held a special place in my heart. It’s hard to put into words what this place means to me. Perhaps Quadra is best described in daily magic of simple actions, taking joy in the fact that every day revolves around food.
Everyday of our stay on Quadra was an adventure to feed the mind, body and soul.
Daily Breakfast: Awake to the smell of coffee brewing in a french press and the sound of Granny chopping fresh veggies from her garden. Her cast iron, seasoned with years of spices and oils, is soon filled with a colorful egg scramble which we shovel into our mouths with freshly baked local bread. We wash down the savory breakfast with fresh fruit and creamy yogurt, coffee sweetened with brown sugar and toast with maple butter. With our bellies full, we are ready to take on the day.
Monday Mushroom Hunting: We put on rain boots and rain jackets, with knifes and baskets in hand, we pile into my Granny’s Civic hatchback and drive north across the island. We take a remote logging road and my Grandmother explains that she scored here last time. Chanterelles, of course. We venture into the forest, at first timidly, then eagerly looking for hidden treasures. Only a true mushroom hunter can know the simple joy of first seeing the flash of orange color, then stooping to see if others hiding are nearby; bending to gently cut away the delicious bounty, holding, examining the beautiful fruit of the search.
Tuesday Trip to Home-Home: My Granny also owns another special piece of property further north on the island which my Auntie Marissa called throughout her childhood, Home-Home. Only accessible by boat or a 20 minute hike on an old logging road, we choose canoe for this particular day mission. We heave the heavy 20-year-old aluminum canoe over drift logs to the water’s edge. Towering over our beach portage is a huge retired fishing boat that now acts as a home for a local man who got creative with his housing situation. The three of us balance in the canoe and slip into a forward motion, using paddles to pull us into the clear cool water of Hyacinth Bay. The cabin overlooks its own private cove; we often harvest oysters and steamer clams from the beach. The cabin itself is rustic, built from trees on the property. The deck looks out toward the ocean with a shrouding big leaf maple for curtains and as you pass through sliding glass doors, it feels as if you have entered the most cozy museum in the world. My grandmother’s pottery, collections of ancient books, beach bones and arrowheads adorn the shelves. It is a place one could spend weeks learning and relaxing; unfortunately, we only have the afternoon. The sun dances in and out of dark rain clouds and we paddle back to civilization.
Wednesday Community Lunch: The moment you cross from the ferry onto Quadra soil, the community embraces you. Wednesday we take a wonderful and warming yoga class at the island community center to open both heart and mind. It doesn’t matter that we are the youngest in the class by a good 20 years, we feel more alive once the class ends. Yoga is followed by a lunch provided by community volunteers, free to anyone and everyone. About 100 people fill the center, greeting people they are familiar with and shaking the hands of those they do not yet know. Families, young and old, newly settled and seasoned locals literally break bread together.
Thursday Upper Realm: Quathiaski Cove is the first stop as you exit the ferry and it’s not much to look at: a grocery market, an art supply store, and some gift shops. A hand-painted sign on a glass door catches the eye: Do you dare enter the Upper Realm? Upstairs is a bookstore that occasionally converts to a yoga studio (which is a bit distracting with all the intriguing book titles.) The bookstore’s creator, Steven Moore, has either read or recommended every book you see on the shelf. A glance will show authors like, Hemingway, Nietzsche, and Vonnegut without even scratching the surface. A free movie and music exchange is also available. As we prepare to walk out, the owner, Steven captures our attention by offering the fact that Quadra harbors more kind people than anywhere else. He explains the statistics: about 47% of the island population is involved in some sort of volunteer work. Almost half the island volunteers their time for causes they care about.
Daily Delicious Dinners: Each night we create a beautiful blend of vegetables and protein that fills the air with mouth-watering aromas. We feast until Granny is satisfied with the quantity of leftovers that won’t overcrowd the already full fridge. We drink tea and coffee and talk about life before sleeping soundly to the gentle patter of rain on the roof.
We leave Quadra reluctantly, wishing we could stay longer. Although sad to go, we drive onto the ferry with our souls satiated in a way that only this island can provide.
Quadra Island may very well be one of the best kept secrets in the world.