A First Weekend on Galiano - Surveying the Storm Damage

Justine was off in Australia, so I was on my own for the weekend before having to head to Atlanta. Over the Christmas break, BC got hit by what was described as the worst storm in the province’s history. The Gulf Islands were particularly hard hit, with it taking almost 2 1/2 weeks to get full power restored to Galiano. We knew we had some storm damage on the property, so I headed over to see how bad it was and start the clean-up process.

I was booked on the early ferry on Saturday morning, and had booked a cottage at Driftwood Village for the one night, planning to come back on the late ferry Sunday. The ferry was easily the emptiest I had ever seen it - I guess it was supposed to be a pretty grey weekend. It didn’t really matter to me, as I was planning on doing clean-up and watching playoff football. And maybe a short hike, plus I brought my mountain bike.

My first stop was up at the property to see how bad things were. Sadly, we did lose quite a few trees. There were three smallish trees down near the driveway, closer to the road. One small arbutus and a fairly tall fir. The real shame was the few large arbutus trees that came down, ripped out at the roots along the property line between us and Dana and Rob’s place. Such nice trees - a pretty bad loss.

I was up at the property by about 10:30. After surveying the damage, I got down to cleaning up the mess. Or starting to anyway - it’s going to take a few weekends to get through cleaning all of it up. I worked non-stop until about 2:30, with a short lunch stop. By that point, I had cleaned up a couple of the small trees, and my chipping pile was starting to grow.

It had been raining a lot. What was normally a path down to the ocean was for much of the short walk a river instead. My feet were wet by the time I got to the bottom.

Thankfully, the weather held and stayed clear - no rain at all. I decided I had done enough for the day, and decided to walk down to the beach at the bottom of the property to see if anything was going on.

There wasn’t a lot of light, but it wasn’t too bad either. The last time Justine had been here (with her friend Katie) they had seen seal lions being quite active - breaching and such.

I wasn’t that lucky - I saw one or two cruise past, and there was a small collection of harbour seals (they are always there), but it was generally pretty quiet.

There were a few ducks out on the water, just off-shore. They were new ones for me, but were quite far out and a bit hard to identify. There was one loon, and then a small flock of what I think were red-breasted mergansers. I’m not 100% on that ID but pretty confident.

The day was surprisingly clear, and I had a great view back to the mountains across the channel and behind the city. It was quiet beautiful.

I was sitting, resting against a big old log, when a river otter popped out of the ocean, not 20 feet from me and disappeared up the bank. I could see it wandering about in the underbrush, reappearing every once in a while. Eventually, it seemed to settle down in a hollow under a set of tree roots. I think it might be a den that it is using, as it sat there until I left, content to groom and relax. I’m really hoping it’s a female, and that will be here den. It could mean pups in the spring. Here’s hoping!

I couldn’t go without having a least one mushroom picture…

After heading back to the car, I drove back down to the south end of the island and got checked into the cottage. After getting checked in, I decide to head down to the path to the water where we saw the orcas a couple of trips ago. There was no sign of any whales, but on the way back I had a great sighting of a pileated woodpecker. It was destroying a tree - but at ground level which was cool.

I was a mess and needed a shower. I got settled, cleaned up and had a beer. I relaxed watching the first period of the Leafs game, and rested my sore body. After relaxing for a bit, I headed up to the pub for some dinner. The football game was on, so I watched most of that. After, it was time to call it a day and get a good night’s sleep.

I was up fairly early, but it had been raining hard all night. It looked like it was breaking, so I relaxed for a bit more before packing up. I went down to Bellhouse park and walked around for a bit. There was some bird activity but not a lot. As I was packing the car, I noticed that there was a whole flock of chestnut-backed chickadees. I had been trying to get some decent pictures of these very pretty little birds, without much success. I think I got some decent shots this time!

I spent the morning continuing to clean up. My new chainsaw was put to good work, and my new log pile and brush piles were growing by the minute. I met with a couple of the contractors that are going to do some work for us, and we planned out some of the things that need to be done. It’s starting to feel more real.

By about 2:00 I was done, but had made some good progress. The trees near the driveway were mostly dealt with and I did some clean up of broome along the driveway. It was a productive weekend.

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It was about 2:00 when I wrapped things up at the property. I had brought my mountain bike with me, and decide to ride up to Dionisio Provincial Park at the north end of the island. I had some high hopes for some good bird and wildlife sightings.

The ride is pretty short and easy - a combination of paved, closed roads and easy trails. The storms had dumped a huge amount of water so things were flooded in places. It didn’t take me long to get to the park and the very nice double crescent beach.

Not surprisingly, I had the place to myself. It’s supposed to be marine access only, and this time of year not a lot of people are out on the water.

I was greeted by a small flock of buffleheads, but initially that was about all that was around. It was a bit disappointing. I spent an hour or so doing some exploring. There is an elevated point of land that I spent a bit of time checking out. There wasn’t a lot going on, but there were a few key sightings.

It was starting to get late, and I was losing my daylight. I rode back to the car, got packed up and changed and drove back down to the south end. I headed back to the pub for some dinner, but had missed the end of the football games, so didn’t stay too long. I killed a bit of time, then headed for the ferry for the trip home. It was another amazing weekend on our new, amazing home.