by Lyn Hancock
wrote that fantasy about Little D’Arcy Island in the 1978 book Love Affair with a Cougar, but neither scenario came to be: instead Big D’Arcy Island became a provincial park in 1967, then part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve in 2003. In 1985, Phil Middleton bought Little D’Arcy Island, and built his own dream house above concrete cells left over from the old leper colony. That’s part of a dark chapter in British Columbia’s history, when Chinese lepers were banished here to a life of solitude between 1890 and 1924. Nine years after moving there, Phil read of my passion for Little D’Arcy Island and spent a year trying to track me down. When he found me in the Northwest Territories he invited me to revisit Little D’Arcy, and less than a week later I flew south to Sidney and met him. We shared our passion for this magic Shangri-la and I was able to revisit bygone days spent here roaming freely with cougars (yes cougars!) and releasing orphaned raccoons. One dream remained – to return here by kayak instead of the faster rubber dinghy I had used in the past. That chance came in August 2012. The plan was a leisurely circle route arriving from the
Town of Sidney via Sidney Spit on Sidney Island to the shoals and islets around Little D’Arcy. The second day would be spent on D’Arcy Island with a hike of its crossisland trails, then back to Vancouver Island at Island View Beach. No cougars and raccoons aboard this time (though I did want to take my house cat). I invited my paddling buddy Amir, a newcomer to Vancouver Island waters and its wildlife. Our first stop was the mile-long sand bar of Sidney Spit Marine Park with its upright log pilings – handy signposts that look like totem poles from afar but are really logs driven into the sand to prevent erosion. The sheltered sand and grass-edged lagoon with its kayakfriendly beaches were surprisingly deserted this holiday weekend. Odd given the abundance of birds – murrelets, auklets, oyster catchers, sandpipers, great blue herons – the clear blue skies and the warm summer sun. A change from my customary paddles on the outer coast. Eagles swooped down from the steep dry clay cliffs of Sidney Island to pluck unlucky gulls out of a smooth silky sea. One determined eagle dived repeatedly with outstretched talons to grab a gull who just as determinedly dipped and dived to WINTER 2012
Top left:, previous page: Lyn Hancock has a nap with Tom, back in the late 1960s when it was possible to snuggle with a cougar on D’Arcy Island. Above: Lyn the raccoon whisperer, making friends with possible descendants of the raccoons she released in her days as co-owner of Island View Beach Conservation Centre. Bottom left: normally two cougars in your camp might be a cause for concern, but for Lyn it was camping as usual.
get away. Finally, the eagle gave up pursuit and returned to its perch on a tree. I remembered the fortnightly flights on a float plane to study eagle nests on Sidney Island when most of it was owned by a single man. Now there are several private residences on this island, a fact we were told in no uncertain terms by one resident while having a quick lunch below the high tide line at the end of the island. The shoals and reefs, rocks and islets that surround the D’Arcys are replete with wildlife. Nesting gulls and cormorants thronged the whitewashed shorelines. Sleek seals balanced themselves atop offshore rocks like acrobats. Pairs of auklets and murrelets popped up and down in the water like corks. A black oystercatcher poked and pried its long red beak around COAST&KAYAK Magazine
Published on Oct 26, 2012
Published on Oct 26, 2012
Explore Princess Louisa Inlet, frolic with cougars on D'Arcy Island, paddle the coast of Gwaii Haanas and try Greenland paddles in this issu...