The Gulf Islands in Winter

I'm too old for exhausting weekends. I have responsibilities, I work hard, and Friday through Sunday is when I can breathe, sleep and pause. The Gulf Islands are the perfect place to do so.

Family time on Mayne Island

My family has been going to the Gulf Islands for years, ever since a friend got a cabin on Saltspring, but always in summer and always in vacation mode. In vacation mode you feel compelled to make the most of your days wherever, and fill them with activities. The point of weekends as a tired adult are to fill them with as little as possible.

Thankfully, this past summer my parents bit the bullet and bought the cabin by the water that my mom has been wanting for as long as I can remember. So, the past few months, we've had those weekends away without pressure to fit it all in, and we've been able to explore this sleepy little island in a sleepy season with an energetic pup (and her sleepy parents).

Exploring the Gulf Islands with a dog

Our cabin is on Mayne, which is one of the five primary islands in the Southern Gulf Islands grouping. Saltspring is the big one, Galiano, Pender, Saturna and Mayne fight for what's leftover.

With 21-square-kilometres, it's little. It's not the kind of place you go to do things, it's the place you go to wander. And wander we have.

Leftover roads

The beaches are rocky, and wild, and littered with driftwood and seaweed and interesting creatures from the sea. Lucy loves these beaches, and will race back and forth with an excitement normally reserved for tall grass.

Beaches on Mayne Island

The roads are sleepy, without sidewalks. You walk along the road itself, or on the wide grassy embankments, and periodic drivers go by and give you wide berths and big smiles.

Deer trails meander through empty fields and forests that may or may not be private. We leap across ditches, under branches and follow them up until we feel we're definitely trespassing and then double back.

There's one road that feels abandoned, though neighbours assure me it's not. That's where we go to let Lucy off-leash, and she criss-crosses it a dozen times before we take a dozen paces. Periodically locals in the know will come down in one direction or another, but it still feels like a bit of a secret. Lucy comes close to catching a deer, or so she likes to think, but she always makes it back.

Walking dogs on Mayne Island

In the middle of the park is a park, known as Parke. There are real trails here (connect a few and get up to 6km), and we scoff as intrepid hikers until we're half-way up the incline and need to catch our breath. The views from the top are windy and wet across the Gulf. It's 49 hectares (some of which feel wild and remote enough to forage), and with a peak of 185 meters it's the highest elevation on the island.

Views from the Mount Parke hike on Mayne Island

In any wander, when the clouds appear and the rain starts, we race back for a wood fire - and all is right with the world.