The island is named for Spain’s answer to Captain Cook, explorer-mapmaker Dionisio Galiano who in 1792 was the first European to pay close attention to this corner of our world. We’d visited Galiano a couple of times in the past but not in nearly a decade. We found a little cabin to our liking, loaded the fridge with comestibles and headed for the hills.
The first order of business was a revisit to five-star Bodega Ridge with its commanding views to Galiano’s neighbouring Gulf Islands and an abundanza of wildflowers and birds. Warblers, house wrens and black-headed grosbeaks loudly proclaimed their territorial claim to various sections of the ridge. Turkey vultures prowled overhead, waiting perhaps for the opportunities arising should an inattentive hiker tumble fatally to the rocks below. Mid-May brings a wildflower shift change: gone are the satinflowers, calypsos and shooting-stars of spring; in their place a new botanical cast—paintbrush, Hooker’s onion, the lovely and aptly named farewell-to-spring.
We sought out lifers—new-to-us trails and features—and found several to feast upon: the woodland meander to Cable Bay and Pebble Beach, the strange shoreline sandstone formations at Retreat Cove, the excellent trail and hilltop vistas at Mount Galiano. The marge of Sturdies Bay at Bellhouse Park availed multifaceted tidepooling: bivalves, anenomes, sea stars galore and an even greater variety of wry, weird sandstone formations—sculptures crafted not by Henry Moore but Mother Nature herself.
Unnamed friends of mine have always bemused me for their comprehensive lack of interest in cemeteries. By contrast I am drawn to graveyards as gulls are to landfills. The Galiano cemetery offers plenty of the things to like about final resting places: quietude, landscape, history. Several stones grabbed my attention, one in particular with markings entirely in Japanese. I did some snooping and found that Galiano’s Japanese pioneers arrived in the 1890s; they fished and logged, made charcoal kilns, built fish canneries and herring salteries. But it all came to naught after a mere half century. By the time Canada went to war against The Land of the Rising Sun the Japanese-Canadians of Galiano—even those who had fought for Canada in World War Part I—had their properties seized by Her Majesty and were themselves rounded up and hauled off to internment camps for the war’s duration. They never returned.
Only a thousand folks live on Galiano. The island has no multiplexes, no casinos, no supermalls. Where do people turn for diversion? I checked the noticeboard at the Sturdies Bay Bakery and Cafe for insight. Hand-poked tattooing jostled with salsa instruction among offered services. Imminent events included a high-stakes bridge tournament and a fiddle jamboree but the coming attraction that intrigued me most was Galiano’s 19th Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Party, show at 7, cake at 9 at the South End Hall, May 24. Leaving aside its diverse physical charms, how can one not be seduced by a place that offers hand-poked tattoos, salsa dancing and birthday parties for people who aren’t even there?