For several years now, scores of super-dedicated BC Marine Trails volunteers have paddled across to Gerald Island for what we call “four days of fun.” Until these volunteers descended on the island with mattocks, pulaskis (fire axes), saws, and clippers in hand, bright green ivy was happily slithering its way unimpeded across the bog and up the trees, scaling the unsuspecting slopes of Gerald Island. Settlers certainly left their mark when they planted that cute little patch of English Ivy near their homestead cabin many years ago! It’s now in viscious competion with native species for space, water, sun, and nutrients.
First, we gather on the beach for the compulsory safety talk, and are reminded not to stick our fingers between the sharp blades. Next, we get a first-hand look at the thick ropes of ivy winding their way up the trees, and the berries just waiting for birds to carry them off. Then we set to work, marching off in pairs and laughing at each other as we crouch down, tug, dig, scrape, saw, and curse at this crazy, seemingly impossible task.
Suddenly a triumphant “whoop” rings out from one of us as a stubborn vine finally releases its clutches on the land and sends us on our backsides. Why are we torturing our bodies like this? Are we crazy? Not at all! We’re having fun chattering away with each other and sharing our adventures while doing something physical, something that matters, something that makes a difference.
Once our tarp is loaded with a mound of ivy, we trudge together, dragging our contribution to add to the collective mountain of ivy. We sit on a driftwood log to take a break, sip some water, munch on a cookie, and admire the ocean before turning back to the land. Feeling re-energized, we appreciate the patches others have cleared in previous years and the patch we just finished clearing before we bend over to tackle the next patch.
Again and again we keep coming back for more. More what? More time together, more time to share stories, and more time to appreciate the gifts of being able to visit and camp in such special coastal places. More collective pride that whatever small space we open up each year allows the wood ferns, native blackberries, salal, ocean spray, spruce, fir, and alder to reclaim their island and to begin once again to thrive.
Exhausted and sore but in a good way, whether it be at the end of just one day or all four days, we paddle westward back to our homes. As we look forward to checking out the photos from our trip and crashing into a cozy bed, our minds turn to the to-do lists waiting for us at home. Ah, it was great to escape those tasks for a few days! When can I sign up for the next adventure?