Photo Story: Going Full Nomad - Winter on an Island in the Pacific

May 2, 2021 at 23:26
by Jacob Johnson  


Prologue

When it rains it pours


Normally we'd have travelled to a sunny far-off destination to escape winter, ride bikes, and get wicked tan lines. With international travel being somewhat impractical during the pandemic, we'd be riding out winter on an island in the Pacific. Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Insert preconceived notions here... All it does is rain... It's damp and cold... There's no sun for months... Anecdotes of the Island's inhospitable, damp, dreary winter climate conjure mental images of an island filled with clammy grey-skinned people akin to Gollum. There's good weather and bad weather. Sure it rained a lot, but it didn't matter. We didn't count the good weather days or the bad. No matter how gloomy things got, there was always something to do, and a sunny day would inevitably come around.

Life is a lot like the weather. There are good times and bad times, when it rains it pours, and trying to forecast what's coming next is little more than a guess. In a world that has a metric for every aspect of life, it's hard not to measure our happiness by tallying up those good and bad times in some ridiculous effort to compare ourselves to glimpses of those we see around us. And just like the weather, we're finding it's not necessarily how much good or bad there is, but what you do with it. Some years ago we sold nearly everything we owned, moved into a 300 square foot home on wheels, and started chasing more good weather and more good times. But there's plenty of fun to be had, even when it's pouring rain. It is said that we're happiest when we recognize the impermanence of the good and bad moments in life, and rather than dwelling on them or keeping score, we make the most of whatever situation we're in. Who knows? Maybe we're happiest when we just say "the heck with it, let's go ride bikes!"

"Save it for a rainy day" always seemed like sound advice. It rained cats and dogs the entire 500km journey from the mainland to our destination on Vancouver Island. Shortly after arriving on the island, both of our trucks died, both of our computers died, and then the camera died. When it rains, it pours!

bigquotesFreedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose...Janis Joplin



November

Land Warmed By The Sun


Ask nearly anyone around the globe to describe winter in Canada, and when the obligatory comments about igloos, toques, and maple syrup subside, they're likely to attempt a thick Newfoundlander accent to say something like "it's flippin' cold and snowy up there eh". But Canada is a big country, not every Canadian has as much flannel in their wardrobe as a lumberjack, and snow doesn't blanket the entire nation, not even in the depths of winter.

For one hundred thirty-three days our winter home was on a small acreage in the traditional territory of the Hul’qumi’num people. They call this place Quw’utsun’, the “land warmed by the sun’’. There's really no better way of describing it.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Land warmed by the sun - Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Rocky Mountain Ridge

bigquotesMy, oh, my, what a wonderful day, Plenty of sunshine headin' my way, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!Allie Wrubel / Ray Gilbert


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Luck... When you use the google machine to choose a place to spend the winter and then find this in the back yard... That's the best kind of luck!

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Shinrin-yoku moments on bikes - Vancouver Island is rich in culture, from thousands of years of Indigenous presence, to the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the 1940s. We constantly found ourselves pausing silently in the forest to take it all in.

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Super macro - Pearls of water on the smallest blades of grass imaginable.

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Hartland (aka ‘The Dump’) - Trail: Who's Your Daddy

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Fairy tales.


December

Roots


Being nomadic is in our roots. Until about twelve thousand years ago, we were all nomads, moving from place to place in search of more. We were never meant to settle, never meant to stay in one place. We instinctively seek more. More travel, more bikes, more ice cream!

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Old growth in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht people.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Putting down roots. It's estimated that the oldest living trees in Avatar Grove have been around for 500-1000 years.

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Botanical Beach – Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

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Fresh wood courtesy of the Cowichan Trails Stewardship Society - Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Show Time

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Christmas Day. Truth is, with perfect timing, it actually snowed and we indeed had a white Christmas. But just a few minutes down the road, the trails were snow free for a Christmas Day stroll.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Single track, double track, multi-track? - The first section of track on the island from Esquimalt to Nanaimo was complete in 1886 with the southern and northern sections following some time later. It's been a long time since these tracks saw a train, but they still draw plenty of people every day.

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Technical trail feature?


January

2020 Hindsight

bigquotesNo one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.Arnold Zack


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Greasier than the all-night diner blue plate special.

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Pi’paam (Mt. Tzouhalem) - Trail: Show Time

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Juan de Fuca trail

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Mystic Beach - Juan de Fuca Provincial Park

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Water dripping from the mouth of the sea cave looking like surreal stars in the daylight.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Maple Mountian - Trail: Tony's Arbutus Ridge

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Illusions of grip on wet green rock.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Completed in 1920, the Kinsol Trestle, now a path for walking and cycling is one the tallest free-standing timber rail trestles in the world.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Finding flow on and off the trails. Who knew there was more than one Niagara Falls?

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
There's no shortage of mind-blowing places to explore on Vancouver Island.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
A rather European-looking stone arch behind the Tim Horton's.


February

Riding and Ruins


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It doesn't get much more Canadian than this. Maple Mountain - Trail: Maple Syrup

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We never found any pancakes. Weird eh?!?

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
This was to be Canada’s largest log-burning fireplace, the centrepiece of a long-abandoned luxury resort that never saw a paying guest.

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Not all dreams come true, but that doesn't make them any less incredible.

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Drac's Castle

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Columns, light, and graffiti.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
The Headquarters Mill, completed in 1913 was never used.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Finding gaps in the weather and between the trees.

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Brown River Falls.

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Glimpses of the Pacific.

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There are tales to tell. Maple Mountain - Trail: Story Trail


March

Moving On

Nomadically following the seasonally available riding from place to place has an intoxicating rhythm. But there's a sweet spot of being in a place for enough time to relax, enjoy, discover, without getting too attached. Stay in one place for too long, our roots work their way into the soil and it’s painful to tear them free. There are trees here that are hundreds of years old for a reason, this land has everything they need, they're connected to it, there's no reason for them to move. In one hundred thirty-three days our roots started to take hold. It's not easy, but it's time to move on before getting too attached.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Nomads of the sea.

mysticmountainadventures.com Copyright Jacob Johnson Not for use or publication without written permission explicitly granted
Winter on an island in the Pacific. Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

bigquotesUntil my fantasy becomes reality I'll keep on dreaming until my dreams come trueJack Greene






Follow our dreams:



95 Comments

  • 42 2
 i gotta say jake, your body of work tells stories thru images that a lot of other photography portfolios decidedly lack. most of the time i find a lot of photographers to have a pretty shallow understanding of composition, and commonly autopilot to the rule of thirds. i've been teaching art for more than twenty years and you bring new looks to old eyes. chapeau.
  • 10 1
 Truly appreciated kind sir Salute I wish I had gotten more images during our 4.5 months on the island. Just more reason to go back I suppose lol The darkness of the forests and harsh contrast with any amount of visible sky were a whole new ball game to me. Mad respect to the photographers that make shooting this stuff look easy!
  • 6 0
 Wish we all could get out and explore beyond the borders. But this shows that there’s enough adventure closer to “home,” you just have to be willing to find it. Great pics, wonderful words. Thank you for sharing Jake.
  • 3 0
 We’re having some serious American travel envy right now :oops; Seeing our friends down there going to all our favourite destinations we’re super jealous! Thanks for being awesome Chef Salute
  • 8 0
 Great story and photos Jake but I have to disagree as an islander it’s horrible nothing to see here.....
  • 2 0
 Ha! I hear ya... there's been a plethora of island articles over the past few months. I was actually surprised that mine made the cut given that all the celebs came out with their content before I got my crab together Redface The Real Estate tells the story... The island is the dream! Keep living it for the rest of us man Salute
  • 5 1
 wow Jake...!! That was a marvelous tour and a very refreshing story. The photography is second to none. Sorry, I'm not a very eloquent person in my description of the story and images, but you made that place a place I'd love to see, and are making me re-evaluate just what exactly I'd like to get from my life.... Well done sir....
  • 3 1
 Thanks so much! The island is a special place that tugs on the mind. Whether in the truck, on the bike, or on foot, we constantly found ourselves curious about what lay around the next corner.
  • 2 0
 This caused me major FOMO. It's still snowing in Alberta. I have grown tired of the season starting in may sometimes June and ending in October. I miss the warm wet winter months of the west coast. Year round riding. Green landscape.
  • 1 0
 Alberta definitely delivers on the dramatic.. landscapes and weather lol I get a bit of winter and big mountain FOMO when not in the Rockies. But the long tweener seasons that are neither good for summer sport nor winter are rough. And a bit rougher when folks can't sneak away for a spring trip to Moab. Fingers crossed for some amazing summer days ahead for all!
  • 4 1
 An island in the pacific... this isn't exactly castaway! Vancouver Island happens to be as large as a few European countries. Gripping title though.
  • 1 1
 Ha! I never thought of it like that... I was gobsmacked by how incredibly warm and beautiful winter in Canada could be. And I think many international visitors don't think of Canada as an Island destination. But from the east coast to the west coast we've got some unbelievable islands to visit, explore, call home Salute
  • 2 0
 You’ve captured images of my adopted home incredibly well!! Maple Syrup one of my favourite trails! I love my local trails in the Comox Valley but I always venture up and down the island for adventure. Kudos!
  • 1 0
 Thans Mike, that means a ton! I'm always nervous about how folks might react to what I photograph or write, especially locals. Like so many others before us, we fell in love with the island! Pure Magic Salute
  • 2 1
 Great story, greater pics! If I had to single out the one that did it for me, it would be the frame with the natural bonsai tree. Many stories and metaphors in just that one shot. Superb, Jake!
  • 2 1
 Thanks tons Ray! That tree is a bit of a local celebrity... There's some more pics of it in our island album here.
  • 2 0
 awesome pictures and well written. being from southcentral Alaska, it's cool to read about the natives down in BC. very similar words and lifestyles to SE Alaska natives.
  • 2 0
 Thanks Kirch! I think next time I write I'll aim to do a better job of past and present indigenous happenings. For example I failed to write that Story Trail was built by indigenous youth. How'd I forget to mention that Facepalm
  • 2 0
 Some absolutely incredible photography and story-telling right here. Such a wonderful corner of the world shared so beautifully. Thank you.
  • 2 0
 Grateful for the kind words Reverend! Thank You Salute
  • 3 1
 Thanks for sharing your time on "the Island' with us Jake. Your photos not only tell a story but they have a certain emotion to them that I really connect with. Cheers.
  • 2 1
 Thank you so very much Chris Salute I had an extremely hard time getting pics on the island. The whole time I was there I wanted to get a still photo aspiring to the Stevie Smith rock outcrop clip from Seasons. We rode up at Prevost a bit as it was just down the road from where we were staying, and I never managed to capture a single useable image... Maybe next time lol
  • 2 1
 Thanks for sharing. My riding buddy became a photographer I now realize the time and energy you guys spend to get amazing shots like these. You were able to get some very special one there Jake. Great job.
  • 2 1
 Hey Mint, is that Bill you're talking about? His work is magnificent! tup A million thanks for the kind words!
  • 2 1
 @mysticmountainadventures: yep, Bill is certainly talented as well. I have a new appreciation for what you guys do to create those photos. Keep up the good work!
  • 2 0
 Amazing Jake!!! Interestingly enough I caught a program just this last year on that castle ! Awesome photos.... minus the rock stacks... eeeew. Rock stacks.
  • 2 0
 Thanks Magman Salute Was it Dustin Porter (Destination Adventure). That dude is putting out absolutely killer content now! I can't do the talking head youtube thing, but he sure makes me wish that I could.
  • 2 0
 @mysticmountainadventures: that sounds about right. Completely random find
  • 1 0
 @sterlingmagnum: nothing is random with YouTube... the videos they're putting in my play list are the same videos that all the people I interact with online are watching Eek
  • 4 0
 Vancouver Island Sux! Tell your friends.....
  • 2 0
 Well somebody had to say it lol Salute lol
  • 2 0
 Yeah I don’t know how he got those sunny photos. It never stops raining from October to June.
  • 2 0
 Great article and photos!

Don't believe it though. Carry on, nothing to see here...

Until we get bigger parking lots in #gnarnaimo, Cumby, and in Duncan. Wink
  • 1 0
 Thanks larrinski! The burden on being one of the most amazing places around is everyone wants to be there. We're in the process of trying to find a place for the coming winter and the struggle is real Cry
  • 1 0
 I couldn’t think of a better way to start my Saturday by reading this with my coffee and baileys. Awesome job as always JJ. Hopefully our paths will cross this summer some where.
  • 1 0
 Thanks man! Would be great to bump into you out there somewhere tup
  • 3 1
 Awesome write up Jake! Great storytelling and some fantastic images, as always!
  • 4 1
 This one was a real struggle Redface trying to come up with a thought was harder than finding a bike for sale lol Grateful for the kind words Salute
  • 3 1
 Awesome Jake, every time I read or view your work I start thinking about travel.
  • 4 1
 Thanks Huss Salute Hopefully there’s some carefree travel for you in the near future.
  • 2 0
 As though a year+ of border closure wasn’t bad enough...

These are seriously beautiful. Thanks you.
  • 2 0
 Huge thanks! Definitely yearning to be down in the states. Funny how we all yearn for what we don't have. Hopefully life is back to normal soon!
  • 2 0
 Beautiful pics and great story to travel away. Thanks for sharing this on PB!
  • 2 0
 Much appreciated Fujisan Salute
  • 2 0
 Beautiful photos!

“Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose...” Kris Kristofferson.
  • 3 0
 Thanks! And you're 100% correct. Funny I always liked the way Kristofferson did it better and then I did a quick google to see who I should credit and somehow got convinced that it was Joplin. Damn google... I should have dug deeper Redface
  • 2 0
 Beautiful piece. Glad that resort never took over our swimming hole. Sure miss home
  • 2 0
 Thanks so much! It’s remarkable that the ruin is so young. It’s crazy the developments that get permitted... some boggle the mind... like the Columbia Ice Field Sky Walk Eek
  • 2 0
 Bro, your blogs really get the wanderlust juices going. As always another visual and literary feast.
  • 1 0
 Thanks tons Relapse! Salute
  • 2 1
 Nice work Jake! Always a treat reading your articles! A little disappointed there was not one goat picture though.
  • 3 1
 Thanks tons! I suck at sharing the day to day life stuff. It would probably actually make for better content. Maybe someday we'll open up more... maybe not. Here's some goat content... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89yMkpNG2Vw
  • 2 0
 yet he still isnt riding a Nomad... lol
  • 1 0
 Right?!?! Was sure by now there’d be fortune, fame, a warehouse of bikes to choose from lol
  • 2 0
 Deal. Let me know when and where you're at this summer.
  • 2 1
 Beautiful photos! Felt like I was there...
  • 2 0
 Thanks Railin! We're wishing we were still there Redface
  • 2 1
 This moved me, thank you.
  • 2 0
 Wow! Thanks so much!
  • 2 1
 Wow! Just speechless.... Thank you for this.
  • 1 0
 Thanks tons! Truly appreciated!
  • 2 0
 Great photography!
  • 2 1
 Jake, your work is incredible. Thanks for sharing !
  • 1 0
 Thank You! You make the world awesome my friend! Keep being you Salute
  • 1 0
 Well done Jake, always blown away by your pictures.
  • 1 0
 Thanks man Salute Hope you’re having an incredible spring!
  • 2 1
 great work !
  • 2 0
 Much appreciated!
  • 2 1
 Great article and pics!
  • 2 1
 Did it rain?
  • 1 0
 Did it!?! Not quite tropical buckets but there were more than a few rides wearing waterproofs head to toe and felt like stepping into the shower. https://www.pinkbike.com/video/529742/
  • 2 1
 Amazing!
  • 1 0
 Thanks IslandRider! Wishing we could have stayed longer Redface You've got an unbelievable place to call home tup
  • 2 1
 Fantastic work.
  • 1 0
 Nailed it.
  • 1 0
 Missing you man! We should go up a mountain soon Salute
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