Hornby Island

Hornby Island
Arial view of Hornby Island

After getting smoked by a renegade soccer mom and her minivan on Wednesday I knew I had to get away from the city. Living the charmed life, as always, a good friend told me he was planning to go to Hornby Island for the long weekend. Of course I didn't really have the cash to go considering I was just in Colorado a few weeks earlier, but when I hear the call to travel, weasel must abide. Of course I took my trusty SS steed and pounded out the trails there...

For those who have no idea, Hornby Island is a bit of a travel destination. It is this small gulf Island up the Georgia Straight on the East side of Vancouver Island. To get there from Vancouver you have to take 3, count them 3 ferries. The first ferry takes you from Horseshoe bay to Naniamo (about 1.5 hrs). Then you pop onto the Island Highway and take yourself north for about 80 Km, until you hit Buckley Bay. This is where you take the second ferry to Denman Island, drive across Denman and take the final ferry to get yourself on over to Hornby Island. Yeee haw!

So why go to all this trouble when you have the North Shore mountains at your door step? Variety my good fellow, variety. Now if you are only looking for a place to huck, Hornby will surely disappoint. Hornby is the land of hard tails, triple chain rings and jerseys that have had their sleeves cut off. At one time Hornby Island used to be a hippy commune, and that history still has a strong influence on. The residents are a combination of eacentrics, artisans and people looking to get as far away mental from the city as they can. As part of the residents urge to create There is also a large network of trails that .

Hula girl gets a make over
Hula Vader leads the way

To get a map of the trails simply go to the only bike shop there (you can't miss it as there is a total of 5 stores, all beside each other) and donate some money to get a photocopied map. Here is Karma hard at work. Any revenue generated from the maps goes to trial maintenance. If you . None of these trails are long or particularly hard, but what they do well is flow. It could be their prestine condition, they are often roller coasters and weave tightly in and out of the trees, or the fact almost every trail has subtly burmed corners through the faster sections. Combined together you get some great flowy XC riding where you can turn you mind off and just ride. the fact they weave b may take a while to get the combinations figure out but Hornby's trails are very enjoyable when you start linking them up in loops. The flow is incredible and represents XC riding at its best. Just turn your mind off. Don't get me wrong

Mt. Geoffrey Look out, Hornby Island
View from the trail

But really can a man or woman survive with biking alone? I think not. This is where Hornby excels again. There are tons of other things to go and see there. Take in some of the artisans, check out the free store (Hornby Island has been recycling well over 50% of their waste since 1970) or lull about on the beautiful white sand beaches of Big or Little Tribune Bay. Little Tribune bay is always fun since its a nude beach, where else can you find fat old German men? When I am not riding my personal favorite is to hike the Arbutus forests of Helliwell Park or go sea kayaking. Tribune bay is a great place to learn if you have never tried sea kayaking b

But what has really left a lasting impression in my mind was having the opportunity to watch the full moon rise over Tribune Bay. It was an amazing sight, especially as the moon rose behind all the sail boats which all had small lights on the end of their sails. The image was mesmerizing and I only wish I had a camera with me that could do justice to the scene. Watching all the boats anchored together, having a few drinks with people they just met made me realize for the first time in my life why my dad built himself a sailing yacht in his thirties, with the ill fated plan to sail around the world.

Big Tribune Bay Beach
Big Tribune Bay

Now I haven't been to Hornby for a few years since I was about 5000 km away in Onterrible. And it still hasn't lost its charm from when I first went there as a 19 year old when I went to attend the Bike Fest. A race combined with a Jazz festival. That event really captures the essence of the place. But alas time marches forward and things change. The Bike Festival no longer occurs because it became too popular and as a result a logistical nightmare. Although I heard Tig Cross was planning to start up a 24 hr race there (I can't think of a better place for 24 hrs of fun). In ??? the island is packed with more tourists than ever (myself included).

So my recommendation is if you want to check it out, bring an XC bike, a kayak, some beer or wine, lots of good friends and do what ever you can to avoid going in July or August, the two busiest months of the year. Outside that time period you will be pretty much by yourself there.

Photo Album


Selected Photos

[G2:1326] [G2:1311] [G2:1314] [G2:1338] [G2:1365]


[...] There is just something about Hornby Island that is hard to describe. If you know me personally, in any sort of manner, then you probably know the love affair I have had with the Gulf Island ever since my first visit in the late 90’s (previous verbage). [...]

I can tell a long story about Hornby Island. In July of 1970 I won big at the horse races in New York City and flew to San Francisco with my winnings, then hitchhiked up the coast to Vancouver, over to Vancouver Island, and eventually to Denman and Hornby Islands, where I expected to meet up with my girl friend, who never did show.

There was a commune there, owned by an heiress from Texas whose first name was Ann, or Anne, whom I saw briefly. She also owned properties in Colorado, Vermont, New York, Texas, and God knows where else. Her commune had a population of perhaps 15 people, from Chicago and New York, artists, rock and rollers, etc, all but a couple dreadful people, who welcomed me as one welcomes an STD.

After a few days I split. A year later I ran into one of the communards, a sculptor named Chris Jason, at the intersection of Broadway and Canal in Manhattan. He had a pair of rubber swimming flippers over his shoulder and his usual loony grin.

In 1972 at a bar called Broadway Charlie's, on Broadway around 11th Street in Manhattan I heard a poet read a memoir about a commune in the East Village in 1968, which had been subsidized by the same Texas heiress with red hair named Ann. The commune was just her and a few New York City guys and girls. One of the guys wound up the "guru." He struggled with the role and eventually jumped to his death from the tenement window, or roof. It was amazing to hear this story. That was 34 years ago.

Wease's picture

Wow... cool story and I suspect you have a few more stories hidden up your sleeve. You my friend should be the one with the blog!

In regards to Hornby, yep... the story totally jives as I know that it was once a hippy commune (its far from that now), and not the least bit surprising that they were completely uninviting. Many groups of people claim to be accepting but the truth of the matter is often very different. That said it has some amazing scenery and if I lived there I would be doing what I could to protect it too.

Anyway, the thing that intrigues me about your story is that it was owned by a Texas Heiress... wow that is an interesting tidbit of history. Suicidal artists... now that is par for the course.

Thanks or sharing!!

Hmmm, wish I could get back there, take my old lady and see what's what. It's been a long while, and now I am working on a book. Anyway, you the man with the blog.

Wease's picture

Cool... what is the book about?

I have always wanted to compile a book, but I am too scattered at the moment. I don't have a succinct thesis that I could to put forward.

The novel is about winter in rural upstate NY. I'm scattered too but I hack away day after day for 1-3 hours on it. If you want to see some short fiction of mine:

Havent been to hornby island yet. will hopefully try to make it there in October.
Thanks for the heads up on Tribune bay. Will try to avoid it.

Sweet write up.

'Where else can you find fat, old German men?'

You could try Germany for starters.

I love the fact that world is full of these little pockets of community that you never hear about. Like Christiana in Copenhagen, the Pitcairns, or any one of the tiny Greek island communities. So many amazing places... Hornby sounds great.