The other week, while discussing our mutual plans for the upcoming long weekend, I learned that one of my co-workers has a place on Pender Island.
In Western Canada, weekend places are most often called “cabins.” I point this out because for a while I lived in Ontario, where weekend places are always referred to as “cottages.” People in Toronto talk about their “cottage weekends” and there is a mass exodus from the city every Friday afternoon between the May Long Weekend and Labour Day. (You haven’t experienced traffic if you haven’t driven Highway 11 on a summer weekend.)
Cabin, cottage, tomato, tomahto …You’re probably wondering why I’m going on about this.
It’s because when I hear the word “cottage,” I have in mind a small dwelling right out of the English Cotswolds, complete with thatched roof. But when I hear the word “cabin,” I always picture the log cabin Laura Ingalls Wilder described in Little House in the Big Woods. I used to entertain myself in school by sketching log cabins, complete with smoking chimney made out of stone, in the margins of my notebooks. I dreamed of one day living in such a cabin.
Imagine my surprise when I visited Pender Island a couple of summers ago, and came across my dream cabin. I had no idea it existed outside of my head. But ― there it was. I had already fallen in love with Pender Island on this visit (my first); coming across the cabin only cinched the love I was feeling.
Pender Island is one of BC’s Southern Gulf Islands and is sandwiched between Saturna to the east, Mayne to the north, and Salt Spring to the west. Even though they lie within spitting distance of each other, each island has its own unique character, which is why a couple of my friends and I are weekending our way through the Gulf Islands. We try to explore a different island every summer.
Pender Island is actually two islands: in 1902, a canal was dredged through the isthmus between North and South Pender Islands. The islands were later reunited with a single-lane wooden bridge.
The island is named after Daniel Pender, a British Royal Navy captain who surveyed the coastal areas of British Columbia between 1857 and 1870.
Pender Island is about 35 square kilometres in size and has a year-round population of 2500, most of whom live on North Pender Island. That population triples in the summer; I hope to be joining the throng of visitors again soon.