St. Peter's Island
We are so blessed to be able to live here on Prince Edward Island with the ocean literally in our backyard. We try to take every opportunity we can to explore God’s creation around us, whether that is clam digging, hermit crab catching, wading or collecting periwinkles.
The summer of 2018 we lived and worked at a Bible Camp on the South shore of PEI that borders the Northumberland Strait between Nova Scotia and PEI. (You could actually see Nova Scotia in the distance from the bus). There is an island a couple of km’s offshore named St. Peter’s Island.
From all that I could gather from the locals, St. Peter’s Island was once a thriving little community, with about 20 families living there. They ran a lobster cannery, and a school. If you take time to explore, you will find old ruins of tractors and homesteads, fresh water springs and a lighthouse owned by the government now. Even on such a small island it is full of rabbits and wildlife, forests, beaches and marshes, sea caves, seals, birds, sea life, red sandstone cliffs, and meadows full of wild roses, raspberries, and wild edible plants. It is now uninhabited but privately owned by the descendants of the original 20 families. They have given permission for people to come and camp there--just leave it how you found it.
There is a large sandbar connecting St. Peter’s Island to the mainland of PEI, and at low tide you can walk right over to the Island, or you can canoe, paddle-board or boat across at high tide as the water is several feet deep. Back in the day, in the winter, a group of men would paddle, push, and pull a boat across the ice and water to deliver mail to the community living there on the island. We also heard from one fellow that coyotes travel to the island in the winter over the ice to hunt.
Our family decided to join a small group of staff from the Bible Camp for an overnight camping trip on the island one weekend in August. We loaded up a canoe they had at camp with a cooler, drinking water, our camping gear, and the kids and then set off. We decided to canoe over to the island at high tide, as walking over at low tide with all that gear and 4 kids didn’t seem very fun.
Tristan and I used go out in our canoe every weekend when we were first married, exploring the lakes and rivers of Wisconsin, where we were living at the time. So we had canoed lots together before. But a fun day trip with the two of us on a lake is far different than paddling across ocean water with a canoe loaded down with 4 kids, supplies, gear and water!
It was a bit windy, and I, Katie, realized it had been much too long since I had canoed last! I admit my strength while paddling was quite lacking, or maybe it was partly due to the fact I had a toddler holding my legs the entire way?
We made it though, even with the wind and waves pushing us around quite a bit. It was fun to take on the challenge, and it was another one of those ‘marriage building moments’. If you are married, you probably know what I am talking about! Another opportunity to grow our communication, patience and endurance!
After arriving (and having a snack!) we pulled the canoe off the beach onto the high ground and unloaded our gear. There is a little cabin built in a clearing that the owners of the land let people stay in, as long as they leave it as they find it. We walked to the clearing, and hung out with our camping buddies, but decided to pitch our tent on the sandy beach on the western tip of the island. We had fun exploring a bit, cooking supper, and hanging out.
Tristan found a cormerant bird that was hurt on the beach and it hung out with us for a while near the cabin. The land was full of wild edible greens, raspberry bushes, and at low tide we explored the rocky beach. The girls had fun with all the hermit crabs, clam shells, and collecting dead crabs.
Some of the other staff from camp hiked to the lighthouse on the island, but we decided to just hang out as a family and take it easy. Some of the Littles weren’t up for a long hike that day! That is something we have had to learn as we have done things as a family. Plans need to be kept flexible and we try to just ‘go with the flow’ as much as possible. Otherwise we get frustrated when plans change, instead of simply embracing the moment we are in, even if it is different than we originally thought.
We decided to pitch our tent on one of the sandy beaches that stayed high and dry even when the tide came in. Tent pegs don’t do squat in loose sand, so we gathered up rocks (there is always lots of sandstone around in PEI!) and placed them in the tent peg loops at the tent corners. Then we buried the rocks under the sand. We did the same with the rain fly. With the tent we have, the rain fly comes right down to the ground and has 2 vestibules on the sides, so we piled up sand over the edge of the rain fly, so no wind and sand could get inside the tent. It was a windy night under an almost-full moon, and we heard the pitter-patter of sand hitting the sides of the tent in the wind. It was a lullaby that I had never before fallen asleep to.
The next day we spent playing in the sand, a long walk collecting hermit crabs on the shore, chilling by the campfire and discovered a fresh water spring and some old rusty tractors. At high tide we packed up and headed back to camp across the Strait. It was a windy day and the water was quite choppy, so Tristan and another fellow paddled back in the canoe and the kids and I hitched a ride on the little motorboat that the other guys from camp had come over in. Tristan saw a seal on the trip back and I was disappointed I missed that!
Even though it was a short weekend trip, we had such a wonderful time as a family on St. Peter’s Island, and it is one of those memories we will cherish forever. We can’t wait to do this again!