Archive for August, 2011

July 17 – Around to Rivers Inlet and Out

I decided to head for Rivers Inlet today and pack it in for the year since the weather had been so bad. I had to be back at work in a week so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spare. I was tired of being soaked and I was worried about my camera gear.

A humpback zooming around the bay. They spend the winter in the clear tropical waters of Hawaii, having babies and not eating because there is little to eat in the tropics -- that's why you can see so far through the water. Then they migrate to our coastline for the summer and feed on all the productivity from the upwelling nutrient rich waters meeting summer sunshine. They have interesting feeding strategies including working cooperatively to make bubble curtains to corral herring schools and then chomping them down in one bug gulp.

It was raining a bit in the morning as I packed up but as soon as I pushed off it ended.

It was low tide so the low beach with eelgrass was nice and calm. Goodbye Brown Island! I'll be back someday!

I made the kilometer long crossing to the mainland, a little wary of the humpback hanging around.

The sun came out.

Big waves

A few seconds later. If I needed to come ashore I would be out of luck for the next 5 km or so, although there were a few sandy coves, albeit with fairly large waves.

I have seen these barges a few times, loaded with colourful containers, heading north.

It was a nice paddle along the open coast to the point where I would turn east into more sheltered water. There were lots of birds and some boats going by.

This is a nice beach on an isthmus separating the peninsula from the rest of the mainland.

This pigeon guillemot let me drift fairly close. This wasn't even taken with my bird lens.

But not too close

Heavy swell on a reef

Looking across Rivers Inlet to the BC Ferry heading north along Calvert Island

Taking a break after rounding the peninsula. Looking west.

Looking north

 

Looking South

 

Here is the beach on the other side of that isthmus. It has a nice campsite. I wish I had stayed there an extra night.

I crossed eastwards over the bay to the main part of the mainland, which I would continue along northwards. I was getting very warm in my drysuit in the sun. I had to pull the top part off. Wearing it would be out of the question; I would overheat in no time. I don’t know what you’d do if you were somewhere treacherous with cold rough water, where you had to wear it for safety reasons, but you were stuck out in the blasting sun.

I paddled along under a big wide sky with the clouds parting around me. I looked west to the open ocean and to the productive seas all around me. In front of me was the rest of the world, an entire ocean of possibilities. I thought of all the marine life passing in and out of this place, some stopping to spend some time and others merely passing through on their journey to someplace else, maybe no place in particular. Others spend their whole lives here, gleaning their nutrition from sunshine and the sea water that swirls through, itself on its own never-ending journey around the world on the currents and through the clouds, all driven by that same sunshine. The fantastically intricate plankton glistening in the shafts of sunlight, going about their lives without knowing or caring about all the problems we create. For a while I went back to my early years, wide eyed in amazement at the wonder of the ocean, back to those salmon fishing trips out to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island when I was first immersed in our coast.

The final leg of my trip this year was before me -- Duncanby Landing is at the base of that far mountain.

But first I had some interesting little islands to make my way through. They reminded me of the Broughtons. I was in no rush.

One of the fishing lodges I wasn't going to.

There's Duncanby Landing.

Looking up Rivers Inlet

After landing and taking my stuff out of my kayak I found this passenger that had been with me all day. This isopod was almost 2 inches long. There was actually two of them -- one underneath that was being mated with.

First thing’s first was to have a big chicken taco salad in the dining room with Sirius Satellite Radio blasting classic rock from the 70′s. Sorry, chicken.

I used the sat phone and arranged with Pacific Coastal for a pickup in a couple hours.

Packed and ready to go

But the plane actually ties up on this other dock, at the very end of it...

I asked a young guy on the dock helping me with my stuff (what a nice guy) what their work schedule was like here — 3 months straight, 7 days a week. Wow, that’s impressive. At least there’s nothing to blow your money on out here.

My first time in a Grummand Goose!

Looking up Smith Inlet. I came out along the northern shore, from the back right heading towards the left.

The southern part of Smith Inlet is a more convoluted maze of narrow channels between Greaves Island and the mainland.

Pack Lake behind Mereworth Sound

I wonder if anyone has ever been to those ponds on that mountain.

Pack Lake, looking eastwards

Looking westwards to Burnett Beach and the open ocean off Cape Caution

That's Belize Inlet! Nakwakto Narrows is to the right just outside the frame.

Belize Inlet on the left, leading through the narrows to Schooner Channel to the right, which you can't really see because it's mostly hidden behind Bramham Island.

As we crossed the strait I looked across to Shelter Bay. No indication from here of the drama that went on there last year in the trees.

That's "oil spill alley" from last year, where I had lunch before crossing the next big channel ahead of me. The pigeon guillemot nesting island is that little one on the left.

That's what kelp beds look like from the air.

We touched down and I was once again brought back to civilization. When I come out of the wilderness I notice that there seems something odd about how we act. After a few hours this sensation wears off, though never fully, I guess as I too re-integrate into the Borg collective. Funny, when I go into the wilderness I don’t feel anything odd about it… Must be the bond market. It influences us in ways more profound than we can imagine.

I stayed at the backpackers hostel again and tonight there were fireworks on. The whole town was out, right in front of the hostel. The next day I caught the bus back to Courtenay.


July 16 – Taking a Break on Brown Island

When I got up I felt like I had slept in but it was only 8:30. I had set up the bowl under the drip line overnight and it collected even more water than the previous evening when I dozed off for a couple hours in the rain. I was surprised by this because I heard rain in the night but I thought it only was a shower for about 15 minutes. It must have been at least a few hours long though to be able to collect that much water. How deceptive.

Since the weather seemed better, today would be another break day, this time to dry out, not to get soaked.

The water was calm at low tide. It really quietens down at low tide here and the waves from the swell almost disappear. But then when the tide comes up so do the waves. It must have something to do with the bathymetry of the shore which attenuates the waves at low tide.

Looking back up Smith Inlet

The odd boat went by, but most of the boats went by on the other exposed side of the island because that's where the open ocean is. Every boat that goes up the coast has to go by there. I could hear them but not see them. Only boats that have a specific reason for entering Smith Sound went by me here, and that totaled two over the two days.

The panoramic views from this spot are quite something. You can see from the south, all the way eastwards and towards the north, all through Smith Sound. You can see the weather as it rolls in.

There were also many planes flying north and south right over me. I guess this is a major flyway.

Indian paintbrush

The weather turned sunny and I took out my 70-200 lens with the teleconverter to start taking some photos.

As I was in the meadow a hummingbird came by. Great! She wasn't shy and I could maybe get some good shots of a bird in a flower.

Then this happened!

That actually would have been a nice shot of a hummingbird in a flower. But what the hell was going on? Suddenly everything fogged up! I freaked out and tried to locate the source of the fog, and unfortunately it wasn’t between the lens and camera, it was inside the lens. I have heard of lenses being ruined in the Amazon when persistent fog caused fungus to grow and etch the glass. And this was no cheap lens!

I didn’t know what to do. This was obviously happening because of all the humidity in the bags over the last few days seeping into the lens, and then when put in the warm sunshine it condensed out. The only thing I could do was lay it on my sleeping bag under the tarp, separated from the camera, and leave it to air out.

So then I took out my 70-300 lens which is a cheaper, though still expensive, lens. And almost immediately it did the same thing! I opened it up too and laid it out. Then I took out my little 35 f/1.8. It happened again! I laid it out. Then I took out my wide angle Sigma, and luckily nothing happened with that one. I attribute that to sloppier build quality…

Anyways, after about 1/2 hour, to my great relief, they aired out, as good as new.

I took advantage of the sunshine to charge my batteries. So it turns out I hadn't needed my computer batteries last night to charge them after all.

Brilliant white sand, like a tropical isle, too bright to look at in the sun.

Man, when the sun came out, I was roasting under the tarp! Outside wasn't any better in the bright reflections from the sand. There were a few showers now and then but they didn't amount to much.

I went tidepooling. Here are two genetically determined colour variants of the ochre star. These happen to eat mussels, which is the answer to the skill testing question the other day about why some logs are clean of mussels while others aren't (some logs can be accessed by stars at high tide, while others can't).

That's a limpet on the left on pink coralline algae, next to a big closed up green surf anemone

Tidepool sculpin

Scapula from a large mammal that died and washed up here, probably a sea lion.

The ball of the shoulder from the same animal. There were a few bones lying around from this carcass.

Yellow monkey flower

I listened to the weather report which was improving. I went over to the next cove to see what was there, and immediately found something interesting…

I found the reason for the island's name, gushing into the sand.

Literally, like tea.

I filled up my empty water jugs with it just in case I needed it, but I would only drink it as a last resort. It tastes a little funny, but I don't know if it's harmful.

I started thinking about how much carbon gets leached from the forests by this tannin tea. It must be significant. In most forests the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere is released back as CO2 when the matter breaks down on the forest floor, or if the forests burn. But here, it is so wet that decomposition is incomplete and it simply washes out. It probably doesn’t always flow intensely brown like this; most likely it’s because it is the height of summer and soil activity is higher.

Another way forests release carbon back into the atmosphere is through direct release of isoprene through their leaves. I find nutrient cycling in ecosystems interesting, because we are all part of that. All our food comes from there.

 

Columbine

 

Returning to nature

The beautiful little windswept wildflower meadow

A grey whale came by the kelp line about 20 meters off shore. There were whales everywhere. You only have to stand and watch for 15 minutes and you are bound to see one. Greys feed by sifting mouthfuls of mud through their rakers to separate out the shellfish. They spend the summers up here and migrate south to Mexico for the winter to have babies, most in Bahia San Ignacio on Baja California.


July 15 – To the Edge of the Continent

It was cloudy in the morning but not raining so I packed up and made the difficult gear transfer down the slippery rocks to a flat muddy area at the bottom with eelgrass. This little island is actually connected to the main island at really low tides. There was a wide diversity of marine algaes / seaweeds here, exposed at low tide.

As I was finally getting ready to go, the rain picked up, but that was okay because I was in my drysuit. I came prepared! I immediately crossed over to the north shore of the inlet and began searching for a creek from which I could fill my water bottles because I was getting very low. I wanted a little stream, not a raging river, since the stream would be groundwater that I wouldn’t have to filter. There were tons of streams with all the rain; it was just a matter of finding one that was easy to access.

I came upon this nice beach with a little creek running into the sand.

I used my underwater camera housing because it was so rainy, so the pictures are all blurry.

That's where it came from -- perfect!

A fishing boat went by as I started off again. I went past another beach with a big raging creek. The rain started to taper off so I pulled my head out of the drysuit since I was getting too warm.

I continued on for a while, following the interesting shoreline as I moved west towards the open ocean. I came upon a bay with a large brown sandy beach and I went in to investigate.

There was a succession of about four of these beaches, really nice. I don't know how easy it would be to find a spot to camp above the tideline though, with these midnight super high tides.

But the water was very brown from all the runoff. I almost thought it might be an algae bloom.

One of the sources of brown, a tea-like raging stream, with goops of foam drifting away in the salt water as it entered.

Streams of foam. The sea water here was like tea.

Rain off in the distance

I came upon another of those interesting floating logs.

My destination was a little island out at the mouth of the inlet, where there is supposed to be a beautiful sandy white beach on the lee side of the island.

As I was reaching the end of the mainland before heading across to the islands, a final bay presented this interesting sight -- a zodiac full of people in survival suits paddling to the rocks. I didn't know what to make of it. In retrospect I probably should have gone over to see what was going on, but they didn't gesture for me. And they had nice yachts anchored just to the left of here in the sheltered bay.

I donned my drysuit again as I crossed over to the islands, especially since the weather was staring to close in.

Here it comes.

I crossed over to Brown Island as the rain started pelting down. As I was approaching I startled a pair of sea lions about 30 feet off the bow.

The problem was that there was a lot of waves here and landing on this beach wouldn't be simple given all the rocks just below the surface. I paddled over to the left and found a spot that might allow me to land.

I waited until a break in the waves and then raced in over the reef in a foot of water. Just as I was landing a big wave came up behind me and if I hadn’t been perpendicular it probably would have knocked me over. I pulled out ASAP.

The beach was brilliant white crushed shell.

I played with my underwater still camera in the tidepools. This is a green surf anemone, which only grow in the tidepools on the exposed west coast. They can also dry out for short periods too.

Surfgrass

Usually these half in / half out shots are in tropical locales with coconut palms above and coral reefs below.

 

It was still raining and I got a little sleepy so I took a nap by lying on a log in my drysuit. It was very comfortable, just the right temperature to be lying in the rain.

Then I took my drysuit off, and now it wasn’t so warm! Those things really work.

 

This beach had a beautiful little wildflower meadow of primarily coastal strawberry, but also lots of other interesting plants thrown in. Here is Indian paintbrush.

I decided to set up the bat instead of the tent and sleep on the sand because the bugs didn't seem too bad.

I lay under the tarp and had a nap for a couple hours and collected this much water off the drip. I hope there aren't any toxins leaching into the water.

Brilliant white sand

So many types of shells

Some abalone shells, or "mother of pearl". I did a little garbage cleanup and surprisingly there was very little.

Looking south across Smith Inlet

I even pulled out my computer to check Google Earth and to charge my GoPro cameras and download photos. I didn't know if I'd have sun again to charge the GoPro's so I decided to sacrifice my computer's battery. The sand wasn't a problem at all because it was the perfect size -- large enough that it doesn't stick to everything and get everywhere.


July 13 & 14 – The Weather Gets Wet(ter)

There was a really low tide in the morning. The tent was nice and dry for packing up too.

I was up early and launched in a little tiny beach down there by 8 a.m. A few minutes later, and the beach was under water, so I timed that well.

It was cloudy and I had a slight tailwind. And the currents were going my way too. I made an easy 7 km/hr and knocked off a few kilometers in no time. How so much easier this was than 14 hours previously when I was fighting the winds to the campsite. Sometimes you just need to know when to call it quits and relax. Work for the sake of work is pointless, counterproductive, unless you are doing it for the physical exercise. I say the same thing about economics — our constant struggle to grow our economies bigger is futile and ultimately self destructive. We need to stop.

Some dispersed heli-logging cutblocks across the inlet. This is an interesting situation because the smaller cutblocks look nicer and result in less disturbance, but the direct implication is that we aren't ever going to have another large contiguous block of mature forest there if we continually rotate it through these dispersed small cutblocks, which aren't ideal habitat for certain animals like spotted owls that need large contiguous blocks. But, every piece of land is managed for different objectives, so this may be appropriate for this location.

Those poachers just never quit.

Even way up here I'm seeing the same patterns on logs I did down south. The log on the left is covered with mussels (which are the black things), whereas the log on the right is devoid of mussels. Why? You see this every 50 meters along the shore.

After about 6 km, a headwind picked up, but I had still done a respectable haul in the early morning hours. After this I paddled along the shoreline closely, hugging the coves to stay out of the wind.

Looking out towards the ocean

There is a lot of floating plant debris out here, from both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Much of it enters via the rivers. There is often an oily sheen on the surface which is all the biological oils accumulating with the tides and winds. This is ecological productivity in its raw form. Here is a salal leaf turned red.

It is not uncommon to see skunk cabbage leaves floating around in the salt water, They likely got there from grizzly bears ripping the plant up in the muddy parts of rivers and then eating the succulent stems and leaving the leaves to wash out into the ocean.

This was an interesting tethered floating log which I think had something to do with the relatively fresh adjacent cutblock.

I tied up to a cedar tree and had lunch (dates and peanut butter) with the wind keeping me in my spot. I made a little video commentary but the batteries on my audio recorder soon died.

You can't do this in most kayaks. And you also can't climb up to the front of the boat either. And you also can't stand up in most kayaks.

I continued on and now the ocean waves were becoming noticeable. There are quite a few islands out in the mouth of the inlet which break up the swell but I was now starting to experience it, the closer I got.

That's the open ocean out there in the gaps.

I followed the shoreline a bit more and the rain started. I turned on the video camera to record what it’s like in a squall as I paddled. At this point the north shore of the inlet reaches a point, and doubles back a bit before heading up north and then west again. I had the choice of crossing some open water in this weather or following the coast back and crossing up north amongst some islands where it would be safer. I chose the latter.

The weather was making interesting mist patterns on the nearby mountains.

Hues of green

I crawled up the north side of Dennison Island, all the while scoping out potential campsites as I went. I didn’t see anything obvious and I crossed over to the next island to the west, which had some rocks at its exposed end that I was hoping would be suitable. But the rain was really starting to pick up. I could see it coming in from the west. I crossed over to the island before it hit and took shelter under a big overhanging cedar tree, maintaining my spot with the odd paddle stroke against the wind. I would stay here until the weather abated. After 1/2 hour it didn’t and I had to make the decision to move on in the rain. I was only in my rain gear, not my drysuit, so I would get wet. But if I could pull out for the day that would be OK.

I got to the rocks and the pullout was difficult, but doable.

The pullout was up the slippery and tortuous jumble of big rockweed-covered rocks,all in the pouring rain.

I got my stuff up but I didn’t want to open it because anything inside that was still dry would then get wet; it was still pouring rain.

I stood around for probably an hour waiting for the rain to end, which wasn’t. I was getting wet and cold. I was not a happy camper, literally.

I realized I had to do something so I managed to cook up some fettucini alfredo which wasn’t very good, but it warmed me up a bit.

I became totally soaked. I was getting cold, frustrated and angry. I yelled my profanity and frustrations into the weather. I finally bit the bullet because I had no other choice, and tried to set up the tent with the tarp in a small and contorted space on some rocks. This did not work.

To get my tent out of the way I moved it onto these rocks temporarily. Magically, I had found my tent spot for the night. Sometimes I amaze myslef at the spots I can sleep in. Yes, that is three boulders I was draped across.

I got my stuff semi-organized and I hunkered down in the tent for a while to listen to the weather — a quasi stationary trough in Queen Charlotte Sound was sending waves of rain out. Well, that’s where I was, and that’s what I was receiving.

It rained all night, but miraculously it stopped mid morning the next day. I wasn’t going anywhere that day; it would be my day off. If I tried to pack up now everything would become soaked.

I got up and sort-of dried out. There was a hummingbird hanging around, going in the little salal flowers. My breakfast was some apple cinnamon oatmeal. A banana slug seemed to really go after the residue on the oatmeal packet. I threw the slug into the bushes. Then I thought about how long the banana slug population has been isolated on this little island, off the bigger island, which itself is isolated from the mainland.

I felt sorry for myself, thinking that I am the only life form here that can’t handle the rain. Nothing else cares about it, they just go on with their lives regardless.

Then I saw all the silverfish bugs taking refuge in the dry corners above my tent in the morning, and realized that I may not be alone in my desire for dryness.

There were frequent salmon jumping out there.

I didn’t do much all day; I mostly sulked. I had a bath in the ocean, and took some video footage of waves coming into the tidepools. I didn’t even open my camera bags because they were soaked.

 


July 12 – Heading Back Out Smith Inlet

The rain started at 6 in the morning -- right when I wanted to get up. I poked my head out and got this shot before retreating inside.

As usual, I sat in my tent, getting really bummed out, until it finally ended at 11. I packed up with everything mostly wet.

I was getting my boat loaded when a fairly large boat came by and then doubled back around after it passed me to check me out, probably just to make sure I was okay because I don’t think there are many kayakers up here. It was a nice gesture, but in doing all their twists and turns they sent some big wake my way which really caused havoc with my precariously placed half-loaded kayak. I then headed out.

Up close at that big slide

A zodiac zoomed by. I couldn't figure out where they came from since it is a long ways to anywhere up here. Your closest neighbours are 20 km away at least.

Looking back to where I came from

The weather was fairly calm for the most part. I played with my underwater video camera as I went. The water was brown from all the river runoff. The vegetation here never really dries out so decomposition is incomplete, and lots of tannins are produced which make the runoff water look like tea. The intertidal life isn’t too diverse up here because the salinity can get low when it rains hard. But mussels, barnacles, and rockweed all flourish. There were also tons of giant sunstars along the steep rocky subtidal slopes here up the inlet. These are the monsters of the sea and they can get over a meter across. They are the fastest starfish in the world. Most of their prey around here deploy unique escape mechanisms when they smell an approaching sea star. Clams stick out their feet and try to walk away, and if they’re lucky they’ll go in the right direction. California sea cucumbers start doing the wave and try to squirm away. Swimming scallops do what their name suggests — they swim away, just like in the cartoons. Sea urchins lay down their spines flat, exposing thousands of little pinchers called pedicellaria, with which they pinch the sensitive tube feet of the star.

After a while a headwind started picking up as usual in the afternoon when it isn’t raining. I tied off to an overhanging cedar and had a 45 minute break for lunch — Clif bar, dates, and peanut butter — what else. I battled the winds for a few more hours and made it as far as I thought would be practical — no point wasting energy fighting the wind when in the morning it would likely be calm. There was a little peninsula sticking out that became an island at high tide and it looked ideal to camp on. It was bare rock up top.

I landed on the thickly mussel-infested protected beach in the leeward bay behind the peninsula, but as I pulled one of the bags off my kayak the force of this pushed it up against some mussels and gave it a big gash. Not deep enough to cause a leak, but it would need attention.

Looking back

The poachers, this time with a different boat, were still at it a few kilometers away across the channel.

What a great view I had out towards the opening of the inlet.

I had zucchini lasagna for dinner and took advantage of the relative dry to put some Aquaseal on the gash. I would only need a few hours of dry for it to set.

At midnight, under a full moon, the tide came way up, floating my boat which of course was tied off since I take no chances, this time to a big rusty shackle lying around. All that stuff in the middle would be covered with water if I didn't move it. It came to within about 8 inches of my tent. Not only that, but I also had the low drone of the poachers going all night to keep me awake, which wouldn't normally bother me, but these guys did.

 


July 11 – Touring Grizzly Bear … (Habitat)

The breeze died down overnight and it was dry and calm in the a.m. I awoke really early to noisy birds and a seal fishing beside my tent, which sounded like it was within 10 feet. Geez, how can a guy get some sleep around here? Have some respect, guys… And I soon put two and two together to figure out that this is how the perch ended up on the dock — the seal chased it there and it jumped out.

They were nice enough to leave me a lamp post.

Looking south-east down the blind arm of the channel that goes no further than you can see.

Looking north-east up the main part of Smith Inlet that goes for another 6 km to the head where the Nekite River enters in a big estuary, populated by grizzly bears at certain times of the year.

Looking west back out Smith Inlet

I rounded the corner after crossing the inlet and this merganser family did not like me there one bit. They scurried away with a lot of noise and ended up across the channel before they settled down. Sorry, guys.

There is another parallel arm to Smith Inlet which goes all the way back to this point, just behind that hill, starting from around the entrance of Wyclese Lagoon, on the other side of the inlet.

Looking towards Jap Island, in the middle of the estuary.

Getting closer

Finally I arrived at the lodge and had to round a log boom to get to the building. There was a dead baby seal draped over the very end of the boom.

I was a day early unfortunately, and they were all booked up, and would be for a few more days. But the new guests weren’t arriving until mid afternoon so they invited me on a 1.5 hour bus tour up the road to the river blind to see what was there. The problem was there aren’t many bears around at this time of year. In the spring they come down to the estuary to graze on plants, and in the fall they come down to the river to catch returning salmon (there are no sockeye in this river because there is no lake, and therefore nothing running at the moment). But in the summer, the bears mostly disperse up into the higher elevations.

There are always swallows at these remote settlements along the coast.

There was a younger Swiss couple here on honeymoon, and an older Australian couple that had just flown in the day before on that plane. He did see me, but didn’t take a photo. They had been all over the world touring big game parks, and he had lots of stories from Africa to tell. He had a big wildlife lens too, a Canon, which seemed much lighter than my Nikon setup.

We all piled into the special little bus for our tour.

We drove up a few kilometers to a bear highway. The guides have hiked several kilometers up this trail, which the bears use to move around the valley.

At the head of this trail is a rub tree.

Looking across the Nekite from the blind. When the salmon run this area is packed with bears and they sometimes come in the blind.

A bear wallow where they like to roll in the mud, in a quiet backwater of the river. They like to eat the stems of skunk cabbage in these muddy habitats.

We saw no bears on my tour but that was okay. I filled up my water bottles, got packed up and then the new people came in on their plane. I said goodbye and headed back out. I immediately got hit by a squall with hard rain but I kept to the shoreline and I was fine. The plane seemed to come check me out after it took off, then circled back around. At the time I thought they were worried about me in the squall, but afterwards I realized they were just gaining altitude to get over the mountains.

The weather closing in

Just for a sense of scale … looking across the inlet to my previous night’s campsite at the logging camp.

I moved my way westward along the shoreline looking for a place to camp and eventually found a suitable spot not too far from where the straight shot out Smith Inlet begins, which I did not want to go past since it would be hard to find a campsite. The rain stopped when I pulled out.

The pull-out wasn’t too bad, just lots of slippery rockweed. I camped on the top of that rock center left.

The rockweed really goes nuts in this low salinity brackish water. There seems to be two species here, which you can see in this shot. I will ID them later.

A nice way to end the day!


July 10 – Heading Up Smith Inlet

I awoke to spitting showers at 7 a.m. and rushed out to put the tarp over my tent since it leaks after several hours of rain and I didn’t know how long this would last.

I sat in my tent, bummed out listening to the steady rain and the drone from the poachers, until 11 a.m., but I stayed fairly dry inside. When it finally ended I came out for breakfast. The poachers were still at it.

It was muggy when the rain stopped.

I’ve seen a few of these. Someone’s been here surveying.

Looking up the inlet to where I would be going

It was a difficult put-in with the low tide about 10 feet below the bare rock above. It was tricky getting everything down but as usual, the barnacles amongst the rockweed gave me traction if I was careful.

More recent petroglyphs

They last a long time, surprisingly, in this wet climate.

I headed east, following the southern shoreline of the inlet, past hundreds of waterfalls of varying sizes tumbling down into the water. I filled my bottles. There were lots of little salmon along the shoreline, and they especially liked the places where sizeable streams entered. I stopped at one creek and had my floating lunch in the muggy heat — a Clif bar, dates, and peanut butter.

I dawdled along, as I only had 12 km to go in total to the forestry dock where I was sure there would be somewhere to camp. The water was flat and I had a slight tailwind.

A float plane went by as it flew up the inlet heading east. I figured it was going to the grizzly lodge, where I was also going. I hoped they took a photo of me, which would put my size into perspective. I’d see them tomorrow.

That’s the plane, that tiny dot just right of center, this time heading south after stopping at the grizzly lodge to the left, way up the inlet.

Old slide on the left, new slide on the right. I’m not sure how they start.

The tailwind picked up so I moved out into the channel a bit more to take advantage of it.

Finally the dock showed up after rounding point after point.

Perfect!

I went fishing off the dock right in front of my kayak.

This pregnant perch was just sitting there on the dock. I couldn’t figure out how it got there.

Within seconds of dropping the hook I caught a fish. I wasn’t going to keep any, I just wanted to see what was down there.

Yellowtail rockfish

Some other kind of rockfish, not sure which type

Whitespotted greenling

Kelp greenling. I lost my pliers trying to get the hook out out of its mouth. Oh well, they were only a few dollars and it saved me some weight!

I must have pulled up 10 fish in 15 minutes. It goes to show how prolific marine life can be, away from fishing pressures. That’s what the whole world was like not too long ago. Unfortunately no one from that era is still alive to provide perspective so we plod along generation after generation, accepting more and more degraded ecosystems as “the norm” because we know nothing different. Kind of a like the old story about being able to slowly boil a frog alive but if you throw him straight into hot water he will jump out.

One of the problems with rockfish fishing is that they come up from the deep and the drop in pressure causes their swim bladders to expand out their mouths. Then when they are thrown back they cannot swim back down because they are too buoyant. They get stuck on the surface and either die or get eaten by birds. The bycatch is very unfortunate. What we need, and some people are working on this, is a method to send the fish down to the deep on a weight, at which point their swim bladders will compress back down. Then they are released and can continue living and spawning for future generations. Unfortunately this is not used commercially. My hook went down to about 60 feet and they had no problem swimming back down from the surface. But if they come from 200 feet that is another issue.

A Sikorsky Sky Crane flew over heading south. They use these for heli-logging. They are very large and powerful choppers that can pick up entire huge cedar logs while they are still standing. The fallers go in and buck the the tree while it’s still standing. Then they almost cut it down, leaving a 1 inch line of wood in the middle of the cut to keep the stem standing. Then the chopper comes in and lifts the log off. This reduces breakage from huge logs falling to the ground.


July 9 – Smith Inlet!

They were up at 6 a.m. again to count fish, and I was up at 8:30. It was clear all night and sunny in the morning. I spent a few hours organizing my stuff. They started throwing rock bags into the holes in the fish fence which is not a trivial matter. They had to get the boat down the river, then tie it to a line across the river upstream. They would then inch it down to within a few feet of the fence and then pass the bags to John, who was on the walkway right above the fence and tethered off. He would then try to direct the bag in to the right spot, on the end of a rope, and when it was in they’d pull the rope through and repeat.

I decided not to do the portage from Triangle Lake to Smith Inlet. My knee was still pretty sore from the last portage and John didn’t recommend the bushwhack up to the road. I don’t think he realized how well I can bushwhack, but I have to say, I wasn’t really looking forward to it either. Plus I didn’t have a map of the area, although I could easily get it on Google Earth no problem. And I didn’t have any first hand accounts of the road so it could have been all brush covered at some points. Anyways, I just didn’t feel like it.

I made a few trips to carry my stuff to the dock. I was getting pretty warm hiking in the sun. Four round trips at 1 km each is 8 km. Pretty good morning workout! I had a bath in the lagoon.

Etienne saw a dying sockeye right beside the dock in about four feet of water. We ran for the net and scooped it out. Then they made it for dinner but I left without having any.

I filtered some drinking water from the lagoon since it tasted fresh. Apparently the surface 4 feet are fresh and it is salty underneath. It has a tidal range of only 20 to 40 cm at maximum. I discovered a little later when I drank the water that it wasn’t totally fresh, but still drinkable.

I departed the dock in beautiful weather, heading for the narrows for the 8 p.m. high tide, and I would hopefully be able to pass through earlier than that.

Looking back towards Long Lake

Wider view towards Long Lake

Heading towards Wyclese Narrows

Wyclese Narrows is in there somewhere. That little mountain is on the other side of Smith Inlet.

A heli cutblock above Wyclese Narrows. I wondered if that’s where the worker got attacked.

Looking east up the valleys as I approached the narrows. Second growth on the lower slope from old logging, and old growth higher up.

There it is — the narrows. It was going pretty good and I could hear the raging water so I decided to wait it out.

Thankfully, someone had already thought about that and tied up a log boom dock for me, but first I had to scare an eagle off. I waited about 15 minutes for the white water to die down, at around 6 p.m.

The unique salinity variations of the narrows stimulates some interesting algae growth.

Beautiful pond scum

Different pond scum!

I then went for a ride through the narrows. The actual narrows aren’t very long, maybe 100 meters. I used my GPS and it said I was going 8 km/hr, without paddling.

When I got through the narrow part of the narrows the ecology changed noticeably since we were now in mostly brackish water. There was mussels and barnacles and Fucus seaweed. There was also lots of seals and jumping salmon, and eagles too, which I hadn’t seen anywhere on the lake or lagoon. All the sockeye have to funnel through here.

As I had passed through the main narrows I went by this sedge beach. Looks like bear habitat.

What’s that I see through the trees?

Why, it’s Smith Inlet! I finally made it!

Looking up Smith Inlet. There was no one around except of course the poachers busy at work.

I turned west because there is a little island about a kilometer out that might present some camping opportunities. But it turned out to not be very good so I instead decided to just head east up the inlet until I found a suitable campsite.

I soon came upon some rocks which provided a sheltered pullout from the wind-generated waves coming up the inlet.

I set up camp and made some dinner, mulligan stew, whatever that is, with all the spices.

The tide came pretty close to my tent that night.

The birds like using this rock for shellfish-bashing.


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