Uncategorized

The name’s Mark… Mark BC

My initials are Mark BC. I also live in BC. And I’m going down to BC, Mexico (Baja California) again. I’m going to try Salsipuedes again. No, I’m going to succeed this time! I am much better prepared and most importantly, I am entering from an easier approach with few if any rocky sections to turn me back. I’m excited to get down again. I think some of the areas I’ll be going have never been explored before since the natives lived there a hundred odd years ago. As usual, I’ll try to update my Spot in the evenings, but it may not work sometimes if I am in a deep canyon. The link is to the right. And here is the Baja Nomad Forum post where I talk about it in more detail.


Packrafting / Fatbiking Buntzen Lake

I took my new Pugsley out to Buntzen Lake this weekend. I wanted to try out the bike on the packraft but didn’t want to get salt water over everything, and Buntzen is the closet place you can do that without dealing with whitewater in the North Shore rivers. I paddled down the lake with the bike on the raft, then biked back with the raft on the bike. It worked well. It was in part preparation for my upcoming Mexico trip (I’m going to try Salsipuedes Canyon again), but also it’s just great to get out there and have some fun!

This is a nice area just outside Vancouver. It is a gateway to a lot of very rugged back country terrain. Technically you aren’t allowed to overnight here, but I’m sure if you hike back into the boonies no one would know or care. The issue is the parking gates close at night and you aren’t allowed to park overnight.

I got there after lunch, using up about a third of the charge in my car to get there. I had no heat, to conserve battery, and it was just above freezing. But I was all bundled up. While getting the bike together a BC Hydro truck pulled up and and asked if I was going out overnight. I said, “No, I’m just going up for the day.” “Well you look like you’re going camping”. “No”, I replied, “that’s an inflatable boat on my bike”. Oh cool, well have fun! “Sure,” I said, “the gate closes at 6 right?”. So I had a few hours to go up the lake and back.

DSC_7392_000

I rode out onto the dock to do the switcheroo. Last time I was here was last winter. It was about the same temperature but blowing hard. It wasn’t pleasant out on the lake that time, especially since I had to paddle back into the wind.

Everyone looks and asks about the bike. That day I had three people ask if the bike is “electric assist”. I’m not sure why. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks to fatbikes, is the attention they attract. It’s fine up here since I love talking to people about all this unusual equipment I have, and to spread the sport. But in certain parts of the world, you really don’t want to attract too much attention.

DSC_7401_001

It’s a little lop-sided with no one in it.

DSC_7402_002

Thankfully there were lots of interested people around who were willing to take my picture.

DSC_7414_003

I had a pleasant 45 minute paddle down to the end of the lake. It was spitting a few snowflakes but didn’t amount to anything. Near the end a headwind picked up but I just hugged the shoreline.

DSC_7428_004

At my destination, the dock at the other end of the lake. Another guy came down to ask me about it, and asked if it was electric assist.

DSC_7449_005

No wet feet at all this trip!

DSC_7454_006

Back up and ready to go. I’d cross that bridge and take a multi-purpose hiking / horseback riding trail back. You aren’t allowed to paddle past the bridge as that leads to the intake for the hydroelectric penstock which goes down to the power station on Indian Arm.

DSC_7463_007

I took the “Lakeview Trail”, which actually only had about one view of the lake, filtered through the trees. It is fairly steep, going up and down along the ridge back south. It was nice forest and somewhat technical. Despite all the gear, the bike remained nimble; mostly due to the weight on the front being centred as close to the fork and bars as possible. I had the tire pressure too high but that was OK because I wanted to see what would rattle off, having just been put together.

During the ride I noticed that something seemed loose in the pedals. It got worse and worse and finally I decided to take a look. The crank arm bolts were coming loose! I tightened them up no problem but I hope the trail grit that was sticking to the grease doesn’t cause any issues. I’ll spin it really carefully at home to listen for any grinding.

This Gopro mount works pretty well. The others I tried vibrated too much; I’ll have to brace them some more.

..

Before I knew it I was crossing the lake on the floating bridge and back by 4:30. They even had a bike wash station beside the parking lot!

DSC_7473_008

I took off the left pedal and front wheel and threw the bike in the back, and proceeded to drive home heat-less.

All in all, a great time was had by all, and all was me.


My New Surly Pugsley Fatbike Build

In previous posts you will see a Salsa Mukluk fatbike that I took various places, generally cold (snow) or hot (sand in Mexico), and not much in between. My friend Mark in California decided that he wanted a fatbike when he tried it out and had a blast with it on the dunes and beach. He will use it for beach combing down in Baja. I wasn’t too keen on the aluminum frame material of the Mukluk, or the small frame triangle, or the 170 mm rear hub, so I sold it to him and used the proceeds to buy a Surly Pugsley frame only that I am building up right now (almost the same as Cass’ new rig). It has a Shimano Alfine 8 internally geared rear hub, and I would like to use a SON 28 dynamo hub up front for charging the electronics (the solar panel works in a kayak but is less than ideal on a bike…), but the front hub width is 135 mm on fat frames (same as the back on the Pugsley), and that dynamo hub in the 135 mm version is not cheap… so for now I will use my old XT hub.

Below you can see the racks I am using. On the front I made my own out of a 3/8” aluminum rod I bent using a propane torch. Then I drilled a hole in the bottom of each leg to bolt it onto the fork. There isn’t much metal left after this hole, so I fear it may break at some point. Instead, I will try it again but I will curl the bottom of the rod around into a circular eye through which the bolt feeds. That way I am not reducing any material in the rod. You can see how I did this with the rear rack in the last photo.

Image

..

Image

I really like this front rack setup. It is very light and simple and allows me to strap larger but lighter items to the side. They nest in against the water bottle holders. On one side goes my rolled up mattress, and on the other goes my sleeping bag. On top I can also put a smaller item, and mount a GoPro camera off the front. The other benefit of this setup is that the weight is as close to the turning radius of the steering tube as possible, which reduces the effort required to turn the handle bars and makes for better handling (basically, take a wooden broom handle and notice how easy it is to spin it along its axis than along its length). That is also the benefit of having the two water bottle holders aimed backwards 45 degrees (besides not sticking out so far); the weight of the water is closer to the steering pivot. The traditional setups with front panniers way out the front of the wheel on their own dedicated racks are not only heavy, but not an ideal weight distribution. They might work for road touring but not for the kind of rough off-road bush thrashing I tend to do which needs nimbler handling. And this setup does work; the Mukluk I used in Mexico last month (see link to my Baja Nomad blog writeup) was also set up this way and it was quite nimble on the steering. I also used a Revelate Designs Harness off the handlebars to hold my Tarptent Moment. It didn’t seem to degrade steering too much.

In the rear I have an OMM front Sherpa rack which perfectly fits the Pugsley offset if you put one leg on the inside and the other on the outside. It is too small to carry panniers without them getting caught in the wheel, so I had to put an additional aluminum rod there as well to provide extra support for the panniers flapping around.

I added some Extrawheel mounting nuts to the back braze-ons. Usually these replace the axle nuts. But this will not work with the Alfine 8 hub on the Pugsley, because it has a solid axle, not hollow with a quick release skewer, and there is not enough thread sticking out the side to add enough spacers to un-offset the offset of the hub and allow for the trailer fork to clear the rear tire symmetrically.

Image

It is size medium, which in retrospect may be a bit small. I probably should have gotten a large, which also allows for a larger frame bag. I am not too keen on Surly’s new style with the lowered top tube and little triangle gusset at the seat tube. They did this to reduce standover height, to protect your delicate bits if you fall off, but I have never needed it. I’d rather have more frame space.

I found on my Mexico trip that the fat rims and tires felt very sturdy in rough places where I was hauling the bike over tortuous rocks. I’m sure I would have whacked narrower rims out of true in some of those places. So I generally prefer fatbikes for all kind of off-road touring, not just snow and sand. They aren’t the fastest bikes around but on my trips an extra 5% speed on the flats isn’t going to make much of a difference. It’s the rough spots that really add to the time and that is where a fatbike shines.

I have dreamed and measured up my own fatbike frame that I may get a local frame builder to build up for me if I ever get the disposable funds. It would be a symmetrical 135 mm build, not offset like the Pug. Surly uses the 135 mm offset to prevent chain rub on the fat tires when in the lower gears of the rear cassette. But if I run only an internally geared hub then the chain would never be shifting and this would shave off quite a bit of space. The only downside is that you’d be limited to IGH’s and single speed setups, which is not a problem for me because I really dislike using derail-yours on my bushwhacking bikes. Without fail they bend and cause headaches.

This ideal setup could accept even a Surly Lou tire (5”) on the back. The advantage of making it symmetrical in the back is that it is easy to swap out the front and rear wheels, with the symmetrical Surly Moonlander fork I’d be running up front which can accept the largest Surly Bud tire for snowbiking (the true Surley Pugsley fork is offset to allow for swapping with the back, but it will only accept up to a Nate sized tire – 4” or 1 inch narrower. Apparently you can squeeze in a Big Fat Larry but I don’t think there’s much clearance). The other advantage of running symmetrical is that I could swap in more traditional narrow 29” tires (you can’t do this with an offset rim because you don’t get enough dish with the spokes to allow for a strong wheel build – you need a wide rim to allow for offset spoke holes, and a wide rim will not accept a narrower tire). That way I could have one ultimate expedition bike that I could use for any tour, fat or not.

So it seems to be coming together well, and Mark got his fatbike that he loves for beach combing. It all seems to work out in the end…I’ll add more info and photos when it’s actually finished.


Salsipuedes Canyon by Fatbike

Just a quick Note. Tomorrow I go into Mexico and I’ll start my fatbiking trip down the Salsipuedes Canyon. I started a couple forum threads on it so you can read those, I don’t have much time right now. Also you can follow my progress on my Spot GPS page from the link on the right.

http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=70746

http://forums.mtbr.com/fat-bikes/salsipuedes-canyon-fatbike-891993.html


Bridge River Recon Part 3 — Chilcotin Mountains Park

The next morning I went into Gold Bridge.

DSC_4744_000

The east end of Downton Lake at the dam

There is only one store in town, which was closed for restocking. I wanted some gas and apparently the other small town of Bralorne, 10 km up the hill to the south, had some.

DSC_4770_002

I went up there but there was no one around, so I went back down, having used up some gas unnecessarily. But Bralorne is an interesting little mining / tourism town. Mountain biking is big here.

DSC_4765_001

Apparently they produce a kg brick every few weeks.

I decided I’d spend a night or two up in Chilcotin Mountains Park above Gun Lake.

1 DSC_4772_000

Ready to head out. The insane flies sure helped the motivation to get moving. I saw on the map that the Lick Creek Trail went up into the mountains in a fairly straightforward path.

2 DSC_6450_025

I soon discovered that it was a short distance on the map for a reason — it was super steep!

3 DSC_4775_001

I pushed and pushed and pushed, huffed and puffed, uttered a few curses, strained and grunted and forced my bike up and over each obstacle. The trail was narrow, rutted, loose, and very steep — I guess that’s why it’s such a highly rated downhill ride. I passed one group of bikers heading down. I asked how far it was — I was barely a quarter of the way up. They were incredulous, as was I.

4 DSC_4777_002

Finally near the Lick Creek headwaters it levelled off a bit in this interesting yellow lichen-encrusted forest.

5 DSC_4779_003

I set my tent up here. Man, I have to say, that was the second most physically gruelling thing I have done in my life. I pulled my loaded bike up 900 m to 1920 m elevation, but the trail was so unbelievably steep I had to do the last 300 m of the climb twice — once with just my heavy gear, and once again with my bike and remaining gear. So I did 1200 m. I am so glad to have my body back.

6 DSC_6467_026

While in my tent eating dinner, I heard a large mammal outside.

7 DSC_6472_027

..

8 DSC_6479_001_005

While doing the final packing of my bike next morning, I happened to scan up and this funny-shaped tree stump caught my eye… He didn’t seem to be at all bothered by me. He just watched. Maybe he was following the deer that went by last night. It’s at times like this that I wish I had brought my dedicated wildlife lens, not the mid-telephoto zoom.

9 DSC_4783_005

I was packing up in the lower meadow in the centre, and the wolf was watching me from another meadow behind the trees on the very left. Also, you can’t really see it because it’s blown out, but there was a forest fire on the other side of the valley there.

10 DSC_4781_004

Another 150 m of climbing was in order for this morning to get over the pass into the next valley.

11 DSC_4785_006

..

12 DSC_4788_007

I had to take my pedals off, which really helped on the narrow trail. I was back to doing two loads…

13 DSC_4794_008

Amazingly, someone even brought a horse up here.

14 DSC_4795_009

From whence I came

15 DSC_4807_010

Finally, over the pass at 2050 m, looking down into the next valley I would descend a little ways into, then meet up with another trail heading right (east) up and out again over into the Pearson Valley.

I have quite a bit of video of the rest of the ride which I’ll add soon, but right now I have some more pressing things to sort out … details to come.

16 DSC_4809_011

My wolf friend was also using this trail.

17 DSC_4810_012

It was a shame I had to ride over his tracks but I had to move too.

18 DSC_4811_013

..

19 DSC_4818_014

The meadows going up over the pass to Pearson Creek were like paradise … except for the man-eating bugs.

20 DSC_4819_015

..

21 DSC_6504_029

..

22 DSC_6526_030

..

23 DSC_6537_031

At the time I didn’t appreciate it, because I was being eaten alive, but each of the alpine flowers had a whole community of insects associated with it. This place was like that wonderland you read about in ecology textbooks, with sunshine filtering through colourful meadow flowers, and all the birds and bees associated with them.

24 DSC_6545_032

..

25 DSC_6553_033

..

26 DSC_4822_016

Looking back at another 150 m of climbing to regain the elevation I had lost.

27 DSC_4827_017

Finally … lunch at the pass, and High Trail going down Pearson Creek.

28 DSC_6564_034

These little flowers have delicate colour patterns on their petals. You just don’t notice all the intricacies going on until you review the macro shots later. That’s a good lesson I think, to stop and smell the flowers in life. There’s lots more going on around you than you may realize.

29 DSC_6573_035

Stonecrop

30 DSC_6575_036

..

31 DSC_4829_018

I had 1000 m of descent ahead of me.

32 DSC_6618_037

I passed a couple going up (look closely). They were going to go down Lick Creek trail. They were only up for the day, so much less heavily loaded than I was. Everyone up here is super fit; how else do you get up here?

34 DSC_4838_019

..

35 DSC_4841_020

One of the more inviting trailheads I’ve come across in my tavels… but I was going down.

36 DSC_4842_021

Near the bottom of the hill, after all the mud and dust. That sure was a fun descent, but I screwed up my left thumb for a few weeks from all the braking I was doing. I loaded my bike too heavily; it was not performing as I would have liked. I passed another couple going up for a few days and I couldn’t believe how light their kit was. They had backpacks, and plus it helps to have two people, as much of the gear can be shared.

37 DSC_4850_022

I passed through more hot and dry grassy douglas fir stands.

38 DSC_4852_023

On the way driving back out, I went by this recent burn.

39 DSC_4854_024

All clean after my bath in Mowson Pond.


Bridge River Recon Part 2

Another day, another bike ride…

01-DSC_4506_000

I found this guy slithering down at the stream in the morning.

02-DSC_6333_032

I set off and soon came upon the first clearing and a deer. It had at least four sucking deer flies, two on its snout. Unfortunately for the deer, they can’t swat them off as easily as we can. Somehow they manage to survive without going crazy though. At least at night the flies go to sleep too. It didn’t take off so there must not be too many hunters up here.

03-DSC_4509_001

The road climbed up the north side of the valley. It was really hot in the blazing sun. But I knew that I only had about 400 m of climbing to do and it would only take a few hours so I plodded on. I was mostly pushing my bike.

04-DSC_4512_002

Then the character of the road changed. I was at the end of the forestry road and the beginning of the mining access road. It became narrower and more like a quad track, but still passable for a good 4X4 with a short wheelbase. That mountain is on the other side of the river I wanted to cross. I was actually hoping to get up on to the summit of that alpine plateau there, but I’d have to go way up the valley to get to terrain suitable to climb up.

05-DSC_4515_003

At the end of the road I found this!

06-DSC_4518_004

I’ll take it thanks!

07-DSC_4553_006

Here is a better view from the cabin, across the valley. The river is canyon-like here and too dangerous to cross. And there’s no way I’d be able to drag my gear up that slope. So I’d have to go up to the head of the valley where the river is flatter and the sidehill more gentle.

08-DSC_4550_005

A hundred meters past the cabin the road ends at a picturesque debris chute (which I didn’t take a picture of).

09-DSC_6348_034

The penstemon and lots of other flowers were in bloom. The river is glacier fed and silty and therefore not good for filtering as it would plug up the filter element. And it was cold too. But the little stream in the debris chute was clear and warm, not being glacier fed and tumbling down 500 m over black rocks roasting in the sun. It was warm enough that I could have a comfortable splash-bath.

10-DSC_6344_033

There are interesting hoodoos at the top of the debris chute. There are also some lakes above on the alpine plateau. That’s all whitebark pine at the higher levels. It grows thick here.

I decided to use the cabin as a home base to check out the valley. It was soon apparent that I wouldn’t be able to do my trip in the one week I had off, unfortunately. It would just be too hard to pull my bike up the valley. I thought the road went further up. Tomorrow I’d go hike up the valley to assess just how difficult it would be. So I spent the rest of the day R&Ring.

The flies are attracted to the heat so when I made dinner they were swarming all around and afterwards the stove was full of dead fly carcasses. It reminds me of a funny story from treeplanting in Alberta years ago. You’d think that being the foreman would be the best job — you don’t actually have to do any real work. It’s the planters who are out there grunting in the trenches. Well in northern Alberta our foreman whipped around on a quad checking everything out and hauling boxes of trees around. And of course, the horse flies and deer flies are attracted to heat and CO2 … both of which the quad was producing copious amounts of. So whenever he’d pull up he’d have this massive, I mean massive, cloud of horseflies following him and he couldn’t outrun them. It was pretty funny.

Anyhoo, that Thai Satay dinner was one of the best ones I’ve had in a while… everything seems to taste better when you are pushing hard and need the calories. It started to hit me how isolated I was. With the road closure I had the entire valley to myself. I was a good 60 km by road from the closest person, maybe 30 km as the crow flies if there were campers up in South Chilcotins Park to the north-east. It’s easy to write, “I was totally alone”, but a bit different to actually experience it. It wasn’t a bad feeling; just something I don’t often experience except on these little adventures I do. Few people get to experience that kind of isolation; it’s worthwhile to try to get it IMHO.

In the evening I lay down on my Thermarest on the plywood bed and listened to music on my iPhone. As it got dark I looked out the small window to vaguely see some stars poking through the trees. I wondered about what the chances were that those particular photons, merely a handful of the quadrillions of quadrillions produced by that star who knows how many light years away, happened to travel through so many unbelievably many kilometers, over such a long time, all the while ever-expanding and diluting in intensity to the square of the distance travelled, and somehow manage to get through the atmosphere, between the fir trees above the cabin, through the smudgy little window, and into my eyes and onto my retina, just at the moment I was thinking about them and looking. What journey must that be like from the photon’s perspective? Or is there such a thing as a photon’s perspective? Maybe that reality of the starlight making its way to my thoughts via my eyes only existed because my consciousness brought it into existence. If I wasn’t alive to observe it, was there even any starlight there to see? How is the star any different than me, if it’s all just “One”? I think I need to do some Buddhist practising out here on these trips…

And now back to “reality”:

11-DSC_4625_016

The next morning (well, more like lunch time) I hiked up the valley. There is a deer trail that is fairly easy to follow. Basically you keep as close to the edge of the river canyon as you can and you’ll find the trail if you lose it. I was encouraged to see that the terrain wasn’t all that difficult, except for a few tricky areas that wouldn’t be too much of a problem.

12-DSC_4556_007

The trail alternated between forested areas and open clearings like this.

13-DSC_4561_008 ..

14-DSC_4571_009

In places I would have been able to ride my bike.

15-DSC_4592_012

Stonecrop likes the dry areas.

16-DSC_4615_015

Looking across to the west side of the valley. That green meadow really is a meadow. It’s like your front lawn.

17-DSC_4583_011

The light green areas are the grassy meadows, easy to walk through. But these are interspersed with willow thickets that get up to head height, substantially more difficult to walk through. Not a problem if you’re just walking but pushing a bike would be a bit more of a challenge. But if you took your pedals off and turned your handlebars it should be do-able.

18-DSC_4581_010

Looking up to the head of the valley.

19-DSC_4594_013

The willow got thicker as I went further up the valley. I went about as far as I felt like going and did some more assessment of the hike up to the alpine. I’d cross the river around here on my packraft and then hike up through the forest at the far end. The willow looked thick, but at least it’s not spiny like devil’s club. The vegetation here is all pretty benign.

20-DSC_6371_035

I’d go through the forest and emerge in that meadow at the top left.

21-DSC_6391_036

The flies were driving me nuts but I took out my macro lens and managed to pull a few shots off. If I stayed still for more than five seconds they’d attack me.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I have put together a video montage of my trip up the valley, including some narration from myself.

.. 22-DSC_4607_014 I hiked back down the deer trail to the cabin. One person with a saw and clippers could clear a nice trail up that valley in one day. I was disappointed that I couldn’t do my circuit, but what did I expect? I’d never been here before. This was a good scoping-out trip and if I had two weeks I would have been able to do it. Hopefully in September I might be able to get time off and do it then. Otherwise, next year. Unnamed Valley ..

23-DSC_4637_017

The next morning I headed back down.

24-DSC_4643_018

I was going to try to get all the way back to the car. That was almost 50 km, with 1300 m of descent and 300 m of climbing.

25-DSC_6400_037

Looking back up to the upper Bridge River. There is a big icefield up there.

26-DSC_4659_019

At lower elevations I went through these nice grassy park-like lodgepole pine stands.

27-DSC_4665_020 ..

28-DSC_4683_021

Fresh wolf prints were left on my tire tracks from two days before. The grizzly tracks were gone, suggesting that when I saw them they were fresh. I felt like Mantracker, analysing all the tracks I was seeing.

29-DSC_4688_022

Looking back up the Bridge River. It was like paradise.

30-DSC_4694_023

There’s even some ponderosa pine here, which likes it hot and dry.

31-DSC_4701_024

This is western white pine.

32-DSC_6409_038

There’s lots of wildlife even up here at these higher elevations.

33-DSC_4706_025

At the Bridge River Bridge is this new building which seems to be some kind of a camp. I took refuge from the bugs there and had some peanut butter on mango.

34-DSC_4721_026

There were also some more bear tracks here, but this time going my direction so I was coming up behind him. They weren’t very big though.

35-DSC_4731_027 .. 36-DSC_6439_039 It was a long day but the kilometer countdown to the car kept me going.

37-DSC_4733_028

Finally I got to Jamie Creek.

38-DSC_4734_029

Big steel pipe with 1 inch thick walls.

39-DSC_4735_030

I made it back!

40-DSC_4740_031

Right across the road was some seepage where I could fill my bottles without filtering.

Here is another video montage of the trip back down, including a demonstration of how to get your bike over a penstock.

..


Bridge River Recon, Part 1

Like usual I scrambled to get out Saturday morning, not leaving till after lunch. I really need to get packed up a week beforehand so I can just do a final check the morning of, and go.

01-DSC_4359_000

At Pemberton I turned west and headed up the valley bottom to then turn right onto the Hurley Forest Service Road, which is a fairly rough gravel road that leads northwards over the mountains to Gold Bridge.

02-DSC_6283_001

Looking back to the thunderstorm that was engulfing Pemberton and areas east. I was worried this might start some forest fires.

03-DSC_6282_002

The Pemberton Valley is scenic potato country.

04-DSC_4363_003

The Lillooet River goes down the Pemberton Valley, feeding Lillooet Lake before becoming a river again and joining the Fraser River near Chilliwack, via Harrison Lake. It would be an interesting circuit to bikeraft someday.

05-DSC_4372_004

The Pemberton Valley as seen from The Hurley.

06-DSC_6287_005

Looking back down to the Pemberton Valley with cows in the fields.

07-DSC_4381_006

First views of Downton Lake as I descended the other side of The Hurley.

Unfortunately when I got to the Bridge Main going westwards along the lake there were signs saying that the road was closed at km 16.5 due to a run-of-river project under construction.

08-DSC_4387_007

Near the run-of-river works, as far as I could go in the car.

09-DSC_6306_008

Looking west down Downton Lake, which is actually a reservoir with a dam at its east end.

So I camped in my car at the side of the road a kilometer back. The next morning I spent a couple hours getting my stuff together and noticed that I forgot to pack my morning oatmeal packets! I always manage to forget something. At least this wasn’t critical and I brought excess other food. I finally set off and rode up to the construction site. I immediately met the site safety supervisor who helped me drag my bike under the penstock and up the other side. Here is a video of me riding my bike up to the site and talking like a chipmunk. Unfortunately I didn’t keep the video on as I went under the penstock, which would have been the most interesting part.

..

10-DSC_4393_009

The 300+ year old douglas firs being perfunctorily cleared and thrown at the side of the road to make way for the powerline right of way.

11-DSC_4406_010

A better look at the substantial run-of-river project scarring the landscape.

12-DSC_4407_011

What all the interest is about: Jamie Creek, which presumably doesn’t have any fish in it.

13-DSC_4408_012

Once over the penstock, I was off. And I had the whole place to myself.

The ground and soil was wet from recent rainstorms. There were butterflies lapping it up and I rode through bursts of colour. I didn’t take any photos though since I was tight on time and their colours didn’t show when they were on the ground with closed wings.

14-DSC_6312_013

I was stopping every few minutes to eat copious amounts of thimbleberries, which are very sweet and tasty. And there were a few wild raspberries too. Maybe there would be enough berries to make up for my missing breakfast oatmeal.

Here is a GoPro mount on the front fork. It’s a shaky spot but a good view. I’ll have to mount it more sturdily so it doesn’t vibrate.

..

Here are some more videos. I know they’re shitty but they give an idea of the terrain.

..

..

..

15-DSC_6315_014

Poor little bird with a broken wing. There wasn’t much I could do.

DSC_4723_000

..

16-DSC_4429_015

This is at the end of Downton Lake where it transitions to a delta. This is a small provincial park with lots of wildlife (but no bears this time of year). Boy I sure am skinny, eh. But that little body can do some amazing things…

The road began to climb… and climb. I was not thrilled about having to gain over 300 m and then lose most of it again to come back down to the river (although it’s all about expectations. I was expecting a nice flat leisurely riverside ride).

17-DSC_6322_016

On the descent I caught a glimpse of the Bridge River Bridge at 38 km.

18-DSC_4441_017

The views opened up to reveal the lush green valley. This is a really beautiful place.

19-DSC_4445_018

The tree species diversity here is high. It is in the dry douglas fir zone on the east side of the mountains. And since the valley runs east/west, on the north side of the valley you have plants adapted to heat and dryness, while on the south side you have more shade and moisture adapted species. Here on the valley bottom were some larch on the left, spruce on the right, and big douglas firs in the back right. In the foreground are thimbleberries. About the only tree species missing are hemlock and yellow cypress.

20-DSC_4449_019

Crossing the Bridge River. It is raging here.

21-DSC_4454_020

..

..

22-DSC_6325_021

The ride immediately got hotter as I was now on the north side of the valley in the blazing sun. I was really low on water and starting to cramp but thankfully there was a stream a half kilometer past the bridge.

23-DSC_4459_022

I plodded along and came upon this stash of diesel.

24-DSC_4461_023

This is Nichols Creek, which is the valley to the east of the unnamed valley I was going to go up. The bridge over this creek is in rough shape, I don’t know how much longer it will be drivable. That creek is too dangerous to cross without a bridge. And the road is deactivated at this point so if the bridge goes, who knows if it will be replaced.

25-DSC_4466_024

I just kept hammering in the heat. The scenery was very beautiful, but I can sometimes tune out where I am if I am doing intense physical activity. Here I had reached my limit and had to take a break to eat some food and drink some water. I was using Nuun electrolyte tablets in my water which seemed to be working and keeping the cramps away.

The flies were really bad. They were both deer flies, which are pretty big and take chunks out of you, and also smaller house fly-like things that, unlike house flies, bite you. I had to pitch my tent to get away from them for half an hour. While lying there looking at the swarm of flies on the screen of my tent, I noticed a deer fly preening his appendages. Then, seconds later, a wasp came by and grabbed him and ate him on the spot, on my tent. It only took a minute to turn that preening deer fly into mince meat.

This is what I ended up doing on any significant ascent:

..

I continued on and was concerned about bears. The problem was all these berries at the side of the road where a bear could be hiding, blissfully unaware of my approach until I was on top of him. And the wind was blowing against me, coming down from the mountains from the west, so a bear wouldn’t smell me. Plus the wind was noisy so he wouldn’t hear me either. My bear bell was pretty wimpy, and really more suited for hikers who move much more slowly. I yelled every time I approached a corner.

26-DSC_4469_025

I came upon this set of prints from the King of the Valley walking in the opposite direction I was riding, meaning I had already passed him. I’m not sure if he heard me coming and took off or just left the road before I came by. I guess I’ll never know… Luckily we didn’t meet. That was a BIG bear.

27-DSC_4471_026

With the road blocked off there was no vehicle traffic. The wheel tracks became highways for wildlife, covered with deer, wolf and bear tracks.

28-DSC_4476_027

I stopped to filter water at this idyllic little stream. You can’t really see it in this picture, but the flowers were really pretty.

29-DSC_4478_028

My loaded rig.

30-DSC_4483_029

I was mostly climbing in elevation, going up the northern side of the valley. This is looking back to where I came from.

31-DSC_4491_030

It is a very scenic valley.

32-DSC_4496_031

I called it quits for the day, about 5-10 km from the end of the road; I wasn’t quite sure how far it went. I found a nice spot where it levelled off and was near a stream. No worries about blocking traffic here…

33-DSC_4508_032

Camp just happened to be at the 52 km mark. I started at 15.5 km that morning, so I did 36.5 km that day. It was a hard ride though, with the heat (30 C +), and altitude (1100 m), and total elevation gain of about 800 m including the little escapade up and down the other side of the valley. Plus I had the weight of all my gear. I was pretty beat and didn’t sleep very well because of that.


Chilcotin Bikerafting Route

On Saturday Aug 3 I should be starting my 8 day bikerafting trip through the Chilcotins. Here is a route map:

Chilcotin Bikerafting Trip Route

I’ll start at the big yellow dot. The first part will be an alpine hike-a-bike (yellow) westwards over to a river valley heading north. Then I’ll packraft (red) a few kilometers down this. This enters the Lord River valley via a big steep waterfall, so I’ll have to bushwhack (yellow) a km or two down to the valley bottom. Then I’ll packraft 20 km northwards down the Lord River and the smaller lakes it goes through (red), finally emerging at the south end of Taseko Lake. From here there is an established trail (blue) going back to Gold Bridge via Warner Pass.

There should be lots of grizzlies and bugs, and epic views. The safe aspect is that I’ll be attempting the hard parts — hike-a-biking and packrafting — first, so if there are problems I will have time to get out. The very first part is up that side valley to the north of the Bridge River. The road goes further up than Google Earth shows, apparently. I found this report from a trip that headed east up from that valley into the alpine. I’ll be starting from the same place, but heading west up into the alpine. This photo was taken looking northwards, right around where the yellow dot is:

Looking back down to valley from which we ascended.

I tried to line up Google Earth with that:

Start of trip

I’ll head up the creek to the end, and then go left up the western fork up to the alpine. Then I’ll turn left and head west over the alpine. Doesn’t look too hard … I’ve said that before!

You can follow my progress on my Spot GPS map page. I’ll update it every night.

Here is my beast:

(no time to take a photo, I’m leaving in a couple hours — I’ll post em up after)

Front fork:

  • 2 water bottles
  • alcohol bottle
  • bear spray
  • water filter

Handle bars:

  • Tarptent Moment
  • two “Mountain Feedbag” stem bags with lunch inside
  • maps and other small items in the pocket in front of the tent

Frame:

  • “Gas Tank” bag on top tube which has my Nikon V1 and flash
  • frame bag has stove set, clothes, tool kit, and a few other things

Rear rack:

  • packraft goes on top, with paddles strapped to the sides
  • innertube and piece of spare tire are strapped to the rack mounts by the seat stays
  • tire pump mounted on top of rear fender by seat stays
  • Thermarest mounted under rear rack, wedged in above fender at the very back end of the bike

Pannier

  • food, some other clothes, electronics, all other miscellaneous stuff
  • Zipshot tripod mounted on rack / bike frame beside pannier

Other side of rack:

  • sleeping bag lashed directly to rack
  • solar panel mounted in an Ocean Spray bottle right beside this

May 25 to 28 — Long Beach, California to Alfonsinas, Mexico

This year my two week vacation was to Baja California with my friend Mark and his family in Long Beach. Kayaking the BC coast will have to wait until next year (but I am planning a big 8 day bikerafting trip through the Chilcotins in August, so stay tuned — hey, that’s in a week!)

1-DSC_5450_10

The flight goes right by Yosemite.

2-DSC_5456_22

Mark picked me up at LAX, then we ran some errands, including going down to the Marine Institute at Los Angeles Harbour…

4-DSC_2078_30

… to pick up a bottle of Nitrox we’d use to refill the tires at some point on the trip, after we leave the gravel and get back on pavement (for a smoother ride off road, you air down the tires. But this low pressure isn’t good on sealed roads).

3_DSC6314_23

First wildlife sighting of the trip.

5-DSC_2151_31

Long Beach

6_DSC6324_32

Feral parrots are still living in the palm trees at Belmont Pier in Long Beach, right where I used to live.

7-DSC_2197_33

Getting my stuff together at Mark’s house. We left 3:30 Sunday morning to avoid freeway traffic and to arrive at our destination not too late.

8-DSC_2227_34

We zoomed down to San Diego, then turned east on Interstate 8. Over the pass into the Imperial Valley is windy, and the turbines appeared against the sunrise.

9-DSC_5471_35

..

10-DSC_2238_00

Dieseling up at Calexico before crossing the border. I’m a conspiracy buff myself, but are they “chem”trails, or just “con”trails from water vapour from combustion in the plane’s engines? C6H14 + O2 –> CO2 + H20

11-DSC_2247_01

Marathon in Mexicali

12-DSC_2270_02

700 km later, we hit San Felipe for breakfast and did some tourist shopping. Here we are, stuck in traffic on the strip.

13-DSC_2296_03

They are paving the road all the way south from San Felipe. Very sad to see the gravel road go, that was a classic. They want “development”. The problem now is you can’t get off the highway down to the little coves we used to go to.

14-DSC_2326_04

Finally hitting gravel, and airing down. They have only gotten so far with the paving.

15-DSC_5496_05

Once across this arroyo with a bridge, the pavement will continue.

16-DSC_2409_06 touched up

Shortly afterwards (150 km from San Felipe) we got to Alfonsinas, which is a spit a few kilometers long that has a row of beachfront houses along it. Alongside the spit is a runway and many people fly in rather than drive.

17-DSC_2495_07 touched up

..

18-DSC_2393_08

At the end of the spit is a restaurant / hotel. But the tide was extremely high that afternoon so we couldn’t get over (that’s the runway submerged).

19-DSC_5584_09

Oh darn, we had to wait it out on the beach.

20-DSC_5514_11

..

22_DSC6369_13

Quincy

21-DSC_5586_12

Finally … dinner.

22-DSC_2408_14

Looking back down the spit from the restaurant

23_DSC6435_15

..

24_DSC6468_16

Frigate

26-DSC_2551_18

These gigantic 2″ wasp things were quite common most places we went.

27-DSC_2562_19

We didn’t have a proper bike rack so we just lashed my bike to the front grill. I thought I had put padding on all the rub points…

28-DSC_4058_20

Damn! Missed one! Ouch! That was nasty, but it didn’t seem to be in a critical location. The perils of owning an aluminum bike…

29-DSC_2592_21

It rides very well on the sand, much better than on snow. The tidal range here is huge, wider than anywhere I’ve seen.

..

..

This one is shorter:

..

25-DSC_2584_17

The palapa I set my tent up in. There are a few reasons it is open on this side, and closed on the other. One is the view of the beach, and the other is…

30-DSC_2579_24

That evening, all of a sudden, the winds shifted from a nice gentle sea breeze to coming from the desert, blowing out off the interior. It got stinking hot and ferocious for most of the night. I got to set my brand new tent up in the dark, for the first time, in the windy palapa. I was peppered with a fine dusting of sand that made it through the thatch.

Here are a couple pieces of video stitched together showing the wind and the sand dollars (I don’t have the resources right now to turn them into little movies):

..

31-DSC_2421_25

The sand dollars are a little different down here.

32-DSC_2527_26

Up from the beach at the road is a store / restaurant. We were sitting there eating dinner when this monstrosity pulled up.

35-DSC_2614_29

It was John and Betti from the UK! They shipped it over to Halifax and drove around Canada in winter, then made their way south through the US. They had just entered Mexico en route to South America. One of the first things he said to me was, “You must really love the sun!” If you’ve seen me in Mexico you actually haven’t seen much of me, because I cover up. You don’t want to mess with skin cancer! There’s a reason the Arabs wear sheets. I’m a pasty northerner, I’m not sand people.

34-DSC_2532_28

It’s a Mercedes fire truck that he converted over. He made the box himself.

33-DSC_2528_27

Being from the UK, he really doesn’t like Range Rovers. Of course, a whole pack of them pulled up beside us.

We spent a few days at Alfonsinas with some of Mark’s friends from work, and their friends, all marine biology people (all Colombian too). They weren’t going further south though since they didn’t have the time or proper vehicles for it.


Ring Pass, Attempt #2

It was the July 1st long weekend, time to try crossing over Ring Pass again from the Callaghan Valley to the Squamish Valley. I sold my Mukluk fat bike to my friend Mark in California (story to come) so I took my regular mountain bike instead.

This time I drove my electric car up. I went up Thursday evening in the dark and the rain. I brought my generator with me so I was a little careless about wasting battery, and I didn’t even start with a full charge. I camped at the Chase Main where it meets the highway (where the road up to Cloudburst Mountain starts from). The generator wasn’t working properly and after 20 minutes I checked my batteries. It wasn’t charging them, it was draining them! I went from 25 km range left to 15 km! And it was 30 km into Whistler! Luckily I had my iPhone so I could check the internet for towing companies. I wasn’t looking forward to an expensive tow the next morning and I curled up in the front seat at 3 a.m. for 2 hours of uncomfortable sleep.

1-DSC_4100_10

I awoke at the break of dawn at 5 a.m. to a train rumbling by. I decided I’d just crawl along the highway and see how far I got.

..

2_DSC7504_11

Amazingly I got to Whistler Creekside! I pulled into a restaurant at 6:30 and plugged in for 20 minutes. This is the view up Whistler Mountain while I waited.

I felt kind of awkward with the morning guy inside probably wondering why I was plugged into his outlet so I risked the remaining 5 km over to downtown Whistler where there is a proper charger.

I carefully drove that section and as I pulled into the parking lot I lost power, the car totally died. I turned into the closest stall and … I shit you not … it had a plug beside it! What are the chances? It was just a regular 120 V plug, but good enough. I had to charge it for an hour and a half before the thing would even let me move it. But at least I avoided an embarrassing and expensive tow.

4-DSC_4115_37

Then I went down to the free Level 2 charger at the City Hall. There are also 4 more chargers across the street in the Day Lots (beside those trees on the very left), which are a bit more secluded and shaded. I’ll go there next time.

So I could have made it to Whistler no problem if I hadn’t blared my radio most of the way, had started with a full charge, and hadn’t wasted 10 km with my broken generator!

It would be another 5 hours for a full charge so I went for a little ride around the Whistler trails. There are tons and they range from easy to more technical but I didn’t do too many technical ones. This was just to scope out my bike and gear and deal with any issues. I had just gotten a frame bag which turns out to be too small, but it still works, and a “gas tank” bag that goes on the top tube. My Nikon V1 fits in there perfectly.

5-DSC_4116_38

Lost Lake with most of my gear, minus my packraft and snowshoes and pfd.

..

6-DSC_4121_39

..

I finally did some basic video editing but the free Windows Movie Maker software sucks. I’m going to get the Cyberlink Power Director which is much better. But here is a sample of the video I typically get, which is pretty poor quality (the original HD is really nice). This is just the raw footage. Actually making a movie will have to wait until I get my new computer and software sorted out.

..

This mount under the down tube really works. I’ll try to move the camera over a bit to the right so the tire isn’t right in the middle and you can better see where I’m going. It’s a lot harder to mount a GoPro camera on a bike than you’d think. The issue is vibrations, so it needs to be very sturdy, on a short mount. Plus, anything on the front wheel or handlebars swings too much from left to right. So what are you left with? The down tube, and your chest, basically, and a few other interesting locations that don’t really show the view out the front. Plus when you are loaded with bikepacking gear that obstructs a lot of the views.

7-DSC_4127_40

This is “disc golf”, whatever that is. Probably some weird legacy from the Olympics.

..

8-DSC_4129_41

In summer Whistler turns into a mountain biking mecca.

By 1 in the afternoon my car was ready to go, and 5 hours in Whistler Village is more than enough, so I was off, with 11 bars out of 12 on the battery charge. I was heading for the Rubble Creek parking lot at the base of the Black Tusk hike. It is a provincial park so the lot would be good for parking. And I only used 2 bars to get there from Whistler! It’s mostly downhill.

9-DSC_4133_42

Since I got there on Friday afternoon before a Monday long weekend I got the best spot in the lot — shaded all day, which is important for keeping the car from turning into an oven which is not good for the batteries.

I was off by 3 and headed 8 km up the highway to the Callaghan Valley.

10-DSC_4138_00

Along the way, the Cheakamus River was raging over the Daisy Lake dam.

11-DSC_4139_01

At Brandywine Falls there was this map showing the historical native bands. It described them as being excellent mountaineers. I wondered how I’d compare on this trip…

12_DSC7510_02

It was very lightly raining the whole way which kept me nice and cool.

When I got to the gravel mainline up the valley the rain picked up, and it got steeper. This meant I went slower. And the mosquitos were insane. That’s one way to push yourself up a hill faster — trying to outrun a cloud of mosquitos! I was maintaining 6 km/hr but that wasn’t enough. 10 km/hr is needed. After an hour the road got less steep so I was able to outrun them.

13-DSC_4144_03

Taking a few seconds off from swatting mosquitos to look back down the road.

..

14_DSC7511_04

..

15-DSC_4152_05

At one point I stumbled onto a big black bear 50 m down the road. He took off into the bushes.

..

17-DSC_4165_07

I got to Callaghan Lake and there were a couple other cars there with campers.

..

18_DSC7512_08

Callaghan Lake in the rain

I felt pretty proud about fitting all my gear onto my bike; it’s so compact and light … yet functional. I’ve put a lot of thought into getting that gear weight down and I’m noticing the results. I even had my packraft, snowshoes, and pfd on there. But there’s still some weight savings to go…

16-DSC_4164_06

I set up camp, had dinner, and then went to bed.

I should also mention how my body is turning into a machine. I am amazing myself at how fast I can climb up the hills. All that cycling and Grouse Grind training is paying off. Just put food in, and I get climbing out. It’s good to have my body back. The good part about being up here is that it’s mostly over 1000 m elevation so I get some mild altitude training.

19-DSC_4167_09

The worst bear cache ever, but at least it got the bags off the ground.

The next morning was partially sunny and I decided to go for a little jaunt on Callaghan Lake. The outflowing river is right beside the campsite.

20_DSC7515_12

..

21-DSC_4170_13

..

22-DSC_4172_14

..

23-DSC_4176_15

All the pollen was collecting at this end of the lake.

..

24-DSC_4180_16

..

25-DSC_4193_17

The exit from Callaghan Lake

26-DSC_4205_18

..

27-DSC_4214_19

Thick pollen

..

28-DSC_4216_20

I packed up and headed for the trail I took three months earlier in the snow. Unfortunately it was still half covered in snow, and the trail was narrow and tortuous through the mud and roots.

..

29-DSC_4220_21

I lugged my bike through a few kilometers of that before finally hitting the main service road up.

..

30-DSC_4221_22

That was much better, but the further I went up, the more snow-covered it was, and it was not easy lugging my bike over the snow.

This is me lugging my bike over the snow.

At the 11 km mark (Callaghan Lake is at about 8 km) I decided to switch over to the packraft but there were still bare patches so it wasn’t straightforward at all. Plus all that red algae stuff that grows on melting snow was accumulating on the bottom of the raft and making it sticky.

31-DSC_4229_23

I got to the lodge and turned off the trail towards Conflict Lake. I could see that on the other side there were lots of bare patches, being south facing, and that was where I would be going up towards Ring Pass. I could see that the final push up to Ring Lake was very steep and there was no way I’d be able to do it in the time I had. Damn! Thwarted again!

So I decided to set up camp there above Conflict Lake, which was nice. But there weren’t any good spots, and I didn’t want to camp on the snow, it would be too cold.

32-DSC_4230_24

But wait! I have an inflatable mattress!

..

33-DSC_4231_25

Perfect!

..

34-DSC_4246_26

..

35_DSC7522_27

Ring Pass. Someday I’ll get there… Maybe in September when there’s no snow.

..

36-DSC_4251_28

..

37_DSC7529_29

The next day I headed back down, along a different trail, the lower “Wild Spirit” trail, which is a rough road suitable for quads. It was hot that day.

..

38-DSC_4279_30

Summer had sprung.

..

39-DSC_4280_31

The farther down I got, the hotter it got and the more luxurient the forest became.

This is me riding down a steep section.

..

And the chest mount, which is a bit shakier.

..

40-DSC_4294_33

Very pleasant riding through 10 km of old growth cypress / balsam / hemlock.

..

41-DSC_4299_34

Black Tusk over Callaghan Creek

..

42-DSC_4295_35

Alexander Falls. It’s pretty big.

..

43-DSC_4303_36

The final 3 km was the steep push up to the parking. The lot was very busy, being a summer long weekend. I timed that well. I decided to push myself as hard as I could up the hill, for training purposes, because I had no more cycling to do after that. It was really hot.

I was pretty disgusting after all that so I went and took a bath in Rubble Creek. Except it was just above freezing. The air was 30 degrees and the water was basically zero. I couldn’t even hold my hands in it, it was too painful. But I could stand in it, and I splashed the water over myself. Man that felt good.

I made it back home with 1 bar left on the batteries, no probs. Hopefully soon they will get the chargers installed at Squamish. They have them everywhere now, except the one place you need them — Squamish. Go figure.


Taking on Big Oil … And Winning

I made a submission to the National Energy Board’s Northern Gateway Advisory Panel back in February. I didn’t post my speech here because the energy situation has become so grave and depressing I feel it’s tainting my blog with negativity. However, a few people have asked to see what I said (and I wish I had stuck an audio recorder in my pocket — it was a pretty powerful speech I gave, starting off with a bit of trepidation which turned into forcefulness, frustration, and anger rising over the ten minutes to its peak when they cut me off). Here is the transcript I read from … very quickly. The only change I’d make is that it wouldn’t require North America’s entire proven reserves of natural gas to extract and refine the oil sands, it would only require half. And this would be mitigated by advancements in increasing the net external energy return, which is the net energy return adjusted for internally produced and process gas that is liberated from bitumen extraction and can be used in place of externally imported natural gas. Also, North America no longer imports half the oil it consumes. It’s now down to 1/3 as a result of falling consumption and increased production.

The Northern Gateway propaganda seems to have ended so it seems we may have been successful in thwarting the pipeline … for now. We’ll have to wait and see what happens after the US dollar hyperinflates and China emerges with the new reserve currency. Then they may be dictating whatever they want to us. On the other hand, America will still maintain its war machine, reserve currency or not, and I don’t think China would be interested in messing with that. So it seems more likely that America will just force control of the oil sands to supply North America instead, which seems like a much more sensible option.

It also seems that they may instead try to pursue the rail option to ship bitumen to Alaska ports instead. This would pose less of a risk for pipeline spills because the bitumen would be solid in the rail cars. But it would need to be heated up again at the port to reliquify it which would require further energy inputs. It also doesn’t address the sovereignty issue of our country’s assets being controlled by communists. Thanks for that, Stephen Harper!

Hello, thank you for listening to me. I am a soon-to-be Professional Mechanical Engineer (currently an EIT) with one year left until full accreditation. I am bound by APEGBC’s Code of Ethics, whose first line states that:

“Members … shall uphold the values of truth, honesty and trustworthiness and safeguard human life and welfare and the environment. In keeping with these basic tenets, members and licensees shall:

(1) hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, and the protection of the environment…”

Since my professional specialization is in designing pipelines and factories, and doing energy analyses for power plants, I am therefore obligated by my professional code of ethics to comment on the danger presented to the public and the environment by the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.

One of my first thoughts when I heard of this pipeline idea was to question why we are proposing to export oil from North America, when North America is already a major oil importer. In fact, if you go to the BP Statistical Review, you’ll see that North America as a whole imports 3.2 billion barrels of oil a year. This is a full 10% of global oil production, of 31 billion barrels.

So why on earth are the Alberta oil companies proposing to EXPORT oil from North America, when North America already imports half of the oil it consumes? Well, because we can fetch a higher price in the Asian market than in North America, that’s why. Why is that? Because North America supposedly has a “glut” of oil. But if we have a “glut” of oil here, then why do we need to import half of what we consume? This doesn’t make sense.

The answer to that paradox lies in the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In other words, oil is traded in dollars, and this enables the US to maintain extraordinary trade deficits, which are mostly composed of oil imports.

Now, this situation is all fine and dandy, as long as oil continues to be traded in dollars. But if you’ve been paying attention lately, the US Federal Reserve has officially announced that it will engage in unlimited monetary stimulus in an attempt the jumpstart the US economy. What this really means is that US debt is spiralling out of control and the only way they can service it is to print infinite amounts of dollars. This money printing will not end until the dollar’s value is destroyed through hyperinflation over the next few years.

In order to maintain the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency over the last few decades, the Federal Reserve has been suppressing gold prices, since cultures outside of North America value gold as a monetary asset, but the US wants them to hold dollars instead. The Chinese know this, which is why they have been buying up all of America’s historical gold stockpiles at artificially low prices. What this means is that when the US dollar hyperinflates and other countries reject it as payment for international transactions, then China will come out backing its currency with gold. Then China will have the new global reserve currency. THIS is why Alberta wants this pipeline built to China.

When this shift happens, the US will no longer be able to import 13% of global oil production anymore, and US oil consumption will necessarily drop by half. When this happens, the supposed “glut” of oil in North America will overnight turn into an extreme shortage. I am therefore wondering how further starving North America of vital energy resources is in any way “in the public interest”. We need the oil here. It’s our oil, not China’s.

Now, one could respond to this imminent shortage of oil in North America by proclaiming that, “No Problem, when this happens, we’ll just produce more oil here in North America to take up the slack. There is vast amounts in the Canadian oil sands and US oil shales, enough for centuries of supply.”

Actually, this is not so. In fact, US oil production peaked back in 1971 and has been dropping pretty much steadily ever since, despite all the media hype about the tight shale oil explosion in the Bakken. Those numbers are not significant in the grand scheme of things, and they merely offset declines from existing fields. Today, on a per capita basis, the US produces half the oil it did 40 years ago. This is a direct result of the phenomenon of Peak Oil. The US peaked 40 years ago, and now the world is at Peak Oil today.

“Again, No problem! Right? The Alberta oil sands will become the new Saudi Arabia, and we’ll be able to supply the world with oil for decades to come, and become one of the wealthiest countries as a result! Just like Saudi Arabia did!”

Yet again, this is not so. If you go look at the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board’s annual report (this is the branch of the Alberta government that overseas the energy sector), on page 2 of that multi-hundred page document, you will see that the entire recoverable Alberta oil sands deposit amounts to 170 billion barrels. The entire underground resource is 1.8 trillion barrels, but only about 10% of this is actually recoverable as real oil. The estimated ultimate recovery is 315 billion barrels, which supposedly accounts for future technological advances and price increases.

These numbers sound big, but in fact the entire recoverable Alberta oil sands deposit, according to the Alberta government, represents SIX YEARS of global oil consumption. And would you believe that the Alberta oil sands deposit represents about a quarter of the world’s remaining oil reserves? Therefore, the world’s current oil reserves will last maybe another 30-40 years, at current consumption rates.

“But we’ll be discovering LOTS more oil in the future, right?” No, unfortunately, global oil discovery rates are vastly below consumption rates. All the best deposits have already been creamed out. We are now left with difficult, slow, and expensive oil deposits in the Arctic or deep ocean, and of course the Alberta and Venezuela oil sands.

From this it can be understood that the reason there has been such focus placed on the Alberta oil sands lately is NOT because it is a particularly good oil deposit. It’s actually pretty poor quality. Rather, there has been so much focus because the world is rapidly running out of light sweet crude. This is why oil prices have risen so much over the last few years, and these high prices are necessary to make the Alberta oil sands activities economically viable.

In fact, global oil production rates have not increased in over 7 years, despite prices more than doubling over that period. This is the ultimate proof that the world is at, or very near, Peak Oil.

The reason the Alberta oil sands deposits require such high oil prices is twofold. Firstly, it isn’t oil – it’s solid bitumen, like pavement. This has to be refined into oil. The processes required to do this are complex and capital intensive, and therefore expensive. Secondly, they require vast amounts of external energy to be brought in to do the work of both extracting and upgrading the bitumen into synthetic crude oil.

If you look at the Royal Society of Canada’s recent multi-hundred page report on the oil sands, you will see that these processes require natural gas inputs of about 1/5th of the energy contained in the final produced oil. Therefore, the Alberta oil sands deposits have a net energy return of 5:1. You have to put in 1 unit of energy, and you get 5 out. This compares with historical light sweet crude, of which the world is now rapidly running out, with about 100:1 or even 200:1 net energy return.

These numbers highlight the historical trends in oil extraction. We’ve always gone for the deposits with the highest net energy return first, and we’ve since worked our way down to the poorest quality reserves which we’re now left with. This 5:1 net energy return ratio will continue to drop as the best oil sands deposits get developed first.

But the problem here is that you can only go so low. There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, so when we approach a net energy return of 1:1, that oil sand will not be available to us as a source of energy. In fact, in order to provide enough surplus energy to run the rest of society, a minimum net energy return of about 4:1 is required, which is pretty close to where we are now. This is why the vast expanses of Colorado oil shale are not recoverable as a source of energy, and why production rates there are effectively zero, despite there being trillions of barrels of oil-equivalent kerogen solids underground — it’s not oil.

Currently, according to the website of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the easy-to-produce deposits of natural gas are in decline. And when you do the number crunching, it turns out that in order to process the entire recoverable oil sands deposit of 300 billion barrels would require more than the entire proven North American natural gas reserves of about 300 trillion cubic feet.

The fantastic claims made in the media about how North America has centuries of natural gas left are pure fabrication. These refer to the total underground resource, not the recoverable reserves. Furthermore, when oil production soon begins declining, then consumption of natural gas will inevitably increase to compensate.

So then, how are we as a continent responding to the Peak Oil problem? Well, we’re trying to dig it out of the ground and export it even faster, leaving us with even less oil in the future!

I suggest that this is not in the best interests of our country, nor our children’s future, nor even our own future, because these oil shortages are happening right now, not merely decades down the road. Simply adapting to less energy in the future when we run out of oil will not be a feasible strategy, because there is a certain minimum amount of energy needed to maintain complex modern society.

The unfortunate problem we face is that on a global scale, 1/5th of global energy use, according to the FAO, is dedicated to food production and processing. In order to produce 1 Calorie of food in North America requires about 7 Calories of fossil fuel inputs. Food comes from fossil fuels. Without fossil fuels, or an equivalent energy substitute, it will not be possible to maintain 7 billion people on the planet. Therefore, we have no choice – we MUST replace fossil fuels with alternative energy before they run out, or quite simply most of the world will starve. We currently appropriate about 20 % of the planet’s net primary production for food and biofuels. Without external energy inputs such as from fossil fuels, we would easily push this well beyond 100%, which is not possible. We have overshot the planet’s carrying capacity by about 5 fold.

On a global basis, 97% of global energy supply comes from burning complex carbon molecules, which includes fossil fuels, biofuels, and food. The other 3% of global energy supply comes from the so-called renewables of nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. So clearly, alternative energy has a long way to go to make a dent in overall energy supply. Given that we are at Peak Oil today, we really ought to be intensively developing renewable energy systems right now.

Are we? Basically, no. Hydro is nowhere near capable of replacing fossil fuels on a continent-wide basis; it’s a no-go because we’ve already dammed the best rivers.

Timed out here…

But the problem in North America is that we have a cultural infatuation with economic growth. Currently, in Canada, that economic growth comes primarily from increasing unsustainable fossil fuel extraction activities. Therefore, Canada’s economy is growing at a rate greater than the increases in contributions from renewable energy such as hydro, wind and solar. We are becoming EVEN MORE dependent on fossil fuels, not less! At a time when the world is running out of fossil fuels!

The problem we face is that it requires energy to build out renewable energy infrastructure. Currently, that comes from fossil fuels. I have to ask what we are going to use for energy when it comes time to develop renewable energy systems in a big way, once we’ve sold all our oil to China and we desperately need what little fossil fuels we still do retain for food production.

This is why economic growth built around exporting our remaining oil deposits overseas is not in any way in the national interest. Our national interest is in keeping these precious energy reserves here and using them to build out a renewable energy infrastructure before it’s too late.

Thank you.


Snowbiking The Callaghan, Whistler

Since my last bikepacking trip up Cloudburst Mountain was so much fun I was itching to get out and try it again. That was a circle route up over the pass and back around the mountain. So I spent some more time poring over Google Earth and found out that there aren’t a whole lot of other opportunities like that for circle routes in that area because most mountains are just too tall.

I went to MEC to get some real maps and discovered that there is a route leading from the Callaghan Valley (near Whistler) that goes west over a pass by Ring Lake and then down logging roads into the Squamish Valley. Great, I’ll just have to wait until August…

But … I just got my snow bike… so I can handle some snow. It won’t do powder but packed trails are OK. And I also have snowshoes, and a new packraft. So I decided to plan an adventure for March instead. My hope was that if the skies were clear the snow would be crusty enough that I could ride my bike over the pass if I got up early in the morning before it started to thaw. That’s super simple to do and I could easily cover 20 km a day if it’s crusty.

(I was planning to make a movie of this trip instead of a writeup but it just takes too long with the free Windows Movie Maker software. So I’ll just post some raw footage here; otherwise I’d never get it done. I don’t even have time to sort out the videos right now, actually. I have other posts that I want to focus my time on so I’ll just leave space here for them and add at a later time.)

I was super stoked to be trying out my new gear. My three day weekend of March 22 was coming up fast and the weather forecast was for glorious sunshine the whole weekend. I spent all my spare time the previous week working fast and furiously to get the kit together. It’s amazing how much stuff there was to do and I couldn’t possibly manage to get out of the house until late Friday morning.

01-DSC_5008_00

Fresh powder across from Brittania Beach

02-DSC_5009_01

..

03-DSC_5010_02

A little further along, coming into Squamish and this view of Mount Garibaldi

04-DSC_1040_03

Above the highway, looking back down the Cheakamus Valley towards Squamish and Vancouver. The Squamish Valley merges from the right just over that hill. I was hoping to end the circle tour by packrafting down the Squamish to where you’re looking, and riding my bike back up the Cheakamus below to further up the valley where I’d park my car.

Video at rest stop.

I’ve never been to the Callaghan Valley before, which is an outdoor recreation area. It has the ski jump from the 2010 Winter Olympics, which apparently rarely gets used now. They punched a paved road way up the valley for that, which makes access easier, but at the same time just constitutes more “development” of our remaining wild areas. When will it stop? When will Whistler stop growing?

05-DSC_1041_04

That’s Cloudburst Mountain! That I never actually saw last time when I circumnavigated it.

06-DSC_1050_05

..

07-DSC_5011_06

Tired of looking at Cloudburst Mountain yet?

08-DSC_5012_07

I ended up parking in a big lot at the valley bottom, beside the Whistler garbage transfer station, that snowmobilers use. The guy charged me $10 for two nights, half the normal rate for snowmobilers because I wasn’t snowmobiling. Finding overnight parking up the Callaghan Valley is particularly tough apparently, especially in winter.

09-DSC_1057_08

Ready to go on my first winter bikepacking trip.

I headed up the 8 km paved road, starting at 500 m and finishing at the cross country ski area an hour and a half later, up at 800 m.

10-DSC_1086_09

Looking up the road. It was fairly busy.

11-DSC_5021_10

Looking back across the Cheakamus to the ever watchful Black Tusk (2400 m) towering over the whole area.

12-DSC_1087_11

The road crosses the Callaghan River.

I had called earlier to confirm if I could come up and Kim came out to see me as soon as she saw I was there. They were a bit worried when I told them of my plans, especially since I had no compass (don’t need one) or map (all in my head). I had my Spot GPS though in case of emergency.

13-DSC_1096_12

I set off up the hills and found it surprisingly easy to chug up the groomed runs. I did the grind for a few hours as I ascended the valley.

14-DSC_1114_13

Handlebars: small sleeping bag, rain jacket
Front fork: water on right, alcohol on left. Thermarest on right in green sack, some freeze dried dinners on left in blue sack. GoPro video camera mounted above front wheel looking forward.
Top tube: Zip Shot tripod velcro strapped to the tube for quick removal, and rain pants strapped up front.
Under down tube: tire pump, and GoPro camera looking forward behind front wheel.
Frame bag: cell phone, food, tools, water filter, a few clothes.
Rear rack: packraft in blue sack, paddle shafts, snowshoes, cookset against seat tube, and bear spray wedged in there for quick access.
Panniers: one contains winter sleeping bag, other one contains my too-large tent and more clothes. Various remaining knicknacks throughout as well. Each contained one paddle blade.

15-DSC_1121_14

Up and up…

16-DSC_1132_15

I was running low on water but there were a few groundwater / meltwater streams beside the road which I could use to fill my bottles, without having to filter.

video

17-DSC_5022_16

..

18-DSC_5023_17

I could hear a helicopter flying back country skiers in to the mountains across the valley.

19-DSC_5028_18

Back country skier tracks

20-DSC_5030_19

..

21-DSC_5033_20

Snowmobiler tracks. There are actually two black dots in there (top, left of center) which are the snowmobilers.

22-DSC_5036_21

The valley beckoned.

I was heading up the Callaghan Mainline (gravel road), which is a cross country ski and access trail in winter. After reaching Callaghan Lake I headed left to go towards Callaghan Lodge.

23-DSC_1137_22

On the way there I passed some guests from the lodge coming down the access road I was climbing. They were all very interested in my bike. For once, I was the tourist attraction. That’s not me.

24-DSC_1141_23

I was hoping the trail would flatten out after Callaghan Lake, which it did for a short while, but then it started climbing for a few more kilometers.

25-DSC_5040_24

The snow was kind of melting down at the bottom but at the top it was still fresh powder. It wasn’t crusty.

26-DSC_1144_25

Riding these kinds of trails requires active thermal management. As the saying goes for winter travel, “If you sweat, you die”, so I was pulling layers off to stay cool when climbing. But then if I’d have a downhill section I’d have to put them back on.

My plan was to go as far as the trails would take me and then snowshoe a little further, camp, and continue on over the pass the next day. I’d packraft down the Squamish, then ride back up to the car.

But at the end of Day 1 I was totally beat. Past the lodge the trail got progressively worse. Four hours of hard climbing was taking its toll on me. I normally do the Grouse Grind in Vancouver quite often which is great training for high intensity climbing, but it only lasts 45 minutes or so. Plus I was up at 1300 m now, which is beyond where I normally train, so I could feel the altitude.

28-DSC_1161_27

I basically got to the end of the trail and crashed, and set up camp 20 feet beyond…

27-DSC_1160_26

Paul at work told me a trick to avoid soaking your boots from the snow — wrap them in plastic bags. This worked reasonably well but some snow still got in there. The plastic was pretty thin and some holes developed.

29-DSC_1165_28

That was it for the day.

30-DSC_1170_29

View from my tent

31-DSC_1171_30

It was getting cold too — minus 5 or so, and dropping fast as the sun went behind the mountains. Luckily I had been winter camping before and learned a few lessons … like, don’t leave your wet boots out when it gets to minus 20 C…

I didn’t make that mistake again but I discovered a few more complications to camping in sub zero weather. Firstly, my alcohol stove was hard to get going at -5. I should have put the alcohol in my pants to warm it up first. Secondly, it’s kind of hard to wash your pots when the food crusties freeze solid in a few seconds. That takes some more planning, especially if you want to use that pot to melt snow for drinking water afterwards.

32-DSC_1173_31

Another challenge I anticipated was that the stove would melt through the snow and collapse, so I cleverly brought along some tinfoil to place it on. But it was too thin and the stove still ended up tilting a bit. With all the snow melting, etc. I used about twice the alcohol I usually do.

I got my two sleeping bags set up, with my water bottle, water filter, alcohol, and boots in bed with me.

The other thing that happened was that I couldn’t curl up to stay warm because this caused leg cramps after all the hard work that day. I have to stretch out which means I get colder.

33-DSC_1183_32

Ring Pass is thataway.

That night I spent a lot of time wondering if I should risk going over the pass or just head back down. My concern was that the snow went way down to 400 m, so I’d have a lot of downhill hiking through the snow on the other side, with sticks and twigs I’d have to pull my boat over. I’d see how my snowrafting went in the morning, then reassess.

It was a chilly night, probably down to minus 15, but I survived reasonably well. In the morning the trail groomer came by in his machine. I don’t think he was too happy with me camping right there beside the trail, but oh well, it’s public land. Skiers stopped and talked as they went by, and were quite interested and impressed. It’s not hard people, you just need the right gear!

I think snow biking will soon be taking off in Whistler. Years ago it was snowboarders invading the slopes and causing a caffuffle with skiers. Now I think it will be snowbikes to invade the ski slopes, causing a caffuffle with boarders and skiers. They can put them on the chairlifts in summer, so why not in winter too?

34-DSC_5048_33

Morning flurries

Video of snowrafting.

35-DSC_1192_34

Conflict Lake is quite scenic. Until I traipsed across it with my snowraft, that is…

36-DSC_1195_35

..

37-DSC_1198_36

It’s pretty hard to pull through the snow. I think that’s because of the rubber bottom material which isn’t very slippery. I will try to find some more slidy material to put underneath for pulling across the snow.

38-DSC_1202_37

That’s Ring Pass, right of center.

39-DSC_1221_38

..

40-DSC_1229_39

After a kilometer around one side of Conflict Lake I’d had enough and rejoined the cross country ski trail to flip back over to my bike again.

41-DSC_1235_40

..

42-DSC_1239_41

Doing the switcheroo in the blazing sunlight and strong winds, and cold temperatures.

43-DSC_5060_42

Above you can see the track the skiers used to climb up to the knoll on the right. And below this track you can see all their ski tracks when they carved their way back down. I’ve never done back country skiing, maybe I should try. No time though, or money. Too many other things to do.

Video of undulating trails.

44-DSC_5066_43

Nice bike portrait in the forest on my way back down

Videos going back down.

45-DSC_1273_44

..

46-DSC_1288_45

Crossing Callaghan Creek the other way.

47-DSC_5081_46

..

48-DSC_1295_47

That’s it!

I decided to drive down to the Squamish Valley and sleep there in my car for the night. Tomorrow I’d ride up the valley and packraft back down what I was originally hoping to do all in one circuit from Ring Pass.

Callaghan


Better Late Than Never — Horseshoe Bay to Ambleside

I have paddled (almost) every meter from where I started, in the Fraser River in Richmond (2010), up to where I’ve gotten so far, Bella Bella (2012). But I actually started this trip back in 2008 when I paddled the length of West Vancouver’s shores. Unfortunately I was sidelined by a completely preventable and unnecessary sports injury (nerve entrapment) in my leg for the two years between. Then in 2010, just before the trip officially started, I did the sections from Richmond to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Ambleside. And a few weeks after this, I started the trip for real.

The paddle along West Vancouver’s shores went the opposite direction, however, due to the prevailing winds. I headed east, since I really don’t like paddling into the wind if I don’t have to. One September day, the 26th to be precise, I loaded all my gear onto the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus (actually, the 246 first, then the 239, then the 257). People kept coming in and it got totally packed. My gear was up front but I got pushed to the back. The problem was I wanted to get off a few stops before the bus disgorges everyone else out at the end of the line at the ferries.

Somehow I got myself and my stuff off at the right stop, then lugged my gear the kilometer down to Copper Cove. I had dived here years earlier on a collecting trip for the aquarium, going down to 110 feet. I did get narced, but luckily I’m a paranoid narc, not a happy narc.

DSC_0010_00

I put my boat together on the rocky beach and then launched. Looking north up Howe Sound. I went left.

DSC_1436_07

Rounding the points heading towards Whytecliffe Park, looking back up Howe Sound to where I came from.

DSC_1438_08

There was a pod of seals around Whytecliffe Park.

DSC_1459_09

Racing out from Eagle Marine

DSC_1463_10

There was also a flock of seagulls hanging out on some intertidal rocks here. I had gotten my long lens only a year before and this was one of the first times I had used it in my bobbing kayak. Most shots were blurry.

DSC_0023_02

The winds were coming from behind me, from the west. When I went by Lighthouse Park it got quite choppy as they slammed against the west-facing vertical walls.

DSC_0022_01

Looking the other direction. This is a popular place for climbers to practice. Look closely.

DSC_0026_03

DSC_0029_04

DSC_1492_11

DSC_1497_12

The park’s namesake.

DSC_0031_05

I continued along in front of all the waterfront houses. Eventually these made way to the public access sea wall and beaches.

DSC_0032_06

Approaching Ambleside

When done I pulled out and walked up to Marine Drive, and took the bus home. Not quite as exciting as some of my later adventures in the wilderness, but a day out in my kayak nonetheless!

Copper Cove to Ambleside


Aug 31 to Sept 1 2012 — To Shearwater and Port Hardy

Bright sunshine in the morning

I headed over to Shearwater, and I planned to paddle back to the ferry terminal in the evening.

Times gone by

It seemed to take forever to get there. I was fighting the currents and wind. It’s all about expectations. I was expecting to just have a leisurely little hop over to Shearwater but it turned into a multi-hour slog about 1/3 as long as yesterday’s whole paddle. If I had expected a long paddle from the start, then I wouldn’t have been frustrated by the wind. Those Zen Buddhists are on to something.

I finally got into town and pulled up next to the harbour master with my boat roasting in the sun. I thought I might have to let some air out but it was OK.

I had lunch in the pub which was blaring some asinine television. Here we go again, culture shock. I then bought a book about the local wolves, written by Ian Mcallister, a local here who has been studying them for the last number of years, and who was instrumental in lobbying for the limited protection this area does enjoy, the so-called “Great Bear Rainforest”. The wolves are very interesting and it’s well worth the read. I have a soft spot for dogs so I love wolves. We used to have a wolf hybrid who looked very much like the one on the cover of the book. And it seems wolves have a soft spot for us too — they virtually never attack people.

As I sat in the sun, reading my book and looking out across the channel, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I had gotten about 1/3 of the way to Haines; this was a major milestone for me and I had done it all on my own power (except of course, flying in and out between seasons). My pace had been way slower than I originally anticipated, but here I was! It’s about the journey, not the destination, as the saying goes.

It turns out the ferry also goes to Shearwater on its way south so I just waited there. I’ll see Bella Bella next year. This is the new ferry terminal.

Here comes my ride.

The boat didn’t leave Bella Bella until about 11 pm. It was jam packed full of people and they all threw down mattresses. The floor was wall to wall people. I pitched my tent out on the deck.

Morning.

Next year I hope to stay put in one place for a while somewhere up around Princess Royal Island and spend some time with wolves. I also want to see the white kermode bears.


Aug 30 2012 — Nice Weather into Bella Bella

You can see how high the tide came up, from the tideline to the right. Now just imagine me, standing in the dark, at midnight, with all my gear up on that green grassy / rocky area, cursing the tide. It’s kind of funny thinking back to it and I should have taken the opportunity to commune with nature under the moonlight. But all the frustrations from the last few days just came out. I felt much better by morning!

This is one of those times when I wish I had some time lapse video to show this starfish moving along that rock.

One of these anemones is not like the others… but they are of the same genus, Anthopleura.

It was the season when the kelp starts to fall apart and calls it quits for the year.

More calm skies. I lazily followed the shoreline up all day in the sunshine. What a nice way to end the trip. But, just like last year, the nice weather didn’t seem to arrive until the last day!

I think this is a solitary sandpiper. Definitely not on sand.

I was kicking myself for not checking the ferry schedule back at Hakai Beach Institute. I had no cell phone reception so I couldn’t get on the internet. At least I knew the ferry went north today. But would it head south tonight? Tomorrow? Three days from now? I wouldn’t know until I got into town unfortunately. I may have spent another night out if I had known, and I passed by an interesting crushed shell campsite that apparently has petroglyphs, because I didn’t want to miss the ferry.

This fishing boat was trawling and was just offshore from my campsite when I set off in the morning. They kept pace with me all day into Bella Bella.

As I was crossing a big bay the stormclouds brewed above me. I wasn’t in my drysuit. They soon burst and I raced to the other side to take shelter under this cliff and was almost totally out of the rain for about a half hour.

One of the last points before reaching Bella Bella.

Hah, and we were back to jumping salmon. The closer I got to town, the more frequent they became.

Nice! There is a hatchery on a creek right by the ferry terminal and they were all back for that. It seemed everyone and his dog was out in his boat trying to catch them but they didn’t seem to be biting much.

I came ashore at the ferry terminal and called my mom on the payphone to get the ferry schedule — tomorrow evening the red-eye came through. OK, that was settled. I wouldn’t fly back.

I wasn’t sure where to camp so I paddled another few kilometers into town. It was getting late and when I got to that public wharf it was really busy so I decided to head back to the ferry terminal and camp there.

I guess that’s why the tide was so high last night! The ferry terminal wasn’t the best place to camp because it’s at the end of one of the few roads on the island so anyone who has a car drives out there to see what’s going on, and they also came to see the salmon. So I had lots of cars drive by me, and a few people stopped to say hi. One lady warned me about a black bear in the area.


Aug 29 2012 — Holy Cow Rain!

Some rain overnight — what else is new…

There is another beach at this site that was an easier put-in.

I was ready for the weather, and it was still blowing from the south. I wasn’t complaining.

The winds and currents pushed me north pretty fast. I zoomed by Spider Island which apparently has an old WWII base, and a road leading across it. Midway along the island the rain started. I battened down the hatches and took advantage of the wind. A train of about 10 fishing speedboats from a lodge went by heading north. I was glad I wasn’t in one of those in this weather. They were probably thinking the same about me. Kind of ironic, eh?

The problem was what I would encounter after Spider Island, which is Superstition Point, a couple kilometers of exposed coastline facing the west. If you want to kayak northwards, you have to paddle it. It wouldn’t normally be a problem since yesterday I was in places more exposed than that, but this weather was really getting crazy. And the wind started coming from the west, which is definitely not the direction you want to be blown while going around that point.

I took refuge behind this rock, the last sheltered place before going out into open water. This is looking north and you can barely see Superstition Point on the right. I hung around here for about half an hour and eventually I couldn’t see Super Point anymore from all the rain. My boat was filling up with water. This is a problem because my drybags don’t really seal up. They provide protection from splashes but my electronics bag was placed sideways lying down on the floor in front of me, and there was about 2 inches of water in the bottom of my boat. I was worried this was going to flood my bags.

I decided that I had to come ashore. There is a portage around Superstition Point so I headed for that.

After paddling a small portion of exposed water and getting blown around pretty hard I entered the calm inlet leading to the portage. The rain continued and my boat turned into a bathtub.

I had to search around at the head of the inlet a little bit but I soon found the ribbon marking the trail.

I hiked the 100 meters five times for all my gear. I stayed in my drysuit and wore my sandals. I was a little worried I might poke a hole in my drysuit feet, but there wasn’t any gravel or anything else sharp to poke it. The trail was thick organic matter and peat moss. The forest was really beautiful old growth cedar. At one place a tree had fallen over the trail and I thought I should have used my saw to clear it a bit, but I was in no state to be doing that.

Finally, as I finished portaging my stuff over, the rain eased up. That was probably some of the most intense rain I have ever been in. It lasted for a good hour and a half and dumped about 3 or 4 inches, judging by the water in my boat. I climbed up a little bank on the right side to fill up my water bottles with all the water gushing out of the moss, no filtering required. This meadow was covered with goose crap.

Then the sun came out! And my gear was dry! I was perfectly dry in my drysuit! The extent of the water damage was the foggy lens you see in the above photo, which dried out pretty fast. I had lunch of peanut butter on mango, and energy bars. It seems I’m getting better at managing the rain. I still need to figure out how to get a quick and reliable way of making a front porch out of a tarp.

I was soon off again.

They don’t seem to mind the rain.

I followed the little inlet to the north and came out at Cultus Sound. The speedboats were there fishing. I crossed over and followed the coastline up to the north-east. I wanted to get to Latta Island where there was a campsite marked on my map. There are some really nice beaches in Cultus Sound but I wanted to plod on further while I could as this weather was causing me some worry. The only problem was that the map didn’t show many more campsites for a ways north so I’d have to commit to several more kilometers.

This area is pretty convoluted. I chose what I thought would be the best route heading north. Without my map and GPS I would have been lost. Yes, even me, Mr. Magnetic-Compass-in-the-Brain, would have gotten disoriented. I can’t imagine how the first explorers made sense of this place.

I went up Sans Peur Passage — that’s quite an interesting name. The current was behind me and I was making good time. But then midway down the channel I noticed quite a commotion ahead. It was the tides changing. I had no choice but to go through. It is a strange feeling being thrown left, right and center by strong currents, and trying to avoid whirlpools. The last time I experienced it this intense was way back in Big Bay in the Discovery Islands, and of course in Nakwakto Rapids at Belize Inlet. It’s a good display of the power in the ocean, to be able to move that much water so violently. All that power comes from the pull of the moon, and specifically the Earth’s rotation. But moving that much water around uses up energy and rotational momentum, so the result is that the planet has been rotating slower and slower over the ages, or in other words, the days are getting longer. They used to only be 23 hours. Eventually the moon and Earth will be locked tidally, and then there will be no more tides. Too bad for the rich intertidal life!

Shortly afterwards I passed another raging creek discharging gobs of foam into the sea.

As I made my way northwards the sun came out again and I had to undo my drysuit. I soon enough made it to Latta Island, the last island I would be landing on before turning up the channel to finish this year’s trip at Bella Bella. I searched around where the map said there was a campsite and couldn’t really find anything. I was a bit dismayed and decided I had no choice but to take the most suitable location, which had a little sandy beach way up at the top of the tideline. It wasn’t a very good spot, and it looked like it got flooded during high tide. Plus there was water seepage under the site from all the rain. Oh well, what else was I going to do.

I took advantage of the wind and sun to dry out my tent.

A black katy chiton. There is interesting intertidal life here. It doesn’t get bashed by the open ocean so much because the area is sheltered by Goose Island, a fairly large offshore island that I chose not to visit because doing so involves a long open crossing. It is supposed to be an interesting place though, with lots of bird life. And the northern tip is the site of the First Nations youth correction program, which involves banishing troubled youths to a few months of solitude in the wilderness. They seem to return as changed individuals — something we could learn from. Inmates leave regular prisons worse criminals than when they went in.

An interesting sand anemone that I haven’t yet ID’d.

I got another fire going which wasn’t easy due to both the wind and the lack of dry material to burn. I was running out of garbage to get it going.

At midnight I woke up to hear waves lapping by my head. Damn tide! It was flooding my tent! I had to move everything up onto the wet grass and rocks and stand there watching the tide in the moonlight. They say a watched pot never boils and I was not a happy camper to have to be spending half an hour in the middle of the night waiting for the tide to drop. Eventually it did. Luckily it wasn’t raining though. Note to future paddlers in this area: there is NO suitable campsite on the south side of Latta Island, regardless of what your map might say!

If you go to the dead center of this map, then look a little to the left, you will see a turquoise bay. Go check it out on Google Earth where you can zoom in more. I think they took the satellite image when the herring were spawning in that bay.


Aug 28 2012 — Disoriented in Hakai

It rained again overnight but the morning was dry. That barnacle log had shifted location with the tide. Their lives are totally dependent on where the weather takes them. At some point they’ll get thrown up high and then life will move on to something else.

There is a little creek tumbling into the water down a rocky waterfall just up the shore a bit. I stopped and filled up with water and because it was groundwater I didn’t filter it. I thought I’d try drying my shorts out in the weather on my mast.

But the rain was coming from behind. It hit me but didn’t last very long. That’s the way it seems to be out here, at least in summer. Everything blows through really fast so the rain is fairly intense but doesn’t last for long.

As I rounded the final point on Sterling Island before heading west out the channel back to the open ocean, I noticed wolf trails leading down to the water. They have a whole network across the island and will regularly run the routes looking for food, timed with the tides. It would be interesting to hike them, but you’d have to be prepared to crouch down a lot.

The currents turned in my direction as I headed west. I went out into the middle of the channel and was really moving. It soon spat me out into the ocean again and I crossed over Kildidt Sound to the Serpent Group of islets out in the middle of it. My map showed lots of campsites and other interesting things over at the Edna group of islands so that’s where I was heading. The wind started to pick up from the south and when I hit the Serpent Group I decided to cross on the windward side. That was a poor decision because I was getting hammered by both the southerly wind and the waves bouncing off the rocks. I thought maybe I’d see more sea otters on this side, which I did, but the weather precluded spending any time with them. I wanted to have lunch but there was nowhere to stop, it was too rough.

As I continued crossing to Kidney Island I went by a noisy gaggle of gulls making a fuss. I didn’t know what it was all about but in reviewing the photos it was another boil of sand lances.

The weather was really getting rough and I was paddling hard to get to shelter behind Kidney Island. I made it and just as I was rounding the final point into a calm sheltered bay a California seal lion followed me and got to within about 10 feet. Yikes, that is the one animal that could cause me some trouble if it decided to investigate and take a bite out of my boat. I went right up to the shore as quickly as possible. I pulled out my camera but of course he left just before I got it ready.

I took a break and had lunch here, and filmed some green anemones in the intertidal. The calmness was nice. But, there was no place to camp so I had to go back out. The southerly wind was blowing me onto Ronald Island so I had to fight the crosswind. I made it to a little channel between Ronald Island and a couple little islands to the west. I zoomed north down this.

This is where it got confusing. I had picked up a kayaking map of the Bella Bella area way back in Telegraph Cove two years ago. The guy at the shop said not to buy it, it is “worse than useless”. I figured, how could it be that bad? Well, the problem with maps is that they can indeed be worse than useless because if they are wrong, you can get yourself into trouble.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I should say that I have a sixth sense when it comes to direction. I never get lost. But as I was approaching Triquet and the Edna Islands I just couldn’t reconcile the map with my GPS. I had to keep looking at it every few minutes and I couldn’t figure it out. Had I lost my sixth sense? No! The map was wrong! No wonder I was getting hammered by the wind and waves, as I was in the open ocean in the middle of a southerly storm!

This whole area is a bit confusing because there is apparently two groups of islands right beside each other, one called Edna Island and the other one Enda Island. They each have a campsite, and I wanted to go to the northern one. But their position in relation to Triquette Island (a larger one that protects them all from the open ocean) was way off on the map. I decided based on my GPS that I would head north down the channel to the east of the Edna Islands to get to my campsite, since that’s the way the wind was blowing. I couldn’t come into harm doing that.

So I made it across in the raging wind to take refuge behind another little islet.

It was here that I spotted this kelp crab in the kelp. Apparently the scuba diving around here is really good.

I moved out to go down the channel and then looked back to see this jewel of a protected beach on Triquette Island! What? It wasn’t on my map! Actually, yes it was, but I was in a different place than I thought I was.

I paddled back up from where you are looking, against the raging seas and currents. It took almost half an hour to get over from that point. It’s a really nice beach with a developed campsite. And the open ocean is right on the other side of the trees, behind where I’m taking this photo. I heard some cranes too; apparently there is a nice mudflat just to the west of here. However, the sand is very fine and given that it was only 3 pm I decided to move on. But as you can see, with the falling tide my boat got beached so I had to slide it back into the water on logs.

It didn’t take long to reach the campsite on Enda Island. My shorts didn’t dry out very well with all the rain. And you’d think I would have realized to take them down since I was getting bashed by the wind…

The site was fine sand again, oh well. There is quite a bit of garbage washed up here, and interestingly a bunch of large plastic pipes half buried in the sand.

Along with the garbage there is a lot of driftwood and I found a few dry pieces of cedar. I had brought along all the wood I chopped the previous night, which imparted a wonderful cedar smell to my bag, but it wouldn’t burn properly as it was too wet. Anyways, I managed to get a fire going long enough to cook dinner, which was pasta primavera. The rain was on and off, and it was starting to get on my nerves. The sun poked out for 5 minutes. At least there wasn’t any bugs.


Aug 27 2012 — Calvert Island to Sterling Island, and sea otters too.

It rained pretty hard through the night. And I learned that you really do need a mattress, especially if you’re sleeping on a slab of cold granite. It really sucks the heat out of you and the layer of air in your mattress keeps you warm. Plus my backback wasn’t exactly comfortable. But I made it through.

The sun came out by morning.

Calvert Island is more piney / boggy due to the nutrient-poor granitic soils.

I hiked back.

And came upon this little guy doing what frogs are supposed to do.

On the trail back from the beach I bumped into this deer that jumped into the wet bushes at the first open spot.

After checking email again and repacking I was ready to go. Then it started pouring.

I got all snug in my drysuit and set off. Then it stopped raining. This is looking east through the channel between Hecate and Calvert Islands, with the mainland in the distance across Fitz Hugh Sound.

I slowly made my way back up the channel heading north. I had a slight headwind and I wanted to be really careful with my shoulder so I just hugged the shoreline and crawled up.

I got to the last point before heading across Hakai Passage and ate some lunch in a kelp bed.

I made my way to the closest little islets with the wind pushing me out towards the open sea. As I crossed the channel I heard a humpback breathing over towards where I had the encounter the other day. I didn’t even bother looking.  Imagine that, all humpacked out!

When I got to the islet I noticed some seals in the kelp that were moving strangely and sticking their heads quite a ways out of the water.

That ain’t no seal! That’s a sea otter! Finally — I’ve never seen them before in the wild!

This one was curious and got quite close. They aren’t so skittish like river otters.

There was a family of about five individuals that called this kelp bed home.

He went down and brought up a large California mussel. If you don’t know the story of sea otters, you should read up on it. They are a “keystone species“, or one that totally changes the nature of their ecosystem. They used to be plentiful in BC but the fur traders almost wiped them out. But they eat sea urchins. And sea urchins eat kelp… So with no otters around anymore, so went the kelp forests which are an important nursery for many species of fish. They’ve been moving south again from Alaska, and they are now down to at least Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. Along with this, the kelp beds are coming back.

Aww, look at the baybay! Elaine, look at the baybay!

After the weather started to get a bit worse I moved on and crossed over to Sterling Island where there was a campsite marked on my map. I was really fighting the current so I hit the shoreline as fast as possible after rounding this cormorant rock. It was 15 km to paddle today but it seemed longer.

Just let me sleep…

The rain came and I didn’t have my drysuit zipped up underneath my raincoat. My raincoat leaks in in the neck in heavy rain. Oh well. I was really happy with this campsite.

This is a great little protected bay / beach looking northwards.

And the wolves had been here.

Climbing over logs

Wolf sign

It is another crushed shell beach, another likely midden site. They are all over the place here. Great for throwing your tent down.

This beach has a large variety of berry species. Here is the ubiquitous huckleberry again.

This is thimbleberry which is related to salmonberry, but very sweet. The berries only last a couple days, if that.

Salal

Black currant

A different type of currant

Alaska blueberry

I never though barnacles made noise, but they do. If I touched this log they would all start seething en masse.

I got my stuff ready for dinner, and was dismayed to notice that I no longer had my windscreen for my stove. Bummer. I must have left it at the top of the hill last night, as I was racing around trying to stay away from the black flies and get in my tent ASAP. Oh well, it will just take a bit more fuel (methanol) to cook dinner from now on. I still had half a litre left, way more than I needed.

I went to start the stove and I opened the second of my 500 mL bottles of fuel. I had finished the first one. But it wouldn’t light no matter what I did. What was going on? Then it dawned on me that this wasn’t methanol, but water! Duh! Last year I filled this bottle up with fresh water for drinking when I had used up the methanol. I stored it for a year and then packed it up as methanol for this trip! Now what was I going to do? I had no more fuel. Was I going to starve??? Once the shock wore off I realized I’d have to get back to nature and cook my dinner the old fashioned way, on fires from now on. But all the wood was soaking wet! How was I going to have a fire?

Above the beach was this canoe, and a downed cedar tree.

Luckily I brought my axe / saw combo. And I’ve watched enough Survivorman to know how to get a fire going the hard way — with a lighter, dry paper, and kindling…

The fire wasn’t easy to get going or keep going with the wood being so wet, but I managed to keep it alive long enough to boil the water.

Usnea lichen hanging from trees.

I went down to the water to watch the soap opera drama of the tidepool sculpins and hermit crabs duking it out. There were thousands of them. It was really funny, and I should have gotten some video of it. Then, as I was standing still a grey shorebird landed pretty close to me. I didn’t want to move and scare it away. I just observed as it came within a few feet of me. It was a wandering tattler. Then it flew away.

As it approached dark the no-see-ums came out in full force and I had to retreat to my tent pretty quickly.


Aug 26 2012 — Hakai Beach Institute

Some unlucky sand fleas

Western sandpipers in the mud in the morning

I only had 4 km to get to the Beach Institute. My shoulder was still sore so I took it really slowly. I’ve dealt with tendonitis and similar conditions enough to know that you just can’t push it. You have to let it heal.

This place was a bit of an apparition. It is a bustling little university campus in the middle of the wilderness. It used to be a fishing lodge but the new owner decided to do something different with it and joined up with the local First Nations to turn it into an environmental science field station.

They have an impressive solar farm and battery bank (and big diesel generator). This is one of those times however when you wonder how much energy was required to build the renewable energy system versus how much it will ultimately produce. That isn’t a criticism, since in remote locations you need to have local energy supply, but more of a recognition of a problem we will encounter everywhere in the future as we transition to renewables by necessity because fossil fuels run out.

The perfectly manicured grounds just seemed bizarre. They are very open to visitors here, offering free wifi and fresh water. And I could plug in my battery chargers. But they don’t provide food or have anything for sale. I sat at the info building at the top of the ramp and went on my computer. Lots of boaters came up to check it out, and I had some good conversations about their trips. One couple hadn’t set foot on solid ground for a few weeks. I ended up being the information person for visitors for a couple hours as I found out the answers to the questions I was wondering, that other boaters were also asking when they arrived. Kind of funny, I fit the part, and had to tell people that I didn’t actually work there.

I hiked across to West Beach. I had hoped to see some wolves here, but there were just too many people around. One of the guys said that there is another beach further up that may have them, it’s called “wolf beach”. But I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to bushwhack to it.

Instead I was going to hike up to the lookout and camp there. It’s amazing how I could barely fit my stuff for one night in my backpack. The rest of my stuff I left at the Institute. I really need to focus on slimming down my gear.

Thick west coast mud

Gnarly

That’s where I was going.

Very recent trail building

There’s a nice panoramic view up here. It isn’t very high, Google Earth says only 50 m but I think it’s higher than that.

Looking north to where I’d be kayaking tomorrow.

The black flies were really bad up here. I didn’t cook my dinner, I just ate some energy bars and looked for a tent site which was really hard to find. I ended up on a rounded granite outcrop that wouldn’t flood if it rained. I went in my tent ASAP and listened to the weather report which was calling for rain. I was pretty exposed up here at the top of this hill. I didn’t bring my mattress from lack of space so I slept on my empty backpack.


Aug 25 2012 — Across Fitz Hugh Sound to Hecate Island

The weather was beautiful in the morning — sunny and calm with only a few fog banks down south. I had really wanted to cross over to Hakai and head up that way; the route up Fitz Hugh past Namu didn’t look as interesting. Luckily, the weather made the decision for me.

The dogs had been with me all night, except for the times when they went nuts and ran off into the bushes. For some reason I got used to them barking and slept through most of it; probably because they were doing it to protect me. I offered them some peanut butter covered mango for breakfast but only the older guy accepted it.

I avoided the keeper since I don’t think he even wanted me to say goodbye. The younger of the dogs sat at the top of the road watching me pack up while the older one was zonked out. I sadly waved goodbye and set off, once again, into the unknown.

I had 9 km to cross since Koeye is located at about the widest part of Fitz Hugh Sound. There were a few boats around so I’d be OK. A couple hours should be more than enough time to cross before the afternoon winds picked up. Or so I thought…

A phalarope of some sort. I passed lots of seabirds; you notice a lot more life out on the water when it’s calm. I came upon one little guy sleeping while floating. He had tucked his beak into his feathers and was snoozing away. Just as I got my camera out he woke up and took off. This one above was less wary of me, having seen me coming.

Interesting cloud patterns on the water that day.

The water changed from deep clear blue to more like green pea soup as I passed through algae blooms. Believe it or not, but this is the stuff that powers our economies. Oil comes from plankton that settled out onto the floor of ancient seas hundreds of millions of years ago. Remember that when some economist or oil industry apologist tries to convince you that we should accept environmental degradation for the greater purpose of powering economic growth based on fossil fuel extraction. Anyone who tells you that ecology is subservient to economics is either lying or totally delusional. They’ve got it completely backwards. And when you see images of the industrial landscapes across Alberta with all the upgraders and refineries processing the oil sands, and you’re told that, “it’s the price of progress”, No! Don’t believe it! Progress does not come from burning up irreplaceable energy reserves at a rate 200,000 times greater than deposition rates! Remember that no matter how hard they try to hype that technology up, those industries aren’t “producing” petroleum, or anything else for that matter; all they’re doing is harvesting and burning that green stuff you see in the above photo. Without this oceanic equivalent of … pond scum, the Alberta oil companies are nothing! The Alberta economy is quite literally subservient to pond scum (not that there’s anything wrong with pond scum). We are still completely dependent on ecology for our survival.

As I neared to within a couple kilometers of the opposite shore (Nalau Island) I heard a humpback somewhere in the vicinity of Hakai Channel. I made my way over. And it seems the humpbacks made their way over to me…

It was a pod of about five or so and they got pretty close to me, within a whale’s length. For about half an hour I hung around with them as they ambled about in the channel. I was a little worried when they got too close but everything was fine. I didn’t take photos since the light wasn’t the greatest and I had photos from the previous day, plus they weren’t feeding. I pulled out my video camera and unfortunately I zoomed in for most of the footage which was a bad idea since it got so shaky. But I got a few half decent segments.

Then they moved away up north.

They started feeding as a group…

It was hard to get any decent shots with them a few kilometers away now but they still certainly made their presence known. I’d be paddling along and then I’d hear a huge crash, like blasting going off. I’d look back to see five humpbacks slamming into the water and making a commotion. But by the time I got my camera ready it was always too late. The noise echoed all around the Sound. Everyone could hear it.

Then one of them let out a grunt. Holy cow, I’ve read that you can hear a humpback underwater half way around the world and I can believe it. He was a couple kilometers away but it sounded like he was right beside me. I nearly jumped out of the boat. Interestingly, it is thought that noise pollution in the oceans may be interfering with blue whales‘ ability to find each other over long distances and hampering their recovery.

BC had a whaling station up until 1968, located near Port Hardy. They cleaned out most of the humpbacks from BC but thankfully they are now returning.

The luxury yacht that was enjoying the show along with me.

I wanted to go check out the Hakai Beach Institute down on Calvert Island, so I crossed over Hakai Channel. I was in the influence of the open ocean now and there were big swells with huge wavelengths. They were crashing hard on the rocks but I was able to get in really close safely. I took some interesting video showing the size of the waves.

After taking lunch in a semi-protected kelp bed I continued south down the channel. This is Hecate Island in all its glory.

My shoulder was getting really sore so I was taking it easy. I slowly followed the shoreline down, keeping an eye out for campsites. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of opportunities.

I looked on my GPS and thought there might be a good spot around the next corner. But when I rounded it I was presented with a busy fishing lodge. Oh well, I continued on a tiny bit further and found a nice bay with a great little cobble beach.

I had been thinking about how I could carry more water with me, as I would be going through Hakai which consists of many little islands without much water available. After the scary situation in the Broughtons two years ago I wanted to make sure I had spare capacity. Well, like magic, I found this brand new, never-opened water bottle on the beach… among the only garbage to be found. It probably fell off a fishing boat at the lodge. It wasn’t very big, but an odd occurrence. Kind of weird, and this happened back at Shelter Bay too. When I wished for a jug of fresh water, it just washed up on the beach the next morning!

A pair of noisy sandhill cranes flew overhead in the direction you’re looking. And I caught glimpses of some sort of little weasel racing along the edge of the vegetation. I pondered that even though when I arrive at new places I can get a bit lonely before I get to know them, and that no matter how sterilized and impersonal a map may make a place seem, it is inevitably someone’s or some animal’s home. Every place is unique and special. Was this my home too?

I took advantage of the evening sun and managed to dry out most of my gear. It’s amazing how two hours of sunshine can make such a difference.

This is a good camping spot as the tide didn’t flood the whole beach, leaving enough space for my tent. In a storm surge it might flood though. And there is a creek nearby.


August 24 2012 — Spending the Day in the Koeye Estuary

Tracks left in the sand revealed that my big furry friend had returned this morning, but only to check the tideline and he didn’t come closer than about 20 feet. It seems they’re not out to get us, they just want to check the tideline like they always have.

The weather was decent.

The dogs had been barking most of the night and they came over to say hi while I loaded up. I felt like I should give something back. I tried offering a peanut butter covered date but it wasn’t a hit.

I headed up the river to the estuary and went by this gull that seemed to follow me. It got quite close.

The tide was way down. And the water was brown due to all the tannin runoff from the rain. The salmon were gone. Overnight, the seasons had changed.

It was the season of plenty with berries everywhere and salmon in the rivers.

There was a noisy pair of eagles near here.

Misty, mossy mountains

Ahh, there must be something going on upriver…

I passed a family of river otters and there was a funny noise coming from a half submerged tree on the bank. It took a while to find the source which was a baby otter and mother. It was super cute but I couldn’t get a shot of it in time.

As the meadow came into view I saw a black blob moving along the shore.

The river was getting shallow and I had to get out and start walking up. These headless salmon are from wolves. They only eat the heads, some think it’s due to parasites in the meat they want to avoid. We have an advantage because we can cook our food.

The place was noisy too with some Canada Geese.

It wasn’t long before I saw the wolves on the opposite bank, near where a branch tributary of the main river was joining and forcing the salmon to go through shallow water. The bear that was wandering down the shore joined them.

It turns out I was pretty lucky to see the wolves. They normally only come out at night and they avoid people. Considering that there there’s usually a person or two coming up to the estuary every day for various reasons, I’m surprised I saw them. The timing of the low tide helped with that. I was pretty far away but the clicking of my camera sent them off. Damn you Nikon!!! Time for a new body. Maybe the D400 when it comes out.

I went further up to a main junction where there were some salmon making their way up the shallows. They are really hard to get close to, I’m impressed the animals can catch them. I contemplated going up the side channel a bit to see what was there but the water was too shallow. Good thing too, because a few minutes later I looked up that channel to see a mother and cub come wander around. Too bad there was a tree in the way!

I never did actually get a good shot of the two together. Then they ambled off again.

The meadow seems to consist of sticky organic mud matted together with grass roots.

The forest here is very beautiful. It is old growth and has never been logged. There is something magical about being in it.

Biological oils from all the productivity going on here were getting caught up in the downed logs. These licorice ferns were making one last dash for life.

I spent over half a day up the estuary, and the time went by really fast. As I was heading back out with the tide the bear was back at the salmon spot, but the tide was high so he wasn’t catching any salmon.

I find that my kayak is somewhat limiting in some respects. I’d like to be able to ditch a lot of my gear sometimes and just go up the river for a few days and camp out. I would love to camp in the forest overlooking this feeding spot and get up with the break of dawn to see the wolves. That way I wouldn’t disturb them, I could remain in the forest. But what would I do with my stuff and food? Without a sailboat or something similar to store my food and excess gear in out at the bay, I can’t do that. Oh well, the kayak provides other advantages.

OK, last shot.

Everything is covered with growth here.

I came back to that friendly gull. He was sitting on some rocks and wasn’t at all afraid of me. I put my paddle up to him and he climbed on board. I thought I could have a new pet. But then I realized he might be sick, who knows, maybe with avian flu or something. So I put him back.

As I rounded the bend into the bay I looked out to the ocean and saw the big triangular mouth of a humpback shooting out of the water right at the entrance to the bay. I couldn’t believe how much life there is here. I went out and tied up to the kelp but he had left.

Evening light looking up the Koeye Valley. Yet another fantastic day in another fantastic place along our coast.

I went up to the construction site because there was apparently a keeper there minding the place with everyone gone back to Bella Bella. I wanted to camp up there because I’d had enough with grizzlies wandering around my tent. The keeper was the quiet foreman from before and he said I could camp there, but he wanted to be left alone. He came here to have his privacy. I obliged and set up camp on the outskirts. I tried to dry out a lot of my gear in the last rays of sunshine, and then I downloaded photos to my computer.

The dogs kept me company. They have a great life here. It might end up being cut short though because the wolves will probably get them at some point, with them chasing bears way up the valley. I guess that’s their life, short but exciting. I’ve found that I feel the most alive when I’m in the moment, when decisions you make could mean the difference between life and death, and you have to rely on yourself and your own capabilities. That’s what many of us urbanites tend to yearn for, to escape the drudgery of the 9 to 5 where everything is predetermined and “safe”. But is it really any more dangerous out here than in a city? I can walk down the sidewalk downtown and at any point just take two wrong steps and get run over by a truck. What’s the difference? It’s just that out here there’s no one to save you (at least immediately). In the city we get a sense of security from all the people everywhere.

It seems like everything comes together to make the Koeye a special place. The barrier islands open up right across the Sound, just enough to let the big open ocean waves through. The bay is a little sandy jewel hidden behind a headland. There is a lake up the river that I didn’t get a chance to see unfortunately, even though there is a trail leading up to it (I couldn’t find it).

In my very short time here I sensed a different vibe, the First Nations presence seems to be more “in tune with nature”. I know that sounds cliche but I get a different feeling here than in mainstream society. Even our official parks are an extension of mainstream society, at least their administration, as we tend to visit them to “consume” the wilderness as an antidote to our urban lives. I guess I’m no different in what I’m doing.

The white man outposts along the coast seem to be just extensions of the city with people flying in from Toronto to get in a weekend of fishing where they bag as many fish as possible from their noisy powerful speedboats that can get them from A to B in mere minutes. Their fish are prepared for them by the staff, and then they fly back out. All the while, satellite radio and TV keeps everyone entertained with the creature comforts of home. They never actually have to leave the city; it comes with them. I guess it’s tempting for me to develop a holier-than-thou attitude, and a little unfair, as I make my living from consuming the natural world just like everyone else does.

These aren’t simple issues because this area has to “produce” economically in order for our politicians to leave it semi-wild. If the fishing lodges didn’t bring in the money and if the people on the cruise boats didn’t want to see beautiful vistas of unbroken forests then the whole coast would have been logged instead. Get away from the more frequently visited places like the Inside Passage, and it pretty much all has been, except what was lucky enough to be locked up in parks.

And most people can’t get in a kayak for two weeks to experience the coast; the cruise boats are their only opportunity. Are they being any more “consumptive” than I am? Hell, I bring pre-packaged plastic satchets of ready-to-go food to power my journey. Where did those come from? Most of my gear is made of plastic. Plastic comes from oil. And I flew in on a noisy gas-guzzling plane.

It wouldn’t be a nice place here with thousands of kayakers everywhere experiencing it up close and personally, and the grizzly bears up the Koeye River sure wouldn’t appreciate it either. So I hope that people can experience being immersed in the wild through my accounts here, without actually having to go through all the motions themselves. Then maybe my impact on the wildlife will be somewhat mitigated.


August 23 2012 — Day Off in the Rain at Koeye

It rained pretty hard overnight. And the water came up to within about 5 feet of the tent. And I slept with my head pointing downslope so I could keep an eye on what was going on outside. But this position was causing me a lot of muscle ache in my abdomen for some reason.

It wasn’t the greatest sleep with the rain on and off. When it wasn’t raining I had the front fly open so I could see out. But then when the rain came I had to close it up which meant I had no idea what was going on outside.

In the morning I dozed around in bed and then went back to sleep for a while. I was just coming to when for some reason I felt the need to look out the front which luckily I had unfurled when I first woke up.

And there, standing about 4 feet away from me (more like, above me), was a grizzly bear.

Hmm. Was this a dream?  I was still half asleep. After about a second I realized it wasn’t a dream and “You have got to be $#&!ing kidding me!” was the first thought that went through my head, and then without time to even contemplate what I would do, out came a loud, “HOLY SHIT!”

That was enough to send him on his way down the beach. He was just checking the morning tideline for any goodies that may have washed up last night. I had my food bags sitting outside the front of my tent and that’s what he was interested in. I do not believe in tying your food up a tree unless you have a really good opportunity to do it properly. It is likely that the bear would just climb the tree anyways if he wants the food; apparently it’s an old wive’s tale that grizzlies can’t climb trees. If I had done that here I wouldn’t have even noticed since the noise from the waves would have probably overpowered the noise of the bear eating my food. And then we would have had a problem bear on our hands that correlates people with food. Instead, I’ll defend my food. If he had really wanted my bag he would have grabbed it and run away, and since I usually tie it off onto everything else that would have woken me up. Then I would have chased after him with bear spray to retrieve it — problem solved.

Thankfully he was just investigating and then continued poking around down the beach.

He casually made his way around the bay, past the longhouse to the lodge construction site.

I was wondering what kind of entertainment I was going to be getting from across the bay. Soon bear bangers were set off from the boats and the big bear dogs started going wild. He high tailed it into the bush and the dogs were in hot pursuit, barking like mad. This lasted for quite a while and I could hear their progress way back into the bush up towards the river, behind where I was camped.

I dozed off some more and then almost hit the roof when out of the blue something crashed my tent. I let out a yell louder than I ever have (I don’t know what the sailboat overnighting in the bay 100 m from me was thinking about all this). The problem arises if something crashes your tent before you have the chance to 1) get your spray ready, and 2) unzip your tent, in which case 3) you’re kind of screwed. Thankfully, I don’t think most animals would just come out of the blue and suddenly crash a tent without hanging around and making some investigatory pokes first. In the case of a cougar, you are totally safe in your tent.

Anyways, a few seconds later I saw that it was the bear dogs on their way back, stopping by to say hello. They tried to get in my tent but I wasn’t having that.

This is the young guy.

The older, more wise of the two.

For most of the day they hung out with me. They knew their job — to protect people from bears, and they did it well. They slept most of the day, as they seem to be barking throughout the night at every noise or scent they pick up.

Not a huge bear — probably an adolescent just getting into mischief.

It rained on and off for most of the day and I had no initiative to do anything. But lying in this downward position all day was really causing me a lot of muscle ache. Stretching out didn’t help.

A younger guy from the work group walked down and I had a talk with him. He had been volunteering here for a couple weeks as a carpenter after being at the Hakai Beach Institute (see a few posts in the future). He was heading back to Bella Bella tomorrow, and then back to Victoria for school. It turns out he is friends with people I know from the Ucluelet Aquarium! Small world.

The gulls making a fuss over something.

Poking around the forest behind my tent.

The place with all the action. It’s kind of interesting, the kids’ camp is located almost a kilometer away from the main lodge, up the river above another sandy beach. That seems to be where the bears go through as there are lots of tracks there. But, there doesn’t appear to be any problems.


Aug 22 2012 — Blair Island to Koeye

The wind picked up a bit by morning but the sun was poking through. It was a pretty difficult put-in as the tide was completely out, way below the rocks I camped on. I set up and video-recorded the fun of me loading my kayak. But the dessicant strip in the housing was full and the GoPro camera fogged up when the sun hit it.

I headed north across the bay.

Every piece of “dry” land here above the tide line is covered with thick vegetation.

Looking west across to Calvert Island with Addenbroke and Sweeper Islands in the foreground.

Yes, the sea she was angry that day! But only if you were heading south. Or over at Calvert Island where there was showers. I was laughing where I was!

The narrow channel between Sweeper and Addenbroke Island

Looking north

Looking east up Fish Egg Inlet. Just more of my big playground…

I love the patterns of old growth cedar.

Solar powered light station

With such a nice tailwind I had some lunch as I drifted north. Peanut butter, Persian dates and dried mangoes.

It was a pretty uneventful day as I headed up the coast. I had tailwinds and tailcurrents all day.

The Koeye River empties into the chuck before that mountain. It’s well hidden in a small bay.

As I made the final approach I turned crosswind to get around the headland protecting Koeye Bay. The big winds had created some decent sized waves, plus there are open ocean waves pounding this shore as well. They were all bouncing off the rocky shoreline creating a few tense moments as I made my way across. I made it though and here I was rounding the final point.

The Koeye watershed is a fairly recent conservancy and is sacred to the Heiltsuk First Nation. They had a lodge here which burned down last year. They are rebuilding it now.

I went up to say hi.  There was a Nature Conservancy guy here hiking the trails with a group of First Nations grizzly researchers from Bella Bella. They have set up barbed wires along the bear trails to snag tufts of hair which they then send off for DNA analysis. They were up the trails today. If only I had been here a day earlier, I could have gone with them! I said that I’d camp on the beach on the opposite side and the work crew foreman said that was fine, although there has been a bear wandering around some mornings. He wasn’t overly talkative so after a few minutes talking about things I headed down to go look up the river.

Norwegian Camp is an old mine just up the river from the bay.

The tide was still rising and I rode it into the estuary. It is an interesting place because there is a kilometer of river protecting the estuary which is a ways back from the ocean.

The river was low since there hadn’t been much rain lately. The water was warm and crystal clear and I could see salmon zooming around underneath me. They were pinks waiting for the rains. They were jumping all around me. I couldn’t stop laughing, it was so funny, there were thousands of them. It’s not easy to get a picture of a jumping salmon but here it is.

Looking up the estuary

Rain was starting in the mountains.

It soon moved down to the estuary so I decided to take refuge under a tree and wait for the tide to turn so I could ride it back out.

Just as I was getting back to the bay it started to pour. I set up my tarp and tent in the rain with the fine beach sand getting everywhere.

The gulls taking a break for the evening.

Then the sun came out! I shoulda waited and set up my tent in the dry!

And of course a rainbow.


Aug 21 2012 — North From Penrose

The next morning brought lots of little fishing speedboats right offshore. I guess this is a good spot for salmon.

The tide was way down, exposing the impressive extent of the shell deposits.

The upper tide line being encroached by forest was also thick shell deposits. Another reason this is a great camping beach is that there is a very sheltered tent site above the beach amongst the cedars, out of the weather.

This was a small pebble that was completely encircled by live barnacles. I guess it spends its life rolling in the surf, otherwise one of those faces would be clear.

A nice easy put-in in the tropical-like waters. There was nothing tropical about the temperature of the water though — 12 degrees in the middle of August! That’s how warm it gets here! El Nino years would be quite a bit warmer, however, and that’s when more southerly species come up.

Purple and orange ochre stars, and green surf anemones

I came upon this gaggle of surfbirds (that’s actually their name). They showed very little fear and I got to within less than 10 feet. The currents were fast and in my direction so I tied off to some kelp and started clicking away. I was there for a good half hour.

Chickens of the sea, pecking around the surf line and seaweeds

This guy liked eyeing me up.

Looking across to Calvert Island

I continued on north for a little while with the currents behind me and made the almost 3 km crossing to the mainland.

As I reached the other side I heard a humpback and went over to investigate. It was a lone whale feeding using bubble nets.

There’s something fishy going on here, I can tell… It’s easy to get a shot because you just point the camera to the bubbles and … wait for whale.

There he is! Taking a huge gulp of presumably herring.

He was moving around a bit and I kept my distance of about 50 to 100 m. I just hung out near the shore of the little island, repositioning myself every few minutes.

Barnacles

You can see the baleen here.

Yum! Herring!

I hung out for about an hour, then moved on after the activity died down a bit. I needed to make some miles, but on the other hand, I came here to see humpbacks feeding, so what more was I going to see?

I planned to camp up near Addenbroke Island (the one with the lighthouse) and I was basically out of water. I needed to get it from the mainland somewhere as the island would not likely have any. The GPS showed a little creek entering at one point so I went ashore in the difficult waves to fill up from this picturesque little gully.

Maidenhair ferns

It had been another fantastic day with cooperative winds and currents. I started to scout out potential campsites but the coastline was pretty rocky. Addenbroke looked even more rocky and steep so I instead elected (there was only one of me so the election was a landslide) to investigate the sheltered waters of Blair Island.

I rounded the bend into the bay at Blair Island and found a little islet with some fairly flat rocks. The time was 5 pm and I hadn’t seen any other suitable camping spot for a while, and there didn’t appear to be much further on either, so I called it a day. Back to sleeping on angular rock outcroppings…

It’s a nice little spot and there appears to be a place nearby on the main part of the island that might have a small pebble beach that doesn’t get flooded, plus entry and exit would be easier there. Not ideal, but if you really need a campsite it will work.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.