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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Video of snowrafting.
Video of undulating trails.
Videos going back down.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Some rain overnight — what else is new…
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 decided that I had to come ashore. There is a portage around Superstition Point so I headed for that.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It was a pretty uneventful day as I headed up the coast. I had tailwinds and tailcurrents all day.
The next morning brought lots of little fishing speedboats right offshore. I guess this is a good spot for salmon.
As I reached the other side I heard a humpback and went over to investigate. It was a lone whale feeding using bubble nets.
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’m reminded why I love bike touring so much. I’ve long been a fan of Lee Lau‘s mountain biking / skiing adventures. So I decided that it was time to get off my butt and do something with my weekend, since it had already been 4 weeks since I finished my latest kayak adventure… (I’ll get back to writing that trip up too, I’m a bit bogged down right now).
A guy at work had recommended High Falls Creek up the Squamish Valley so I pulled up Google Earth, did some Google searching, and put together plans for an overnight mountain biking trip. I was going to circumnavigate Cloudburst Mountain by riding up the gravel road to the pass at Tricouni, then descend down the other side to the Cheakamus Valley, and then climb back up over to the Squamish Valley, where I left my car.
After a lazy Saturday morning I barely got out of the house before noon. I had been fighting a weird lung infection for a few weeks and it felt a bit better, but not really. I wasn’t sure what to expect of my body but I wasn’t going to waste a perfectly good weekend.
I drove through all the tacky “development” along the Sea to Sky Highway until finally getting away from that madness when I turned off into the Squamish Valley which thankfully hasn’t changed at all over the years.
Shortly afterwards the pavement ended and I left the private lands and entered “Tree Farm License 38″ which, despite being logged out, is still publicly owned Crown Land. There was a First Nations settlement agreement recently however which transferred title of a large amount of land over to a group that will hopefully better manage the resources than our culture has.
Soon after the power plant is the trail for High Falls. Unfortunately it is way too steep for a bike so I had to ride up the gravel road that hikers who hike up the falls hike back down to return to their cars.
I passed three groups of hikers heading back down. They were all impressed with me riding my bike up, not seeming to give themselves credit for hiking up the falls themselves. It’s harder walking…
After a few hours of hard climbing I reached 820 meters elevation, up from 50 m where I started. This was near the end of the road.
I set up my GoPro video camera on my chest for the trail ride but unfortunately it was aimed too low and the footage was ruined.
I turned back up the road going up to Tricouni to get away from the cooler and noisy valley bottom creek so I could set up camp. I found a great spot just up the hill.
I pulled out my iPhone and surfed the internet. Internet in the wilderness! I was so content. Everything had worked out perfectly. My bike worked great, and my body was fine. My worst booboo was from when my D7000 camera that was strapped around by back came flying to the front while going down a steep section and whacked my funny bone. Man that hurt!
Well I had made it. I was so glad how it all worked out, and it was only like 3:30 in the afternoon! All the distances seemed to go by so fast! I think that has to do with spending so much time in my kayak lately where I’m thankful if I can maintain walking speed. Total distance: 52 km.
Well that was a fantastic trip. I have been out of commission for a few years due to my physiotherapist-inflicted leg injuries, limping for 2 years and on crutches for 6 months, and I was wondering if I’d ever get back up to speed. One day, years ago, I had done a big adventure where I drove up to the Black Tusk microwave tower, left my bike there, drove down to the Garibaldi Parking lot, then hiked up to the Tusk and rode back down to my car, all in the same day. Well this adventure was along those lines so I guess I haven’t lost it! I’m back baby!
As usual I got some videos which I’ll post later when I get it sorted out…
This year I decided to drive up to Port Hardy and park the car in the airport lot for the duration of the paddle ($30). A bit more gas money, but cheaper in other ways. But WAY more convenient. Cars do have their advantages…
After sleeping in the back of the car at the downtown Port Hardy wharf, I showed up to the airport mid-morning and wandered in and heard an announcement for a flight to Ocean Falls, then asked the counter girl if that would have bee the flight I wanted. She said no, the one I wanted, to Owekeeno (a village up Rivers Inlet), was just about to leave. So I ran back to the car to get my stuff organized, ran back in to get a parking ticket, ran back out to put it on the dash, then started organizing my stuff into bags on the lawn. We were already late leaving so the pilot and counter girl came out and helped carry my stuff on as I ran onto the plane. My kayak is so versatile…
I had four fellow passengers, government officials who appeared to be on a First Nations treaty negotiation trip out to Owekeeno.
The weather was low marine cloud and we were soon above it as we headed north across the Strait. I saw a whale down in the open waters.
I took some videos too and I will upload them when I get it sorted out. Soon, hopefully.
I just got to the Hakai Beach Institute where I’ll spend a day or two before heading up to Bella Bella. In a word, this place can be described with WOW! The wildlife is amazing. At the Koeye River there were thousands of pink salmon jumping at the estuary waiting for the rains to begin so they could go upstream. Then it rained and I went up afterwards to see wolves and grizzlies catching them.
Then I crossed over Fitz Hugh to the Hakai area and ended up in the middle of a pod of humpbacks. They are everywhere here. I have been up close when they are feeding with their bubble nets. They were also torpedoing off in the distance.
Here are a few shots so far:
I put up a new page on the top banner analysing whether there is hope that solar power could desalinate enough sea water to expand the planet’s agricultural capacity to save humanity as we run out of fossil fuels. Short answer? Maybe it could provide significant relief, but we better get our act together really soon.
Also, I will be heading off into the wilderness for a few weeks as of tomorrow and you can follow my progress online with my Spot GPS which I’ll try to update every evening. I’ll fly in to Rivers Inlet where I left off last year and continue on up, hopefully to Bella Bella. I have a late start so I don’t know if I’ll make it that far. I hope to see grizzlies and wolves catching salmon in the Koeye River. My GPS location map is here.
Also, a commenter pointed out some material from the 1930′s that had been written regarding “technocracy”, or what is now called “ecological economics” or “thermo-economics”. I haven’t had time to look through it very thoroughly but from scanning, it seems to be eerily similar to the things that I have written. How different people can come to such similar conclusions independently, almost 80 years apart, says something. It is here.
I believe I just made the first journey out to the west coast in a Leaf. The other week Sun Country added a Level 2 charger to the Hospitality Inn in Port Alberni, as well as one at the Black Rock resort in Ucluelet. The one at Black Rock isn’t as critical as you’re staying overnight in Ukee anyways so even a 120 V Level 1 charger (i.e. a wall plug) would do.
I took that as the sign to take my Leaf out to the west coast, something I’ve been planning to do for a while. After the ferry I topped up my charge in Nanaimo at the free charger at Beban Park, then headed off to Port Alberni around 10 p.m. As I crawled over the hump into town it became apparent that I’d only end up using half the batteries to get from Nanaimo to Port. Then I spent 4 hours sleeping in the back of the car in the foyer of the hotel to get a full charge because I had no idea how the run to Ucluelet would sap my power. I awoke at 3 a.m. to the noise of the cleaning guy and drove 30 km out the highway to find a nice little side spur to finish my sleep until 8 a.m.
At Sutton Pass I stuck my GoPro sports video camera on the windshield and got some great footage driving down the highway. Unfortunately I accidentally deleted it without realizing I hadn’t copied to the computer first…
Across from the new hydro generation station along Kennedy River is a riverside giant cedar forest trail.
They are some of the first plants to come up in the spring and the seeds are ready to drop in early July. I had stopped two weeks ago to check them out and the seeds weren’t quite ready, and something had eaten / taken most of the pods. But this time they were ready to go and I salvaged a few.
I took more footage of the crazy highway section above Kennedy Lake and a big rig whizzed by right at the hairy section, making for some good video. Unfortunately I lost that one too.
In the end I only used 2/3 of my batteries to get from Port Alberni to Ucluelet! And I was envisioning dying in the middle of nowhere and having to fire up the emergency generator! It’s just a matter of driving slowly and conservatively.
I kept track of how much battery each section used up, from Nanaimo to Port and from Port to Ucluelet. It turns out I only need to spend an hour and a half charging in Port. Not too bad, so the journey between Nanaimo and Ucluelet that normally takes 3 hours in a regular car will take me about 5 or 6.
If only … if only it had 20% more range, then I could do the whole thing from Nanaimo to Ucluelet in one shot… Makes me lust after a Tesla Model S.
Now onto the real reason for my visit out to the west coast.
We had our official grand opening June 1st and I’ve been coming out to work on unfinished business with pipes, pumps and tanks since then, and of course fish too.
I got some interesting video with my underwater GoPro housing of the spotted ratfish in The Great Tidepool.
I decided to head for Rivers Inlet today and pack it in for the year since the weather had been so bad. I had to be back at work in a week so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spare. I was tired of being soaked and I was worried about my camera gear.
It was raining a bit in the morning as I packed up but as soon as I pushed off it ended.
I made the kilometer long crossing to the mainland, a little wary of the humpback hanging around.
It was a nice paddle along the open coast to the point where I would turn east into more sheltered water. There were lots of birds and some boats going by.
I crossed eastwards over the bay to the main part of the mainland, which I would continue along northwards. I was getting very warm in my drysuit in the sun. I had to pull the top part off. Wearing it would be out of the question; I would overheat in no time. I don’t know what you’d do if you were somewhere treacherous with cold rough water, where you had to wear it for safety reasons, but you were stuck out in the blasting sun.
First thing’s first was to have a big chicken taco salad in the dining room with Sirius Satellite Radio blasting classic rock from the 70′s. Sorry, chicken.
I used the sat phone and arranged with Pacific Coastal for a pickup in a couple hours.
I asked a young guy on the dock helping me with my stuff (what a nice guy) what their work schedule was like here — 3 months straight, 7 days a week. Wow, that’s impressive. At least there’s nothing to blow your money on out here.
We touched down and I was once again brought back to civilization. When I come out of the wilderness I notice that there seems something odd about how we act. After a few hours this sensation wears off, though never fully, I guess as I too re-integrate into the Borg collective. Funny, when I go into the wilderness I don’t feel anything odd about it… Must be the bond market. It influences us in ways more profound than we can imagine.
I stayed at the backpackers hostel again and tonight there were fireworks on. The whole town was out, right in front of the hostel. The next day I caught the bus back to Courtenay.
When I got up I felt like I had slept in but it was only 8:30. I had set up the bowl under the drip line overnight and it collected even more water than the previous evening when I dozed off for a couple hours in the rain. I was surprised by this because I heard rain in the night but I thought it only was a shower for about 15 minutes. It must have been at least a few hours long though to be able to collect that much water. How deceptive.
Since the weather seemed better, today would be another break day, this time to dry out, not to get soaked.
The water was calm at low tide. It really quietens down at low tide here and the waves from the swell almost disappear. But then when the tide comes up so do the waves. It must have something to do with the bathymetry of the shore which attenuates the waves at low tide.
There were also many planes flying north and south right over me. I guess this is a major flyway.
The weather turned sunny and I took out my 70-200 lens with the teleconverter to start taking some photos.
That actually would have been a nice shot of a hummingbird in a flower. But what the hell was going on? Suddenly everything fogged up! I freaked out and tried to locate the source of the fog, and unfortunately it wasn’t between the lens and camera, it was inside the lens. I have heard of lenses being ruined in the Amazon when persistent fog caused fungus to grow and etch the glass. And this was no cheap lens!
I didn’t know what to do. This was obviously happening because of all the humidity in the bags over the last few days seeping into the lens, and then when put in the warm sunshine it condensed out. The only thing I could do was lay it on my sleeping bag under the tarp, separated from the camera, and leave it to air out.
So then I took out my 70-300 lens which is a cheaper, though still expensive, lens. And almost immediately it did the same thing! I opened it up too and laid it out. Then I took out my little 35 f/1.8. It happened again! I laid it out. Then I took out my wide angle Sigma, and luckily nothing happened with that one. I attribute that to sloppier build quality…
Anyways, after about 1/2 hour, to my great relief, they aired out, as good as new.
I listened to the weather report which was improving. I went over to the next cove to see what was there, and immediately found something interesting…
I started thinking about how much carbon gets leached from the forests by this tannin tea. It must be significant. In most forests the carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere is released back as CO2 when the matter breaks down on the forest floor, or if the forests burn. But here, it is so wet that decomposition is incomplete and it simply washes out. It probably doesn’t always flow intensely brown like this; most likely it’s because it is the height of summer and soil activity is higher.
Another way forests release carbon back into the atmosphere is through direct release of isoprene through their leaves. I find nutrient cycling in ecosystems interesting, because we are all part of that. All our food comes from there.
It was cloudy in the morning but not raining so I packed up and made the difficult gear transfer down the slippery rocks to a flat muddy area at the bottom with eelgrass. This little island is actually connected to the main island at really low tides. There was a wide diversity of marine algaes / seaweeds here, exposed at low tide.
As I was finally getting ready to go, the rain picked up, but that was okay because I was in my drysuit. I came prepared! I immediately crossed over to the north shore of the inlet and began searching for a creek from which I could fill my water bottles because I was getting very low. I wanted a little stream, not a raging river, since the stream would be groundwater that I wouldn’t have to filter. There were tons of streams with all the rain; it was just a matter of finding one that was easy to access.
A fishing boat went by as I started off again. I went past another beach with a big raging creek. The rain started to taper off so I pulled my head out of the drysuit since I was getting too warm.
I continued on for a while, following the interesting shoreline as I moved west towards the open ocean. I came upon a bay with a large brown sandy beach and I went in to investigate.
My destination was a little island out at the mouth of the inlet, where there is supposed to be a beautiful sandy white beach on the lee side of the island.
I donned my drysuit again as I crossed over to the islands, especially since the weather was staring to close in.
I crossed over to Brown Island as the rain started pelting down. As I was approaching I startled a pair of sea lions about 30 feet off the bow.
I waited until a break in the waves and then raced in over the reef in a foot of water. Just as I was landing a big wave came up behind me and if I hadn’t been perpendicular it probably would have knocked me over. I pulled out ASAP.
It was still raining and I got a little sleepy so I took a nap by lying on a log in my drysuit. It was very comfortable, just the right temperature to be lying in the rain.
Then I took my drysuit off, and now it wasn’t so warm! Those things really work.
It was cloudy and I had a slight tailwind. And the currents were going my way too. I made an easy 7 km/hr and knocked off a few kilometers in no time. How so much easier this was than 14 hours previously when I was fighting the winds to the campsite. Sometimes you just need to know when to call it quits and relax. Work for the sake of work is pointless, counterproductive, unless you are doing it for the physical exercise. I say the same thing about economics — our constant struggle to grow our economies bigger is futile and ultimately self destructive. We need to stop.
After about 6 km, a headwind picked up, but I had still done a respectable haul in the early morning hours. After this I paddled along the shoreline closely, hugging the coves to stay out of the wind.
I continued on and now the ocean waves were becoming noticeable. There are quite a few islands out in the mouth of the inlet which break up the swell but I was now starting to experience it, the closer I got.
I followed the shoreline a bit more and the rain started. I turned on the video camera to record what it’s like in a squall as I paddled. At this point the north shore of the inlet reaches a point, and doubles back a bit before heading up north and then west again. I had the choice of crossing some open water in this weather or following the coast back and crossing up north amongst some islands where it would be safer. I chose the latter.
I crawled up the north side of Dennison Island, all the while scoping out potential campsites as I went. I didn’t see anything obvious and I crossed over to the next island to the west, which had some rocks at its exposed end that I was hoping would be suitable. But the rain was really starting to pick up. I could see it coming in from the west. I crossed over to the island before it hit and took shelter under a big overhanging cedar tree, maintaining my spot with the odd paddle stroke against the wind. I would stay here until the weather abated. After 1/2 hour it didn’t and I had to make the decision to move on in the rain. I was only in my rain gear, not my drysuit, so I would get wet. But if I could pull out for the day that would be OK.
I got to the rocks and the pullout was difficult, but doable.
I got my stuff up but I didn’t want to open it because anything inside that was still dry would then get wet; it was still pouring rain.
I stood around for probably an hour waiting for the rain to end, which wasn’t. I was getting wet and cold. I was not a happy camper, literally.
I realized I had to do something so I managed to cook up some fettucini alfredo which wasn’t very good, but it warmed me up a bit.
I became totally soaked. I was getting cold, frustrated and angry. I yelled my profanity and frustrations into the weather. I finally bit the bullet because I had no other choice, and tried to set up the tent with the tarp in a small and contorted space on some rocks. This did not work.
I got my stuff semi-organized and I hunkered down in the tent for a while to listen to the weather — a quasi stationary trough in Queen Charlotte Sound was sending waves of rain out. Well, that’s where I was, and that’s what I was receiving.
It rained all night, but miraculously it stopped mid morning the next day. I wasn’t going anywhere that day; it would be my day off. If I tried to pack up now everything would become soaked.
I got up and sort-of dried out. There was a hummingbird hanging around, going in the little salal flowers. My breakfast was some apple cinnamon oatmeal. A banana slug seemed to really go after the residue on the oatmeal packet. I threw the slug into the bushes. Then I thought about how long the banana slug population has been isolated on this little island, off the bigger island, which itself is isolated from the mainland.
I felt sorry for myself, thinking that I am the only life form here that can’t handle the rain. Nothing else cares about it, they just go on with their lives regardless.
I didn’t do much all day; I mostly sulked. I had a bath in the ocean, and took some video footage of waves coming into the tidepools. I didn’t even open my camera bags because they were soaked.
As usual, I sat in my tent, getting really bummed out, until it finally ended at 11. I packed up with everything mostly wet.
I was getting my boat loaded when a fairly large boat came by and then doubled back around after it passed me to check me out, probably just to make sure I was okay because I don’t think there are many kayakers up here. It was a nice gesture, but in doing all their twists and turns they sent some big wake my way which really caused havoc with my precariously placed half-loaded kayak. I then headed out.
The weather was fairly calm for the most part. I played with my underwater video camera as I went. The water was brown from all the river runoff. The vegetation here never really dries out so decomposition is incomplete, and lots of tannins are produced which make the runoff water look like tea. The intertidal life isn’t too diverse up here because the salinity can get low when it rains hard. But mussels, barnacles, and rockweed all flourish. There were also tons of giant sunstars along the steep rocky subtidal slopes here up the inlet. These are the monsters of the sea and they can get over a meter across. They are the fastest starfish in the world. Most of their prey around here deploy unique escape mechanisms when they smell an approaching sea star. Clams stick out their feet and try to walk away, and if they’re lucky they’ll go in the right direction. California sea cucumbers start doing the wave and try to squirm away. Swimming scallops do what their name suggests — they swim away, just like in the cartoons. Sea urchins lay down their spines flat, exposing thousands of little pinchers called pedicellaria, with which they pinch the sensitive tube feet of the star.
After a while a headwind started picking up as usual in the afternoon when it isn’t raining. I tied off to an overhanging cedar and had a 45 minute break for lunch — Clif bar, dates, and peanut butter — what else. I battled the winds for a few more hours and made it as far as I thought would be practical — no point wasting energy fighting the wind when in the morning it would likely be calm. There was a little peninsula sticking out that became an island at high tide and it looked ideal to camp on. It was bare rock up top.
I had zucchini lasagna for dinner and took advantage of the relative dry to put some Aquaseal on the gash. I would only need a few hours of dry for it to set.