Nelson Island to Powell River

It was with reluctance that I left this site and moved on. This is a really special place and I sure hope it doesn’t get a house on it. I headed up the coastline of Nelson Island with a crosswind. This coast is absolutely gorgeous. There are a few houses along the water but most of Nelson Island is provincial forest land. It will be interesting to see if the government has plans to sell it off for revenue. That’s what they have done a lot of recently. Your and my forests have been getting sold off for private real estate development to help balance the provincial budget.

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I saw on Google Earth that there is a really nice south-facing beach on Nelson Island. I soon saw it and it was indeed beautiful. It did have a powerline behind it feeding Vancover Island via a sunk cable and over Texada Island. But once you overlook that it is an absolutely gorgeous spot. I was dismayed to see a single house at one end of the beach but then on further inspection it was pretty run down and likely abandoned. I will have to look into the status of this area and it if is not park land I will be lobbying for it.

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There is also an old rusty shiploading conveyor port nearby. I would guess this is for an old coal mine.

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I had a nice tailwind again and decided to camp somewhere in Blind Bay, separating Nelson Island from Hardy Island to the north.

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Once I entered the bay the water became calm like a lake. It was really pretty here but there were houses all over the place. It seems all the land is privately owned and all the nice spots have a house on them. I finally found a little cove with a steep climb up to a beautiful spot where I could camp. The beach was covered in razor sharp oyster shells. I saw no signs telling me to keep off so I didn’t care that it was private land.

This area has a lot of interesting plant life. The bushes are mostly evergreen huckleberry, which is more typical of the outer west coast. The rocky soils also support ground cone, a parasitic plant which lives off salal roots. There were also several other interesting species.

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And nearby my tent site on the rocks overlooking the water were many piles of regurgitated fish bones. It seems some fishing bird likes to come here and watch out over the bay.

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The evening was stunning with a beautiful sunset.

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The next morning I got up early feeling very refreshed. I chalk that up to the big rocky lump underneath the middle of my back last night. Apparently this does wonders for my back so I’ll have to look into accommodating something similar in my bed after the trip.

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I headed out on a high tide and calm winds. I made it to Jervis Inlet and crossed over the two and a half kilometre wide Agamenmon Channel to the Saltery Bay ferry terminal.

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This channel has some nice soft coral gardens. As the tide rips through the channel into and out of Jervis Inlet it carries with it lots of planktonic food for the gorgonian fan corals to filter out as they position themselves to maximize the current flow. These corals are different from the tropical reef building corals because they do not secrete calcium carbonate skeletons and so do not form reefs. To build reefs requires lots of sunlight, which there isn’t much here at 100 feet down. What there is, however, is lots of nutrients from upwelling currents, and therefore lots of plankton. That is the difference between these corals and tropical ones – these ones get food from plankton, and tropical ones get food from the symbiotic algae which live in their tissues and create food from sunlight. This is possible because tropical seas are so nutrient poor. This poverty supports low plankton populations and is why tropical seas are so crystal clear blue. The seas here are dark green. Many tropical reefs are under threat because of nutrient runoff from agriculture which increases nutrient levels, and the corals get smothered in algae. The gorgonian gardens here are threatened by trawling, which rips them up off their bases. They grow much too slowly to be able withstand this.

I was planning to take some form of public transit to Lund, 40 km up the coast, since I did not want to paddle past more endless houses along the Powell River stretch, and I couldn’t find any nice spots beforehand to camp near Powell River. But the people at the ferry terminal told me that I could camp almost right in the middle of Powell River, right on the beach! Nice! Exactly what I wanted. So I went and had a great hamburger for lunch, then continued up the coast.

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Finally, just before Stillwater Bay and the log boom sorting yard, there is a great beach backed by thick forest. This was exactly what I was looking for again, just what I wanted to see at the end of the day!

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It would be another 20 km into Powell River tomorrow. I was worried about not having enough water since I foolishly did not fill my water container while I had the opportunity to earlier. But at the top of the beach was fresh water seeping through the rocks!

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And there was a trail leading into the forest with a nice flat cleared area. This is some kind of a park but there was little evidence that anyone had been here lately. The forest is really nice and typical west coast rainforest. There were giant firs, cedars, and hemlocks and a nice understory of vegetation. I picked some salmonberries to eat. I had a huge serving of three cheese lasagna but I was still hungry.

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I headed out early next morning to calm winds and went by the log booming yard. Years ago when working for MacBlo I came down there once to help sort out the equipment in the forest fire fighting shed. Apparently the log booms get hauled here and then a giant grapple lifts out the logs and then they are further sorted and put on trucks or back into booms I would presume.

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I continued up the coast under bleak skies and endless waterfront houses. This stretch isn’t particularly interesting and the skies suited my state of mind that morning. I just wanted to get to Powell River. After a couple hours the headwind picked up and I was fighting the current too. I hugged the shoreline as closely as possible since the current will be slower there, as well as the headwind. I just kept plodding along since I had to get to town that day. I rounded point after point hoping to see Powell River just around the corner. I was getting cold from the wind and light drizzle. I kept reminding myself that tough times never last but tough people do. And what do tough people do in these circumstances? Well, they take a break and eat some food. So I anchored off a beach (using my crab trap – double duty) and ate the rest of my non-cookable food, and waited out the weather for 45 minutes. I was cold, wet, and sore, facing headwinds and head currents, but luckily I wasn’t tired or hungry.

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The winds diminished a bit so I continued on and photographed a deer on shore.

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Later on I saw a head in the distance. I am getting good at spotting wildlife in the water, and I’m able to discern things with pretty good precision now. Seals are everywhere and they bob a certain way. Floating wood bobs a different way. Deadheads bob yet another way. When you see a head and it MOVES to the side, you know it’s something else. I knew this was an otter heading for shore so I whipped out my camera and got some shots of it as it got to shore and started eating its catch – a flatfish. It didn’t take long and then it went back into the water and a raven came down to pick up the scraps.

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Finally, after one last point, there was Powell River.

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And then the sun came out and the winds died! This extra boost of confidence gave my energy a boost. I tried pushing the pedal to the metal to see how hard I could paddle. Boy, are my arms getting strong, after only 10 days!!

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After arriving in Powell River I headed up to the shopping mall to resupply. I was undergoing major culture shock. Everything seemed so alien after only 10 days in the “wilderness”, which wasn’t even really that wild. It all seemed so bizarre and removed and artificial, I could barely take it all in. I wonder how my culture shock will be after three months in the real wilderness. I have to spend several more days in Powell River tending to certain things, since my solar panel and charger have apparently fried two of my expensive camcorder batteries, and I need to rig up a better mounting system for my underwater housing so that I can record underwater as I paddle. Interestingly, after a couple days I now don’t find the civilization that bizarre anymore. I seem to get culture shock coming OUT of the wilderness but not when I go IN.

 

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