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.

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