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July 31 to August 2 — Bushwhack

The mosquitos seemed to die back overnight like usual. I think that might be because my metabolism slows down so much while sleeping and therefore I produce less CO2. Mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2. This is why, when I was tree planting years ago, in the big dinner tent with lots of people, the mosquitoes wouldn’t bite you because there was so much CO2 in there they got confused.

But as soon as I got up in the morning and moving around they came back. I hiked the remainder of this particular “Grouse Grind” hill which wasn’t very far. So far the terrain seemed fairly manageable. It soon leveled off a bit and I went by a huge dead cedar snag. It started getting rougher and steeper, and with more bushes and downed logs.

I was heading to the right, the idea being that I’d go up against the flanks of the mountain to my right, and follow this along until I got to the valley pass. This would avoid the wetter and brushy areas down below. I did a few pack runs and made it to the really steep part, where I turned more to the left to follow the steep cliff slopes along their bases. I was working hard but it was do-able. I did this for a few hours and my body was performing surprisingly well.

Every twenty minutes or so a small plane would fly overhead. I had been kept company by them for most of my time up Belize Inlet. I guess this is the main north/south flyway up the coast. And they even came up my little valley too, I presume because the pass is only about 320 meters elevation. I heard them throughout the day flying overhead, probably only a few hundred meters away, and maybe 500 meters higher. They had no idea what was going on beneath in that thick forest.

I could see the lighter green deciduous vegetation of the lower areas down below me, which is part of the reason I was up high because I wanted to avoid it. As I went further along, this lighter green started to come up the hill and pinch me up against the cliffs to my right. I started going up steeply towards the right in order to avoid this but ultimately I came to the base of a cliff which forced me to cross the light green, which was a debris chute that I would have to cross.

But in order to cross this debris chute I first had to hack through the extremely thick regenerated conifers that were at the edge of the chute. These were coming in very thick after the disturbance adjacent to the chute. The ground was very steep and I had to take my backpack off and push it up through the branches ahead of me and rest it in on some branch I could find, then pull myself up behind it. I eventually got all my stuff through and I came upon the little debris chute creek which was just a dribble, and I filtered some water to fill up my bottles since I was going through water like there was no tomorrow. Maybe there wouldn’t be. I was eating Clif bars regularly because of all the energy I was burning. I made a little video of this creek.

As I re-entered the forest I saw that I would not be able to escape an encounter with the infamous devil’s club. This is an extremely spiny shrub which grows via long spindly stems covered in spines and culminates in a whorl of equally spiny leaves. It only grows in wet spots with moving groundwater, which is one reason why I had been avoiding the lower wetter route.

But beyond the unpleasant devil’s cub, the added bonus here was that it was growing out of a pile of downed logs which I had to cross. These created a false ground about six feet above the real ground. I could walk across it, but if I slipped I could be in trouble. But first I had to fling myself and my stuff five feet up onto the first log. Luckily there was a big red berry elder stem which I could grab hold of and swing off of, up onto the log. Oh yeah, and I was wearing my paddling gloves which really helped with hand protection.

I managed to get all of my runs through this section and after this I had a bit of a reprieve for the next couple runs. But then I discovered the downside of following the cliffs so closely – there were very steep debris chutes up here. This next one was not overly shrubby because it was enclosed in the forest canopy. But it was criss-crossed with large and high logs, and the gully itself had large rocks with steep dropoffs; a typical debris chute, similar to what you’d encounter in the treacherous areas of Grouse Mountain.

I managed to get my stuff across this but the terrain was getting worse by the meter. I was getting heat exhaustion and my body was protesting. Further on was a very steep thick fern field growing out of tons more downed logs. That would be even worse to cross. It also happened to be at the base of another cliff but this one emerged from the forest, versus all the previous ones which were within the canopy. It also looked to have a lower section that was climbable, at maybe a 30 degree slope of bare bedrock which went out into the open. I decided to climb up onto this cliff to get a GPS hit and a view of the surroundings. This proved to be interesting as I had to get up to the cliff first. There was a tree or stump or something that seemed to grow all the way from the base and up 15 feet of vertical wall before the sloped rock began. I don’t know exactly what this was, it was all just random organic matter. I pushed / pulled / crawled myself up the tree roots about 15 feet above the vertical base of the cliff. Then the open cliff itself began.

I climbed up another thirty feet or so on all fours along the few mossy cracks that provided some traction, to where I could get a better sky view for the GPS. I noticed saxifrage in the cracks; this is a typical species of these habitats. It was hot and dry in the sun. I set up both GPS’s and went back down a bit to get into the shade. In a few minutes I returned and got my GPS’s. Luckily I got back down safely. This was a dangerous thing to do because if I slipped I could easily be toast, tumbling 30 feet down a steep rocky slope and then another 15 vertically down to that branchy abyss. But there was so much wood and branches and moss and ferns that if I was careful, I could just kind of slide down all that organic matter to where I needed to be. My feet were at times hanging 10 feet above the floor but there was so much to grab hold of that it worked and I made it back.

I pulled out my map and based on my hit, which was in a different coordinate system than what my map used, I had gone about 600 meters and was at 140 m elevation. I decided that I had actually gone as far as I needed to and that the debris chute I just crossed was the valley to the pass, or at least it would get me up to higher elevation to where I could make better sense of my location. So I decided to push on up the hill. I got my stuff together and aimed straight up the mountain to the right. I would go straight up between this cliff and the previous debris chute. I figured that even if I wasn’t at the right spot there was no harm in going up here because it would get me up in elevation and I could then have a better feel for where I needed to be.

I did one complete run of my stuff. It was steep but passable. Then another run which was steeper and more difficult. I did another final run probably up to near 200 meters and that was it. I’m actually surprised that I was able to do that last section. It was incredibly steep with big stumps and logs to get around; more climbing than hiking. Somehow I was ducking under branches with my pack on while going up a 45 degree slope, where if I lost my footing I could tumble 20 feet down until I hit a big bush or tree or something.

I’m using a lot of superlatives here, aren’t I. Well, that’s what this terrain was like. When I got all my stuff up to the final spot where I could squeeze my tent in, and had about five minutes to assess my situation, I realized that I could not go any higher up; it got even steeper. I would have to go back down to the cliff and find a different route. I was also accepting that my body would not be able to take me to my destination. My knee had performed admirably but I had pushed it too far on these last three runs, for nothing it turns out, and I was getting a bad blister on my big right toe.

I weighed the options and it didn’t take too long to come to the conclusion that the trip was over for the summer. The mountain got the better of me. It is interesting to analyze how my mind worked. One minute I was concentrated and determined to keep going, and then after a little bit of weighing the facts, I had to accept the inevitable. Maybe that’s why I’m still around to write about it. I’m glad I have a logical side.

I had a few options but none were really anything I wanted to entertain. I could go back out to the ocean and get a ride around Cape Caution to continue on but that is not the point of this trip; I want it to be self supporting. And I am not confident enough to paddle around Cape Caution; it is too risky in my boat. Plus, it would be mid August by the time I got to Rivers Inlet and by then the weather starts to turn up north. And then I would miss Long Lake and the grizzlies of Smith Inlet, which I really wanted to see.

If I was going to pack it in for the year one option to get back out was to go backtrack down the coast from where I came and back to Telegraph Cove. Another option was to cross over Queen Charlotte Strait straight to Port Hardy, either by paddling across or by catching a lift. But I had absolutely no map of that crossing. I knew there were islands in the middle of the Strait but I did not know where. Any way though, I was currently in the middle of “nowhere” and had several days in front of me to get out.

Anyways, I had decided to turn around so tomorrow was going to be a big day where I would go all the way back out to the water. I did not want to camp in the forest another night. I managed to find enough flat ground to set my tent up to get away from the incessant deer flies ASAP, not to mention mosquitoes, and ate some more Clif bars. I popped my blister and put some antibacterial cream on it. I was quite dismayed, distraught and lonely. I made a video but I was really whiny so you don’t want to see that.

On to the next day. Well today I hiked back out to the water. That’s all there is to say, so on to tomorrow….

Haha, no, a bit more happened than that. I was surprised in the morning that I wasn’t totally seized up. My knee certainly wasn’t feeling great, but it was OK considering what I had put it through yesterday. I got my stuff together and made my way down the three runs back to where I turned up the mountain yesterday. It seemed like I got quite far; I sure was determined. That was a lot of wasted effort though.

I then had to traverse back through the same patch of devil’s club, which luckily I did without incident. Then go back through the thick, steep conifer thicket on the other side of the debris chute. Luckily I had my trail from the previous day to follow, which I generally did.

The going was tough and I was eating Clif bars regularly. I was getting worked up; I just wanted to get out. I was making lots of noise and yelling, partly out of frustration but also to warn the bears of my presence. Every once in a while I’d tap my air horn. So I’m sure any bear within miles knew I was there. I don’t know why I was so concerned since there was hardly any evidence of them here, and none up on this sidehill. There is nothing here for them. They hang out in the river valleys. The creek down at the bottom here may have a few salmon returning in the fall, but other than that there is not much here for a bear.

There had been some kind of accipiter (bird of prey) nesting in one of the big trees which I was passing. I could hear it most of the time on my bushwhack over the last few days. It would fly out to the water, then up into the forest again, back and forth and all over, presumably feeding its chick. I thought about how far apart we were in our mobility; it simply takes to the air and within seconds it’s soaring over the inlet, yet I have to fight for over a day with hundreds of pounds of gear just to reach the water. With all the racket I was making, it came down to see me and perched in a branch to watch me for a while, about 50 feet away. That lifted my spirits. I think it was a merlin; it wasn’t very big. I was also eating red huckleberries as I went, which was a great pick-me-upper.

I think my fear of bears out here was more of a fear of the unknown and of being vulnerable, with all my stuff stuck way up this mountain. I saw a couple old scats way down by the creek but other than that, nothing. Seeing the falcon provided me with some company. The cougar incident in Shelter Bay was frightening because I didn’t see it. If I actually saw a bear it would probably alleviate a lot of my fear and again provide some company. I’ve seen them tons in the bush and it’s never bothered me.

Warning: rant mode on. These are the things I was thinking about on this trip, especially during this strenuous hike.

Most of our fears are irrational, and I think they are based on a fear of both the unknown, and of being helpless. This certainly explains our irrational fear of sharks. On average, about two to four people get killed by sharks a year, globally. Now, you could probably think up any other bizarre way of dying you can imagine, and there would probably be more people killed by that than by sharks. Many more people are killed by falling vending machines than in shark attacks. So why, then, are we so afraid of sharks? Well, they look scary for one. But so do many dogs, yet we live with them. We are afraid of wolves and we live with them. We have a history of fearing, hating and exterminating wolves, but then when we turn them into our pets, suddenly they become Man’s Best Friend. We are afraid of being killed by wolves even though I believe that not a single person has ever been killed by a non-rabid wolf (I may be off on that statistic by about 1 or 2 people).

What we are afraid of is what sharks and wolves represent, of us being helpless, floundering in the water while this sleek, fast and emotion-less eating machine takes control of the situation and comes up out of the mysterious deep to take advantage of our vulnerability and kill us. We are in fear of losing control of a situation.

It’s ironic, because if we look at how we humans treat each other, how we treat our food animals, and the environment, then we ourselves epitomize, in every way, every single thing that we unjustly fear about sharks or any other entity people fear and vilify and do their best to destroy. The reason we do not fear ourselves is that we are not unknown to ourselves, and we have control over ourselves (at least we believe we do). Therefore, we don’t fear ourselves. But we can become fearful and hateful towards ourselves when xenophobia creeps in to a society. Then other countries or cultures become the sharks of the world; we become fearful out of a lack of understanding that people the world over want peace and harmony, regardless of their culture or religion. Not to say that many governments are NOT to be feared (our own, most notably), and that they cannot whip up xenophobia to levels which do indeed pose threats to other nations. But ironically, the entities which we should be most fearful of – the banking industry – we freely give our money to. You’ll understand what I mean by this within a year or two….

Getting back to sharks, the only reason they attack people is typically because they mistake us for a seal. They come in, take a bite out of us to taste us, realize that we are not what they thought we were, spit us out, and then they swim away and leave us alone. Surfers look just like seals from below. This is why there are so many shark attack survivors (and every shark attack gets worldwide press coverage). Those that don’t survive shark attacks simply bleed to death and wash up on shore. If sharks really wanted to kill and eat us then there would be no survivors, and no bodies to wash up. Yet, sharks kill two to four people a year. In contrast, we have absolutely decimated shark populations worldwide; we slaughter them by the hundreds of millions. Many species are commercially extinct and it is possible that some could even go biologically extinct. We do this to serve the market for shark fin soup, brought about by a despicable fishing practice which catches sharks, fins them, and then throws them back into the water alive to slowly die a miserable death (see the movie, “Sharkwater”). This is accepted by many because sharks are believed to be blood thirsty killers, and there is no reason for anyone try to change these attitudes when such movies as Jaws and internet stories about shark attacks bring in so much revenue….

Now, given that most shark attacks, especially those from Great Whites, occur because they mistake us for a seal, and considering that my kayak looks like a nice big fat seal floating on the surface, I have to admit that even I was not able to let this fact go without some consideration….. Great Whites attack by coming straight up from the depths and hammering their prey to slash it open, then they return after it has bled to death and eat it. This is a typical feeding strategy off the coast of California (a kayaker was killed there a couple years ago), and especially off South Africa. I’d actually like to go there someday to see it, assuming they don’t go extinct soon. This feeding strategy was often on my mind as I paddled along, because Great Whites do sometimes venture into BC waters in summer. But given the yearly shark attack statistics, I forced myself to put my fears aside.

Back to the commentary of the trip …. the runs seemed to be longer and more numerous than when I was hiking the opposite direction a couple days before. I remembered the landmarks I passed and I tried to count down how many runs I had left. At one point I had to walk down a large rotten log perched about 10 feet above the ground. I had to do this 5 times (for 5 pack runs), and grab hold of a hemlock seedling to swing myself around to get off onto the next log which this one was resting on. I realized how dangerous this was; one false step, or one piece of rotten bark coming loose, and I could be in trouble. I wasn’t too concerned about dying, since even if I broke my leg I could pull myself out the 400 meters remaining and press the help button on my GPS, and then be picked up an hour later. But then I’d lose many thousands of dollars’ worth of gear since I wouldn’t be able to come back to retrieve it before my injury healed.

I was elated when I passed the two big Sitka Spruce twin sisters. These were beautiful large trees growing on the sidehill which I went up to avoid the deciduous terrain lower down. Then I did a few more runs and went by the big cedar snag! I was so motivated. But my body was beginning to shut down. I was incredibly sore and my energy was totally drained. I was mentally tired, but I had to stay focused on this tricky hiking because I did not want to slip. My toe blister was getting much worse and I did not want to look at it out of fear of what I might see.

Shortly after I passed the big cedar snag, I began the descent down the hill where I camped the other night. This was soooooo nice. I could see a long ways through the forest here and it was relatively clear ground on the hill, even if it was steep. I could smell the ocean on the warm breeze coming up off the water and over the hill. I could see it glistening in the sun through the trees, only a couple hundred meters away. There was no way I was going to camp in the forest tonight, regardless of how my body felt. This was not only because psychologically I needed to get out, but also because my body would likely seize up by tomorrow and make any hiking very painful. I needed to take advantage of my activity now and make the final push to get out, no matter how much my body did not want to go on. I needed to get to that barge tonight.

I could not rest for long between my runs because the incessant deer flies and mosquitoes assaulted me after about 10 seconds of not moving. I could not protect myself from the deer flies because they were biting through my clothes and they are painful. I was so stressed by this physical ordeal and the sweat and the flies that I took not one photograph today. I did not want to spend any time messing around with cameras. I just wanted to get out. This is a shame, because that was the most interesting part of the whole trip psychologically and physically. It would have been a great video shot to have me warily poking my way along that huge downed log, meters above the steep ground. But I was not concerned about such things. I have to give Survivorman credit for managing to keep the film rolling when he is under such stress.

This spot had a lot of cut up cedar piles. These are left from the cedar shake salvagers, who go into areas that were previously logged a long time ago when it was not economical to bring out all the big pieces of wood. But cedar is very rot resistant, so even a hundred years after being cut, it can still be viable, and a worthwhile source for supplying the shake roofing market. So a lot of the old cedar stumps and logs were cut up with big chunks left in piles. I’d estimate this whole area was probably logged about 60 to 80 years ago. I hadn’t gone through any old growth on my bushwhack. I had almost gotten to it at the end, but the reason that forest has remained old growth is because it was too difficult to access and cut down back then. That’s also why I didn’t make it any further….

And all along my bushwhack there were pink and orange ribbons from previous forestry surveys, probably timber cruisers looking to see what the wood was like here. It was mostly hemlock with a bit of spruce and cedar, not too valuable. So I wasn’t in totally uncharted territory out here.

At the bottom of this steep hill it got brushier and I had to fight this and within a couple more runs I was back up on the bench by the creek. I could taste the end. I finally made it to the final run across the creek to the grassy beach. I decided to set up my video camera and get one shot of me hiking my gear. I’ll put it up later.

When I finally got my stuff to the grassy beach I had to pack it up quickly and set up my boat because there wasn’t much day left. I made two runs over to dump my stuff on the barge and filled up my water containers at the creek. I set up my tent, made dinner, and called it a day.

That had probably been the most physically difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I have done big mountain bike races before, riding 70 km through the mountains from Squamish to Whistler. But I was in better shape back then. And those races only went for a few hours. This went all day and I pushed my body to the limit. Whew! It was done. I checked my toe and the previous blister had worn away and the layer of skin beneath it had made a new blister, even larger. But there was little blood, thankfully. Even as I write this today, months later, I still have numbness on that part of my toe from the nerve damage. Now my concern was how my body was going to feel tomorrow and then, how I was going to get out. I would take a day off on the barge tomorrow and then plan to paddle back out the day after, camping at the empty logging camp I passed on the way in. I would probably try to ask for assistance in crossing over to Port Hardy if I could find it, since I decided that this was the best course of action. But I had no idea what that crossing entailed specifically, other than what the previous kayaker had said (the last person I had spoken to) – that it was windy and rough and not recommended for an inflatable kayak.

When I woke up the next morning my entire body ached. It was painful even to lift my arm. But after I got up and moved around a bit I loosened up. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my right knee tendonitis wasn’t exceptionally bad, which is amazing considering what I just put it through. It was of course very sore but I could still walk OK. I had soreness in muscles in my legs I hadn’t felt before. Everywhere hurt. You know, “the burn”.

Today I ate a lot of food; I had dinner for breakfast, dinner for lunch, and dinner for dinner, and I think I also had an extra dinner in there too. Lots of nice spicy food. Of course I ate lots of raw brown sugar too.

I watched seals playing, or fighting or mating or something, just off the barge. This is a productive inlet here with shallow water at its head. I was surprised that even here, so far from the ocean, the tidal range was still about four feet.

I made a fire which lifted my spirits. There was a lot of wood on the barge and it seems that previous people had done this too. It’s a great place to get off your boat if you come up the arm. It was disheartening to see a gallon jug of motor oil left there by someone. I don’t know how to get that out. I certainly didn’t have room.

I went to bed for the night and as it was getting dark I thought I could see flashes. I wondered if I was going crazy but yes, there was some lightning off in the distance. I didn’t hear any thunder so it was a ways away. It sprinkled a bit too.

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July 30 — To the End of Belize Inlet and the Bushwhack

I woke up to sunshine and calm winds! And lots of bugs. Along with my usual morning routine including collecting salal berries for my oatmeal I took advantage of the sun to set up my solar panel on a big stump to charge my GoPro camera. I also assessed all of my food supplies – two weeks’ worth, not including any fish I catch. This should be enough to get me to Rivers Inlet where apparently there is at least one floating general store in a bay somewhere, catering to the summer boating crowd. My map sucked, so I didn’t know exactly where it was but I’d figure it out.

This spot is beautiful, especially in the sunlight. It was reflecting off the water onto the cedar trees on the nearby shore and making interesting patterns, below a vibrant moon in a blue sky.

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A little bit of morning marine layer

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All my food

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Because of the Narrows, there is very little garbage on the shores here. This was some bling left by birds. Probably a stolen lunch sandwich from some forestry operations.

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I also noticed more of these hundreds of tiny fish which I had seen before a few times in the last few days. They were only in the inlet, this side of the Narrows. They were about a centimeter long and schooled by the thousands. I got out my fish net and scooped some out and saw that they were actually swimming mysid shrimp. If I cared to I could make a meal out of them, some stew or soup. Just scoop until I had enough.

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The little shrimp were all around my kayak here.

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That’s the floating house I would paddle by.

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Logging operations a few years later. Alder grows on the disturbed soils of the roads.

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Fresh logging with some soil disturbance

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A variety of age classes. Above is old growth. Below this is relatively recent cutting and in the foreground is maturing second growth forest.

I still needed water so I’d hug the northwest shore as I paddled to see if any of the indentations on my map actually had water. I got as far as the northwest point of the inlet and at this point there is a valley with a creek. However, I had to hike a ways up the creek to get away from the salt water. I took video of this whole affair. I strapped the camera to my head and my audio recorder to my wrist and started hiking up the mud flat. I had to cross the creek once and I was thigh deep, walking across slippery boulders. If I fell I could destroy my audio recorder. Luckily I didn’t.

I felt uneasy walking up this creek because it is perfect bear habitat. I noted how much the vegetation reminded me of my home forests, the Seymour Valley in North Vancouver (not to be confused with the other nearby Seymour Inlet and River up here, they are totally different). I love exploring those verdant riverside forests in North Van but I also know that there are no grizzlies there; there would likely be some here.

I got to a point which obviously had fresh water so I filled up my new found water bottle from Shelter Bay. The grass beside this spot was flattened from something large, presumably sleeping. I returned to my kayak and filtered it, then went for another water run. That went by fine as well.

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I had to hike into the trees a little farther than you can see here.

Then I decided to get some underwater video footage of the shrimp. They were in the brackish flow of the estuary by the hundreds of thousands. They seemed to be feeding off the bits of stuff flowing down the creek.

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It’s interesting how different the marine life is in this inlet compared with the open ocean just outside the Narrows. That mostly has to do with salinity, especially in winter when huge volumes of rain and meltwater flood through the inlet and do not have a chance to flush well with the full strength sea water outside. It would be interesting to find out what the salinity is here in winter. As an interesting aside, there is an observation that all the natural fluids in the world have roughly the same proportions of elements. Rain water, fresh water, and sea water, they all have roughly the same composition of minerals. What is interesting is that the fluids of our bodies, like our blood plasma, have a very similar composition to sea water, with the exception of elements like nitrogen and phosphorus, but at only half the strength. This is why you can’t drink sea water. We have the same internal salinity as fish but they can drink sea water because they use energy to pump the excess salt out. This consistency is thought to be a relic of our primordeal origins as fish in the oceans; our bodies have maintained he same internal chemistry ever since.

I also noticed the lack of marine mammals in here; I can’t imagine any whales or dolphins coming through the Narrows. There were, however, plentiful seals because they are everywhere.

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With that finished I continued on towards a logging camp a kilometer to the east. But as I was leaving I had divebombing displays from those gulls, which I think are mew gulls. They have the most beautiful, haunting, lonely calls. This one didn’t let up and got more aggressive as I got towards the floating house. I don’t know what it does when people are at this place. Maybe it is guarding the house for its owners. It probably had a nest around there somewhere. It got really aggressive and was bombing me repeatedly only a few feet above my head. I took photos of it but it was difficult to get good shots as it came in close because panning was hard. It went up over my head rather than from one side to the next.

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Giving me the evil eye

The wind was picking up from the south so I was getting hit with some waves from the side as I went along. There was a large log boom perimeter protecting a calm area which is where the logs would be stored before being towed out. This was bouncing waves back at me. When I cleared this it got a little calmer. I crossed over to the south side of the inlet which was now going east, since that was in the lee of the wind.

There were more gulls here so I recorded their sounds and I’ll put them up when I finish writing the blog and figure out how to do it.

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A normal gull on the big log with the smaller mew gull down below

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Old logging near the head of the inlet

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I think this clearing has to do with helicopter logging up above. I think they drop the logs here before towing them out.

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I now had a long straight stretch to the final bend to the left which would be the end of my time on the water for a while. The paddling was uneventful in the sunshine with a nice tailwind. The mountains were getting higher. There was snow on some of them. At the end of a large island I crossed over to the north side before the inlet turned north. I spotted a murrelet nearby up against the shore and tried to get photos of it. It didn’t seem too scared of me but by the time I got my camera out it was gone.

I noticed on the other side of the inlet a picturesque waterfall cascading straight into the water, so I could have filled up my water there rather than at the previous creek. This creek must be fed from high elevation snowmelt since it was going pretty good. I wasn’t sure if I would have water at my pullout since the map showed a small stream but I didn’t know if it would be running.

I finally rounded the final corner and saw my adversary for the next few days. Or should I be more optimistic and call it my “friend”? I felt a bit of a lump in my throat. I just didn’t know how the next few days would go. The location was beautiful and sunny, and nice and warm with a light breeze.

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Rounding the final corner. That is my pass up there. I say “mine” because it may not have ever been traversed before, I don’t know.

I also noticed some very large impassable cliffs which were not noted on Google Earth or my topo map. That’s OK though because I was going up the valley to the pass at the base of those cliffs. I still had to get to over 300 m elevation though.

There was an abandoned barge at the very head of the inlet near where I would enter the forest. The grassy spot beside the creek would be the best entry point. I was glad to see that the forest was no longer hypermaritime, which is an almost impenetrable tangle of thick brush. This forest was again more like what I was used to around Vancouver – a high closed canopy with relatively sparse understory vegetation. This is of course all relative. It is still very dense.

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For some reason I wanted to make some headway today so rather than camping on the barge, I decided that it would be to dangerous to pull my kayak up against the rusty metal and instead packed up all my stuff to see how far I could get in the bush before dark. I had a couple hours left. The tide was coming in but I got it all sorted out and off I went.

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I would do the portage in five loads, with one backpack full of little things that never leave the pack. All the remaining large items would be carried in my kayak backpack. I would fill and empty the pack with each run. I would go about 30 meters per run and then dump my stuff and come back for the next load. This would be five loads in total.

It doesn’t sound too bad and I convinced myself of that. It is only about 2.5 km across to Long Lake where I would then go down to Wycleese Lagoon and then exit into Smith Inlet, thereby bypassing Cape Caution. Well, when you consider that I had to return 4 times to get the additional loads, we can do some math and add it all up: 2.5 km times 5 for the loaded runs, plus 2.5 km times 4 for the return runs. That equals 22.5 km. And that is over rough terrain.

The first run crossed the creek and went up to a little bench above the creek. This continued on for a hundred meters or so. Then I crossed another little dry muddy creek and after this the incline started. It went up for another 100 meters, but it got steeper. I was taking comfort in that it was actually very reminiscent of the Grouse Grind in Vancouver which I used to do regularly and get very good times on. That is a 700 meter vertical climb up Grouse Mountain above Vancouver which is 2.9 km long I believe. It is basically just a huge staircase.

Based on that history I should have no problem with this bushwhack. The problem was that I was still recovering from severe patellar degeneration and tendonitis in my right leg from the nerve damage and all the damage the physiotherapist and doctors inflicted on me. And I was only in running shoes. I didn’t have space for more sturdy footwear.

Anyways, this day was a success. I did about four or five runs and near the top of this steep hill, I set up camp in a relatively flat spot. I went to sleep amidst the symphony of mosquitoes buzzing only inches from my head outside the mesh, wondering what the next few days would bring.

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The forest is very similar to what you see on the Grouse Grind. Just substitute Sitka Spruce for Douglas-fir and everything else is the same.


July 29 — Running Nakwakto Rapids and up Belize Inlet

Before I got out of bed a tug boat came by towing a log boom out through the narrows. You have to time the tides right to pull something like that through the narrows! This is a working forestry area with lots of logging so I expect to have boats around. The old growth cedar and cypress is very valuable wood.

There were productive salal bushes all over this island so I augmented my morning oatmeal with berries and of course sugar. I am able to do this frequently since there are so many salal berries along this coast at this time of year.

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Launching was a bit more difficult that anticipated because the rocks were slippery but I got away and rounded the corner of the island while fighting the currents. I would go as far as I could and then wait for the currents to die down before going through the narrows. Since it was going against me there was no chance of the current carrying me away past a point of no return and sucking me into the abyss.

I didn’t get very far until I reached raging white water. This really is an amazing spectacle. The water was raging by and very loud. It was like a huge whitewater river. There was a clear line separating the raging current from the kelpy little cove I was hiding in. The water was calm where I was tied up on some kelp. There was a small back eddy, and only 15 feet away, that back eddy met up with the 15 knot torrent (who knows).

Low tide was at 10 a.m. so I would just hang out here until the water slowed enough to be safe. Unfortunately it didn’t. For over an hour I sat there watching a log circling endlessly in the eddies, snoozing, and taking photos.

I realized that there is a lag between the tides and the currents. The current continues to gush out even after the ocean tide has reached its minimum and begins to rise again. This is because there are over 150 km of inlets behind Nakwakto Narrows, the two main ones being Belize to the north and Seymour to the south. They both generally head eastwards, filling in the channels created by parallelogram shaped mountain ranges. If it wasn’t for this 300 m wide channel, the whole thing would just be a very large lake.

So all the tidal water volume is fed and drained by a 300 m wide narrows. What happens is that the water flow through the narrows can’t keep up with the tide levels in the ocean outside. So even though the tide is low in the ocean, the inlets still haven’t finished draining and water continues to gush out until the tide rises enough to equal the level of the inlets. Then you get a slack tide and after this the current switches and the cycle repeats but on a high tide. Because of this, I am expecting the tides to have a narrower range once inside the narrows. I’m sure there’s some partial differential equation in there somewhere… I imagine that under certain conditions, and with big river runoff, the narrows could get crazy.

Eventually after lunch the currents died down enough and I crossed the channel to a larger bay on the other side which looked calm enough to make some headway. I went from cove to cove and at one point the current was just too fast so I had to retreat back five meters to hang out in the kelp only two meters away from the fast water, and wait a while. I took photos of Tremble Island, which is a rock sticking out of the middle of the rapids. Its trees are hanging with signs from people brave enough to land and climb on the island. I don’t know how long slack tide lasts here. Probably not long. I saw the sign from the Vancouver Aquarium. They went there a few years ago on an expedition up the coast. There were a few ducks on the rocks of the island and that would be an interesting place to camp. Maybe some day I’ll do it. I wonder if it would be a first.

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The raging water was only a few meters to my right.

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Looking east up Seymour Inlet

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Looking northwest up Belize Inlet

There is interesting marine life in the narrows, with the strong currents. There are extensive beds of giant barnacles but I won’t be checking that out. You can eat barnacles by the way. They are crustaceans like crabs and apparently taste like them.

I got through the rapids and after another work boat went by I immediately crossed Seymour Inlet to the other side because I didn’t want to get sucked back through the narrows by crossing near its mouth.

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There are tons of burrowing sea cucumbers in the inlet. These are a different species than the California sea cucumber I caught last night. They aren’t as mobile and keep most of their bodies in crevices, with their fluffy tentacles extended to catch plankton from the water. They have beautiful colours ranging from purple to orange. I got some nice footage of them as I moved along in my boat.

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Burrowing sea cucumbers

I didn’t waste any time heading up Belize Inlet, which goes northwest until doing a big U-turn at the corner of the parallelogram and turning eastwards. Seymour inlet goes east right from the narrows. It’s all semantics though. They are all just inlets.

The wind was against me but the currents were with me as I worked my way up the inlet. Because the currents were with me, this meant that the back eddies in the coves were against me, so in order to take advantage of the currents, I had to stay away from shore for much of the time. But this put me out in the wind. The two tended to balance out and I made decent progress.

At one point I saw some weasel-type critter in the trees right at the water’s edge. It took off quickly. It was fairly large but I don’t know my mustelids well enough to be able to ID it.

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A very strange tideline. I don’t know why it is so sharp. I have seen this a few times so far.

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A logging access dock

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I reached the 270 degree turn at Mignon Point. I was actually not far from the big beach at Burnette Bay near Cape Caution. It is just a few kilometers over the land to the west. But with my kayak I do not want to risk that open ocean. I would not be able to land safely in big surf and there is nowhere to take refuge if needed. This is a shame because apparently it is a beautiful beach. Instead I am taking the inland route northwards. It will include a 3 km long bushwhack. I wonder if it’s ever been done before. I may be doing a first!

I began heading due east and the expanse of Belize Inlet lay before me, a dead straight shot into the mountains that went on for miles and miles. I soon crossed over to the north side and saw a rocky reef off in the distance. There were some sticks sticking up and I wondered if those were put there by someone to warn boaters of the rocks. But when I got to it I saw that the sticks were from a large log that had gotten stuck on the rock.

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Looking east up Belize Inlet after Mignon Point

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The marine life changed markedly in this inlet, compared with the open ocean. There were a lot fewer birds, but more loons. Also, mussels had returned. They had been absent from most of the open ocean shores I had been following previously. For some reason they seem to prefer the inlets which receive some fresh water dilution. I am not sure why. It might have something to do with their main predator, the ochre star.

I was getting pretty lonely in the empty vastness of this huge country. I had seen no boats since leaving the narrows. I passed by a few logging operation docks. I was starting to miss the open ocean now. I finally got to the beginnings of Mereworth Sound, which is the inlet leading off to the northeast from Belize Inlet. Right around here I saw some seals on some rocks which lifted my spirits a bit. Also, a speedboat passed by on the other side of the inlet, and a large ministry forest ranger boat went around the corner. I was wondering how much territory that boat must cover, and what it was doing up here.

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Just through this channel I came upon…

I passed a floating logging camp which looked like an interesting place, with cedar shacks and a patriotic BC flag. No one seemed to be home though.

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. I was heading for some little islands a few km further on, but I needed some water. I crossed over to the other side to where it appeared that there was a small river entering the inlet but when I got over it appeared to be way up some marshy estuary in the trees and I didn’t want to risk a bear encounter so I instead just went back across to the islands.

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Scenery to the east

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There is apparently a creek there.

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I didn’t want to go look for it.

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My island for the night

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The skies had cleared up and the setting was stunning. The mountain across the inlet was cloaked in beautiful old growth cedar forest and these islands were really interesting. I was feeling very lonely and homesick at this point and the beautiful location helped temper that but I had been on my trip for a month and a half now and I always get homesick at that time, no matter where I am. Plus I had only spoken to one person for almost two weeks, since leaving Telegraph Cove. So I had curry again.

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Looking east from my island. What a view!

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An osprey was watching me from the trees. As soon as I pointed my lens at it it took off.

 


July 28 — Shelter Bay to Nakwakto Narrows

I packed up early this morning to get out ASAP. But I had to make a final trip to the “creek” for water and I was freaked out crouching down there. At least I had this new water jug which meant I didn’t need my drybag for water anymore.

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Looking west

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Between the trees there is the next cove over where the cougar was sharpening his claws.

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The creek feeds right behind the big rock on the left. The cougar was throwing around little logs right around there.

Launching was nice ‘n easy on this low tide and the sand went all the way down. This is apparently a good clamming area.

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I had to backtrack south a bit to get around the islands forming the outer wall of Shelter Bay because at low tide they aren’t islands.

I sure was glad to put Shelter Bay behind me. It seemed like a mirage when I first arrived but this whole cougar business freaked me out. It was an interesting experience to be on the giving end of the food chain. Whether or not I was on the menu I don’t know. I guess the answer to that depends on whether I was crouched or standing tall at the time.

It’s interesting how your opinion of a place can be so swayed by your own personal emotions at the time. Shelter Bay is a beautiful spot. And if I had ben there with a few other people so that the cougar situation wasn’t so scary then it would have been OK. But the fact that it was so deserted, but with so much evidence of people being there only a short time before, gave out such a creepy vibe for me. Plus, the fog just hanging around a few hundred meters to the west added to the tension. I think we need to try to do that more — analyze things more objectively without our own personal emotions skewing things.

I decided to try to camp on islands as often as possible fromnow on. I got a good night’s sleep the other night on the island near Blunden Harbour, without having to worry about bears.

The fog was thick as I went along the coastline and it was fogging up my glasses every few minutes. I was in my drysuit but it was so calm I didn’t need it. The Macrocystis beds became more prevalent.

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Macrocystis kelp bed just outside Shelter Bay

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Stuck in the kelp

I came upon the Southgate group of small islands and went throught the channel separating one from the mainland. There were oystercatchers around but I didn’t record their sounds. I want to do this.

I had my GoPro camera and the audio recorder going as I was paddling along and then I cut off the video but kept the audio on as I paddled. As I came to the end of the first island, through the fog I suddenly heard a HUGE breath over the bay near the next island. Holy cow that was a big whale! I could see the breath in the air. There were two humpbacks, a mother and a calf. They were working their way along the coast of the other island, heading away from me. Wow, you get an appreciation for the volume in that lung when you hear it in the stillness of the fog.

Interestingly, I was heading towards a small rock covered in birds at the time, including cormorants, when I heard the whales. But when I heard them I totally changed my focus from the birds to the whales, even as I drifted towards the bird rock. They didn’t seem to care and I could get closer than if I was focusing on the birds, even if I was trying to pretend to ignore them. I think they are smarter than we give them credit for. Maybe they were watching the whales too.

I turned on the video camera and got some footage of me watching the whales but with the fog it was only footage of me. But I did get some nice audio of the whales breathing. I was a little scared by all of this. What if one came up underneath me in the kelp without realizing it? I wanted to go closer to the whales but besides this being illegal I believe, I was too scared. They went their way to the east and I crossed the bay and continued north, with the video camera going all the way. The fog was still thick.

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Thick fog

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As I passed by the last of the islands the waves picked up a bit but it was still really foggy. I had a couple more km of relatively exposed coastline to go before I got to Schooner Channel, which is the waterway that leads beside Bramham Island up to Nakwakto Narrows and Seymour Inlet. This went by uneventfully. When I got to the head of the channel the fog began to lift a bit and I could see across to Vancouver Island and the boats in the Strait. There was also a pleasure craft across the channel to the north, nearby another humpback. There were also a few porpoises around.

I tied off onto some kelp beside a little island near the entrance of Schooner Channel and had some peanut butter and dates and somehow my map ended up in the water but I retrieved it. The currents were going against me so I hung out here for a little while and pondered this being the last time I would see the open seas again for a while since I was now going inland.

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There was a humpback over there.

I instead went north up the channel to the east of Schooner Channel. My crude map showed that it might get through at the other end but after 10 minutes I decided not to risk it based on the still water so I turned around and went back up Schooner Channel, against the current by hopping from one bay to the next. An aluminum work boat went by, coming out of the inlet.

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Looking up Schooner Channel

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Last look back towards Vancouver Island

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Near the end of the channel I saw an interesting little outcrop totally covered in bushes. Apparently this is an old aboriginal village site. It is situated in a strategic location, right in the middle of all the action only a km away from the narrows.

There was also an otter taunting me here so I followed that guy for a while around another island. I think this is also the entrance to Cougar Inlet, which goes in a few km to the east. I don’t think I’ll go there!

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I then crossed westwards over to the island across the channel which looked to be a good camping site. It was almost in the narrows but still out of view.

It turned out that it was a good camping site. There was a protected little haul out area which looked to be not too difficult with a low tide but I would not know until the morning. There were open mossy rocks where I could pitch my tent. However, the currents really ripped through here so I had to be careful. I wouldn’t want to get sucked into the narrows.

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I got set up and decided to go fishing. This was an ideal rockfish spot. There were angular steep rocks going into deep water with lots of current – ideal. I first caught a California sea cucumber and decided to keep it because you can eat it. However, the muscles are very small and turned out to be rubbery and not too tasty. Then I caught a small copper rockfish and threw it back. It wasn’t long before I caught a keeper and I decided to get another. I could have easily caught dozens of these guys but two was enough.

This spot also had a great flat rocky part down below, just above the water. I could clean the fish there and just wash the guts back into the water so bears wouldn’t be an issue. But they’d have to swim across the swift channel to get here so I doubt they’d even bother.

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My new jacknife was coming in handy. Sorry guy! I have to eat! I’ll grant you the respect of looking in your eyes before I eat you though.

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That is the digestive tract which they expell under stress. All that is left is those five small longitudinal muscles.

I cooked up the fish with all my spices which was good. The wind was a little strong but it died down nicely after dark. Tomorrow I was going to got through the narrows and the low tide was around 10 a.m. so I had lots of time to sort myself out.

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The narrows are just a little ways around that corner to the left.

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The water would really move at times by here.

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Tiger lily going to seed

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July 27 — Day Off in Shelter Bay

I didn’t sleep well last night with all the waves and presumably a cougar walking around. Once the light returned I felt safer though and got some more zzzz’s. The tide was down at this point which also helped.

Around 9 a.m. I heard some logs being thrown around the beach in the next cove over where the creek was. I assumed it was a bear.

I was feeling quite frightened with all this animal activity around me. Wolves, I’d like to hang around with. Black bears aren’t too much of a worry. Grizzlies are a cause for concern. But cougars normally take off. When they hang around humans that is a bit frightening. If you are with a few people you can watch out for each other. But while alone you can’t. You are vulnerable when you crouch down because you appear small. You need to stand tall and act aggressively. At least I was safe in my tent but I couldn’t stay there all day. I went for a stroll up the trail from the campsite into the forest, which was pretty but there was bear scat everywhere. I returned and started a fire on the beach to make me feel better. I made it in the lee created by a couple of big logs. But then they caught fire after a while and I had to bucket up sea water to put it out.

I also attended to some more chores today. I sewed up my frayed sleeping bag using dental floss. That is the best thing to use when you are camping. It is very strong and you use it for your teeth anyways.

I also wanted another water bottle and just as requested, the high tide left a 1 gallon water jug on the beach for me. I tasted the water inside and it was a little salty so I dumped it out.

I also found a piece of half inch plastic pipe half buried in the sand. I cut this to length and heated it up in the fire. Then I bent it into the shape of my head and attached my headlamp to it. Now I had a head brace for my video camera! It was still a little shaky but better than before.

Also, the previous people had left a jackknife on a log after slicing up an apple (they left the little plastic sticker which I burned). This was a nice knife and I’ll have a use for that I’m sure. Also nearby was a model 4X4 in the sand which I pulled out. This place is full of surprises! I got all the provisions I needed!

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I made a trip to the creek and I had to hike up through downed logs about 15 meters to a point where it was dripping off some rocks. There was just a little trickle. I had to wait several minutes for all my containers to fill up and I felt vulnerable because I was crouched in a ravine. I had my bear spray ready.

Also on this little water trip I saw the log that got thrown around before. It wasn’t too big but I could see the claw marks in the sand. For some reason I assumed it was a bear but now thinking back, obviously it was a cougar sharpening his claws on the log just like our cats do. The paw prints weren’t very large and the ones that were from swiping had big claw marks.

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July 26 — Getting to Shelter Bay before the Winds Picked Up

As I presumed yesterday afternoon, the rocks were indeed covered in slippery intertidal life all the way down to the water. By 7 a.m. I was ready to go and started packing my stuff down to the water. I was able to negotiate the upper rocks without too much difficulty but then they became very slippery a little bit further down. This was potentially very dangerous since if I slipped and wedged my leg I could easily break a leg or twist an ankle.

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Stunning coastal architecture

I put on my running shoes since my sandals were not going to cut it. I tried making a pathway out of medium sized beach logs taken from further up the beach. I would string these along in a line and try to walk on them whenever possible. This also presented danger if they were to shift while I walked on them. I would also try to walk on the occasional patch of barnacles because these provided great traction, but they were spotty.

One by one, I humped each of my loads and my boat down about 8 meters at a time. Eventually as I passed the very slippery mid level rocks they became a bit more negotiable, but not because they were less slippery, but instead because they were covered in so much sea weed that this held my feet in place.

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I would have taken more interest in the rich intertidal life that was giving me such headaches but if I was going to make any decent time today I had to get moving soon; I couldn’t dilly dally or wait four hours for the tide to rise. I did take a picture of a blood star which feeds by absorbing the dissolved organic molecules and bits of stuff it comes across from the pea soup in which it lives, this emerald sea which is deep green from all the nutrients brought here from upwelling currents. These nutrients feed the vast kelp beds which have been a dominant part of the ecosystem on my trip so far.

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Finally, after about an hour, I got all my stuff down the twenty meters to the water and started to load my boat. But I couldn’t load it in the water because it got too deep around the rocks to easily walk around. I also didn’t want to get my shoes more wet. So instead I put the boat on my logs and loaded it there. I would slide and launch it off the logs. After one good soaker, I was ready to go.

My plan to slide my boat along the logs forgot to consider the skeg at the back end of the boat. So I had to lift up the heavy back end of the boat and then push. I did this a few times, repositioning the logs each time, and then it was in the water. Finally, I was off! But that has been the most physically difficult thing I have done on my trip so far.

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I continued on up the coast in the typical calm winds and fog. After about five kilometers I passed by the official opening to Blunden Harbour. So I didn’t get as far yesterday as I had hoped I would. This opening is a tiny little waterway that cuts through the outer peninsula of Blunden Harbour, and is only accessible at high tide. It was dry now.

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The first of three fish farms I would pass today

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A little ways past this I went through a fairly narrow channel separating an island, and I had to really fight hard to get through the currents. I hopped from one sheltered spot to the next and got through. I then immediately started to feel more of the swell from the open ocean. I also at that point, not coincidentally, saw my first patch of Macrocystis kelp, which is different from the more common Nereocystis bull kelp that has been ever present on the entire length of my journey so far. Macrocystis needs the influence of the open ocean – the water movement and the more constant salinity. That is what it’s getting here. I have seen bits of it washed up previously, but not the actual plants themselves.

I also encountered another fish farm pen here, no doubt positioned to take advantage of the swift currents to carry away all the wastes. Other than the odd fish farm, there really is nothing in the way of human life up here. There is of course lots of logging just onshore but no permanent habitation.

The waves generally got larger as I went along. I crossed a large bay and the bird life was quite impressive. There were auklets everywhere. This is what marine biodiversity could and should be.

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Rhinoceros auklets

I had a GPS coordinate for Shelter Bay, my destination for the day. I had no map of this particular stretch of coastline. Yes, that’s right, I had no map, except an extremely crude cartoon drawing from a tourism brochure which basically shows this coast as a straight line. I didn’t think I’d need one since it is fairly straight forward – you just keep going along the coast. So I didn’t print one off. That’s what I was doing though – following the coast. But there were more bays and islands than I wasexpecting and this was throwing me off a bit. I was counting down the distance to Shelter Bay and it was still a good 5 km away.

I came to another set of islands and noticed quite a few sport fishing boats around, presumably across from Port Hardy. The currents were pushing really strong against me. The place had a different feel; it suddenly seemed more exposed and raw. I fought my way up through some channels and then I saw another little cheater channel off to the side of one. I pushed through the current and was then immediately in calm water. I could see that this led into some more rough water. When I got out of this I was fighting the wind, waves, and currents and I made a dash across to the next little island.

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After this I had to cross another open bay to get to the mainland again. This proved to be quite rough, actually very rough. It was north-facing, exposed to the open water, and the bathymetry of the bay was making some very large swells, like about two meters, which is large for my boat. I would have put on the video but it was too rough. I fought my way across and kept going up the coast past the large breaking waves. This was rough water. I was getting concerned. I was praying that the winds would not pick up because I could be in trouble. I also wished I had put on my drysuit today. I was glued to my GPS. How could it be so far to Shelter Bay? The meters were creeping by and I cursed my slow progress. I looked to the trees to confirm that I was moving but it seemed to take ages.

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Finally I came to a sheltered bay and the winds were picking up. I saw that the peninsula forming the outer edge of the main bay went a little further up, but I really did not want to round that point since it would surely be very rough! Hopefully this little bay led to a shortcut into the main bay and it did. I also smelled rancid fish. As I entered the main bay I passed by an empty floating farm pen. My GPS said that Shelter Bay was still a kilometer away. I had to cross this north facing bay to get to it, and the winds were really picking up now. I started to cross, with the gloomy and muted greys of the ocean fog to the left contrasting the clearing skies to the right, inland just above the trees with brilliant sunshine and pastel greens. I could even see the mountains through which I would be paddling over the next few days.

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The cheater channel through to the larger bay

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Gloomy fog to the west

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That is the point I was glad I didn’t have to round

Once across the bay I took a rest in the lee of a little island and then pushed the final leg upwind to Shelter Bay. It was like a mirage, with its glistening sand beach shining in the sun.

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Glorious sunshine to the east

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That’s the Shelter Bay beach!

I landed and hiked my stuff up to the nice campsite. It is really nice here with flat soft tent sites and a large rope for a bear cache.

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I also noticed a sign warning of a cougar in the area. And after setting up my tent I noticed a tuft of tan coloured hair beside it. Some parks people had recently been here doing some maintenance and putting up the sign, so I assumed they had brought a dog with them. Sure….

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That’s dog hair beside my tent. Sure….

Tonight’s dinner was another round of Mediterranean Pasta with those brown chunks of meat-like things. I normally have a two-servings portion along with additional rice or plain pasta to add volume. I also add some spices like cayenne pepper, onions, garlic powder, or oregano and basil. I cook it until it is pasty, then add cold water which not only cools it down quickly, but turns it into stew. I like this and it fills me up well. But I am always hungry regardless. Today I thought I would up the ante a bit and make up four servings instead because I had worked so hard. I could eat more of it later.

So I cooked this up but the problem was that it filled the pot, so afterwards I couldn’t add the cold water. This meant it had a thick consistency and the sauce was very strong with all the spices I added. This was too much and I quickly lost my appetite. I just couldn’t eat more than half of it. I felt bloated for the rest of the evening and the only responsible thing to do was waste a good portion of the dinner by throwing it in the ocean because otherwise it would attract bears. Oh well, one dinner wasted; live and learn. Also, I checked the ingredients on the pasta and those brown things were actually some kind of processed soy product. They tasted good though normally, just not tonight.

Now somehow I had managed to convince myself that the tuft of hair beside my tent was from a dog. Obviously it was from a cougar. But I was still paranoid about animals crashing my tent at night so I did something I had been wanting to for a while. The problem is if a bear crashes the tent I won’t be able to get out in time because I wouldn’t be able to pull the zippers in all the caffuffle. So I got some pink ribbon from the little creek in the next cove over, which the parks people had used to mark its location for campers to access water (I took it off the ground), and then attached this to the one zipper that I should pull down vertically in an emergency. Then I would position this in a location where I could easily grab it in an instant if necessary. I would also sleep with my knife handy in case I needed it to cut the mesh. Of course I slept with my bear spray.

That night I did not sleep well. I was bloated and at midnight the tide came up. With the higher tide the waves were not broken by the bay floor and they were large and noisy. These waves were bouncing off the far end of the bay. When they hit the logs at the top of the beach they make strange sounds that can sound surprisingly similar to a bear growling. Just listen to them nonstop only 20 feet from your tent for four hours at midnight…

I wasn’t worried about cougars while in my tent though because they wouldn’t bother me there, but it would present no barrier to a bear.

 


July 25 — Bear on the Beach

I quickly packed up in the morning and started hiking my stuff down to the sandy flats way out at the head of the cove.

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There was a six inch deep pool separated from the open water by a sandbar. I set up my kayak there and then had to drag it 30 meters through shallow water with the skeg dragging to where it was deep enough to get in.

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I had to fight a few breaking waves on the way out but it wasn’t too bad. I got out and was again on my way. The sky was gloomy and the winds were light.

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I went along the coastline for a while without much happening. It was just steady paddling. It’s good that I decided to call it quits at my last campsite because there weren’t any suitable locations further up along this coastline. I could see the beginnings of Blunden Harbour which was to be my destination for the day.

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As I was approaching the first island which would provide some shelter, there was a sailboat coming my way. I thought I might talk to them, but then I noticed something large and black on the rocky beach – it was a bear!

I immediately headed over and got out my camera. By the time I got to it, it was in a different spot, right by the water, flipping up hundred pound rocks as if they were nothing, and eating the shore crabs underneath. I took several photographs and the sailboat came over too. I decided to see how close I could get and when I got about 30 feet away he decided he’d had enough and turned away. Then I backed off and continued on my way.

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The winds were starting to pick up now and I headed to the little island across the bay which would provide some shelter. Along the way I saw another kayaker coming my way. We waved and I headed over. He was in an inflatable kayak! We rafted together to talk a bit. His name was Mikhail and he had just paddled across from Port Hardy. He’d had a difficult time in the winds in his inflatable kayak. He had just spent the night on a grassy patch in Blunden Harbour and was heading down the coast to finish his trip in Telegraph Cove. He said there were a lot of bear signs around his campsite and he did not sleep well!

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Where you are looking is where he came from yesterday

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By the time we separated we had drifted a ways back and I had to fight really hard to get to the island I was originally heading for. I made it and did not see any obvious nice campsite except a rocky beach on the south west lee side. I went up through the kelp beds to the northern end and tried to cross over to the next island but it was almost impossible in this wind. It would have taken me a half hour of full out exertion to just go a half kilometer.

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Thinking about what to do while taking a break in the sheltered kelp beds

So I went back to the first rocky beach I saw and checked it out. It was actually a half decent spot. The rocks were large and smooth, since this spot obviously gets pounded during south-easterlies. They also had few barnacles on them so I waited around in the kelp for a half hour until the tide rose above the few barnacles there were. I then landed and got on shore without too much difficulty. I knew I was going to have problems in the morning though because the tide would be out and I could see that the rocks extended way down and they were covered with slippery intertidal life. But I had no choice.

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I was in the lee where I was standing. Around that log sticking in the air, the wind was howling.

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It was still fairly early, not much after lunch time, so I would have lots of time today to relax a bit. This was also a nice spot because I assumed there would be no bears on this small island. However, as suspected, there were no suitable tent sites because the whole beach was either large cobble or logs. Right above the logs was thick salal bush. So I figured I’d have to make my own tent site.

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Lotsa logs

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Thankfully, I soon found a piece of plywood washed up, which would be perfect!

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I set it up at the very western edge of the beach, which happened to be the calmest. But only 20 feet away the wind was howling. It was blowing down the west wide of the island which is exposed to the open water. But the trees shelter this one little spot.

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As the tide came in it also created a nice bathtub against the bedrock at the edge of the beach. I love this spot!

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Plus, there was a hummingbird that kept buzzing me. I hoped to get a photo but I didn’t manage to succeed.  I also found a washed up old fishing lure container. These were home-made flies, and most were too far gone but a few were usable.

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I had a nice snooze for an hour. I also charged more of my batteries but to charge my GoPro batteries you have to plug the power straight into the camera; there is no external battery charger. This probably works fine on a desk, but out here it is a pain. Of course I caught the cord while walking around and pulled the camera across the rocks. This scratched the lens! I was not happy, but the damage seemed to be minimal.

I also tried fishing off the steep rocks on the western side, only 30 feet from my tent. I got a few casts in but then my lure got stuck in the barnacles under the rock. I just left it there and planned to return later when the tide was out to see if I could loosen it. Sometimes I get really frustrated with fishing.

I again mustered the courage to try to fix my water filter. The glue I used was indeed strong so the only way I could re-separate the two pieces would be to cut them. So I got out my file on my Leatherman and started cutting around the shaft where it attaches to the handle bracket.

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Once done I was ready to go. I again set up on a big log. I glued it back together and held it for a few seconds. Then I realized that I hadn’t put it through the red piece! Duh! I quickly pulled it apart and then shoved it through, covered in glue. In doing so the sharp edge cut off a bit of the gasket lining the hole.

You might also notice that there is a spring and ball inside that shaft. This is the pressure relief valve which is needed to maintain pressure; otherwise it won’t pump. When I cut the shaft this spring sprung out and the ball fell out. I was on a log above big round rocks. Of course the ball went down into the rocks. I carefully removed rocks one by one until I found the ball. I then added more glue and managed to hold everything together against the spring tension until it set. Finally, it was fixed. But what a gong show. I think I am getting more absent minded and short as I age.  When I was younger I used to do a lot of work on my bikes, including bearing maintenance. I had little ball bearings around all over the place and I managed to manage it all. This repair job should have been a 5 minute piece of cake, all I had to do was do a dry run and keep everything organized in a safe place, then glue it all together. The filter would have been as good as new, with all the strong glue literally melting and fusing the acrylic back together. But because I have become more impatient and disorganized, I just jumped into it without rehearsing exactly what I needed to do, and on top of that I was playing around with tiny little parts on a log on a rocky beach! Why didn’t I do this in my tent? And in the end the filter now squirts water when I pump it because I damaged the gasket.

So I think I need to pay more attention to these little things and not let myself get too old and absent minded. It is amazing I haven’t ruined a camera yet, with four of them sitting in my lap. So I guess I’m not too absent minded. I guess these kinds of experiences make certain things more obvious, when such critical outcomes can depend on doing things properly, and when you don’t get a second chance if you screw up. Luckily my water filter now worked again. I am going to filter all my water now. The only exception is groundwater seepage, and I won’t be seeing any of that in this dry weather.

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Making dinner

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I also retrieved my fishing lure after the tide went out by using a long stick to push the line away from the rock which loosened the lure.

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That’s a long piece of driftwood

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I bet that rock has a few stories to tell


July 24 — Day Off in the Wind

After the long hard day yesterday I took a day off today, and the weather seemed to agree with me – it was sunny and windy right from the get go, and warm. I mostly just hung around, dozing in my tent in the sunshine, lounging on the beach, and procrastinating all the tasks I had been meaning to tackle. But when I am so tired and busy from paddling all day, I just don’t feel like dealing with non-pressing chores. I’d rather go to sleep.

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Early morning cruise ship traffic

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Osprey often kept me company

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I had cashews dipped in honey for lunch. I am also starting to crave sugar. I just want to eat it raw. At every meal I just take a spoonful of brown sugar. I guess I need the calories. I brought a kilogram with me.

One thing I needed to do was use dental floss to sew up my sleeping bag. I have had my sleeping bag for a very long time, probably over 15 years. It has become my best friend and goes with me to all sorts of interesting places, but not if they are warm because it is a winter sleeping bag. It is way too warm for any warm climate. But after all these years it is starting to become frayed up near the head. I need to sew it up to keep the synthetic filling from coming out. But I didn’t do that today.

Other things I did instead included searching for some pieces of wood shaped like my head. What would I want with that, you may ask? I could use it as an anchor for holding my sports video camera sturdily on my head. I attached the camera to my headlamp but it flops around whenever I move my head and creates frustrating video movement. If that mount was also attached to a piece of wood wrapped around my head it would make it more sturdy. I found two potential pieces but didn’t do anything with them other than keep them for possible later use.

I also walked down the beach to the other side of the cove and took photos of this really nice camping spot. I’d highly recommend it. It should be protected in both south-easterly and north-westerly winds. It has a muddy / sandy area for putting in and pulling out. It even has water in dry weather.

I also charged up a lot of my batteries in the sun. I also may have to take out one of the 16 GB SD cards from one of my DSLR cameras and use it in a video camera since I am running out of space and I don’t want to fire up the computer until absolutely necessary. I would replace it with a 1 or 2 GB card since the cameras use less memory.

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But most importantly today, I dealt with another more pressing concern that needed attending – fixing my water filter. Beside my tent was a nice big log which served as a workbench for doing this. The acrylic rod which pushes the piston during the pumping action had cracked cleanly and it fit back together perfectly. Luckily, I had brought some “cyanoacrylate” crazy clue with me which I had picked up for $3. I assume that cyanoacrylate will bond well with acrylic since the name is very similar. What luck! Or was it good planning? I set to work fixing my filter, as you can follow below.

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You can see the gasket and plunger which broke off inside the cylinder. The piston to which this used to be attached is below.

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With a poke from the piece of my fishing rod which I got from Bryan way back in Desolation Sound, the plunger was out.

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Ready to glue the two pieces together with crazy glue

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The glue was dried up at the tip so I used a needle to clear it. I’ll just let it set for a few hours now…

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Greasing up the gasket with silicone grease which I just happened to bring with me … then it will be ready to put back together. It probably broke because the gasket got too dry and stiff.

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And I’ll replace the prefilter while I’m at it.

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Doh!! The piston is supposed to slide THROUGH that red ring, whcih then screws on the body! How am I going to get it through there now? I’ll have to break it! So now I’m worse off than when I started!

So, with that huge mistake under my belt, I decided to instead collect some water from the creek without filtering it. I would dump out the gross old plasticky water from the drybag and get some more. The creek, as it entered the beach, was brackish and full of washed-up seaweed so I searched for a way into the forest to go further up to a cleaner spot. I quickly found a trail into the woods which was well worn, but low hanging. I had to duck down to walk through. Obviously this was a game trail, probably bear. It led through beautiful old growth cedar forest to a pool in the creek and I filled up all my containers. Oh, and I had my camera on my head and my audio recorder on my arm, so I got footage of it all. Once I finish writing my blog and I figure out how to put the two files together to make a real video, I’ll add it. It’s overwhelming to organize all this, as well as my blog in my spare time.

I have many videos to add by the way. Most aren’t too exciting (who knows, maybe you will find them interesting; they are mostly of me talking). But reviewing them provides feedback as to what works or not from a technical standpoint, what is interesting or not, and what makes for dynamic shooting style. I am spending more time now analyzing the takes when I watch TV. So next year I should have more interesting videos. I hope to make a movie out of this trip.

In the late afternoon while lying in my tent in the sun and wind, looking out across the strait, I started to hate the wind again, like back at the windy bear beach near Sayward. It had been windy all day and I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. How long would I be stuck here? I was hoping that the winds would become less of an issue as I moved further away from Johnstone Straight and got more inland.

But the constant cacophony of the wind was eating into me. Some people like having houses near the beach so they can listen to the waves. But this was different. It wasn’t individual waves majestically crashing on the beach. This was a more incessant, disorganized noise from a combination of waves crashing everywhere and the sound of the wind buffeting everything; all this did was stand in the way of my progress. I just couldn’t get away from it. And in this area there is also the constant drone of large boats off in the strait which adds a strange background; the result is something more reminiscent of a factory.

In our modern societies we seem to always have a solution at hand for overcoming some physical stumbling block. The issue isn’t whether it can be overcome; rather it’s how much it will cost. I am accepting that I am completely at the mercy of the winds out here. When they are blowing, I just can’t go; it’s that simple. I either adjust my life around the winds and work with them, or I jut don’t go. It’s a game I have to play. I have to get up at first light and get in the water ASAP. Then I should plan on finding a campsite by lunch time. Sometimes I get lucky or unlucky and the winds don’t behave as expected and I have to have an alternate plan. That too is part of the game that makes it interesting. I am a tiny speck out here and the elements do not care about me. That’s why I wish I had a photograph of me from a plane, so my insignificance in all this could be put into perspective.

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I went to bed around dusk, as always nowadays, and was expecting to be awoken at midnight again by the high tide. Of course I was, and it was still a little bit windy which kept the fog away. It was also a large moon. And the tide was right up near my tent. The result was such a beautiful full moon scene that I had to get up and set up my camera in my tent on my tripod and take several 2 minute exposures to capture the moment. One of them turned out pretty nice.

I was planning to get to near Blunden Harbour tomorrow, about 16 km up the coast. The day after that I would go for Shelter Bay. After that I enter Belize Inlet and a new phase of the trip begins.

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July 23 — Big Miles by Broughton Island

Luckily for me the wind stopped later in the evening and I had a really nice sleep… up until I was awoken early by some breaking branches and the thud of big footsteps right near my tent. I freaked out and woke up really fast. Thankfully I soon realized it was only a squirrel up a tree dropping pine cones to the ground. I’m a little jumpy. I lay there until it was bright enough that I could see colours and then decided to get up. I have to get up really early to put in any decent miles before the wind picks up.

I felt bloated from all the rice dal I ate the night before – just like way back on West Redondo Island. I made my breakfast and then went to finish topping up all my water vessels with freshly filtered water. I didn’t finish before my water filter broke! The piston is acrylic which is brittle and the constant cycles of tension from pumping just cracked it right off. Great. Now what was I going to do. I did not want to risk intestinal infections with this stagnant water. And I did not want to have to boil all my water. Oh well, maybe I could fix it.

I tasted the water in my drybag. It was disgusting and tasted like bitter plastic. I weighed the prospects of potentially running out of water or drinking plasticky water and decided the latter was more appealing. I may regret that in a few years if I start developing female characteristics or worse, come down with cancer. Anyways, I had a whole gallon of water that wasn’t in my drybag which I could drink.

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The tide was out way past that distant rock

The weather was perfectly calm and foggy. What a difference a night makes. The place looked totally unlike the day before. The tide was way out, and I mean way. I had to hike my gear a few hundred meters along the shore to get to the beginning of the mudflat where I was going to put in.

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The head of the inlet by the campsite was totally dry.

I then had to hike another hundred meters across the mud to where the water was knee deep, enough to throw the boat in safely. That whole affair probably took the better part of an hour and then I was off.

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Halfway there. Now I had to hike my stuff out to the water

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Only missing ingredient: me

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You can see that the tide is coming in from the eelgrass

The water was dead calm. Soon I came across more porpoises. They took off. As I rounded the point which then led up the southwest side of Eden Island, I could see the tiny remnants of the open ocean swell that had made it all the way down here. You couldn’t see it out on the water but when you were close to shore there was about a 1 foot slow swell that lapped the shoreline.

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Looking east up the southern shoreline of Eden Island

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This is where the above bird was frolicking, in the closest seaweed just above the water. You can also see the minor swell

When I got to the westernmost point of Eden Island before I crossed over to Broughton, I came across a colony of California sea lions. I did not want to get too close because I didn’t want a big male taking a bite out of my boat. I got some photos from a distance and continued on my merry way across the channel to Broughton Island.

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Big guardian male

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I got distracted for a moment by this rhinoceros auklet

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You have to have tough hide to sleep on a steep barnacle covered ledge

Midway across, the sun started poking through. I was wondering what this meant for winds.

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Looking up the channel separating Broughton Island from the mainland

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Looking west up towards more northern Vancouver Island

I kept going as the day went by and the wind didn’t pick up. The sun was shining and I was blown away not by the wind but by the beautiful pastels of light green forest against the deep blue sky and dark green ocean. They call this the “Emerald Sea”. And I had tail currents for most of the way too.

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Looking back along Broughton Island towards Vancouver Island

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Every time I see these ducks this is what they’re doing

Eventually I had to take a break for lunch and I tied off on some kelp in a little bay and had more dates and peanut butter. I soon got moving again because I wanted to take advantage of these great conditions. I would frequently see large comb jellies, or ctenophores, which glisten with rainbow cilia along their bodies as the sunlight is refracted like a prism. I had seen millions of them back in Desolation Sound and the southern portion of my trip, but none up here. These were a different type, much larger at 5 to 10 cm long and solitary. I only saw a few and was wanting to take video footage of them since the colours are so beautiful. But I decided not to in order to save time. I figured I would see them again.

The forest here was becoming noticeably different – more windswept and “hypermaritime”. There were a few old veteran Douglas-firs, which is a tree more typical of southern drier climates. This should be about the limit of their range up the coast. But they were also growing alongside yellow cypress, which are more indicative of subalpine habitats. Sometimes when ecoregions meet you get strange mixes of species. This is another reason why parks are important, because they allow for the dynamic movements of species to continue between different ecosystem types, especially within a changing climate. One of the big conservation efforts today is the Flathead River Valley in south eastern BC which is the meeting place for several different ecosystems from all sides. As a result it has the highest biodiversity in BC.

For hours I continued my paddle with very light winds and the currents behind me for most of the way. I was making huge time. Eventually I reached the end of Broughton Island and crossed over the bay leading to some more smaller islands separating it from the mainland further north. I was on the video camera talking about something and I heard a float plane coming up. It got closer and louder and he buzzed me! He was only a few hundred feet up. That was pretty funny and I wish I could have seen what I looked like from up there. I wish I had a PICTURE of what I looked like from up there, to show you. They must have thought I was pretty crazy.

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I continued along to cross the channel over to the mainland and midway across I went past a kelp patch which was obviously growing on a reef. This is the opening to Kingcome Inlet and the current was just ripping. I tied off to the kelp since it was such a neat spot to take a break, in the middle of the inlet. I took video footage of the jellies whipping by and the kelp flapping in the current. There were a couple sport fishing boats a little farther down going for halibut. They would drift, then the current would take them too far and then they would motor back up. They did this several times. It was so quiet that I could hear everything that was going on. They were several hundred meters away but I could hear everything. The sound out on the water is so much different when the wind isn’t blowing.

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Chilling in the kelp. Notice how it’s horizontal from the current

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They caught some halibut and I yelled out, “Nice one!” but they didn’t respond. I think they wanted to be alone. I’m sure they heard me and I’m sure everyone within several kilometers heard me since the sound traveled so well.

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Gaffing a halibut

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Looking up Kingcomb Inlet

I whipped by them on the currents and was aiming for a south facing protected sandy cove to camp for the night. When I got there it was mid afternoon but the weather was still perfect. I was faced with the choice: should I risk it and push on further up the exposed coastline to look for another camping spot or be safe and call it a day?

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Looking forward into the unknown mid afternoon along an exposed section, without a map.

Of course I pushed on, foolishly, because I didn’t have a map of this stretch!

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Looking back across Queen Charlotte Strait to Vancouver Island

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The understorey is becoming impenetrable salal and heather

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Which way do you think the wind normally blows?

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Loon

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Feather, probably from above loon

I went several more kilometers and when I decided that I had finally had enough I rounded a corner and the perfect camping cove was staring right at me! Right at this point I came across a large lion’s mane jelly stuck on the surface,entrapped  full of bubbles. I played with it for a while with my paddle to whack the bubbles out. It probably got them from all the wind yesterday and would surely end up on the beach if I didn’t clear them out. Well, with the jelly successfully swimming down to the bottom, that was one good deed done for the day.

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And amazingly, just as I entered the cove, the winds started to pick up! Within a few minutes it was blowing hard again and I would not want to be out on the water! What an incredible day. I had been out there in my boat non stop for 9 hours. Where does all the time go? What am I thinking about? I am learning that I don’t mind my own company.

The cove had a nice sandy spot up near the top as well as a creek! It was gorgeous! I set up camp and listened to the radio and they called for a chance of showers overnight and wind all tomorrow so I decided to take a day off after my epic paddle today, about 35 km. That would also give me a chance to fix my water filter.

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Oh that wind!

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Dinner was Mediterranean pasta with brown things that seemed like chunks of meat. I had filled up my 16 GB card on my GoPro camera so that would need to be changed.

The sand here is really fine and stuck to everything. I was being paranoid with my cameras and shaking everything off anytime I touched them. The sand inevitably got everywhere. I had more brilliant insightful thoughts that evening about the sand and how many grains there are on that beach, and how that’s probably like around how many stars there are in the universe. No one’s ever considered that before… I wonder what all those other planets are like and what the life is like on them. That’s another unique thought I’m sure.

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I had to dig out some rocks first to make it flat

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Home Sweet Home for two nights

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The wind combined with fog that evening

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Looking south

 


Short Windy Trip

I didn’t sleep very well last night because the winds did not die down after dark as they usually do. And at around midnight, the tide came way up to the log by my tent only a few feet away. By morning the wind was still blowing hard and it was a bright sunny day.

My problem now was that I was running out of water. Normally in these windy conditions I would not venture out for safety’s sake. But I had only one day’s worth of water left. If I stayed put, hoping that the next day would be calm, but it wasn’t, and I could not find water, then what would I do? That is a potentially very serious situation so I made the decision to pack up and move and go search for water. I had no other choice really.

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I was still somewhat protected in my cove from the northwest wind. As soon as I emerged from that I got buffeted hard. I paddled west across to another little protected cove on the other side of the channel. I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I would just head in the right direction along Eden Island until I found some topography that might indicate flowing water. My crude map showed that there should be something.

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I left this cove and had to make a dash across some open water to get to the shelter of more land a kilometer away. I was taking big waves and I could see waves crashing 20 feet into the air way off in the distance on an exposed reef. When the winds blow down the strait they really pick up the small swell that there is and produce some big waves. I estimated the winds to be 60 km/hr at the time. After the trip I compared with sticking my head out of a moving car. They were actually more like around 40 km/hr.

Somehow I managed to actually film this whole episode and I luckily had the wind mostly to my back as I went downwind and around to some more sheltered water. The coastline did not make sense with respect to my map so I realized that I was not where I thought I was on Eden Island. I was a few kilometers back. I thought that yesterday went by too quickly given the miles I thought I had covered…..

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I rounded a lee point and began taking headwind from the other side of this island I was sheltering behind. I was getting a little worried so I found a relatively sheltered bay and tied off to some kelp and finished off most of my Life cereal, as well as having some dates with peanut butter. When a strong gust of wind grabbed my boat the kelp broke so it was time to move on. Further on I could see some higher hills with what looked like a valley so I headed for those since there would probably be water.

I had to cross another piece of open water and I was getting pushed hard from behind and the side. It was frustrating because my boat naturally wants to turn broadside into the wind, and I was having to continually use my paddle to straighten myself to keep going forward since it has no rudder. At least with headwinds the boat tracks reasonably well.

I finally got around the lee point and turned up into the inlet which was nice and calm, although of course still windy. But there were no waves. I was home free. The inlet ended in some lighter green alders which usually signifies water.

I landed and yes, indeed there was a trickle of water coming in! I could also see some footprints in the mud bank leading to it and when I found the campsite it had been recently cleared with a saw and the branches were out on the beach. I checked my location with my GPS and I was now on Eden Island, in the best, most sheltered spot, exactly where I wanted to be actually. And it was also the place that Bryan and Maggie had stayed at not too long ago! I had wondered why they only went 5 km that one day and ended here. Maybe they encountered winds just like me…..

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The wind was still howling and I could hear over the trees the waves bashing the other exposed side of the island, which sounded to be only a few hundred meters away. I set up my solar panel to charge more batteries and I also pulled out my two-part epoxy to use to seal up the bottom of my wooden paddle which was become abraded. I wouldn’t want too much water to get in there and cause expansion and cracking. I mixed it in a clam shell, of course.

Later on an interesting looking pleasure boat came up near to the inlet and then turned away. I realized that this was the only sign of humanity I had seen today. Yesterday, I saw several kayakers.

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The wind kept on long into the evening and before bed I checked the weather forecast as always and it called for, again as always, calm and fog in the morning followed by wind in the afternoon. That is what they always predict, and they are usually right. Sometimes they are wrong and it is windy right from the get go. Sometimes they are wrong and it stays calm most of the day. But usually they are right. We will see what kind of day tomorrow will be.

The campsite is up a steep little embankment, on a soft mossy forest floor underneath thick second growth conifers. That is typically how the forest regenerates after logging. Small trees come in very dense and then gradually thin themselves out as they become bigger and more crowded. During the dense stage the forest is often brown and dark, with sparse understory vegetation, and is not too pretty to look at. I was impressed with how dense the trees were.

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I had learned my lesson about water and I was now going to always carry several days’ worth. The problem is that I had no more containers. I did have a 10 litre drybag which I was keeping my computer in, and I could use this if I moved my computer elsewhere. I did this and went to the small trickle to filter water. Again, it was brown from tannins.

I had a meal of dal curry that night. I have brought lots of spices with me and some garlic too. I am glad that I came with lots of good food; without it it would be an unpleasant experience, especially since I don’t have time to depend on fishing for sustenance. You really need to take food seriously on these kinds of trips and ensure that you will be properly nourished and stimulated with tasty food. It is no place to play Survivorman and try to live off the land, unless you have practiced and are very knowledgeable about how to do it. The caloric demands of paddling all day are just too high. You won’t last and you will be miserable.

I began to think about how much certain animals must miss out on life’s pleasures because they don’t use spices and can’t chew their food. Those animals that just swallow their food whole …. they miss out on so much.

Anyways, the curry was very good and I was content and went to sleep among the noisy creaking trees after only paddling about 3 km, which is fine because I now knew where I was and I covered some open water.


July 21 — Marbled Murrelets and a Tanner Crab

I woke up fairly early, as usual these days because I had to get off the water before the winds would pick up around lunch time. Also as usual, it was calm and foggy. Those two things typically go hand and hand here in summer – foggy and calm in the morning and by mid day the sun burns off the fog and heats up Georgia Strait to the south sufficiently that the air rises and sucks the air down from up here, which then funnels the wind through the very passages I am paddling.

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The tide was way out, exposing the expansive mud flat and eel grass bed, interspersed with rocks covered with barnacles. The first thing I did after unkinking my back from the rocks I slept on, was head down to the other end of the bay where there appeared to be a wet draw, based on the vegetation and topography. I made my way across the mud and found that there was no running water at the draw. I followed it up about fifty feet and noticed wolf claw prints in the clay bank from the previous day, where he or she slipped coming down to the beach.

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There was a stagnant pool a little ways in. I filtered the water. I will not be taking any chances with water borne diseases from now on, as it could ruin my trip for several weeks. The water was brown from the tannins from the decomposing vegetation, but otherwise fine – not stinky.

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I returned to my tent and began making breakfast which consisted of, as always, quick oatmeal. I could usually find salal berries around this time of year so I would typically also add these which livened it up a bit. I was hoping I might see signs of the wolf again but I think with all my smells and noises, he will be staying away.

I was beginning to worry slightly about water. I had 3 litres in a plastic blue orange juice container as well as a smaller juice container which I would drink during the day. I also realized that I should have waited to fill my water bottle until after I made breakfast, rather than before, because I used some of that water for breakfast which left some empty space in my water bottle, and I didn’t want to go back and filter more.

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Oh well, I packed up and put the boat in down at the mud, although it was mostly barnacle-covered rocks at that place, with a rising tide. I put on my sandles when launching or hauling out because I can walk into and out of the water without soaking my shoes. I obviously have to wear footwear because of all the sharp things in the water. Luckily up to this point I haven’t cut up my feet yet slipping on some rocks in the water.

I began heading out through the channel because the rising tide provided enough depth to pass over the barnacle rocks I hit yesterday. I set up my video camera at the front of the boat in the waterproof housing, as well as my GoPro camera, and my audio recorder. I soon began crossing Knight “Inlet” and was talking about it when some porpoises showed up 30 yards in front of me. I broke with my boring speech and pursued them a bit but they got further away. They don’t seem to like me. I continued across the inlet.

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Knight Inlet is the third of my rivers-of-interest on my trip. It is fed by the third river I have encountered, of the 10 in BC that begin in the interior and flow through the mountains out to the ocean – the Klinaklini, which begins in the Chilcotin area between Williams Lake and Bella Coola. On the return journey of my trip, on my bike, I plan to explore this area thoroughly both by bike (on wilderness roads and trails), and by kayak (on the lakes and sluggish rivers I will need to cross to get from one place to the next.) However, on this part of the journey I will not be veturing up there because it is a LOOONG way up Knight Inlet to the Klinaklini from where I am, and based on my conversations with the wilderness tour guides in Telegraph Cove, not a nice trip for a kayak. The guide I was talking to said he had never seen a kayak up there. From where I was at that point, there is 70 km of fetch until the first bend in the inlet, and the winds really kick up some nasty waves, with little area for refuge. This is a bit of a shame because Knight Inlet is a popular grizzly viewing area, with even a few lodges built near their estuaries. I still haven’t seen a grizzly on this trip, but they are there, just east of me in the mountains. I should see them soon enough though.

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I didn’t have a very good map of the Broughtons, I just printed one off the Government of BC’s online topo map service (which is very good). But I knew the direction I needed to go so I just continued on north from island to island. I ended up in a little channel heading north and had the currents with me and there were schools of sand lances swimming by. I didn’t manage to get any footage of them though.

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Then off to the right led another channel which had a fish farm at its end. In checking the maps afterwards this was located just outside of the boundary of the Broughton Marine Park.

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I continued on and turned right at another channel and had the current sweep me through. This really is a neat place. At the end of it I saw yet another eagle perched in a picturesque pose and couldn’t resist pulling out my camera and tried to get some nice bird-in-flight shots but none turned out too well. Then right around the corner I came upon harlequin ducks hanging out on the rocks, and they all jump in the water when they see me.

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Keep on going north, I didn’t know where I was but whatever. It was all really fun. I was beginning to get hungry and hoping for a spot to pull out and stretch a bit but the geology isn’t very cooperative here. It is all hard granite so the shoreline is usually steep with interesting little islands shooting straight out. If I had a better map I’m sure I could have found a spot since there are some nice camping spots around. Oh well, it’s fun to just so ahead semi-blindly and discover what I find.

I soon came upon a boil of fish only a few yards off my port and of course I stopped to take photos. They didn’t seem to very wary of me. They were a bunch of sand lances being pursued by a marbled murrelet. It would ball them up, they would try to jump out of the water, and then it would shoot up through the ball and surface with fish in its mouth. This went on for a few minutes and I got some good shots but not the action shot of the instant the bird emerges. That is one reason why I need more memory for my camera and to just keep shooting because you don’t have time to predict when that happens, you jut have to be shooting at that time. Then a seagull swooped down and grabbed a few, and it was over. I continued on my way.

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I was planning to get to Eden Island where Bryan and Maggie had stayed and in short order I got to the channel separating Eden Island. After a big fishing boat went by and I took photos of it, I crossed over and the winds started picking up.

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I quickly found a neat little cove to camp, although it was a bit exposed to the wind. It had a nice sandy beach which made launching and exiting very pleasant. I unloaded and set up camp above a log which seemed to be around the high tide line. I explored a bit and found an old shell midden which seemed to take up a lot of the higher parts of the beach and forest in one corner of the cove. I went into the forest and there were some big cedars and another interesting blob of slime mould, but no water.

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I went to the entrance of the cove on the rocks to try to catch some fish and I had my GoPro mounted on my head, but with no audio recorder. I tried a few casts but it just wasn’t deep enough. However, I did notice a huge spider type crab ambling around beneath me in only a meter or so of water. I had my buzz bomb on which is a heavy metal lure with a three pronged hook on the bottom. I figured I could snag the crab. I tried for a few minutes and caught him a few times but he would fall off again. I finally managed to get him and pull him onto the rocks. The hook was firmly set in the joint of one of the legs. He didn’t seem so big out of water. That is due to the magnification effect underwater, which is something scuba divers experience. Those big sharks you see aren’t really as big as you remember, and of course you remember them bigger than you were seeing them…..

Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera going at the time for some reason which is unfortunate because that would have been some interesting footage, me catching a crab with my fishing lure!

I took the crab back to the beach and decided that I wouldn’t eat him because it wasn’t a Dungeness, which are the tasty ones with lots of meat in the claws. He was pretty skinny and a nice looking crab so I let him go after taking a bunch of photos. I have no food shortages right now and I don’t like killing things. I will have to ID it later.

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I took a rest in my tent because it was windy and I was tired. I cooked in the shelter of the log by my tent and went to bed with strong winds buffeting my tent. In the middle of the night the tide got pretty close to the tent, but I was OK.

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July 20 — Wolf Tracks

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During wet spells there would have been a bit of water running under the area where the red tarp is. Not now though; it’s dry dry dry.

This morning was to be spent making the mount for my new video camera and audio recorder. I need a separate audio recorder because the GoPro HD camera is in an underwater housing which captures some audio but obviously not of a good quality, being in a plastic housing. So I will use a separate audio recorder to record sounds, and then bring the audio and video files together later. And I’ll mount both on a mast somewhere on the front of the boat on the triangle support I already made during the five days off I had in Powell River.

So I opened up my “bag of stuff I rarely need”, as opposed to the other bags from which I always need something and thus I pretty much always empty every day, and removed the tools and various bits I would be needing for my construction exercise. I dumped them all out on the ground.

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My “Bag of Stuff I Rarely Need”

I found a stick on the beach which would serve as my mast – straight enough, but still had a few knots, and partially decomposed to make the wood soft and easy to work. I put two brackets on the bottom, 90 degrees apart to give support in those two directions. I drilled holes with my drill-bit-in-a-baby’s-sock getup which I found on Thormanby Island, and figured out in Powell River (of course, if you find a pair of baby’s socks on the beach you have to take them with you. You never know when you might need them. The sock provided protection for my hand while drilling the bit through the wood). I put wing nuts on the bolts to allow for a quick release. The third support came from a string with a cinch down squeeze type nut thingy. The string I found on the side of the road in Telegraph Cove. The cinch nut I had brought with me; I brought several since they are so handy. This string was then wrapped around the front point of the triangle at the bow. It took a couple hours to finish but it turned out well and I had all the parts I needed. I had planned it well.

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As you can see my audio recorder was protected by a plastic bag and a little synthetic towel. They are very handy. It is held on by several rubber bands. The issue with the audio recorder is the wind. This would create a lot of noise in the audio recording with all the wind I am experiencing. However, it comes with a wind screen which sits on top of it. And in addition to this, the little towelk also dampens the wind, as well as protecting it from any odd splashes.

This spot has a nice view up Queen Charlotte Strait. I recknoed it was atl least 50 km to the farthest point of land I couldn’t see . This next shot is looking north up the Srait towards the mainland coast, which I will soon be paddling in a few days.

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Looking northwards out of my campsite cove

I managed to hit the water in the early afternoon as the fog lifted and it turned into a nice day. I went eastwards along the north side of Hanson Island for a kilometer or so, past a big fishing lodge in one of the inlets that I realized was the center for all the fishing boats around. The kelp beds were pretty to look at and they revealed that I had some very nice currents behind me, and the winds were light. I then turned north to cross over to Swanson Island and continue east along its southern shore.

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Looking back south towards Vancouver Island and Robson Bight. That’s probably Harbledown Island in the foreground.

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Heading east along the south shore of Swanson Island.

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Looking south towards Vancouver Island

There were some private residences as I went eastwards and I was tempted to go check out one and see if it had any fresh water I could have since my campsite last night had none. But I kept on and as I rounded the south-eastern tip of the island the current really picked up. I was MOVING. That current must have been at least five knots and I paddle at 3 so that’s a pretty good speed. Then as I rounded another little point it suddenly stopped, and actually changed direction. Now I was fighting it, going from point to point riding the back eddies in the bays.

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It’s For Sale if you’re interested

To my right now was Crease Island and actually by this time the wind was starting to pick up (that time of day again….) so I decided to keep an eye open for a campsite. The channel I was following northwards meets up with a larger channel going east-west, which is actually the opening to Knight Inlet. I was very close to Knight Inlet. Actually, the inlet itself kind of breaks up into the whole Broughton Archipelago at its mouth so it’s hard to define. As I headed northwards the winds started getting strong and I decided that it was probably best to not try to cross “Knight Inlet”. The crossing is only about a kilometer long but it’s exposed to Queen Charlotte Strait so it has the potential to get big waves. I noticed a little inlet on the east side of the channel, which went into Crease Island.

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The little muddy bay on Crease Island

. I hopped over and it turned out to be a great little sheltered bay, or so it seemed. It was a muddy bay with eelgrass and lots of barnacles in places. At high tide it actually forms a little island and the tide was coming in. For some reason I decided to try paddling through the shallow waterway separating the little island, and of course scraped the boat on the barnacles. I scratched my head afterwards at how I could be so foolish. There was no reason to try to paddle through that part and I was risking my only mode of transportation.

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That’s Knight Inlet you can just see in the distance. Right in front of me is the barnacle bed where I scratched my boat, and then my head.

Oh well, no harm done so I pulled up to the muddy beach ten yards back, threw out the anchor (my crab trap) and started unloading. As soon as I got on shore though I noticed a print in the mud …. wolf prints. They were pretty large, and just above the water line. I took a few photos and before unloading I thought I’d walk down to where I was trying to paddle to before, the next little cove over, and see if it was more suitable for camping, away from the mud flats. But no, the beach there was bouldery and exposed to the open water so it was getting a pounding. I returned back to my mud flat and had to readjust my boat with the rising tide. I wanted to take some more shots of the wolf prints, but they were gone … in only a few minutes. It makes me wonder what other wildlife opportunities I have missed only by a few minutes or some other variable. If I had arrived a few minutes later I would never have been the wiser to a wolf frequenting the area.

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Just at center right is the wet draw which may have some water.

The best camping spot was a grassy area a ways down, just above the high tide. The grass had completely overgrown a field of some football sized rocks, and from a distance appeared to be a nice campsite but the rocks were definitely still there to be felt. But it was acceptable, and I pitched my tent.

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The lumpy grassy rock field which will serve as the tent site for the night.

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I came from that bright area in the distance. I laded on the mud flat, and the wolf prints were beside my kayak there.

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The other little bay just around the corner, exposed to the open water and wind.

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Wolf prints — ten minutes later.

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Deep afternoon blues and pastel greens

I set up my solar charger to take advantage of the waning sunshine. There appeared to be a little wet draw at the opposite end of the bay which I would check out the next morning for any water. As I hunkered down for the night in my tent I fired up the computer to download.

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July 19 — Leaving Telegraph Cove

After a couple days sitting in the laundry room for free power I finally managed to pull myself out of Telegraph Cove. I am a bit of an internet addict. My butt was getting sore from sitting so long, even after all my butt training in my kayak up to Telegraph Cove. I was stocked up with enough food to last me a few weeks, and I now had my hiking backpack in which I put my big yellow food bag. This would allow me to hike with my stuff in the backpack. When I got set up on the dock and ready to go sometime after lunch some people from Coquitlam (a suburb of Vancouver) up above on the boardwalk asked what I was doing and they were in somewhat disbelief. Oh well, I think I know what I’m doing.

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The helpful North Island Kayak

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Boardwalk at Telegraph Cove

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All my stuff ready to go down to the dock to launch

I began crossing Johnstone Strait on a fairly slack tide and almost immediately met a couple of other kayaks going north and I was on a collision course with one of them. Eventually she backed down and let me go. Whew, lucky, I made a remark about getting into a traffic jam way out here and she laughed.

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I saw my first rhinoceros auklet and got to the other side without much fanfare and came upon a bird rock.

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A bird islet across Johnstone Strait

There were a lot of birds on it, and some oystercatchers too. I wish I had my audio recorder going but I decided to make a mount for my video camera and audio recorder when I get to the next campsite and spend some time there, otherwise I’d never get it done while in town with all the distractions. I was sitting in  he kelp for a while while the currents whirled around. I eventually left and continued on my way to Hanson Island, and went past a big whale watching boat with someone giving a talk tot eh people on board. They were all looking out off the bow of the boat as it sat there and I guess I became part of the scenery. Right after that I got sucked towards Hanson Island by the currents, by a large group of gulls floating in the kelp. There were some other species of gulls there too.

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I found the same spot Brian and Maggie stayed at and this means they had cleared a nice tent spot. There was no water here. Earlier, Steve at North Island Kayak had advised people to carry several days’ worth of water because it was so dry and the little islands in the Broughton Archipelago aren’t big enough to have any sizeable waterways. I had a enough for two days.

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Landing at Hanson Island

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All my stuff at Hanson Island

Next day was going to be a construction day.


Back Home in Fanny Bay for Now

The bushwhack to Long Lake proved more challenging that I anticipated and I wasn’t prepared enough for it. I made it 1/3 of the way across but the terrain was getting too step and dangerous, and I was making a wrong turn which made it even worse. My lower body was not properly trained for this, having sat in a kayak for over a month previously. For safety’s sake I decided to turn back. I was faced with the question of what to do next, and kayaking around Cape Caution was not something I was willing to attempt. I could head back to Telegraph Cove but I already paddled up from there. The third option was to cross over Queen Charlotte Strait to Port Hardy, which I did two days ago. From Port Hardy I could have arranged some transportation around Cape Caution to continue my journey, but north of there, the weather starts to turn for the worse in late August, giving me only a couple weeks of paddling time. It seems like a lot of effort for not much paddling so I decided to call it quits for this season and continue on next year, better prepared and wiser, after all the experience gained this year. I am happy with what I did this year! I have lots of photos, commentary, and videos to sort through and add so in the next week or two I should have lots of interesting things to add here.

I just checked Bryan and Maggie’s Spot locator map and they are now just beyond Klemtu, going along Princess Royal Island. The weather must be turning for the worse for them. I hope they make it to Ketchikan in time. Interestingly, I got home yesterday on the buys, and last night it poured rain! I timed that well.


Telegraph Cove to Bella Bella

This is a big leg and it will take me a month! I plan to head up north through the Broughton Archipelago and follow the mainland coast northwest until Seymour Inlet. I’ll then head in through Nakwakto Narrows and go up to the head of Belize Inlet. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I avoid 25 km of Cape Caution, some nasty open ocean that my kayak would not like. Plus, I get to detour through grizzly country. From Belize Inlet it is a two kilometre bushwhack over to Long Lake. Depending on how that bushwhack treats me, I have two options. If I am feeling strong (unlikely given my knee) I’ll go east to the head of Long Lake, ford up Smokehouse Creek four km to the turn, and bushwhack five km over some mountains by some small lakes to the head of Smith Inlet, where there is a major grizzly estuary. If my knee was strong, I’d have no trouble, but it is weak.

More likely, I will instead turn west at Long Lake and go through Wyclese Lagoon which feeds into Smith Inlet. From here I will paddle east up to the head of Smith Inlet to see the grizzlies. Then I will come back out and cross the five km stretch of open coast to Rivers Inlet, where I may be able to resupply and get on the internet at a fishing lodge. Then I will cross Rivers Inlet and either head straight for Bella Bella, but if I feel up to it I’ll go west through Hakai Recreation Area and its myriad inlets and islets. Apparently there are lots of wolves up in that area and on Calvert Island so I’d like to see it. This should all take me a month. I only have about 20-25 days’ food supply so I will have to catch fish, which really isn’t hard, it just takes time. With Maggie and Brian, at the end of the day he can fish while Maggie sets up camp. I have to do both.

Here is Bryan and Maggie’s website (I have misspelled his name all before). Maybe you want to donate to it. They are raising money to buy chickens for an orphanage in western Kenya. They say an egg a day would end poverty. The local people have enough food to eat but it isn’t very nutritious. If we could only introduce them to quinoa! Bryan and Maggie live off the stuff along with fish. Very healthy!

Paddle for the Chickens

And here is my GPS locator map which I will try to update daily except for when I am bushwhacking in forest and the signal won’t get through. I may be in the forest for several days at a time so don’t get worried.

My location

Also, sorry for the garbled and uncommented photos. WordPress is fiddly with photos especially on a shaky internet connection. I’d need a full day to sort them all out and I’ve already put in 10 hours on the computer today. Also, they seem to come in backwards order.

And maybe you’d like to donate to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, for which I have set up a challenge for my trip to raise money for them.

My Big Wild page.


Sayward to Telegraph Cove

We left early the next morning to calm seas, no wind, and the currents behind us. We leisurely and joyfully made our way up the coast in this unexpected gift from nature.

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looking south down Johnstone Strait

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looking east across Johnstone Strait to the Coast Mountains

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looking northwest up the coast of Vancouver Island from somewhere north of Sayward

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Near the end of the day we had a few kilometres in headwinds but in the end we paddled about 33 km, and we could have done more if we had pushed harder earlier. We stopped at a really nice river beach (Christopher Creek I believe) backed by a beautiful open forest of big sitka spruce and douglas fir. There were bear prints in the sand, a mother and cub. We camped just above the beach in the trees.

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landing in SAND at Christopher Creek

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kelp greenling caught in the ….. kelp

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big douglas fir by Christopher Creek

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In the evening we were discussing some mundane thing and then all of a sudden Maggie screamed out, “Oh my God! Whales!” They were not far offshore heading south. I raced out and got a few pictures.

In the morning I decided to give my boat a bath in the river because it was so dirty and full of sand from me foolishly storing it upside down on the sandy beach, something we have not been accustomed to much so far!

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giving my boat a bath in the creek

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Bryan and Maggie left a bit before I did and we didn’t have far to go, only the last campsite before Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, which you are not allowed to enter. This is operated by a kayak tour company, and they graciously allowed us to stay and they even fed us! Bryan and I fished to provide some other food for the guests, but I lost my lure. Brian caught two. That evening the whales again came by, and so did a humpback whale way off in the middle of the channel. I went “up Schmidt Creek” as the sign says and took a cold bath.

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The next morning again treated us to orcas and they were closer to shore this time and I got some nice photos.

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camping with the group at Schmidt Creek

We left shortly afterwards but there was a headwind. You have to stay a mile offshore here for eight kilometres to stay out of the ecological reserve. I soon got fed up with this and crossed Johnstone Strait over to Cracroft Island. As I came across I could see two whale watching zodiacs milling around, and there was the humpback again, a few hundred meters away going south. It took refuge from the wind in the bays and worked my way up the shoreline. I was worried about Brian and Maggie out there in the middle of the Strait. I stopped on a beach to eat lunch and a boat came around the corner and a guy jumped ashore and it turns out he is a real life beachcomber! I had been thinking recently how it must be a profitable business to be in, with all these valuable logs washed up on the shore, escaped from log booms. He said no, he has to give half the profits to the co-op, but find his own buyers, and the market is really down right now. He pulled a creosote pole off the beach, which are becoming more valuable now because creosote is banned because it is so toxic. I got video of it!

By this point the wind had died down so I crossed over Johnstone Strait again on glassy calm water, a rarity this time of year.

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crossing a very rare glassy Johnstone Strait to Robson Bight. That is the partially protected Tsitika watershed.

Midway across, as expected, the park warden Adam bombed over in his zodiac to talk to me. He was nice and interested in my trip and just wanted to check me out and make sure I knew the drill with the whales. I wasn’t in the reserve. He knew my name because he had talked to Brian and Maggie earlier, who were on the beach just to the north of Robson Bight. That’s where I was headin’!

I got over to Bryan and Maggie and decided that since the conditions were so nice I’d put a few more kilometres under my belt before calling it a day – which would turn out to be the biggest mistake of the trip so far. The next morning they had a big bull orca come up and rub on the beach, right in front of them. They were awoken by him in the silent fog. He was there for a half hour. And later in the day while they were fishing off the kelp a mother and calf came in underneath them and went inside the kelp!

Meanwhile, I was three km up the coast in my own protected cove listening to porpoises in the Strait and then having my silence broken by two big cruise ships come by and their wake bouncing around for the next half hour. I recognized the ships from Vancouver, where I had photographed at least one of them, the Coral Princess, many months before docked at Canada Place.

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Bryan and Maggie said however that the fishing boats kept them awake at night. Yes, that’s fishing boats in the ecological reserve! Only kayakers and pleasure craft must stay out of Robson Bight, but fishing boats can and do string seine nets right across from the points to catch salmon! There is nothing the rangers can do about this because the ecological reserve is a provincial creation but fisheries are federal. This needs attention. The feds should rectify this situation and work with the provinces to unify protected areas.

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waking up to fog north of Robson Bight

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where is the horizon?

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huh? This is when you need your GPS if you have to make a crossing.

The next morning, while Bryan and Maggie were having their intimate moment with the whale in the fog, I was paddling up to Telegraph Cove to phone and meet my mom. I was fighting the winds most of the day and finally rounded the point to see the place right there in front of my eyes! What a relief! Telegraph Cove is small, packed with boats, and tourist oriented, but it has a neat character with a boardwalk all around the cove. It is also expensive with few supplies. For supplies Sayward or Port McNeil are much better. The kayaking community here is very helpful and friendly. I didn’t want to pay $30 for camping so I paddled back to the peninsula sticking out, three km back, and camped there.

The next morning I went back into town and met Bryan and Maggie who showed up a little later, and my mom later still. My mom and I camped in a very windy RV park overlooking the town. It never stops blowing. But we had WiFi internet access all through town for $5 a day.

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Telegraph Cove

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The next day we all headed into Port McNeil to resupply, and Bryan and I caught lots of Pacific cod off the dock right in the cove. All the ones I caught were too small but Brian caught big ones and we all ate them by the fire at their cheap campsite away from town where the seasonal residents live for the summer.

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Bryan with my monster cod. Don’t worry, we threw it back

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bigger cod to eat

The next day Bryan and Maggie headed out to the Broughtons with their very heavy kayaks and enough supplies to last them a month and a half. My mom and I instead headed south to that beach in Robson Bight I passed up a few days before….

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The winds blew us down there in a few hours and we spent two nights there.

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pebble rubbing beach in Robson Bight

The second day was very relaxing with light winds and lots of orcas, although none came too close to shore. We were both awoken by the big breath of a humpback about 50 yards away just off the kelp line. I got my camera but didn’t see it again. They can hold their breath for a long time.

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mother and calf

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harebells

Coming back the next day proved much more strenuous and we fought the headwinds all day.

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We made it into town though and I had a chance to try out my new GoPro POV cam on my kayak. It works well but doesn’t focus underwater properly so I will still use my camcorder for that (although it doesn’t focus well either).

We stayed in the nice campsite in the forest out of the wind and this morning our neighbour blew his nose really loud while I was still asleep, so I woke up quickly to look out my tent to see the whale. Unfortunately there was no whale, just some trees and our neighbour blowing his nose.


Big Bay to Sayward

morning in Big Bay

morning in Big Bay

In the morning we headed out at 9 am to catch the beginnings of the ebb tide, which we would ride for the next six hours.

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a private golf course

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morning traffic heading for the rapids at slack tide

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looking up Bute Inlet through the dangerous narrows on the other side of Stuart Island

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heading for the rapids

We had a strong headwind, which would end up lasting all day. We went through the little side cheater route around the next set of rapids and it was like a 50 meter long river, I could see the gradiant on the water.

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Maggie: “I’m on a Boat”

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private resort for sale

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there they are …. ooh scary

Then we were back out into the main channel again with chaotic currents going everywhere.

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Brian fishing after the rapids where we saw salmon jumping

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back into the main channel after the rapids

You just look around for a current going your way and paddle over to it. I got caught in a few whirlpools which were fun.

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The main current was going our way but in the bays it goes the other way because you get back eddies. So I would just ride the main current a bit offshore and get slingshot from one point to the next. The headwind was strong and judging by the water it didn’t appear like I was moving. It was frustrating paddling but all I would have to do is look to the trees to see that yes, I was indeed moving.

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motoring along with the currents

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hues of green

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looking back towards Stuart Island

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the lighter green lines are red alder which prefer to grow on disturbed soils so they line the old logging roads

We made it to Shoal Bay after a day of constant headwinds.

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Shoal Bay!

It is at the northern tip of East Thurlow Island and faces up to the mainland up Philips Arm and the Philips River. I had stayed in Shoal Bay many years before when I worked in forestry up the Philips River. It is major grizzly country up Philips Arm and a couple of the people at Shoal Bay had seen one that day at the estuary at the head of the inlet. They got pretty close and the motor on their boat wouldn’t start either after many pulls. Luckily grizzlies don’t seem to be bothered by boats. Apparently what they don’t like is bipedal movement, so all the observation places around have cover from the waist down so the bears can’t see your legs. A guy at the grizzly tour place in Telegraph Cove told me he always tries to ford rivers up to his waist. The bears apparently just see boats as part of the scenery. So I am thinking maybe I should have bought a dress to bring along with me after Telegraph Cove, to avoid a confrontation with a grizzly. Oh well, too late now.

Shoal Bay was like paradise. We arrived just as someone finished mowing the large lawn and let us camp for free. There were about ten boats in the bay, mostly Americans, and it offered a really friendly “pub” which was more like a cottage they allow guests to come in and socialize. And they had free internet! And I remembered from when I was here before seeing lots of Dungeness crab in the sandy bay so I set the trap again and we got lots of crabs too! This place is awesome!

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landing at Shoal Bay

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looking up Philips Arm from Shoal Bay

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the pub at Shoal Bay

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nice camping at Shoal Bay

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my new mascot for the trip which I picked up in Big Bay

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wildlife at Shoal Bay

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Shoal Bay as seen from the wharf

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crabs ready to be sorted. Most were small or female to be thrown back.

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salmonberries. Not sure if they’re called this because of their colour, timing, or habitat. Maybe all three.

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And Shoal Bay has an interesting history. At one point in the distant past it had the largest population north of San Francisco! This was due to the gold mine just up the hill. Now the population is about five. There were mostly Americans on their boats there and we were invited onto a beautiful trimaran built and owned by Howard and his wife, from around Tacoma. They were going to circumnavigate Vancouver Island but the nut on the bolt holding his mast up came loose and the mast fell down so now he is motoring back. It is a very nice boat and Brian wants to someday move to Australia and build a trimaran. The advantage of trimarans and catamarans is their shallow draft which allows you to get into small coves and just beach it during low tide. You can’t do that with a sailboat. Plus I have heard of reports of ocean-going sailboats ramming into whales sleeping just below the surface. I wouldn’t want to do that, it’s not too good for the whale. In a trimaran you’d just whack it and glide over, not cut it in half with your keel. This tour of his boat rekindled my interest in sailing across the Pacific one day.

Earlier in the evening two Americans, they had obviously known each other for a while, got into a heated left versus right political argument about the deteriorating state of the American economy. Americans certainly have some strong opinions these days, and I can see why with the state of their economy, and it will affect Canada too since we mostly service the US, and we haven’t had our bubble burst yet.

Reluctantly, we left Shoal Bay the next morning and rode the tides along to the next set of rapids, but not before first stopping at a fishing lodge which reportedly has great German food.

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Unfortunately you have to order several hours in advance but we had some great apple strudel with ice cream. I managed to send off one email. Also here was a hummingbird feeder which at any given moment had about five of them buzzing around. I regret not taking video of it. I also realized that I forgot in Shoal Bay the cable I use to run my computer off AA batteries, but I decided that it would be easier to make a new one in Telegraph Cove than try to get the old cable sent up. And we arrived just in time to watch Spain beat another team in the World Cup, which Bryan was very happy to watch! Out in the middle of the wilderness!

We left a couple hours later and shot the rapids at slack tide which was nothing. We saw some porpoises but Bryan and Maggie seem to have much better luck seeing them up close than I do.

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Maggie fighting the winds

The headwinds again picked up and we crept along the shoreline to the campsite opposite Loughborough Inlet. It was a nice spot in open forest. I was so hungry and tired so I just cracked open the Chunky soup I brought from Big Bay and wolfed that down. As usual, Bryan went out and caught fish.

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campsite opposite Loughborough Inlet

The next morning greeted us with strong headwinds, and they did not abate all day. Holy cow, was that wind strong. We fought it all day and managed to go eight kilometres. We crossed the channel and from there just inched our way up from bay to bay, powering around the howling points. Most of the time I couldn’t move, I was just paddling to stay in one spot, and then the gusts would lull a bit and I’d move forward some and repeat the procedure. It was actually a real waste of energy, but apparently these northwest winds blow all summer so we could have sat there for a week waiting for them to subside. We finally got to our campsite around a very windy point (I’d say we were going into 35 knot gusts for sure at times), with four foot waves, and my boat handled it fine. This point sported a lone arbutus tree, since we were heading more west towards the drier eastern side of Vancouver Island.

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landing on the windy bear beach

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windy bear beach

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lion’s mane jelly washed ashore

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This campsite just screamed bear habitat — a wide grassy beach on a flat creek valley bottom. I was expecting to see one at any time.

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But all we had was the howling wind which was really starting to bother me. I just went in my tent for half an hour to get out of it. It was a beautiful spot, just very windy at that time. It had lots of glasswort on the beach, an asparagus-like plant you can eat. You have to boil it lots because it is so salty but I had a lot of it for dinner with no problems.

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Maggie with limpet stew

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Bryan had wanted to take the route north up the channel separating Hardwicke Island from the mainland because there is a greater chance of seeing bears there. But we (I) also needed to resupply in Sayward, since if we were going to fight headwinds all the way to Telegraph Cove, I did not have enough food. So we decided to instead head for Johnstone Strait and Sayward. Almost immediately upon leaving our campsite after a convoy of yachts went by and soaked Brian as he was getting gin his kayak, he looked back to the beach and saw a black bear right near where we camped! So he got his wish and we continued on across the channel to a sheltered area where Brian beached and emptied his kayak of water

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looking across Johnstone Strait to Vancouver Island from Hardwicke Island

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old and new douglas firs

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very pretty mixed spruce, cedar, hemlock, douglas fir forests line Johnstone Strait

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taking a break from the winds in the kelp which keeps you anchored via the skeg

We crossed Johnstone Strait at Helmcken Island which was uneventful.

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crossing Johnstone Strait

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crossing Johnstone Strait via Helmcken Island

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bull kelp and waves

and fought the headwinds hard into Kelsey Bay. We had to cross the shallow bay to get to the dock and man were those waves big! What a way to end the day!

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kayaks in Kelsey Bay

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We were so hungry. We walked 15 minutes into Sayward and checked out the store which was a vision, and then walked a further 10 minutes up the road to the only restaurant / pub in town. We ordered probably the best hamburger I have ever had. I was so hungry, and we started with a beer on an empty stomach. We all ordered the deluxe with poutine, for like ten bucks! Oh man, we were in euphoria for an hour.

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walking to the store in Sayward

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log sorting yard at Kelsey Bay

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log dump dumping

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I like picturesque Sayward

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walking the highway to the only restaurant in town

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there it is, the only restaurant in town

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Then we resupplied with food at the store at very good prices, and got a ride back out to Kelsey Bay where we were camped. The winds continued all evening and a few cruise ships went by.

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the winds on the evening we arrived in Sayward did not abate

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Desolation Sound to Big Bay

By the next morning there was still no sign of Eva and the sailboat out in the bay, a group of young teenagers from Tacoma on a Search and Rescue course along the coast, helped out. Well they were getting their field training! They broke into two groups and set out along each shore of the lake. The leader had decided to call Search and Rescue and the helicopters flew overhead. But then a Coast Guard zodiac came around the corner with Eva and the dog Coco in it. She had somehow made it over the mountain and had started making her way back to camp along the shoreline, and was only just past the closest point. The zodiac saw her and picked her up. The shoreline was steep so it would have taken here a long time to get over. Anyways, she was back unharmed. It just goes to show how easy it is to get lost if you get overconfident and caught unprepared. She had never been lost before!

I went out and got underwater videos of the moon jelly school in the bay. This turned out well and I was happy about that, since I had missed the opportunity the day before out in the crossing.

I carried my boat up to the lake since I was looking forward to paddling in some fresh water. It had been a nice evening on the lake yesterday and I hoped to get out on it today. However, today was windy, really windy. But I wanted to paddle in fresh water so I went out anyways.

Setting off into the wind on Unwin Lake

There was interesting lakeshore life with boggy type vegetation growing on the floating logs. Among these plants is sundew, which is adapted to environments with low nutrient availability and instead gets nutrition by trapping insects in sticky hairs on its leaves, and then it digests them.

Relic of an old burn here in the dry forests of Desolation Sound

I passed by the knoll which we had hiked to the previous night. It only took a few minutes by boat, but over half an hour to walk there. It is good that we turned around where we did last night as we would not have gotten aywhere. The headwinds were very strong but I continued on to the second lake.

Going through the narrows between the two lakes

Freshwater mussels

I paddled past some rocky bluffs that went down to the lake that had interesting mossy dry vegetation.

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Lily pads the southern end of South Unwin Lake. The wind had pushed me here and I was hoping I’d be able to get back!

After reaching the end of the lakes I now had to paddle back against the wind. It was a hard paddle as I crept up the east shoreline, aiming for the northern shore which looked to be in a sheltered lee.

The northern shoreline where I could get out of the wind

Douglas-fir bark beetles are usually found in the Interior but they have been moving out to the Coast. These are related to the pine beetle, which has laid waste to massive swaths of pine forests in the Interior. Much of my return trip later on through the Interior will be through the remnants of these forests.

The tufts of grass growing out of the water amongst washed up charred logs had a beauty to them.

It was beautiful but eerily desolate. I fought my way back to the calm lee at the north end of the second lake. It is marshy here, and a large floating log separates the marsh from the main lake. From a distance I thought this log might be a beach. But no, thre are no beaches on Unwin Lake. I walked along the log and took photos of damselflies and other interesting lakeshore life, waiting for the brief periods of sunshine to get the shots. After a half hour I continued on.

There seemed to be a permanent cloud blocking the sun here. It would give me a minute or two to take some photos, then I would have to wait another ten.

Pond lily ready to open

Shortly after heading out again I noticed something shiny in the bushes on the northern shoreline. It was one of those shiny silver balloons that people release and I always wonder where they end up…. And just to the west of here I noticed an opening in the forest coming down to the lake. I thought I might land there and have a look around as there are supposedly native archaeological sites here. But as I approached, all of a sudden I got a very creepy feeling. I thought I could hear voices but then there were none. The wind was bashing the trees overhead. There were no boats or any signs of people around. It was a very strange sensation. I have rarely gotten so creeped out so quickly. I’ve spent lots of time in the wildernesss but his was more than that. I wondered if it had somethign to do with the native sites here. I high tailed it out of there. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me since I had not seen anyone all day anywhere on the lake and the wind was getting to me. I really don’t like wind. I don’t know.

I returned to the head of the first lake with a very strong tailwind and I was able to surf down the big waves for several seconds since my kayak was so light.

Evening light on the cedars as I returned to the head of Unwin Lake

The creek running by the campsite had lots of fat little salmon in it and a sculpin which I was able to get video of. The salmon were hanging out at the area of the rocks where everyone comes to wash their plates; that’s why they were so fat and showed little fear of me.

This water is very warm, I’d estimate 20 degrees. And it’s only June, I wonder how high it gets in August. I guess Unwin Lake is shallow and just heats up in the sun. I gave my kayak a good bath in the creek. We had more crabs that night and all sat around George and Eva’s campfire.

The following morning George and Eva headed out fairly early. I was also going to head out but I wanted to go back up to the lake and walk around a bit more to get some videos and photos of me in the forest.

A nice big second growth cedar

wild ginger

Miner’s lettuce (great in salads)

I returned to camp, hoping to catch Bryan and Maggie. They were going to spend another day here and the plan was to meet up in Big Bay in a few nights’ time, as I was going to go up Homfray Channel to the east which would add an extra day to my paddle. But they were nowhere to be seen back at camp.

They were still in their tent, until lunch time! We finally said goodbye and I headed out.

I passed a sailboat coming in and then approached some impressive sheer vertical cliffs plunging to depths I didn’t want to think about.

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I tried getting videos but my camera would slowly zoom in and yield useless footage. This is because I bought a housing for a slightly different camera model than what I had because apparently Canon discontinues making the housings for its cameras that are a year old. This means that the camera didn’t fit properly and the zoom lever on the housing gently pushed on the zoom button on the camera. I was getting very frustrated with this since it ruined some otherwise nice videos. I got some short ones of the subtidal life along the vertical cliff as I went along but they didn’t last very long until the camera zoomed in. I also made some lengthy videos with the camera pointing off the front of my boat, which would be of me paddling along the shoreline from one bay to the next, and then if sped up, the viewer would get a time-lapsed idea of what it’s like to paddle here. These would have turned out great, except of course you know what happened…. I was getting so angry. I took a break in the entrance to the little channel which led out to the beginnings of Homfray Channel. I got out my peanut butter and dates and then noticed that my map was in the water, floating about 50 feet away. Ahhhh!!!!

I ate my food and then I went through the narrow channel into the main channel of Desolation Sound and it was so beautiful, and I managed to get some decent videos, with audio even, so I soon calmed down.

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looking up Desolation Sound to the Coast Mountains

But then the weather started to look like it was going to pick up. I could see all the clouds hanging around the mountains to the east where I was heading, getting more and more threatening. To the west was sunshine. This is how it is on the Coast — the mountains trap the clouds and increase rainfall there. This is basically why this region has such a high diversity of ecosystems, ranging from the wet hypermaritime climate on the exposed outer coast, where winter isn’t much different from summer, all the way over the mountains of Vancouver Island to the dry rainshadow climates of Georgia Strait. Then the clouds again get squeezed of moisture when they reach the Coast Range. They get raised higher and higher over ice fields before they again descend down across the dry but cool Chilcotin Plateau of the interior. The Chilcotin is where the polar continental influence becomes more apparent, as winters there are cold and dry. The Coast Mountains form a barrier keeping that cold air away from the Coast, but every once in a while in winter we get the cold outflow winds spilling out to the Coast and freezing everything up for a while until the maritme flow resumes and pushes the polar air masses back into the interior. The Chilcotin Plateau is high too, around 1000 meters. It is bordered by many lakes and valleys leading out from the east side of the mountains which I will explore on the return leg of my trip. Further east, the elevation drops even more down to the Fraser River, and BC even has some dry desert ecosystems. Then the terrain picks up again as you go east from there, leading to another wet belt in eastern BC, followed by the Rocky Mountains, and finally the dry prairies on the lee of those mountains, which go halfway across the continent. And here I was, right in the middle of it all!

So, back to my immediate weather concerns, I could see that I was going to get hit by some wind and rain.

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Looking to the northeast up Homfray Channel

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Five minutes later

I took refuge behind some protected little islands which turn out to be the other main anchorage for Desolation Sound. Just over the rocks were a few sailboats taking refuge too.

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Refuge behind little islands

It really is amazing how many oysters there are here. It is not a safe place for an inflatable kayak for this reason! After a short while of snacking on Quaker Harvest Crunch I again returned to paddling and saw an interesting little channel I thought I could go through. However, I grounded my skeg on the bottom which was entirely covered with oysters. Not a smart move. I retreated with no damage. I guess my skeg protects me from getting into too much trouble.

I didn’t get hit too hard with the weather, it was mostly just wind, and when back out in the open, I took note of how much pelagic (free swimming) marine life there is in these waters. It is like pea soup it is so productive. That’s probably also why there are so many oysters! There are jellies everywhere, and millions of little comb jellies or ctenophores on the surface. These have rows of cilia hairs along their bodies which refract sunlight like a prism. They are very beautiful to look at in an aquarium or under a microscope. I have seen them everywhere on this whole trip but especially here, where they seem to raft together on the surface by the hundreds.

I noticed some birds of prey swirling overhead way up in the clouds.

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Turkey vultures

Then I rounded a corner and came face to face with both eagles and buzzards sitting on a log! I pulled out my camera and got some nice shots as the wind pushed me by.

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I started to realize how much animal life there is on this planet when you get away from human civilization. It really is another world out there!

The late afternoon light was really nice against the mountains and I had a strong tailwind pushing me up the channel.

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Mountains of the ecological reserve of East Redonda Island

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Looking north up Homfray Channel

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I tried trolling for whatever fish were out there but caught nothing. I neared my destination for the day, what seemed to be a bankrupt fishing lodge for sale which had been started but abandoned. And there was an oyster farm right off the shore in the bay. Steep mountains flanked the bay and a nice big creek flowed onto the rocky beach. This area was desolate with few boats coming by, and the oyster farm seemed vacant.

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Interesting garage. I wonder what the morning commute’s like?

I landed almost on high tide in waves and scrambled to get my stuff organized.

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There was a great big grassy area where I could set up the tent but as I arrived I scared a goose away. Apparently the goose was enjoying the grass too and there was crap everywhere. I managed to find a clear spot behind the cedar tree in the above photo and just as I got my tent set up it started to rain hard. It lasted for an hour but I made dinner under my tarp, which I set up just before the rain ended. Oh, and I lost my lure out there somewhere too.

This looked like a risky bear area so I tried to hoist my food up a tree but failed and it got dark and wet so I just put it by my tent and would defend it if anything came by.

In the morning I noticed a little critter the size of a squirrel racing by above the beach. This was some kind of weasel, I will have to ID it later. It had a big white patch on its chest. I walked over to where the creek emptied onto the beach to filter water and fill up my water containers. That water was cold on my feet! Straight down from the snowmelt.

The salt water was pretty choppy and the beach had oysters, so I searched for the most sheltered spot to launch, which was a few hundred meters down the beach to the west. These oysters are a mixed blessing. They can shred your boat and feet, but they provide easy bait for the crab trap.

I spent most of the day paddling up the coast mainland by the big snow capped peaks.

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Windthrow on East Redonda Island

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Why do you think these mussels only grow on the branches hanging down into the water? This was a special habitat I would paddle by every hundred meters or so.

The water here was more devoid of obvious life, and the intertidal was more sparse compared with Desolation Sound. It was clear and dark blue, rather than the pea soup of Desolation Sound. I attribute this to the depth of the channel, as well as the fresh water runoff from the coastal rivers flowing into it from Toba Inlet, which tends to stay near the surface at times and reduce the salinity. Toba is a big inlet with big rivers, but even those can’t penetrate through the Coast Mountains and drain the Interior. I’d have to wait a few days before I got to that inlet….

There was the odd house and fishing lodge but mostly it was uninhabited. There is more parkland up here, obviously with Desolation Sound Marine Park prominent, but the entire eastern peninsula of East Redonda Island is an ecological reserve.

I continud up the eastern side ofthe channel and investigated a high waterfall coming off the mountains straight into the water. There was a rope swing here where youcould jump into the salt water. I didn’t try it out.

At some point I had to cross west over to Redonda Island from the mainland shore and I made the decision to do it, even though it wasn’t at the narrowest point which was a little further on, because the conditions were calm. I thought I should take advantage of my good fortune while I had it. It’s good I did this because literally, as soon as I got close to reaching the opposite shore a strong headwind gust picked up and made it very difficult to paddle. I hopped along the shore from one sheltered bay to the next and rounded the northern point of East Redonda Island.

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I had winds for the reast of the paddle, which wasn’t actually much longer anyways, and made it to the sizeable bay which had the campground, next to a logging operations dock. I was now beyond the ecological reserve.

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At the camp were four Germans and their guide. I stayed with them and set the crab trap in the wind but caught nothing. Soon the weather picked up even more and became torrential with high winds. They had a big tarp set up among the logs on the upper beach and somehow they managed to keep that together. Good construction! We all huddled under it and watched the storm.

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In comes the weather from the north

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Torrential

The guide Rory was kind enough to offer me some dessert, even though I had lots of my own food. Sweet apple crumble, wow. He knows how to take care of his guests. I also stuffed myself on dal and I added my own rice to beef it up.

Rory said he was planning to kayak up to Haida Gwaii next summer with some friends. He asked about Homfray Channel since he hadn’t been down there before and I mentioned there were suitable camping sites along much of the eastern shore, in the big bays. I said a few looked like they might have bears but I didn’t see any. He seemed to try to end that topic quickly, I presume to not worry the guests. He said that the kayak up Toba Inlet was spectacular, and that there was a campsite on some rocks underneath a huge steep mountain.

There was not much space in this campsite and they had taken the main open area. There was another older tent site which had become partially overgrown so I took out my axe and hacked it back.

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In the morning I felt bloated and I saw the Germans off. I would be a little slower getting packed up.

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Away they go, to where I just came from

The sun was poking through so I set up my solar panel on the rocks and took some photos.

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The little creek here has Enteromoporpha sea lettuce growing along its bed. This algae grows wherever there is fresh water entering the intertidal. You can eat it.

I finally got going but I was not feeling any less bloated. The oatmeal I had for breakfast sure didn’t help either, and only added to the rice. I felt like I was going to throw up.

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I just paddled weakly along the shore in nice calm seas for a few hours. The water had become turquoise blue from the glacial runoff from Toba Inlet.

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I was hoping that the currents would be going swiftly my way and that I could just lie back and snooze for a half hour at a time as I floated along. But they weren’t strong enough and I gradually became stronger myself so I put effor tinto paddling, in order to take advantage of the currents before the tide changed. There was the odd explosion rattlign the whole area, from forestry workers blasting rock for road building. I was hoping to intercept Bryan and Maggie at the channel separating East and West Redonda Islands, since they were planning to come through there that morning, but I didn’t see them. I passed a few other kayakers.

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After a few hours I started to feel much stronger and the currents really started pushing me along.

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Looking back up towards Toba Inlet

I made good time and rounded the northern point of West Redonda Island to reach the channel separating it from Raza Island, which I would have to cross. I made some neat videos with the current taking me along the steep shoreline as I looked down at saucer sized moon jellies. I took a break and filled up on dates and peanut butter, then crossed uneventfully.

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I passed along Raza Island and crossed again to a peninsula of the mainland that sticks out. I rounded the point into the bay with my planned campsite, a nice cobble beach, but there was no cleared campsite in the bushes. There was a spot above the high tide line on the cobbles so I checked the tide table and the high would be at 8 pm that night, with the low in the middle of the night being lower, so I was safe. I enjoyed some curry dinner as I sat in the big logs and watched boats going by.

The next morning I said goodbye to the last arbutus trees as the climate was getting wetter from here on, and I had a short paddle into Big Bay on Stuart Island. I had to cross the entrance to Bute Inlet, which Stuart Island fits into like a plug. I later found out that Bute Inlet gets to 700 meters deep here. The boat traffic was noticeably heavier because this is one of only two locations which allow passage north and south along the coast. The other is adjacent to Vancouver Island, on the other side of Sonora Island.

This is an interesting place because everything gets funnelled through here — the boats, the log booms, the water, and the salmon. The northern portion of Georia Strait gets funnelled through these two openings when the tides change, so the water really gets going! There are some very dangerous rapids leading into Big Bay, which must be negotiated at the right tide. Whirlpools seven feet deep can develop and swallow kayaks. The books all warn to be very careful here. I was approaching at the beginning of the ebb tide and I stopped near a very swanky lodge to ask a guy on the dock, a chef, about the rapids. He didn’t know much about them.

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I went anyways and had some fun getting whipped around the points and carried into Big Bay. More and more ultra swanky resorts showed up. Wow, what a place. All of them had No Trespassing signs.

This is also an interesting point on my trip because Bute Inlet hosts the second river, after the Fraser, which drains from the Interior out to the Coast. So far , which is differentfon my trip, all of the rivers leading down to the salt chuck have drained the west side of the mountain range, but here, the Homathko River drains parts of the interior Chilcotin Plateau (Tatlayoko Lake, which is different from the other similar lakes it has as neighbours because they all drain eastwards into the Fraser system). I have no time to go up Bute Inlet; it’s way too far, but I plan to hit Tatlayoko Lake and the Homathko River on my way back down next year as I mountain bike my way through the Chilcotin mountain wilderness along the many trails in the region. I also plan to tow a smaller kayak with me and use this to cross lakes when I need to.

I arrived at the public dock in Big Bay to see Bryan and Maggie greeting me! They had just arrived and had only been a little ways ahead of me for the last couple days! I must have just missed them as they came through the channel between the Redonda Islands.

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I learned that Big Bay had very few supplies despite all the swanky resorts around. The store opened from 4 pm to 5 pm and had only dried and canned food, but that was enough. I got some canned chunky soup, crackers, honey, peanut butter, fishing lures, and of course chocolate bars.

Apparently Big Bay has been around for a while and anyone who’s anyone has been there. Royalty and Bill Gates have visited. Since everything gets funnelled through the channel here, including the salmon, it offers great salmon fishing opportunities, especially of the runs originating out of Bute Inlet. It’s a great place to build a fishing resort!

The “resort” across the water was London Drugs’ corporate retreat, and Denny Washington has two, a personal and a corporate retreat. We watched a couple helicopters fly in, circle the bay, and land at London Drugs. Then a bunch of greeters went up to meet them so they must have been important people. I got out my long lens like the paparazzi.

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Doing the circle tour

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Landing

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Recognize anyone famous?

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Bryan and I caught some ling cod off the dock and one of the guys working at one of the lodges brought over two huge slabs of salmon! We ate well that night, over the fire pit on the lawn! We pitched our tents in the covered area next to the store. And at one point a couple whale watching boats unloaded and everyone came up to eat their lunch on the tables near our stuff. These are very powerful zodiacs out of Campbell River and they go all over the place chasing the whales, guided by radios from planes and other guides. We talked and then as they left, they left their food with us!

 


Powell River to Desolation Sound

While in Powell River I had seen a video posted on the internet by Alastair Humphreys, international man of adventure (he rode his pedal bike around the world), of a kayaking day trip he and some others took to a spot off the coast of England. They caught fish and camped out on the beach and made a great video of the day, and I wondered why I was having such a hard time getting similar video. I asked him what equipment he used and it was a GoPro HD Point-of-View surfboard cam. I ordered one and I’m looking forward to picking it up from my mom in Telegraph Cove in a couple weeks. The problem with my video camera housing is it’s way too big to just throw anywhere and get interesting angles. I need something much smaller in addition to mine. This GoPro camera is made to mount on surfboards and it gives a really wide angle.

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working on my video camera mount with minimal tools

I was itching to get out of town and my camera mounting system was now operational so I left Powell River campground the same day as Brian and Maggie, but around 3 pm, a few hours after they did, despite aiming to get out at the same time. I always seem to underestimate how long it will take to pack up after I’ve been in one spot for a few days. My stuff just gets everywhere. Plus there is a long walk out to the dock at the end of the pier.

I had some nice winds helping me northwards and I soon passed the big pulp mill at the mouth of Powell River. There is a small dam on the river and the mill encircles the river and uses the water coming out for its processes. That would never be allowed to go ahead today. This mill is either a pulp or paper mill I believe, since it restructured for the economic downturn. Since it didn’t stink, I presume it is a paper mill. Kraft pulp mills stink because of the sulphur used in the chemical process which releases methyl mercaptan, which is structurally the same as methanol alcohol but with a sulphur instead of an oxygen in the molecule, which makes it stinky, like all sulphur chemicals. The smell isn’t unhealthy, just stinky. The mills have actually cleaned up their effluent quite a bit over the last few decades, to the point where it isn’t even much of a concern anymore.

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I have a mixed opinion of BC’s forest industry. On one hand, it is essentially a renewable and sustainable resource and industry, and it maintains the land in a state similar to what it would be naturally. Most other countries sell off most of their forests for agriculture or real estate. On the other hand, we have not been managing it sustainably, and we cut way too many of our forests down, going in and despoiling wilderness areas that we should never have gone into in the first place. And poor management hurts salmon which spawn it the streams. And we have also started selling off our forest lands…. so all in all, I think we could do much much better, and we seem to be moving in that direction. I wonder though if the recent collapse in demand for forest products has something to do with that supposed improved management…. or maybe we’ve already cut down all the valuable timber….

I wondered where Bryan and Maggie would end up tonight, probably Savary Island. I passed Harwood Island which is owned by the local first nations band. I heard through the grapevine that they consider it bad luck to go to the island, so it remains essentially completely undeveloped, covered in forest. Only kayakers go over there.

I soon passed Sliammon, the local native village, and after that more endless rows of waterfront houses.

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looking over to Comox Glacier on Vancouver Island

At approximately opposite Savary Island, it was getting near dark and a bit rough so I opted to find a cove to camp. Nothing seemed overly inviting so I chose the most hospitable one without a No Trespassing sign. I stopped at one with interesting red rocks for a beach. It looked nice from the water but from shore it had a 10 foot high cliff I had to scale with all my stuff, but above this was a decent grassy bluff with nodding onion and Brodiea lilies. It started to rain a bit so I set my tent up fast. Then it all smelled a pleasant aroma of onions all night. I also noticed a No Trespassing sign on the other side of the small cove, and could hear people the next cove over, so I lay low that night, only eating an energy bar and some other non-cooked food. I would get up early and head out soon. I was also not too happy about setting my tent up on this nice grassy ecosystem, but the rain made all the lichen soft and pliable so I didn’t do too much damage.

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interesting red rocks on beach and nodding onion campsite

In the morning I took off early to strong tailwinds and soon passed by the source of the human noise I heard the evening before – a pubic campground in the next cove over! I would not have been able to land, however, since it was a steep shoreline with access only from the road. So I probably was not on private property the night before after all. I took some photos of eagles in a tree but it was too rough to get any nice shots. I soon got to Lund, the last sizable establishment on the Sunshine Coast. I stopped in for breakfast at a café which was nice, but pricey.

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just what I wanted to see for breakfast

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Lund is the official end of Highway 101 up the Pacific Coast of North America and they have a marker to signify this.

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Then I headed out for the Copeland Islands Marine Park, which is just a couple kilometres up the coast. I saw some kayakers and hoped they were Bryan and Maggie but they weren’t. I soon came to a great campsite on an isthmus between two of the southern islands in the group, with a bay on one side facing the open Georgia Strait, and the other a long oyster covered beach facing the protected waters next to the mainland.

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campsite in the middle, cove on either side

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looking east from the Copeland Islands campsite

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looking west from the campsite

I had only gone about 5 km so far but I decided to camp here because it was such a nice spot. I would have all afternoon to get some underwater footage with my video camera.

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looking towards Savary and Vancouver Islands from the Copelands

I set up camp and then noticed that the plug which I used to seal up the microphone audio jack on my video housing was missing, so I couldn’t put the housing underwater. I got very frustrated and decided to make one with crazy glue and a piece of wood, and a male fitting I had as well. This took up most of the time I would have spent getting footage and by that time it was to late, the light wasn’t that great. And in the evening the mosquitoes got very bad. But in the bay was a little island on which a pair of oystercatcher shorebirds had a chick. They would take turns gathering a variety of shellfish to bring back, and always had a noisy greeting when they returned. Every once and a while they would go for a fly around with their neighbours from another cove for a few minutes and the whole episode was very noisy for several minutes, but I love the sound of these birds. I tried recording it with my video camera and hopefully the wind didn’t overwhelm the sound.

That reminds me, I also ordered an Edirol audio recorder which has a windscreen. This will record nice audio files for me, and I can also use it instead of a microphone plugging into the video camera which is a pain – too many wires and things to go wrong. With the audio recorder and camcorder I can simply make two separate files, one audio and one video, and worry about bringing them together with software later.

I was hoping the oystercatchers would sing me to sleep but they quieted down at dusk. Then I heard some people rowing over and speaking loudly. It was some Americans up in their sailboats coming to shore to use the outhouses. They seemed to like skipping stones on the beach. Another group came after them, and they were on their way to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

In the morning I planned to spend a couple hours with the underwater housing (using the original plug I found when I packed up camp). I have to make a point to be very mentally sharp always on this trip. I am normally a bit absent minded but I can’t be this way with so much equipment sitting right beside salt water in my kayak, when every mistake gets amplified to bigger proportions that could be very costly.

While out in the kayak I found I could get pretty close to the oystercatchers, like 20 feet away on the island and they didn’t seem to mind. I got some great shots.

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bringing some shellfish for the baby

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the baby is well camouflaged in the rock crevices

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breaking open the clam

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now for a mussel

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at anchor on the oystercatchers’ island

And I also got some good shots of a kingfisher which are normally very skittish and don’t let you get very close. There are tons of them all along the coast. They are related to kookaburras from Australia and they are territorial, each one sitting on a branch overlooking the water. When you paddle along they take off and make lots of cackling noises and fly ahead to their neighbour’s territory where they make even more noise.

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belted kingfisher

The underwater camera worked OK, but it seems to have a problem focussing too close on the bits of stuff in the water reflecting the sunlight, and the camera has no way to manually set the focus. That’s a bit of a bummer. Maybe in cloudy weather it will focus better. I also took some photos of bees in the lilies and various other subjects, and I left very happy about my shots of the oystercatchers.

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nodding onion

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loading up and catching some rays

I again had nice tailwinds pushing me up through the Copelands and I went by some schools of moon jellies and a huge school of thousands of little herring. I got underwater footage of this. This is a beautiful area and I can see why it is a park.

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Looking north to Desolation Sound from the Copelands

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I was really starting to enjoy being away from the strips of waterfront houses and then I got to the north end of the Copelands and saw the signs for waterfront lots for sale on the mainland side. I was sickened.

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more waterfront development

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You know we’re running out of space when a vertical rock face is marketed as an “Estate Lot”

It seems with all the other land developed further south that development will be pushing all the way to the top of the peninsula. I was a little less sickened when I realized this was part of Bliss Landing, the last point of civilization for a while, and where I planned to stop and recharge my camera batteries, since my solar panel had stopped working on them after a week’s use before Powell River. I was pretty upset at Canon since they do not make a low voltage charger for their camcorder batteries and I had to order three more batteries to pick up in Telegraph Cove. I think the problem is when I try to charge the batteries when it is only partially sunny and the cloudy periods confuse the electronics in the battery and make it think it’s getting charged when it isn’t.

Bliss Landing seemed like a nice place and when I arrived no one was around.

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Bliss Landing

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my dock neighbour at Bliss Landing

I hauled my camera gear up to the house and looked for an outlet.

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Bliss Landing

Then a guy appeared who was very friendly and he offered me free internet and free power in the library room, and free showers if I wanted. Wow, what a generous offer. I think he was helping me out on my big trip and in a few weeks there would be many more kayakers on local trips in this location so he was being nice to me. But Bliss Landing certainly lived up to its name.

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entrance to Bliss Landing

I left and was again pushed by tailwinds up around the northernmost tip of the Sunshine Coast Peninsula, beyond any roads. I was elated. And the currents were going my way too.

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leaving Bliss Landing

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There is a trail that runs the length of the Sunshine Coast

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that thar on the right is the northernmost tip of the Sunshine Coast peninsula

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I made really good time and camped in a bay shortly around the corner. This area had a forest fire on the dry bluffy point the year before from careless kayakers. It was interesting walking around this burned forest, which would be more common around here naturally except we put out fires as soon as they happen, which then results in a buildup of dead fuel on the ground, making any fires that do happen more intense.

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remnants of forest fire

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new life after the fire

I camped at a spot up in the moist unburned trees at the head of the cove and had a big dinner of lasagna. I had a beautiful sunset that evening and got some good shots looking up the channel to the east of Cortes Island leading all the way up to Stuart Island and Big Bay, my next destination. But I was not going to take this direct route, instead going through Desolation Sound and the channels adjoining the mainland and Coast Mountains.

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how to cool down your dinner quickly

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Now having kayaked up the Sunshine Coast, I can give my opinion about the degree of wildland protection there. I was quite dismayed by the extent of private waterfront real estate development. Basically, the entire length of the Sunshine Coast mainland which faces Georgia Strait is lined with private houses. There are a few exceptions with small isolated parks in a few areas, but it’s mostly unbroken. The lack of waterfront parkland between Gibsons and Sechelt is ridiculous, with only a few small dots, forcing all kayakers to camp in what amounts to little more than a 300 foot wide lot, along with all the other locals who come there because it is one of only a few places to access the water. There are more parks inland which is good (some of those parks protect higher elevation old growth forests), but these are not waterfront coastal ecosystems. And there are a few more parks on the offshore islands like on Thormanby, but still not much, and in my opinion it is tragic what we have allowed real estate developers to do to this coast. They have definitely left their legacy on our coastline for future generations… there is no going back. Once you turn wildlands into private real estate, IT’S GONE, for good!

The larger islands in the Strait like Texada are still relatively undeveloped and offer opportunities for more parkland creation, but still this is a different ecosystem than the mainland. There is one exception, however, and that is Nelson Island. This remains a jewel on the Sunshine Coast. In my opinion we should be doing everything we can to turn as much of it as possible into parkland. It is mostly provincial forestry land, and our governments have a habit of selling that land type off for real estate development when there is revenue to be made from this. Nelson Island is officially an island, but sits nicely in Jervis Inlet by the mainland like a wedge. It supports lots of bears and large mammals, and there is very little residential development on it. In my opinion protecting Nelson Island should be a top priority for Sunshine Coast conservationists.

The next day I headed out to Desolation Sound and was dismayed that there were even waterfront houses here too, on some legacy private land.

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But I managed to put these behind me and crossed a large bay to get towards my destination for the day, Tenedos Bay at the end of the protected part of Desolation Sound.

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crossing Desolation Sound to Tenedos Bay

At one point in the crossing I looked down and noticed that I was getting into shallow water with a large pebble beach beneath me, but then I noticed that this was instead a very dense school of moon jellies! I decided not to take video since it was pretty windy. I went along the north-facing southern shoreline which is shaded from the harsh sun, which promotes lots of intertidal life. I had a fantastic time playing with my underwater housing while the current pushed me along past the prolific marine life on this shore at low tide. I saw a vermillion star out in the intertidal which I was not at all expecting since these are usually found deeper.

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vermillion star

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plumose anemones hanging out under a rock at low tide

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Tenedos Bay

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rule of thirds

I got to Tenedos Bay after a final chow down on some Quaker Harvest Crunch. It was low tide and there are oyster beds everywhere. There is a lake called Unwin Lake only a few hundred meters up from the bay and I was hoping to line my canoe up the river leading to it. Not likely! Oysters everywhere and not much water.

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the creek leading down from Unwin Lake. I won’t be fording that!

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There is a very nice campsite there though. I soon saw some people coming up the bay paddling a canoe! It turns out they had been following and keeping pace with me for a few hours. They had a dog in their canoe too. They were George and Eva, who have lots of experience in the wilderness and taking underwater footage while scuba diving. They were very interested in my setup and had lots of stories and things to talk about. Eva took the dog for a walk up to the lake shortly before Bryan and Maggie showed up! What a great evening. We threw my crab trap in the water and caught lots of red rock crabs.

“loaded” with crabs

In the evening Bryan and Maggie and I went fishing for trout in the lake.

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fishing in Unwin Lake

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Maggie fishing in Unwin Lake

We caught nothing and I returned. Unfortunately Eva was not able to enjoy the crabs since she never came back from her walk to Unwin Lake that evening. She is a very experienced outdoors person and we were getting more and more worried as the evening progressed. Eventually darkness came and there was no sign of her. Unwin Lake is a two-lake affair, with the second lake joined by a narrows and then curving back around towards the salt water to the south. We thought she had gotten thrown by this. And the trail around the lake gets very rough and non-existent fairly fast. We weren’t sure what to do. At midnight all four of us headed out to the lake in a fine drizzle and hiked about a kilometre past the head of the lake on the very rough trail, often getting thrown off course. We were careful not to get lost as well. We were yelling for her and the echoes came back off the mountains but we heard nothing. We were concerned. Hopefully the rain would stay away since she had nothing, not even a flashlight. And she was in shorts. But she did have a furry dog.

After an hour of this we decided it was futile so we turned back and went to bed.


Powell River to ?

On Wednesday I hope to head up to somewhere around Lund, a little establishment 20 km up the coast. After that is Copeland Islands Marine Park, where I hope to get some good underwater footage with my video camera. Beyond that is the end of the Sunshine Coast peninsula, and the end of the coastal highway stretching from Central America up to this point. You can go further north, but you have to take a more inland route because the coastal mountains are too rugged for a continuation of the road beyond here. There are too many fiords and steep mountainsides. Thankfully for me, this is the end of the endless rows of waterfront houses and the beginning of the real wilderness. I will travel up through Desolation Sound and the islands separating northeastern Vancouver Island from the mainland. Since my battery charger no longer charges my camcorder batteries, I will try to top up my charge as often as possible in any tiny settlements I may come across.

Despite this leg being the beginning of the real wilderness, I believe it will be much easier travelling for me now. The problem so far is that with very few exceptions, all the nice locations along the Sunshine Coast which offer a protected place to pull out and camp, already have houses backing them. This meant that I had to search around for suboptimal camping locations and had to reach certain destinations by the end of the day. I have some pretty strong opinions about this unbridled, unbroken waterfront real estate development, and the necessity for protecting what little undeveloped land remains, but I will hold off on any further ranting for now. From now on, I will find plenty of easily accessible camping spots. The other thing that will be on my side is the tidal currents. The tides really rip through these islands since the channels are the only things linking the vast inland Georgia Strait with the open ocean. So if you time your travelling right, you can catch a ride for free on these currents and I expect to make very good time. Winds will also not be of such a factor anymore since the currents will overpower their effects. Also, I won’t have the big waves since Georgia Strait will be behind islands once I reach Desolation Sound. I hope to be in Telegraph Cove within two weeks, and after that the real wilderness begins, where I may be away from human contact for a couple weeks at a time. My trip will have been a nice gradual buildup to that point so far, so I can’t curse the civilization of the Sunshine Coast too much because it has provided me with cell phone coverage and internet and necessary supplies in Powell River.

On Tuesday evening a kayaker walked up to my tent and asked me if this was a good campsite! It turns out that Brian and Maggie are from Vancouver and have been paddling on their way to Ketchikan for the last week! We shared the tent site and they bought me a nice dinner and beer to pay for their half of the rent. We talked a lot about our trips and routes. They stayed in Roberts Creek too! And they had the police come down and break up the teenagers’ party! They gave me some good information about Yucalta Rapids up near Big Bay. They have to be finished by September because Maggie has to return to school. They are also raising money for their charity, an orphanage in eastern Kenya trying to raise enough money to build a chicken coupe for the kids. Maggie wants to see my kayak all loaded up before they leave in the morning but I think I may be a little late heading out tomorrow with all the computer stuff I still need to do. As I write this at 1 am the internet is down so I’ll have lots to do in the morning.


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.

 


Thormanby Island to Nelson Island

I packed up in the morning ready to go, and around lunchtime went down to the low tide to try to get some more shots with my underwater housing. I still had the tide, sun, and wind in my favour, but this time the water was very cold. It was chilling me way down and my hands were getting sluggish. I guess some deepwater current brought it up with the wind shift. I got a few good shots but I still need more practise. I found a small penpoint gunnel half in the mouth of a Red Irish Lord sculpin, struggling for its life. I didn’t get many good shots because I was aiming too high. Eventually the sculpin ate the whole gunnel.

I then left the island and started heading up the coast. I called my grandad in Ontario. The wind pushed me up the coast like usual. I went through the passage between Thormanby Island and the mainland, which is Smuggler Cove Provincial Park.

Once past the last point I allowed myself to drift in the wind and had lunch which consisted of a Clif Bar, walnuts dipped in honey, and dried dates dipped in peanut butter – pure energy!

I could then also see the western part of Thormanby Island which is totally different from the eastern side. It is not parkland and is covered in more verdant forest, having deeper soil. On the north side is steep cliffs leading down to the water, and a big sandy beach. There are also lots of houses. In the middle is Buccaneer Bay with a nice beach, but I didn’t go.

Also now I was passing by the southern tip of Texada Island, a 50 km long mostly undeveloped island off the Sunshine Coast. I headed for Pender Harbour, where I was planning to spend the night and resupply in Garden Bay. I took a straight line for the point and went away from the coastline. I was out in the middle of the water and the wind was getting pretty strong. There were big waves coming in from Georgia Strait behind me. I was able to kind of surf down some of the larger ones for a bit. I got to the entrance of Pender Harbour while the winds died down. I noticed that the tide was also taking me in the direction I wanted to go since I was moving pretty fast. I decided not to go to Garden Bay since I had no reason to. The winds were turning into a slight headwind. I would go to Nelson Island tonight, which is another large undeveloped island in the entrance to Jervis Inlet, the next big inlet into the Coast Mountains up from Howe Sound. Along the way I passed some small islands which seemed to be important habitats for birds.

I made it to the south eastern tip of Nelson Island and was getting tired. It was mostly rocky rough bluffs so I proceeded to follow the shore until I found somewhere to camp. There were a few houses further up so I hoped all the good spots were not already taken. Luckily, I soon rounded a point and found exactly what I was looking for. A beautiful little cove with a gorgeous grassy slope above it looking out to Texada Island. Perfect, exactly what I needed! A seal watched me as I came in and a school of thousands of perch left the cove as I paddled in. I really wish I had my underwater housing set up for times like that. I set up camp since it was getting fairly late. The seal kept watching me for the rest of the evening.

Similar to the spot on Thormanby Island, this spot consisted of a moist draw supporting thick forest, surrounded by rocky headlands.

 

 

The next morning I explored this forest and was soon met by a woodpecker who swooped down to a nearby tree and made lots of noise. It was a red breasted sapsucker. I noticed that almost every tree was riddled with a pattern of holes pecked by these guys. I was happy to see the woodpecker and over the day I tried to get photos and videos. I got some good ones. They got used to me and allowed me to get very close. They seemed to like the attention. There were two birds, and I could hear a baby in a nest somewhere. It was right in the middle of the forest, way up a dead hemlock snag. The good part about this is that I could climb a nearby hill and look over to the nest hole.

 

 

This was perfect. This was wildlife and that’s why I came on my trip. I got some good shots but unfortunately I accidentally deleted the best one. Also, out on the grassy bluff, in the pine trees above my tent, was a hummingbird who came by every once in a while to pick off insects from spider webs. I got some marginal video of this, but was unable to get a still image. Hummingbirds not only eat nectar, but also insects for the protein.

There was a slight opening in the forest which was grand central station for bird life. In this spot I was trying to film two woodpeckers who were flying all around me and there were also two hummingbirds buzzing around who presumably had a nest nearby. Apparently hummingbirds associate with sapsuckers.

This is a good example of why it is important to protect old growth habitat because these woodpeckers like lots of standing dead trees for the biodiversity they attract. Dead trees can support more biodiversity than live ones due to all the things that feed on or take shelter in the rotting wood. Unfortunately with forestry regulations, all dead snags must be taken down when a forest is cut, even selectively, since these pose a risk to forest workers if they were to fall over. This is another reason why we need parks.

I was really happy by the end of the day. I had had a fantastic day with the woodpeckers. I discovered a spot that people rarely go to. I would leave the next morning, but not after getting more shots of the woodpeckers. On the morning of my departure shortly after I got out of my tent, three river otters swam by. These are different than sea otters since they also run around on land. They seemed to have moved up the shoreline and I couldn’t see them. I went down to the little creek to filter some water and when I was about 30 feet away I heard some noises and out came the otters from the forest. They were as startled as I was and then turned right around and went back into the forest and made lots of grunting noises.

Now, I had earlier on made a new rule to never go anywhere without my camera because it always seems that you see something when you aren’t expecting it, so I had followed my own advice and brought my video camera. I set myself up on the slope next to where the otters had come out. I could hear them splashing around in the bushes and they milled around for about ten minutes and then finally made a run for it. They looked back at me, then ran along the shore the other direction, and then jumped in the water and went out to the middle of the cove. I don’t think my presence affected them too much because they started fishing and within a couple minutes they were back on shore eating their fish. And right around this tine I heard a loud swoosh and looked to my right to see a giant pileated woodpecker on a douglas fir not far from me. This is a different species than the sapsuckers that I had become friends with earlier. It then flew out to the point and stood there for a while before flying off. And I got video of it all!

Also in this cove are the remains of a very old shipwreck. There are pieces of rusting iron bars and spikes, some of them embedded in very rotten, teredo-infested wood. I would guess this is at least 100 years old, maybe 200. I should report it and see if it is a historical shipwreck. Teredos are shellfish like clams which burrow into wood in salt water. They are a problem for the forest industry which booms wood in the ocean. You can’t keep it boomed for too long or the teredos ruin it.

 


Roberts Creek to Thormanby Island

I got up early the next morning to dead calm water and winds. I tried paddling without the skeg on the boat to see if it would work but no, it was almost uncontrollable. So I had to immediately come back to shore, unload, put the skeg back on, and load up again. Not a big deal, and I was still on the water by about 8:30 am.

I passed the point leading into Sechelt but kept on going straight towards some islands along my path. I called my mom on my cell phone.

These islands are really neat, despite having houses on them. There were tons of eagles, and nests. I got lots of photos.

Just past the main islands were some small rocks only exposed at low tide and I pulled into one, with my kayak held in place by the Sargassum seaweed, and had a great time taking videos and photos. It was warm and sunny and I spent about an hour there.

When I continued on I startled some basking seals and sea lions who jumped into the water.

My arms were feeling much better today. This alternating rest day strategy seems to be working. I continued past Sargeant Bay, a small coastal provincial park.

My destination was a small cove on the southeast tip of Thormanby Island. Most of the east side of Thormanby Island is a provincial park. It is a sizeable park. But it’s an island, and therefore doesn’t have quite the same degree of biodiversity as an equivalent sized park on the mainland would, as island ecological studies say that smaller areas have less capacity to support a wider range of ecosystem types and stable populations of land based apex predators.

The wind blew me over to my destination and there was another sailboat in the cove. I said hello and asked if he minded me staying at the other side of the cove. It turns out I could have gone to any other of the coves up the island in solitude since there were not other boats there, but I didn’t know that. This cove is very nice and I didn’t mind the company. This boat had one man and several kids. Then a couple other boats came with more kids. It was a noisy evening but I didn’t mind. There were also a lot of fishing boats outside the cove and around the nearby light station. I guess it’s good fishing here.

This is a beautiful spot. With the wind as a tailwind from the southeast, it gets kind of hammered here from the waves funnelling into the cove from the open Georgia Strait to the south. There is tons of wood and styrofoam washed up. And all the trees are quite windswept. It must howl in here during storms. There is a wet draw in the middle with water-loving alder trees and sedge grasses and ferns. This leads back to a lake apparently but I didn’t go back that far. On either side of the draw are dry rocky knolls with arbutus and douglas fir. These knolls are covered in lichens and mosses. Since no one walks around on them they are in great shape. This pattern is typical for east Thormanby Island. You can look on Google Earth and see a maze of more verdant greens from the alders in the wet draws, separated by the dry rocky knolls.

I went looking for water up the draw and despite it having rained hard a couple days earlier I found no obvious running water, just a muddy spot with an inch of water over it. I’d have to filter that. But afterwards in camp I noticed a seepage spot in the rock face underneath the arbutus. It was dripping about one drop per second onto a perfect ledge where I could put my pot. So I would have a nice supply of water there. It tasted a bit grassy though.

There was the usual assortment of coastal birds I have seen – gulls, ravens, eagles, hummingbirds, swallows, a few types of thrushes, especially the haunting call of the Swainson’s thrush echoing through the forest. I love that sound. I went to sleep with the weather forecast calling for rain and it came again overnight. The next morning saw a shift in the winds from the northwest. This left the cove in the lee and it quieted down to like a glassy lake, while I could hear the wind blowing the other way overhead in the trees on the knolls. The rain also brought out the grass pollen and I had a major bout of hay fever with itchy eyes. Today was another rest day.

Around lunch time the tide was really low and got down to a nice sandy area, exposing a little eelgrass bed. This was great. And the water was really warm too. I got my underwater housing ready and started filming and taking photos. I was really impressed with the diversity here. There were at least a dozen types of fish I saw, and there were lots of them everywhere. I tried doing a beach seine but I only managed to catch some pipefish and jellies. All the other fish swam away because the net is white. I will have to dye it darker in Telegraph Cove when I meet my mom in a few weeks.

Eelgrass beds are an important habitat because they act as nurseries for baby fish. I saw several rockfish hanging out. There were a lot of black eyed gobies on the bottom and tons of different types of sculpins. And penpoint gunnels were all over the place. These guys are intertidal eel like fishes, typically bright green. Some were pretty small but there were a few that were about 25 cm long. I thought I took some nice photos but it turns out I wasn’t holding the button down for long enough, at least two seconds, so I’ll have to return tomorrow at the same time.

I then set out to climb around the rocky bluffs to the north of the cove. These are really nice and give nice views of the surrounding area. There wasn’t as much wildflower diversity up there as I was expecting; the highest concentration seemed to be right next to my campsite. My knee has healed well and I was hiking around no problem. I think those single stressful events like falling on the log on Bowen Island actually help my tendonitis and stimulate the tissue to regenerate. I just have to give it a couple days’ rest afterwards.

I returned to camp and the boats had all left. That night I was alone. The next morning the wind had shifted to southeast, exactly what I wanted. I have had incredible luck with the wind. It seems to alternate between a headwind and tailwind every other day, which coincides perfectly with my alternating paddling schedule.

 


Bowen Island to Roberts Creek

The winds the next morning had shifted to a nice southeast tailwind so I rushed to get out and take advantage of it.

It was now low tide, however, and the nice sheltered gravel beach had retreated to a slippery, narrow surge channel.

I didn’t want to miss the winds so I put in anyways, and it was difficult. With this boat you can’t drag it in to the water full of stuff. It is a great boat in most respects except for going in and out of the water. You have to pick it up and carry it in unloaded, then anchor it and wade in with your stuff and load it while it’s floating. Every boat has its advantages and disadvantages and I chose this one for its versatility and ability to be easily hiked through the forest, and I am paying for this versatility with the difficulty of putting in and pulling out. But it’s worth it IMO. I managed to get off with quite a bit of difficulty but not too much damage.

The weather was cloudy with a bit of drizzle. I quickly drifted in the direction of my destination and saw a couple porpoises a few hundred feet off. I weaved my way through the barrier islands at the entrance to Howe Sound and made my way across the open water to the mainland Sunshine Coast. I was not looking forward to this next section since there are very few opportunities for camping. There are houses along an almost unbroken stretch of about 30 km of coastline here.

Along with huge windows comes big chores.

I just wanted some Camp – Ing

My plan was to go to Roberts Creek today, about 20 km, where there is a tiny provincial park on the water. You aren’t supposed to camp there, with camping being a kilometre inland in the forest, but I figure they make the rules for the 99.99% of the people who arrive by land, not sea.

By lunchtime my arms were getting very sore. And so was my butt. Every so often I would break to take photos and stretch and when I do this I take my gloves off and stuff them behind the side of the seat. One time, when I pulled them out to put them back on, I accidentally snagged the inflator plug to the seat and pulled it out. Immediately the seat deflated quite a bit and by the time I put the plug back in it had become much more comfortable. Problem solved!

The tailwind stayed with me all day and diminished to near calm by about 5 p.m. when I reached Roberts Creek. The actual park is a couple kilometres past the jetty in Roberts Creek and I just pushed on with weaker and weaker strokes until I finally got there.

There were moderate waves crashing on the gravelly beach on the high tide which made unloading a bit of a chore, but not too unwieldy.

There were quite a few people going in and out of the water in kayaks and walking around. I can see why, with this being the only accessible waterfront park around, all 300 feet of shoreline of it, except for the pier in the middle of Roberts Creek “village”. I found the most secluded spot I could under the trees, about 100 feet from the neighbours’ house. I waited until it started getting dark and then set up my tent. I was not looking forward to spending a whole day here tomorrow, but I had no choice since my arms were so sore. I needed to take it one day on / one day off for the first while until I got stronger. Finally around 10 pm the last people left.

I woke up early to a falling tide and planned my day.

I was going to do some things to the boat and beyond that, just  sit around and take pictures.

There was a good northwest headwind so it was fortunate that I took today off. It turns out that sometimes being forced to stay put and contemplate things opens up observations you would have otherwise missed.

This beach took on a new character at low tide.

Below the rocky sloped beach was a flat sandy beach

with a few large rock outcrops.

This attracted a whole new set of bird life. An eagle was sitting on one outcrop in the distance.

I watched ravens search for whelks.

and then fly them up to the rocky part of the beach and drop them.

Somehow they follow where they go because they always seem find and eat them. They must have good eyes.

They did this for quite a while and I imagine they cleaned out most of the whelks from that rocky outcrop. Birds on this coast certainly don’t have a bad life, at least this time of year. These guys get treated to escargot every day. A seagull even tried dropping a shell but it landed on the sand. This served as a reminder that not only do the tides increase the biodiversity due to the increased habitat zones they create, but they also provide a way for nutrients to flow from the sea to the land as non-diving birds and other animals descend for the bounty. I even saw a garter snake way down in the intertidal zone too, probably looking for little shore crabs.

Sargassum weed

Then the tide came up and everyone took off, with only the geese left to pick off sea lettuce (Ulva) from the high tide line.

Such a nice rainbow deserves another shot.

I prepared for another night and around 9 p.m. the teenagers showed up with their loud trucks. I didn’t mind too much and the party raged on until midnight, and a few of them stumbled onto me in my tent. Finally after a few broken beer bottles they left. I will be glad to hit the seas again tomorrow.