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August 23 2012 — Day Off in the Rain at Koeye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the young guy.

The older, more wise of the two.

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

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

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

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

The gulls making a fuss over something.

Poking around the forest behind my tent.

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


Aug 22 2012 — Blair Island to Koeye

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

I headed north across the bay.

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

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

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

The narrow channel between Sweeper and Addenbroke Island

Looking north

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

I love the patterns of old growth cedar.

Solar powered light station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking up the estuary

Rain was starting in the mountains.

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

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

The gulls taking a break for the evening.

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

And of course a rainbow.


Aug 21 2012 — North From Penrose

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

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

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

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

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

Purple and orange ochre stars, and green surf anemones

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

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

This guy liked eyeing me up.

Looking across to Calvert Island

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

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

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

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

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

Barnacles

You can see the baleen here.

Yum! Herring!

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

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

Maidenhair ferns

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

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

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


Sept 29-30, 2012 — Circumnavigating Cloudburst Mountain, Squamish

I’m reminded why I love bike touring so much. I’ve long been a fan of Lee Lau‘s mountain biking / skiing adventures. So I decided that it was time to get off my butt and do something with my weekend, since it had already been 4 weeks since I finished my latest kayak adventure… (I’ll get back to writing that trip up too, I’m a bit bogged down right now).

A guy at work had recommended High Falls Creek up the Squamish Valley so I pulled up Google Earth, did some Google searching, and put together plans for an overnight mountain biking trip. I was going to circumnavigate Cloudburst Mountain by riding up the gravel road to the pass at Tricouni, then descend down the other side to the Cheakamus Valley, and then climb back up over to the Squamish Valley, where I left my car.

After a lazy Saturday morning I barely got out of the house before noon. I had been fighting a weird lung infection for a few weeks and it felt a bit better, but not really. I wasn’t sure what to expect of my body but I wasn’t going to waste a perfectly good weekend.

I drove through all the tacky “development” along the Sea to Sky Highway until finally getting away from that madness when I turned off into the Squamish Valley which thankfully hasn’t changed at all over the years.

I pulled up beside the golf carts to plug in at Camp Squamish. Is that what my car is? A glorified golf cart?

A rooster

WTH?

A little intimidated by what I was in for, I set off. I had 10 km of flat valley bottom riding before the spur road climbed the sidehill.

Nice pastoral scenery along the valley bottom. It has been very dry, with only one rainstorm in the last 3 months.

Shortly afterwards the pavement ended and I left the private lands and entered “Tree Farm License 38” which, despite being logged out, is still publicly owned Crown Land. There was a First Nations settlement agreement recently however which transferred title of a large amount of land over to a group that will hopefully better manage the resources than our culture has.

The mighty Squamish

A hydro power plant on a tributary of the Squamish. The water comes all the way down those penstocks from above. The amount of power produced is proportional to the pressure (height of water), so you can see they get lots of power from that.

Soon after the power plant is the trail for High Falls. Unfortunately it is way too steep for a bike so I had to ride up the gravel road that hikers who hike up the falls hike back down to return to their cars.

The views got better and better as I climbed.

And climb I did… Thankfully, my lungs and body performed admirably.

Looking Up the Squamish Valley

I passed three groups of hikers heading back down. They were all impressed with me riding my bike up, not seeming to give themselves credit for hiking up the falls themselves. It’s harder walking…

As I rounded the valley the road levelled off a bit. That’s Cloudburst Mountain poking through the clouds.

Crossing High Falls Creek in the high valley above the waterfalls.

Up and up some more

Misty mountains

After a few hours of hard climbing I reached 820 meters elevation, up from 50 m where I started. This was near the end of the road.

The fireweed had finished for the season, going to seed. This is very near the end of the road, at least as far as I went on it.

Since logging roads go up to the pass from both sides, the Cheakamus and Squamish valleys, and almost but not quite meet, being only a kilometer apart, my intuition and Google Earth skills convinced me that there must be a way between the two valleys. My intuition proved correct, as this quad trail led from the cutblock through the old growth forest to the other side.

I set up my GoPro video camera on my chest for the trail ride but unfortunately it was aimed too low and the footage was ruined.

Yeah! So stoked that everything worked out as planned. Here I had just emerged on the other side, in the Cheakamus drainage now. I had good cell phone reception so I called my mom.

My mechanical steed

From here I could see across Cheakamus to Garibaldi Park and Black Tusk. I have hiked up there many times, but never actually climbed the Tusk itself out of a fear of heights (and large falling rocks from climbers above). That’s the microwave tower to the left, which may have be providing the cell signal, I’m not sure.

Wider panorama of Black Tusk and The Barrier

This is The Barrier. It is a crumbling cliff face that holds back the quite large Garibaldi Lake. I imagine some geologists have probably studied it, but I would not want to be anywhere near that valley in a big earthquake.

I turned back up the road going up to Tricouni to get away from the cooler and noisy valley bottom creek so I could set up camp. I found a great spot just up the hill.

Evening light

What every man wants to see outside his tent.

Always pleasant surprises when camping

I pulled out my iPhone and surfed the internet. Internet in the wilderness! I was so content. Everything had worked out perfectly. My bike worked great, and my body was fine. My worst booboo was from when my D7000 camera that was strapped around by back came flying to the front while going down a steep section and whacked my funny bone. Man that hurt!

Poking my head out the tent before sunset

Ready to go in the morn

Good to see the bears are getting their phytonutrient antioxidants.

Looking back up to Cloudburst Mountain as I descended Chance Main to Cheakamus

Some recent logging

Some valuable yellow cypress left behind. I don’t get it. Each of these logs is probably worth $10,000 but they were just sitting there.

Slimy mushrooms growing out of the road

Lucille Lake

Crossing the Cheakamus River. It’s quite a bit smaller than the Squamish.

Yet another view of Cloudburst Mountain, partially obscured by clouds.

Cheakamus Canyon

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way of avoiding a few kilometers of Sea to Sky Highway for this circuit. At least all that “development” brought good bike lanes.

Tantalus Range, on the west side of the Squamish Valley (right where I parked my car)

There is a trail that follows the Cheakamus Canyon and spits out on the highway. It was here that I left the highway and descended into the canyon. It is an old cattle drive trail from the 1850’s. I also rode up it many years ago in the Cheakamus Challenge mountain bike race.

This is why the trail goes up to the highway and ends — an impassable canyon, and the railroad crosses the river. I am unsure if there is a trail going north on the west side of the canyon, following the railroad. It would be nice if there is since that means the highway section could be avoided.

It’s a little eroded in places.

Nicely upgraded with pea gravel.

Starvation Lake

Nicely upgraded … yeah right! More like shale hell! I guess they hadn’t finished their work and there were lots of sections like this with unridable loose shale thrown down. I hope they’re going to fill that in with some fine material, otherwise they’ve ruined the trail! I had to stop and tighten my racks at one point as they were rattling around. For this kind of offroad riding (which is basically all I want to do) I would like to try to get set up more like a bikeback, which doesn’t use racks and panniers, instead strapping sacks and bags strategically around on the bike frame. Less stuff to weigh you down and rattle off. Less space too, which forces you to take less stuff.

There is a pedestrian bridge across Cheakamus River.

From the bridge there is a trail that goes up to meet a road leading to Butterfly Lake at the top of the hill. This road starts from right where I parked my car. So my plan was to go up this trail and ride down the road on the other side to complete the circuit.

Once away from the part of the trail that serves the private residences along the river, the trail seemed disused. At the first switchback it turned steep. And washed out. Brutal.

The washed out brutal steepness continued for quite a while. I was hoofing my bike up for about an hour and a half. I had only brought 500 mL of water and there are no creeks. I ran out. I was getting worried. There were a few places with views across Cheakamus to brighten my spirits.

As I was beginning to get a really dry mouth and an uncooperative body I summitted the pass into the Squamish Valley. Whew! After some equally brutal, unridable descent I met up with the well groomed road.

Within a minute I reached Pilchuk Lake. What a wonderful relief that was! As I was getting my water filter set up an SUV came by. They were residents up at Butterfly Lake. This road is private but they were friendly and I don’t think they minded that I was there when I told them where I had come from. They told me that the trail I hauled my bike up used to be their road in! Wow, I guess they only used quads before…

Nice scenery riding down towards the Squamish

Almost there

My only damage, from getting whacked by my pedal. I also lost my front mudguard.

Well I had made it. I was so glad how it all worked out, and it was only like 3:30 in the afternoon! All the distances seemed to go by so fast! I think that has to do with spending so much time in my kayak lately where I’m thankful if I can maintain walking speed. Total distance: 52 km.

Heading home

The daytime heating had created an inflow wind at Squamish and the windsurfers and saiboats were out taking advantage of it.

Well that was a fantastic trip. I have been out of commission for a few years due to my physiotherapist-inflicted leg injuries, limping for 2 years and on crutches for 6 months, and I was wondering if I’d ever get back up to speed. One day, years ago, I had done a big adventure where I drove up to the Black Tusk microwave tower, left my bike there, drove down to the Garibaldi Parking lot, then hiked up to the Tusk and rode back down to my car, all in the same day. Well this adventure was along those lines so I guess I haven’t lost it! I’m back baby!

As usual I got some videos which I’ll post later when I get it sorted out…


Aug 20 2012 — Flying Back In to Duncanby

This year I decided to drive up to Port Hardy and park the car in the airport lot for the duration of the paddle ($30).  A bit more gas money, but cheaper in other ways. But WAY more convenient. Cars do have their advantages…

After sleeping in the back of the car at the downtown Port Hardy wharf, I showed up to the airport mid-morning and wandered in and heard an announcement for a flight to Ocean Falls, then asked the counter girl if that would have bee the flight I wanted. She said no, the one I wanted, to Owekeeno (a village up Rivers Inlet), was just about to leave. So I ran back to the car to get my stuff organized, ran back in to get a parking ticket, ran back out to put it on the dash, then started organizing my stuff into bags on the lawn. We were already late leaving so the pilot and counter girl came out and helped carry my stuff on as I ran onto the plane. My kayak is so versatile…

I had four fellow passengers, government officials who appeared to be on a First Nations treaty negotiation trip out to Owekeeno.

Back in a Grummand Goose

One of the rivers of Vancouver Island emptying into Queen Charlotte Strait.

The weather was low marine cloud and we were soon above it as we headed north across the Strait. I saw a whale down in the open waters.

The clouds soon parted enough to reveal islands below.

It was a little hard to figure out where we were going with the clouds but it turns out we were headed up Belize Inlet! That’s the empty logging camp I stayed at the first year when I was heading back out across to Port Hardy!

That’s looking east across to the inland section of Mereworth Sound in the far back, with the 12 km logging road portage I did the previous year being off frame to the left.

Looking east up Mereworth Sound from above the logging camp where my portage last year started (to the left of frame). Then we flew up Mereworth, where you’re looking. It was a great treat to be flying over the places I had paddled previously. I thought we might fly over the pass to Long Lake where my first failed bushwhack attempt took place. But then we turned around. I’m not sure why we took this detour. Maybe the pilot thought we could get over to Owekeeno faster via Long Lake but then decided the clouds were too low.

A fresh slide above Mereworth. There was  more fresh logging up the Sound this year but I don’t think this contributed to the slide. They just seem to happen. We went back out to Belize Inlet and crossed over to Smith Sound behind Cape Caution.

One of the islands in Smith Sound.

The brown beaches I encountered last year during the heavy rains were still brown.

We crossed over to Goose Bay to drop me off.

They look kind of awkward in the water, leaning to one side.

Unloaded.

Lots of fishing charter boats came back for lunch with their catches. These are chinook and coho. I asked if there were sockeye and he said they are prohibited. Owekeeno has a big lake, which sockeye need as part of their life cycle, but the run was fished out a century ago. “You have to go to Alberni for sockeye”. Ironic how out here in the wilderness the sockeye are in worse shape than in Alberni. Although Long Lake had a nice run the previous year. I’m sure we’ll pounce on that soon enough.

After lunch and topping off my laptop battery, I was ready to go.

Soon another Goose took off near me.

Salal

Looking back to Goose Bay. Duncanby Landing is hidden behind the islands left of center.

The rocky islands of Penrose Island Marine Park are a haven for seabirds.

What kind of duck is this?

I came upon a colony of my buddies, the oystercatchers.

They decided to go for a spin around me.

The Penrose Islands are nice and my destination was Fury Cove at the far north-west end, where you can see on Google Earth that there are some nice white sandy beaches. Indeed.

It’s so nice to be somewhere that has natural debris and foam on the tidelines, not garbage.

This is a stunning pure white crushed shell beach, reminiscent of a tropical coral reef. It goes all the way down to low tide and beyond. I am wondering how these beaches form, how so much crushed shell can accumulate in this spot. We don’t see these on the South Coast. It must be a midden beach, which is the “dump” site from First Nations clamming activities. There was likely a village here long ago.

I don’t know what this is. A sandpiper of some sort? They should be breeding in the Arctic this time of year. There was a pair poking around the beach tideline.

Its mate, on the other side of the beach. They called to each other and then they were off.

These crushed shell beaches are fantastic for camping because the sand is coarse enough that it doesn’t stick to everything and get everywhere.

Looking NW across Fitz Hugh Sound to Calvert Island.

As the sun was setting and I was half asleep I looked out my tent to see this pterodactyl fishing in silhouette  of the sunset.

I took some videos too and I will upload them when I get it sorted out. Soon, hopefully.


Fitz Hugh Sound — Wow!

I just got to the Hakai Beach Institute where I’ll spend a day or two before heading up to Bella Bella. In a word, this place can be described with WOW! The wildlife is amazing. At the Koeye River there were thousands of pink salmon jumping at the estuary waiting for the rains to begin so they could go upstream. Then it rained and I went up afterwards to see wolves and grizzlies catching them.

Then I crossed over Fitz Hugh to the Hakai area and ended up in the middle of a pod of humpbacks. They are everywhere here. I have been up close when they are feeding with their bubble nets. They were also torpedoing off in the distance.

Here are a few shots so far:


Can Solar Powered Desalination Save the World?

I put up a new page on the top banner analysing whether there is hope that solar power could desalinate enough sea water to expand the planet’s agricultural capacity to save humanity as we run out of fossil fuels. Short answer? Maybe it could provide significant relief, but we better get our act together really soon.

Also, I will be heading off into the wilderness for a few weeks as of tomorrow and you can follow my progress online with my Spot GPS which I’ll try to update every evening. I’ll fly in to Rivers Inlet where I left off last year and continue on up, hopefully to Bella Bella. I have a late start so I don’t know if I’ll make it that far. I hope to see grizzlies and wolves catching salmon in the Koeye River. My GPS location map is here.

Also, a commenter pointed out some material from the 1930’s that had been written regarding “technocracy”, or what is now called “ecological economics” or “thermo-economics”. I haven’t had time to look through it very thoroughly but from scanning, it seems to be eerily similar to the things that I have written. How different people can come to such similar conclusions independently, almost 80 years apart, says something. It is here.