Aug 30 2012 — Nice Weather into Bella Bella

You can see how high the tide came up, from the tideline to the right. Now just imagine me, standing in the dark, at midnight, with all my gear up on that green grassy / rocky area, cursing the tide. It’s kind of funny thinking back to it and I should have taken the opportunity to commune with nature under the moonlight. But all the frustrations from the last few days just came out. I felt much better by morning!

This is one of those times when I wish I had some time lapse video to show this starfish moving along that rock.

One of these anemones is not like the others… but they are of the same genus, Anthopleura.

It was the season when the kelp starts to fall apart and calls it quits for the year.

More calm skies. I lazily followed the shoreline up all day in the sunshine. What a nice way to end the trip. But, just like last year, the nice weather didn’t seem to arrive until the last day!

I think this is a solitary sandpiper. Definitely not on sand.

I was kicking myself for not checking the ferry schedule back at Hakai Beach Institute. I had no cell phone reception so I couldn’t get on the internet. At least I knew the ferry went north today. But would it head south tonight? Tomorrow? Three days from now? I wouldn’t know until I got into town unfortunately. I may have spent another night out if I had known, and I passed by an interesting crushed shell campsite that apparently has petroglyphs, because I didn’t want to miss the ferry.

This fishing boat was trawling and was just offshore from my campsite when I set off in the morning. They kept pace with me all day into Bella Bella.

As I was crossing a big bay the stormclouds brewed above me. I wasn’t in my drysuit. They soon burst and I raced to the other side to take shelter under this cliff and was almost totally out of the rain for about a half hour.

One of the last points before reaching Bella Bella.

Hah, and we were back to jumping salmon. The closer I got to town, the more frequent they became.

Nice! There is a hatchery on a creek right by the ferry terminal and they were all back for that. It seemed everyone and his dog was out in his boat trying to catch them but they didn’t seem to be biting much.

I came ashore at the ferry terminal and called my mom on the payphone to get the ferry schedule — tomorrow evening the red-eye came through. OK, that was settled. I wouldn’t fly back.

I wasn’t sure where to camp so I paddled another few kilometers into town. It was getting late and when I got to that public wharf it was really busy so I decided to head back to the ferry terminal and camp there.

I guess that’s why the tide was so high last night! The ferry terminal wasn’t the best place to camp because it’s at the end of one of the few roads on the island so anyone who has a car drives out there to see what’s going on, and they also came to see the salmon. So I had lots of cars drive by me, and a few people stopped to say hi. One lady warned me about a black bear in the area.

Aug 29 2012 — Holy Cow Rain!

Some rain overnight — what else is new…

There is another beach at this site that was an easier put-in.

I was ready for the weather, and it was still blowing from the south. I wasn’t complaining.

The winds and currents pushed me north pretty fast. I zoomed by Spider Island which apparently has an old WWII base, and a road leading across it. Midway along the island the rain started. I battened down the hatches and took advantage of the wind. A train of about 10 fishing speedboats from a lodge went by heading north. I was glad I wasn’t in one of those in this weather. They were probably thinking the same about me. Kind of ironic, eh?

The problem was what I would encounter after Spider Island, which is Superstition Point, a couple kilometers of exposed coastline facing the west. If you want to kayak northwards, you have to paddle it. It wouldn’t normally be a problem since yesterday I was in places more exposed than that, but this weather was really getting crazy. And the wind started coming from the west, which is definitely not the direction you want to be blown while going around that point.

I took refuge behind this rock, the last sheltered place before going out into open water. This is looking north and you can barely see Superstition Point on the right. I hung around here for about half an hour and eventually I couldn’t see Super Point anymore from all the rain. My boat was filling up with water. This is a problem because my drybags don’t really seal up. They provide protection from splashes but my electronics bag was placed sideways lying down on the floor in front of me, and there was about 2 inches of water in the bottom of my boat. I was worried this was going to flood my bags.

I decided that I had to come ashore. There is a portage around Superstition Point so I headed for that.

After paddling a small portion of exposed water and getting blown around pretty hard I entered the calm inlet leading to the portage. The rain continued and my boat turned into a bathtub.

I had to search around at the head of the inlet a little bit but I soon found the ribbon marking the trail.

I hiked the 100 meters five times for all my gear. I stayed in my drysuit and wore my sandals. I was a little worried I might poke a hole in my drysuit feet, but there wasn’t any gravel or anything else sharp to poke it. The trail was thick organic matter and peat moss. The forest was really beautiful old growth cedar. At one place a tree had fallen over the trail and I thought I should have used my saw to clear it a bit, but I was in no state to be doing that.

Finally, as I finished portaging my stuff over, the rain eased up. That was probably some of the most intense rain I have ever been in. It lasted for a good hour and a half and dumped about 3 or 4 inches, judging by the water in my boat. I climbed up a little bank on the right side to fill up my water bottles with all the water gushing out of the moss, no filtering required. This meadow was covered with goose crap.

Then the sun came out! And my gear was dry! I was perfectly dry in my drysuit! The extent of the water damage was the foggy lens you see in the above photo, which dried out pretty fast. I had lunch of peanut butter on mango, and energy bars. It seems I’m getting better at managing the rain. I still need to figure out how to get a quick and reliable way of making a front porch out of a tarp.

I was soon off again.

They don’t seem to mind the rain.

I followed the little inlet to the north and came out at Cultus Sound. The speedboats were there fishing. I crossed over and followed the coastline up to the north-east. I wanted to get to Latta Island where there was a campsite marked on my map. There are some really nice beaches in Cultus Sound but I wanted to plod on further while I could as this weather was causing me some worry. The only problem was that the map didn’t show many more campsites for a ways north so I’d have to commit to several more kilometers.

This area is pretty convoluted. I chose what I thought would be the best route heading north. Without my map and GPS I would have been lost. Yes, even me, Mr. Magnetic-Compass-in-the-Brain, would have gotten disoriented. I can’t imagine how the first explorers made sense of this place.

I went up Sans Peur Passage — that’s quite an interesting name. The current was behind me and I was making good time. But then midway down the channel I noticed quite a commotion ahead. It was the tides changing. I had no choice but to go through. It is a strange feeling being thrown left, right and center by strong currents, and trying to avoid whirlpools. The last time I experienced it this intense was way back in Big Bay in the Discovery Islands, and of course in Nakwakto Rapids at Belize Inlet. It’s a good display of the power in the ocean, to be able to move that much water so violently. All that power comes from the pull of the moon, and specifically the Earth’s rotation. But moving that much water around uses up energy and rotational momentum, so the result is that the planet has been rotating slower and slower over the ages, or in other words, the days are getting longer. They used to only be 23 hours. Eventually the moon and Earth will be locked tidally, and then there will be no more tides. Too bad for the rich intertidal life!

Shortly afterwards I passed another raging creek discharging gobs of foam into the sea.

As I made my way northwards the sun came out again and I had to undo my drysuit. I soon enough made it to Latta Island, the last island I would be landing on before turning up the channel to finish this year’s trip at Bella Bella. I searched around where the map said there was a campsite and couldn’t really find anything. I was a bit dismayed and decided I had no choice but to take the most suitable location, which had a little sandy beach way up at the top of the tideline. It wasn’t a very good spot, and it looked like it got flooded during high tide. Plus there was water seepage under the site from all the rain. Oh well, what else was I going to do.

I took advantage of the wind and sun to dry out my tent.

A black katy chiton. There is interesting intertidal life here. It doesn’t get bashed by the open ocean so much because the area is sheltered by Goose Island, a fairly large offshore island that I chose not to visit because doing so involves a long open crossing. It is supposed to be an interesting place though, with lots of bird life. And the northern tip is the site of the First Nations youth correction program, which involves banishing troubled youths to a few months of solitude in the wilderness. They seem to return as changed individuals — something we could learn from. Inmates leave regular prisons worse criminals than when they went in.

An interesting sand anemone that I haven’t yet ID’d.

I got another fire going which wasn’t easy due to both the wind and the lack of dry material to burn. I was running out of garbage to get it going.

At midnight I woke up to hear waves lapping by my head. Damn tide! It was flooding my tent! I had to move everything up onto the wet grass and rocks and stand there watching the tide in the moonlight. They say a watched pot never boils and I was not a happy camper to have to be spending half an hour in the middle of the night waiting for the tide to drop. Eventually it did. Luckily it wasn’t raining though. Note to future paddlers in this area: there is NO suitable campsite on the south side of Latta Island, regardless of what your map might say!

If you go to the dead center of this map, then look a little to the left, you will see a turquoise bay. Go check it out on Google Earth where you can zoom in more. I think they took the satellite image when the herring were spawning in that bay.

Aug 28 2012 — Disoriented in Hakai

It rained again overnight but the morning was dry. That barnacle log had shifted location with the tide. Their lives are totally dependent on where the weather takes them. At some point they’ll get thrown up high and then life will move on to something else.

There is a little creek tumbling into the water down a rocky waterfall just up the shore a bit. I stopped and filled up with water and because it was groundwater I didn’t filter it. I thought I’d try drying my shorts out in the weather on my mast.

But the rain was coming from behind. It hit me but didn’t last very long. That’s the way it seems to be out here, at least in summer. Everything blows through really fast so the rain is fairly intense but doesn’t last for long.

As I rounded the final point on Sterling Island before heading west out the channel back to the open ocean, I noticed wolf trails leading down to the water. They have a whole network across the island and will regularly run the routes looking for food, timed with the tides. It would be interesting to hike them, but you’d have to be prepared to crouch down a lot.

The currents turned in my direction as I headed west. I went out into the middle of the channel and was really moving. It soon spat me out into the ocean again and I crossed over Kildidt Sound to the Serpent Group of islets out in the middle of it. My map showed lots of campsites and other interesting things over at the Edna group of islands so that’s where I was heading. The wind started to pick up from the south and when I hit the Serpent Group I decided to cross on the windward side. That was a poor decision because I was getting hammered by both the southerly wind and the waves bouncing off the rocks. I thought maybe I’d see more sea otters on this side, which I did, but the weather precluded spending any time with them. I wanted to have lunch but there was nowhere to stop, it was too rough.

As I continued crossing to Kidney Island I went by a noisy gaggle of gulls making a fuss. I didn’t know what it was all about but in reviewing the photos it was another boil of sand lances.

The weather was really getting rough and I was paddling hard to get to shelter behind Kidney Island. I made it and just as I was rounding the final point into a calm sheltered bay a California seal lion followed me and got to within about 10 feet. Yikes, that is the one animal that could cause me some trouble if it decided to investigate and take a bite out of my boat. I went right up to the shore as quickly as possible. I pulled out my camera but of course he left just before I got it ready.

I took a break and had lunch here, and filmed some green anemones in the intertidal. The calmness was nice. But, there was no place to camp so I had to go back out. The southerly wind was blowing me onto Ronald Island so I had to fight the crosswind. I made it to a little channel between Ronald Island and a couple little islands to the west. I zoomed north down this.

This is where it got confusing. I had picked up a kayaking map of the Bella Bella area way back in Telegraph Cove two years ago. The guy at the shop said not to buy it, it is “worse than useless”. I figured, how could it be that bad? Well, the problem with maps is that they can indeed be worse than useless because if they are wrong, you can get yourself into trouble.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I should say that I have a sixth sense when it comes to direction. I never get lost. But as I was approaching Triquet and the Edna Islands I just couldn’t reconcile the map with my GPS. I had to keep looking at it every few minutes and I couldn’t figure it out. Had I lost my sixth sense? No! The map was wrong! No wonder I was getting hammered by the wind and waves, as I was in the open ocean in the middle of a southerly storm!

This whole area is a bit confusing because there is apparently two groups of islands right beside each other, one called Edna Island and the other one Enda Island. They each have a campsite, and I wanted to go to the northern one. But their position in relation to Triquette Island (a larger one that protects them all from the open ocean) was way off on the map. I decided based on my GPS that I would head north down the channel to the east of the Edna Islands to get to my campsite, since that’s the way the wind was blowing. I couldn’t come into harm doing that.

So I made it across in the raging wind to take refuge behind another little islet.

It was here that I spotted this kelp crab in the kelp. Apparently the scuba diving around here is really good.

I moved out to go down the channel and then looked back to see this jewel of a protected beach on Triquette Island! What? It wasn’t on my map! Actually, yes it was, but I was in a different place than I thought I was.

I paddled back up from where you are looking, against the raging seas and currents. It took almost half an hour to get over from that point. It’s a really nice beach with a developed campsite. And the open ocean is right on the other side of the trees, behind where I’m taking this photo. I heard some cranes too; apparently there is a nice mudflat just to the west of here. However, the sand is very fine and given that it was only 3 pm I decided to move on. But as you can see, with the falling tide my boat got beached so I had to slide it back into the water on logs.

It didn’t take long to reach the campsite on Enda Island. My shorts didn’t dry out very well with all the rain. And you’d think I would have realized to take them down since I was getting bashed by the wind…

The site was fine sand again, oh well. There is quite a bit of garbage washed up here, and interestingly a bunch of large plastic pipes half buried in the sand.

Along with the garbage there is a lot of driftwood and I found a few dry pieces of cedar. I had brought along all the wood I chopped the previous night, which imparted a wonderful cedar smell to my bag, but it wouldn’t burn properly as it was too wet. Anyways, I managed to get a fire going long enough to cook dinner, which was pasta primavera. The rain was on and off, and it was starting to get on my nerves. The sun poked out for 5 minutes. At least there wasn’t any bugs.

Aug 27 2012 — Calvert Island to Sterling Island, and sea otters too.

It rained pretty hard through the night. And I learned that you really do need a mattress, especially if you’re sleeping on a slab of cold granite. It really sucks the heat out of you and the layer of air in your mattress keeps you warm. Plus my backback wasn’t exactly comfortable. But I made it through.

The sun came out by morning.

Calvert Island is more piney / boggy due to the nutrient-poor granitic soils.

I hiked back.

And came upon this little guy doing what frogs are supposed to do.

On the trail back from the beach I bumped into this deer that jumped into the wet bushes at the first open spot.

After checking email again and repacking I was ready to go. Then it started pouring.

I got all snug in my drysuit and set off. Then it stopped raining. This is looking east through the channel between Hecate and Calvert Islands, with the mainland in the distance across Fitz Hugh Sound.

I slowly made my way back up the channel heading north. I had a slight headwind and I wanted to be really careful with my shoulder so I just hugged the shoreline and crawled up.

I got to the last point before heading across Hakai Passage and ate some lunch in a kelp bed.

I made my way to the closest little islets with the wind pushing me out towards the open sea. As I crossed the channel I heard a humpback breathing over towards where I had the encounter the other day. I didn’t even bother looking.  Imagine that, all humpacked out!

When I got to the islet I noticed some seals in the kelp that were moving strangely and sticking their heads quite a ways out of the water.

That ain’t no seal! That’s a sea otter! Finally — I’ve never seen them before in the wild!

This one was curious and got quite close. They aren’t so skittish like river otters.

There was a family of about five individuals that called this kelp bed home.

He went down and brought up a large California mussel. If you don’t know the story of sea otters, you should read up on it. They are a “keystone species“, or one that totally changes the nature of their ecosystem. They used to be plentiful in BC but the fur traders almost wiped them out. But they eat sea urchins. And sea urchins eat kelp… So with no otters around anymore, so went the kelp forests which are an important nursery for many species of fish. They’ve been moving south again from Alaska, and they are now down to at least Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. Along with this, the kelp beds are coming back.

Aww, look at the baybay! Elaine, look at the baybay!

After the weather started to get a bit worse I moved on and crossed over to Sterling Island where there was a campsite marked on my map. I was really fighting the current so I hit the shoreline as fast as possible after rounding this cormorant rock. It was 15 km to paddle today but it seemed longer.

Just let me sleep…

The rain came and I didn’t have my drysuit zipped up underneath my raincoat. My raincoat leaks in in the neck in heavy rain. Oh well. I was really happy with this campsite.

This is a great little protected bay / beach looking northwards.

And the wolves had been here.

Climbing over logs

Wolf sign

It is another crushed shell beach, another likely midden site. They are all over the place here. Great for throwing your tent down.

This beach has a large variety of berry species. Here is the ubiquitous huckleberry again.

This is thimbleberry which is related to salmonberry, but very sweet. The berries only last a couple days, if that.


Black currant

A different type of currant

Alaska blueberry

I never though barnacles made noise, but they do. If I touched this log they would all start seething en masse.

I got my stuff ready for dinner, and was dismayed to notice that I no longer had my windscreen for my stove. Bummer. I must have left it at the top of the hill last night, as I was racing around trying to stay away from the black flies and get in my tent ASAP. Oh well, it will just take a bit more fuel (methanol) to cook dinner from now on. I still had half a litre left, way more than I needed.

I went to start the stove and I opened the second of my 500 mL bottles of fuel. I had finished the first one. But it wouldn’t light no matter what I did. What was going on? Then it dawned on me that this wasn’t methanol, but water! Duh! Last year I filled this bottle up with fresh water for drinking when I had used up the methanol. I stored it for a year and then packed it up as methanol for this trip! Now what was I going to do? I had no more fuel. Was I going to starve??? Once the shock wore off I realized I’d have to get back to nature and cook my dinner the old fashioned way, on fires from now on. But all the wood was soaking wet! How was I going to have a fire?

Above the beach was this canoe, and a downed cedar tree.

Luckily I brought my axe / saw combo. And I’ve watched enough Survivorman to know how to get a fire going the hard way — with a lighter, dry paper, and kindling…

The fire wasn’t easy to get going or keep going with the wood being so wet, but I managed to keep it alive long enough to boil the water.

Usnea lichen hanging from trees.

I went down to the water to watch the soap opera drama of the tidepool sculpins and hermit crabs duking it out. There were thousands of them. It was really funny, and I should have gotten some video of it. Then, as I was standing still a grey shorebird landed pretty close to me. I didn’t want to move and scare it away. I just observed as it came within a few feet of me. It was a wandering tattler. Then it flew away.

As it approached dark the no-see-ums came out in full force and I had to retreat to my tent pretty quickly.

Aug 26 2012 — Hakai Beach Institute

Some unlucky sand fleas

Western sandpipers in the mud in the morning

I only had 4 km to get to the Beach Institute. My shoulder was still sore so I took it really slowly. I’ve dealt with tendonitis and similar conditions enough to know that you just can’t push it. You have to let it heal.

This place was a bit of an apparition. It is a bustling little university campus in the middle of the wilderness. It used to be a fishing lodge but the new owner decided to do something different with it and joined up with the local First Nations to turn it into an environmental science field station.

They have an impressive solar farm and battery bank (and big diesel generator). This is one of those times however when you wonder how much energy was required to build the renewable energy system versus how much it will ultimately produce. That isn’t a criticism, since in remote locations you need to have local energy supply, but more of a recognition of a problem we will encounter everywhere in the future as we transition to renewables by necessity because fossil fuels run out.

The perfectly manicured grounds just seemed bizarre. They are very open to visitors here, offering free wifi and fresh water. And I could plug in my battery chargers. But they don’t provide food or have anything for sale. I sat at the info building at the top of the ramp and went on my computer. Lots of boaters came up to check it out, and I had some good conversations about their trips. One couple hadn’t set foot on solid ground for a few weeks. I ended up being the information person for visitors for a couple hours as I found out the answers to the questions I was wondering, that other boaters were also asking when they arrived. Kind of funny, I fit the part, and had to tell people that I didn’t actually work there.

I hiked across to West Beach. I had hoped to see some wolves here, but there were just too many people around. One of the guys said that there is another beach further up that may have them, it’s called “wolf beach”. But I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to bushwhack to it.

Instead I was going to hike up to the lookout and camp there. It’s amazing how I could barely fit my stuff for one night in my backpack. The rest of my stuff I left at the Institute. I really need to focus on slimming down my gear.

Thick west coast mud


That’s where I was going.

Very recent trail building

There’s a nice panoramic view up here. It isn’t very high, Google Earth says only 50 m but I think it’s higher than that.

Looking north to where I’d be kayaking tomorrow.

The black flies were really bad up here. I didn’t cook my dinner, I just ate some energy bars and looked for a tent site which was really hard to find. I ended up on a rounded granite outcrop that wouldn’t flood if it rained. I went in my tent ASAP and listened to the weather report which was calling for rain. I was pretty exposed up here at the top of this hill. I didn’t bring my mattress from lack of space so I slept on my empty backpack.

Aug 25 2012 — Across Fitz Hugh Sound to Hecate Island

The weather was beautiful in the morning — sunny and calm with only a few fog banks down south. I had really wanted to cross over to Hakai and head up that way; the route up Fitz Hugh past Namu didn’t look as interesting. Luckily, the weather made the decision for me.

The dogs had been with me all night, except for the times when they went nuts and ran off into the bushes. For some reason I got used to them barking and slept through most of it; probably because they were doing it to protect me. I offered them some peanut butter covered mango for breakfast but only the older guy accepted it.

I avoided the keeper since I don’t think he even wanted me to say goodbye. The younger of the dogs sat at the top of the road watching me pack up while the older one was zonked out. I sadly waved goodbye and set off, once again, into the unknown.

I had 9 km to cross since Koeye is located at about the widest part of Fitz Hugh Sound. There were a few boats around so I’d be OK. A couple hours should be more than enough time to cross before the afternoon winds picked up. Or so I thought…

A phalarope of some sort. I passed lots of seabirds; you notice a lot more life out on the water when it’s calm. I came upon one little guy sleeping while floating. He had tucked his beak into his feathers and was snoozing away. Just as I got my camera out he woke up and took off. This one above was less wary of me, having seen me coming.

Interesting cloud patterns on the water that day.

The water changed from deep clear blue to more like green pea soup as I passed through algae blooms. Believe it or not, but this is the stuff that powers our economies. Oil comes from plankton that settled out onto the floor of ancient seas hundreds of millions of years ago. Remember that when some economist or oil industry apologist tries to convince you that we should accept environmental degradation for the greater purpose of powering economic growth based on fossil fuel extraction. Anyone who tells you that ecology is subservient to economics is either lying or totally delusional. They’ve got it completely backwards. And when you see images of the industrial landscapes across Alberta with all the upgraders and refineries processing the oil sands, and you’re told that, “it’s the price of progress”, No! Don’t believe it! Progress does not come from burning up irreplaceable energy reserves at a rate 200,000 times greater than deposition rates! Remember that no matter how hard they try to hype that technology up, those industries aren’t “producing” petroleum, or anything else for that matter; all they’re doing is harvesting and burning that green stuff you see in the above photo. Without this oceanic equivalent of … pond scum, the Alberta oil companies are nothing! The Alberta economy is quite literally subservient to pond scum (not that there’s anything wrong with pond scum). We are still completely dependent on ecology for our survival.

As I neared to within a couple kilometers of the opposite shore (Nalau Island) I heard a humpback somewhere in the vicinity of Hakai Channel. I made my way over. And it seems the humpbacks made their way over to me…

It was a pod of about five or so and they got pretty close to me, within a whale’s length. For about half an hour I hung around with them as they ambled about in the channel. I was a little worried when they got too close but everything was fine. I didn’t take photos since the light wasn’t the greatest and I had photos from the previous day, plus they weren’t feeding. I pulled out my video camera and unfortunately I zoomed in for most of the footage which was a bad idea since it got so shaky. But I got a few half decent segments.

Then they moved away up north.

They started feeding as a group…

It was hard to get any decent shots with them a few kilometers away now but they still certainly made their presence known. I’d be paddling along and then I’d hear a huge crash, like blasting going off. I’d look back to see five humpbacks slamming into the water and making a commotion. But by the time I got my camera ready it was always too late. The noise echoed all around the Sound. Everyone could hear it.

Then one of them let out a grunt. Holy cow, I’ve read that you can hear a humpback underwater half way around the world and I can believe it. He was a couple kilometers away but it sounded like he was right beside me. I nearly jumped out of the boat. Interestingly, it is thought that noise pollution in the oceans may be interfering with blue whales‘ ability to find each other over long distances and hampering their recovery.

BC had a whaling station up until 1968, located near Port Hardy. They cleaned out most of the humpbacks from BC but thankfully they are now returning.

The luxury yacht that was enjoying the show along with me.

I wanted to go check out the Hakai Beach Institute down on Calvert Island, so I crossed over Hakai Channel. I was in the influence of the open ocean now and there were big swells with huge wavelengths. They were crashing hard on the rocks but I was able to get in really close safely. I took some interesting video showing the size of the waves.

After taking lunch in a semi-protected kelp bed I continued south down the channel. This is Hecate Island in all its glory.

My shoulder was getting really sore so I was taking it easy. I slowly followed the shoreline down, keeping an eye out for campsites. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of opportunities.

I looked on my GPS and thought there might be a good spot around the next corner. But when I rounded it I was presented with a busy fishing lodge. Oh well, I continued on a tiny bit further and found a nice bay with a great little cobble beach.

I had been thinking about how I could carry more water with me, as I would be going through Hakai which consists of many little islands without much water available. After the scary situation in the Broughtons two years ago I wanted to make sure I had spare capacity. Well, like magic, I found this brand new, never-opened water bottle on the beach… among the only garbage to be found. It probably fell off a fishing boat at the lodge. It wasn’t very big, but an odd occurrence. Kind of weird, and this happened back at Shelter Bay too. When I wished for a jug of fresh water, it just washed up on the beach the next morning!

A pair of noisy sandhill cranes flew overhead in the direction you’re looking. And I caught glimpses of some sort of little weasel racing along the edge of the vegetation. I pondered that even though when I arrive at new places I can get a bit lonely before I get to know them, and that no matter how sterilized and impersonal a map may make a place seem, it is inevitably someone’s or some animal’s home. Every place is unique and special. Was this my home too?

I took advantage of the evening sun and managed to dry out most of my gear. It’s amazing how two hours of sunshine can make such a difference.

This is a good camping spot as the tide didn’t flood the whole beach, leaving enough space for my tent. In a storm surge it might flood though. And there is a creek nearby.

August 24 2012 — Spending the Day in the Koeye Estuary

Tracks left in the sand revealed that my big furry friend had returned this morning, but only to check the tideline and he didn’t come closer than about 20 feet. It seems they’re not out to get us, they just want to check the tideline like they always have.

The weather was decent.

The dogs had been barking most of the night and they came over to say hi while I loaded up. I felt like I should give something back. I tried offering a peanut butter covered date but it wasn’t a hit.

I headed up the river to the estuary and went by this gull that seemed to follow me. It got quite close.

The tide was way down. And the water was brown due to all the tannin runoff from the rain. The salmon were gone. Overnight, the seasons had changed.

It was the season of plenty with berries everywhere and salmon in the rivers.

There was a noisy pair of eagles near here.

Misty, mossy mountains

Ahh, there must be something going on upriver…

I passed a family of river otters and there was a funny noise coming from a half submerged tree on the bank. It took a while to find the source which was a baby otter and mother. It was super cute but I couldn’t get a shot of it in time.

As the meadow came into view I saw a black blob moving along the shore.

The river was getting shallow and I had to get out and start walking up. These headless salmon are from wolves. They only eat the heads, some think it’s due to parasites in the meat they want to avoid. We have an advantage because we can cook our food.

The place was noisy too with some Canada Geese.

It wasn’t long before I saw the wolves on the opposite bank, near where a branch tributary of the main river was joining and forcing the salmon to go through shallow water. The bear that was wandering down the shore joined them.

It turns out I was pretty lucky to see the wolves. They normally only come out at night and they avoid people. Considering that there there’s usually a person or two coming up to the estuary every day for various reasons, I’m surprised I saw them. The timing of the low tide helped with that. I was pretty far away but the clicking of my camera sent them off. Damn you Nikon!!! Time for a new body. Maybe the D400 when it comes out.

I went further up to a main junction where there were some salmon making their way up the shallows. They are really hard to get close to, I’m impressed the animals can catch them. I contemplated going up the side channel a bit to see what was there but the water was too shallow. Good thing too, because a few minutes later I looked up that channel to see a mother and cub come wander around. Too bad there was a tree in the way!

I never did actually get a good shot of the two together. Then they ambled off again.

The meadow seems to consist of sticky organic mud matted together with grass roots.

The forest here is very beautiful. It is old growth and has never been logged. There is something magical about being in it.

Biological oils from all the productivity going on here were getting caught up in the downed logs. These licorice ferns were making one last dash for life.

I spent over half a day up the estuary, and the time went by really fast. As I was heading back out with the tide the bear was back at the salmon spot, but the tide was high so he wasn’t catching any salmon.

I find that my kayak is somewhat limiting in some respects. I’d like to be able to ditch a lot of my gear sometimes and just go up the river for a few days and camp out. I would love to camp in the forest overlooking this feeding spot and get up with the break of dawn to see the wolves. That way I wouldn’t disturb them, I could remain in the forest. But what would I do with my stuff and food? Without a sailboat or something similar to store my food and excess gear in out at the bay, I can’t do that. Oh well, the kayak provides other advantages.

OK, last shot.

Everything is covered with growth here.

I came back to that friendly gull. He was sitting on some rocks and wasn’t at all afraid of me. I put my paddle up to him and he climbed on board. I thought I could have a new pet. But then I realized he might be sick, who knows, maybe with avian flu or something. So I put him back.

As I rounded the bend into the bay I looked out to the ocean and saw the big triangular mouth of a humpback shooting out of the water right at the entrance to the bay. I couldn’t believe how much life there is here. I went out and tied up to the kelp but he had left.

Evening light looking up the Koeye Valley. Yet another fantastic day in another fantastic place along our coast.

I went up to the construction site because there was apparently a keeper there minding the place with everyone gone back to Bella Bella. I wanted to camp up there because I’d had enough with grizzlies wandering around my tent. The keeper was the quiet foreman from before and he said I could camp there, but he wanted to be left alone. He came here to have his privacy. I obliged and set up camp on the outskirts. I tried to dry out a lot of my gear in the last rays of sunshine, and then I downloaded photos to my computer.

The dogs kept me company. They have a great life here. It might end up being cut short though because the wolves will probably get them at some point, with them chasing bears way up the valley. I guess that’s their life, short but exciting. I’ve found that I feel the most alive when I’m in the moment, when decisions you make could mean the difference between life and death, and you have to rely on yourself and your own capabilities. That’s what many of us urbanites tend to yearn for, to escape the drudgery of the 9 to 5 where everything is predetermined and “safe”. But is it really any more dangerous out here than in a city? I can walk down the sidewalk downtown and at any point just take two wrong steps and get run over by a truck. What’s the difference? It’s just that out here there’s no one to save you (at least immediately). In the city we get a sense of security from all the people everywhere.

It seems like everything comes together to make the Koeye a special place. The barrier islands open up right across the Sound, just enough to let the big open ocean waves through. The bay is a little sandy jewel hidden behind a headland. There is a lake up the river that I didn’t get a chance to see unfortunately, even though there is a trail leading up to it (I couldn’t find it).

In my very short time here I sensed a different vibe, the First Nations presence seems to be more “in tune with nature”. I know that sounds cliche but I get a different feeling here than in mainstream society. Even our official parks are an extension of mainstream society, at least their administration, as we tend to visit them to “consume” the wilderness as an antidote to our urban lives. I guess I’m no different in what I’m doing.

The white man outposts along the coast seem to be just extensions of the city with people flying in from Toronto to get in a weekend of fishing where they bag as many fish as possible from their noisy powerful speedboats that can get them from A to B in mere minutes. Their fish are prepared for them by the staff, and then they fly back out. All the while, satellite radio and TV keeps everyone entertained with the creature comforts of home. They never actually have to leave the city; it comes with them. I guess it’s tempting for me to develop a holier-than-thou attitude, and a little unfair, as I make my living from consuming the natural world just like everyone else does.

These aren’t simple issues because this area has to “produce” economically in order for our politicians to leave it semi-wild. If the fishing lodges didn’t bring in the money and if the people on the cruise boats didn’t want to see beautiful vistas of unbroken forests then the whole coast would have been logged instead. Get away from the more frequently visited places like the Inside Passage, and it pretty much all has been, except what was lucky enough to be locked up in parks.

And most people can’t get in a kayak for two weeks to experience the coast; the cruise boats are their only opportunity. Are they being any more “consumptive” than I am? Hell, I bring pre-packaged plastic satchets of ready-to-go food to power my journey. Where did those come from? Most of my gear is made of plastic. Plastic comes from oil. And I flew in on a noisy gas-guzzling plane.

It wouldn’t be a nice place here with thousands of kayakers everywhere experiencing it up close and personally, and the grizzly bears up the Koeye River sure wouldn’t appreciate it either. So I hope that people can experience being immersed in the wild through my accounts here, without actually having to go through all the motions themselves. Then maybe my impact on the wildlife will be somewhat mitigated.