Desolation Sound, BC 15–19 Oct 2017

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Oct 21, 2017.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

    Jan 10, 2009
    Seattle WA
    Until the forum software reaches its final state, I'll keep trip reports short and mostly let the (oversized and unresizable) photos do the talking.

    I just got back from a five-day trip to Desolation Sound, launching from Lund. My original plan was to string together a series of 20-mile days to visit the head of Toba Inlet. Toba Inlet is a known area for sasquatch, and I thought fall might be a good season to find the creature, because there'd be fewer people about. I've had excellent success sasquatch-watching this time of year along other parts of the coast, so I had high hopes for this trip.

    I naively hoped the high mountains would keep any fall storms out of Desolation Sound. They did not. I made it only as far as the Curme Islands before I was forced to take a weather day. Even in the relatively protected Curmes, a southeast gale was able to reach in and touch me, and I spent Sunday night with my feet up, propping my tent to prevent a 30-knot wind from pressing it flat on top of me.

    A worsening forecast persuaded me to return south to the Copeland Islands and hole up again, this time to escape predicted 45-knot winds. Luckily, I was able to shelter from this howler by meticulous site selection on North Copeland, and my second weather day was much more relaxing. Still, my itinerary was blown to hell, and there was no way I could even reach the mouth of Toba, much less explore the whole thing. I decided to come home a day early.

    Despite the missed opportunity to find sasquatch, the trip was great. I got one of my closest humpback whale encounters, a whopper feeding on what appeared to be herring near Sarah Point, just at the entrance to Desolation Sound. Sea lions, marbled murrelets, and a small, distant pod of orcas rounded out the wonderful wildlife of this trip.

    Needless to say, I had the whole sound to myself, further heightening my enjoyment!

    01 Horned grebe before dawn.jpg
    01 Red-necked grebe before dawn. Daylight was so brief, I wasn't able to reach Lund from Seattle before nightfall. I stayed at Edwin's lovely hostel in Powell River to get a predawn start on Sunday.

    02 Early morning harbor seals.jpg 02 Early morning harbor seals. In the dim light, the birds and animals were less frightened by my silent passage.

    03 Entering the Copeland Islands.jpg
    03 Entering the Copeland Islands. I was happy to see the Copeland Islands on my way north. It had been too long.

    04 Male harlequin ducks.jpg
    04 Male harlequin ducks. Most of the birds are in their duller winter plumage, but these gentlemen added a touch of color.

    05 Steep foggy walls of Malaspina Peninsula.jpg
    05 Steep, foggy walls of Malaspina Peninsula. Surprisingly, flood tides seemed to run south. I had guessed they'd go north, so I had to fight them the first day. Luckily, they are weak in this area, even during this time of the new moon.

    06 Sarah Point.jpg
    06 Sarah Point. For five days, no other boat in Desolation Sound even came close enough for a wave.

    07 Stellars sea lion surface for air.jpg
    07 Stellar's sea lion surfaces for air. The sea lions were highly inquisitive, to put it mildly. This one approached me underwater, and I was briefly concerned about a ramming!

    08 Diving humpback at Sarah Point.jpg
    08 Diving humpback at Sarah Point. This fine creature welcomed me into Desolation Sound. It was tail-slapping the water, apparently to stun prey.

    09 Black turnstones and humpback.jpg
    09 Black turnstones and humpback whale. Winter birds and winter mammals dominated the sound to a much greater extent than humans.

    10 Cloudy Desolation Sound.jpg
    10 Cloudy Desolation Sound. I love the fall-time palate of grays in our part of the world.

    11 North Curme Island.jpg
    11 West Curme Island. If it weren't for BC Parks's tent platforms, camping in the small Curme Archipelago would be difficult or impossible.

    12 Curme Island oysters.jpg
    12 Curme Island oysters. At low tide, it is possible to walk between some of the Curme Islands.

    13 Curme Islands.jpg
    13 Curme Islands. What a pleasure it was to have this miniature paradise all to myself. I spent the weather days reading science fiction novels on my Kindle.

    14 Rainbow at West Redonda Island.jpg
    14 Rainbow at West Redonda. I was surprised how little the high mountains seemed to impede the storm winds. Once the low-pressure systems began to hit, it was all chop, all day.

    15 Desolation Sound under cold front.jpg
    15 Desolation Sound in the wake of a cold front. With more weather systems on their way, I decided to bail out rather than risk getting stranded, even in so lovely a place as this.

    16 Mink Island in Deslation Sound.jpg
    16 Mink Island, Desolation Sound. This area is one of the best in Canada for wildlife and wild vistas.

    17 Looking for campsite Copelands.jpg
    17 Looking for campsite, Copeland Islands. It's too bad I missed Toba Inlet, but it gave me more time to enjoy special places like this.

    18 Copelands sunset.jpg
    18 Copelands sunset. Thursday morning was a bit of crawl back to Lund from North Copeland, fighting a 15-knot headwind and a half-knot adverse current. It was midnight before I made it back to Seattle.

    It had been at least seven years since I'd last visited Desolation Sound, and I'm glad to have gone back. I still want to explore Toba Inlet, so next time, I'll schedule a few more days and wait for a lengthy weather window. Sasquatch won't escape me again!

    Astoriadave and mbiraman like this.
  2. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Nov 2, 2005
    Nice, Alex! Thanks!
  3. pryaker

    pryaker Paddler

    Mar 23, 2010
    Powell River BC
    So that was you on the ferry thursday evening eh? I was wondering...

    Off season is the best for hitting busy spots, you might think of early season for Toba, that way the mountains will have snow and the waterfalls will be ripping!

  4. Rodnak Kayak

    Rodnak Kayak Paddler

    Dec 19, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    As usual a great report. Alex, always on point. We have paddled the area, but not in a few years. We still call the Copelands the "Ragged Islands", as the locals do. Yeah, many an ankle biter of oyster beds in that area. I find it odd that you found so much wildlife, as the waters really do not exchange well in that area, as it is pretty well dead centre of Vancouver Island, and the tides seem to just decide which way to flood or ebb! BTW, Sarah Point and Des Sound in general have the warmest swimming waters north of Mexico, but probably not this time of year! Again, I always search out your reports, Thx!
  5. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

    Jan 19, 2015
    Landlocked in Tennessee
    OMG you take the best pix! That rainbow one! And all the shades of grey! What a great trip, despite the unexpected itinerary change. :)