From Klemtu to Hakai: 14 days' kayaking on the Central Coast, Sept 2-14, 2018

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by stagger, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Calgary, AB
  2. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Prologue, Sept. 1:

    September 1: I'm lying in bed, staring through the dark to where the ceiling should be, listening to the trucks gear down on the highway, and to Jon's snores from the couch on the other side of the room. We're in a snug little cabin just outside of Port Hardy, about to embark on a 2-week kayaking trip from Klemtu to Hakai and back to Bella Bella. I'm seriously considering staying in bed for the entire two weeks, sort of a "let's not and say we did" vibe. This is because I'm scared shitless. In an hour or so we have to get up and board the ferry. Its dark and foggy and I'm irrationally convinced we're going to die.

    It was photos of Wolf Beach that brought us to this. The tropical-looking expanses of sand and blue sky, untrammeled by flip-flops and inaccessible except by boat, called to us. Since BC Ferries no longer offers a kayak wet-launch and we need to disembark at the regular stops like the civilized people, it's also become one of the more difficult-to-access locations in the area. "Two nights there, please," Jon said when I sent him a photo. And so our plans were put in motion.

    We'd spent August 30 at my sister's place in Surrey test-packing our boats, trying to make all the booze and chocolate fit in little nooks and crannies. The next morning was a frantic stuffing of the car hatch and running around with worried looks on our faces. I fired up the InReach satellite communicator... and couldn't get it to pair with my phone. Fuckitty fuck! Last year it had worked like a dream, my old iPhone 4 paired up with a first-generation InReach to allow messages to be sent back and forth to home and keep our wives' worries to a dull roar. I had been so proud of how I'd cobbled together these two old technologies to enable communication from the remote parts of the earth and now it wasn't going to work! Screw it, let's go, we have a ferry to catch. A final desperate reboot and reinstall of the software got the thing working — crap, note to self, next year test it BEFORE we have to leave...

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    After the usual slog through the blasted Nimpkish Valley (I really hate driving through the Nimpkish Valley; it's got bad juju), we arrived in Port Hardy just before dark. The place looked like a ghost town, just a little outpost on the edge of nowhere. We took a recon drive down to the ferry terminal, and booked ourselves a cabin on the highway not too far from the ferry road. Supper was an order of business: our two options appeared to be A&W or a place called Sporty Bar and Grill. I guess we were going to be sporty! The pizza was surprisingly excellent. The waitress asked us if we were catching the ferry tomorrow: yes, yes we were. "Up pretty late, then, aren't you?" Ooooops.

    Sleep happened, theoretically. I don't remember getting much of it, and 5AM rolled around with a dread inevitability. This is by far the biggest and most remote trip I've ever been on. Jon, on the other hand, is a veteran of wilderness adventure, having hiked across Baffin Island among other journeys. I tried to take heart from his confidence... but then again, one of the things he'd told me while I was fretting in the lead-up to this was "the fact we could perish is central to the point of it all," so there was little comfort there; I was partnered with a nihilist.

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    Paddling the S.S.Sleepytime

    At 5:45, after a last shower and a good hard fret on my part, we arrived at the ferry terminal and were directed to a place where we could load the boats onto a wheeled rack — something we were not expecting at all. We'd bought wheels for the yaks to cart them on and off the ferry. The wheels had become a source of contention because of the room they took up. There was no good way to store them without jettisoning either food or booze, neither of which was very appealing. But here was all modern convenience! Misunderstanding the instructions, we lashed the kayaks to the rack and then started stuffing all our gear into them willy-nilly. Every few minutes a BC Ferries employee would come over and ask if we were nearly done, because there was another kayak they needed to load up. "Yep, almost done," we said as we jammed just one more bag into the cockpit, again and again.

    Finally one of the Ferries people came over and explained to us, in the voice of someone telling a child why they shouldn't dip their lollipop into the mud puddle, that what we should have done was loaded the empty boats onto the rack and then put our gear on a different cart designed for luggage. "That way you won't stress your hull."

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    For those contemplating logistics, the photo above was taken from the long-term parking lot. The luggage carts are parked under the blue tent to the right. You can put all your drybags on them and they get locked up til you reach your destination. But because we are ninnies, we'd missed the window to load our stuff onto it. So our hulls, like us, were stressed — and we would be carting luggage onto the ferry besides.

    I had kept all the liquid — both the inflammable fuel and the two weeks' worth of life-giving beer and bourbon — in a carry-on bag. It was as heavy as lead and clinked incriminatingly as I waddled it toward the terminal. Jon, with his little backpack, skipped ahead of me, whistling a jaunty tune, to the ticket office. Foot passengers are ticketed well inside the gates, and to validate your pre-purchased ticket you require 75 pieces of government-issued photo ID, your immunization records, a "facilitation fee" of $100 in unmarked, non-sequential bills, and a signed affidavit from the Queen that you are a Subject of the British Empire in good standing*.

    It's required that you arrive at the terminal two hours before a sailing — more than you need for an international flight — but it all makes sense when witnessing the colossal inefficiency and confusion of the boarding process. All the foot passengers stood in a huddle outside the ticket office while the cars loaded in, seemingly at random. We spied a young woman grooving away under her earbuds like a loony person. She looked like someone who would end up on a Disasters In The Wilderness documentary — a naïf on a crash course with fate — someone to give a wide berth to. Eventually they let us walk on, and I waddled and clinked my way up the ramp, trying — and failing — to look like someone who was not carrying a ridiculous amount of booze in his bag. I shuffled and clanked my way to a seat, and the ferry got moving, somehow, nearly on time after all. We were on our way to Klemtu.

    *For those actually making the trip, all that's required is photo ID, a requirement that some of the other passengers were apparently having difficulty meeting.
     
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  3. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    Jonathon loves nothing better than to stand in line for a BC Ferries breakfast, so we queued up with the German tourists for the overpriced and underwhelming meal as the ferry ran out of Hardy Bay. Weather was sunny and stunning, so a post-prandial stroll around the decks was in order. The morning fog shrouded the islands in and around God's Pocket and gave them an unearthly beauty; I've now added them to the list of future destinations.

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    As we left the protection of Vancouver Island some swell began to be felt. Nearing Cape Caution we entered a blind fog and the ferry bobbed like a toy in the waves. Near Smith Inlet the fog dissipated, and we had stunning views up Fitzhugh Sound. The wave energy smashing on the islets on the outer edge of Penrose Park was exciting. Fitzhugh itself was very placid. Beautiful conditions for a cruise.

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    Calvert Island: Mount Buxton (L) and Kwakshua Channel (R)

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    Looking west through Hakai Pass, with Hecate Island on the left and Nalau Island on the right

    After Hakai Pass we hit another fog bank. Once through, we saw the old town of Namu, which would have to be a destination for another trip. At about noon, we turned the corner south of Denny Island and could spy Bella Bella up the channel. Suddenly, we were on a route that we would paddle later, on the home stretch of the trip. The Germans brought out their huge cameras and began snapping photos of everything. I began snapping photos of their giant cameras, to catch some of their telephoto magic by proxy.

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    Rounding the corner into Seaforth Channel, the energy of the ocean met us again. The channel felt large and passionate, if not quite wild. We could see Price Island looming low and dark and unpleasant-looking in the far distance. Jon and I had been debating whether to spend a couple of days to take the west coast of Price as our first few days' route, but this sight inspired us to initiate Plan B — to cross Finlayson Channel and go straight for Dallas Island once we left Klemtu.

    Our planned route was as follows:

    From Klemtu to Pidwell Reef
    A night at Higgins Passage,
    then down the west coast of Price to Langford Cove
    Cross Milbanke Sound to Dallas Island
    Dallas to Gale Passage north entrance
    Gale to McMullin Group
    McMullin to Goose Group
    Through the McNaughton Group to Cultus Sound
    To the Serpent Islands
    To Wolf Beach...
    ... and wind our way back.

    An ambitious trip, and we were prepared to alter our course and plans as weather, conditions, and whim dictated. I wasn't really keen to end up on the far side of Hakai Pass without a few days' grace to get back to Bella Bella in time for our ferry on the 14th. Cutting off the Price leg would leave us much more room to play where we had set our sights: the Hakai Luxvbalis area. This didn't quite work out the way we'd planned, either... but more on that later.

    Moving into Finlayson Channel, we could see the beach at Pidwell Reef as clear as day. Milbanke Sound seemed impossibly wide, and the sunny day had suddenly turned very grey. It seemed obvious that the right choice would be to cross Finlayson where it was narrow and head for Dallas Island tomorrow. But where would we camp tonight? The ferry docked at about 3:00, so there weren't many hours to load the kayaks and paddle to a camping spot, if we could find one. Google Maps showed a few potential spots south of Klemtu; otherwise our only confirmed spot would be Rescue bay, over 20km away.

    Cone Island was well in view now, and the Klemtu ferry terminal was on the other side. Rainclouds were gathering, but the forecast was for clearer days to come after some rain tonight. We repaired to the car deck as the ferry began to dock, and it quickly became obvious who the other kayaker on the ferry was: the out-of-her-depth hippie girl we'd spied at the Port Hardy terminal. We struck up conversation about our boats; hers was a rental, which she'd had to arrange car transport from Port McNeill to Port Hardy. She was Polish, and her name was Kamila. As we were heading south, she was heading north, to Princess Royal Island, to photograph spirit bears. Oh, my; she was going to be eaten, and her blood would be on our hands for letting her go.

    As the few cars that were disembarking at Klemtu rolled off, Jon began to ask around about camping in the area, as Pidwell seemed far and Dallas impossibly so. One of the terminal workers said we could stay the night in the terminal building — what the?! what a stroke of luck! He just kind of shrugged it off as, well, of course, whatever... oh, and maybe we would have to pay a bit for it. This seemed both very unofficial and eminently fair, so we pooled the little cash we had on hand to make up the "fee."

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    The "kayak launch" at Klemtu terminal

    After the ferry left and the workers headed back home, the place was as empty as an abandoned shoe. Kamila had some business to take care of in town, so we decided to hike the 2km in. As we walked and talked, we realized our first impressions of Kamila were entirely unfounded — 180 degrees wrong. This might have been her first major kayak trip, but she was well equipped to handle what this area was going to throw at her — much more than we were. She was an experienced guide and photographer, led weeks-long expeditions, had biked from Dawson to Iqaluit up the Dempster highway in the winter (!), and was a hilarious storyteller besides. She taught us the phrase "zażółć gęślą jaźń" which means nothing but contains all the most Polish letters and sounds.

    At the town, we left Kamila to hunt down her emergency contact and rescue boat while we took in the sights. Lots of run-down portables with painted-on Tsimshian/Heiltsuk art, a funny mix of pride and neglect, traditional and modern.

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    The ravens were huge — among the biggest I've ever seen — fat on the leavings of the townsfolk fishing in the placid little bay. Many suppers were caught as we walked by — it seemed you could hardly cast a line without hooking a salmon here. Between the protection of Cone Island and the abundance of the bay it was obvious why the Kitasoo and Xai'xais people chose this place as their refuge.

    We passed a pair of chatting women who were loudly discussing a sasquatch one of them had sighted. I'm not 100% certain they weren't putting on a joke for our benefit — but apparently Klemtu is a sasquatch hotspot, so who knows?

    We were running out of time to hit the bank machine at the band grocery store on the other side of town, so we hightailed it over. As it happens, the ATM was out of money — and the vast and nearly empty store was all but out of groceries. Not like we'd probably need any cash out in Hakai, but you never know if you might need to transact with someone in an emergency situation.

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    Back at the terminal, we laid out our charts end to end and talked about our planned routes, and plugged in everything that might need to be charged for a last battery top-up. We tucked into dinner and watched as the sky alternated between brilliant and eerie.

    A sea lion did joyous backflips for us before disappearing into the night. "One less bottle of beer, one less saag paneer" to pack. Heavy rain came and went, and we bedded down, dry as tinder and as full of quiet potential.
     
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  4. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    After a night of intermittent downpours, we were more glad than ever of our inadvertent "hotel" of the first night. Kamila laid out the cup-a-soups and candy that would sustain her for six weeks.

    It took a fair bit of bumbling to get our kayaks and gear down the rough "path" to the "launch" — a jumble of rock underneath the ferry dock.
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    The tide was falling and the current was racing north through Klemtu Passage. The creek by the launch site, last night just a trickle, was now a torrent after last night's heavy rain. A patch of sunlight over Oscar Passage gave us a beacon to aim for.
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    Sun over Oscar

    As we were packing, a deer buck swam by. That's something none of us had ever seen before. Deer aren't bad swimmers, it turns out. After much too long a fuss, we were ready to go by about 9:30. We said farewell to Kamila and shoved off south while she headed north.

    Klemtu Passage was flat and calm. We paused for a quick in-boat snack by the Stockade Islets, which appear to be burial islands. A whale blew in the distance but we didn't see him. Finlayson channel was mild as we crossed over to Nowish Island, where we stopped for lunch in the big bay. We found a nice sunny spot to pull out.

    However calm it had been, we exited the bay at 12:30 to a raging headwind — the curse of the afternoon. Paddling became a heavy struggle. We were fighting both wind and current, and the seas were very confused and choppy at the mouth of Oscar Passage. Near the northwest corner of Dowager Island, we saw our first (and only) humpback of the trip, who gave us a pretty good show of flipper and tail. By the time we saw him, we were averaging about 3 km/h while paddling harder than we ever had before — our usual easy cruising speed is about 6.5 km/h.

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    Jon silhouetted against Price Island in the far distance

    Other kayakers have written unflatteringly about Milbanke Sound; let me join them in their dislike of this place. The distances are long, the features are few, the scenery is dull, I didn't like the weather, and — more to the point — I had underestimated it. Being significantly out of shape, I was grunting with every stroke as we clawed our way across Suzette Bay toward Keith Point, the westernmost point on Dowager Island. I needed a break; I wasn't going to make it all the way to Dallas Island without a rest and stretch. I hollered to Jon that we were going to turn east and hit the shore, but the wind absolutely would not let us turn that way — it was all we could do to maintain a southwesterly course.

    At last we made land on a sandy pocket beach just around the corner from Keith Point. I was utterly spent and could hardly drag my kayak up onto the beach, but some food fuel, rest, and stretching put a bit of life back into me. We were eventually forced to set sail again as the rising tide ate up our little beach. As we rounded Keith Point we got our first taste of the Big Sea Energy we would find a lot of on this trip, the swell crashing on the shore relentlessly and a wild tang in the air. The approach to Dallas Island from the northwest was forbidding, with lots of jagged rocks like broken teeth guarding the entrance.

    Once through the gauntlet of the reefs, though, the water north and west of Dallas Island was miraculously calm, and we cruised onto the sandy beach like we were on rails, greeted by a sea lion who obligingly took his leave when we arrived. Kayak Bill's campsite is marked with a float hanging in the trees, but there's no mistaking which beach to land on — it's big and enticingly situated. On the east you have the protection of the bay, and on the west the ocean throws all its might against the rocks, a breathtaking study in contrasts.

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    After the battering I'd taken, I wasn't on top of my game when it came to thinking about taking pictures that might capture some of the magic of this place, but it is magical. It gets sun at all hours of the day, a rare and welcome feature. Despite the lack of fresh water, it's obvious why Kayak Bill used it as a primary site. Jon and I immediately agreed to stay here two nights so we could properly enjoy it — and so we could rest up a bit after the first day's beating.

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    A perfect tent site

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    The remains of Kayak Bill's Dallas Island camp

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    Sunset on Dallas Island

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    Sept 2, 2018: Klemtu to Dallas Island, 32 km
     
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  5. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    We allowed ourselves to sleep in. We woke late to calm weather with intermittent sun and cloud. A little ramble o'er the ridge to a log-choked bay with salal bushes gave us views of distant Price Island. We found a little grotto where some furry or feathered fellow had made a habit of munching on urchins.

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    After lunch we took a leisurely paddle through Moss Passage to Cockle Bay to check out the Heiltsuk cabin there. We caught a bit of swell crossing to the south shore, but the rest of our paddle was exceedingly calm. Took a peep at Clam Passage to see if it's a route we could take tomorrow. It looks very small but we decided to take a shot at it, otherwise it's the outside of Salal Island for us.

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    South of Agnes Point (the northeasternmost point of Lady Douglas Island) there's a very picturesque spot where the rock face is carved out by the sea, and where lives a very happy contented mink. Lots of subsea life here — huge urchins, plus crabs and starfish and such.

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    Cockle bay itself isn't much to talk about — it's mucky and kind of desolate-seeming.

    The Heiltsuk cabin, too, is a bit run-down, although it would provide excellent shelter in a pinch. The back bedroom is windowless and creepy, but the kitchen area is more welcoming and the whole place smells invitingly like cedar. Some nice local architectural details.

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    Best feature: an outhouse, of which we availed ourselves before heading back to Dallas Island.

    On the way back, we played in the current around Sloop Narrows and the unnamed island that juts into it.

    Lady Douglas and Dowager islands are a dowdy pair of old maids, with not a lot in the way of personality. Detached Islet on the north side of Moss Passage, however, is worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood — it's rocky and jagged and picturesque in all the best ways. Back at camp we had a fantastic dinner and reluctantly bedded down. The Dallas camp is just ace: we could easily have stayed a week here. We'd totally neglected to see if we could find Kayak Bill's old trails, even. I guess a return visit is in order.

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    Consulting Kimantas

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    Moss Passage and Cockle Bay, Sept 3, 2018: 17km
     
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  6. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    A blind fog this morning as we crossed from Dallas Island to Lady Douglas/Salal Island.

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    We weren't sure which side of Clam Passage we'd arrived at, so we crawled eastward along the shore until we came upon a triangle symbol on a headland. Means "here's a passage"? OK, let's try it. As we went deeper and deeper into the inlet the water became more still — not a great sign — until we bumped into a dead end.

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    We'd ended up in Morris Bay (top right) instead of Clam Passage (top centre). Well, at least we now knew exactly where we were. Retreating back to Clam Passage we hit it in the nick of time. It was too shallow to paddle through at mid-tide and falling, but we could disembark and hand-float our boats over the shelly midden that gives it its name.

    When paired up with her sister Dowager on the north side, Lady Douglas is a frump, but she shows her wild side to the south. The waves roar nicely as they crash into her reefs and rocks, and it was a ton of fun picking our way through the maze in the magical fog to find a spot for a mid-morning snack and to take a bearing for Cecelia Island.

    We needn't have bothered with the bearing: by the time we were ready to launch again the morning fog had cleared and it was a clear shot across the channel and easy paddling through low swell to the Ivory Island lighthouse — cute as a button. As we floated in the lee of Ivory Island, rising and falling on the swell, we contemplated a shore break here to find the trail that crosses the island, but we decided to take advantage while the weather was good for crossing busy Seaforth Channel.

    It was an uneventful crossing, with no wind, mild swell, and not a terrible amount of shipping traffic. We tucked into Gale Passage and got stymied by a sandbar until we figured out that the channel was clear to the east.

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    Stick to the east shore of Gale at mid-to-low tides.

    The wind began to kick up as we landed at the site of the Heiltsuk cabin. The landing was on moderate cobble and would be easy at all tides. This cabin would have been in better nick than the one at Cockle Bay — except it had been stove in by a fallen tree.

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    There were multiple excellent tent sites here, plus a picnic table and an outhouse in good repair. a fine spot to spend an afternoon and the night. After a nap (!) in the semi-sun and getting the tent set up and all, we spent some time with the charts plotting our next moves. We decided to cut Calvert off in favour of Goose, plus taking some extra time to spend two nights in one spot and minimize setup and teardown.

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    We tramped to the river via bushwhacking overland. The estuary was grotty, and the water was cedar tea.

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    Lots of bear sign around here, so hanging food is a must.

    We couldn't find a good spot to fill up on water here. We had plenty for now, but would have to fill up before we crossed to the McMullin and Goose groups. I'd been told the sunsets at this location were spectacular, but we didn't get any action in that regard. However, it was a perfect place to spend an evening, with high slack at sundown.

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    Dallas Island to Gale Passage north entrance, Sept 4, 2018: 20 km
     
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  7. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    There was no particular rush this morning. High slack was around 10:30. From reading Jon Dawkins' excellent blog I should have known that the time to transit the Gale Passage rapids was 2 hours before slack, but somehow I had missed this bit of wisdom in my research. We awoke at 7:00 to a forest alive with activity: things dropping out of the trees sounding very like footfalls, twittering birds, ravens, gulls, and who knows what all else — bonobos? — it was comical how much chattering and clattering there was.

    We filled up our water jugs and did a bit of light laundry in the repugnant tidal estuary before setting out around 9:30.

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    The mouth of the northern Gale Passage rapids

    A very quick jaunt brought us to the rapids, where we circled and floated and tested the waters nervously.



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    Contemplating the next move

    Jonathon, a veteran of many canoe trips, plotted a line through the first set of rapids avoiding an obvious rock and sweeper — we ran to the west side through the V of the current and it was clear sailing. Quickly scoping the second set of rapids, we avoided the overfall to the east and again took a western line through the V, which brought us to a wide, dead-flat lagoon. From here we had two options: to the east was a shallow and maybe impassable channel, or we could hit the south rapids. We decided to head east and check out the less rapid option.

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    Paddling with the man in the mirror

    The lagoon got shallower and shallower til at last we were at the turning point. Two more little rapids were filling up this lagoon, and we'd be paddling against the current here. There was hardly enough water to get your paddle blade in. We considered a wade-and-drag, but instead opted to try to bash our way through on an upstream run. There were a couple of dicey moments where I thought I was going to get sent backwards and/or sideways, which would have meant an uncomfortable dunk and maybe a bruise or two, but panic and power prevailed and like spawning salmon we flopped our way upstream. Once through, the rest of the passage was eerily calm and beautiful. We could hear the second set of rapids, but didn't see them.

    Out into Thompson Bay, we decided to check out the campsite at Cree Point and have a bite to eat. After a short paddle, we rounded the corner into a very protected little bay. Like at Dallas Island, the site was marked with a float. Behind a driftwood windbreak, there was one little-used tent site in a bed of soft moss, surrounded by salal.

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    We paddled down the shoreline of Potts Island to the Islet 48 site, which we'd heard spoken highly of. It had tons of "featurettes" including tropical sand, a fire pit,
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    a driftwood kitchen,
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    a pit toilet made of an old float,
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    and even a shower! Too bad it didn't have water in it, or we'd have taken advantage.
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    A sign said "Respect Heiltsuk territory", and another said "SIMON". The fire pit was stocked with kindling and ready to go. In the woods, a perfect tent site beckoned. But it was only midday and we had miles to go, so we set out for McMullin instead. Swell was low and wind was light. An idyllic hour-long paddle brought us to the big sand beach on the west side of the big island.

    The sand was the softest and finest I've ever seen — almost powdery! Our feet sank into it while unloading our boats. Mink tracks were the only sign of wildlife here.

    A fine tent site is in the forest just up from the beach.
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    McMullin reminded us very much of the Polkinghornes, but with better views and a way better beach. It seemed a very fine place to stay two nights. We realized we hadn't seen a single boat all day — we were really out in it now. The sun came out and stayed intermittently through the afternoon. We had stunning views in three directions, marred by a little smoke haze. There were a couple of old wild apple trees bearing tiny wild apples at the beach verge, no doubt a remnant of someone's castoff lunch many years ago. After a lazy afternoon being entertained by a pair of hilarious ravens and the shoreline antics of some least sandpipers, we set off looking for a trail to the west side of the island. We ended up following a trail — but it was one made by minks for minks, and as such, not recommended for human use. It was a hard bushwhack to the west coast, where our efforts were rewarded with amazing scenery and the low swell crashing on the reefs, as well as our first sighting of an otter.

    The high thin clouds were making eerie patterns across the sun. We both knew these clouds "meant" something when it came to weather prediction, but we couldn't remember what.

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    Sailor's delight?

    A float marked the trail we had been looking for earlier, which was wide, clear, well-used... and which took us directly back to our campsite. For the record, if you're at the big beach at McMullin, the trail starts near the south end of the tent sites.

    We didn't set an alarm for the morning.
     
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  8. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    September 6 dawned with heavy fog. I slept 11 hours, though the sleep was not an easy one. The ground felt hard underneath me and my dreams were full of gnawing things. As I staggered out to put a pot of coffee on, last night's raven feigned surprise and squawked over to a nearby islet. You could totally tell he was faking, though. There was no surprise or urgency in his voice. He then settled in making various quiet noises to himself. It really seemed to me that the sounds were not directed at another listener, that he was "talking to himself," as humans will do, albeit usually as an internal monologue.

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    We lit a fire and spent a quiet, meditative morning reading and watching the ravens. Their physical gestures change with the sounds they make; I can't tell whether the gestures are part of the communication, or part of how the raven has to arrange its body to make the particular sound. We ruminated for a while on krummholz — both in reality, because we'd seen so much of it out here, and as a metaphor for how the pressures of any environment shape your personality.

    At one point the weather cleared enough to see Mount Buxton on Calvert Island in the distance. It didn't look too far. I tramped to the west side of the island with a baggie and collected as many salal and huckleberries as I could gather; I've never seen them grow so thick and plentifully.

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    We took a pre-dinner paddle through thick kelp beds to view the crossing to Goose and confirm the bearings we'd taken. There were otters galore out here — mothers carrying their babies, and teenagers playing rough with each other. They're devilishly hard to get a good photo of. Out in the sound we had brilliant views up and down the length of the coast from Swindle Island to Calvert. Inland views, too, with one really prominent peak in the distance — Tsil'os? The night had warmed up considerably. The water was beautiful: little swell and no wind.

    I really needed this day: nowhere to go and nothing to do, and no objective — including not having "nothing" as an objective. My mind, still filled with the chatter of work and the city, quieted right down. Second day seeing no other human life: no boats, no planes. Sundown treated us to a show of brilliant phosphorescence at the water's edge, a coruscating display.
     
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  9. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Pissing rain all night. Now we know what those high ripply clouds meant: weather changing for the worse. Yesterday was the calm before the storm. There was a stiff breeze blowing from the south, and as we packed up our gear, disorganized and dishevelled and wet, I checked the forecast on the marine VHF. It was not looking good: multiple fronts coming in from the west, and gale force winds predicted. We agreed Goose was a bad prospect at this time. We decided to beat a retreat for Islet 48 and assess our options from there; an updated forecast was due in a couple of hours.

    The ride back north from McMullin was a little hairy: following to beam-on sea and wind, causing significant weathercocking and much zig-zagging on our route, but which carried us along at a clip despite the confused water and challenging conditions.

    Back at 48 we decided we'd stay there tonight and then head south tomorrow through calmer protected channels. The sun came out so we took the chance to dry the tent and gear out before setting it up. We ate lunch and marvelled at how calm it was to the north and east of us, while out in Queens Sound the wind and water was raging.

    [​IMG]
    We'll be spending a bit of time between these two points

    We took a jaunt up Louise Channel, a pretty little waterway where we found conditions calm and mild. There was lots of active wildlife: kingfishers, ravens, eagles, herons, and a mama and baby otter.

    We were paddling against the current, but it was nothing significant. We topped up our water supply at an excellent source not far up Louise Channel from our camp, and continued in nearly ideal conditions all the way to Quinoot Point.

    [​IMG]

    Quinoot was sunny and warm, and there was nary a breath of wind. The Heiltsuk cabin here was by far the nicest one we'd encountered. It was tidy and well-kept.

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    The outhouse here was a bit dicey, but something beats nothing. Weird blond slugs and big droopy gobs of moss abound.

    After a bit of an afternoon tramp and laze in the sun, Jonathon thought a shirt-off paddle back to 48 was in order, but then clouds over Joassa Channel said otherwise. Out of the protection of the little bay at Quinoot Point, we encountered a strong headwind, which thankfully lessened once inside Louise Channel again. I finally felt like I was getting the hang of my forward stroke — I felt like I nailed all necessary aspects of it a few times.

    As we hit camp it started to rain. We set up the tarp, and the weather retaliated. Chaos and soaking driving rain. The tarp collected gallons of water, then dumped them on the ground, splashing sand everywhere. Rinse, repeat.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    We are not amused.

    Then, a reprieve. The sun returned, and with it a double rainbow with eagle and krummholz tableau.

    [​IMG]

    Out in Queens Sound the seas were still raging. It's amazing how the islands and the kelp absorb the wave energy so that the back channels aren't turbulent at all. The forecast was for rising wind and building seas for the next 24-48 hours and no real respite til Tuesday (it was currently Friday). We thought we might try to take Louise channel to south Joassa channel and wind our way south behind the protection of the Tribal Group... but it'll be a judgement call.

    [​IMG]
    McMullin to Quinoot and back to Islet 48, Sept 7, 2018: 24 km
     
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  10. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    Tremendous wind and crashing waves all night. Woke to heavy wind and rain, and decided we wouldn't lose anything by going back to sleep, because — fuck this shit. Coffee and late breakfast under the tarp over the kitchen area. The only game available was something we called "attack points" — gathering the water that ran off the tarp in bucketfuls, betting on the location of the next dump by placing a pot under it. You won if the water chose your pot to land in; you lost if it dumped on the ground next to you and splattered you with wet sand.

    We found out we'd had a very close shave last night. Yesterday the pile of kindling we'd first seen the day before was still there, so with our kayaks up at the height of the fire pit we didn't think it was necessary to tie them up. But this morning the kindling was gone and there was tide foam on the hulls of our boats — we'd almost lost them! What a difference 0.2m of tide can make. Remember, kids, always tie up your kayaks, no matter how silly it may seem.

    At a number of points the wind got right up under our tarp and threatened to blow it away. The tarp was providing exactly no protection from the elements at this point, and there wasn't a lot of charm to be found in the prospect of sitting out in this shit all day. Weather forecast for Queen Charlotte Sound were winds 25-35kt and seas 3-5m. Suddenly the cabin at Quinoot Point seemed like a very attractive destination, a place where we could sit out the worst of it, dry our soaked gear, and hit "reset."

    When the rain let up a bit,we struck camp and lit out up Louise Channel again — it was becoming a very familiar paddle. But reliable Louise, she never gives us any trouble; it was a calm and windless journey to Boddy Narrows, where we caught a bit of a southerly that pushed us the rest of the way to Quinoot Point. Since it wasn't raining on us, we nosed around the "back door" of Quinoot into upper Thompson Bay, which was as flat as an Ontario lake, complete with loons. Jonathon rode the currents through the "back door" a few times just for kicks.

    [​IMG]

    Back at Quinoot Cabin we pulled the yaks way up into a tent spot and lashed them to a tree for good measure. It took a lot to get any heat generated in the cabin, and while the fire was gathering we collected driftwood and put it under the cabin to dry for the next visitors. Eventually we got some heat going, and our wet gear began to off-gas, a pungent guys-and-brine aroma that assaulted us anew every time we exited and re-entered the cabin. If we'd been clever, we'd have washed our paddling gear before hanging it to dry, but nobody accuses us of being anything besides daft.

    [​IMG]

    We settled in for an afternoon of reading and tending the fire. Everything took ages to dry, but a lot less time than it would have taken out there in the elements; we were pelted with intermittent downpours and squalls that made us very grateful for the Heiltsuk's generosity in sharing these cabins with visitors. I felt like I must do better next year — that I had possibly let Jonathon down by being so cautious, avoidant of bigger water and currents, overly cautious. I wasn't feeling terribly confident in my kayak; it didn't fit me as well as I'd like, nor did the low primary stability give me the feeling I could tackle as much as he could. And I wasn't very well conditioned heading into the trip. Must make more of an effort to keep fit over the winter this year.*

    The forecast from now to Wednesday was for progressively less wind and rain, so we thought the Serpent Group was still a good potential target. It seemed impossible that only yesterday morning we woke up on McMullin — there had been so many episodes since then! The epic flight from McMullin to 48; drying our tent in the sun; the first paddle to Quinoot and sunbathing; fighting the wind on the way back to 48; playing attack points under the tarp for dinner; then double-rainbow-krummholz-eagle; waking this morning to black skies and gloom; more breakfast attack points; then a lovely paddle to Quinoot and the back door; now killing time in the cabin while the sky pounded down buckets.

    The wind kicked up at bedtime, and the rain continued all night. The trees outside the cabin sounded like monsters trying to claw their way in. Luckily I had Spider-man to protect me, as he no doubt has protected many a Heiltsuk youth.

    [​IMG]
    Spider-man peeking out from his bunk

    [​IMG]
    Islet 48 to Quinoot Point, Sept 8, 2018: 12 km

    *Spoiler: I didn't.
     
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  11. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    When we woke at 6:30 it was still rough and rainy out in Joassa Channel. We decided to get ready to head out anyway, but wait until there was a sign of conditions improving. By 9:15 there was blue sky to the south, and we launched by 9:30. Some headwinds but generally friendly seas to Raymond Passage, where Queens Sound threw some rough water at us through Codfish Passage. This was enough to make us think it was going to be easier travelling over the north side of Piddington Island and sneaking around through the back channels as much as we could.We saw some porpoises just outside Hochstader Basin. It's a measure of how beaten we were that we found great amusement in the idea of a non-extreme version of the Tsunami Rangers, but instead of seeking extreme waves and rock gardens, they would instead seek out the flattest, calmest water — a kind of kayaking version of the ASMR laundry-folding videos. They'd be called the Lagoon Squad. Their motto? "Chasin' the basins."

    Crossing Peter Bay we got a big wet squall, and then intermittent sunsqualls. The channels north of Piddington are very pretty, very pleasant kayaking. Caught a great group of pictographs here.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We had intermittent wind and rain but generally friendly seas all the way to Safe Passage (ha!) where we got hit with crosswaves and a fair bit of current.We had lunch at high-high tide just after noon in a little notch bay on Campbell Island. We agreed that if these conditions prevailed, we should push for Cultus Sound.

    [​IMG]

    At Dodwell Island, though, the water was tempestuous. Lots of currents and the kind of crazy waves you would expect with high wind against the tide — steep-sided whitecaps going at least 3 different directions. No thanks, we'll pass. The little crossing to Latta Island was a raging deathtrap. Discretion being the better part of staying alive, we abandoned the idea of crossing into Hakai Luxvbalis park today and instead struck out for Island 145 aka Soulsby Camp. This was a tough enough leg! East of Dodwell we felt very exposed as we hightailed it for the north side of 145 and the wind and waves battered us: You shall not pass! Turning the corner the headwind coming up Hunter Channel was absolutely brutal, but we knew our destination was only minutes away.

    [​IMG]

    "The most perfect clamshell beach on the west coast" (although we might make a case against Kimantas on this point in favour of Klaoitsis), Soulsby Camp was a welcome refuge. It's a cute site and advantageously situated, but in itself it wouldn't be a must-stay destination. There's a general lack of featurettes from which to hang gear or upon which to sit. There are a couple of gloomy areas semi-sheltered by fallen logs, which make a handy kitchen and reading nook in the rain. The tent sites are only OK: the flat one is too small, the large one is too sloped, and others are either lumpy or concave. We bemoaned the lack of an accessible rocky promontory upon which to eat and enjoy a sunset view. And the place was absolutely infested — with chickadees*. But Soulsby Camp does have a lot going for it. If it were situated anywhere but the Central Coast, it would likely be considered the best in its area — it's just that compared with Dallas, McMullin, or Islet 48 it paled a bit.

    [​IMG]

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    The kitchen grotto

    [​IMG]
    Quinoot to Soulsby, Sept 9, 2018: 25 km

    *This was actually a cute and welcome feature.
     
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  12. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    September 10: Another stormy, tempestuous night. Wind and rain in spades. Our sweet tarp skills kept us dry, but the wind was still raging by 6:00, so back to sleep again. Stormy nights and mornings make for very short paddling days.

    [​IMG]

    I spent some time this morning watching a mink beachcombing. He'd swim out to the rock in front of the beach, then back with something in his mouth. Also spent some time watching a little woodland bird — a wren, maybe? — pecking at the seaweed on the edge of the rising tide. Funny how everything adapts to its environment.

    Hunter Channel was largely whitecapped all day, and the area where Hunter Channel meets Queens Sound was a horrorshow of confused seas and whitecaps. Intermittent rain all morning, and winds driving low, black clouds up the channel. We were dispirited enough that we'd probably have just made for Bella Bella, except that the forecast looked better. Gale warnings were in effect all day, then winds 5-15kt tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, and light on Friday. Seas were supposed to subside from 3m tonight to 1m by noon on Tuesday. We still had a chance to catch a bit of Hakai, if we got a little lucky.

    Mid-morning brought a brief bout of milder weather, including a couple minutes of sunshine. This brief period of sun gave us the hubris that we might dry some things. Then, with the wet clothes hung and all our gear spread out on the beach, a steady solid rain socked in.
    [​IMG]

    I spent a couple hours reading in the "solo shelter", a perfectly dry nook under a fallen cedar, with a springy branch seat. Jon hit the tent for a nap. We had lunch and a cup of blessed coffee near high tide, watching a squabbling flock of seagulls diving for herring (?).
    [​IMG]

    We were going a little squirrely waiting around for the weather to turn.

    I realized we hadn't seen a boat or a plane or any other person since Seaforth Channel — this was day six as the last people on earth. This trip was a very different feel than the others we've been on. No defined weather pattern from day to day, including some really rancid early-morning weather, makes for tough decisions on launching times — or, more often, a go/no-go decision. I missed the transcendent feeling of following and achieving a defined route, also. If there had been any campsites between here and Cultus Sound, we would probably have taken our chances during the afternoon to try our luck paddling south into the wind, but we didn't fancy getting out there and finding we had to go all the way in terrible conditions. As it turns out, the evening brightened right up and the wind died down. Cultus Sound is closer than I imagined it was (about 2 hours' paddle in good conditions) and we could easily have made it. Ah, hindsight.

    [​IMG]
    Tomorrow beckons: looking south into the McNaughton Group
     
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  13. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    This was the weirdest, coolest day. A peak experience, but one I'm at a loss to explain properly.

    After heavy rain all night we woke to light drizzle and no wind. We saw a boat running south down Hunter Channel, which we took to be a good sign. If the locals were emerging, then so would we!



    [​IMG]

    An 8:00 launch, a quick crossing of the channel, and finally, near the end of our trip, we were in Hakai Luxvbalis park. Paddling through the McNaughton Group was beautiful, the water like glass and the currents initially with us, then building against us as the current caught up with the changing of the tide.

    [​IMG]

    Jon suggested poking our noses out through the channel that runs east-west through the big island to see what conditions were like on the outside.

    [​IMG]

    There was very little current in that channel near low tide. It was calm and pretty and very passable by kayak.

    [​IMG]

    When we exited the channel into the sound between the McNaughton Group and the Simonds Group, we were met by huge waves rolling in from the south. They were easily 3 meters, but friendly and low-period, and for whatever reason we felt like we could take what they were throwing at us. Jon asked if I wanted to go back to the protected channels, and — you know what? I really didn't. Once free of the clapotis in the McNaughton island bay, the big rollers became quite pleasant to paddle on. I was going very slow, as I was feeling very tippy in my boat and was trying to figure out how to paddle in these conditions. I became easy with untucking my thighs from the braces and articulating my legs for strong drive, the way I would to make miles on calm water, but I had a really tough time putting the whole stroke together. It was much less rhythmic and more opportunistic as I had to catch water on whichever side it was currently available as the waves rolled by under me. We stayed well off the coast, outside the foam line, thus avoiding rebound waves and feeling the unadulterated strength of the ocean coming at us from way out in the wild enormous Pacific. I wished — for the first time ever — that I had a GoPro, because there was no pausing to operate a camera. The waves got bigger and bigger as we crawled like tiny ants across the vast surface of the water, south and out of the protection of any islands. Jonathon would disappear, then as I crested a wave I would see him a couple hundred meters away, clawing his way up the face of the next wave. I reckon the waves were easily 6 or 7 meters high, and I marvelled at the volume of water that must be contained in each one.

    When we eventually arrived at Superstition Point we tucked in behind some islets for a breather and a snack and to decide whether to go to Cultus Sound or push south. It was only about 4 km from where we'd exited the channel, but it had taken well over an hour to get here. Jon thought the worst of the water would be in the mouth of the sound and that the point wouldn't be too bad if we stayed beyond the foam line. We had plenty of gas in the tank and it wasn't yet noon, so we decided to head for Spider Island and refill our water there, then proceed to the Serpent Group.

    Nosing out toward Superstition Point we were proved wrong: the water around the point was a total gong show, a reeking mess of clapotis, wind waves, and steep-sided swell. If the previous leg was a challenge, this was a battle. The whole shoreline was a mess of spray and foam, impossible energy meeting immovable rock, and every bay was a disastrous soup. We fought the chaos and looked for a passable opening into Spider Channel. All the openings were clustered with rocks and reefs. The waves would crash against one shore, rebound toward the other shore, and meet another rebounding wave in a mess of white water. We were pushed further and further offshore to get free of the energy being thrown back at us from the land while we scouted openings and fought to stay upright as the waves hit us from all sides. A couple of guys on Sea-Doos roared up from the south (where on earth were they coming from?). They looked sick and terrified; I'm sure we did too. We were in an endless present moment, reading the water and reacting, simultaneously somehow in fast-forward and pause mode. Time seemed to disappear. At last Jon pointed at a line he thought we should take and I responded in the negative. Apparently what I actually said was, "IT'S A FUCKING BLOODBATH!" We found another, wider, blood-free entrance and took it. It felt so good being in the protection of the reefs and islands in more manageable water. In the bay on the northeast of Spider we found a beautiful sandy beach with some kind of infrastructure on it: A big A-frame of logs and miscellaneous featurettes.

    Once we caught our breath a bit, recapped the adventure, and had a bite to eat, we started to poke around the place. There was a little run-down hobbit cabin in the woods, which I recognized. It was Randell Washburne's old cabin from the 70s! But wait, that cabin was certainly not on Spider Island. I couldn't remember for sure, but I thought it was on Triquet. Which was clearly impossible, because we'd only been paddling we guessed about 45 minutes from Superstition Point to Bloodfrei Passage.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I pulled out the InReach and fired up the phone to get a GPS location. Sure enough, it showed we were on Triquet! We'd gone more than twice as far as we'd thought, and somehow had entirely missed Spider Island, which is kind of a big island to just overlook. Some kind of Bermuda Triangle/Tales of the Uncanny shit was clearly going on here.

    Before we could parse the mystery, a skiff came putt-putting in to the beach. It was loaded with two kayaks and three German dudes. Two of them had been kayaking down here when the storm hit, and they'd been stuck on Triquet, a bay or 2 over, for the past few days, til their friend could bring the skiff out to get them. It turns out, they were the ones responsible for all the infrastructure at Islet 48! The skiff's pilot was the SIMON of the sign — he lived in Bella Bella and was married to a local woman. He gave us his number in case we needed to hire him for a lift sometime, although he couldn't guarantee he'd always be available to check messages. We bid them auf wiedersehen and filled up our water before launching toward the Serpent Group.

    Triquet looked like a really neat island; I wish we'd had the chance to explore it more. Next year!
     
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  14. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    It was a short but intense paddle to the Serpent Group — there was lots of confused water and we were tired. But we made it, approaching from the northeast as per instructions. When we saw sand on the bottom, I knew we were close. Jon, unschooled in the lore, made the expected exclamations that there's no way these rocky crags could host a campsite, and then...

    Serpent Group is an amazing spot, just an absolutely magical hideaway. The upland tent site itself isn't ideal — a bit sloped if you don't like camping on sand — but you can't beat the location. Featurettes galore, including majestic promontories for viewing the ocean, a rock wall that reflects the heat of the sun and dries your tent like billy-o, and a deep tidal pool where full-sized crabs and fishes live.

    [​IMG]

    We were absolutely bushed after our huge day, and we spent a couple hours just exploring and relaxing.

    Here, at last, through time-warp and wave action, we'd found the transcendence that we'd been missing. Our bodies were battered and our minds exhausted, but our spirits were soaring. We spent a beautiful evening looking out into Hakai Pass with a well-deserved mug of excellent sherry.

    [​IMG]

    Almost the weirdest thing about today? The InReach stopped recording our location pretty much at the exact point when we decided to take the channel to the outside of McNaughton, didn't even record the ping where we checked our location on Triquet, and didn't start working normally until we left Serpent Group the next morning. So we will never know where we were between the hours of 9:30 and 1:30 on September 11, 2018, how far we were off shore, how fast we were going, how we missed seeing a gigantic island, or how we landed on ancient Triquet. As Rod Sterling might have narrated,

    They were looking for transcendence, and they found it ... in the Twilight Zone.
     
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  15. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    As nice as the Serpent site was, and as much as we'd have loved to spend the day exploring in the Hakai area, discretion is the better part of catching the Last Ferry of the Summer, so we packed up and headed north to make sure we would be on the right side of Superstition Point tonight.

    We had calm conditions, no wind and little swell, as we crossed Kildidt Sound into the Kittyhawk Group. The water in Brydon Channel was like glass. The photo below is actually flipped vertically so the reflection on the water is at the top of the image.
    [​IMG]

    This whole area is pretty much ideal for leisure kayaking. There are a million little islands and protected routes, and lots of subsea life (including a vast patch of anemones looking like nothing but a field of Aloo Gobi). I began to feel a twinge in my hip that felt like a muscle tear — a war-wound from yesterday's battle that became more and more persistent as we paddled.

    Even in calm conditions, Superstition Point is a bit of a bear. Clapotis and confused seas, and larger waves than the surrounding areas, no matter where you turn. Fortunately, it's a pretty short traverse, and we fought through it just fine. My hip cried out at every stroke as we cruised into the big yellow sand beach at Cultus Sound. I'd hoped we might end our day at the north end of Hunter Island and maybe spend Thursday doing a loop through Gunboat Passage, but I needed to give it a rest or I'd have trouble getting to the ferry. After lunch and coffee, Jon set off to do some exploring up the sound while I set up the tent in a beautiful glade and pottered around doing not much of anything at all.

    [​IMG]

    Besides the strategic location, it's easy to see why Cultus Sound is a popular site. It's got a lot of amenities, a lot of room for groups, a big sand beach, and it's well protected.

    [​IMG]

    It was the buggiest of our camps on this trip, home to little midges, but they weren't too bad, and we didn't have any bugs to speak of anywhere else so the comparison isn't really fair.

    Jon paddled up to Kinsman Inlet, where he found some entertainment riding back and forth on the little rapid there. He says the rapids were friendly and fun and easy to paddle against the flow around high tide, with the current still in the direction of tidal flow.

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    He also found some good clear water from a stream there. Triquet water for comparison:
    [​IMG]

    We spent a quiet evening watching the waves splashing on the rocks out in the sound and the tide gently lapping at the beach while we discussed our mistakes of yesterday. The biggest error we made was that both of us had our charts folded so that Superstition Point was near the fold, so we couldn't get a good visual sense of the layout of the area. We were also definitely not prepared for the charnel house of energy that was concentrated in the Superstition Point/Swordfish Bay area.

    [​IMG]
    Serpent Group to Cultus Sound, Sept 12, 2018: 16 km
    (does not include Jon's side-trip to Kinsman Inlet)
     
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  16. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    No alarm and a leisurely start to the morning. Extremely mild conditions at low tide through the islets and passageways of the McMullin Group, and lots of Undersea Gardens–type stuff to peer at. My hip felt a lot better after its rest day.

    [​IMG]
    I bet this bright little fella has some good ideas

    In a calm channel we met with a raft of otters, who were kind of — but not very very — concerned about our presence. They would poke their heads up and scout us out and bide their time til one of them decided we were too close, then they'd all splash and paddle away in a big group for a few dozen yards, then hang out for a while and do it all again.

    A solo outlier swam within a few feet of Jonathon before he realized this big red thing was about to attack him and took off.

    Currents in Sans Peur passage were strong enough that we'd have preferred them with us instead of against, but no big deal. We headed out into dead calm seas to the Prince Group, where I was hoping to find the supposed campsite on Robert Island to take some photos and do a site condition report for the BC Marine Trails website. We rounded Robert Island completely, and even did some land-based scouting and bushwhacking, but didn't turn up any evidence of anything usable. The Prince Group has some nice rock formations and some pictographs. The stench of something large and dead was on the air.

    [​IMG]

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    Over lunch we'd discussed our options for the night. Jon was much in favour of staying at Soulsby again rather than taking our chances with an inferior site up the channel, and I was easy to convince. We traded kayaks for the afternoon so I could check whether my discomfort was potentially due to a poor fit with my Mariner II. Jon's Mariner XL definitely fit me better. It was a little less responsive, but paradoxcally easier to steer, harder to edge but I could edge it more confidently. It feels more like sitting "in" a boat rather than wearing one around your hips. The II is a performance boat that demands a lot of its captain, and I'm not quite athletic enough to get the best out of it. I'm definitely going to look at getting something more along the lines of the XL*.

    We rode the currents through the tiny channels north of Dodwell Island, including one that would only be passable at very high tide.

    Back at Soulsby Camp it was an idyllic evening, with cloud hats on the mountains that had been obscured by weather on our previous visit.

    [​IMG]

    Jon found a large crab on the upland trail, dropped by a bird or mink maybe. It was still alive — barely — so we returned it to the water... but the poor fellow didn't make it. We found a west-facing lookout where we watched the sun set on the most placid scene, with a quarter moon in the sky and a couple of sea lions snorting around off the rocks. We finished the last of the beer, the last of the sherry, the last of the scotch... and the last of the summer.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Cultus Sound to Soulsby Camp, Sept 13, 2018: 21km

    *I've since bought a Mariner Max, the newer version of the XL. As of this writing, the Mariner II is for sale — contact me for details.
     
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  17. stagger

    stagger Paddler

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2015
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Calgary, AB
    September 14: It was a long night, full of restless city dreams, all social anxieties and nothing of nature in them. We had a leisurely breakfast and listened to the wolves greeting the morning on Hunter Island. Sea lions were playing in the channels, and we saw grebes and scoters enjoying this dull, calm, beautiful morning.

    [​IMG]

    It was beautiful paddling up Hunter Channel. We saw a whale blow in the far distance, near the entrance to Campbell Lagoon. A yellow boat came by carrying a young family from Vancouver. They asked us if we'd seen any whales or otters, and we did our best to direct them. The guy took a great photo of the two of us, but I can't seem to find it anywhere.

    German Point was staring us in the face seemingly FOREVER as we clawed our way up the channel.We caught a bit of sideways weather coming out of Lena Channel, which was both expected and annoying, but it turned into a nice tailwind that gave us a push from behind all the way to McLoughlin Bay, where we were greeted by a young eagle making quite a ruckus. We initially landed to the north of the terminal, then scouted on foot to find the actual landing spot, which is basically right under the ferry ramp. The worker at the terminal said "I didn't think we had any kayakers left out there!" and I responded that we were just doing some tidying up and making sure all the lights were off.

    [​IMG]

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    We packed just the light stuff in the kayak hatches (so we didn't stress our hulls) and loaded the rest of it onto the luggage carts. It was a long, dull wait in the little terminal as we re-entered modern life, picking up the emails and texts from the past few weeks, charging batteries, and seeing other humans. No question: running water and flush toilets were very welcome, and the showers that awaited us in Port Hardy were keenly anticipated (and no doubt considered very overdue by our fellow passengers). As the ferry barrelled down Fitz Hugh Sound, it was weird thinking we were passing on the other side of everything we'd just experienced (just over a mountainous island), whizzing past at 30kt instead of 3, with luxury seating and hot meals served.

    For large chunks of the voyage I stood out on the deck just to feel the air on my face, good and cold and real.

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    Soulsby Camp to McLoughlin Bay, Sept 14, 2018: 17 km

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  18. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2016
    Messages:
    56
    Thanks for the entertaining and somewhat nostalgia inducing report.
     
  19. chodups

    chodups Paddler

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2005
    Messages:
    939
    Wow stagger,


    What an epic trip report. I want to tell you how much I appreciate the effort you put into writing this up in such an entertaining fashion. You have provided vignettes for trip planning data, for those who are looking for it, embedded in brilliant and sometimes self-deprecating narrative. A great story! I find trip reports in prose so much more enjoyable than bullet points and recognize the work that you put into it to make it happen. Additionally, you did it twice. Once in your blog and then again here on WCP to accommodate the site’s request who prefers no external links. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! Thank you so much.


    I have some questions and comments:


    The shoreline south of Superstition Point is abrupt and prone to creating rebounding seas that extend far off shore. I can envision a situation where the entry to shelter behind Spider is missed due to conditions. It can get very busy there. Not a celebrated section of route but experienced by many. Likewise the outer shore of Spider can get nasty. Blowing past that whole section and ending up at Triquet is understandable and told in a humorous and personal manner. Folks need to note on their charts that just because Superstition is in the review mirror their concerns are not.


    You gathered water at Triquet. Where did you find it? I know it’s there but I wouldn’t expect it to be great, although it sustained Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv for over 14,000 years. Where did you gather it?


    Is Simon First Nations? I have never seen the Heiltsuk or any First Nations build beach architecture on their territory. Cabins, yes, but beach furniture, no. I’ve seen signs but not tables and chairs. Just curious.


    A bit that totally slayed me and I hope to shamelessly steal from you in the future:

    You said: “Eventually we got some heat going, and our wet gear began to off-gas, a pungent guys-and-brine aroma that assaulted us anew every time we exited and re-entered the cabin. If we'd been clever, we'd have washed our paddling gear before hanging it to dry, but nobody accuses us of being anything besides daft.“

    You probably have to have lived in wet gear without a bath or laundry to appreciate this sentence but I do. It’s a brilliant piece on your part and unless you call bullshit right here and now I will steal this and use it as if it my own. Ask Philip Torren. He’ll tell you that this is no idle threat. Nice work.


    You said: “We finished the last of the beer, the last of the sherry, the last of the scotch... and the last of the summer”………..A fitting way to spend the last night of an epic kayaking journey.


    Thank you for sharing!
     
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  20. a_c

    a_c Paddler

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2014
    Messages:
    27
    The Iliad & The Odyssey of trip reports!

    The prose are downright....Homeric.

    Well done.
     
    chodups likes this.