Kennedy River - Meares Island - Flores Island - Tofino

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Alex050560, Mar 2, 2016.

  1. Alex050560

    Alex050560 Paddler

    Feb 12, 2016
    Here is my August 2012 (better late than never:) travel to the Tofino area with a super-light “Pike-2” inflatable kayak.

    Why inflatable? Because I live in Saskatoon and do not want to spend 4 days of my vacation driving my Corolla to Tofino with a 5 m hardshell on the roof. And a round way flight to Victoria plus a Tofino Bus ticket cost me approximately the same as I would have spent on gasoline, plus extra vacation time, plus safety… Above all there is a liability policy of many kayak rentals no to allow solo kayakers for renting their boats.
    A few words about it – she was born in Russia (so as myself) 10 years ago and is 14 feet tall and only10 kg in weight (well, some 11 kg with a homemade strap-on rudder and minor modifications). Very simple by design, yet reliable, durable, and easy reparable – a dream of any survivor. May look a bit ugly to a snob, however… More info is here

    I have travelled with her a lot on rivers and large lakes in Russia and then northern Saskatchewan, so I trust her to keep me safe in the ocean as well. Although I am not a fun of solo kayaking, I could not find a partner that time and so had to travel a solo nolens volens.
    To make a long story short, I jumped to Tofino Bus in Victoria and enjoyed the views of Vancouver Island for 4 hour. The driver has kindly agreed to drop me off on request in the lower stream of Kennedy river (well before Tofino), and my adventure began…

    Day 1. My first minutes on the water.

    Some rapids are ahead – there were 2 or 3 of them, not serious at all... After two hours of paddling I came to a nice campsite spot, at small bay behind the bridge. It was full of salmons spawning. In the evening two guys came to the beach with their fishing rods and tried to hook some fish using a barbaric tool - kind of lead weight with huge bearded hooks. When I surprised if it’s allowed in BC to fish salmon like that, they just smiled and said something like “We do not need a permission from anybody for our traditional fishing…” Fair enough. They spent some 2 hour fishing, yet without any success… Good for salmons!

    Day2. Rain and wind from W. Entered Kennedy Lake (nicely curved log at the entrance), and then paddled through rainy fog ~15 to the Clayoquot Arm – an amazing narrow lake ~10 km long, NE from the Kennedy Lake, surrounded by steep, high cliffs (alas, everything higher than 30 m was hidden in the fog). Many bald eagles were staring at me from dry trees.

    I broke my camp at the very end of the Clayoquot Arm, at the Clayoquot River mouth. In the evening I noticed several seals in the lake, pretty far from me. Apparently they swam almost 20 km from the sea after salmons. Many salmons were staying in the river preparing for spawning. I did my best to invite salmons to share my supper, but no one has accepted my kind invitations. Probably they have already heard some bad news about people… :)

    Day 3. Still cloudy, but no rain and very calm. I turned back to Kennedy Lake, and soon entered the channel connecting Kennedy lake with the sea. A man on the bridge asked me if I caught any salmon, I answered “no” and he said “Oh, good for you, I am a conservation officer.” Well, good for me – I am a lamb…:) The channel looks and feels like a lazy river. I passed it through in ~2 hours, and (with all my ignorance) got straight into the exit rapids. Fortunately the tide was not very low at the moment so my boat “kissed” several big boulders at a good speed, but with no consequences – just jumped between the stones like a rubber goose… Right below the rapids I got into a narrow channel between picturesquely overgrown cliffs (the photo faces upstream so the rapids are seen too) …and suddenly a curious seal reminded me that I arrived to the ocean. It was almost 5 pm, and I made my 3rd camp in a nice forested site nearby

    Day 4. I tried to get some salmons from the bay, yet again they did not want my lure. I left this place at 11 am and paddled NW toward Meares Island, then northward along the island coastline. Met more bald eagles on my way…

    I stopped overnight on Kirsaw Islet – a tiny place with just enough space for one tent on a smooth granite platform above the high tideline. The platform has some 10 degree inclination, so I had to place a big log under my feet to stop my body from sliding down:) The place is overgrown with a kind of wild onion (or garlic), which made a good supplement to my poor dinner. I use to take minimum food supply with me to be well motivated for use of wild resources. Nevertheless, I had some pasta, dried bread, fruit bars, etc. - altogether 5 kg - not a small amount of food for 14 days, in terms of nutrition value, yet sometimes it makes life a bit boring… :)
    The night was foggy and very calm, except for some small crayfish-like creatures (Isopoda) who went from the sea and climbed my tent up and down making specific noize.

    Day 5. The morning was foggy, yet showed me amazing rainbow through the fog. I tried fishing, but did not succeed again. I walked along the tide line for a while and found a many starfish (some really huge and multi- leg) and two medium-size crabs The starfish were pictured and let alone, and the crabs were caught, boiled and devoured mercilessly.. :|

    I tried fishing again, now from the kayak, and ended up dropping my fishing rod into the water! It sunk like an iron leaving me VERY upset. I doubt if this desolated islet has ever heard SO many sophisticated Russian curses related to the place, myself, and the universe as a whole…. Meanwhile the fog has gone, and opened a breathtaking view for me that culmed me down and finally restored peace in my soul…I continued my way eastward and then northward, along the Meares Island coastline, In the Metleset Narrows, I faced a strong tidal current (~ 5-6 kt) so I had to stop for early lunch, and then continued my way trying to keep my boat between the kelps and the shore where the current was weaker (and counter-currents also helped me to move forward in some places). In a few hours I passed Meares Island and Saranac Island, and then crossed ~ 4 km of open water to Morfee Island. There I faced was a good wind with whitecaps that made me a bit tired, yet without much troubles. When I approached the Catface Mountain, I suddenly felt the long and slow ocean swell for the first time during my trip. Fortunately, this part of the shoreline is sheltered by scattered islet and I saw no problems with landing. I followed the shoreline northward for ~ 2 km, and stopped for camping on a very nice sandy beach rimmed by picturesque cliffs.

    Day 6. Another foggy morning with some drizzling. The place was so comfortable and I still felt a bit overworked, so decided to give myself a day-off and spend a lazy time there. The weather got much better in a while. 10 large mussels with some pasta and coffee made me a perfect breakfast.

    The mussels were fat and juicy, and some of them even offered me pearls (not sure however if the value of the pearls is comparable with my dentist fee...:) I took time to dry my stuff, adjust my kayak, and walk. Meanwhile my ropes were visited by an elegant garter snake. Maybe he (or she) was looking for mating to start a generation of self-tying ropes…

    Day 7. It was fog as usual in the morning that quickly disappeared later in the day. I first paddled westward to Bartlett Island, circumnavigated it, and turned toward Flores Island. There were many picturesque islets on the way, with photogenic pine trees, cliffs, and micro-fiords.
    The nearest Cow Bay at Flores Island is known for its whale watching – grey whales are very common there. I knew that it’s forbidden to disturb them by approaching them closer than 300 m. Yet it’s not forbidden (I believe) for them to come to me. So I looked for a while to their fountains, figured out their way, went toward supposed rendez vous point, and swamped my kayak in a spot of kelps. And yes, they came to me (or for me?)… WAY closer than I expected! One of them even dove under my boat and I watched his whitish body (triple size of my boat) swimming 3 meters under me and… WOOFF! Suddenly sprayed me with its stinky fountain from the other side of my kayak… Oh my God! My heart probably was beating 200/s!

    …After such a burst of emotions I have to had some rest in an amazing cove nearby, before paddling further northward along Flores Island. I met two other grey whales on my way again, but my ability to percept and digest new emotions was completely depleted… So I did not spend much time with these two. Just took a standard “whale tale” picture. I camped on the beach at the NW side of Flores Island. There was breaking swell of 1-1.5 m and I was a bit overexcited by whales and emotionally tired, so underestimated the swell and was punished by capsizing when landed – unpleasant, but not too dangerous incident as it happened ~20 m from the shore. The beach looked lonely and unattended: I found almost no signs of human presence. So I did sleep very well at night, yet listening any suspicious sound (and the ARE many suspicious sound in the night if you are vigil enough… Yet, the morning showed no suspicious footprints around my camp.

    Day8 . The water in the morning was very low, yet with some surf. I was VERY accurate now, so passed the surf zone without any problems. I paddled northward for ~ 2 hours and I arrived to the Hot Spring Cove at about 9 am. I found nobody there, yet very soon I saw a hydroplane landing, and some 10 people appeared in 15 min. The hot water running form the cliffs is rich of sulfur and really hot (~ 60 C) at the source, then it is cooling down while running down ~100 m to the sea, with a series of natural “hot tubes” on its way. It was also very nice to sit in the sea water near the hot creek inlet and feel the warm water buttering your body, while the sea added suddenly very cold waves…
    I’ve enjoyed the hot springs for some 2 hours, and then paddled North and then East along Flores Island. In 30 min I felt that bathing in hot mineral water may have a VERY tiresome effect. My heart was beating like a crazy, and I could hardly move my paddle in the water! I had to stop in a tiny protected bay on Flores Island for a nap. So be careful with hot springs…!

    I continued my way for a while and camped in a sheltered bay on the eastern side of Flores Island, with a nice view to the passage. Wolf’s songs waked me up in the midnight (yes, there are wolfs on Flores Island). Apparently, the wolfs were pretty far from me and they sang rather melodically, but my ape’s nature got very worried, so I could not sleep well..:)

    Day9. I woke up in the morning feeling recharged and free from any fear. A pod of dolphins came to greet me. I continued circumnavigating Flores Island. The water was mirror calm at the beginning, but later in the day when I turned West, I had to struggle ~15 knot front wind. It was not an easy job with my inflatable boat, yet not extremely tiresome: apparently my body got accommodated to paddling… A young bald(?) eagle greeted me near McKay Island. I passed Ahousat and camped at Gibbson Marine Park.

    Day 10. I gave myself yet another lazy day to sleep, walk on the beach, take photos, etc. The place looked well attended and well maintained. There is a very nice 20 km “nature trail” along the shoreline. Many posters warn about wildlife and in particular wolfs, yet in favour of the latter…:) I even made a selfy there (not an easy task with a DSLR) I was going to replenish my fresh water supply from a creek ~3 км from my camp and paddled there, but the creek was flooded by high tide far upstream, so all the water in it was brackish. Yet I got some photos of picturesque wind fall, brave sandpiper (what species?), and yellow banana slag from there.

    Day 11. I got my water from the same creek next morning. The water stayed low that time, yet I had to walk about 500 m upstream to get real fresh water. I started paddling SSW toward Bartlett Island, but met grey whales again and could not resist this invitation for free whale watching. Again, I swamped my boat in dense kelps and watched the whales lazily. In the beginning they were diving some 50 m from me, and then came closer and dove, snorted, and fountained intensively around my boat, however never entered my spot (apparently they avoid dense kelps). It WAS amazing…I even took a video:
    I camped on Whaler Islet near Bartlett Island. The islet is some 400 by 70 m, with sparse fir trees and black basalt cliffs on both ends, sandy beach on the sides, and the grassy ridge on the “back” All together it looks - somehow - like a whale… Large Isopoda (see above) climbed my tent again at night. Now I knew them, and loved them for their archaic shape and peaceful temper... The views from Whaler Islet are literally breathtaking….

    Day 12. I wanted to circumnavigate Blunden Island and then visit some islets West of it for the sea lion colony, but… the weather decided that she was too kind to me. Near Blunden Island, I was well splashed by a couple of white caps, so I stopped on a tiny islet nearby to wait for a better weather. The west wind, however, tended to increase so I had to escape eastward to Vargas Island “riding” the white caps downwind rather than facing or (much worse!) “cheeking” them. It was fun. Looking for a campsite, I noticed a very narrow passage between the cliffs and managed to snake through it with a big wave. It suddenly led me to a mini-paradise with a tiny beach and a soft, plane grassy spot just the size of my tent. The mini-cove was so well sheltered that I felt no wind at all, and only heard it whistling through in the trees…

    Day 13. I wanted to get to Blunden Island again, but it was very foggy with visibility no more than 30-50 m. Tide was out completely, but I packed with and started no problem toward Blunden Island by GPS. In 30 min of paddling through dense fog toward Eurasia, the wind stared to gain speed and I felt so uncomfortable that I turned back sharply paddled (again by GPS) NE toward Tofino, targeting the strait between Vargas and Meares Is. In half an hour the fog disappeared and I found myself near the north end of Vargas Island – exactly where my GPS told me I was. In 2 hours I landed on a long and wide beach near the east cape of Vargas Island. It is only 5 km from Tofino, so frequented by kayakers and other boaters. I camped there along with a big group of kayakers (5 doubles) and even bigger shoal of scouts (8 canoes). Yet, the fog returned in the evening and I saw no one on the beach after 5pm
    Before the fog came, I had a chance to take photos of a sea hawk fishing…

    Day 14 (the last). Fog in the morning as usual. Everyone including me packed and paddled to Tofino. In one hour, however, the fog has gone and Tofino met me with full sunshine. So I was lucky to dry up my rubber girl for a couple of hours before packing. I stayed overnight in the Tofino hostel (Not cheap, but VERY good!), and early in the morning jumped to Tofino Bus to Victoria… It was a good trip.

    Thank you, BC! Thank you Vancouver Island!
  2. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

    Jan 19, 2015
    Landlocked in Tennessee
    Great report! I love reading these. Sounds like a truly amazing trip. :) And your boat is very cool!
  3. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

    Apr 28, 2010
    Saskatoon, SK
    Hello from Saskatoon!
    Great report Alex. I love the photos and the sens of humour. We will have to get together over coffee again and share some trip stories since it has now been a few years.
    Bryan Sarauer
  4. Alex050560

    Alex050560 Paddler

    Feb 12, 2016
    Hi Bryan, glad to hear from you. It's funny that two Saskatonians contact through the West Coast forum... :)
    I've got a new boat now (again inflatable), paddled it on Churchill River couple of times, and had tons of fun!
    Going with it to Broughton Islands this July (crossing my fingers). Sure we have to meet for coffee and talk, call me 306 371-5424 anytime or send a message to my private box here or on <>
  5. Alex050560

    Alex050560 Paddler

    Feb 12, 2016
    Thanks a lot for your appreciation of my trip and my girl :D
    Although I have another model now, I use the old one whenever the weight is a factor. Ten kilo is ten kilo...
  6. kayakwriter

    kayakwriter Paddler

    Feb 27, 2006
    Thanks for the great report Alex. I've paddled several times in that area (though not from Kennedy River/Lake). And never in an inflatable. And we carried a much greater quantity and variety of food - for us, catching fish or harvesting shellfish was a bonus, not an essential part of our diet. But then we must be decadent North Americans:)
  7. Alex050560

    Alex050560 Paddler

    Feb 12, 2016
    I only take minimum food supply when I travel alone, otherwise there is a good chance to spoil relations with your friend(s) forever. Alas, our mood depends too much on our stomach, so all my partners/kids become stupid idiots (softly speaking!) when I am hungry :) And surely they feel the same about myself...
    As to inflatables - their main trade-off compared to hardshells is somewhat lower speed and compromised hydrodynamics. They are not intended for wave surfing, rolling, sophisticated slalom, etc. Their main niche - hidden spots that are only reachable by ATV or bike, or on feet. White waters up to grade 3 are OK for most of them. Also they are very good on long portages, especially when travelling solo - you can simply deflate your 14-16' boat and carry it in a back pack. And (last but not least) - you can easily travel by regular public transport or even hitchhiking (maybe) and do not need to finish where you start. It gives you a bit of freedom and independence - and what is more valuable in the modern world, eh? :)