Kyuquot Sound, Vancouver Island, BC 1-11 June 2016

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by alexsidles, Jun 14, 2016.

  1. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    I've been gradually working my up the west coast of Vancouver Island over the past year or two, doing week-long trips in the various sounds that indent the coast. This month, I reached Kyuquot Sound in the northern half of the island, just south of the Brooks Peninsula.

    The Brooks Peninsula has such a fearsome reputation for adverse weather, I just had to visit by kayak and see if it was as bad as everyone says. I also hoped to see a few sea otters while I was at it. I just love the idea of the sea otters forming safe little colonies in remote parts of the coast, living out their little lives far away from human populations.



    What I found exceeded all my expectations. Not only was the Brooks Peninsula totally accessible, even to a non-surfing paddler like me, the sea otters were everywhere! I must have seen hundreds of them over the week and a half I was in Kyuquot Sound. Their babies were out, nursing and playing, and they looked every bit as safe and happy as I'd hoped.

    The weather was mostly cooperative. It was raining the first couple days, as one expects to see on the west coast from time to time. The second day was windy enough that I took a weather day at Rugged Point, the only time I did so on the trip. Most of the time, the weather was sunny, even hot.







    Although a lot of the paddling was exposed to ocean swells, Kyuquot Sound and Checleset Bay have a string of small barrier islands offshore that prevent the worst conditions from reaching the paddling waters. I was able to cruise on peaceful, flat water through the various archipelagos, and even in the open portions, I simply bobbed gently up and down as the swells went rolling under me. Far from being scary, I found the conditions to be serene and beautiful.

    The wildlife was also spectacular. Altogether, I saw 53 species of bird, which is pretty good for summer. The summer months are a bit of a bird desert on the coast—the overwintering birds have all migrated north, so we lose most of our seabirds and waterfowl. We gain warblers, flycatchers, and swallows, though, so there are compensations.

    Counting two species I saw on the way from Seattle to VI, I saw nine species of mammal: Eastern Gray Squirrel (Seattle); California Sea Lion (Str. of Georgia); Harbor Seal; Sea Otter; Stellar's Sea Lion; Mule Deer; Mink; Black Bear; Gray Wolf.

    The sea otters were concentrated around the Mission Group, although small numbers were present everywhere on the trip. From Lookout Island, I saw a baby sea otter nursing at its mother, then diving down to the bottom and retrieving an old clam shell. Then the baby tried striking the clam shell with a rock like the adults do, but the baby was using a tiny little pebble. Between the inadequate rock he was using and his weak little arms, he couldn't break the shell! All he could do was make a funny, fast tap-tap-tapping! Eventually, he gave up and resumed nursing.






    It's hard to say what part of the trip was my favorite. The Brooks Peninsula was as beautiful and remote as I'd imagined it, but the various archipelagos were also wonderful. I love the kind of water maze feeling you get when you paddle through a dense cluster of islets, and there were excellent water mazes in the Missions and Bunsby groups.






    CONTINUED IN NEXT POST
     
  2. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    Water was not exactly hard to find in Kyuquot Sound, but it wasn't always very convenient. After deciding that Clanninick Creek would be too much of a hike to get upstream of the saltwater, and choosing to skip the village of Kyuquot with its municipal water source, I tried finding water on the mainland near Mount Paxton. Landings were difficult and rocky, but I finally got ashore near a stream marked on my map, only to discover that in the hot summer, the stream had dwindled to a mere thin trickle, almost unusable. It wasn't until I landed on the Brooks Peninsula that I found a convenient, reliable source of water.






    The Brooks Peninsula was so beautiful I spent two days there, wandering the sandy beaches, rock formations, and trails through the forest. The landings were definitely exposed, but in such calm conditions, it was easy both to get ashore and to launch again. With no one else around, I spent hours listening to the waves and reading on the sand.






    I made a point of camping on different islands on my way back than I had on the way up. In a week and a half, I saw every major region of the Kyuquot Sound region I wanted to, but it would take months to fully explore every nook and cranny.

    The only place I met other people was on Spring Island, where I encountered a pair of women hiking in the forest. The rest of the time, I had every island and beach to myself. The only folks I saw were in passing fishing boats, and north of the Bunsbys, I didn't even see those every day. It was wonderful to be alone in such a wild space.

    The only damper on my enjoyment of the sound was the enormous logging scars visible on all the surrounding mountains. Industry has really done a number on the west coast! I hope the money they got from cutting these ancient, beautiful forests was worth it—if we stop logging the west coast now, it will be the 25th century before we see forests like the ones that were lost, and I'd hate to find out the money had already been spent and forgotten long before that. Surely that wouldn't happen, right?

    Even the ugly scars of man's greed could not ruin such a beautiful place. I drifted slowly back down south through glossy waters, kelp beds, and otter rafts. On the last day, the rain clouds rolled in again, welcoming me back to Fair Harbour the same way they'd seen me off. Camp hosts Sherry and Marcus greeted me warmly at the launch point, and generously let me camp in the tarp shelter one last night before beginning the long drive home.






    Kyuquot Sound proved to be one of the most beautiful places I've paddled. With the solitude, the wildlife, and the scenery, it has become a new favorite of mine. I think it must be one of the finest places on earth. I look forward to visiting again someday.

    Alex
     
  3. Kayak Jim

    Kayak Jim Paddler

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    Looks like a great trip and a fine photo record of it. Thanks for sharing.
     
  4. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    Thanks for a great report!
    Cheers,
    Bryan
     
  5. Tatlow

    Tatlow Paddler

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    Alex, top notch report. Your experience of the wolves matched ours in the area. Did you get close to the 2 fallen totem poles? If not, then next time eh.
     
  6. LAM

    LAM Paddler

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    Thank you for posting your trip report to Kyuquot Sound Alex. Doug and I are headed there this coming Saturday for 8 nights. I was already pretty excited about the trip but after reading your report I can hardly sit still! Now we know where not to look for water! Great pictures!


    Lila
     
  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Great report, Alex. :big_thumb
    Thanks!
     
  8. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Superb job, man. You really painted a picture for us.
     
  9. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Excellent report -- and fabulous photos. Thanks.
     
  10. tiagosantos

    tiagosantos Paddler

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    I'm always excited when I see a new trip report from Alex. Never disappoints, thanks for posting Alex!
     
  11. Rodnak Kayak

    Rodnak Kayak Paddler

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    Alex, As usual, a great report of a fantastic looking trip! One question, as there is a group that headed out to do a shoreline cleanup this week. did you see much flotsam and Jetsam, and what portion was Japanese in origin, if you could tell. I wonder if the tsunami is still leaving its entrails along this coastline. Although what you show does indeed look quite pristine.
     
  12. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    Thanks for the very kind responses, everyone.

    Tatlow, I did not know about the fallen totem poles. The guidebook I used to plan this trip was Peter McGee's Kayak Routes of the PNW Coast, which was very helpful but did not have the level of detail of, say, a John Kimantas atlas. I'm sorry to have missed the totem poles; I really enjoy seeing old relics like that.

    Lila, you're going to have a great trip. Most of the wildlife I found in the vicinity of the Mission Group—though that's also where most people were, too.

    Rodnak, all the beaches had considerable amounts of jetsam, mostly plastic fishing floats and plastic water bottles. The concentrations were the worst on the beaches most exposed to the ocean, but trash was present everywhere. I try in my photos not to show ugly things like garbage and logging scars, but if I'd wanted to, I could have shown a lot of waste piled up on the coast. I'm very glad to hear that folks are out there doing cleanups—I suspected that might be the case, because I noticed that beaches suitable for landing kayaks actually had less garbage than the inaccessible beaches, which made me think someone was cleaning it up. Other than a few beer bottles and cans, I saw no evidence that kayakers or other outdoorsmen were responsible for the trash pileup. I can't say for sure whether the Japanese tsunami was a big contributor. Judging from the English language text on the floats and the water bottle labels, I believe the majority of the waste is coming from North America.

    Alex
     
  13. pawsplus

    pawsplus Paddler

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    What an amazing trip. And gorgeous pix. :)
     
  14. mbiraman

    mbiraman Paddler

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    Great trip report Alex. Wonderful pics. Beautiful shot of the wolf. Looks like you had a real good time , congrats.
     
  15. chodups

    chodups Paddler

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    Alex,
    Great report! Tell us more about the wolves. Did they go through your camp at night? How many individual wolves did you see? If several did they all come close or only one or two individuals.
     
  16. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I must be the only person here who doesn't think it's excellent when wolves exhibit little fear of humans and regularly approach within 40 feet (or closer)??
    :yikes:
     
  17. Seasider

    Seasider Paddler

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    Great report and I agree, it doesn't get any better on Vancouver Island. Did you see any puffins?
    Did you use a free topo site for the maps? And how did you get the small info boxes and arrows to display on the map?Thanks- I'm not too computer savvy.
     
  18. chodups

    chodups Paddler

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    I must be the only person here who doesn't think it's excellent when wolves exhibit little fear of humans and regularly approach within 40 feet (or closer)??
    :yikes:[/quote]

    I didn't say that I thought it was excellent. Like you, I am concerned. I am used to having them sniff around my tent at night but approaching within 40 feet, face-to-face concerns me. I want to learn more.
     
  19. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Sorry, I didn't mean to imply you thought it was excellent. I was posting the first 'negative' comment, and worded it awkwardly.
    (BTW, this isn't the first report here at WCP that's given a positive account of near interaction with a wolf.)

    From the 'Living with Wolves' page:
    http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livewith.wolves



    A lot of people don't realize that a fixed stare from a predator is not 'neat, awesome, really interested and curious', but aggressive.

    I want them to trot away when they realize I see them. I'd definitely avoid any campsite where unafraid wolf behavior was reported.
    When I want to bond with a wolf (distant, very distant) relative, I have a dog to pet! :big_thumb
     
  20. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    For the map he shared above, dollars to doughnuts it was a screen shot from here https://mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php? ... &z=11&t=t2 or other way of visualizing the same data. The fancy arrows and text boxes were likely added in that high-end software, MS Paint. :) That happens to be just at my level of tech-savvy.

    The website https://mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php is great for planning. In the top right corner there are two menus. One lets you choose from a variety of images or maps - such as the scanned paper maps as shown in the earlier link that I pasted, or the newer digital version of the topos, or satellite images. The ability to switch between the views is great. The other menu contains some tools, such as a tool that lets you trace and display a route. I like it for measuring route distances.

    Cheers,
    Bryan