Paddlers' Inn (Little Simoom Sound) to Owl Island, to the Fox Group Islands, and back to the Paddlers' Inn.July 25 - 27, 2012
Our trip begins with my wife and daughters, and a friend each of my daughters joining me in the Broughton Archipelago while I'm here for the summer giving a hand to a friend, Bruce McMorran, who owns the Paddlers' Inn. I had arrived 3 weeks previous to their arrival and had done a bit of paddling but not a lot in the time I'd been here already.
I'd been wanting to explore the islands along Queen Charlotte Strait for some time and since my daughter Maddie was here with her boyfriend, I figured it would be a good opportunity to do one last trip with my daughter before she heads off to university. So Maddie, Marshall and I planned for a three day of exploring and camping. Maddie has done extensive kayak camping but Marshall had never been wilderness camping before but he'd been out in a kayak a few times on day trips with Maddie.
On our first day we decided that we'd paddle to Owl Island and camp there -- about twenty-four or so kilometers away. Marshall was ready for adventure as we loaded our boats on the dock with Maddie giving him packing tips. Just as we had all the boats packed and ready to go, a pod of dolphins chased a school of fish right into the bay, mere feet away from where we were standing! The breakfast feeding lasted about ten minutes and the dolphins were off to find the next school of fish and we were off to adventures in the Broughton.
Shortly after leaving the Inn, Bruce passes us near the end of Baker Island in his charter boat, Buffer Zone Too.
As we made our way down Cramer Passage, we stopped at a small bay about two kilometers east of Shoal Harbour where an abandoned float house was blocking the view to a very nice little beach at the back of the bay. The floathouse was in a bad state of disrepair and was starting to sink. There are a few abandoned floathouses in the Broughton as people walk away from their dreams of living off the grid. Life in the Broughton has changed immensely since the booming days of logging and fishing. Those jobs are no longer and the community in the Broughton has declined from a high of about 300 in the late 80s to a handful of about a dozen people who live year-round in the Broughton. Living here is tough if you don't have any income and there are few jobs to be had. As a last sad tribute to a once-thriving community, you may see a few broken down buildings on half-sunken log floats in a small number of bays as you explore the vast expanse of the Broughton Archipelago.
The beach at the back of the bay:
After a quick look at the bay and the floathouse we continued along Cramer Passage towards Health Bay.
An eagle keeps watch over us as we pass by:
We stopped on an outcropping of rock just northwest of Health Bay in in Mede Bay.
Maddie and Marshall checking out the marine life at the shoreline:
Limpids and barnacles:
A powerboat motors past -- this one looks like it would make for a nice kayak mothership:
Our "non-powerboats" on a skinny little beach:
Health Bay. We paddled past quite slowly but saw no one. Other than a few lights on in a few houses, the place looked deserted. Maddie saw a door close as we approached alongside one house. We were kind of hoping that we would see someone there that we could talk to and find out a bit of history about this place and First Nations in the Broughton but it wasn't going to happen today.
From Health Bay we followed along weaving around a small group of islands and islets before crossing over Spring Passage towards Midsummer Island where we came upon this huge cliff that was plastered with some sort of white covering -- which turned out to be cormorant droppings.
Zoomed back a bit to show how large this cliff is:
Fish farm in the bay near the passage between Cedar and Midsummer Islands:
Arriving at Owl Island we stopped at the north campsite -- a nice spot that is fairly developed for camping. There was a couple on the beach as we pulled up so we talked with them for a short while, mostly about the campsite, where they've been, where we've been, where we were all headed -- typical campsite chatter but all the while something seemed familiar about this couple. I then asked them where they were from and when they said "Kelowna" it all fit into place. I had sold them their kayaks when I worked at Western Canoeing & Kayaking a few years ago -- and not just sold them their kayak but also delivered them to their home in Kelowna. Small world. We all had a good chuckle about this and then Maddie and Marshall and I headed off to the south campsite on Owl Island.
North side campsite on Owl Island:
We had an idea of the location of the south campsite on Owl, having been told that it was in a deep bay -- we paddled into a bay that seemed promising but could not see anything that resembled a campsite -- this, in addition to a less than stellar beach indicated that we were probably in the wrong location so paddled out of the bay and continued to the next bay which seemed even less likely a location. So we backtracked to the previous bay and took a closer look -- sure enough, nestled within the trees was a campsite, and while not perfect, the rock covered beach wasn't so bad as there were no barnacles on the rocks. The campsite here is quite nice and can accommodate six or seven tents easily.
As we set up our camp, I asked Marshall if he'd brought any of the beer that we had at the Inn. He looked at me with disappointment and said "no". I couldn't believe that he forgot the beer. A beer would have been a great end to paddling all day and then setting up a campsite. He thinks he was disappointed but I was really the one that was disappointed -- just because the beer wasn't on our trip list doesn't mean that it should be omitted. And after all, even though he's been Maddie's boyfriend for over a year the need to impress your girlfriend's father is always paramount -- this should never be forgotten. Ever.
Panorama of the south bay from the campsite:
Looking out the bay towards Hanson Island and Vancouver Island:
Maddie reading on the beach at the campsite:
A short while after we arrived the view out the bay changed drastically:
The campsite guardian at Owl Island south:
Maddie and Marshall making friends with the campsite protector:
Early morning at Owl Island south campsite:
The beach at low tide:
Marshall taking a piece of wood over to Maddie to use to slide her boat in the water. What a guy.
Looking toward Swanson and Surge Islands as we leave the south campsite bay:
The Columbia III cruises past us. I've seen advertisments in kayak magazines for this vessel:
Every time I've been in the Broughton on a water taxi I've gone past this group of rocks called White Cliff Islets on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait -- I always thought that it would be a cool place to stop so on this trip we stopped here:
Not a lot of places to get out on White Cliff Islets:
Where in the world is your tooth brush. Maddie's orthodontist's office is having a contest for photos of customers with their toothbrushes in exotic or unusual places around the world. Maddie chose to have her toothbrush photographed on the edge of Queen Charlotte Strait.
Indian paintbrush on White Cliff Islets:
After leaving White Cliff Islets we paddled toward Canoe Islets.
Rhinocerous Auklets were in abundance on this morning, flying about a foot off the water at great speed -- it was really cool as a whole flocks zipped past only metres away from us as we paddled across the calm water.
A Golden Eagle flies overhead:
After crossing over Queen Charlotte Strait from White Cliff Islets we zig-zagged our way through the islands east of Bonwick Island:
A couple of bald eagles high above:
Maddie with all her ducks in a row:
A small beach in a bay east of Bonwick Island where we stopped for lunch -- you can see Maddie and Marshall on the rock in the background. A really beautiful spot:
The view from our lunch location:
The kids enjoying the view:
A magnificent view out across Queen Charlotte Strait from our lunch spot:
Marshall chillin' on the natural rock chaise lounge:
Just before leaving after lunch we noticed this Feathercraft double kayak enter the bay. We'd talk with the fellows in it later in the day -- one was from Ontario and the other from Alberta -- these two guys have been doing paddling trips all over Canada's north for years and decided to paddle the Broughton this year for a change of scenery -- they were most impressed with the area.
As we wander through the islands to the west of Bonwick Island, fog rolls in.
The fog stays just ahead of us the whole way and lifts completely for the rest of the day.
After passing along Bonwick Island, we paddle amongst the islands and islets west of Mars Island before heading in the passage between Mars and Tracey Islands.
The passage between Mars and Tracey Islands:
After passing by Mars and Tracey Islands, we head south to the Fox Group Islands.
A popular anchorage for power boats nearby the Fox Group is Waddington Bay, located on the east end of Bonwick Island.
At the campsite on an island in the Fox Group -- it's a beautiful site located on the largest island in the south western corner of the group of islands. Not much of a beach at high tide but it's really nice when the tide is out a bit.
Maddie and Marshall go for a swim in wet and drysuits.
Tent sites at the campsite. There's probably room for five or six tents near the campsite and a few more if you're comfortable with going back in the bush a bit.
The kitchen setup at the campsite:
I took a hike on the island -- lots of tall skinny trees -- and lots of blow down.
Maddie and Marshall chillin' after dinner at the camp fire.
The next morning we'd backtrack a bit and head back past Mars Island to Insect Island.
Gulls against the fog.
As we approached Insect Island Marshall was about 400 meters ahead of me, and Maddie about 300 meters ahead of Marshall. Just as Maddie gets to the southern most tip of Insect Island I can see her waving her paddle and shouting at Marshall -- there are dolphins -- a whole bunch of them and they're feeding on fish within meters of where Maddie is sitting in her kayak. I hurry up my pace and can see that Marshall has done the same but before he's halfway to Maddie the dolphins all leave Maddie and make a line straight towards Marshall. The swim past him at mere meters away and then head straight toward me! They're coming amazingly fast and I'm hurrying to get my camera out before they get to me -- I learned the lesson a couple of years ago that it's better to take video than it is to take photos of dolphins so that's exactly what I did this time and got some pretty good (but not great) footage of about 8 dolphins swimming past me about twenty feet away. I tried to anticipate where they would surface as they went past me and figured it would be just behind my right stern so I aimed my camera there only to have them surface about ten feet away on the other side! Amazing how quickly it all happened and of course, since I had my camera trained on empty water to my right, I got no footage of the dolphins amazingly close to my kayak (I'll post the video I have when I return from the Broughton next month). It was so cool.
Approaching Insect Island. If you look closely, you can barely make out the dolphins on the right of centre in the photo.
We arrive at Insect Island to find the two fellows we met the day before in the Feathercraft talking to another couple who were camping at Insect Island -- who also had the exact same Feathercraft double kayak. They seemed pretty engrossed in a Feathercraft discussion so I quietly said hello and paddled past and made my way to the passage between Insect and Baker Islands.
Making our way between Insect and Baker Islands:
A small island on the north side of Baker Island -- it's pretty obvious that the winter winds blow fiercely through this area.
We stopped to stretch our legs a bit in a bay on Baker Island.
Across from us on the other side of the bay was a guided group who had also stopped for a rest.
Marshall poses for a photo on the north side of Baker Island.
Getting back in our kayaks for the last leg of our journey.
Stopped at Echo Bay for an ice cream bar after a fabulous three day trip.
All in all, we covered a fair bit of territory in three days and saw lots of really fantastic scenery. We were fortunate to have sunshine for two out of three days -- something which always makes a trip seem better. And this being the last trip that I do with my daughter before she heads off to university made it seem that much more special that it already was. This is such a beautiful part of the world and to share it with my daughter was a special treat for me.
So how did Marshall do on our trip? Aside from the major blunder of forgetting the beer, he paddled 24 kilometers the first day, 22 the second, and 21 on the final day. For a first kayak camping trip I think that's a pretty fair distance to paddle. He didn't complain once and he mostly kept up to Maddie the whole way. He gathered fire wood, hauled boats up and down beaches, set up his own tent and gear, AND he offered me a beer as soon as we got back to the Inn. I think he did alright.
For additional information about the Paddlers' Inn, visit the website at http://www.paddlersinn.ca