The Paddler's Inn to Powell River, Part 1

kayakwriter

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August 10, 2013

We'd spent four lovely days at the Paddler's Inn on Gilford Island. It was our second time there, and we can't recommend it enough - Bruce and Josée go out of their way to make you feel at home. But today my wife got on Bruce's boat for the ride back to Telegraph Cove and I slipped my kayak in the water to paddle homeward.

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My first day's travel took me through Tribune Channel in an arc over the north and east sides of Gilford. It was one of the few days on my trip both wind and current were steadily with me ̶ I even got to sail for a short time. As I'd hoped, I made the campsite just inside Kumlah Island for the first night. Supper was pretty fancy ̶ fried strips of a steak that had kept by being frozen at the Paddler's Inn, with instant mashed potatoes.

August 11, 2013

A brutal launch on a falling tide, through sunken trees covered in barnacles and oysters. I paddled through low cloud for the first part of the morning, then had to battle a strong wind and white caps on the starboard quarter as I crossed Knight Inlet to Minstrel Island. I also discovered my sprayskirt, which had served me faithfully for many years, had chosen now to starting leaking through the seam joining deck and tunnel. I shipped an inch or so of water, but fortunately had my electric pump if the flooding had become destabilizing.

crossing to Minstrel Island resized.JPG


The campsite on Dorman Island suggested in TWC3 looked brutal of access at this stage of the tide, and a bit gloomy, so I backtracked to a midden I'd noticed on the north side of The Blow Hole between Minstrel Island and East Cracroft Island. A few minutes work with my handsaw (the area had already been logged) cleared a site for my tiny tent.
midden camp, Blow Hole passage resized.JPG


August 12, 2013

Another brutal launch through nature's own razor wire ̶ rocks and sunken trees covered in oysters. I got to the tidal rapids at the S/E end of Chatham Channel ridiculously early, and had to wait three hours for them to turn my way.


As I paddled past the appropriately named Burial Cove, I spotted a boat on fire. A fishing guide in a runabout suggested this was simply some local's way of disposing of a no-longer wanted vessel. (Environmental regulations sometimes are more of an urban concern than a reality in the outback.)
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Not long afterwards, I landed at one of the prettiest campsites of the trip - the shell midden at Whitebeach Point.

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August 13, 203

The launch down the clean, steep beach at Whitebeach Point was the easiest so far, and the day started off with low cloud and calm waters. A Great Blue Heron reluctantly took off and flew down the shoreline ahead of me, complaining, presumably that I was spooking the fish.

By noon, I was fighting both countercurrents and headwinds as I made my way east along the north side of Johnstone Strait. By the time I reached Blenkinsop Bay in the early evening , I was tired and felt I'd done a fair day's work. The land around the bay had been logged, but it had a sandy beach, a border of trees and upland camping (nice during this near full moon period of spring tides). It wasn't until after I'd unloaded all my gear and begun to explore that I found fresh bear tracks and scat. I waffled ̶ I had little energy and couldn't remember any alternate site nearby. The solution turned up literally at my feet: a lost map case on the beach, with a campsite indicated on nearby Yorke Island. I'd had it marked on my map and entered in my GPS, but it had been hidden by a fold in my chart and a lapse in my memory.

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I set out in the evening calm, not encountering any of the tide rips shown between the bay and Yorke Island (though there were some good eddies and upwellings in the shallow waters between Fanny, Clarence and Yorke islands). On a point at the N/W end of Yorke, I spotted a gun emplacement left over from the WWII installation there. As I drifted round the point, I nearly ran down a pair of seals, who promptly crash-dived.
gun emplacement from seaward.JPG

surprized seals resized.JPG

Even with the aid of the GPS, I only just found the well-concealed landing site. Soon I had my tent set up well above the tide on a flat, grassy upland, and was eating FD Cuban Coconut Rice and Black Beans (hearty peasant food) in the dusk, in that sweet, contented trance that comes from hard work and knowing you have a safe camp with a day off tomorrow.
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bedtime on Yorke Island resized.JPG


August 14, 2013

A good day to have taken off. The wind and rain came strong from the S/E. I had a cozy pancake brunch behind my tarp ̶ rigged as a wind-breaking lean-to. Later, in the company of four older yachties who had landed in their dinghies, I explored the ruins of the WWII complex. Lots of buildings. It must have had quite a garrison in its day.

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August 15, 2013 My Dinner With Bruno

Up at 6. I paddled through calm waters and under low cloud up Sunderland Channel. Headwinds developed by the time I got to Althrop Point, which made me call off a planned visit to the head of Forward Harbour for grizzly watching (I'd also seen a sight-seeing boat deke rapidly in and out of the Harbour, which made me believe there were no grizzlies about).
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I got through Whirlpool Rapids just after 16:30 hours, then had to fight a headwind. I could duck out of most of it by hugging the shore down Wellbore Channel, but not while crossing Chancellor Channel. As a result, it was after 20:00 hours and dusk was falling when I reached the campsite just north of Solitary Mountain. I was delighted: there was a large, level area of soft duff for my tent, in upland safe above the highest tides, and even a backcountry kitchen counter ̶ a driftwood plank set across two log stumps.
the view from the almost perfect campsite.JPG

I got my tent up, my mat inflated, and my sleeping bag laid out. I'd just poured boiling water into the pouch of freezed-dried Sweet and Sour Chicken, and was back in the tent stuffing my pillow bag, when I heard the crack of a breaking branch and a series of roars from beyond the kitchen. Investigating by headlamp, I spied a shadowy black figure a few feet up a tree. Only his gold eyes were clear, reflecting the light's beam. He was huffing and howling aggressively, so I fired two bear bangers, making sure they landed and went off between me and him (folks have been known to land them on the far side of a bear, stampeding the frightened animal towards them).
unhappy bear.JPG


[youtube]


The results were not what I'd hoped: instead of running away, the bear shimmied further up the tree, from where he alternated threatening growls with whimpering and hyper-ventilating. On closer inspection, I could see he was no cub, but also not a full-grown adult. A yearling, perhaps. I hoped his mother wasn't within range of the cries, ready to go Momma Bear on anyone she thought was picking on her special snowflake.

So I did the only sensible thing: I sat down and ate my dinner. Now why would opening a package that smelled like Chinese take-out be a good idea in the circumstances? Because I saw a lot more paddling in my near future, and I hadn't eaten since lunch. Energy-wise, I was utterly tapped out.

As I ate, I talked to the bear in the same reassuring tone you would use with a scared dog you thought might strike out in fear. I continued our "conversation" as I struck camp and reloaded my boat ̶ making sure to retrieve the two spent bear banger cartridges (just 'cos you're doing a midnight bug-out is no reason to be a litter bug). Bruno's contribution to the dialogue was limited to huffing and whining, but that was OK ̶ it let me know he was still up his tree, and that was where I now wanted him to stay until after I'd sailed.

By the time I launched about 23:20 hours, it was raining. I normally love night paddling, but I prefer it to be across familiar waters to a familiar destination. In this case, I was crossing unknown waters under a dark sky, utterly committed to an unknown campsite that I was guided to only by GPS.

As if in compensation, the bioluminescence ran brilliantly. Each stroke of my paddle spawned glowing galaxies that whirled off behind me. My bow wave was a bright green-yellow arrowhead. Periodically, fireworks went off in the depths as schools of minnows darted under my boat, with the occasional bigger rocket as a predator pursued them. Whole dramas that were concealed beneath the reflecting surface by day were highlighted on this night.

At first, I was guided mainly by the vague loom of the hills on the east side of Loughborough Inlet (to preserve my night vision, I didn't keep the screen of my GPS lit constantly, firing it up only every several minutes.) But as I cleared Tucker Point, the slow, reassuring blink of the Lyall Island light hove into view, and gave me a constant reference angle.

I spotted the stacked lights that identified a tug with a tow coming westward toward me down Chancellor Channel. In my haste, I hadn't packed my usual night running light in an accessible place, and I wasn't sure my headlamp would be visible in time to do any good. But a few minutes assessment with the angle on the bow technique assured me I would pass well ahead of him. I doubt he was ever aware of my presence.

I had a few scary moments when the wind blew up. Doing the paddling equivalent of a stumble and fall against oncoming waves held no attractions miles from shore and in the path of an oncoming tug. Fortunately it blew through quickly.

I landed at ten to one in the morning, to find a beach that was obviously going to be submerged by the high spring tides. The only above-water option was a lumpy rock ledge I dubbed Camp Barnacle. I anchored my tent internally with bags of gear and jammed every soft item I wasn't wearing into the crevices under my sleeping pad to get it more or less level. For all its faults, I slept better here than I would have if I'd stayed at the other camp. I bet Bruno did too.

August 16, 2013

Not having got to sleep 'til after 2 in the morning, there was no way I was going to try to make the rapids at Greene Point today. My tiny strip of beach was sloped, windy and wet, but bear-free. I had a leisurely breakfast, washed and watered up from the creek. I inadvertently scooped a salmon parr in my water filter bag, and released him as way undersized.
Camp Barnacle.JPG
 
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kayakwriter

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JasonInSeattle said:
Cool pictures; inspiring for me! That Paddler's Inn looks like a nice place...
Yup, I highly recommend it. Thanks for the kind words. And for reminding me I should get the second part of this trip report up (assuming there's any interest in it).
 

kayakwriter

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Dan_Millsip said:
kayakwriter said:
(assuming there's any interest in it).
Of course! (fixed the videos for ya).
Thanks both of you for the encouragement. And Dan for fixing the vids. I'll try and get Part The Second up this week.
 

AM

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Jan 30, 2006
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Vancouver
Awesome write-up, great photos and vids. Thanks for sharing your adventures. And it's great that your wife lets you find your own way home!

Cheers,
Andrew
 

kayakwriter

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Kayaking Chemist said:
Nice meeting you at Paddler's Inn. I'm looking forward to your next installation of your trip report.
Thanx KC. Nice meeting you too. Final chapter is up now.
 

natgeo

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Dec 4, 2012
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Kalamazoo, Michigan
I always enjoy a Phil Torrens trip report! Thanks for emailing me the links. :D

Pretty crazy experience with the bear and subsequent night paddle. I might have taken my chances with the bear, although the bioluminescence would have been amazing!
 

kayakwriter

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natgeo said:
Pretty crazy experience with the bear and subsequent night paddle. I might have taken my chances with the bear,
Yeah, well, for reasons you're well aware of, I have issues with bears. They're my Issues and I'll own them :)
 
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