Kyoquot Sound and Environs
The Kyoquot area on the west coast of Vancouver Island is truly spectacular - rich in cultural artifacts, natural beauty and wildlife. This year we had the opportunity to spend over a week in this glorious area, starting at the base of the Brooks Peninsula, then over to the Acous Peninsula, down to the Bunsby Islands, into Kyoquot itself, and, finally out to Rugged Point. It was an exceptional trip in many ways, and the best kayaking trip we've done so far. There were seven of us on the trip - Maren and myself, our friends Robin and Peter (this was their first kayak trip of more than a few hours), my brother Byron and his daughter Melissa, and his friend Glen. We'd arranged for transport of our group from Fair Harbor to the base of the Brooks so we could do the trip as a one way paddle and see more of the area. We were not to be disappointed! What follows are excerpts from the journal I kept on that trip...
June 28-July 9, 1995
We got a little bit of a late start and didn't leave the Seattle area until about 4:15. We met Robin and Peter at the Arlington exit of I-5 around 5:30. It was an easy border crossing, and we were in line for the 8:45 ferry around 7:30. The ticket clerk had realized Robin and Peter were with Maren and I, and put them behind us in the overheight line. It looked pretty funny to see this little CRX with a big kayak on its roof, in line with all these RVs, semis, and SUVs! While we were waiting we took some pictures - first one of me with Maren and Robin on either side of me - I joked that this was a picture of my dream vacation! Then Peter had his turn to stand between the two ladies. Maren and Robin decided to defer having a picture taken with just the two guys, because their dream vacation would include many more than just two men! The crossing took longer than usual; in the middle of the crossing they had some maneuvering drills to practice, so we didn't get into Nanaimo until around 11:15. We hadn't looked closely enough at our map of Nanaimo, and ended up heading north when we should have gone south to find our motel. Once we got turned around, and headed back south, we were able to find The Highlander, and got checked in around midnight. The Highlander was just what I expected - clean, quiet, not fancy, and reasonably priced. Perfect for a place to sleep, which is all we needed.
After quick showers in the morning, we grabbed breakfast in a little coffee shop just north of the Highlander. Peter insisted on treating for breakfast to thank us for inviting them on the trip. I really felt like we were getting just as much out of the arrangement as they were, but it made me happy that they were so pleased to be coming along. We headed north to Campbell River around 9:30, where we stopped for gas. We made a quick stop along Keta Lake for a lunch break, and then in Wass for one last gas fill up, and to make sure we knew where we were going. The store clerk there also told us that because of the hot weather, all logging operations had been stopped, so it was unlikely that we'd have to dodge any of the huge logging trucks, which was a bit of a relief. We left the paved road just beyond Wass and drove the logging road to Fair Harbor. We passed some beautiful waterfalls that we thought were feeding the Zeballos River, and a beautiful jade colored lake. We arrived in Fair Harbor around 4:30. Robin and Peter had driven faster than us, and were parked overlooking the water. The spot they were parked on had obviously been used as a camp site before, but we thought we might be able to find something a little more pleasant, and maybe a little less "industrial". We also wanted to fill our water bags with fresh water, and had been told we could get water from a waterfall a short ways up a logging road a few hundred yards back. We drove up the road to find water - it was pretty rough, and we had to take it very slowly. Robin and Peter had been following us, but we didn't see them once we headed past the waterfall. After five or ten minutes, I decided that there wasn't going to be anything up here worth seeing, so we turned around and headed back down. As we came back to the waterfall, Robin and Peter were using a small black pipe coming off of the waterfall for a shower. We stopped and chatted with them while they cleaned up, and Maren decided she would be next. She undressed and gave me her clothes and glasses to hold while she washed up. Part way through her shower, I heard Peter yell "There's a bear!" I immediately ran over to see the bear and called out "Hey, it's just a cub, I wonder where the mother is?" leaving poor Maren standing there in nothing but her Tevas! I got an earful for that - deservedly so - mostly because I left her without her glasses with a bear cub, and maybe its mama, around! After Maren had finished her shower, and I took mine, we discussed whether Peter and Robin should walk back to their car, which they'd left at the beginning of the really rough part of the road, or if they should ride back with us, just in case mama bear was around. We decided that the bear had probably run away, so Robin and Peter ended up walking back to their car, but we tossed their filled water container in our truck and followed them very closely, just in case. We then drove down to see if we could find a better camp site than where we had been initially, and on the way Robin and Peter bumped into Byron - they were able to figure out who he was right away - a red Subaru with two kayaks on the roof, hmmm...must be part of our group! We wandered through the camp grounds, and decided that the spot we had already parked at in the parking lot was better than any of the other spots, so we set up camp there. The four of us did a test pack. All our gear fit. Peter's and Robin's didn't. I had kept stressing how much room these kayaks have (which they do, really), and Peter and Robin had packed food accordingly. They ended up leaving almost half of their food in their car, and some of their bulkier gear, like Peter's pillow. After dinner, Byron and Glen moved their tent across the parking lot to a grassier area, while Robin and Peter and Maren and I set ours up facing out towards Fair Harbor, behind some shrubs. We got some sleep that night, but there were people driving in and out, stirring up dust and hitting our tents with headlights most of the night. A much busier place than I was expecting.
Got all packed up and lazed around, waiting for Rupert to arrive. Rupert Wong, and his girlfriend Wai Ling got to the dock about 11:15 - nice aluminum boat, with Y-shaped supports on the back for holding kayaks. We got everybody's gear loaded, cars re-parked, and headed north. We stopped in the village of Kyoquot to try and get tribal permission to visit the islands we were going to be paddling through, but due to the Canada day weekend, no one who could give us the permission form was available. We wandered through a little bit of the village, then got back in the boat. Warren, one of the Indians, pulled up in his boat behind us and wanted to know if we'd like to buy a salmon - he had a 20-30 pounder, and only wanted $20 Canadian for it. It was just too big, though, so we passed. We continued north, and stopped for a bit to watch our first sea otter. We eventually arrived in the cove just outside Columbia Cove (or Peddler's Cove to the locals) where Rupert dropped us all off. While we were sorting gear and looking for tent sites, another couple paddled in in home made wooden kayaks. We chatted with them briefly, inviting them to stay, but telling them about the white sand beaches we had seen on the outside as Rupert brought us in. They decided to continue on and find some privacy. After selecting tent sites and getting things set up, we paddled out and around our peninsula to check out a beautiful sand beach Wai Ling had told us about. Byron and Melissa paddled into another lagoon just north of us to try and find an overland trail to the same beach that was indicated on the charts. Glen came along with us, but turned back when we saw the beach we wanted to land on - this was going to have to be a surf landing! The four of us paddled to the extreme west end of the beach, and landed just behind a small rock cove. There was some shelter, but we still landed in 2 foot surf or so. Byron and Melissa had found the trail, and walked over to meet us, pointing out the fresh bear tracks they had found in the sand. There was a beautiful fresh water stream running across the beach, and we started following it inland, since Rupert had told us there was a waterfall about a 1/4 mile up from the beach. Byron stopped close to the beach and said he'd wait for us, but Melissa came with the four of us. We passed several beautiful pools, maybe 10-15 feet across and 10 feet deep. We decided to walk to the falls first, and swim later, so we left our towel and soap by one of the larger pools we passed. We eventually got to the falls themselves - absolutely stunning! About a 25 foot drop to the pool, which was about 20 feet across, and about 10 feet deep in the middle - the perfect swimming hole! The water was a bit bracing, maybe 55 or 60 degrees, but we all swam across the pool and stuck our heads under the waterfall itself. Still, after just a few, everyone was ready to get out. We worked our way downstream back to the beach, and filled our water bags just before we got back to the beach itself. Melissa and Byron helped us launch through the surf, and we paddled back around the point to our camp. After dinner we got to play "Throw the rope over the tree branch" to hang our food. I found an old iron nail that had been twisted into a circle, and was able to easily tie that to a rope and toss it over a branch. The branch really bent under the weight of the food - must have been 40 pounds total weight. We had our first beach fire, and Byron pulled out the harmonica for some serenading.
While we were eating breakfast, Peter pulled out his sling shot, which he had bought specially for this trip. He propped an old plastic jug against a driftwood log down the beach from us, and we all took turns shooting at it. The first time Peter hit it, he was using a rock with one very sharp end, and the rock stuck in the jug! It was an amazing shot! I was never able to hit the jug, although I came close, and Maren had the same luck. Melissa, however, hit the jug on her third try! What a great shot! After breakfast we paddled through Columbia Cove, and on towards Johnson Lagoon. We explored all the little inlets and bays along the way, and found another fresh water river running into the salt water. While everyone else landed at a beach with small surf, Robin and Peter paddled up the mouth of the river/creek to get water. After seeing the rocks we would have to climb over to get to the fresh water, we all realized that Robin and Peter's way was the most expedient, and we launched through the surf to join them. The tide was coming up rapidly, and I had to watch the kayaks so they wouldn't float away while everyone else gathered water from a little ways up stream. We continued on east and found a very protected bay to have lunch in. Peter waded into the water with his face mask, and did some "glass bottom boat" wading. Really kind of cool - you see a lot more stuff going on than you think. After lunch, we paddled out and around the point, and found a cave we could paddle into. It actually was a tunnel up to a beach, but there were enough logs blocking the way that we couldn't land. It was really cool to actually be inside a cave in the water, though. As we continued along the coast towards Johnson Lagoon we saw several other caves - they could very easily have been burial caves, but we didn't stop to land and check them out. When we got down to "Baidarka Cove" the wind had really picked up. Byron and Glen decided to turn back, but the four of us went on to Johnson Lagoon. The winds were only bad for a few minutes, then we ended up in relatively calm waters. The lagoon was filling at max current, so we didn't get too close, but it looked like a good 3 or 4 foot overfalls racing into the lagoon. The winds had died down a little when we crossed Baidarka Cove again, but when we came around the corner past the first cave we'd found, we got hit really hard - Probably 30 mph, gusting higher. The swell was fairly large, covering and uncovering lots of rocks. One wave deposited us directly onto a submerged rock that we hadn't been able to see at all. Fortunately, it was covered by kelp, so no damage was done to the boat, but Maren's legs were shaking so badly that the whole boat felt like it was vibrating. After crossing the cove where we had eaten lunch, things calmed down some, but there still were strong winds until we joined Byron and Glen just outside of Columbia Cove. Once in the Cove the winds died down nicely. Robin and Peter headed back to camp, while Maren and I went and explored the end of the lagoon that had the trailhead to the beach we had visited the day before. We decided to go back and take another bath, but we paddled back to camp first to see what everyone else was up to. Peter and Robin wanted to walk across to a pretty little pocket beach just on the other side of the point we were camped on, and Byron and Glen decided to join them. Maren and I paddled back to the trail head, and walked the trail to the beach. We saw some bear scat on the trail, and kept up some pretty inane chatter just to make sure we didn't surprise a bear on the way. When we got to the beach, the couple with the wooden kayaks, Mike and Julie, were walking along the beach. They were camped on the next beach over, and had found a very rough trail from their beach to this one. (Our trail wasn't great - North Cascades quality, according to Byron, but certainly passable.) We walked with them for a ways and told them about the waterfall. They hadn't known about that, and decided to walk up the stream to see it. They were from Fresno, and on an extended vacation - this was their second time on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and they were heading over to Robson Bight for whale watching after this, then up to Alaska via ferry, and a drive back down the trans-Alaskan and Canadian highway. Very nice couple. We came to the first pool in the stream which was where we were going to bathe that day, and they continued up to the waterfall. Maren and I did a little laundry, and bathed and washed our hair. The water was cold, but the sun was hot, and by laying our clothes on the rocks, they dried out quite quickly, as did we. Maren had just finished getting dressed as Mike and Julie came back down stream, so we walked back to the beach with them. They headed back to their beach, and we headed back to our trail. When we got back to our kayak, the tide had gone out, and we had a 1/4 mile mud slog to get our boat floating again. It didn't take long, and wasn't too bad, except that our legs, just washed, got all salty and muddy again. At dinner, since the winds were picking up, we talked about trying to paddle south to the Acous the next day, rather than trying to get out to Clerke Point, which was too exposed now.
I woke up with a migraine, but everyone still wanted to move camp. I agreed that it would be a good idea, I just couldn't move very fast, or exert myself very much. Maren got us packed up, and we hit the water and headed back through Columbia Cove, to give us as much of a sheltered crossing as possible. I didn't feel too awful, and Maren said I was pulling my weight - it actually felt better to paddle than to just sit. The crossing went very well - the winds weren't as strong as we expected, and as we were starting the most exposed section we saw Rupert delivering his next set of passengers. We called him on the radio and let him know what we were doing, and asked him to keep an eye on us. He stayed on the radio and told us to give him a call if things got hairy and we needed help - fortunately we didn't have any problems. The charts for the area are incorrect as you approach the Acous - there's a passage between the first island and Vancouver Island, and a tombolo between the two islands, just the opposite of what the chart says. We saw some sea otters as we paddled, and I started feeling better by the time we stopped for lunch, just on the other side of the tombolo. It was turning into another warm sunny afternoon, and the trip was going wonderfully. We continued paddling into the Acous area itself, and stopped on the peninsula to see the totem pole that was still standing. We also found several house sites, some with wooden beams still laying across what used to be the clearing. We took lots of pictures, then piled back into the kayaks to find a camping spot. We paddled along the reservation lands, and found the mouth of the Battle River - another spectacular spot! We were able to paddle up it quite a ways, and where further progress was blocked, the river formed a wonderful swimming hole. The water was cold, but Melissa really wanted to go swimming, just not by herself. She asked Aunt Maren if she'd go swimming with her, and Maren agreed. I soon followed the two of them in, and Peter joined us as well, and we all splashed around for a bit, getting cooled off, and cleaned up in the process. After getting out, drying off and warming up, we paddled a little further down the beach so we were off Indian reservation land, and found a beautiful sand beach to camp on. Glen and Byron rigged a very elaborate pole for hanging their food on, using three guy ropes to steady the contraption. Peter and I used the much simpler method of just throwing a rope over a branch, although Peter used a couple of 'biners to help with the friction. I wandered way down our beach, and found a fresh water stream on the end furthest away from us. There was also an area that was obviously someone's permanent camp site, with space for split wood, a wood stove, tarps and such. That evening, we had a beach fire, and Melissa and I discovered that some of the kelp "floats", when dry, made great "poppers" when you tossed them into the fire coals. We decided we'd gather a bunch of them for the 4th of July and use them as our fire crackers. We got out the marshmallows that Peter and Robin had brought and everyone roasted some. Peter had his very first roasted marshmallow - growing up in Australia he had never roasted marshmallows! We spotted an otter in Battle Bay, and everyone took turns looking through binoculars watching him as he fished for his dinner, opened it up on his chest, and scarfed it down. The clouds were moving in, and we all set up rain flies before going to bed.
We woke up to rain. No one seemed real anxious to get up, but we finally all pulled on rain gear and made breakfast in the rain. When it looked like things weren't going to clear up any time soon, I got our tarp out to rig it so we could sit where it was dry. Between me, Maren, Robin, Peter and Glen, we had five engineers setting this tarp up - it turned out to be quite a well engineered solution! Glen climbed back in his tent, but the four of us gathered under the tarp, and just sat there visiting and looking out on the wet world. It was quite enjoyable. Eventually, the rain started letting up a bit, then the sun started coming out. We stowed the rain gear and warm clothes, and got the ready to paddle. As we were leaving for the day, we saw a power boat coming in with a couple of boats laying across it, and a few people aboard. Looked like we'd have company, as they were landing on the other end of the beach, where I'd found the spot for the permanent camp site. We paddled out into Battle Bay, and the first island we stopped at was an old burial island. After walking around a bit, we found a clearing right in the center of the island - it had an old mossy log across it, and sitting on the moss were three human skulls, one with the teeth still in. On one side of the clearing were several cedar "planks" that looked like they had originally been part of a cedar canoe. We met a German couple here, and chatted with them for a bit. They were seeing the west coast - they had flown in to San Francisco with bicycles and collapsible kayaks, and were just slowly working their way north. They were paddling a Klepper and a Feathercraft. Very nice folks - Melissa got to practice her German, and Byron and Robin managed quite nicely with it as well. They were heading north, so we told them about what we had found and seen. After leaving the island, Byron and Melissa started fishing, so the rest of us started exploring some little islands and reefs. We eventually worked our way to an island with a wonderful sand beach on its south shore for lunch. We ate and played "toss the pebbles into Peter's boots" for a while. There was a great tide pool to wade through with wonderful anemones, star fish, hermit crabs, snails, etc. I took some pictures of everyone sitting around eating, sunning and relaxing - they would have been great, I think, but I didn't have any film in the camera! After lunch, we walked around to the other side of the island and found some wonderful camp spots. We were talking about moving there the next day, but that didn't actually work out. We continued paddling back towards the Acous, and worked our way outside the barrier islands. The swell wasn't huge, but it was enough to get my attention. We saw several more sea otters as we paddled around. Eventually we headed back in, and Robin announced she wanted to go for a swim in the Battle River. We paddled back to find Byron and let him know what we were doing, and he showed us some of the fish Melissa had caught, which were now on the menu for dinner. The five of us paddled back to Battle Bay and up the river. The tide was a little higher this time, so the water was a little brackish - not as fresh as the day before, and there were a few jelly fish floating in our swimming hole! We all cleaned up, then paddled back over to the fresh water I had found the evening before. The folks who had come in that morning were set up there as a fishing camp, and had set up a dam at the end of the creek, with a plastic pipe to draw water from. Nice folks - friendly, but not overly chatty. Robin and Peter had had to go back to the river to get Robin's sunglasses which she had left behind - I did the same thing with my sunglasses where we were getting water from the stream. Eventually we all got back into camp, and Byron filleted all the fish he and Melissa had caught, including a good sized ling cod. Maren fried them up with "fish dust", and a fish feast began - quite tasty!
After getting up to another gray day, Maren, Peter, Robin and I headed up the beach towards the Battle River for a morning walk. We wandered along the site of the old potlatches, and looked for shells and animal tracks. When we got back, everyone decided it was time to move, so we broke camp and packed up for the Bunsby Islands. Robin and Peter and Maren and I paddled over to the fresh water stream to fill up before heading out. When Robin and Peter pulled up, one of the fisher folk offered them a beautiful salmon, which they accepted immediately! After filling all our water containers, we headed up the Ououkinsh Inlet, paddling along the shoreline, looking for other old Indian village sites. We made the crossing around Longback Rocks, and then headed down Gay Passage between the two major Bunsby Islands. We paddled around the island at the south end of Gay Passage and found some fabulous campsites on the peninsula stretching south. After some island wandering and tide pool hopping, everyone started making dinner. Byron butterflied out the salmon and built a cedar fire. Melissa gathered some ripe wild strawberries. Maren and I made up some pasta and rice. What a meal! I have never tasted better salmon! It took about 45 minutes to cook, and we could tell it was done when the skin facing away from the fire was warm. No turning needed, we just secured it in a couple of split cedar branches. Incredible. While we were eating, a sea otter swam into our little lagoon and played for our entertainment. We sat around the fire until late, with Byron playing the harmonica, and some of us singing along. A wonderful evening. The only thing missing were our "firecrackers". Since it had rained off and on for the previous two days, Melissa and I couldn't find more than a handful of the kelp floats that were dry enough to pop. We did toss those few on the fire, though, and that was our 4th of July celebration.
Nice weather today - got a little earlier start than the previous day. First, we headed out to an island that we had been told had a burial cave on it. We found the island, and the beach we were supposed to land on. The cave was obvious from there. From the entrance, we could see a lot of human skeletal remains, as well as two large pieces from a cedar bentwood box. After talking about it for a bit, we decided to walk back into the cave where we could see a small opening towards the back. Being careful not to step on any remains or artifacts, we twisted into the small antechamber. There were the remains of several more skeletons, including those of a child. There was also some pieces of a woven cedar mat, and some more cedar box parts. We took lots of pictures, but the only thing we touched was the cedar box parts, and then just to turn them over to see both sides. We tried to be very reverent. After leaving the island, Maren, Peter, Robin and I paddled out to some rocks a quarter mile off shore or so. The swell wasn't too bad, and we made the crossing without incident. Out by the rocks we started to see several otters and seals, and could hear some of the younger seals with their pitiful "Mom!" cry. As we approached a break in the rocks that would take us completely outside, what originally looked like a huge kelp bed exploded into dozens of sea otters! They were everywhere! Some were breaking shells open on their bellies, others were eating fish, and most off them seemed to be cleaning themselves and playing in the water. It was a fabulous sight! We continued paddling along the outside of these rocks, enjoying the light swell, and watching for more otters. When we got around the north end, we headed back for the outermost Bunsby Island. We paddled up the outside shore, giving the rocks a wide berth. Things were less protected here, and the swell was larger, and the surf was crashing and breaking on the rocks. We rounded the northern end, then headed down the passage just west of Gay Passage. We found Glen, Byron and Melissa in a lagoon just finishing lunch. They were headed over to the site of an old Checleset village, and we said we'd head there too, after eating lunch. We walked above the beach 50 yards to two small lakes, both with brackish water. An eagle circled over us, then thought better of landing by us and flew off. Peter pulled out his sling shot, and discovered how easy it is to skip rocks across a lake with it. He also got quite good at hitting an old dead snag in the forest across the lake from us. We traded deserts with Robin and Peter - we had some good chocolate bars, and they had a chocolate chip "cookie" cake they had baked up the night before. Yummy! After lunch, we paddled over to the Checleset village site. A trail climbs up from the beach, and you could see that the entire bank is midden. A small clearing is spanned by a squared off beam that was once a cross piece for a long house. It is now straddled by a cedar that must be 100, maybe 150, years old. It gives you a real feel for how long this place has been abandoned. After climbing up the trail a bit more, we came to a fairly exposed cliff climb that led up to fabulous views. We could see the coast we had paddled along before lunch, and we could look down on some beautiful green lagoons. Byron, Melissa and Glen were down paddling, and we took several pictures with the rocky coast in the background, Maren, Peter or Robin in the foreground, and Byron, Melissa and Glen paddling down below. A spectacular place. On the way back down, we stopped to talk to a Canadian family out from Vancouver for a long weekend. They were camped on the beach, and were curious about our Necky kayak, since one of the boats they and their two daughters were paddling was a Necky Tofino. We chatted a little bit about the area, and the logging that was going on. After getting back in the water, we met up with Peter and Robin, and proceeded to a lagoon that almost splits the middle Bunsby Island in two, near the north end. The tide wasn't high enough to paddle all the way to the back, but we did manage to get in quite a ways. After this, we decided it was getting late enough in the day that we should go look for water. We had gotten Byron and Glen's water containers, and had promised to return to camp with them full. The nearest water, according to the charts, was on Vancouver Island, so we paddled north, then headed east across Gay Passage and on towards the Indian reservation named Hollywood. We didn't find water where it was marked, but did find a small stream a little further south. I walked up into the woods a ways while Maren was getting water, and there was a clear trail that climbed up to the top of the ridge. It didn't look like it had been used by humans in some time, but was still definitely in use as a game trail. By the looks of it, it was originally made by people, though. We continued paddling south after gathering water. As we came around one bend, Peter and Robin were pointing excitedly towards the shore. There, walking back into the woods, was a full grown black bear! We all agreed that this was a great way to see such an animal - with 50 feet of water between us and him (her?)! After rounding the south point of the east Bunsby Island (where we saw a huge wooden spool washed up on one beach - must have been used for some kind of cable), we turned and headed back towards our camp site. Byron and Melissa were just heading in, and Glen was already back in camp. After unloading the boat a bit, and pulling it up into the trees, I grabbed our solar shower, which had been heating all day on the back of the kayak, and headed to the opposite beach to set up a showering area. I found a branch to hang our shower on, and a flat plank that had washed up on the beach to keep our feet out of the sand while we rinsed off. What a beautiful place to take a shower - warm water, cool breeze, and nothing but water and islands as far as we could see! We had another fire that evening, with fine clear skies, a small moon, and Jupiter and Mars both up in the SW.
Decided to head south today - Byron, Melissa and Glen paddled over to the "mainland" to check out beaches on their way down, while Maren, Robin, Peter and I took a more direct, and further out, line towards Thompson Island. We stopped a couple of times en route for Peter to take pictures of otters that were reasonably close. He had his 200mm telephoto on today, and wanted to try and get some "close-up" shots. We eventually paddled to Thompson Island, and found the tunnel through the island. We couldn't find a user-friendly beach, so we didn't land, being happy enough just to see the tunnel without needing to walk through it. We continued south, while staying out among the rocks. We found one reef with an opening that had a breaking wave working from right to left through it. Maren and I watched the wave for several cycles, then inched closer, and followed one of the larger waves through. It was quite exciting, but went very smoothly. Robin and Peter watched the opening as well, but opted to go out and around, rather than through. We continued down further south, looking for a beach that Rupert had indicated to us as a good camp site and having fresh water. We got to the bay we thought was the correct one, but at the end of the bay was just a gravel beach - no water. We stopped and ate lunch, then decided to head back north to peek at the beaches we had missed before joining Byron and Glen on Spring Island for a camp site. The second beach north from our lunch spot looked promising - a large hill of sand from the water appeared to drop suddenly on the back side, which is usually a good indicator of a river or stream behind the dune. We paddled towards one edge of the beach, but backed off at the last minute when we saw how steep the sand was, and how heavy the surf was. We could have almost certainly landed okay, but launching would have been tricky. Robin and Peter decided that they would try landing anyway, so we pulled back a little to watch them. The landing went fine, and when Peter got behind the dune he found a beautiful fresh water stream. Before waving us in, he climbed up and over a small rock ridge that led to the beach just north. He came back saying to go to that beach, there was much less surf, fresh water, and good access to the beach he and Robin were on now. We waited for them to launch, just in case they needed help. They came out bow first, Peter in front. Robin just jumped on the back of the kayak, her feet in the cockpit, and sitting on the deck. They paddled hard and fast to get through the surf, and managed a very nice looking launch, without getting soaked. Interesting technique! We all paddled around a rocky outcropping to the next beach and landed on the south end, where the surf was reasonably low. The beach was gorgeous! Black sand running up to a flat gravel area, just perfect for two tents. A large "swimming hole" of fresh water, spilling over the sand in a small trickle to the salt water, perfect to use for cooling bags of wine. Unobstructed views out to the west, and no sign of other camp sites. One of the prettiest spots we'd been. We started setting up camp and unpacking, and I gave Byron a call on the radio, telling him we were going to stay here tonight, and agreeing to call back around 7:00, just to make sure they were okay, and we were, too. After getting most of our camping stuff out, and putting the bags of wine in the small creek to chill, Robin and Peter headed over to the first beach they'd landed on to take a bath and get some fresh water. Maren and I stayed behind to keep and eye on camp, just in case little critters came around and were interested in our food, which hadn't been hung yet. We pumped some water and filled most of a 5-liter bag. I took some pictures of the camp site. We just sat around relaxing and enjoying ourselves. A while later Robin came through the bushes that covered most of the trail between the two beaches and said she and Peter would "watch for bears" if we wanted to go wash up now. We grabbed our shampoo, towel, and water bag and headed over to clean up. We finally found a spot in the river that was deep enough to kneel down in and wash - boy, was the water cold! I helped Maren get her hair wet, and lather up the shampoo. The water was so cold, I just couldn't force myself to dunk my head - I had to tip my head upside down, and just get my hair wet. After washing up, I walked upstream a bit, and filled our water bag again, just to make sure we had plenty of water. We then gathered all our stuff up and headed back for the other beach. Just before we got to the trail between the two beaches, Maren saw Robin and Peter climbing around on the rocks that created a headland between our two beaches. Peter was waving us over, and we figured he had found something interesting on the rocks, or in a tide pool. When we got within earshot, however, we could hear Peter yelling "Don't go back to camp - there's a bear there!" They had been sitting around camp, getting things set up, when an adult black bear had wandered out of the woods just down from where our kayaks were beached. They did all the right things - yelled at it, and threw rocks, but the bear came closer to them instead of being scared away. Robin had just put some sweet smelling curl treatment in her hair, and the bear kept raising its nose and sniffing, then heading in her direction. Robin and Peter kept backing away, and when the bear kept following, they finally just beat it out to the rocks, which they hoped the bear wouldn't be able to climb. We joined them out on the rocks, and climbed back around to see if we could get a view of our camp. From some high rocks we could see the kayaks and tents, and nothing looked amiss. We talked about what to do, and I remembered I had a can of bear spray in my backpack in the rear hatch of our kayak. We waited around 15 minutes more, just to give the bear a good chance to leave if it was so inclined. It was now 7:15, and I was guessing Byron might start worrying if we didn't make contact soon. Since I needed to make the radio call, and since I knew where the bear spray was, I volunteered to walk back into camp, and get those things. I walked very, very carefully, looking around each rock, and stopping several times, just to let myself really absorb the situation. I couldn't easily listen for the bear, since the surf right behind me was drowning out most sounds. I carefully worked my way to our kayak and pulled my day pack out of the rear hatch. The bear spray was there, still sealed in its plastic wrap. I unwrapped it, and decided this was a good time to read the instructions. I took the safety out of the trigger, and started to feel a little less scared. Then I grabbed the radio and turned it on to call Byron. I walked over towards our tents, and all of a sudden I saw our visitor. I would guess he was a 3 year old male black bear. He was sitting on a log on the other side of our swimming hole, maybe 30 feet away. The only thing that kept me from getting really nervous was the fact that the only way he could get to me was to cross a series of fallen logs, or to swim. Either way, I was guessing, and hoping, I could move faster than he could. I set the radio on the appropriate channel to reach Byron and called him. As soon as I started talking, the bear (we called him Sid, after a friend of Robin's whose only concern for her on this trip was running into bears) whipped his head around in my direction, poked his nose up in the air, and started walking along the log toward me. I quickly started backing away, explaining to Byron that we had a bear situation here, and letting him know that I was headed to higher ground, to improve radio reception! I got back out to the rocks where everyone else was, and finished describing our situation to Byron. He said he'd monitor the radio, just in case there might be something he could do for us. I told him we were talking over the situation, and would let him know what we were planning to do. First I talked to Robin, not knowing exactly how she and Peter felt about bears. I mentioned that I really wouldn't feel very comfortable on this beach tonight, and wouldn't mind moving on down to Spring Island and joining Byron, Glen and Melissa. Robin, to my relief, immediately agreed. Maren and Peter were a little higher up on some rocks, so I yelled at them that Robin and I were voting for packing up and getting out of here. They both quickly agreed, and since we had consensus, I called Byron back to let him know what we were going to do. The four of us talked about things some more, and it was decided that I was to "stand guard", focusing solely on watching for Sid, bear spray in one hand and the radio in the other. Meanwhile, Maren would pack up our stuff, and Robin and Peter would pack up theirs. I worked my way back onto the beach, and walked up to where I had seen Sid before. I couldn't see any sign of him now, so I waved everyone else down from the rocks, and they started packing. I walked over to the log that Maren and I were sitting on to pump water earlier, and saw the water bag, but the stopper had been removed and the bag was empty. I thought that was strange, and I asked Maren if she had forgotten to close the water bag after we filled it. She said she was pretty sure she had closed it, and walked over to the creek to check our wine bags. Both wine bags were also laying out without their stoppers on. We found one of the stoppers, and there were distinct bear tooth marks in it! This bear had seen our water and wine bags, had pulled just the stoppers off without bursting the bag, and had drunk (or in the case of our water, probably spilled) all the contents! One very clever bear, which made us no less nervous! We found two of our water bottles on the sand, both of which had also been munched by the bear. Apparently he was quite thirsty! The only other thing we discovered that the bear had damaged was Peter's blue foam sit pad. It had been folded in two, and the bear had taken a bite right out of the middle, leaving two matching holes in the pad. Apparently, the bear hadn't liked the taste, because right next to the pad were the two round pieces of pad it had bitten out. Peter thought this was pretty cool, and thought it would make a great bear souvenir! I continued to "patrol" up and down the beach, peering back into the woods as far as I could, keeping a sharp eye out for Sid. Everyone else packed as quickly as they could, and before loading the kayaks we moved them down the beach to an area that had as little surf as possible. Unfortunately, that area also had the maximal amount of sand fleas - there must have been thousands of them, jumping all over, getting into all of our gear. Yuck! Peter and Robin got packed first, of course, and wanted to know if they should wait for us or paddle out. I thought it would be better if I only had Maren to watch out for, so they launched through the surf and waited for us in the water. Maren finished getting everything packed, and we decided instead of launching through the surf, we'd push the kayak out beyond the surf, and then get in there. We pushed the kayak out through the surf, and immediately a wave broke over my cockpit, filling it with water. We waded out until we were almost up to our thighs in water before we were beyond the surf. I hopped in then, and closed up my cockpit. Maren, up to her thighs, was able to scramble in, and we were out of there. What little wine we had left we'd put into any available container that hadn't been broken by the bear, and when we joined up with Robin and Peter 20 yards off shore, they passed around one of their wine "bottles" so we could celebrate our escape! We finished off the wine, I pumped out my cockpit, then we radioed Byron that we were on our way. He described where they were camped on Spring Island, and said he'd keep an eye out for us to guide us in. We paddled back down the shore until we could see Spring Island, then headed across the channel. There was a fishing troller heading down the channel, but it looked like we were well across his bow, and I didn't think there would be any problems. Unfortunately, as we crossed the channel, he kept coming to starboard, keeping us right in front of him. I don't know if he was doing that to stay in the channel, or if he was just having fun scaring some kayakers, but we started paddling pretty hard just to get out of his way. Byron called on the radio, and said he'd tell us when we were lined up with the troller from where he was, so we could get a bearing on where they were camping. I was able to get a pretty good mark, and we finished the crossing and headed into the bay. When we got to shore, we had to tell the whole bear story to Byron, Glen and Melissa. Melissa was real disappointed she hadn't seen the bear, but I assured her that she wouldn't have wanted to see it in this situation. My big regret was that when I had first seen the bear I hadn't taken my camera, which was around my neck, and snapped a quick picture or two. We set up the solar shower, and all four of us rinsed the salt water off. After cleaning up, it was almost 10:00, and the four of us still hadn't had dinner. We set up camp, and started cooking while the other three headed to bed. They had pitched their tents back under the trees, while we were camped high on the sand beach. While we were eating, a mink scampered out from the woods, and ran all the way around the C-shaped beach while we watched. We all agreed that that was much more the size of wildlife we liked seeing up close and personal!
We got up late, and had a lazy breakfast. After breaking camp, we headed over to Kyoquot, paddling through Barter Cove first. We could see the white crosses on Cemetery Island, but didn't stop to land. We'd heard that some kayakers a while ago had actually landed there and dug up graves to remove the remains, so now the Kyoquot don't want you to land there. It's amazing how a few jerks can spoil so much for so many. We got to see another sea otter fairly closely. This one was definitely working on breaking open some shell fish. We stopped paddling and drifted towards it for a few minutes, just enjoying the show. When it finally submerged we paddled on towards Kyoquot. We got into the harbor and tied up to the government wharf. It was about 11:00, and the restaurant wouldn't serve lunch until 12:00, and the general store wouldn't open until 1:00, so we walked the dirt path that serves as the road for the town. We walked all the way down to one end, and Byron knocked on Miss Lucy's door to see if she had any craft work available for sale. She said everything she had was at the general store. Didn't end up seeing much there, though. We walked back the other way, enjoying all the gardens that had been planted in front of the houses, and stopping to watch an old man making a trolling pole out of a small cedar. We saw Miss Charlie, the adopted seal, in the harbor, and Melissa tried to get a picture, but she didn't move quickly enough. There were some great shots of Miss Charlie with the old man making the trolling pole and a couple of what looked like his grandkids, all playing together in the harbor. When the restaurant opened, we grabbed a couple of tables and pulled them together. The restaurant was decorated very nicely, with lots of exposed beams, and polished wood surfaces. The menu was simple - chicken burger or BLT. They also had coffee, tea or milk. It was kind of novel to use a flush toilet again, though, and to have hot running water! The meal wasn't awful, with really greasy French fries. Afterwards we walked over to the general store, and everyone bought T-shirts and jackets, and I bought and mailed some post cards. After shopping, we hopped back in the kayaks and headed for Rugged Point. The weather was cloudy, and some rain started, but only lasted for a few minutes. Maren and I paddled away from everyone else at the end of Amos(?) island looking for the supposed sculpture of a native on horseback on the south end of the island, as per the "Cruising Guide to the West Coast of Vancouver Island", but found nothing. We continued on the outside while everyone else paddled inside the islands, saving us a bunch of distance and time. When we got down to Kyoquot Bay, no one had caught up with us yet, so Maren and I paddled in to look around. A very depressing place - all heavily logged, with basalt right down to the shore line, leaving no good places to land. Maren's contacts started bothering her in here as well, and she got a little grumpy. We could see everyone waiting for us at the mouth of the bay, so we headed out. As we rounded the mouth we could see that they had all started crossing Kyoquot Channel, so we paddled out to join them. Byron and Melissa decided to do some fishing instead of heading in to camp, so the rest of us paddled around to the inside beaches, and looked for a spot with no people. The inside beach is really split into two halves by a rocky promontory, and we ended up landing and staying on the easternmost one, since there were only two other people here. The beach was beautiful, white sand, little surf, huge cedars behind the beach, and the sun starting to peek out. We rigged a tarp under one of the cedars, and set up some large logs to make a communal kitchen. Everyone was setting up tents when Byron and Melissa came in, and showed us their great fish haul for the day - lots of black cod, with a few kelp greenlings thrown in. We had one of the most fun meals of the trip that evening, with everyone contributing something. Glen made some wonderful jasmine rice, Maren and I made up some pasta in a garlic sauce, and added some white rice that Byron and Melissa had brought along. Maren cooked up the fish that Byron and Melissa cleaned. Everything tasted wonderful, and we washed it down with most of the remaining wine. We knew that the tide was going to be coming way up that night, so we played "guess the tide height." Peter drew a line from the water towards our camp, and everyone had a chance to mark where on that line we thought the tide would come to. Whoever came closest without getting their marker wet would be the winner. There's a great picture showing how clumped together our guesses were - the actual high tide proved to be very anti-climatic. No one even came close to getting wet! Byron was the closest to the water, so he won, but we were definitely hoping for a little more exciting finish to the competition. The high tide did bring a small group of dog fish up to the beach to snarf up the dead fish Byron had cleaned and thrown in the water. It was kind of exciting to watch this mini-feeding frenzy. I don't think I'd ever like to see it with full sized sharks while I'm diving. Just these little guys were pretty vicious. Melissa made up a wonderful beach fire again, and Byron sat down to tell Robin and Peter his Mt. McKinley story. I really should get that on tape some time. It's truly and epic, and I never get tired of hearing it. Each time, I pick up some detail that I hadn't heard before. Earlier, while Melissa wasn't around, he told the story of the time he and two of his buddies had gone to down town Seattle with $9.86 to find a lady of "ultimate accessibility". Amusing story, and the first time I'd heard that one! Robin and Peter got it out of him by giving him some of their remaining wine after he had run out. Before going to bed, Peter brought out his binoculars, and we took turns looking for Jupiter's moons. I saw two for sure, and think I might have seen a third, but it also might have been a star in just the right spot. We also looked at the moon through the binoculars - it's amazing what you can see away from the air and light pollution. It just turned out to be a wonderful evening.
Saturday started with a little bit of a problem. Byron woke up with a severe inner ear infection. As long as he lay still, he was fine, but if he tried to move at all, he got extremely, violently nauseous. He said he had gotten this before, and he usually just went on a series of antibiotics, and was up and around again in a couple of days. He tried not to make too big a deal of it, but this was definitely going to complicate things as far as getting back to Fair Harbor. After the rest of us had breakfast, we decided the best thing to do was just let him lie there in his tent for a while. We had wanted to take a walk to the outer beaches anyway, and this seemed like the ideal time to do it. We made sure he was comfortable, had plenty of shade, etc., and then headed out. The trail first went over the rocky point between our beach and the next one over, then took a nice trail through the woods to the west side. What a beautiful beach! It was huge, with stripes of black sand scalloped in the white sand, no people, lots of shells, hot sun shine, everything you could want in a beach. Robin and Peter took up a position on a rock cliff to sun bathe, and the rest of us started working our way down the series of beaches to the south. Maren, Glen and Melissa walked the sand and crossed the rocks. I found the woods trail that went from one beach to the next. The first section of trail actually had a ladder on it in one spot to get over a small rock ledge. The rungs were cedar 2x4's and the legs were 4x4's, so this was pretty sturdy! It was bolted, rather than nailed, together, and looked like it could last a long time with lots of use before needing replacement. We walked down several beaches until we at last came to one with a fresh water stream. Another gorgeous camp site, although there were a lot of bear tracks. The beach just north of the stream might be a better one for camping - it was inside a small reef, which stopped all the surf, and was just as pretty. The water supply would be easily near enough to fill water bottles, and there was a deep spot in the creek that would allow for bathing and cooling off. As we headed back, Peter met us half way across one of the beaches. While we had been beach combing (Melissa collected an amazing amount of shells, sand dollars, etc.), he and Robin had headed back to camp. Byron needed to pee, and asked Peter to help get him up. While he was doing that, Byron vomited a couple of times, and Peter thought his condition was worsening. We all hurried back then, and found Robin sitting beside Byron's tent, keeping him company and checking up on him. He still didn't want any big deal made of this, but we started thinking that maybe we could use some help. After talking about things, we decided I should try and raise someone from Kyoquot and see about arranging boat transportation for Byron, Glen and Melissa, and their boats, back to Fair Harbor. I got on the radio about 12:30, and tried calling for anyone listening on channel 06. I got an almost immediate response from some one in Kyoquot who wanted to know what they could do to help. I asked if they knew how to get in touch with Rupert - since he had brought us out I thought he could easily take the three of them back. They didn't know where he was that day, but some one else had heard our conversation, and was offering to come out and get us. They were from the Kyoquot Lodge, and were sending out a boat that should be big enough to carry everyone. About that time, the doctor from the small Kyoquot hospital joined in, wanting to know if there was anything he could do. I explained the situation, and he wanted to know if we wanted to transport Byron to the hospital. He said they could call up the hospital in Tofino and have any needed drugs flown in. I thanked him, and said that would be our backup plan, but we really just wanted to get Byron to Fair Harbor, and then Glen could drive him to Campbell River where he could get help if he still needed it. The folks from the Kyoquot Lodge said their boat would be there in about 90 minutes, and I said I'd monitor the radio and guide them to us when they got close. A couple of other people had joined in the conversation by now, all offering to help the "kayaker with an earache". I kept reiterating it was an ear infection, but I don't think anyone really noticed, or cared. The other folks were either just leaving from Fair Harbor, or were further away than the Kyoquot Lodge, so I thanked them all, and sat back on a driftwood stump to wait for the Lodge boat. About 75 minutes later I got a call on the radio from the Lodge boat, wanting to know where on Rugged Point we were. I explained our location, and they said they'd be there in about 10 minutes. Sure enough, a few minutes later a big aluminum boat pulled into our bay. I walked down to the shore and waved them on in. They couldn't quite beach the boat, so we were going to have to carry gear out. While I had been on the radio, everyone else had been packing up all of Byron and Melissa's gear so we could move it quickly. At this point, we moved Byron out from his tent to under our kitchen awning, so he'd be out of the way and we all started carting the gear from shore to the boat. Peter and the two crewmen grabbed whatever we brought out and wrestled it aboard, then we floated the kayaks out and got them pulled aboard. With all the gear and boats aboard, Glen and I went up the beach and got Byron. We draped him over our shoulders, and just walked him slowly down the beach to the boat. His feet stumbled a few times, but we had a good hold of him, so he wouldn't fall. We waded out with him to the transom of the boat, and started lifting him up. One of the crewman, a big guy, reached down under Byron's arms and hoisted him right up - strong guy! Peter had made sure there was a place for Byron to lay down, and they got him comfortable. Glen climbed up next, and then Melissa. The crewmen pushed the boat back, and started turning to leave. Peter was still on board, and had to jump in the water to avoid being taken with them. The water in our bay was a very comfortable temperature, however, and after jumping in, he went for a little swim - the only person to take a salt water swim on this trip. We waved goodbye to Glen and Melissa, the crewmen tooted their horn, and they were off. It felt kind of strange to go so suddenly from a group of 7 to a group of four. We just sat there for a few minutes, adjusting to things. We started talking about what we wanted to do for the rest of the trip, and decided since we were now a reduced number, we wanted to reduce the number of variables, and make the trip as safe as possible. In order to do this, we decided to paddle back to Fair Harbor that evening, and spend the night there. The advantages were we knew where we were going, we knew there would be camping space there, and we'd be able to get an early start home the next morning, and avoid getting home at 2 or 3 am. We took down camp and packed everything up, put our full solar showers on the backs of our kayaks to heat up on the trip home, then pushed off the beach. We headed east, towards where one of the guide books had said there were some petroglyphs in a small cove. We had a nice tail wind, and a long channel to paddle down. We took a slight diagonal, and were soon sailing and surfing down some 1 and 2 foot wind waves. By the time we got to the easternmost point of the first island we were passing, we decided that the wind was building enough, and we had a low enough interest in the petroglyphs, that we would skip them and just head to Fair Harbor. We paddled back NW up a short channel, then headed from tip to tip towards the portage that can be done into Fair Harbor. Along the way, a tug with a barge came down the channel at us. Because of some indecision, we hung around in the center of the channel a little longer than made me comfortable. Finally we agreed to head to the north shore, which would be on the "inside" of the tug and barge's turn, and we started paddling hard for there. After we were obviously out of the tug's way, we turned and pointed out bow into the wake coming at us. We went up and over the tug's wake easily enough, but the barge had a double wake going. We went over the first wave without a problem, but the second wave was only a few feet behind the first, and we slammed down into it, getting everything pretty wet. I even had water running down the inside of my spray skirt. At least it was a warm day! We rounded the northern point of the peninsula, choosing to skip the portage. It only cuts 2 miles off of the trip, and we were guessing it would take 30-60 minutes to land, unpack, haul gear, haul kayaks, repack and launch. We had the wind at our back once we went around the point, anyway, so it was smooth "sailing". We watched an eagle in a tree low over the water, and commented about how ugly the clear cut areas looked. The closer we got back to Fair Harbor, the more clear cut areas there were. We wound our way into the channel that led to Fair Harbor, and caught another great tail wind all the way back to the government pier. As we were approaching the pier, the boat that had carried Byron, Glen and Melissa passed us going out - they tooted and waved at us - it surprised us that they weren't back in Kyoquot already. We found some space on the right side of the pier, and pulled up both boats and got out. The paddling part of the trip was over. It seemed to go by so quickly, but then they always do. The first couple of days drift by slowly, but the rest, no matter how many there are, go by as one quick blink. Robin and I headed into the parking lot to get vehicles - the place was crammed! Bunches of RV's and campers, lots of boat trailers. I started worrying that there wouldn't be camping space for us. I opened up the Pathfinder, and was greeted with the stench of sour milk - Maren had tossed a yogurt container in the trash before we had left, and it had had 10 days of hot sunshine to sour and infuse the truck with its aroma. Yuck! I opened all the windows and sun roof, but eventually had to wrap the trash bag in a plastic sack to seal the smell in. I drove out onto the wharf, and we started hauling gear and kayaks from the dock up to the cars. For as long as we had been out, and for all the gear we had, putting things away went very quickly - almost too much so. I didn't want things to be wrapping up so fast. Maren and I were packed first, so we went looking for a place to pitch our tents for the night. Byron had told us about a nice grassy place just above the main parking lot he had walked up to before we left - it sounded nice, so we walked up there to check it out. When I got there, it looked like several vehicles had moved in for the summer - there was a blue tarp "tunnel" about 15 feet long and 8 feet high at its top, with a half cord of wood stacked next to it and wood stove in it, and an RV parked right next to it. Most of the rest of the meadow area was also taken up by parked vehicles. The only place we found was in between a couple of old abandoned pick up trucks that had been turned on their sides and were not rusting away. Oh, well, it was a flat spot, and we really only needed it to sleep for a few hours anyway. We went back to the dock and told Peter and Robin, and they joined us a few minutes later. Robin backed her CRX with the kayak on it up to our camp spot to give us a little privacy, and it also gave us a great place to hang the solar showers. The camp site sure was a contrast to every place we'd been the last 8 nights - industrial, loud, lots of people. To top it off, the mosquitoes were really bad, too. We cooked up a quick dinner, shared the remainder of the wine (including some cooking sherry Robin and Peter had left in their car), put lots of mosquito coils around, and shared some final dessert. Then it was time to escape the bugs and dive into our tents. I hadn't slept real well while we were on the paddle portion of the trip, but I got almost no sleep this night - a combination of where we were, a little bit of traffic, and sadness that the trip was over.
We got up around 7:00, and had a quick cold breakfast as we tossed everything we used the night before into the vehicles. We hit the road around 7:15, for the final leg of the journey. There was very little other traffic on the road, so we made good time, even with enjoying the views. We got back to paved road around 8:45, and after checking with each other, decided we didn't need to gas up until Campbell River. The drive was fairly uneventful - there were a couple of deer close to the road, and the number of people around kept increasing the closer we got to Campbell River. The weather also deteriorated more as we got further east. Maren had talked to a couple that morning who were getting ready to kayak around the Brooks Peninsula - they were from Vancouver, and said it had been rainy almost the entire week. We must have really gotten lucky with our little patch of blue! We found a gas station, and grabbed a couple of Cokes and candy bars. A little way down the road we found a coffee shop open, and Maren, Peter and Robin all got a latte. We continued on south, and arrived in Nanaimo around 1:15. This time we ended up in a separate line from Robin and Peter - they went with the car traffic and we were funneled off to the overheight lanes. It took us a little longer to get through the ticket booth than it did Robin and Peter, so they came walking over to us after a few minutes. We had agreed to try and grab lunch at the Muddy Waters tavern, so we explained how to get there, and told them we'd catch up soon. We waited in line probably 10 minutes more or so, then got parked and headed over to join Robin and Peter. We all shared some beer, except for Peter, and had a pretty good lunch. We headed back to the cars around 2:45, and got back with just a few minutes to spare before they started loading us in. After getting onto the ferry, we headed up to the upper deck to find Robin and Peter for our last chance to visit on this trip. We had both grown quite fond of them, and I really felt like I was going to miss them when this all was over. Peter brought his charts up with him, and we spent some time marking them up with the places we had been, where we had camped or seen other good camp sites, cultural locations we had been to, etc. All too soon the crossing was finished and it was time to go. They thought they would try and find the duty free store at the truck border crossing, but weren't sure, so we said our good byes, and traded hugs all around. We had a few extra minutes, since there was a traffic jam at the ferry terminal when we arrived, and our boat had to wait a few minutes for space to clear up. Now we were down to just the two of us, working our way back home. We didn't see Robin and Peter on our drive back to the border, or in the parking lot of the duty free store, which we decided to stop at to pick up some hard cider. When we walked back out to our truck, though, Robin and Peter's car was parked right next to ours! We had assumed they had gotten off the ferry quicker than we had, and had either gone through the Blaine crossing, or decided to skip the duty free store. It was nice to see them one more time - they had a similar shopping list to ours - some hard cider and some Grand Mariner chocolates! We said good bye one last time, and promised to get together again soon to relive the trip and share pictures. We honked and waved, and headed south. The border crossing was quick, and we didn't hit any traffic on the way down. We were home by about 8:15, and started dragging all the gear out of the truck and into the house. I called my sister Kathleen to see if Byron had stopped there, and find out how he was doing. She said they had showed up about 3:00 Saturday morning, and they had left about 2:00 pm, and that Byron was doing fine. I called over to Byron's place, and he was unloading gear and stowing kayaks - they had gotten home about 15 minutes before we had. He said he was feeling fine now, and he felt bad that everyone had to make such a big deal of this. I assured him we didn't mind, and that it was beyond his control. He told me that the guys on the boat from Kyoquot Lodge not only took them back to Fair Harbor, but the also hauled all the gear up to the car, helped put the Yakima racks on, stowed a bunch of the gear in the kayak, and made a bed for Byron to lay on in the back of the car while they drove back. And on top of all this, they wouldn't take any money! They said this was a medical situation, and they never took money for things like this, hoping if they ever got in a similar jam, the same thing would be done for them. There's a real sense of community out there, where there aren't hoards of people. Something that's really missing with the anonymity of cities. While I was talking to him he told me that he had just put a new ignition in the Subaru, so he wouldn't have to start it with a screwdriver anymore. Well, Glen had managed to get the wrong key to start the car, but managed to jam it in the ignition, so from his bed in the back of the car, Byron had had to explain to Glen how to bypass the ignition circuit, and use the old screwdriver again to start the car. He said the key was still jammed in the ignition, and he wasn't quite sure how to fix it. He also told me about how halfway between Campbell River and Nanaimo he thought there was a helicopter flying about 20 feet above the car. When they stopped to find out what was going on, it turned out that one of the lug nuts was coming loose, and it was making a terrible racket. Not unlike a helicopter at close range, I guess! The last thing he told me about was his revelation on why his kayak had been stinking so badly. Several people had remarked on it when they were packing his things up, and carrying his boat down to be loaded. It turns out there was a dead kelp greenling jammed under his seat that had been rotting since at least Friday afternoon, maybe much earlier! He said it really stunk bad! After hanging up from him, I called Robin and Peter to let them know Byron was okay. Robin answered, and we joked about how long it had been since we'd talked! After I finished talking to Robin, Maren whipped up a quick supper for us, since it was almost 10:00, and we hadn't eaten since lunch. After that, a little more clean up, and then off to sleep in our own bed for the first time in a week and a half. The trip was over, and it had been good.
Last updated: February 13, 2000