How the B.C.’s First Nations are trying to save Canada’s wild giants, the Grizzly Bear, and the Humpback Whale, with eco-tourism. This is a touching documentary by Brandy Yanchyk. Much thanks to her, Marven Robinson and Joelene Brown for their continued efforts and for raising awareness. watch.cbc.ca/…e-prize/38e815a-00a5922b618568337454_1280x720

As I become more and more experienced with sea kayaking I find the more and more I deviate from the routing as outlined in my float plan. To quote Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” This was the case recently during my week paddling in The Broken Group Islands. The inherent risks associated with the on water conditions though, should and will warrant a deviation from any plan.

Overview

The Broken Group is a group of small islands and islets in the middle of Barkley Sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The group is protected as the Broken Islands Group Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The group lies between Imperial Eagle and Loudon Channels and includes Brabant Islands, Hand Island, but not the Pinkerton Islands. The southernmost of the group is Cree Island, the easternmost is Reeks Island. Benson Island, on the northwest corner of the Broken Group, is an important cultural site for the Tseshaht First Nation.

Trip Details – Day 1

June 8th, 2016 – 8:55 am departure from Toquaht Bay Kayak LaunchDSC_0665.JPGSurprisingly as soon as I launched into Toquaht Bay there was a gentle rolling swell, atypical I think of this bay? It would be a testament of things to come. I suspected there would be some remnants from the storm further north on the island. Half an hour later as I reached the edge of the Stopper Islets and David Channel I realized the true brunt of the storm, high winds and 1.5-2 meter crashing waves in the channel. I attempted to enter into David Channel but quickly made the decision to turn back. I contemplated heading east and hugging the coastline all the way around to Lyall Point but that idea also proved futile. This was only day 1, I didn’t want to give up. This is where the deviation from my float plan began. I then decided to explore the Stopper Islets for a suitable campsite. I didn’t notice the south picnic beach on the west islet, so I circled the rest of the west islet and didn’t find anything else. The crossing between the west islet and St.Ines Island looked possible, so I went for it even though the conditions were rough I made it and found a great campsite on the west side of St.Ines. A pesky crow greeted me as I landed at 12:45 pm and stayed close by for the rest of my stay. I was glad though to find refuge even though this is not recognized or permitted as a camping area.DSC_0667.JPGDSC_0682.JPG

Trip Details – Day 2

I departed St.Ines Island at 5:45 am in very calm water and no wind for which I was grateful. A rainbow appeared on the horizon just after my launch which I assumed was a good luck charm.DSC_0696.JPG

My original plan was to stay at Willis Island for a couple nights but given the favorable conditions I decided it would be best to push on to Clarke Island. The crossing between Turret Island and Clarke Island was windy with some rough water but I arrived at 8:15 am. Having either stayed or explored every designated campsite in the Broken Group other than Willis Island and Turret Island I believe Clarke Island may be the most visually appealing, though it is subject to the prevailing winds at times.

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I was greeted at Clarke Island by Joe Leach and David Horkan, two serious expedition kayakers that were on day 13 of a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. They started in Victoria and on day 13 they were already in The Broken Group! I applaud them both on their skills and abilities and thank you Joe for helping me carry my kayak up to the driftwood. Be sure to check out there website here:  http://www.vannav2016.com/ Joe and David departed soon after I arrived, I bid them good luck the rest of the way. They planned on arriving back in Victoria on the 11th, 15 days after starting! Not bad at all, great job guys!

There’s many resident deer on Clarke Island, one in particular stayed close by my tent the whole time I was there. Later in the day the weather began to turn and a gentle rain began which lasted most of the night. I hunkered down in my tent around 8:30 pm and fell asleep by 10:00 pm. DSC_0762.JPGDSC_0776.JPG

Trip Details – Day 3

It was a wet and cold night, I kept warm but I had a somewhat dreary feeling when I woke, it was still over cast but fortunately the sun would break out not long after and the weather system that passed over seemed to hang over Vancouver Island allowing for generally sunny conditions for the rest of the day where I was. I spent most of the day in camp relaxing and reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. It’s definitely one of those books that you don’t want to put down. 71lkmz9b8cl-_sl1500_1.jpgDSC_0767.JPGDSC_0777.JPGDSC_0780.JPG

Trip Details – Day 4

I slept in some, awoke at 9:00 am after a much better rest than the first night on Clarke Island. I decided to spend 3 or 4 hours exploring nearby Benson Island and circumnavigating Clarke Island. After having some breakfast I launched at 11:00 am. I found a sea cave on Benson Island. The on water conditions were still quite rough on the northwest side of Clarke Island and I rode some surf into the sheltered north islets and lagoon area. I followed a deer from islet to islet.DSC_0795.JPGDSC_0800.JPGDSC_0809.JPGDSC_0808.JPGDSC_0820.JPG

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I arrived back at my campsite at about 2:30 pm, did some more reading and explored the northwest beach in the evening and watched the sun go down.DSC_0788.JPGDSC_0793.JPG

Day 5 – Trip Details

I decided that I would switch campsites. Clarke Island was spectacular but I was looking for some change of scenery and a little more shelter from the winds. I decided I would make my way to Dodd Island, some 8 km away. I broke camp and departed Clarke Island at 6:05 am. The on water conditions were quite calm. I was eager to paddle the narrow passageway in between Willis Island and Turtle Island again. In August of 2015 I paddled through this area in the fog and it remains one of my best paddling experiences yet. It proved equally as rewarding this time, tranquil waters and just incredible scenery, rocky outcrops and surrounding old growth forest. For anyone that has paddled through this area, you know exactly what I mean. I arrived at Dodd Island at about 8:15 am and explored the area but there was just something about it that didn’t seem appealing to me. Perhaps I was spoiled by Clarke Island.

I pressed onto Hand Island and arrived at 11:45 am. The Hand Island campsite was even less appealing, at least to me. There’s lots of natural beach wash and it’s not the best landing at low tide. I decided to make camp nonetheless. I had a short nap, woke and thought it would be a good idea to check the marine forecast which was not at all favorable. I’m definitely glad I checked. Gale force winds, rain and high seas were forecasted for the following day. At this point I decided that it would be best to pack it in and head for my landing at Toquaht Bay. The crossing to Lyall point looked reasonable until I got out in the water. The crossing included some of the roughest water I have encountered yet. I made it to Lyall Point and paddled hard across David Channel to the safety of the Stopper Islets and had no problem the rest of the way to Toquaht Bay, landing at 4:05 pm for a total of 47 km paddled.image[1].JPGimage[2].JPGimage[4].JPGActual Route.JPG

Wildlife

Eight Harbour Seal, One Sea Lion,  Five River Otter, Six Deer.

Conclusion

Considering my original destination was The Bunsby’s and South Brooks, then Nuchatlitz, The Broken Group proved to be a great alternative due to unfavorable weather conditions further north. It was good to explore the northwest islands after spending time last summer exploring the southern sections. Pipestem Inlet and The Pinkerton Islands will be the next destinations to explore in this region. If there’s anything I regret, it’s the fact that for obvious space reasons I couldn’t pack my D810 and a wide angle lens. My Nikon 1 AW1 is a very versatile point and shoot but by no means can it perform to the ability of a professional grade DSLR.

 

 

Waterton Lakes National Park certainly does not get the attention it deserves but that also means less people and that’s not always a bad thing. Having explored most of the National Parks in Western Canada, Waterton still ranks as one of my favorites. These images were created outside of the park along the back roads. DSC_2903.JPGDSC_2905.JPGDSC_2919.JPGDSC_2908.JPG

 

I spent the past week driving to and from Vancouver Island to Waterton Lakes National Park. This was my first time travelling along the western portion of Highway #3, otherwise known as the Crowsnest Pass. The variation in landscape is quite profound as well as the temperature. After leaving 25+ degree weather in Osoyoos, I encountered a snowstorm a couple hours later just north of Cristina Lake.

In Sparwood, the Highway 43 junction will take you north to Elkford along the Elk River Valley. Later this month I will explore Elk Lakes Provincial Park and Josephine Falls. Unfortunately, this time the road to Elk Lakes was washed out and the weather turned to rain preventing a hike to Josephine Falls.

As I traveled along Highway 43 I noticed a Fordson Tractor displayed proudly in a homeowners front yard. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and knocked on the door. I was met with a friendly welcome by Arlene Punk who not only allowed me to photograph the tractor but also gave me some great tips on the local area. Much thanks to you Arlene.DSC_2857.JPG

 

 

I noticed this old truck a few weeks ago near the intersection of Cumberland Road and Comox Valley Parkway. I knew it was definitely having a closer look at.6.JPG

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Overview

Johnstone Strait is a 110 km channel along the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. Opposite the Vancouver Island coast, running north to south, are Hanson Island, West Cracroft Island, mainland British Columbia, Hardwick Island, West Thurlow Island and East Thurlow Island. At that point, the strait meets Discovery Passage which connects to The Salish Sea. The passage is between 2.5 km and 5 km wide. It is a major navigation channel on the west coast of North America. It is the preferred channel for vessels from the Salish Sea leaving to the north of Vancouver Island through the Queen Charlotte Strait bound for Prince Rupert, Queen Charlotte Islands, Alaska, and the North Pacific Ocean and for southbound vessels from those areas bound for Vancouver. The Strait is home to approximately 150 Orca during the summer months. Scientists including Michael Bigg and Paul Spong have been researching the Orcas in the Strait since 1970. Spong established the Orca Lab, based on studying the Orcas in their natural habitat without interfering with their lives or their habitat. The strait includes the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve. Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve was established in 1982 as a sanctuary for Orca. The area, 10 km southeast of Telegraph Cove and 40 km from Port McNeil is restricted. Access by boat or land is prohibited. The total area of the reserve, including upland and foreshore, is 5,460 hectares. It is named after the late Orca researcher Michael Bigg.

Trip Details – Day 1

May 14th, 2016 – 7:20 am departure from Telegraph Cove Kayak LaunchDSC_0489.JPG

12:45 pm arrival – Second Beach campsite, 15.9 km from launchDSC_0544.JPGDSC_0507.JPG

The waters were quite calm, barely a ripple during the entire paddle. I wasn’t even on the water 10 minutes and a baby Humpback Whale breached approximately 75 meters from my Kayak. I took an extended break on a beach just past Blinkhorn Peninsula and on a couple of other pocket beaches during the paddle. Actual paddle time is about 3.5 hours, averaging 4.4 km/hr. Best landing on Second Beach on all tides is at the north end, approximate 60 meter landing area. The beach is loose pebble, 15-20 degree grade. Lots of tinder and wood for fires and a small creek for drinking water.

Trip Details – Day 2

9:45 am departure for Robson Bight Ecological Reserve Boundary – 0.75km awayDSC_0589.JPGDSC_0593.JPG

The perimeter of the Ecologocal Reserve must be respected. Environment Canada issued 2-3 day wind warnings for Johnstone Strait on the evening of May 13th, the weather system was beginning to make itself apparent on the water with some turbulence. No Orca spotted but they are definitely there! I spent some time exploring the beach just north of the reserve.DSC_0612.JPGDSC_0618.JPG

Upon returning to my campsite on Second Beach I noticed quite a large Black Bear further down the beach, approximately 200 meters away. I was beginning to wonder where all the Black Bear were? Considering 10,000 are estimated to live on Vancouver Island, I was surprised not to see any yet. Well, there one was! Luckily the Bear was only foraging for food, overturning rocks at the low tide line and moving in the opposite direction further down the beach. It was aware of my presence as it would occasionally look up and in my direction! After about half an hour it disappeared into the treeline. It’s important to allow the Bear to progress naturally and not interfere with it’s feeding. As well, a reminder that in other circumstances where an encounter may not be able to be avoided this is why you always carry Bear spray, never becoming complacent with that practice! Bears are one thing but spray is also effective with other predators such as Cougar and Wolf.DSC_0627.JPG

 

Trip Details – Day 3 

May 16th, 2016 – 7:20 am departure from Second Beach campsiteDSC_0621.JPG

The winds were high and the water was very rough between Second Beach and Kaikash Creek. Johnstone Strait is notorious not only for current but also conflicting wind patterns. I took a break on the beach by Kaikash Creek only to find relatively fresh Wolf track and scat. I was uncertain if the tracks were Wolf or Cougar, either way I didn’t spend much time on the beach to find out and carried on. DSC_0646.JPGDSC_0647.JPGAfter departing Kaikash Creek, the winds and water became much more calm, especially beyond Blinkhorn Peninsula. I’m always impressed at how the weather systems can be so localized. One truly appreciates this only from the seat of a Kayak. I arrived at Telegraph Cove Kayak Launch at 12:40 pm. A big thanks to Leslie at the Coffee shop for helping me load my Kayak up. As only a true solo paddler realizes, this can be the most exhausting part of any journey and the help was appreciated. I promised Leslie coffee for a week but maybe a case of beer will accomplish my sense of gratitude all the same?DSC_0664.JPGActual route

Wildlife

One humpback, two schools of Pacific White Sided Dolphin, four River Otter, one Golden Eagle, six Harbour Seals, one Sea Lion, one Black Bear.

Conclusion

I was really hoping to see Orca, believe it or not I have never laid my eyes on one either in captivity or in the wild. Perhaps they will elude me much like how the Mountain Lion does? I was far from disappointed in not seeing Orca though, it was good to get back on the water and explore. I think I may have grown a little too accustomed to the tranquil sandy beaches that Clayoquot Sound offers, so some rough beach camping did me some good and everything for the most part was quite comfortable. One thing that continues to strike me after these journeys, regardless of duration is that I always come back a little bit different. Different in my sense of perspective and thought as to what matters, what does not. One thing is for sure, I always come back a little bit more inspired. 

 

This was my third time camping on Vargas Island north of Tofino in Clayoquot Sound. The first time was not by choice, the second time involved a strenuous hike with way too much gear but the third time was indeed a charm. Transportation by boat to the pocket beach adjacent to Ahous Bay was arranged with a friend (I wont disclose the individuals name) and the weather was fantastic for our two night stay. On the first night while dinner was being prepared I spotted a lone Wolf 5-6 meters from where I was sitting peering at me from behind the treeline. I think the Wolf was simply just curious. Vargas Island is known for it’s healthy Wolf population and unfortunately the habituation of these animals. I didn’t take any chances and scared the Wolf away before I was able to take a picture but it certainly was a thrill to see such a wild and majestic animal if only for a few seconds.DSC_0385DSC_0453DSC_0374.JPG

The Kinsol Trestle is one of eight trestles along the Cowichan Valley Trail route and by far the largest and most spectacular. The Kinsol Trestle is one of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world. At 187 meters in length and standing 44 meters above the salmon bearing Koksilah River, the Kinsol is an incredible structure.DSC_0353.JPG

Much thanks to Marven Robinson and the Gitga’at people for all that they do in helping to raise awareness and preserve the Great Bear Rainforest.

 

 

In July of 2013 I paddled from Tofino and made my base camp at Blunden Island. The following morning I set out to paddle across to Vargas Island. The crossing is only 2 km at best and conditions were calm. The goal was to photograph the Wolves on Vargas Island and because the crossing was minimal I only brought along a few provisions, minimal food, a little bit of water and that was about it. Upon approaching the beach on Vargas I noticed waves were breaking rather abruptly. I was committed and in the surf zone, having never surf landed before I braced for impact. Needless to say, upon landing I got wet. Fortunately the sun was coming up over the treeline and it didn’t take me long to dry off. I was so focused on the Wolves that I didn’t notice the mid morning winds picking up. What was otherwise calm water outside the surf zone turned into something else entirely. I was stranded, with minimal provisions! Even if I did get outside the surf zone, conditions in the channel were too treacherous for my skill level. I spent the night on Vargas Island by a fire, my PFD served as a pillow and the Wolves my companions.3957587678839387106107

Conditions improved somewhat overnight and early the next morning I was eager to attempt to get back to my base camp on Blunden Island. Sleeping on a beach and being hungry and thirsty will cloud ones judgement. My first attempt at a surf launch did not succeed, a huge breaking wave on the edge of the surf zone threw me out of my kayak and into some rocks. I sustained several cuts on the sharp jagged rocks. The wave struck me with such force that even one of my water shoes was lost. Fortunately the fire from the night before was still burning so I was able to warm up and plot my strategy for getting off this wretched but otherwise beautiful island. My second attempt was much more methodical, I studied the water for 10-15 minutes and then made my move. I managed to get outside the surf zone and paddled as hard as I could and safely made it back to Blunden Island. It was a rather harrowing experience but I look back on it now as a great learning opportunity. 109

Lessons

  • Always pack enough provisions no matter what distance or duration when travelling from your base camp.
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions at all times.
  • Learn how to surf land and surf launch.

Surf landing and surf launching resources

http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?146

http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?98