Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hesquiat 2016 (Part 2)

July 14th - Tofino

Our group arrived in the Tofino area throughout the day and after checking into various motels we met up at Jack’s Pub for dinner. Overlooking Duffin Passage we were able to watch the activities of the busy little harbor as charter fishing boats brought their catches of the day in to be weighed and kayaks were returning from day trips in the area. The weather forecast was looking pretty good to start our trip and it wasn’t hard to get excited looking at the beautiful scenery.

Heading Out - Friday July 15th (Day #1)

We were up early to be on the water for 0800 after staying at the Meares Vista Inn. We have stayed here a few times before and the hospitality is amazing. Mandy and her husband own the Inn and she kindly allowed us to park our vehicles in their lot while we were gone saving us the new implemented parking fees ($25 for 7 days, $5 for 24 hours) in Tofino municipal lot. She even shuttled our drivers from the Inn back to our put in at the foot of the government dock!

Once again ... how does all this stuff fit inside our kayaks?

Right on schedule we launched with overcast skies from the overnight marine layer with no wind and we headed towards the exposed outside of Vargas Island to meet up with Reale and Jeff who had stayed overnight on Medallion beach. Our original plan was to maybe head directly to Cow Bay on Flores Island but as we paddled past Ahous Bay the offshore swells became much larger and the thought of making a beach landing there for lunch was impossible. It was however nice to see three sea otters plus a number Surf Scoters in the area as we searched for a place to land.

There are actually 5 paddlers in this photo but with the swells some just disappear. :-)

Nearing noon we decided to head to Dick and Jane's Beach for a lunch stop and it was then decided that we would stay the night there since we were starting to notice a slowly rising brisk NW wind. The beach was fairly protected from the swells so landing wasn’t a big issue but unfortunately the tide was a fair way out and we had to haul our gear and kayaks in multiple stages up to the area that we would setup camp. Note to self … take a set of kayak wheels next time :-)

Heading towards Dick & Jane's Beach

The tide was waaaay out when we landed. Time to haul gear!

Other than a few people located at the north end of the beach we pretty well had the whole little bay to ourselves so space wasn’t an issue. Robyn and I went to work setting up our brand new, never used Marmot Tungsten 3P tent. Normally we don’t like to use new gear on a trip like this without testing it on a weekend excursion first but we had researched and read many positive reviews about the tent. One thing for sure, it was easier to set up than our old tent and has a bit more usable space due to it’s side wall configuration.

Our trusty rides and our new home away from home Marmot Tungsten 3P tent

As we all went about setting up our little areas Tony found a bear / wolf food cache close by and Robyn discovered a nice green throne in the woods just behind our camp. There also was signage to keep an eye open for the wolves that have become famous on Vargas Island.

After camp was established Tony headed out to do a little fishing (none on this attempt) while the rest of us just chilled around camp. Beverely had told us that there was lots of fish where we would be paddling so we were excited about the possibility of supplementing our dehydrated meals with fish.

The steady wind allowed me to do a little kite flying. Robyn and I were really happy I brought it along. As the afternoon passed we watched an Osprey come and go from somewhere in trees behind the beach. Searching the surf, it would dive into the water to catch its prey before launching back into the air, shudder to shake off the water and head back over the trees.

Robyn and I explored the north end of the beach and found another established kitchen area with a bear food cache and a green throne tucked into the woods. It was nice to see that such a popular camping location had these amenities. Thanks BC Parks!!

As the sun was starting to set Robyn, Beverely and I prepared a fire as the others went for a walk to find a trail to the bay to the south of us. Upon returning they told us of meeting young man who lives in one of the nearby cabins and he warned them of a lone wolf that had been causing damage to kayak hatches during the night. Recently there have been videos posted on You Tube of the wolf causing the damage and it so happens that it was at our location. He recommended putting all of our food into the bear cache which we did and leaving our hatches empty and open or even turning the kayaks over on the sand which we also opted to do. It was just before 11:00pm after a great first day that we headed into our tents and as I was writing my blog entry for the day I wondered if we might get a visit by the lone wolf tonight??

Our first Clayoquot Sound sunset ... pretty nice!

2016 Paddle #27 - Tofino to Dick & Jane's Beach
Distance: 8.65 nm (16.01 km)
Trip: 8.65 nm (16.01 km)
YTD: 247.56 nm (458.48 km)

Exploring Blunden Island - Saturday July 16th (Day #2)

And …. the wolf never came. I actually woke up in the middle of the night with the moonlight and wondered what it would be like to see a wolf’s shadow cast upon our tent. Quickly I had second thoughts about that and closed my eyes. LOL

So other than the wolf in the back of our minds, the first night in the new tent was great as we finally woke up at around 07:30 to a misty marine layer of overcast skies. With the tide out I decided to find a spot of hard sand and do some yoga and stretch out some tender spots in my back. Breakfast was a lazy affair as the group decided what they wanted to do for the day. The evening before we decided that we would spend another night at this location before heading towards Cow Bay so today we would explore around the area a bit.

The plan was to paddle to nearby Blunden Island and check out some of the surge channels and possible camp site locations. The swells were considerably less than the day before and along the way Reale, Jeff, Beverely and Tony spent some time fishing. Jeff managed to catch a Black Sea Bass on his hand line and so it looked like maybe the fishing would be promising on this trip after all.

Just big rolling swells to contend with on the way to Blunden Island.

A great lunch stop / camping location on the north end of Blunden Island

And another location on the little island (44 on chart) east of Blunden Island

After arriving back at camp Robyn and I found the trail to the bay south of us where I harvested some nice fresh mussels which were so good as an appetizer before dinner. Throughout the afternoon we watched a number of kayak groups pass by the beach with a group of 7 finally stopping to set up camp north of us.

Hey! I know that guy! Yves Aquin of Go Kayak way out here. LOL

After dinner Robyn, Katelyn and I went for a walk to see what they were up to and it wasn’t long before I recognized a certain black beanie cap and body language. It turned out to be Yves and Patti of Go Kayak who were just returning from the Hot Springs Cove area with a small group of family and friends. Small world huh?? LOL They told us the camping area at Hot Springs Cove included an outhouse and cooking shelter and that they had had the whole place to themselves. Definitely something we would need to check out when we go there.

Another nice sunset but with a marine layer starting to form

Reale gathered the group for the evening talk about the plans for the next day.
She would be the group leader on our way to Cow Bay

We were treated to a wonderful sunset and we made plans to be on the water by 08:00 which meant it would be an early rising to dismantle camp and haul our gear down to the water at low tide. Once again we took precautions in case the wolf decided to pay us a visit during the night.

2016 Paddle #27 - Blunden Island
Distance:4.52 nm (8.37 km)
Trip: 13.17 nm (24.39 km)
YTD: 252.08 nm (466.85 km)

A special thanks to Heather Jones and Tony Playfair for letting me use some of their pictures in the writing of this blog.

For more pictures of the Hesquiat trip you can check them out HERE 

Or more taken by Heather and Tony HERE

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Hesquiat 2016 (Part 1)


Welcome to the blog post(s) of our recent 2016 Hesquiat trip. As a blogger I have been trying to juggle the time to write posts of our multi-day trips upon returning and think I may have come up with a workable solution. Believe me, blogging takes a considerable amount of precious time and on a few occasions after returning home from trips or paddles I have seriously thought about stopping writing altogether. But then I look at the blog page view counts which is now at over 84,000 visits and I find myself torn about shutting the blog down. 

In the past I would write notes and then hopefully sometime in the future start sorting through the thousands of photos that Robyn and I take and try to piece together the story line from memory. It was simply becoming ….. Arrrrggggh!

However, for this trip I decided to actually write the daily posts (without editing) in MS Word on my iPad each night while the events of the day were fresh in my mind. Robyn helped out tremendously by putting together a Goggle album of a few hundred of the several thousand pictures that we took when we arrived home and posted them via Facebook to give our followers a little visual of our trip. And so, as I open my Word document from the trip I am so pleased to see that the most of the work has already been done. All I need to do is a little bit of editing, update some items and add a few photos. 

So with all that said … Welcome to Hesquiat 2016!!


Earlier this year Robyn and I were invited by Beverely Hipolito to join a trip that she was planning from Tofino to Hesquiat Peninsula during the summer. So we gladly accepted and the planning process began with a paddle / planning session that was held in April at the Genoa Bay Cafe. 

Beverely describing the route that she would like the group to take on the trip.

On this trip there would be a total of eight paddlers including Heather Jones, Tony Playfair, Reale Emond, Jeff Follis. Our eighth paddler Katelyn Porter would join the group at a later date.

The plan was pretty simple. We would be departing Tofino on  Friday July 15th and be returning on Sunday August 1st. For 16 days we would head north on the exposed outside of Vargas and Flores Islands and make our way towards Hesquiat Peninsula and maybe make it around Estevan Point if the condition’s were right. Visiting Cougar Annie’s Garden was definitely on the bucket list and up to the planning session I had only heard the name before and knew nothing about her. 

Hesquiat 2016 paddlers from L to R: Reale, Beverely, Heather, Tony, Robyn, Jeff and Mark (me).
Katelyn would be joining the group closer to the departure date.

Along the way we would by spending multiple nights at locations to explore on foot, fish, do day paddles or basically just spend the time relaxing. Of course it would all be weather dependent and on the West Coast of Vancouver Island that means you can pretty well get a little or a lot or everything thrown at you. 

Now .... time to start dehydrating food and research Cougar Annie's Garden

A short paddle from the kayak dock in Cowichan Bay to Genoa Bay for the planning session in April

Friday, September 2, 2016

Glamping At Pedder Bay

After a busy summer of tripping and volunteering with a couple of organizations that mean a lot to us we decided to unwind a bit by spending a weekend in the RV at Pedder Bay. With the recent heat wave, it was kinda nice to crank up the air conditioning when we arrived on Thursday afternoon and spoil ourselves with good food, drink and catch the latest episode of Big Brother on the TV. Ahhhh … Glamping!

Friday morning, we decided to head out in our play boats and spend some time in the water doing rescues and to see how our rolling was after using out touring boats for the past couple of months. We went through a number of self, assisted and finally a few rolls before heading out to circumnavigate Bentinck Island. It’s not often that we get conditions so perfect like on this day and seeing Race Rocks so close was tempting even with the ebb starting to build. No problem … we’ll head there tomorrow.

Race Rocks less than 1 nm away. No wind, hot, and the sound of sea lions barking. :-)

No we won’t! Later that afternoon the first indication of a change in our summer weather pattern arrived with increasing westerly winds arriving from the Sooke Basin and through the RV park during the night. The next morning it was pretty obvious that we wouldn’t be making a run out to Race Rocks as it was blowing 35+ kts out there.

Race Rocks from the RPBO site. Quite a difference from the day before.
Photo courtesy of Rocky Point Bird Observatory on Facebook. 

Instead we grabbed our camera gear and went for a hike (birding) around Pearson College UWC via the Galloping Goose Trail and finally back to Pedder Bay via the road leading to the RV park. As we were walking along the road we noticed a number of small traffic cones at trailheads and decided to follow one in hopes of maybe spotting a few birds. To our surprise we came across a very fine netting strung up between two poles and immediately we knew what it was. It had been placed there by the Rocky Point Bird Observatory (RPBO) and sure enough further along the trail we came across a number of their volunteers collecting migrating data and banding birds that happened to find their way into the nets.

Yellow Warbler about to be released

Intrigued by what was going on we were welcomed to stay and watch the process and it wasn’t long before a couple of stunning yellow birds were brought to the station to be processed. It was really interesting to watch how the handlers took care of the birds while carefully weighing, determining the age, sex and applying a band before releasing them. The following morning, we stopped by for another visit and we had the opportunity accompany the Bander in Charge to check the nets and I positively identified one as a Fox Sparrow. Pat myself on the back!!

Long story short …. After arriving home, we checked out the RPBO website, joined their organization and will be volunteering some of our time in the near future. It actually works out well since they are located Pedder Bay and Rocky Point and we stay at the RV park several times a year so it’s a good way to experience birding on a different level.

Fore more about the Rocky Point Bird Observatory check these links out

2016 Paddle #36 - Pedder Bay
Distance: 6.36 nm (11.77 km)
YTD: 318.49 nm (589.84 km)

Friday, August 26, 2016

San Juan Expedition Part 5

Oh It’s Good to Be Back Home Again – Friday May 6th (Day #8)

Oh Canada! Surprise, surprise ….. howling NW winds coming through the Narvaez Bay campground as we woke up. LOL Before deciding about when to start heading towards Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island we decided after breakfast to hike up the Monarch Head bluff and assess the wind before making a decision.

The view from the bluff was pretty spectacular and it was great to get a panoramic of where we had traveled over the past several days. I think for me personally this was the first time that I looked at the San Juan Islands and didn’t think of them as some mysterious paddling destination of many unknowns. They had been our home, place of refuge and I knew that some day we would return to further explore their waterways and islands that are so close to Victoria.

 We were just there ... L to R Patos Island, Mt. Baker and Sucia Island and ...
a ship that we didn't have to play Frogger with LOL

Looking towards Sidney Island with a freighter rounding Stuart Island. Some pretty good rip tides too! 

From the bluff the winds off shore were still blowing fairly decently but we felt that we could paddle along the shoreline towards Taylor Point before crossing Plumper Sound to the Pender Islands. On the way back to camp we stopped at the picturesque point near the campsite and spotted our first humpback whale on the trip surfacing several hundred feet away. We also managed to locate one of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve's Top Ten Caches (GC2XHJK - Best place to meditate) that the GINPR staff activated back in 2011.

A humpback whale in Narvaez Bay

The San Juan Expedition crew L to R: Mark, Kari, Robyn, Michael and Lynn

Launching at noon we rounded Monarch Head and found ourselves slogging our way through a strong head wind and with a flood current as we passed Cactus Point. Only less that 100 feet from the shoreline it became obvious that we weren’t getting anywhere fast as the wind gusted stopping our forward progress. Michael decided to tow Lynn and they started to make good progress so I decided to in-line tow Kari and Robyn and slowly we started making some head way towards the little sheltered beach at Taylor Point. Out of all the paddling that we had done up to this point on the trip I found this to be the most challenging from a physical perspective. Traveling at just about 1nm per hour we finally reached Taylor Point almost 2 hours later and I was totally exhausted.

The beach at Taylor Point. Only 2 nm away is Cactus Point and it took us 2 hours to get here.

While the group was resting on the beach Michael paddled around the point to check out the conditions in Plumper Sound and returned with good news that the winds weren’t as bad. Continuing on our way we crossed the sound and into Port Browning, through the cut and to the Poet’s Cove Marina / Resort & Spa to check in with Canada Customs. We let Robyn make the call to the customs officer by telephone (who knows where) advising the gentlemen on the other end of the line that we were 5 kayakers returning into Canada. His only comments were if we were bringing anything illegal back into the country and then provided his badge number to us as our form of clearance into the country. It was that easy!!  LOL

Heading towards the cut between South and North Pender Islands

Lynn points out a Canada Customs sign or just common sense?

Poet's Cove Marina and Syrens Marine Pub close by to calling Canada Customs

Nothing tastes better than the first meal back in civilization!

Since we were already at the marina we decided to have dinner and drinks at Syrens Marine Pub, bought some off sales beer and then proceeded to head across the cove to Beaumont Park to set up camp. Beaumont was a nice surprise as it is situated in a little protected bay and there was only one other couple there. We set up camp in a clearing in the trees while defending ourselves from the hungry mosquitoes.  Sleep came easy that night not a breath of wind to disturb us.

2016 Paddle #23 - Narvaez Bay (Saturna Island) to Beaumont Park (South Pender Island)
Distance: 10.00 nm (18.52 km)
Trip: 69.23 nm (128.21 km)
YTD: 215.12 nm (398.40 km)

One Last Stop - Saturday May 7th (Day #9)

Camp set up in the trees at Beaumont Park

A nice shell beach to leave our kayaks

The next morning, we woke up to another beautiful day with no wind and I found the huge composting outhouse that is set back in the forest and spotted a Pileated Woodpecker nearby.

The nice composing outhouse

Pileated Woodpecker searching for grubs in a nearby log

The plan was to launch at 10:00am and since Lynn and Michael were ready early they headed out about half an hour ahead of Robyn, Kari and myself with a plan to meet up with them somewhere at Moresby Island.

As Robyn, Kari and I headed around Wallace Point it became evident That we would not be able to hug the shoreline due to the ebb current running around the point so instead we cut across the eddy lines and out into open water and started heading across Swanson Channel towards Moresby Island. 

We must be close to home if we have to wait for BC Ferries

We spotted Lynn and Michael near Pelorus Point (Moresby Island) and upon reaching them we waited for a BC Ferry to pass before continuing onto to Arbutus Point on Portland Island where we set up camp for our last night. To our surprise there was only one other kayaker who was visiting from Washington State. After establishing camp we hiked the trail through the middle of the island to Princess Bay completing the loop on the coast trail back to camp. Since we had an excess of water still with us Robyn and I decided to set up the shower above the high water line which was an amazing treat!! At least we would be heading home the next day smelling half decent. LOL

Relaxing around camp on Arbutus Point

Kari enjoying the calm blue ocean.

This is a view that we have seen before from Arbutus Point only this time we can say that we
have been there.  Mt. Baker in the background, South / North Pender Island on the left, just to the
 left of the red marker light is Sucia Island (USA) in the distance, to the right of the marker is
Waldron Island (USA) an Moresby Island on the right.

2016 Paddle #24 - Beaumont Park (South Pender Island) to Arbutus Point (Portland Island)
Distance: 7.19 nm (13.31 km)
Trip: 76.42 nm (141.53 km)
YTD: 222.31 nm (411.71 km)

Homeward Bound - Sunday May 8th (Day #10)

Our last morning of the trip we woke up to ….. wait for it ….. a little bit more wind but at least it was going the right direction towards Sidney. Michael had to leave a little bit ahead of schedule to meet his arranged ride and the rest of us followed a couple of hours later enjoying a nice leisurely paddle back to Sidney arriving at Van Isle Marina just after noon. 

Our 10-day trip to the San Juan Islands is now in the books so to speak we’ll return sometime soon. Our first visit to the San Juan’s really was an expedition to see what was there and we learned a lot on this short trip. One thing for sure is that the water through the San Juan Islands seems to be always moving (currents) and if the wind comes up if can get a little interesting. We only touched the tip of the iceberg regarding places to visit and would like to see what is south and east of Grays Harbour. Our next trip will probably be direct to Grays Harbour via the Washington State ferry from Sidney which will save paddling across the potentially busy shipping lanes. We’ll take at least 2 weeks to further explore these islands so close to home yet not on most kayakers to do list. Until next time …

2016 Paddle #25 - Arbutus Point (Portland Island) to Van Isle Marina
Distance: 5.41 nm (10.01 km)
Trip: 81.83 nm (151.55 km)
YTD: 227.72 nm (421.73 km)

Note: More pictures of the entire San Juan Islands trip can be found by following the link HERE

Friday, August 5, 2016

San Juan Expedition Part 4

The Patos Island Waiting Game - Thursday May 5th (Day #7)

The one thing about wind forecasts is that they usually tend to be correct around here and sure enough ours was. After finally falling asleep after a long day I woke up in the middle of the night only to hear the winds starting to rustle the trees around our little protected campsite. Great ..... Not!

The Holland America Rotterdam passes by Patos Island

Although we had nice clear skies the NW wind was blowing 25-30 kt which meant that we weren’t going anywhere this morning. Instead we decided that we would hike around the island and go visit the Patos Lighthouse National Park Monument and do a little geocaching too. We did watch a cruise ship come up Boundary Passage heading towards Vancouver through some pretty big seas. We even saw a BC Ferry on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route detour around Saturna Island as we heard the conditions near Active Pass were pretty bad on this day.

Sitting around camp after breakfast we were watching the interaction of the wind and water when Lynn called out “whales”. Sure enough just off shore a pair of mature orca and a baby were passing by and the little fella put on a bit of a show breaching every so often. After paddling so far through the San Juan Islands we were a little disappointed not to have seen any whales up to this point so this was a special treat for us.

Mom and baby

Mom tail slapping

The baby puts on a show.

After the whale show we headed to the lighthouse to check out the buildings and to see what the conditions were like off Alden Point. Walking through the forest we arrived at the lighthouse passing by the old foundations of buildings that once were the home to the lighthouse keeper and his family. By the time we reached the point we had the full force of the winds blowing in our faces as the flood tide was interacting with the wind creating a huge tide race. One thing for sure was that we wouldn’t be paddling in these conditions any time soon and we started thinking that we might be staying on Patos Island for a few days.

Walking the trail to the lighthouse

An enormous tide race off Alden Point

The girls capturing a selfie

In the distance a container ship enters Boundary Passage

For a little bit more history on the Patos Island Lighthouse please visit this link HERE

Continuing on our way we completed the hike around the east side of the island and located one of the geocaches and then followed the trail through dense under growth that took us back to our campsite on the west side of the island. Lunch and siesta time was enjoyed in the warm sun as we sheltered ourselves under a rocky shelf at the campsite.

Kari finds the geocache

Michael checks out one of the items in the cache. 

Back at camp Michael does some reading

Kari reading while I'm fast asleep LOL

Later in the afternoon we decided to head back to the lighthouse for another look at the conditions because the long range forecast was calling for the winds to diminish late in the afternoon. What we were really looking for is how the slack tide would start to look like as the winds dropped near dinner time. With any luck …..

Sure enough the wind was dropping and after checking all available information via the internet and VHF radio we decided to break camp and be ready to leave at around 5pm. One last check of the 4:30pm Environment Canada Marine Report and we decided to head out and make a run across Boundary Passage towards Saturna Island.

Our original thoughts during the trip were to maybe make it to Tumbo Island off East Point but with the NW winds and the slack just starting to turn to an ebb it clearly became evident that this wasn't possible. Even though the winds were becoming lighter we did experience some significant rip tides which made the crossing a little interesting but thankfully we didn’t have to contend with any tanker or container ships. I stuck with Robyn and Kari while Michael stuck with Lynn through the bumpiest part of crossing and we even had a pod of porpoise playing in the rips that we paddled through.

Entering the protected water of Narvaez Bay 

Finally, in the wind shadow of Saturna Island we paddled into Narvaez Bay just before 7:30pm and began hauling our gear up the trail to the campground. After being spoiled with the Washington State Park system of well serviced campgrounds I felt a bit shell shocked establishing camp at this Parks Canada Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. This was the first time that Robyn and I had come to this campground that is situated on a really pretty point in Narvaez Bay but the camping area is placed well back from the point. We found three tent designated areas right near the visitor kiosk and for some reason there are also two picnic tables jammed right up to it. All this open space in the park yet the camping area is packed together like a mini tent city.

Our 3 tents in sites and the picnic tables at Narvaez Bay that are crowed around the visitor kiosk.
One has to wonder what the PCGINPR was thinking when establishing this site??

 After establishing camp Robyn and I went to work on making the group dinner which we enjoyed as the last bit of sunlight left our camp.  As for the outhouse …. Well it certainly had a lot to be desired compared to being spoiled the past week but it was an outhouse (less toilet paper) but it still beats digging a cat hole anytime. LOL After another long day I think we all slept very, very well that night back home in Canada! Hey! .... We still need to check in!!

2016 Paddle #22 - Patos Island to Canada
Distance: 6.20 nm (11.48 km)
Trip: 59.23 nm (109.69 km)
YTD: 205.12 nm (379.88 km)

Note: More pictures of the entire San Juan Islands trip can be found by following the link HERE