Kyuquot sound kayak trip 2019

Good Omen

Just before I launched my kayak, I checked my waterproof digital camera and couldn’t get it to power up. Strange and annoying; this is the camera that replaced the one I dropped overboard last time I was Kyuquot Sound; I lost all photos from that trip.

Thankfully this time around I had my phone with a good camera as an option so I put it in a dry bag behind my seat, just in case.

After only 5 minutes on the water, I see some movement on the far bank; something large and black on the water’s edge. I paddle closer, and sure enough, it’s a black bear digging around in the tidal zone. Good sized, jet black with a light brown face; He doesn’t see me as he searches for food on the rocky shore.

I fumble for the phone as I drift towards him and snap a few pictures before he turns, sees me and freezes. He is staring me down, totally motionless; Probably doesn’t see too many kayakers.

A crow call startles me, nearly causing me to drop the phone in the water, just like on my first trip here! I realize I’ve drifted not far from shore, about 50 feet from the bear- too close, so I quickly back-paddle as the bear continues to stare me down, transfixed.

On the long drive up to the launch site the previous day, I was just thinking that I’ve not seen a bear in the wilderness for a long time. I’ve driven by a few but that’s very different; It’s powerful, primal, seeing a bear when hiking or kayaking in the backcountry; in his territory, on his terms. Not in a car doing 50.

As I paddled on, I thought, whilst some people would think the complete opposite, seeing a bear in the first few minutes was a good omen; A sign of the adventure to come.

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Kyuquot Sound payback.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been out to Kyuquot Sound on the NW coast of Vancouver Island, BC. I had a few minor issues on that first trip; actually to be more accurate, Kyuquot kicked my butt. I came stumbling out of the woods reeling and stunned the first time around; The PTSD caused me to paddle calmer waters for the next few years.

Even so, I was touched by the remote, brutal coastal wilderness I had just survived and I knew I would be back; I felt I had some unfinished business out there. I was not going to be a one and done. This time around I’m doubling down and going further… further out into the wilderness, further off the grid and for longer too: 8 days.

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What I also remembered from last time, is that it takes forever to get to Kyuquot. After several long highways, a border crossing and a two hour ferry, I finally turned onto the road that leads to the launch. It was 8 pm, I had left Seattle 12 hours earlier and it was still 100 kilometers left to go on a primitive logging road through the woods. I bounced and slid my way along at twilight hoping not to get lost. I pulled into camp just after 10pm and set up camp on the banks of Kyuquot Sound.

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Sunrise; Broke camp, loaded up the kayak and was on the water just after 10am. It was cloudy with a light drizzle but calm winds and seas. Good, almost perfect conditions, as I had an ambitious plan to paddle 14 miles to an island campsite just off the coast. It was deja vu; the exact same conditions when I launched 8 years ago. As I pushed off the beach I was excited, yet nervously curious about the upcoming adventure and totally ready to conquer Kyuquot Sound.

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