Posts Tagged With: camping

Never get out of the boat.

“Never get out of the boat! Never get out of the boat!” Chef – Apocalypse Now.

Beach at Gibson, Flores Island, BC.

Beach camp at Gibson, Flores Island, BC.

In a driving rain, I landed on the desolate sandy beach. It would have been more inviting, if not for the weather. I was glad to land, the wind was picking up, and the seas were getting angry. Also I was a little off, feeling tired, not on top of my game. This was going to be my spot for the night. I searched for the backwood campsite and found it in the dunes. It was a nice sheltered site, level with a wooden tent platform, metal food cache box and pit toilet. This was luxury compared to the beach camping I had been doing. I couldn’t really complain though; any beach camping ain’t that bad.

As I explored my accommodation for the night, I noticed a strange mound on the beach with crows circling above, so I went to investigate. It proved to be a large, recently deceased sea lion washed up on the sand. As I walked around the carcass, a chill went down my spine. His neck was ripped open and he was surrounded by a large amount of canine prints that led back to the tree line. They were fresh and large, too big to be coyote. I instantly knew what had left them; wolves!

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Wolf prints, lots of wolf prints

Wolf prints, lots of wolf prints

Wolves are known to roam these beaches. I spun around and nervously scanned the area, nothing. I pulled out my bear spray and grabbed a thick stick with a knot on the end; wolf club. I reconsidered, this might not be the best place to camp after all.

There was another beach beyond the headland, a few hundred yards away. I decided to recon to see if it was suitable for camping. I figured it wouldn’t take long and the nocturnal beasts wouldn’t be active in the afternoon. (Did I now think I was an expert in wolf behavior?)

I walked over the headland through dense, pristine old-growth forest and saw that the next beach was a protected place to land from the surf with a few good spots to camp on the sand. So I headed back to get my kayak in order to relocate.

As I left the forest I quickly scanned the beach with my binoculars. I saw the kayak, it was fine, so then I checked out the sea lion. My heart stopped. There was a large wolf on top, tearing its skin off and he was between me and my boat.

It suddenly hits me what an idiot I am! Basically I see a dead seal surrounded by wolf prints and I go for a stroll!? Anyone with half a mind would have immediately got off the f****** beach. I was disappointed in myself for that bone-headed decision. As I said, clearly not on my game. I knew this situation had to be resolved fast – I had to get to the kayak with all my provisions in it and launch, preferably without getting mauled.

I have had some experience with wolves in the wild, so I knew they tend to be shy of humans. Hmmmm. Unless they are defending a food stash? Again, clearly I am not an expert in wild canine behavior. But I did need a plan. And quick.

I was about three hundred yards away and I didn’t think he had seen me yet. So my cunning plan was to let him know I was there. I mean, What’s the worst that could happen? I reviewed the options.

A) He would see me and run off. Good

B) He would ignore me and continue chewing on the seal, blocking my escape route. Not good

C) He would charge me and I would have to defend myself with my weak, completely inadequate arsenal of pocket knife, bear spray, wolf club. Really bad.

Hoping wildly for the first option, I took a deep breath and shouted; deep, guttural and loud. My voice boomed and echoed across the bay. Standing tall, I started waving my arms. The wolf’s head popped up in the opposite direction; He slowly turned and looked my way for about ten seconds and then he continued tearing away at the seal.

Great, now what? I’m screwed. It was a massive seal, he could be eating for days.

Suddenly he started behaving differently, twitchy. Surprisingly, he jumped off the seal and trotted off. He took a quick look my way as he disappeared into the trees. This was my chance; I started moving quickly down the beach towards the seal.

As I pass by, I saw him along the tree line, only 75 yards away! We watched each other cautiously as we walked in opposite directions. He again disappeared into the trees. I threw everything into the cockpit, dragged the kayak into the water and clumsily launched. I was reminded of a line from a favorite movie – Never get out of the boat.

Massive!, very fresh wolf print on the beach.

Massive! Very fresh wolf print on the beach.

I landed at the next beach which was, in reality, only about a quarter mile away. So as I unloaded I wasn’t surprised to see wolf prints here too. In my mind I tried to reassure myself; You have camped in wolf territory before, it will be fine. Taking advantage of a lull in the rain, I started setting up my tent feet away from a pair of wolf tracks.

Wolf prints near the tent.

Wolf prints near the tent.

I was skittish, my head swiveled continuously, scanning the beach. I had wolf club nearby and the bear spray in my pocket, with the safety off, ready to go. A rookie mistake, I know better. As I bent down to unload the kayak, I heard the mace go off. For the second time that day I thought ‘what an Idiot’.

I closed my eyes and held my breath. After a few minutes I slowly opened my eyes. they didn’t sting; I wasn’t choking. Phew! I got lucky. Then I looked down the front of my pants and from my waist to my knees was soaked in pepper spray. Not good! The burning sensation came on quickly. I don’t know if you ever maced yourself in the nuts before. It’s a unique kind of pain. It felt as if you juiced one hundred jalapeños and poured it down the front of your pants. I ripped off my pants faster than a teenager in heat. I danced around the beach and waded out into the ocean. For days my thighs were stained deep orange, and every once and a while they would heat up like a sunburn.

I slept well that night despite reeking of mace, the driving rain, and the threat of wolf attack. Because of circumstances beyond my control I was forced to spend three nights on this beach, and I never did see another wolf.

 

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Camping on the Moon.

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We hiked up and over the gypsum sand dunes that stretched for as far as you could see. It looked like the moon with little vegetation, and pure white lizards skittering about.

But while it may have looked like the moon, it felt like the face of the sun. It was only 10 am as we were hiking with all our gear to a backcountry campsite and the temperature was already above 100 degrees; the sweat was pouring from my brow. We were in White Sands National Park, New Mexico, camping in the dunes under a full moon. If we didn’t succumb to heat stroke first.

Camp

Camp

Finally after a few, very hot, long miles, we found the campsite.  Withering under the relentless sun, I was chugged down water as fast as I was sweating it out. We put up the tent in record time and retreated back to the air-conditioned car.

On summer full moon nights, The National Park puts on open air concerts. Tonight was a cello quartet playing as the sun set and the moon rose; huge and golden over the pure white sand. Parents laid down blankets as kids ran up and tumbled down the dunes.

Moon rise

Moon rise

The musicians weren’t your traditional string quartet, they played rock covers; Beatles, Nirvana and Black Keys rather than Beethoven. An unusual band in a unusual setting.

As the moon rose high in the sky it lit up the white landscape like daylight; The desert landscape looked like a faded black and white picture.

chelo quartet

Cello quartet

Finally the show ended and we hiked back to camp; There was no trail over the dunes, just a post every so often to show the way. Even with the strong moonlight, It was hard to route- find; All dunes look the same at night. We zig-zagged our way back to the campsite.

Before we crawled in the tent to sleep, we shared the final beer laying on our backs in the sand, staring at a sky filled with stars.

All too soon, we reluctantly rolled out of our tent to catch sunrise; but at least it was cooler pre-dawn; the coolest we had been since arriving in New Mexico. It was eerily quiet, no wind, no movement on the desolate landscape.

As the sun rose orange through the wispy clouds in the east, the moon set in the west; they were identical, a mirror image.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Later that day we had to try the popular White Sands sport of sand-sledding: sliding down the gypsum dunes on a plastic saucer. It’s fun, although the hike up steep dunes in the heat can kill you!

I wouldn’t call the ride down fast; it’s slow motion sledding. We waxed the bottom of the sled for more speed. It didn’t help; I even managed to fall off in slow motion.

Dune sledding

Dune sledding

We broke camp and left driving through the lunar landscape, sand blowing across the road. Every living thing was ducking for cover in the extreme heat. An inhospitable world.  It is easy to see why NASA used White Sands to train Astronauts for Apollo missions, it is a different planet.

 

Categories: New Mexico- July 2015 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bad hair

On the fifth day of the ten-day solo kayak tour, only able to rinse off in the frigid ocean, my hair had now turned into a living form or perhaps had something living in it.

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Day 5: my hair is starting to gain volume

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Day 6: my hair begins to take on chameleon-like powers, imitating the landscape around it.

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Day 7: ? !

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Day 8: Medusa

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Day 9: Getting nappy; dreadlocks forming

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Day 10: A little drizzle added to the wet and wild look

10 days.  70 miles kayaked. 0 showers.

It’s odd what  you up do to keep amused when you’re alone for ten days.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

All teenagers are dumb

Tried to get on the water early to catch slack tide, but I was a little late. No problem,  the tide was with me flowing like a fast-moving river through the shallows and tiny rocky islands just off of John’s Island.

It was a rather large ten foot tide on this morning; a lot of water on the move and I had to concentrate on the unpredictable tidal flow.  Up ahead I noticed what I thought were two oddly shaped dorsal fins in the water. Turns out it wasn’t fins; it was the ears of a deer trying to swim across the one mile wide channel during this large tidal transfer.  Clearly he had no chance.

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stranded!

Miraculously he did somehow manage to scramble onto the last small rocky island; too bad for him it was a flood tide and his island would soon be underwater.  He was a young buck with small nubs for antlers. What was he thinking? I guess teenagers are the same throughout the animal kingdom.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Safari island

Break camp, pack kayak and on the water by 8am. The tide was favorable and the weather always better in the morning as the southerly wind builds as the day grows.  I crossed Spieden Channel at slack tide to avoid the swift currents that plague the area on ebb and flow tides. Spieden Island has a colorful history like many islands in the San Juan archipelago. These islands, far from Washington DC authority, were populated with the independently minded or those on the run;  Civil war vets, rum runners, families, farmers.

Spieden Island was bought in the ’70’s by the Jones brothers,  who were taxidermists from Seattle. The brothers renamed the island Safari island and they imported exotic animals from around the world. They then spent their free time with friends hunting these imports. Sadly they were soon shut down.

It is said that the animals still roam the island,  but I’ve seen the island from afar before, and didn’t believe the rumors.

But, as I now approached the steep grass shores of Spieden Island, I immediately saw a herd of animals; Small deer with white spots like oversized bambis and a large group of  scruffy looking goats, looking a little out-of-place on the steep grassy knoll above the shoreline. Rumors could be true!

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Wildlife

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deer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few miles past ‘Safari Island’, I cruised the long harbor of Stuart Island to my spot for the next two nights. I set up camp at the end of Reid Harbor and wandered the dirt path to the historic lighthouse on the other end of the island. I walked past the one-room schoolhouse built in the late 1800’s and the old town cemetery with tombstone names like Littlewolf. The lighthouse and massive lightkeeper’s house was on turn point with sweeping views north to Canada.

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lightkeeper’s “cottage”

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Cemetary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With safari island and its strange inhabitants far in the distance and with dusk approaching I started a fire. The fire started easily with the sun-baked driftwood from the beach.I usually have problems starting fires which is strange, since I was a little pyro when I was young.

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Pyro

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End of a stunning day.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Juan kayak tour: 2013

The first day was crucial in my seventy-mile, ten-day kayak camping tour of the San Juan Islands, WA. It was a seventeen mile kayak to the first campsite along the rugged western coast of San Juan Island, open to the southerly winds and swells off the Pacific. If I was unable to reach the campsite that day, it could derail my carefully laid plans for the rest of the trip.

To complete this leg of the trip I would need calm seas, mild winds and a small tide.  The weather is usually best in the morning and slack tide  on this day was at 6.30 am.  This was going to be the best time to launch and round dangerous Cattle Point and the shallows past it,  before the wind and tides increased causing tide rips and currents and  terrifying whirlpools.  Not ideal since I am not the most organized person and this would mean I have to break camp, drive to the sneaky, secret launch site,  load the kayak with equipment and supplies for ten days and then launch by 6:30 am  latest. Luckily, for once I had it together and launched right on the money.

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Cattle Point

The skies were dark with a low ceiling of clouds , no wind, water like glass: perfect.  I paddled hard and made good time.  A light rain started to fall as I passed Cattle Point and powered through the shallows and up the west coast of San Juan Island. The resident orca pods frequent this coast, hunting salmon, and I was hoping to run into them. I glided over huge kelp beds, along wind-swept rocky shores, with the sky, ocean and shore all different shades of gray under the cloud-filled skies.

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Small Pox Bay; with a view of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

At 2:30 pm I finally landed at the County Campsite at Small Pox Bay; a full eight hours after launch, with sadly, no orca.  I set up camp on the field on the bluff overlooking Haro Straight and took a  quick nap. When I awoke, just after sunset, a pod of orca passed off-shore, a good omen for the trip to come.

Categories: Americas, San Juan Islands - May 2013 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Seaweed

Helen signed up for a three-day seaweed foraging and cooking weekend seminar, taking place on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington. Camping in a group site, the idea was they would collect seaweed during the day and then cook delicious seaweed cuisine at night. I was skeptical but decided to come along and kayak while Helen did the seaweed thing; I haven’t been to the San Juans for a while and it’s a great kayaking area.

Early the following morning, I was up and on the water early for the 12 mile circumnavigation of Shaw Island. Calm seas and full sun, a great day to explore the undeveloped rocky shores of Shaw. A wonderful leisurely paddle dodging pleasure boats sneaking in and out of the harbors and inlet along the coast. I made good time and was back on shore by mid afternoon.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

Kayaking lopez with harbor seal in the background.

When I arrived back at the campsite, it was a-buzz with activity as the foragers prepared for another excursion; apparently it was low tide, prime time to find the elusive nori seaweed. As Helen ran from the campsite she yelled, “can you hang up the rest of the kelp?”. I wandered over to the tent to find a sagging clothes line with a few pieces of kelp on it and a big wet trash bag of seaweed sitting in front of the tent door. Alone in the campsite, like a good boy scout I strung up the line properly and began to hang up the slimy kelp thinking, “how did this happen?”

I got screwed.

the kelp clothes line

the kelp clothes line

On the final day we began to load up the car with multiple hefty bags full of seaweed. Helen informed me that she’d been told it was beneficial to put ground up seaweed in your condiments. I said ” you’re not putting seaweed in the ketchup.” I love my ketchup. She replied, “But it’s good for you and you won’t even notice.”

We had to wait a few hours for the ferry and took a walk along the beach. It was a clear and hot day, and the sun was beating down on our car full of trash bags of seaweed. As the ferry approached, we returned to the car and opened the door, the smell was overpowering, like a fish cannery.

The following day back at the house we set up a large blue tarp in the backyard and laid out the seaweed to dry in the sun. We hung a twenty-foot line to hang the kelp. The neighbors must have wondered what we were up to now; luckily, they think we are crazy anyway.

And yes, I spotted some foreign particles in the Heinz the other day, small black flakes!

Categories: Americas, Lopez Island - August 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solo kayak trip: Deer group B.C.

I took my solo kayak trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island a few months ago. Middle of nowhere, it was a 90km funky logging road drive to my launch. Probably should not have done it at midnight. Oh well, I made it.

After a quick nap in the car I was on the water early. I spent four nights kayak camping in the Deer Group Islands, camping on small islands in the Barkley Sound. Very remote, totally off the grid, no cell phone reception. I love being off the grid, it makes it feel more like an adventure; just you alone in the woods with no contact with the outside world.

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Selfie with my lucky white trash kayak hat

This is an interesting area to kayak because it is on the exposed coast and the huge swells from the Pacific roll through the islands. It’s a little disconcerting sitting in your kayak and seeing these large swells that are well over your head bearing down on you. No problem; you just bob like a cork up and over the wave. You also have to paddle far offshore to make sure you’re well away from where those monsters are breaking.
The weather was great; It didn’t rain on me. I can’t remember the last time I went kayaking in the Northwest when it hasn’t rained. The winds were predictable, Picking up in the early afternoon. I would do the major kayaking in the morning and read on the beach in the afternoon in the sun, when the winds started. Can’t complain.
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Sea cave

The coast is classic Northwest, wind-blown and rugged from the abuse of the Pacific and this area is known for its large sea caves hiding in the cliff bands along the shore.

The camping was great staying on these small islands. I had them all to myself except one night when I camped with some old school local kayakers that had good stories and info about the area. Each one of the islands had a small population of Columbia deer; a midget deer that could swim between the islands, very strange-looking; like a normal deer but the size of a large dog. There were also martens that would do laps around the island looking for food in the intertidal zone. How did weasels get such a bad name? These guys were super-cute, all ginger-colored and frolicking about.

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Island camp

 

Categories: Americas, Deer Group, B.C. - June 2007 | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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