Posts Tagged With: Hot Springs cove

Rationing

While kayaking, there is limited space for provisions. During long trips I have to ration and on this ten day trip it was vitally important. If you get stuck out there for a few more days because of weather, or even a simple thing like lacking willpower you could easily run out of the necessities. That would be serious.

To be clear, I’m not talking about food, or water. It’s the inadequate supply of beer and chocolate, that I sneak into every possible nook and cranny of the boat. Did I forget to mention the bottle of Jamison I stuffed into the bow of my kayak? That’s also under strict rationing. Every night, I could have beer or two, a few squares of chocolate, and a shot at sunset.

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Things simplify when you camp; you have little more time to deal with the basics. One basic is spending hours trying to keep your beer cold, in any way possible. It usually involves some scenario with me trying to submerge them in the ocean.

 

Kayak beer cooler

Kayak rudder beer cooler

Beers cooling in the surf.

Beers cooling in the surf.

Bad weather and a terrible forecast cut my latest cruise short by a day. As I kayaked to the take-out spot, I realized I had one beer left. It is bad luck to return from a trip with any beer left.

So I stopped for lunch and rescued the lone beer that had been rolling around the bottom of the kayak for nine days. The can was dented, covered with sand and warm. But it was satisfying. This last beer symbolized the end of my voyage. I couldn’t help but reflect on my trip as I sat on the beach nursing the warm Ranier. An epic trip filled with adventure in a pristine wilderness. This expedition had it all; sun and rain, was both terrifying and relaxing, yet always stunningly beautiful. One thing is for sure, after nine days in the wilderness I had happily settled in; a wild child, and was reluctant to return to civilization. Yet return I must, I was out of beer.

Last beer standing.

Last beer standing.

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

It rained all night.

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I set up camp, high on the beach, during a brief lull in the rain. I positioned the tent behind a large driftwood stump to block the wind; The swell and waves were getting larger in the bay as the westerlies kicked up. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the rain started to fall. I retired to the tent. It rained all night.

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The rain starts

12 hours of continuous rain.
I woke up the next morning to torrential rain. I stuck my head out of the tent into a gale to view chaotic seas. Way too rough for the kayak. Clearly I was going to have to spend another night on this beach. I sat in the tent and read, only finally crawling out at 11:00am into the downpour. I decided to take a big hike though the coastal rainforest, which was fully earning its name. Down the trail, that resembled a stream more than a trail, past huge hundred-year-old cedars dripping with moss. I continued along the coast in the afternoon fighting along the wet and overgrown trail, as far as the small First Nation reservation with run-down houses and packs of dogs.

When I got back to camp late in the day, the weather was getting worse, not better. I set up a tarp in the only suitable place I could find; On the trail as it entered the forest. No big deal really, it was pretty deserted. I then moved the tent to a more protected spot behind a rocky outcrop on the beach. I have never been stranded for long before, but I had a bad feeling about this storm. I battened down for the long haul. It rained all night.

Camp night 2

Camp night 2

36 hours of continuous rain
The next morning it was pouring and the wind was howling. I got out of the tent and was surprised to see a small stream had formed in the sand and was running under the corner of the tent. It was raining so hard that all along the beach rain run-off had formed rivulets running from the forest to the ocean. I dragged my tent out of the running water and built a barricade with driftwood to divert the stream away. I retreated under the tarp as the wind kicked up; I wasn’t kayaking anywhere today.

Tent under threat of wash out.

Tent under threat of wash out.

I decided to stay at camp, under the tarp. I couldn’t afford a big hike and getting soaked again, I was running out of dry clothes. It was a pretty relaxing day, I read, drank lots of coffee and battled to keep my tent from getting washed away. Most importantly, I stayed dry, but I was going stir-crazy stranded on this beach.

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48 hours of continuous rain
It was raining hard as darkness fell. Big waves were crashing and the tide was coming in fast. So I retreated back to my last line of defense; I dragged my tent underneath the tarp at the trailhead. It was a good spot, I could hold out here through anything. Although I was starting to wonder if I would ever get off of this beach. It rained all night.

Last line of defense. Tent under tarp. Heavy rain.

Last line of defense. Tent under tarp. Heavy rain.

The next morning I opened my eyes, it was so quiet… I sat straight up, stunned – It wasn’t raining! After well over fifty hours of relentless rain, it had finally stopped. I peered outside: Dreary, low fog, but relatively calm seas. I’m out of here!!
I packed everything as fast as I could. The tent was soaked, I balled it up and just stuffed in the kayak. Like I did with everything else – A panic pack. H and I have a name for this type of advanced backwoods packing: ‘Chuck and go’. I wanted off this beach as fast as possible.

On the water, finally

On the water, finally

I launched in a heavy fog and had to navigate by compass; not ideal. I didn’t care, I was off the beach.

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

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

A lesson human anatomy

A small boat filled with people and a sputtering outboard approached; it was strangely out of place. I was alone camping on a tiny remote beach a few miles from Hot Springs Cove and the small First Nation village of the Hesquiaht. I thought they must be from that village. But as it got closer, they were definitely not native, they were in bathing suits, talking and laughing away. It looked like they had just floated in from Burning Man.

My beach camp on Flores island, BC.

My beach camp on Flores island, BC.

They landed and the captain walked over. He apologized for disturbing my tranquil camp and said they wouldn’t be long. I didn’t mind. We struck up a conversation. They worked at the lone accommodation in the village. We talked about kayaking and the hot spring I was going to the following day. He told me of the secret short cut trail to Hot Springs Cove. “Don’t go right on the trail or you’ll end up at the Tribal Burial Cave; They will not like that.” He had a friendly care-free way about him.

We finished our conversation and as he walked away, I heard one of his female companions shout “I hope you don’t mind a little nudity.” The next thing I know, he was butt-naked, wading out to his boat and half the women were topless. What is going on!?

They laid down some blankets, opened a few beers and frolicked about the beach. I was dumb-struck, but when they started doing cartwheels my jaw hit the sand. I have never seen naked people do cartwheels. It was an interesting lesson in human anatomy. One of those things you can’t un-see.

After about half an hour, they suddenly got dressed, waved good-bye and got back in the boat and putted off, bailing water out as they went. Interesting afternoon; this remote place has been full of unexpected, odd surprises.

PS. I know this is hard to believe. I have a hard time believing it. There is  no photo evidence; I was so tempted to take a picture, but that would have been way too creepy.

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

Hot Springs Cove

The water from the hot springs poured over the ledge like a waterfall. I sat underneath and let the warm water wash away the grime from four days of paddling. But I was not alone.

This place is a strange contradiction of pristine, rugged coast wilderness and popular, yet hard to get to, busy tourist spot. It took me three days to paddle here from the closest town, Tofino. Tourists can take a two hour high-speed boat ride, or a 30 minute float plane ride; A day trip- Not 3!  For anyone, it’s a commitment just to get to Tofino – it’s not that easy to get to this remote area of West Vancouver Island. I forgot to mention, there is a two mile hike to the hot spring.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

But it’s worth it- the rugged beauty of this place is breathtaking. The spring starts in the forest and flows into a steaming creek that winds around old growth cedar trees. It then exits the forest and flows over jet-black rocks into a long narrow crevasse, where the water becomes waist deep. Numerous pools of varying sizes and temperatures lead down to the ocean, with the cooler pools closest to the open water. Uniquely stunning; like no place I have seen before.

Hot spring stream through the forest

Hot spring stream through the forest

I had reached the springs early in the morning and it was a shock to find dozens of people from all over the world, after hardly seeing anyone for days. There were people everywhere in all the small spring pools. I was worried about stepping on feet as I maneuvered around the spring.

Spring waterfall

Spring waterfall

When I am on my solo kayak trips, it’s my mission to get as far away from civilization as possible, I hope to see no-one. So when I find a truly remote, unspoiled, wild place filled with people it’s a little disappointing. But when you see the unique beauty of Hot Springs Cove, you understand why so many people make the pilgrimage.

It was all good, after not speaking to anyone all week, It was nice to have a little chat. But before long, I retreated back to the the woods, alone.

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

Barge

When I pushed off and the kayak slid into the water I was hoping she wouldn’t sink on the spot. It was overloaded with food and equipment for my ten day trip though Clayoquot Sound.

My kayak is seventeen feet long, with two large bulkheads in the bow and stern. These were fully packed and I had the overflow in the cockpit, but at least I didn’t have to lash anything to the deck.

I estimated I had 80 pounds of equipment stuffed in every nook and cranny of my boat; food for ten plus days, camping and cooking equipment, clothing, safety and paddle equipment. Plus a few luxuries, including some sneaky beers tucked away. One thing that saved me; I didn’t need to bring much water as there were plenty of streams along my route.

 

First camp

Sunset at first camp

I held my breath as I launched into the cold Pacific. The waterline was high but not dangerous. She handled like a barge, she was running slow and sluggish, went through waves instead of bobbing over them. But the weight distribution was good and she seemed seaworthy enough to make it to the first camp. I swung the bow north and headed off on my adventure. Continue reading

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Back to my late ways

 

Over the past few years I had got better about getting to the kayak launch site at a reasonable time. This trip, I reverted to my old ways, arriving in the middle of the night before a early launch.

It’s a long trip to Clayoquot sound, BC. with a border crossing and a ferry trip, so lots of opportunity to get delayed. It should take 8 hours if everything went right; If things didn’t go right, it could take hours more. My first problem is getting out of the house. Wrapping up work, packing last minute things, triple-checking I have everything. I don’t hit the road until 1:30pm.

Not far out of town, I’m in stop-and-go traffic caused by a accident, not the best start. That clears up but just half an hour later a fatal accident closes down the interstate. So I take the back roads through the countryside to a small border crossing way off my original route. Finally over the border and into Canada, and it’s taken two hours longer than it should have.

I catch the 8:15pm ferry over to Vancouver Island; it’s a two hour crossing with a three hour drive after that. Whatever; I’m resigned to the fact that I’m way behind schedule. I go up to the top deck and take a seat. It’s a beautiful twilight, with a deep red sunset over the Straight of Georga. At this point I am good, whenever I’m on this ferry it means vacation, plus the food is good and I am starving.

Next up is a long, windy road through an endless, evergreen forest, over the hills to the rugged coast, through the darkness. Finally I arrive, find a parking lot near the beach, pull out my sleeping bag, recline the seat and try to get some sleep. It is 1:30am. and I have to be awake at 6:30am.

Launch, finally

Finally launching, Tofino

Driving late and sleeping in the car is something I’ve done for years. It’s not ideal, but adrenaline makes up for the lack of sleep. I was fine in the morning but would pay for it later in the trip.

It feels like a tradition for me showing up in the middle of the night and sleeping in the car. But it’s a crappy tradition, one I wish I could kick.

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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