Posts Tagged With: Kayaking Kyuquot sound

Wolf beach

This is a story from my first trip to Kyuquot Sound in 2010; I wrote it in my journal but I never posted it here. Not sure why; maybe because I lost my camera overboard on the trip or maybe because the woods kicked my ass. (Because of the lack of photos, for this post I’ve tried to recreate some images from my trip by using my non-existent art skills for your viewing pleasure.)

I was in the remote Kyuquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I landed on the calm side of Rugged Point on a small protected beach and the first thing I noticed was two sets of canine tracks in the sand. Fresh and big, almost the width of my hand. Too big for coyote, plus coyotes aren’t found in this area – but wolves are!

Massive, very fresh wolf print on a beach. Vancouver Island

I’ve camped in wolf territory before and wasn’t that concerned at first. I once had a wolf wander through my campsite in Yellowstone. So I set my tent up on the beach over the tracks.

Wolf beach

I became a little more nervous after I went to the other beach just one hundred yards away and it looked like a dog park, wolf tracks everywhere. So once I got back to my tent I started thinking about camp perimeters, defensible positions and immediately searched for a weapon. I was obviously a little spooked. I have no problem with bears and have seen them often in the backcountry but I’m not as familiar with wolves. Plus there is something about wolves; bears eat honey and put out forest fires. Wolves eat Little Red Riding Hood and grandmothers.

I found a thick piece of driftwood 3 feet long with the weight of a Louisville Slugger. It had a large knot and barb on one end; A backwoods mace. I dubbed it ‘Wolfstick’ and it didn’t leave my side for the next two nights.

Wolfstick

With heightened alertness, I finished setting up camp and made dinner. The campfire was raging as twilight set in. When I said I have no problem in the woods alone with large carnivores afoot, I have to admit that sometimes, on the first night, I can still be a little sketched out. As darkness crept in and after a few nips of Jameson whisky, paranoia started to infiltrate my mind.

Shadows in the woods, odd noises in the dark, beasts lurking, skulking, hunting. Then a disturbing thought crossed my mind; what would I do if I saw a pack of wolves charging down the beach at me. This scenario seemed not only possible, but in my semi-inebriated state, entirely logical and inevitable.

So I ran through my options:

Plan Alamo.
As the wolves bear down I would jump up on the massive tree stump on the edge of camp. Thick underbrush surround 3 sides of the stump meaning the assault could only come from one direction, the East. Standing tall on the stump and as wolves launch themselves at me, I would bat them out of the air with Wolfstick. Facing overwhelming odds I would be like freakin’ John Wayne as Davy Crockett in my favorite childhood movie, The Alamo. Sounded good in theory but we all know how that ended for Davy.

Plan Dunkirk.
I could grab the kayak, drag it to the shore and launch into the water and safety before the blitzkrieging wolves got me. H and I have successfully used this tactic before to evade a large brown bear in Alaska, (but that’s another story.) Clearly the chance of this plan succeeding with wolves was zero. Unlike the British at Dunkirk the wolves would be on me before I could get anywhere near the water.

Plan Retreat.
I could basically make a run for it. The rickety wooden outhouse was under a hundred yards away down a path. I could make it if I was running for my life, which clearly, I was and I could barricade myself in the stinky, fly-infested outhouse. John freakin’ Wayne never had to barricade himself in an outhouse, but it looked like my best chance of survival.

On the second and third day I calmed down. I wandered the beaches and overgrown trails through the woods. I went for a long walk to a stream for water. I wasn’t now worried about an immediate attack but was still acutely aware of my surroundings and Wolfstick was always close by.

During my six day tour of Kyuquot Sound, I never did see a single wolf.

Categories: Kyuquot Sound, BC - June 2019 | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Crazy Mink

Soon after arriving at camp in the Bunsby Islands, I did a little recon of the beach and immediate area. Nothing much out of place on this little NW island paradise, but on the small pocket beach, I did spot some tracks, thankfully not wolves or bears but small, delicate, almost cat-like.

Mink tracks

The tracks weaved up and down the beach and I deduced they were Mink tracks. Everyone’s favorite beachcomber energetically bounds all over, looking for food. They are said to be rare on Vancouver Island but I’ve been lucky enough to have seen them often; Fuzzy and adorable, I shudder now when I think of my Grandmother’s stole.

I was on the lookout to see the local critter and it didn’t take long; I was reading on the beach and glanced up to see a dark, small weasel zig zagging about 20 yards away; he hadn’t seen me yet. This was a rare ‘Black Mink’;the dark color of a chocolate lab. His immaculate fur looked so soft that I wanted to grab him and rub my face on his belly. He was bounding around speedily, up and under the driftwood, darting about like he’d raided my coffee stash. As I fumbled for my camera, he calmly turned and parkoured his way back into the woods.

But it wasn’t long before I hear a noise behind me coming from a pile of driftwood. The mink pops out and then starts running down a log, straight at me. He’s only a few feet away and bearing down on me; the way I was sitting he was about to collide with my head. I nearly got my wish of rubbing my face on his belly, but just before impact I squeal, jump up run down the beach and he again bolts into the woods.

He has disappeared, I slowly walk back to my perch muttering “WTF is up with this crazy Mink!?” (Not sure if I should worry, but on these long solo trips I do find I talk to myself, even when not being charged by weasels.)

I sit, glance up and ‘Poof!’ there he is again, sitting on a log staring right at me. He wasn’t there moments ago. Crazy Mink has magically appeared on a piece of driftwood and is now giving me the stink eye. He looks at me, then slowly scans my messy camp, as if to say, “who the hell are you and why is your crap all over my beach?” He shrugs it off, and playfully bounces off down the beach again without a care in the world. I watched him leave again, muttering ironically to myself, ‘Crazy Mink.’

Categories: Kyuquot Sound, BC - June 2019 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gimme Shelter

On day two I had just about finished setting up the tent when, ‘pop’!’ – one of the tent poles broke. I quickly disassembled the pole before it ripped through the rainfly. The ever-so slightly inconvenient issue of *maybe* not having a functional shelter for the next six nights on this wet and rugged coast was certainly not going to shorten this trip. Even though I’ll be completely off the grid and miles from anyone- No big deal. I’ll just hope for no rain!

Busted!

My initial optimism quickly faded when I realized I hadn’t had a complete understanding of the problem – a full explosive rupture on the joint where the poles connect. It had completely shattered with metal pieces now missing. Not only that, but on both pole sets, other joints also show stress fractures at breaking point. Thankfully I bought a new roll of duct tape for the trip; I was going to need it all. I taped the stress fractures and made a splint of flexible cedar strands for the break and taped it heavily.

 

Cedar splint

I used so much of the tape, I wouldn’t have enough to redo the splint if it didn’t hold. I found a spot sheltered from the wind and set up the tent. It looked ok – “That baby is going to hold!” I shouted. I felt like a backwoods MacGyver; pretty badass. I figured it could last the whole trip, only would time will tell, I thought. And that time was about 10 hours.

Splint on tent & solid ?

The splinted joint buckled but thankfully held. But the structural integrity of the tent was compromised – crooked, I couldn’t close the door and it threatened collapse. But it held up. 2 nights down – only 4 more to go.

Holding together, barely

I packed up quickly the following dawn. I couldn’t collapse the poles fully with the taped joints and so had to stuff them in the bulkhead, I was lucky not to break them even more.

I was hoping to find a sheltered spot at the next campsite where I would be for three nights. I found the ideal camping spot in the Bunsby Islands; a flat tent sized-clearing in the thick underbrush, just off the beach. Totally surrounded by thick vegetation and sheltered from the Pacific winds. I ran a guide rope to a nearby tree to keep pressure off the broken pole. This kept the tent upright, moderately stable. Still couldn’t close doors but I was fairly confident it wouldn’t collapse. It held strong for three days.

Camp Bunsby Point.

On the last night I camped further up off the beach in a sheltered spot behind a downed tree. The tent was now in really bad shape, but it somehow held together. I was surprised, the odds had been against it surviving, I really thought it might self-destruct. Lesson learned; check tent poles before getting on the water.

Last night

 

Categories: Kyuquot Sound, BC - June 2019 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Americas, Kyuquot Sound, BC - June 2019 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

Categories: Kyuquot Sound, BC - June 2019 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lucky hats

After 10 years of service and protection during my kayak adventures, I’ve had to finally retire my Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat. LWTKH has guided me on over 25 multi-day kayak adventures on the seas of the NorthWest. Like a forcefield it has shielded me from all hazards; real, imagined and completely unknown. With its help I’ve survived massive swells in Kyuquot Sound, navigated boiling reefs and kept the wolves away at night on the western shores; LWTKH has always had my back.

.

I truly believed in its supernatural guardian angel-like powers. Maybe an ancient alien race of beings left it behind? Or perhaps it was a leprechaun’s hat? I felt it could manipulate my actions and decisions unbeknownst to me and steer me clear of danger I didn’t even know existed. For example, I would get a feeling that maybe it was time to get off the water and find camp, for no real reason. Then upon landing, a vicious squall would immediately kick up.

(I do have a thing for lucky objects, or more like it, objects I deem as lucky. When we travel I collect lucky charms from different cultures and religions. I have a few or them; perhaps maybe more than a few.)

Hand of Fatima, Morocco

I held onto LWTKH for as long as possible. It was in bad shape, discolored, stained, material falling off, with a funky smell that wouldn’t go away. Its days were clearly numbered.

Grand Canyon

Its last trip was 9 days rafting through the Grand Canyon, which I thought would be a fitting and epic trip to retire it on. I also thought it might be helpful to have my lucky hat on the mighty Colorado; It took a beating and was about to self-destruct but it did keep me safe.

The search for a replacement took some time. It couldn’t be just any hat, it had to have an aura, a lucky glow; I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

Finally, while walking through my neighborhood Goodwill, I could see it from far across the store. A trucker hat with a blue fish on it. Bright, ugly and hipster; it definitely had a glow. I figured this hat was like a beacon; I could be seen for miles away on the water. Plus it was only $4. The new hat was christened: LUHKH; Lucky Ugly Hipster Kayak Hat.

Changing of the guard

Only time will tell if LUHKH is actually lucky. The first trip will be somewhat nerve-wracking, but I have hope in its powers to guide me through perils and keep me safe; warn me of rogue waves, forecast the weather, and teleport me home if things get really bad. Now that would be some hat.

First trip with LUHKH. Successful

Categories: Americas, Deer Group, B.C. - June 2007, Grand Canyon, AZ - July 2017 | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.