Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five days' kayaking in the Sechelt Inlets. Day 3: Tzoonie to Skookumchuck and back

Read the introduction here
Read about Day 1 here   
Read about Day 2 here

September 6:


Our unlikely companions set off for Kunechin the next morning, which was a bit of a relief. This was Saturday night, so we were expecting perhaps more company, although we hoped they'd have a little more common sense than the others. Today was for heading up to Skookumchuck Rapids - just to see it, not to go through by any means. The fact that the tide would be rising all day meant that the rapids would be flowing toward us, not trying to suck us out through them. We also thought a little mid-day hike around the area might be in order.

We took a very leisurely paddle along the north shore. Although less hermetically gorgeous than the part of the inlet on the other side of the narrows, there was plenty of stuff to groove on just below the surface, and the angle of the midmorning light was perfect for lighting up the shallow water and its weird denizens: lots of little golfball-sized urchins, tubeworms, and that most unlikely of God's creatures, the sea cucumber.
And the Lord did say "And the starfish shall lie down with the sea cuke"
Rounding the point into Sechelt Inlet proper, Jonathon startled a family of seals who had been peacefully sunning themselves on a rock. They made a bit of a fuss over us, herding us away from their tanning spot. Something I didn't know about seals before this episode: they stink.
Seal family says, "Piss off!" This photo was taken from a respectful distance once they'd stopped herding us. 
As the inlet narrowed toward Skookumchuck, we could hear the rapids and see the whitewater in the distance. We beelined for the western edge of Skookum Island, where the urchins were now the size of baseballs, and made a hop over to the western shore of the inlet, where we found a little bay behind Rapid Islet. On that little crossing, for the only time on our whole trip, the water was both deep and clear. You could feel the currents quite strongly, and the way the paddle grabbed the water was very different every time you crossed an eddyline. Fun and a little nervous-making. We pulled up in the little bay, pulled our boats high up the beach and tied them up. After a little lunch we clambered over rocks and through some bushes to watch the whitewater kayakers play in the standing waves. Skook doesn't look like much in photos, but in real life it's a stunner: the roar of the water lets you know how much power it holds, and the scale of the thing is pretty dramatic.
Braver than I.
One of the passing whitewater guys told us there was a trail from our bay to the cliffs overlooking the rapids, so we struck out through the salal to look for it. We did a fair bit of pretty heavy bushwhacking, occasionally stumbling on something that looked trail-like before losing the thread again.
The remnant of one of the West Coast's ancient giants, and beside him  an old-growth Douglas-Fir stump.
Eventually we hit the universal sign of civilized people everywhere: a fence. That we were on the wrong side of, natch. We hopped over and watched the whitewater daredevils awhile longer.
From the ledge below, the fit and foolhardy launch their assault on eternity.
Not far from the fence we picked up the trail, which took us on a surprisingly easy and salal-free route back to our landing spot. We'd just started from the wrong location. It was getting on in the afternoon and we'd already had half a day's paddle and a couple hours' hike, but all yesterdays' soreness was gone and we were ready for a good journey back to camp - and we had one! We rode the winding currents east of Skookum Island for a good long while before still waters prevailed again, although the tide was with us still. This effect was amplified as we rounded the point into Narrows Inlet and a good strong wind kicked up at our backs. With the wind and the tide on our side, we made amazing time back to Tzoonie - less than 2 hours from launch to landing. 
Virtually flying back to Tzoonie
As we'd predicted, there were two more parties at Tzoonie, but they were using the other sites. After a hearty Mexican meal, we felt pretty invincible as the sun disappeared over the mountains and the full moon came looming out and we reflected on a big, full day during which we pushed ourselves hard and met every challenge with ease. Do you remember the story of Icarus?

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