Friday, April 07, 2017

Around the Redondas: kayaking near Desolation Sound, Aug 1-6 2016 Day 5 & 6

Friday dawned overcast and calm, perfect paddling weather. We struck camp and retraced north before setting off for Desolation Sound proper. We still thought we were at Lloyd Point and thought we might find some corroborating evidence at mid-tide. At the landing to the log handling area we thought we were onto it, but that recent logging operations had obliterated the old campsites. Whoops. Finally, checking the GPS on my InReach device (I've never used GPS before & hadn't thought of it earlier), I saw we seemed to be south of the coordinates for Lloyd. Since it made no difference and we had some miles to make before Kinghorn Island, I tucked that thought away and we lit out for the park as the sun began to peek out.

Yachts! So many yachts! Big ones, little ones, attractive old-fashioned wooden ones, ugly Jetsons-looking ones. The place was crammed with them, and with clothes hanging from lines, and with kids jumping off rocks into the water - I could see how people would enjoy that community feeling, and especially the kids, in this calm, exceedingly pretty place - but we felt like we'd been dropped onto the streets of New York City after the isolation and wild beauty we'd experienced just to the north of here. We paddled through Prideaux Haven but felt like grubby bums walking into Tiffany's.

Onward, then, past Melville and Otter to the Curmes for lunch, where we finally encountered a few other kayakers, the first we'd seen since Russ and his wife on Day 1. The Curmes are a great spot, well deserving of their reputation as a destination and a staging point. But I've never encountered wasps that were as aggressive and persistent as these bastards. They came right up to snatch the food out of your hand, and dive-bombed your head. We bolted our lunch and got out of there pronto.

Onward again, past Mink Island, which took both our votes for "if you had your pick of one place around here to settle, which would you choose?" It has it all - beaches, caves, cliffs, forest, a lake and running water, varied topography - a real gem. And of course it's private property, with a real unfriendly-to-travellers mien and the colonists giving you the stink-eye from their outdoor hot tubs as you pass. Unnervingly, we heard gunshots coming from up-island.

Reaching the west end of Mink and contemplating the crossing to Kinghorn, the wind had whipped up a nice frothy crop of whitecaps. It was a moderately rough crossing - about as bad as our experience in Sechelt Inlet a couple of years ago, but this time we were prepared for it - and we were better paddlers, too, by now. Still, it was a relief achieving Kinghorn, and of course the wind died off just as we got there. We asked a fella who was moving rocks around on the east beach (actually, the same dude who'd rented us our kayaks in Lund) where the campsite was, and he pointed us to the north side of the island. There are actually two distinct campsites there, on either side of a rocky promontory. The west site was the first one we found, and it was the cozier of the two, well set up for a small handful of tents and sheltered from the elements. The east site is in open level forest and would be suitable for quite a large group of campers - I bet you could fit 30 in there. I can't believe I didn't get a better photo of our campsite than this, but taking pictures is always an afterthought for me.
We had a good long hike to the west end of the island, where we failed to find Kimantas' much-vaunted "humorous commemorative plaque", but where we did enjoy some stunning views and a potential site for rock ledge camping if the group sites happened to be crowded.
 Kinghorn could use some caretaking - it's heavily used and a few established trails wouldn't go amiss to keep destructive bushwhacking to a minimum.
I loved it here - there's a real beach-bum vibe to it, at least while the sun was shining, and I could happily have stayed for days lounging, hiking, and watching the world go by.
Saturday morning, after a brief squall, the sun came out and we made a leisurely, uneventful paddle back to Lund. The highlight was a young eagle on the south shore of Kinghorn hunched over and all puffed out, drying his feathers in the sun.
All in all, an ideal trip - the ideal length at the ideal rate with an ideal companion, with just enough challenge and danger to keep us on our toes but nothing that would have put us in real peril. I feel like I could travel the exact same route again and see and do things that would make it a completely different trip, and I'd especially like to try for a night at the Toba Islet campsite, weather permitting. You can bet I'll be back.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Around the Redondas: kayaking near Desolation Sound, Aug 1-6 2016 Day 4

Somewhat reluctantly, we packed up camp and prepared to head down Homfray Channel after breakfast. But first: some high drama. While making breakfast, I made a really stupid error of inattention - trying to light the Trangia, I spilled flaming alcohol all over my hand and leg. Jonathon reports a moment of bewilderment as I shrieked and ran to the waterline to douse myself. Fortunately I was in cotton camp clothes, not polyester paddling clothes, and the only burns were to my hand. Which was pretty bad, actually. It didn't hurt immediately, but it did go white and began to blister. Jonathon had (quite level-headedly, I thought) prevented the logs on which we were cooking from catching fire. Then the pain kicked in, which I could only alleviate by holding my hand under cold water - thank god for the creek.

I will admit I said some bad swears.

I wasn't sure at first whether I'd be able to paddle - my whole right palm was burnt. After a goodly while holding it in the creek and after the tylenol kicked in, I wrapped it in gauze and hockey tape and hoped for the best. It turns out it was OK - the blisters popped right away but weren't as irritating as friction blisters, and my self-administered first aid did the trick. Lesson learned: the critics of the Trangia are right; having an open pot of flaming alcohol at your campsite is a hazard. This doesn't mean I've given up on the Church of Trangia, it just means I've got a new healthy respect for it. Pay attention ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE OUT IN THE WOODS A DAY'S PADDLE FROM ANYWHERE CIVILIZED, YOU JERK.

Eventually we set off toward Brettell Point, a calm crossing. Toward Channel Island, there's a real "big sea" feel to the water: some swells. I can see why Kimantas says this area is "recommended kayaking."

We looked for an access point to the hiking trail that leads over to Pendrell Sound but couldn't find it. (Seems like the access point is on the west side of Hepburn Point and we were looking on the east side.) We meandered down the east shore of East Redonda Island, a very pleasant paddle. East Redonda is a wonder of nature - more a mountain complex than a single mountain. Nust be seen to be believed.

After stopping for lunch at the first likely place, a boulder beach across from Foster Point, we crossed the channel (a bit creeped out by the idea that Homfray is almost a kilometre deep) to a headland campsite that Kimantas recommended. It was quite nice - exposed, though, and the day was very hot. We backtracked north around Foster Point and had a nice chat with some folks who'd opened up a little lodge there. No, they don't sell beer ("We're not bootleggers!" they said, kind of missing the idea that you can sell booze legally if you have a license for it). Decided to press on to Lloyd Point where we planned to spend the night & water up at Lloyd Creek.

The wind came up as we crossed Forbes Bay and paddling became a struggle. Somehow we got our reckoning wrong and overshot Lloyd Point (which is less like a point than a gentle bulge) by a considerable margin and ended up at "Mt. Pardoe," although we didn't figure that out til the trip's postmortem. We explored a washed-out gulch that we thought must have been Lloyd Creek - in retrospect, just a relic of recent logging.

We pulled out on the south side of the point at high tide, relieved to be off the water after a long day. Trying to reconcile the BCMTNA descriptions of the Lloyd area with where we were was a weird exercise in cognitive dissonance. I simply wouldn't believe that we couldn't find the level upland camping, or that the low-gradient cobble beaches weren't simply undetectable under the high tide. I went bashing through the forest looking for them while Jon - the pragmatist - made camp on the headland.

The forest was a hellscape. Recent logging activity has devastated the area. The clearcuts are one thing, but the real destruction came from the road-building, where the logging company has simply pushed all the unwanted timber downhill, creating a thick and impenetrable tangle of debris from the road almost all the way to the shoreline (excepting maybe 100 feet of "scenic fringe" at the shore). The concept of "scenic fringe" is something that former BC Premier Mike Harcourt was a proponent of, no doubt inspired by the scenic fringe above his ears and under his nose as shown in this photo... which nonetheless fails to disguise the ugly clearcut at the summit.
Finally I admitted defeat. Walking back on the logging road, singing at the top of my lungs to let any bears in the area know I was a rocketman, I heard Jon holler out - no doubt to let me know where to descend. I hollered back - no answer. Turns out he hadn't been echolocating me at all - he'd disturbed a nest of bees and was being attacked by them.

Aside from the rock ledge camp, there is one spot in the upland that's suitable for camping. It's a bit dank but would be a good sheltered spot in bad weather conditions.

The unsuitability of this area for a gravel quarry - an idea that's been put to rest, at least for now - is really obvious when you're there. You can see and hear everything for miles up and down Homfray Channel. We could hear the radios on the boats off Price Point, and I'm sure they all knew I was a rocketman too.

Around the Redondas: kayaking near Desolation Sound, Aug 1-6 2016 Day 3

Discretion being the better part of valour, we decided to stay a second night at Gastineau Bay. We were a little too lazy to take advantage of early morning's calm conditions (a persistent weakness of ours as a kayaking duo); the weather, though mild enough, looked a little unsettled; and staying would mean one fewer times striking camp. So, then: we hung out watching a grizzly at the next beach south of us turning over rocks and munching on - crabs, I guess - then set out on a day-paddle toward Brem Bay. but not before emptying hundreds of sand-fleas (not real fleas, some kind of crustacean) out of our boats where they'd taken up residence overnight.

And ye shall know Gastineau Bay by the big freakin' iron float in it.
I was determined to see the giant-ass waterfall that I've seen videos of. We passed a couple of tricklers, but the promised gusher was elusive. Maybe the waterfall marked in Kimantas was up in the woods? hard to say without more exact maps. (Turns out the time of year had a lot to do with it - the majestic roaring falls I've seen on YouTube was, on second inspection, definitely the wimpy shower that we passed on the way to Brem Bay.)

Toba is amazing: green water (more brackish than salty), impressive cliffs, varying landscape, majestic mountain scenery - pretty much everything you could ask for in a wilderness kayaking adventure.
Jonathon had a lot of fun pretending to speak Loon. The loons spoke back.

We had an amusing - and slightly alarming - episode when we deked into a little notch in the cliff wall and got our rudders tangled with each other. There we were, with hardly enough room for one kayak to turn around, in deep water, with our tails caught up. Some creative jiggling of the boats and whacking with paddles freed us from the prospect of a swim. In this same notch there was a charming little clump of mussels having colonized the end of a rope.

There's some real Tolkienesque landscape around here: 'squatch country.

Looking east up Toba Inlet:
The wind picked up quite suddenly and was making paddling difficult by the time we got to Brem Bay. Fortunately the bay is sheltered, and we made for shore. 
It's a spectacular place.
With a sandy beach at low tide, and enough anchorage for Hugh Hefner.
As well as some crazy modern art, a collaboration between humans and the natural world:
It also fairly reeks of grizzly. Like, if I were a big freaking brown bear, this is the one place in the world I would choose to live.

We had lunch, kicked around for a while, watched whitecaps form out in the inlet, and decided to go for a hike. We tied the boats up high and set off up a logging road. We'd gone about 100 yards when we saw this fellow with the most fashionable haircut:

That put paid to our hike - our food was in the kayaks and we weren't about to leave it there for him to discover. We had a nice hangout and kick-around watching him forage in the riverbed for a couple of hours while the tide came in alarmingly rapidly. eventually the wind slackened off enough for us to feel OK about venturing out again.
It was at this point that my camera battery died. I did get a few pics after this on my phone, but I didn't usually have it to hand.

We had an uneventful trip back and a nice evening. Note to self, though: next time bring more beer. You can definitely find room in the kayak for it somewhere.

Around the Redondas: kayaking near Desolation Sound, Aug 1-6 2016 Day 2

August 2 dawned cloudy and calm; we were in no particular hurry as we made time up Lewis Channel, as our planned campsite was only a couple hours' paddle away. Rounding the corner into Deer Passage, reflected waves made for some choppy conditions - nothing hairy, more of an annoyance than anything. I don't think we saw one boat pass in "busy" Deer Passage the whole time we were there.

We made the Deer Passage campsite just after noon. We had lunch, then beat through the bush looking for a good place to camp. We didn't find one immediately, and weren't terribly inspired to look harder or get more creative about it. The place was a bit gloomy and cheerless, and I don't think it was just the weather. We'd only covered about 12K today, and had plenty of energy to keep going. A quick conference settled it: we'd make for our projected third-night campsite in Toba Inlet.

A wall of dangling, fleshy anemones distracted us for a while.

Decided to cut a beeline for Elizabeth Island, at the mouth of Toba. (It's the dark hump just to the left of centre in the photo below.)
An uneventful crossing, with some weather gathering. As we chattered, approaching Elizabeth Island, we were brought up short by the sound of loud voices - ours, reflected back at us in the most perfect echoes I've ever heard. It's an effect that is almost worth a trip up there just to experience.

As we rounded the corner into Toba Inlet, the skies began to open up, and within 15 minutes it was a Biblical deluge. We thought we'd stop at the Toba Wildernest (where other paddlers have stopped, chatted, hiked) to see if they maybe had a cup of coffee to sell us or something. As we approached the dock, the friendly proprietor greeted us with folded arms and said "Is there somethin' I can help ya with?" The tone of his voice let us know without a doubt that there was nothing he could help us with. A minute's chat with the charmer confirmed that there was nothing to be had there, and we paddled on in lessening rain toward our destination. 

We fruitlessly explored some likely-looking candidates for the campsite, but the promising beaches were boulder-strewn and steep. Around the corner then, and another 1/2 hour's paddle brought us to our home for the night - Gastineau Bay. A very inviting little stretch of mixed sand and cobble that would be almost invisible at high tide. 

It's a wonderful spot, pretty much ideal, with great views to the south and a lively stream just a short walk away. The best tent site was covered with a fallen cedar, but there was another good one not far away.

The view to the south, with Channel Island centre and Mount Addenbroke wreathed in cloud. You can just see the mouth of Waddington Channel a little to the right.
We could hardly believe we'd come so far in just two days! We decided we'd stay around Toba for two nights - depending on the weather tomorrow, we'd either stay a second night at Gastineau Bay, or if conditions were calm we'd venture to the Toba Islet campsite another 21K into Toba Inlet tomorrow.

Around the Redondas: kayaking near Desolation Sound, Aug 1-6 2016 Day 1

I had prepared what I thought was an ambitious but doable itinerary around the Desolation Sound area, 20-25 km per day, launching from Lund, rounding West and East Redonda islands clockwise, and back to Lund in 5 nights and 6 days. It turned out to be not only doable, but something like ideal, and was a peak experience for both myself and my travelling companion, the wiry goon Jonathon.

Getting to Powell River from Vancouver is a bit of a hike no matter which way you slice it. We crossed from Comox, as Jon had some folks to visit in Nanaimo beforehand. Having stocked up on water (4L jugs being surprisingly difficult to find in this wee burg), fuel, and a couple last-minute groceries including some nice beers, we cruised out to the Dinner Rock campground to be close to Lund, our launch point, first thing in the morning.

After setting up the tent we headed into Lund for dinner. The transmission on Jon's borrowed car was making horrible, death-indicating noises all the way there, which put a bit of a pall on the proceedings. The owner of the restaurant helped us out by arranging for the car to be repaired while we were gone - amazing! We were better able to enjoy dinner after that. The food was middling but the setting was incredible, a calm West Coast evening with the sun going down over distant Vancouver Island across the strait.

(It turned out that the car "fixed itself" when we returned to it - seems that the trouble was something to do with the key not having been fully inserted in the ignition. Weird.)

Next morning we were unloaded and parked well in advance of the arrival of the folks who were to rent us our kayaks. With the usual first-day faffing around trying to figure out how everything fits in the boats, we were launched around 10AM up Thulin Passage, past the lovely Copeland Islands, and out toward adventure.

Lots of modern-day petroglyphs (read: graffiti) in Thulin Passage - some of it surprisingly old (dated as far back as the1930s). 

As we rounded Sarah Point to enter the Sound, we were struck by the scale of the place - ah! It's really big.

There was lots of boat traffic making the water pretty rough, and we had a big-ish crossing ahead of us, to Kinghorn Island then over to West Redonda. Traffic made it interesting and it was a bit choppy, but fine. By the time we hit West Redonda we were more than ready for lunch in the lee of the Martin Islands.

The afternoon being particularly fine, we pressed on past Refuge Cove (where we encountered the only few kayakers we were to see for the next few days: Russinvancouver from the WCP Forum and his wife, who had been beached for the past two days on account of high winds - we narrowly missed this bad weather, by happy acccident, and were able to complete our planned trip where they were not). I had planned for us to stay either at Martin Islands or (if we were feeling good) at a little site north of Refuge Cove (BCMTNA "Lewis Channel South". As it turned out we had plenty of gas left in the tank and drove on up pretty Lewis Channel, where we easily found an ideal campsite in "Lewis Channel Central."

It's a great little one-tent spot (two if you wanted to get cozy) with an established fire pit and driftwood bench, views up and down Lewis Channel, and a sheltered bay for swimming in. There's even a wee old apple tree there, a reminder (if you needed one after Hugh Hefner's yachts cruising up and down the channel) that you're not in untrod wilderness.