Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Adventures in British Columbia - July 25th

Saturday, July 25th
In Victoria, B.C. The alarm went off this morning at 5:30, and I bumbled around getting up and dressed in shorts, running shirt and shoes. I put fresh batteries in the GPS, strapped on a water belt, grabbed a cup of coffee with extra sugar from the motel lobby, and was out the front door at 6:06. I’m till hanging in there on the marathon training. From the motel in downtown I ran downhill to the harbor, along the waterfront, past sailboats and fishing boats, floating houseboats, the seaplane dock, and fisherman's wharf, past lots of waterfront condos, and finally out along waterside park trails overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the state of Washington and snow capped mountains in the distance. I’m still huffing and puffing on long distance runs, but I’m pleased with my finish time of 1 hour and 48 minutes...right on the 12 minute per mile pace for the whole nine mile route.
After I showered and changed clothes, we ate a big breakfast of potatoes, eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee in the restaurant adjoining the hotel. Gale and Sabra came to pick us up at 9:30. They took us on a meandering tour of Victoria, then back to the motel to pick up the rental car, and we followed them out to the airport to return the car. We all rode together the short distance to Bouchart Gardens, only to find out that the admission price was jacked up today for the fireworks display this evening. We opted to come back on Sunday instead.

The Victoria waterfront is a great place to be on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in July! Buscar bands and acts spread themselves arbitrarily along the quay just far enough apart that each could command its own audience. In one spot a group in their teens and early twenties belted out punk rock with considerably more enthusiasm than talent. Farther along a darkly tanned guitarist was singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” along with a Jamaican steel drummer. A comedian/juggler hustled up his own crowd with audience participation schemes, wild antics, and witty patter that kept everyone in his venue laughing.

The narrow, deeply indented Victoria Harbor is continuously criss-crossed with tiny passenger ferries that are not-too-distant cousins of the little boats we saw herding rafts and logs in the sorting pond at Beaver Cove. Each one of these slightly tippy little aquatic taxis holds a maximum of 10 people. For a few dollars the captain will take you anywhere in the harbor, cheerfully pattering about the shoreline sights, and should you see something you like before your stated destination, will hand you a token good for re-boarding his or any other ferryboat after you’ve strolled around on shore long enough.

We got off at a dock surrounded by thirty or forty houseboats. They lay snuggled together side by side and gently jostling each other in the slight motion of the water. Some were small, single-room affairs, while others were two stories tall, with several rooms, lounging decks with planters, and all the comforts of a real home. Along the wharf there were several food stands, and we enjoyed a couple of overpriced hotdogs on buns before boarding another putt-putting little ferryboat to head back to the hotel.
There was considerable publicity on posters and in guidebooks about the annual “Luminara” festival to be held in a city park that afternoon and evening, but the weather began to look threatening. Just before sunset it began to rain. We waited. Then waited some more. It seemed as though the heaviest rain had slacked off, so we put on rain jackets and started to walk down to the park. We saw lots of wet, bedraggled people heading the other way, many of them herding young children in soggy, drooping costumes.
A paved path led up a wooded slope in the park, and pulsing sounds of music floated down through the dark. Big drops of water dripped from overhanging branches and leaves, and I was thankful for the hooded rain jacket. Several hundred people were in the clearing at the top of the hill where the path emerged from the woods. They were jumping and twisting, arms over heads or holding long skirts up out of the mud, prancing and dancing, or standing on the sidelines clapping or nodding heads while the throbbing rhythms of the Chikoro Marimba Band pounded out through the pouring rain. There were at least five marimbas, the largest of which had deep toned wooden bars eight inches across and a couple of feet long. PVC pipes of different lengths hung underneath, resonating and amplifying the hypnotic beat.
No one seemed to be paying the slightest attention to the rain, which continued to pour down on dancers and musicians alike, and water splashed off the marimba bars as the padded mallets pounded on. The set finally came to an end, and lights on sidewalk stands began to turn off. As the marimbas were being dismantled the crowds of people began to wander off into the dark with smiles on their faces.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventures in British Coloumbia - July 24th

Friday, July 24th
This morning we drove down Highway 1 from Parksville to Nanaimo, where we explored the old log Bastion, built in the 1850’s by the Hudson Bay Company to protect its coal mining operations here. I marveled at an old map of the mines that showed literally hundreds of tunnels beneath the waters of the harbor. We wandered through the terraces and craft stalls overlooking the marina and harbor before heading south again.
The town of Chemainus, pronounced Chuh-MAIN-us, used to be a prosperous lumbering town before the sawmill shut down. In 1982 the town began to invite artists to paint murals depicting different aspects of the town’s history on buildings around the town. Today there are 39, with several more planned.
We ate lunch in the city park while listening to a Bolivian musician playing flutes and panpipes, and then took a walking tour. We covered the remaining 78 km to Victoria in the afternoon, checked into a motel near the city center, and were hosted for dinner at Gale and Sabra’s house.

Adventures in British Coloumbia - July 23rd

Thursday, July 23rd
Woke up early, and at 7:00 I decided to do my run in the morning instead of the afternoon. I peeked out the door of the motel to find thick fog obscuring everything more than a couple of blocks away. After some stretching I stepped back in to take off my fleece so I wouldn’t overheat, and removed my glasses since they don’t have windshield wipers! The first few minutes of running were chilly with the air at 52 degrees and the wind blowing a fine misty rain, but I warmed up quickly. I ran down the main road two miles toward the edge of Tofino, then back again along the same up and down undulating bike path. When I got back I was delighted to find that I had clicked off four miles in 39 minutes, 30 seconds…better than a 10 minute per mile average…the best I’ve done in a long time.
We went for breakfast at Darwin’s Garden, a botanical garden, then drove south out of Tofino south along the coast. We drove up the steep incline of Radar Hill where there is supposedly a fine view of the surrounding mountains, sounds and islands, but all we saw was thick fog. We parked the car at Long Beach, wedged in between bushes on one side and an enclosed utility trailer, one of several belonging to various surfing instruction companies. A short walk through wind-twisted evergreens brought us to a wide, hard packed sandy beach sloping very gently to the edge of the water almost a quarter mile away. We could just make out many moving black spots looming in the fog at the edge of gently breaking waves. This may be the most popular surfing beach in all of British Columbia. One of the surfers told us that the summer waves, generally 2-3 feet were mostly for beginners, and that the big waves that come roaring in from the northwest on the backs of winter storms bring out the serious surfers.
We drove a little farther to the Wickanannish Beach, where there is an interpretive center. The upper edge of this beach was covered with tumble-worn logs, piled in a jumble that looked like giant pick-up sticks. There were only a few surfers here at the far end of the beach, away from the offshore rocks and the closer in sand bars at this end that create wicked rip currents that sweep rapidly far out from the shoreline. We briefly considered having lunch at a restaurant there, overlooking the surf, but a plain hamburger was $13, and the prices went up from there.
We drove on toward the other oceanside town of Ucluelet (pronounced Oo-CLUE-eh-let). There the meandering hilly streets gave vistas of a small bay and led us to the Canadian Coast Guard station and the Amphitrite Lighthouse on a rocky point at the end of town. We walked down to look at the tidepools and surging surf, and found a nice bench in the warm sunlight that was finally beginning to burn of the morning’s thick fog, and sat there for awhile, listening to the groaning and moaning of a buoy bobbing on the waves a few hundred yards off the end of the point. We made a quick trip back to the car to get lunch materials, and on the way back, I could have sworn I heard the WHOOSH! of a whale’s spout. Soon after, we saw a boat heavily loaded with people, surging and rocking its way across the swells not far from shore, and saw people pointing and calling out to each other. Sure enough, a few seconds later a humpback whale surfaced, took a quick breath, and submerged again. Perhaps 30 seconds later the whale repeated the performance, then again, and one more time before disappearing to stay under for awhile, looking for tasty snacks.
In the late afternoon we started on the sinuous road back across the spine of Vancouver Island. Reaching the east coast, we turned south again and stopped for the evening at Parksville. We had an inexpensive, but delicious dinner at Tim Hortons, dessert at a Dairy Queen, and then drove down to the beach to watch the sunset at 9:15 p.m.

Adventures in British Columbia - July 22nd

Wednesday, July 22nd
We got a leisurely start this morning after a sumptuous gourmet breakfast prepared by Bill and Agathe the Bed & Breakfast hosts.
We drove to Qualicum Beach, where we turned toward the west coast town of Tofino on Highway 4, the Pacific Rim Hwy. We spent a pleasant couple of hours a short distance out of town, exploring the provincial park at Little Qualicum River. There is a narrow, sheer sided rocky gorge here, and impressive waterfalls that plunge down into deep crystal clear pools that reflect back the green of the surrounding forest.
We stopped at Cathedral Grove where there were cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees twelve feet in diameter and as much as eight hundred years old. Nowhere else have I had the same sense of awe that I’ve felt when walking through groves of ancient California redwoods. One of the unexpected differences between these groves and the redwood groves was that the air here smelled like Christmas trees!
We drove on a narrow winding road through towering jagged mountains with patches of snow lingering on the upper rocky slopes. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Port Alberni, then on along more twisting and turning two lane road, pulling off frequently at wide spots to allow the cars piling up behind us to go whisking past. I was reminded of a very different but strangely similar road to Hana in Hawaii. There are two kinds of travelers on both roads: those who take the time to take the curves gently, driving slowly and stopping often to absorb the beauty of the surroundings, and those who take pride in their ability to squeeze every mile per hour out of their cars as they careen around the turns.
Late in the afternoon we drove along the shores of the huge Kennedy Lake and pulled into Tofino. Evergreens crowd the edges of the road and occupy the spaces between buildings. It some ways it is reminiscent of the town of Carmel, California. The air is chilly, and filled with the pungent iodine smell of the kelp beds offshore. Like Carmel, Tofino is an artsy community and a get-away destination for the well-to-do. It is passed around with not too secret pride that John Travolta maintains a place here. There are lots of art galleries and crafts shops, and prices for everything from meals to lodging are exorbitant.
Tofino is also a surfing destination. Wide flat beaches and gentle waves that surfers can ride for long distances attract novices to practice in the summer fog, and professional surfers from all over the world to ride the big storm waves in the winter months. You might even say that Tofino has surfing mania; even the drugstore sells wetsuits!

Adventures in British Columbia - July 21st

Tuesday, July 21st
We got a leisurely start down Highway 19, and at the town of Campbell River turned onto 19A, which runs along the eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island instead of down the middle. We passed through several small waterfront towns, mostly places for vacation homes.
At Buckley Bay we took the ferry across the narrow Straight of Georgia to Denman Island. There is an “almost village” there with a post office and a few craft stores, and not much else. We drove to the north end of the island, and then back down the main road that crosses the island west to east. This connects to a second ferry to Hornby Island, but we opted to explore Boyle Point Provincial Park.
We took about a mile hike through woods to the point on the southern tip of the island. A very narrow channel separates Denman from the tiny Chrome Island and its lighthouse. We barely made it back to the dock in time to catch the 4:30 ferry. We were the last car aboard.
Just a short distance on south down 19A in the town of Fanny Bay we found the Ships Point Bed & Breakfast. The view is spectacular from the deck of this house on a promontory that overlooks the Strait of Georgia and Denman Island. The owners were gracious, but unobtrusive hosts who obviously take great pride in their home and garden.

Adventures in British Columbia - July 20th

Monday, July 20th
I walked up Main Street in Port Hardy past the totem pole at the corner of Hastings to the coffee shop to have French toast while Jane used the motel internet connection. We checked out at 11:00, heading south. On a winding side road that led to the east coast we passed Beaver Cove, a HUGE log sorting operation. An enormous area of the cove was filled with floating logs waiting to be bundled into rafts to be towed to a sawmill. On land, giant front end loaders with big steel claws in place of scoops picked up eight or ten logs at a time, moving them around to different piles according to size. Deformed logs or those that were too short were dumped sideways into the maw of a machine whose spinning innards chewed them quickly into shreds that were carried away along a conveyor belt to some unknown destination. Other machines grabbed the piles of sorted logs, whipping bands around them to tie them into bundles, and trundled them to the edge of the water where they were dumped. Tiny little boats, tipping and rocking alarmingly, their narrow widths and high pilot houses making them look in constant danger of capsizing, scurried around a very large pond, pushing and nudging the groups of logs into larger collections to be rafted together.
A few miles farther we came to Telegraph Cove, an interesting collection of quaint old small houses balanced touching a steep, heavily forested slope and extending mostly out on pilings over the water. Long ago it was a logging camp, then a fishing village. Now it has a marina and a big motel out over the water on the opposite side of the small cove. It provides services for private recreational fishing boats that take advantage of the strong tides through a narrow channel that brings rich nutrients to the surface for the salmon that abound here.
Driving south again on Hwy 19 we pulled off at a rest stop, and discovered a nice woodland trail along the side of a beautiful lake. A short walk down a trail to the water’s edge revealed how quickly the land can recover from clear-cut logging. Pines, spruce, cedar, and alder trees with trunks a foot or more in diameter provided dense shade for ferns and other low bushes that lined a pleasant path that used to be a logging railroad bed.
Another hour’s drive brought us to the little town of Sayward. Driving along a narrow two lane road through scattered houses, we never did find any town center. We continued a way down the road to Kelsey Bay. There IS a discernable village here, set around a green, and just a bit farther, a bay opening into the sound. There WAS a big logging operation here sometime in the not too distant past, but everything is shut down and empty. Very strong winds were whipping up big whitecaps on the channel outside the bay. There were a few boats huddled behind a massive breakwater of large sharp rocks at the left edge of the bay, and several rusting hulks of old ships formed a gloomy looking breakwater on the opposite side. Describe the Cable Cookhouse.
Driving back up the road almost to Hwy 19 we checked into the last available cabin at “The Fisherboy” motel/campground. All the rest of the accommodations were occupied by firefighters who spent each day miles away battling a forest blaze in a box canyon over some distant ridge. They showed up with blackened faces and clothes at around 9 p.m. an hour before sunset, looking pretty exhausted at about the same time I showed up, also exhausted, after running 10k. There was much chuckling, not-very-well-muted commentary, and elbow nudging about my short running shorts on their part as I turned my back to go into the cabin.

Adventures in British Columbia - July 19th

Sunday, July 19th
We woke up early the next morning in Port Hardy, and walked a few blocks down Main Street for some breakfast at the coffee shop. We drove in two cars a few miles south to Port McNeill to meet the whale watching boat.
At the appointed hour we roared off south down the straight at about 40 mph to pick up a family at Hidden Cove, past Alert Bay. When they were safely aboard we hurtled back north again, flying along at full speed past McNeill, Port Hardy, Bell Island, Hurst Island, Balaklava Island, and Scarlet Point out into the Queen Charlotte Straight. Once we reached open water the captain slowed to a stop and turned off the engines. Lowering a hydrophone, he listened in vain for whale sounds.
Dense morning fog hung low over the water, obscuring vision and deadening sounds. The engines rumbled into life again, and the captain proceeded with more caution now, keeping a close eye on the radar screen. He spotted the approaching sailboat several minutes before it loomed out of the fog a few hundred yards off the port bow. Another ten minutes farther out into open water the captain stopped the engines again to listen, but still there were no sounds of whales in the area.
W started slowly back on a course to Port McNeill, and at this point we all thought that it would turn out to be a nice, but expensive boat ride. Fifteen minutes later we spotted the surfacing and spouting of a pod of orcas, and eased over slowly to meet them. The captain stayed the required 100 meters away, and we wallowed along slowly beside them for the better part of an hour. Individual pods of orcas are led by an elder female. Babies born into that pod stay with their mothers for life. Although males will swim with other pods long enough to find a mate and procreate, they always come back to mother. This particular pod was unusual. Several years ago a dying mother orca was found with a severely malnourished baby. The mother died soon after, and rescuers took the baby to be nursed back to health. After more than a year in a large open water pen near the shore the youngster was deemed healthy enough to be released. It soon found a pod to swim with, but wasn’t well tolerated, and soon left. After some time on its own it began to swim with the pod we saw, and was soon adopted into the family. We could see this young whale surfacing along with the others, still not fully grown at age nine.
We got a special treat when one orca swam leisurely under the boat, just a few feet below the surface. We cruised with them for at least an hour before coming back to Port McNeill.
We drove back to Port Hardy where we said goodbye to Jerry, Ruth, John, and Sheila. They headed off to the airport to catch the small plane to Vancouver, where they would stay overnight before their Monday morning flight back to Richmond.
There were festivities that afternoon and evening as people from miles around came into town to celebrate FILOMI Days. FIshing, LOgging, and MIning are the three industries that support the Port Hardy Economy. There was over-amplified rock and country music coming from a portable bandstand that had been parked at the curb next to the waterfront park, a small array of the midway arcade booths you can find at any county fair, face painting for the kids, and an unusual attraction consisting of a twenty-by-twenty foot inflatable pool filled with water and three very large inflatable transparent plastic balls. Kids would climb inside a ball which was then inflated, zipped, and velcroed, then rolled onto the surface of the pond. Big crowds watched with great amusement and the kids tried to stand and walk or run, but mostly fell down inside the floating balls. The crowds began to pack up and head for home when the sun set about 9:00 p.m. and we headed back to the motel.

Adventures in British Columbia - July 18th

Saturday, July 18th
Saturday morning we made one last trip down to the dock, this time hauling our suitcases to be stowed aboard the launch “Hurst Isle” for the trip back to Port Hardy. Once again the day was cool and grey, and the water was an undulant grey mirror that we skimmed across. While our traveling companions dragged luggage up the ramp to the pier I jogged back the four blocks to the motel to pick up the rental car waiting for us in the parking lot.
I transferred luggage to the motel and then took our friends to the Port Hardy airport to pick up a second rental car. We drove in two cars to Port McNeill to catch walk-on ferry to Cormorant Island and the town of Alert Bay.
We ambled along the waterfront street passing a well-used marina occupied by many motorboats and a few sailboats. Several ancient wooden trawlers lolled at odd angles on the rocky beach, most of their paint gone and widening gaps showing between the planks of their hulls. A cedar log at least five feet thick lay in a grass covered empty lot, showing ax-chopped holes where spring boards had been wedged in on opposite sides to provide a place for loggers to stand while sawing down the tree.
Newer cedar logs with the bark carefully removed lay near the First Nations Cultural Center, waiting to be shaped into carved poles honoring the different clans who live here. Completed totem poles had been erected near the entrance to the museum.
After exploring the cultural center we walked up the hill behind it past a decaying old three story brick building that for many years was a residential school where children were placed after being taken from their parents at age six. They were taught to speak English only, and punished if they spoke in their own tongue. By the time they had finished at least six years, it was thought that they would be fully absorbed into proper Canadian culture, and were released. Today the building is being used for offices, and there is a workshop in the basement for indigenous woodcarving.
The Big House, a very large cedar sided meeting center with a low pitched roof built by the First Nations people sits high on a hill behind the harbor. Standing far out in front was the tallest totem pole I have ever seen, probably more than one hundred feet high. The traditional figures of turtle, bear, raven, salmon, eagle, moon, sun were clearly visible on the lower parts of the pole, but it was so tall that it was hard to identify the faces near the top. At the very highest point on the pole sat a real eagle, surveying the world from his lofty perch.
We entered the meeting house through the wide front door. The inside, perhaps sixty feet wide and twice as long, was a single large room with a dirt floor and long tiered benches along each side. Parallel cedar log ridgepoles three feet in diameter spanned the entire length of the room, supporting the rafters of smaller logs. The center of the roof opened into a large rectangular cupola where the smoke from the fire burning in the middle of the room found exit.
We took seats on the side benches, and when a good crowd had gathered the performance began. Flanking the door were two winged totems depicting ravens and at the opposite end of the room two eagle totems kept watch over the single bench that faced the fire. Seated at that bench were several young people whose job it was to sing the tribal chants and keep time by pounding with short heavy sticks on a long hollowed out wooden log drum. Dancers ranging in age from four or five years old to adult demonstrated parts of the ceremonies performed to mark seasons, harvest, and fishing. It was gratifying to see that the language, the culture, and the customs of the people were experiencing a rebirth and growth in the younger people.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sea Kayaking in British Columbia - July 17th

Friday, July 17th
By now the whole crew considers itself experts, and we demonstrate our group skills as we paddle easily past the end of Balaklava and up Browning Channel all the way past Bob’s Landing, crossing the channel, and passing two small timber covered islands that guard the entrance to Alexander’s Bay, indented deeply into Nigei Island. We haul the kayaks up on a beautiful grey slate shingle beach. There are perhaps 50 feet of flat gravel beach sloping up gently to an immense linear pile of logs and driftwood, funneled into the bay by winter storms.
Immediately behind the barrier of logs is a dense forest that is almost entirely composed of spruce trees. We clambered over the log ramparts and found a trail leading off into the dark, mossy forest. We walked single file about a mile through rain forest with moss so deep and thick that it covered the forest floor like a carpet, covering the ground, the rocks, the trunks and branches of standing trees, and fallen logs and branches the littered the forest floor. The trail, twisting and turning through the jumbled old branches and fallen trees was almost invisible, and it would have been easy to wander astray if it had not been for the ugly old plastic bottles and jugs tied to branches at frequent intervals at eye level.
We emerged from the dark forest into the light at Clam Cove. Across the water was a cluster of ramshackle buildings, and I speculated that it was a tribal village. It wasn’t until later that day that I found out that it was a very run , but still operative dive center. After a brief pause on the shore of the cove, some scurried and others ambled back to the beach at Alexander’s Bay for lunch. By the time we had all regrouped the morning overcast had cleared almost completely, and it was actually hot. I wandered a few hundred yards down the beach and around a huge pile of driftwood, and felt inspired to test the water. It was icy, but refreshing in the heat of the afternoon. After putting my clothes back on and returning, a couple of others also wandered down to that sheltered part of the beach to indulge in the pleasures of skinny dipping.
It was late in the afternoon before we started the long, hard, five mile paddle back to the cabins. As we crossed the last half mile of channel to the dock we must have been a sight. Eight long kayaks moved as a phalanx, sandwiched close together in perfect formation, paddles dipping vigorously, surging ahead of the others a foot or two for mere seconds before the falling back again. We were tired and winded as we hauled the kayaks up on the dock one last time. It was a perfect ending for an adventure filled week.

Sea Kayaking in British Columbia - July 16th

Thursday, July 16th
This misty morning we had a strenuous pull across the Christie Channel and up along the eastern shore of Balaklava. The lighthouse at Scarlett Point came into view as we neared the northern end of the island. It perches on a promontory at the top of steep cliffs close to a small indentation in the shoreline that leads to a cleft in the rock only a few feet wide.
Spanning the gap of the small bay, a thick cable droops its catenary curve toward the kelp floating below, and at the low point, an attached rope with a bulbous float hangs to within 20 feet of the water. High on the lighthouse rocks above a cable and pulley with a winch attached stands ready to be lowered, spider-like to pick up cargo whenever a supply boat stops below.
We string out single file and paddle one by one under the cable lift and through the narrow opening into a small shallow lagoon. Scattered along the wooded shore are old channel marker buoys, a barnacle-encrusted marine railway, several ancient outboard motorboats sleeping on cushions of old tires, and a boardwalk leading up the slope into the trees. We lift the kayaks carefully only a little way onto the rough shore, since the tide is ebbing, and walk along a path into the woods.
Walking in the temperate rainforests of British Columbia you can still believe in magic. The forest floor is springy underfoot where thick layers of moss cushion each step and mute all sound. The grey misty daylight struggles down through branches of close growing cedar and hemlock, and you feel compelled to tiptoe, talking only in soft voices, half-expecting wood-nymphs to peek from behind moss covered tree trunks or to duck behind tangled windfalls.
A short climb brought us to the top of a rocky cliff at the edge of the forest to a view of the wide Queen Charlotte Channel, with other dark islands looming out of the fog in the distance. The breeze off the cold water was chilly, and we turned back into the still woods to make our way down to the lighthouse.
Unlike the United States where virtually all of the lighthouses have been automated, in British Columbia most are still manned. As we strolled out into the cleared area close to the lighthouse we were met by Ivan, the head keeper at Scarlett Point. After serving as an assistant at several other lighthouses he was certified as a head lighthouse keeper, and has been living here for the past seven years in one of two houses on the grounds. The second house is assigned to the assistant lighthouse keeper, who was presently away on vacation for a week.
Ivan obviously loves his job, and took great pleasure in telling us about the operation of the light and its equipment. He said that only a week before he had stood for several hours watching the annual return of hundreds of orcas following the movable feast of salmon that are heading in to spawn in the rivers where they were born.
Deer are frequent visitors, for they enjoy nibbling the acres of grass that cover the grounds. Several, including a doe and very young fawn, wandered along the edges of the grounds, apparently unconcerned about the presence of human visitors.
By the time we had returned to the kayaks the lagoon had drained almost completely, the tidal ebb looking like a rushing mountain stream. Ribbon and leaves of seaweed were now the only cover for rocks that had been underwater when we arrived. Every few seconds, small jets of water shot a foot or two into the air as hidden clams squirted miniature geysers from their siphons. We had to wait a half hour for slack tide to make our escape. When we observed the saltwater river reverse its direction and beginning to flow back into the lagoon we launched our kayaks, and steered a narrow winding route between rocks and through thick kelp to make our way to open water. There were strong winds and following waves at our back as we paddled down the Christie Channel, speeding us on our way back to God’s Pocket, but by the time we had finished dinner the surface was once again as smooth as glass in the low rays of the setting sun.
Bill and Anne, the owners of the God’s Pocket Resort invited the lot of us out for an evening sunset cruise, and we all trooped down to the big motor launch. As the sun disappeared behind the ridges of Nigei Island we spotted a humpback whale spouting in the distance. Bill spun the wheel and headed over to where we had last seen the whale. Everyone was watching on the port side of boat, waiting for it to surface again when there was a loud WHOOSH off to the starboard. The whale had swum directly underneath us and surfaced about 30 yards away with an exhalation of fish-breath!
After the excitement Bill took boat up the channel between Balaklava and the Lucan Islands, along the Browning wall, all the way past Point Scarlet, flashing its beacon in the gathering darkness. By the time we had sped back down the Christie Channel and had tied up again at the dock it was 10:30, and we all headed for bed at the end of a wonderful day.

Sea Kayaking in British Columbia - July 15th

Wednesday, July 15th
There is such an abundance and variety of delicious food each morning at God’s Pocket that I have to restrain myself at breakfast. By now all of us here have bonded as a single group, a team, a crew. We waddle away from the dining room/kitchen cabin to get ready for the day’s activities, and are all reassembled down by the kayaks on the dock at 9:00. This morning Dan turns to the right as we leave the tiny bay to skirt the shoreline of Hurst Island.
We see eagles on the rocks. We see eagles perched high on bare branches of trees overlooking the water. We see eagles in flight. It seems there are eagles everywhere, especially when the salmon are running. Dan, our guide from Sea Kayak Adventures jokingly says that there are so many eagles around that they call them Vancouver Island pigeons.
Around the northern tip of Hurst Island we go, paddling through the edges of great masses of kelp, and we breathe in the pungent but pleasant smell of iodine and salt that floats like invisible fog in the chilly morning air.
Harlequin Bay, named for the harlequin ducks often seen there, cuts at an angle for perhaps a half mile into the eastern shore of Hurst Island. We stop near the head of the bay for a water break and rest before retracing our path back out.
Now heading southeast we reach then southern end of Hurst, and group close together, side by side, to cross the deep, narrow channel between Hurst and Bell Island. The combined effects of strong wind and current in the Christie Channel along the steep rocky edge of Bell Island created a heavy chop that made the going hard until we reached a narrow sheltered passage less than fifty meters across. Suddenly the water was calm in the wind shadow of a small hemlock and cedar covered islet. The still water reflected back the images of the trees on both sides as we coasted along, dipping our paddles quietly. Before long we came to a shingle beach where we hauled the kayaks up on the flat-sided gravel for a lunch break.
A short steep path up the bank behind the beach led to a spot where other kayakers had camped. The thick layer of moss on the forest floor would have provided a soft mattress for anyone lying there looking out and down to the green water of the channel. A lovely boat, with sails loose and slack came softly chuff-chuffing down the passage on diesel power, rounded a bend, and slid out of sight as we made our way back down to a hearty lunch spread out on a camp table by Mike and Dan.
We were a bit anxious as we headed back along the return path, anticipating hard, wet work paddling in the open channel into the wind and choppy waves when we left protected waters. It was a welcome surprise to find that the wind had completely died. All the chop was gone, and our trip back across the passage between Bell and Hurst was no more difficult than paddling on a lake. We could focus less on the process of moving forward and more on our surroundings. We saw more eagles, and while passing through a narrow opening a few yards wide between Hurst and offshore rocks, we spotted a mink scurrying about the tide pools, hustling up some dinner. More than once while we completed the circumnavigation of Hurst Island we saw harbor seals popping up for a quick breath of air and a peek above the surface. Off in the distance the dorsal fin of a Dall’s dolphin broke the still water as we rounded the point of our bay and headed for the dock.