Homeward Bound from the Coast

September 20, 2020

When we wake up, we realize we have slept 11 hours. We never do that!

We are meeting R&D at the Okanagan Falls Provincial Park Campground, so our drive is not very long. Once past Keremeos and all its fruit and vegetable stands, we turn north on 3A and then turn onto Twin Lakes Road and the White Lake Road to do some exploring. The road is windy and there is no traffic. The area is semi desert scrub land and very peaceful.

We come across a group of young people lined up to start a roller cross country ski race. They all look very serious at the start.

After turning onto Green Lake Road, what do we come across? Green Lake! This area is a cycling route and we spy a few groups of cyclists, some of them chugging up a ridiculous series of hills. Green Lake Road dumps us out to civilization right at the campground we are meeting at. Except the gates are closed and the lady sitting at the gate informs us that the campground is closed for the day for a special event. I phone my sister and we decide to meet at the North Okanagan Lake Provincial Park Campground way up on Okanagan Lake. We get there to find that the campground closed for the season that day. The four of us end up camped at the South Okanagan Lake Provincial Park Campground and it was good that we got there when we did as we managed to get sites right next to the water and the campground filled up pretty good through the day.

After lunch we launch our kayaks from our campsites and paddle south on the lake. Oh, my body is tired! And I am having trouble going in a straight line again. My sister and I paddle and chat and paddle and chat some more. We are not in a hurry and enjoy being on the water.

Okanagan Lake

It is nice to be in the warm Okanagan again. We are drying out.

September 21, 2020

Skaha Lake

The four paddlers drive to Penticton to try Skaha Lake. Penticton is very quiet as it is off season for them. We paddle the lake south and the water is glassy. D wants to be back on shore by about noon, so we dock and eat our lunch in the park. As we are eating the wind picks up, as it does there, and we are glad we timed things as we did. The kite surfers start to gather on the beach, they like the wind.

Skaha Lake

We walk the concrete “boardwalk” on the Okanagan Lake side of Penticton as today it is not the windy side. After a good long walk, we head back to the campground and laze and visit the rest of the day away.

September 22, 2020

Time to really go home now. We pack up and get on the road early as we want to make Fernie today. We drive from orchards to grazing lands to forest. The tiny town of Greenwood is a cool place. It was a coal mining town and their unique buildings are well kept. The trees are not changing colour yet in this area.

We stop at Christina Lake for lunch, sitting right by the lake. The lake is warm, clear, long and quiet. There is a large beach that must get busy on a hot summer day. There are cottages/houses along the lake and in the town, the community looks like a vibrant one.

We are once again on Hwy 3 and it is very scenic with low mountains, lush valleys, wonderful vistas and funky towns. As we drive further east, we notice the leaves are starting to turn to yellow and orange.

As we approach Fernie, the Rockies appear showing off their alpine terrain. We camp at the Mt Fernie Provincial Park Campground. The campground is well laid out with large secluded sites. There are shower houses (although we heard it was all cold water!). Biking and hiking are easily accessible.

It is going to be a cold night tonight so we prepare by taking toques and extra PJs into the tent to sleep in.

September 23, 2020

Fernie is a funky place with personality. The old buildings are preserved and contain a variety of boutique shops. It would be a great place to stop and wander around in.

The trees on the slopes are dappled shades of yellow, orange and green. Winter is coming.

Just past Crowsnest, there are 5 small mining communities all in a row. One of these is Frank, where the massive land slide occurred in the early 20th century. Check out the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre if you go through that area. The remnants of the slide are still along the road and it is mind boggling thinking about the amount of rock that came down.

After Burmis, we point the car north on Hwy 22 (the Cowboy Trail). The road goes in a straight line for forever and runs through grazing ranch lands filled with cows and wheat fields. It is rolling land with outcrops of trees and very little population. The population increases as we approach Longview, Black Diamond and Bragg Creek until we are on the edge of Calgary’s metropolis.

It has been 2 1/2 weeks since we left and in that time the harvest has started and the trees are losing their leaves. The land is a checkerboard of colours and patterns.

It is a fast drive north and before we know it we are pulling into our driveway. Home again.

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Kayak Touring – Clothing

Here is a detailed list of the clothing I took on our 6 day (5 night) kayak tour. We were given a 10 litre dry bag as a “day bag” and a 20 litre dry bag as a “camp bag”. Once we got the hang of squishing all the air out of the bags, they condensed pretty good.

KAYAKING CLOTHES

Teva Sandals – Can get wet, great soles for walking on oyster shells. Keen Sandals would also be good. Both guides had them.

Technical Crop Pants – I would take longish shorts next time, don’t take a belt.

Icebreaker Undies – My biggest coup was to take a pair for each day. I would start each day with dry undies under my damp pants.

Rashguard Shirt – 2 – I started wearing just one, but had to add the second one for warmth. I use rashguards for their sun blocking ability.

Light Jacket – I wore a light jacket for warmth, but it was getting wet each day. Next time, I would find a more water repellent jacket.

Wide Brimmed Hat – Geeky hat plus a glasses strap as I was wearing my prescription sunglasses on the water.

Paddling Gloves – When we started to paddled in the spring, when it was chilly, I was wearing an old pair of full neoprene scuba diving gloves. I continued to wear them all summer and on this trip.

Fuzzy – This was an older fuzzy that went in my day bag so I could don it at lunch time to stay warm. Had this one in case it got wet so my camp warm layer stayed dry.

Gortex Jacket – Since it was chilly, I carried my camp jacket in my day bag to wear at lunch to help stay warm. If the weather was hotter, it would have stayed in my camp bag.

Toque – I also started carrying my camp toque in my day bag for lunchtime warmth.

CAMP CLOTHES

Hiking Shoes – I brought along an old pair of hiking shoes. Runners would also be an option.

Wool Socks – 2 pair – 1 to wear everyday and a spare in case the first pair got wet.

Technical Pants – 2 pair – 1 to wear everyday and a spare in case the first pair got wet.

Lightweight Long Johns and Top – Because I get cold easy, I never camp without long johns. I wore these every day!

Icebreaker Long Sleeved Tops – 2 – 1 to wear everyday and a spare in case the first got wet.

Synthetic Down Jacket – I wore this everyday in camp!

Toque and Mitts – Toque got worn everyday. Mitts were not worn, but might have been if it had rained hard.

Gortex Jacket – This was my rain jacket but I wore it everyday for warmth.

Gortex Rain Pants – In case it rained. Were not worn.

PJs – I originally thought to wear my long underwear to sleep in but it was too hot, so I brought a light T shirt and slept in the T shirt and undies. In hindsight, I wish I had a light pair of PJ pants to wear as a clammy sleeping bag doesn’t feel nice on bare legs.

Large Ziploc Bag – This is to put wet undies and any other wet clothes in to keep them separate.

Debbie at Teakerne Arm Campsite
Debbie at the Teakerne Arm Campsite (Photo by Richard Romer of Island Romer Adventures)

I brought my heavy down sleeping bag, which I found just a tad warm. But I would prefer to be too warm than cold. Next time I may test my lightweight bag before and take that one and wear heavier PJs.

I always take a few extra clothes in case of getting wet. For this trip I had one pair of extra socks, pants and a long sleeved shirt. I think this was reasonable and not too much extra. It would not be good to have a wet and cold Debbie.

For you ladies who are wondering how to work the undies. I would put dry undies on when we got to the campsite each day, under my dry camp clothes. I would sleep in my undies and wear them the next day under my kayak clothes. They would then be soaked and I would change them at the next campsite.

Murray’s clothes were very similar to mine. He also took extra socks, pants and a shirt. He did not have a light kayaking jacket. He only had 1 pair of kayak underwear and 1 pair of camp underwear, so he put on wet underwear every morning. Yikes!

We paired down our toiletries to the bare minimum. We had a first aid kit that would remedy the basic hurts and sicknesses.

You will find a condensed version of this list under the menu item “Packing Lists” under Kayak Touring.

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Kayak Tour – Impressions and Final Words

DEBBIE

I will do this again. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and solitude out on the water and at the remote campsites. The possibility of seeing wildlife, especially whales, is a draw for me. To watch birds swooping in the sky or sitting in the sun, or seals warming themselves on the rocks, or sea lions chomping on their lunch brings me such awe that I need to see it all again.

Kayak touring is far easier for me than backpacking with a 30 lb pack on my back. I would do the kayak tour in a double kayak next time though. I will leave my ego at home and team up with Murray. John tells us that it is easier in a double (doing half the work) and the distances covered can be farther. He says the distances to get into Desolation Sound are farther each day than we kayaked on this tour. Okay, a double it is.

It is worth paying more for experienced and high quality guides. Both John (Footprint BC) and Richard (Island Romer Adventures) are experienced, high quality and enthusiastic guides. I wouldn’t hesitate to use either again.

Finally, if you are thinking about doing a kayak tour on the West Coast, do it!

Paddling on the West Coast of BC
(Photo by Richard Romer of Island Romer Adventures)

MURRAY

Smoke, it is the first thing we noticed. Not a standard condition, but when we arrive the winds are from the south and the fires across the border are raging. The smoke obscures our views, then invades our nostrils.

Nature, one of the first things I note after we leave the marina is we are smack dab in the middle of a natural environment. There are very few signs of civilization.

Scenic, even with the smoke the scenery is awesome. The west coast rain forest meets the oceans edge on every island and islet we pass. It is sooo green.

Paddling, the repetitive motion instills a sense of Zen. There is only the moment I am in. Spilish as the paddle enters the water, splash, drip, drip, as the paddle exits the water.

Seclusion, the farther we paddle the less humanity we run into. We meet very few, the occasional motor launch passes at a distance, sometimes a fisher might go by, and only couple of times did we come across other kayakers.

Animals, there are so many and they are not as shy as the land animals we might be more familiar with. Seals, I knew they lived in the strait but there are so many, two eyes just above the surface of the water checking us out as we pass. Sea Lions, curious beasts, and so big. Birds by the bucket load, I’m not a birder and don’t know what varieties we pass each day but I am constantly amazed at how a flock can maneuver in unison with no observed crashes and so close to the waters surface. AND whales, we spent an afternoon watching as humpback after humpback passed by us perched on the elevated view point of our campsite.

Campsites, they are amazing. Location, location, location. They are very basic, the most important aspect being a spot to land the floating craft. Once on land nearby is an open area with a few flatish spots big enough to pitch a tent to sleep. There are a enough logs or rocks about to fashion a kitchen. Find another rock to sit on and we have a home for the night.

Quiet, the most striking attribute of the area we traveled. My ears ring and it is loud. The saying is “the silence is deafening” and it is so true. Any noise is amplified by the lack of other ambient sounds.

I too will try to return. There is the little matter of Toby Inlet and a trip into an area much less visited then the one we just traversed. Barring the advent of smoky skies, heading in a more north-easterly direction has been added to the bucket list.

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Homeward Bound from the Coast

September 18, 2020

We leave John and Richard and head to the Saltery Bay Ferry. We want to be on the Sunshine Coast for the night as we want to take the ferry over to Horseshoe Bay in the morning. We have a date to meet up with my sister and brother in law in the Okanagan again and need to be there on the 20th.

We just miss a ferry and end up waiting until the 7:05 pm ferry. Ouch. That will put us into Sechelt about 9:00. Oh well, it’s an adventure, right!

It’s pitch black and we are driving around Porpoise Bay Provincial Park Campground and there is not one available campsite. We resign ourselves to maybe staying in a motel, so leave there and drive through Sechelt. We cannot find one decent motel! And our standards are not high! Where is all the accommodation?

We drive south and stop at Roberts Creek Campground. Ah, that is the reason why Porpoise Bay is full. Roberts Creek Campground is shut down, closed, blocked off. What?

With nothing else to do we drive toward Gibsons, talking about options. Sleeping in the car – nope, ditch camping – would rather not, motel – hopefully, private campground – ok. By the time we get to Gibsons it is nearing 10:00. We drive the main street and, lo!, there is a motel office with its lights on and a woman sitting at the desk! We turn, I jump out and after a few minutes and $113, we have a room to sleep in. (This was our only motel stay in two and a half weeks of camping. We also ate our only restaurant/take out food this night as we did not have groceries to prepare some sort of supper.)

It was good to have a real shower. We threw our kayaking clothes in the bottom of the tub and they rinsed while we both showered. Boy were they dirty. Even though they will be wet for a few days, they won’t be salty and smelly.

We crash by midnight and we both find the room too hot and the bed too soft, but boy we are clean!

September 19, 2020

We are both awake by 6:00 am. The ferry is at 8:40 and the lady at the motel office suggested we get there by at least 7:30 as it is Saturday and the ferry does get busy. We just get up, pack up and take off. We are at the ferry shortly after 7:00 and are second in the line of folks without reservations. By 7:40, the terminal is packed. On a Saturday morning? Where is everyone going?

We sail across and drive from Horseshoe Bay to Chilliwack on the Saturday, not so Indy-500 this time. Everyone must still be sleeping! We go into the Chilliwack Safeway to stock up on groceries for the next 4 days. After the aloneness of the water, the grocery store is a zoo! We grab what we need and scram outta there.

We want to make is as far east as we reasonably can today. Mostly to get somewhere warm. We stop at one of the Manning Park Campgrounds for lunch. Manning Park looks like a great area, but it is higher in elevation, so we do not want to deal with the cold night and morning.

As we set up our meager lunch, an uninvited guest tries to sidle in for his share. Nonchalant like, turning his head this way and that, trying not to be too obvious. But he is. We tell him “We don’t have anything for him”, but he just won’t take our word. Murray escorts him across the road a couple of times, but he keeps coming back. The nerve! As we finish our lunch, Murray accidentally drops a couple of Cheezies. Our uninvited guest can’t wait to gobble them up and doesn’t even wait for me to move away. Lucky raven!

The Hope to Princeton drive along Hwy 3 is scenic, with a twisty, turny road and lots of up and down. There are now many kms of 4 lane highway and passing lanes so the driving is less stressful.

As we drive east, we talk a lot about our paddle strokes. I am eager to try my new stroke in my own kayak on Okanagan Lake. I used a rudder the whole time on the tour and also want to see if I can paddle in a straight line once again on top of using my new stroke.

After Princeton there is a campground called Stemwinder Provincial Park Campground, which is our destination. Once we get there and are looking for a site, we realize that the highway is right beside the campground and the noise, especially at night, will be bothersome. We would stay there in a crunch, but it is still only about 3:00, so we backtrack to where we saw another sign.

We turn onto the Old Hedley Road between Princeton and Keremeos. It is across the river from the highway so the noise is not so noticeable. There are two Recreation Areas along the road and they are pretty much empty. A recreation areas have green signs, as opposed to blue for provincial parks, are more rustic with only outhouses, no water, no garbage cans and a $15 camp fee (which was never collected!). Perfect!

Recreation Area on Old Hedley Road, Princeton, BC
Recreation Area on Old Hedley Road

We set up our camp, hang our wet laundry on a line, make supper and then collapse. We retire when it gets dark and allow ourselves to fall asleep early.

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Kayak Tour – Martin Islands to Desolation Sound Resort (19 kms)

Murray gets up early today. He sits at the picnic bench and it is silent around him. No people, no animals, no lapping water on the shore, just quiet. His ears ring with the silence and it’s deafening. The darkness soon abates slightly and forms become more distinct. Trees, shoreline, tents, driftwood.

The smoke is less, but the moisture hangs heavy in the air to make the distant view obscure. Soon the sun will dispense with the fog.

Malaspina Inlet

Our first task once on the water is to paddle about 4 km across open water to a point on the east shore of the Malaspina Peninsula. Once there, it is snack and rest time, of course. We then head down the Malaspina Inlet along the coast spying out seals, sea lions (two of which follow us for quite awhile), kelp beds and kelp crabs. The crabs are bright orange and just below the surface. We pass a bald eagle perched on the shore dining on crab with a turkey vulture right behind trying to sneak up on him to get the remnants.

Malaspina Inlet
Kelp Crab

Our intrepid guides lead on towards the end of our tour. They take us by “The Aquarium” where there is a myriad of sea life under the water. We dawdle, not wanting to go too fast and have it all be over.

Malaspina Inlet
Our lunch spot

As we get deeper into the inlet, we see more civilization – cabins on the shore, boat traffic, oyster farms and the voices of other kayakers that carry across the water from the other side of the arm. We have become so used to the sounds of sea lions, whales and birds that human speech is an intrusion.

Malaspina Inlet
Malaspina Inlet

We finally see the Okeover Wharf and know that we are almost at the end of our tour. We glide into the boat launch at the Desolation Sound Resort, get high fives and set our feet back on the mainland.

Malaspina Inlet
Our final landing spot

While Murray, John and Richard go retrieve the two SUVs left in Lund, I schlepp gear up the boat launch. That is alot of gear! We unpack, organize and pack the car up. We thank our fantastic guides, John from Footprint BC and Richard from Island Romer Adventures and tell them we will be back to do Desolation Sound and Toba Inlet. We are on our way.

Malaspina Inlet
Thank you to our wonderful guides, John and Richard
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Kayak Tour – Teakerne Arm to Martin Islands (16 km)

Today’s paddle takes us back out the Arm, south along the coast of West Redonda Island, past Refuge Cove to the Martin Islands. Again the water is glassy smooth. Richard just shakes his head and once again says, “I have never seen it this smooth.” I think he has been saying his every day since day 2. And each time explain the weather gods want to make it a good trip for me ensuring I come back, so they are making the ocean calm.

Teakerne Arm
Teakerne Arm

We get startled as we see a buck deer swimming across from a tiny island to West Redonda. It’s surprising to be reminded deer swim! We see more seals and a sea lion enjoying a fish lunch. Peering into the water on the island’s edge we see sea stars, anemones and cucumbers.

West Redonda Island

The zen of paddling takes over, just like road riding or climbing up a mountain when back country skiing. The mind wanders, the body just moves, and we paddle.

West Redonda Island

When we land on Martin Island, actually it is on an isthmas connecting the two islands, we are amazed we arrive early, 2:00pm. After all the longer paddles, this 16 km one feels easy, and short. The campsite is well used, as indicated by all the “decorations”. There are swings, permanent structures, sign posts, benches, a fire pit and a picnic table. We wait to see if anyone else shows up.

Martin Islands
Martin Islands Sign Post

The quiet continues. The only sounds are cawing ravens, buzzing flies and wasps, crickets and the occasional splash of water from a sea lion, seal or fish. Is there a world beyond this island? World, what world?

The sun is shining through the haze and it is spreading warmth so we lay out our mats, sleeping bags and kayaking clothes. They do dry some and it will be nice to not climb into a clammy sleeping bag tonight!

Martin Islands
Loafing

We loaf and wander and watch John and Richard float an errant tree away from the beach. Then we watch the tree float closer and farther and closer and then far enough away that it won’t block the kayak loading zone. We cheer. The world is FAR away!

The kayaks are stored above the high tide line and are tethered together and to a log, just in case.

Martin Islands
Secured Kayaks

After supper we gather around the fire pit where John has started our only fire on the tour. We stare into the depths of orange flame and before I know it, my eyes are drooping. I made it to 9:00 this time!

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Kayak Tour – Penn Islands to Teakerne Arm Provincial Park (21.5kms)

Whales in the night. BOOM! As loud and any thunder I have ever heard. We wake up and decide a whale has just breached. The sound echos off the adjacent islands. We drift off again and awake to deep breathing. There are maybe 2 or 3 whales laying very close, blowing. They aren’t moving. What a magical way to wake up in the morning. Murray finally decides to get dressed and check them out. Too late, they have moved on.

Penn Islands

Today’s paddle starts with a chore. We have to cross the channel back to the coast of Cortes and the wind and tidal current are against us. We paddle steadily and after about an hour we reach the island and turn north after a quick snack of a granola bar.

Off Cortez Island

As we round the northern point of Cortes and head into Lewis Channel, we are blessed with the current and wind now working for us. Murray, kayaking slightly ahead of the group, has a close encounter with a humpback. The whale surfaces about 15 feet in front of him. There were two and they both dove down, probably swam underneath us and were gone.

We get surprised by a sea lion and his lunch. It is explained that seals and sea lions cannot swallow under water. There is a commotion and we all look to see a sea lion’s head pop out of the water with a flopping fish in his mouth. He chomps, swallows and submerges. The birds then swoop down and pick up the head and tail of the poor fish for their lunch.

Off Cortez Island

The long views are still obscured today but the medium views have opened up. The short views are crystal clear. We paddle down the Teakerne Arm, located on West Redonda Island, where there is a freshwater waterfall flowing into the ocean. We dock and unload three kayaks on the rocks and then our guides move the kayaks up onto the dock while we schlepp gear up a steep path to a small campsite overlooking the Arm. It has been a long day today and I am tired, but there is a fresh water lake close and a dip is too much of a temptation to ignore.

Teakerne Arm Waterfall
Teakerne Arm Waterfall

It is about a 10 minute walk up and down over boulders to Cassel Lake. The “beach” on the lake is a giant rock with a belaying rope for entering and exiting. I bring some tea tree soap for a quick wash, which is kinda humorous as I donned my dirty clothes after. The water was refreshing and it feels good to be clean, even if only for a few minutes.

Cassel Lake
Cassel Lake

For me, this trip is all about the art of staying warm and dry. We are wet all day paddling (will have to work on that one as John stayed dry). John uses more of a low angle paddle stroke and the drips from his paddle fall onto the deck of the kayak rather than his skirt. As we paddle along he explains how to imitate his paddling style. My paddle strokes drip water onto my kayak skirt and then when I get out of the kayak, the skirt drains onto my shorts and I am wet. Murray is suffering with the same issue. Once finished paddling and schlepping for the day, I change into my camp clothes (I will write a post about clothes at the end of the trip) and warm up.

The joke after supper is now “How long will Debbie stay awake!” Today, after 21.5 kms, not long.

Teakerne Arm Provincial Park
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Kayak Tour – Marina Island to Penn Islands (19 kms)

Marina Island
A fellow traveler on Marina Island

It is low tide when we get up in the morning. A look on either side of the spit tells us the launch of the kayaks into the water is going to be a chore. John decides on the best spot to launch, which is about a hundred meters down the beach. Less treacherous green vegetation to walk over to get to the water. After breakfast, Murray and I schlepp gear down the beach while John and Richard have the heavier load of carrying the kayaks.

Marina Island
Richard and John schlepping kayaks to the water’s edge

Once everyone is on the water, we have to paddle way around the spit between the buoys, which is almost to the shore of Cortes Island. From there, we dodge the Quadra to Cortes ferry and head north hugging the coast and looking for wildlife.

Off the coast of Cortez Island
Off the coast of Cortez Island

The sun is actually peaking through the smoke and clouds. It feels almost warm. It is so quiet on the water. Just the sound of my paddles. Splsh – dripdripdrip splsh – dripdripdrip is all I hear. The sound is soothing.

Off the coast of Cortez Island

The water is calm. The seals pop their heads up to check us out and if we get too close, poof, they are gone. A flock of birds, perhaps harlequin ducks, flies by in formation. They move in unison, dipping wings and zig zagging across the surface.

We turn west and paddle towards the Penn Islands where we make camp for tonight. We join a couple already camped on the northern most island. The campsite we choose is a 5 star location as we find out from the couple that we are overlooking a bit of a whale channel.

Our 5 star view from Penn Island
Our 5 star view from Penn Island

Whales. They are the creatures of the day. Humpbacks. We see them during the day and now, as we dine in our 5 star restaurant, two whales travel through the channel. They even stick around for a bit and treat us to more sightings. We also spied, through binoculars, two orcas swimming through another channel far off to our left. Magnificent! We don’t want it to get dark as we want to keep watching for these splendid creatures.

Humpback off Penn Island
Humpback off Penn Island

John cooks up another great supper. He adds a can of this and that, some veggies (chopped by Richard), coconut milk and red curry paste, and voila!, supper. It tastes so good it is hard to not over eat. Lunches are very similar but we eat veggie and canned salmon or chicken or turkey salads, nuts, sugared fruit, wraps or crackers. One day it’s Greek, the next is Indian, then Italian. John always keeps us guessing as to what we will eat.

Inside our tent we notice our tent, sleeping bags, mats and clothes are getting damper and damper. We need some serious sun and some wind to dry us out. Us prairie folks with our drying wind have trouble comprehending this moist wind and damp environment, especially with no sun. Maybe tomorrow.

Penn Island

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Kayak Tour – Twin Islands to Marina Island (18 kms)

After breakfast, Richard gives me a lesson on how to paddle properly and I realize that if I do it his way, my neck doesn’t hurt unless I revert to my old shenanigans of pulling on my paddle. I concentrate all day in order to get it ingrained in my body.

Twin Islands

The water is calm today (thank goodness!). The smoke is still ticklish on the throat and the sun is a white ball through the haze. Our route today is to paddle around the south end of Cortes Island, north along the west coast of the island to the gorge and then west to Marina Island.

Twin Islands

The bright Purple and orange (Leather) sea stars are numerous, both in the water and above the tide line. We are encourage to touch them to compare the roughness of their “skin”. I never knew they could be so different, one is rough and the other is smooth.

South end of Cortez Island

Birds are everywhere on the coast. We see loons, herons, mergansers, oyster catchers and cormorants. The loons call out their eerie sad song. The cormorants are very shy and skittish and do not let us get too close before they fly away.

We spy harbour porpoises but only from afar. And, of course, there are seals.

South end of Cortez Island
Sunning on a rock

It is low tide and the south end of Cortes is rocks and boulders, a tidal flat. It goes out forever. We find a small passage to go through to avoid 2 or 3 extra kms around the end.

Just before we head to Marina Island, we paddle into the Tide Islet to check out some pictographs. There are four or five, some harder to find than others. I wonder how they were painted where they were – ropes and belay down the side of the cliff?

Pictograph in Tide Islet
Pictograph in Tide Islet

Marina Island is owned by Bill Gates! He allows boaters to camp on the spit and the campground is laid out and roomy. We are getting used to the routine. Murray and I schlepp gear and food and John and Richard haul kayaks. (I think they do way more work than we do!) We set up our tent in the forest on a soft bed of needles. I never tire of looking out over the water or walking the beach looking for colourful rocks or shells.

Tent spot on Marina Island
Tent spot on Marina Island

Speaking about the beach……the outdoor bathroom is amongst the rocks and drift wood below the high tide line. Toiler paper is either bagged in a doggy poop bag or burned. This always involves a walk down the beach far enough to feel comfortable. I eventually learn how to burn toilet paper without using the whole box of matches!

Another great supper cooked by John and Richard. They are taking very good care of us. It gets dark, and I try to stay awake sitting on my log, but by 8:30 I have to retreat to the tent.

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Kayak Tour – Lund to Twin Islands (19 kms)

It is departure day. We eat breakfast, pack up and are on the road for a kilometer or so to meet our guides John and Richard. But let me back up slightly.

Early in the summer Murray and I started talking about doing a kayak tour on the west coast this summer, but with the COVID pandemic we were not sure about the traveling and exposing ourselves to people we did not know. We emailed back and forth with John from Footprint BC about a six day tour to Desolation Sound starting September 13 and whether other folks had signed up and what their COVID policies were. After some thought we decided we couldn’t make a decision that far out as who knew what the world would be like in 2 months.

Then as September approached, we emailed John again and asked whether anyone had signed up and whether he would be willing to take just two of us out (at a premium price, of course). Even though he had lots of inquiries, no one had committed. So we did. And that is how Murray and I had a private kayak tour with two exceptional and experienced guides.

Back to September 13. John and Richard (from Island Romer Adventures) meet us at the Desolation Sound Resort. We ask all sorts of questions and sort out our gear and throw it into the back of John’s SUV. We are driving to the other side of the Malaspina Peninsula to Lund and will embark from there.

The smoke from the forest fires in the western US has blown into the area and so our intrepid guides have decided not to go into Desolation Sound. They think the smoke will not clear from that area very well. So we are going to circumnavigate Cortes Island instead as there is more of a chance that the smoke will clear from Georgia Straight. We are okay with this change of plan as we have never been in the area before so everything is new to us. I tell John, “You lead and we will follow!”

Loading kayaks at the Lund boat launch
Loading kayaks at the Lund boat launch

It takes some time to load up the four sea kayaks with the myriad of gear and food and then we are launched. I notice right away that I cannot paddle in a straight line, which I can in my kayak. Arg! Frustration! So I relent and put my rudder down, and now I have to figure out how to use it properly. Only took half a day to finally understand how to use a rudder.

We hug the coast of the Malaspina Peninsula and sneak up through the Copeland Islands and stop for lunch on a small island. We see out first seals, lots of them! Richard explains about “shell midden” which is oyster shells in the dirt from many years ago, maybe 50 years or 100 years or more. The indigenous peoples harvested oyster shells, tossed them on the ground and then the shells aided in making the soil and are integrated into the soil. Cool!

Lund to Twin Islands

After lunch, we turn west towards Twin Islands and John has to navigate using his compass as we cannot see far enough in the smoke. The water is rough and the occasional wave slaps across the kayak. It is a tough paddle. Twin Island is just a grey blur on the horizon when it first appears. As we get nearer to the islands, the trees start to become more distinct. Nearer still and there are colours – dark green, light green and grey. Nearer still and the trees have branches and the rock has ridges and cracks. Once we are paddling close to the island, the trees become huge and we are tiny specks on the water.

We camp on the north end of Twin Islands on our very own tiny island. The landing spot is rocky but I think that is the way of things out here. There is room for our three small tents and a kitchen/eating area. We dine on nasi goreng and peanut sauce and it tastes wonderful after a hard day! Guess what, we crash early as we are tired from our paddle and have five more days to go.

Twin Islands
Kayaks stored above the high tide line on Twin Islands

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