Islet 48 to Cultus Sound
August 4 / Day 7
Clear, Winds and seas calm changing to SW @ 12 knots with swell 1 meter with 2’ chop
Prior to leaving on this trip I studied the area long and hard and a satellite photo showed the roof of a structure on an island at the south end of Stryker Island. I wasn’t aware of a cabin there and determined that if time allowed I would check it out. It was only 2 NM away and on my intended route so that was my first action item of the day.
A cluster of islands form a confusing maze between Islet 48 and the cabin and shortly after leaving the beach my GPS battery died so I was trying to find my way by chart and spider-sense. I didn’t feel like I was having much luck as I wound my way into a narrow passage that dead-ended on a muddy beach. I took the opportunity to change the GPS batteries. With a fresh set of batteries I would be able to find the cabin. With batteries changed I waited for the unit to boot up and when it did I was confused by what it told me. According to the GPS I was at the cabin and it was just over my left shoulder. Turning around I saw the roof peeking through the trees just 30 yards away. It’s amazing the way things hide in plain sight on this coast.
The cabin turned out to be in bad shape with the roof mostly gone, wood stove and flue were shot and the door lying flat on the ground. What had once been the front deck/porch would be a good spot to set up a tent. There were two graves near the porch honoring the remains of Pauline and Walter Jackson. I would love to know the history here. I rested a bit then pushed on.
In need of water I set off for Iroquois Island 3 NM to the SE. Nice paddling through these islands. Not what Iusually do but I understand why folks come here to experience it. Approaching where I assumed the creek would be I encountered 4 paddlers from Alberta who had been out for nearly two weeks. They led me to the stream on Iroquois that would be very easy to miss. It is marked as a camp site but I couldn't imagine where it would be. It must certainly be unconventional but the water was decent.
It was just under 10 NM from Iroquois to Cultus Sound so I spent I next 3 hours slogging to and through the Simonds Group to my next camp site. Very nice scenery! When I arrived, there were several tents set up along the beach. A beautiful First Nations woman approached me and welcomed my arrival. The tents belonged to members of her family who lived in Bella Bella but who had come to Cultus to escape the smoke of the Prince Williams fires. I met the rest of the family and we talked about Heiltsuk culture, growing up Heiltsuk, the wreck of the Howard E. Stewart, the effect on Band’s shellfish fisheries and the BC Government. They asked me if I was a Seattle Seahawk fan so we talked football and I was invited to a fresh salmon dinner.
Cultus Sound to Triquet Island
August 5 / Day 8
Overcast changing to low overcast, Winds calm increasing to SW @ 15 knots, Seas calm increasing to swell at 1 meter and 2 foot chop
It was a short paddle from Cultus Sound to my next camp on Triquet Island. Even with a couple of stops I wouldn’t spend much more than 2.5 hours paddling. There was no reason to be on the water early so I slept late, lounged around camp and ate a leisurely breakfast.
I didn’t have any lip balm so after a week on the water my lips had large chunks of skin peeling off that were still, somehow, hanging on and distracting from the business of eating. How could I be without lip balm when it lives in my PFD pocket? The undeniable truth was that I had forgotten it or lost it and I was paying the price. Then one of my Heiltsuk neighbors came over and, with much embarrassment, admitted that he had forgotten to pack the coffee and asked if I had any I could spare. Due to my route change and less than anticipated caffeine consumption I had 8 Vias that I wouldn’t need which he was delighted to receive. Packing the coffee in Bella Bella had been his responsibility and he was taking a beating for forgetting it. When he asked me if there was anything he could give me I ran my tongue over my ragged lips and asked if he had any Chap Stick in his pocket. What a random request, right? He said that he didn’t but would check and went back to his camp returning with a tiny tube of Blistex that Grandma had in her purse. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Blistex is the Holy Grail of lip balms and my lips needed more than scented petroleum jelly. I immediately slathered it on my lips and went over to thank Grandma. She was very pleased and we both agreed it was a good trade.
I left camp a little after 10:00 AM and pulled into Swordfish Bay after a leisurely hour of paddling. I like this spot and Kayak Bill had a camp here at one time. After four visits, however, I have not been able to find anything other than one of his “bucket wells”. He would drill some holes in the bottom of a plastic bucket and bury it in the ground. Rain water could enter the top and ground water would seep in through the bottom. I spent about 30 minutes searching for indicators that I had overlooked before and found some medium-sized pieces of wood that had been stacked just off of the beach but no infrastructure that I could definitely recognize as Kayak Bill’s. Empty handed again.
Another hour and a half brought me to Triquet Island. I had camped there six nights in the past 12 years and since my last visit I had learned about the discovery of an ancient village site dating back 14,000 years and the research being done by the Hakai Institute. I had been following the dig and was really looking forward to revisiting the island and viewing it in that historical context.
I set up camp in the clearing above the beach and started looking for the dig site. A ribbon tied to a salal branch led down a narrow trail that degenerated into a tight tunnel and finally into a game trail tunnel that I could only manage on all fours. Definitely not a trail that researchers had been using.
The tide was fairly high so I got into my boat and paddled west towards the shallow area where I suspected the village had been and where the clam gardens and fish traps must be. The white beach that stood out so plainly in satellite photos turned out to be light colored sand and not midden but the shallows were rich in shellfish. At times I glided over rock clusters that seemed unnatural but nothing grabbed me as “Hey look at me! I am the result of ancient aquaculture”. It was a very rich and verdant environment.
Paddling over to the beach where Randel Washburne built his first coastal cabin in 1977 I was greeted with a ton of beach debris hung from trees surrounding a folding chair. So disappointing to find abandoned beach architecture left as a memorial of someone’s visit. The antithesis of “Leave no trace” ethic. Why folks feel compelled to leave these eyesores insuring that all who follow know that they were there first confuses me.
Above the beach Randel’s cabin still stood. Worse for the wear but still recognizable. It was being used for storing beach garbage. I slept there in 2005. Wouldn’t do so now.
A muddy “platform” had been hacked out of the slope above the beach that would accommodate a couple, maybe three, tents and the upper clearing had been improved. The “Gone Fishing” sign from 2005 had been replaced with something new and relocated.
Returning to camp I found that I had a new neighbor. Don Griffiths from Vancouver had paddled in from Goose. So nice to have another solo traveleras a campsite companion. Don was on a pretty ambitious 50 day trip. After 25 years of kayaking some of the most remote sites on the coast he was revisiting his favorites. I was fortunate that Triquet was on his route as I learned so much from him regarding routes, humility and family. Thank you, Don.
Don set up on the sand under some trees. Leading up the hill from his campsite was a muddy trail that accessed a large level dirt platform that had been excavated into the slope. Above the platform the muddy track continued up the hill and was blocked by a sign asking folks to stay out as it was being replanted. Clearly this led to the dig and the similarity of this platform to the one at Randel’s Cabin Site indicated that a good sized team from the Hakai Institute had been on the island using both campsites.
Triquet Island to Wolf Beach
August 6 / Day 9
Low overcast at 100’, Winds calm increasing to S @ 10 knots, Seas calm to 2 meter with 1 foot windwaves, Seas Moderate
Low slack was around 7:00 AM with high slack about 1:30 PM. Hakai Passage is about 3 hours from Triquet and I make it a habit to cross Hakai Passage on a flood as I want to avoid a wind against current situation there. A 4 knot ebb clashing with swells and/or west winds can make this a bad place to be.
- · Plan A was to go direct from Triquet to Calvert Island and cross Hakai at the end of the flood. ~8.5 NM of open water.
- · Plan B was to go east to the Serpent Group and then work my way south down Stirling Island. Depending on conditions I would cross to Calvert (~3 NM open water) or paddle east on Hakai to the shelter of Edwards Passage.
- · Plan C assumed the worst and I would go east to the Serpent Group then continue east to Nalau Passage, then turning south at Edwards Passage and camp on Stirling Island close to Hakai Passage ~ 2 NM open water.
I employed Plan B and the crossing of Hakai Passage was mild with 2 meter swells and occasional rips. Visibility wasn’t very good so it took me a bit to figure out where I was when I entered the Choked Passage complex. There was a fair amount of confused current mixing in there and I didn’t fight it. I just let it take me where it wished. No big surprises just a mystery tour of sorts.
I headed for the west end of Wolf Beach where there were few signs of recent traffic. Storms had been unkind to “The Wolf” and had eaten the beach all the way back to the forest creating a tidal channel against the trees almost the length of the beach. My favorite campsite was still there but teetered on the brink of a 6 foot bluff that was eroding as I watched. I set up in another spot nearby at the crest of the bluff that would disappear with the next storm. The beach mice seemed overly curious and oddly brave. That is never a good sign.
I hung my food but kept a single package of beef jerky in my net beach bag that was vacuum packed and had never been opened. A friend had given me a special package of jerky for the trip and I was keeping it close. Too close it turned out. I stuffed the beach bag under the vestibule of my tent and went to sleep. At some point I woke up to lots of rustling noises coming from the vestibule. I donned my headlamp and was surprised to see little black mice coming and going from my beach bag. They had eaten a hole through it and were going large on the package of special beef jerky. It took more “convincing” than you would expect before I could get them all to leave. Not sure what language they spoke but it wasn’t English. I had to physically expel them and then they only moved out of range.
I opened the beach bag to assess damage and found that they had breached the vacuum packed bag and had their way with it.
Bastards! Bastards! Their little beady eyes reflected the beam of my headlamp from 10 feet away. They were laughing at me. Little furry bastards!
I opened the bag and tossed the pieces of jerky far away from the tent. Little Bastards! I hoped that the sodium ratcheted up their blood pressure to the point that they died!