If you are traveling to Whale Passage, Freedom Point, Penn Islands north, Francisco Island or Shipwreck Bluff this summer can you complete a Site Condition Report (SCR)? As well, we need SCRs on the remote sites of Estero Peak and Solitary Mountain (currently reserve sites)?
Three sites in the Discovery Islands are official provincial recreation sites. A small team of BC Marine Trails volunteers visited Whale Passage, Freedom Point and Penn Islands north to assess the sites and complete some light brushing and if necessary remove any hazards to paddlers or boaters. We are awaiting approval on four more sites and are in discussions about a fifth site.
Facing light winds and a cool morning we first took a crew to Whale Passage in a small boat, carrying tools, a chainsaw, and well-packed lunches. After reviewing the site for possible values (i.e. clam gardens) we removed some dead branches along a trail between the north and south tent sites. The south tent site area is quite close to a habitat tree—a very large fir with an eagle’s nest on the top. We are currently consulting with an Ecosystem Biologist (MFLNRO) to figure out how a campsite can co-exist with a nesting site.
Whale Passage is a beautiful islet, connected on low tide to Read Island. In total there are seven tent sites. All the sites have amazing views of the sea. The one fire pit on the island was moved to below high tide. This also created an additional campsite area.
After spending several hours assessing and completing some brushing on Whale Passage islet we visited Penn Islands southwest, a BCMT reserve site, and then motored to Penn Islands north. The southwest island is an alternate campsite. It is possible to camp on the rock bluff, but given the proximity of Whale Passage this is a lesser choice. In the future we could lightly clear three tent sites at the top of the rocky beach.
Penn Islands north is an interesting campsite and somewhat popular with small boaters, though a reasonable number of paddlers visit the site. The fire pit on the top of the island was dismantled. It was a fire hazard, pitted in the middle of a mossy uplands, which dries out in the summer months. After repeated visits to this site and others in the area, fire scenarios are increasing. Recently, I was told a story about paddlers lighting a campsite on fire in Read Island Provincial Park. Fortunately, a local owner/guide outfitter put the fire out, noticing it as he passed by on the way home.
As a portfolio manager I’ve had many discussions with Wildfire BC, local recreation officers, and paddlers about the best scenario for fire pits. Wildfire BC, I believe, feel a permanent fire ring or pit is best above high tide and guides people to it. Leave No Trace principles, followed by some recreation officers and the BC Marine Trails, guide people toward fire pits below high tide. What’s your position on this? Some paddlers feel no fires at all are best.
Penn Islands north has a toilet inside a stump and it’s almost at the end of its life. Given the narrow land area located between the southand north beaches and pinned between two rock bluffs, the locations for a Green Throne toilet (over a hole or pit) are limited. Cathy, the Recreation Sites and Trails BC technician, thought the island was best suited for a Tech Toilet (separates urine from poop and only needs to be serviced once a year), which is operated by a foot pedal. At this point we don’t have statistics on the site’s usage. More to come.
There are seven tent sites on Penn Islands north. Five of the sites are on the bluff or rock to the east of the beach along a short 25-metre trail. On a previous trip I used an air mattress, which deflated during the night, and I slept erratically on a bed of rock. On my next trip I upgraded to a better sleeping system. Amazing panoramic views greet any visitor from the upper campsites. Quietude and the sound of eagles screeching from aerial flight, bring the sense of isolation.
North of the Penn Islands are the Rendezvous Islands. The south campsite on Rendezvous Island South Provincial Park has the remnants of a dock. I’ll have to book more time visiting this grassy campsite and explore the old homestead. If anyone would like to complete a Site Condition Report/with a bit of history on this island it would be appreciated. I believe this area is somewhat undiscovered by many, preferring trips in Desolation Sound or the Broken Group Islands or the Gulf Islands. Well, let’s keep it a secret.
The following workcrew day we visit Francisco Island just east of the Octopus Islands. This small island has four tent site areas plus two sites that could be used but are borderline high tide locations (check the tide before pitching a tent). Upon arrival, we were greeted by a raccoon family, who retreated into the bush, but kept us in view throughout our visit and even came to the beach to wave goodbye (well not quite). We cut up a tree across two campsites and also removed a log. A small trail leaves the main camping area to a campsite on the bluff (go east and then south). You can also visit the other beach by accessing a trail across the western point of land. This is another gorgeous site. Some paddlers may prefer this location or a spot in the nearby Octopus Islands Marine Provincial Park.
Freedom Point – is this point named after an underground paddler’s movement escaping the wrath of large yachts overrunning their small paddlecraft? I’m not sure how this campsite was named. This site is hugely popular with guided outfitters often bringing large groups of paddlers. I counted approximately twelve places to pitch a tent: three tents along the shoreline and nine tents in the forest in a large clearing. While this site is well-used we noted a serious problem—dead trees ranging from 4 to 12 inches in diameter and one massive tree (estimated to be 35 metres high and 0.8 metres in diameter) that could fall on the large camp in the back of the site. We fell most of the dead trees under 12 inches and contracted a faller to take thelarge tree down (I will update this article when fallen).
A small toilet sits on a platform, inland from the open forest-tent area. The BC Marine Trails will upgrade this toilet and place an enclosure around it at the end of this season or the beginning of the next.
Our last excursion left our crew on the beach at Shipwreck Bluff. We launched from Granite Bay. This may be an older recreation site but will be established in the near future as a BC Marine Trails – provincial recreation site. Lyle (my paddling buddy) and myself camped here four years ago, enjoying an exquisite view. We even made muffins in the evening. This trip our crew cleared an existing trail between the main campsite and an old fisherman’s camp (I believe), which is located on the other small beach. Notably, an old seiner, leaning toward shore, marks the shoreline (pollution or history?). The old camp could be used as overflow camping. The area is damp, attracting bugs.
Next year, we hope to visit Estero Peak and Solitary Mountain. Likely, we will either use Nick’s 18-foot aluminum skiff with twin Johnston motors or engage a water taxi. During this trip we will clean up the sites, remove garbage (as we do on all sites), and place posts with BC Marine Trails signs (small, low visibility, low footprint signs).