Thursday, August 19, 2010


We made it to Prince Rupert! Yay! We are so excited to have made it here and it has seemed so far away only until a couple days ago. This is a real milestone for us and it is kind of unreal. Ketchikan, our final destination, is only 180 km away and we are finally counting down rather than up. We have paddled about 1100 km to date! The final leg, which will take approximately 10 days will involve heading up the coast, past Port Simpson as the last town in Canada, then crossing Portland Canal into Alaska. We will head up the Misty Fjordlands of Alaska (a fancy way of saying foggy steep shorelines, hehe) and Tongass Forest, bypassing the treacherous Dixon Entrance. We will be back in exposed water so its back to early mornings and off by the noon when the winds pick up. Good news about exposed water (not open water necessarily, but open to the open water!) is that we have great sandy beaches again! Hopefully, we will have good weather to accompany it. Arriving in Ketchikan at the end of the month, we will have a few days to relax in Ketchikan before heading back on the ferry, departing Sept 1 and arriving in Bellingham on Sept 3. Amazingly, the ferry will cover more distance in two nights and one day than we would have is almost 3 months. I'm pretty excited for the change in perspective as we sit on the deck, watching our campsites wiz past.

The highlights of the trip so far have been countless. Telegraph Cove seems so far ago, both in space and time. After Telegraph cove, we were immediately lured into the beautiful archipelagos of the Broughton area and it looked like thousands of little island paradises sprinkled onto the sparkling ocean. While it was absolutely gorgeous to wander through all the little islands, camping was a little hard to find on the giant rock boulder islands.

Next was the Cape Caution lead up where Mother Nature once again showed us whose boss and blew us around. However, out here (as with everywhere), impossible is only a frame of mind and we can deal with pretty much anything. We woke up at the crack of dawn (the crack of shit as our friend, Steve, referred to it as) when the waves and the wind weren't awake yet and paddled like hell for as far as we could sneak in. Points are always nasty pieces of work that jut out of the coastline to catch all the wind and waves from many different directions. Cape Caution is the biggest and baddest one of all in B.C. and is pounded by the weather systems of the North Pacific. We had some EXCITING and adrenline filled days crossing by that area. Cape Caution itself was a breeze...because we got up early and there weren't any breezes at all. However, the day before and after were crazy paddles. Rounding Bramham Island was our first taste of monster waves that rose up so high, it would be a mountain of water heading towards us blocking out everything else in sight. Gone were the trees, the beach and even the mountains in the background. The 20 to 25 foot swells would take 5 paddles to get to the top of, then a moment where we are on top of the the world, then woosh down the back side like going down a halfpipe on a skateboard. In a kayak, we are quite low to the water and super stable. Also, we wear the kayak like it is one with us so it actually felt like some wierd form a surfing at some points.
Kelp Head, after Cape Caution was our next trial. Typically, some offshore reefs help protect the rounding a bit but when we went, the waves just broke in crashing cascading white water on them. We got to a beach after that breaking through the surf to land. When we got to shore, wet and cold, we find that the beach is absolutely covered in wolf prints: big ones and small ones no older than the last tide. Walking around, we see these deer prints and think, wow there's lots of life here! Then we see the bear prints. There were many different sets of them including this huge set where the paws were bigger than Bryan's feet! We saw nothing that night though and with our food safely tucked away in a tree, animals really have little reason to bother us with so much salmon around.

We were then in Rivers Inlet, one of the best salmon fishing spots in the world because it is a collection of many streams and rivers. It is one of two only places where there is a subspecies of the Chinook salmon that stays out in the ocean for 7 years before returning back to the spawning grounds. This means they are huge. Like over 100 pounds huge! With so much salmon here, many other things also congregate and it is so full of life. We were seeing so many humpback whales and since we were in kayaks, they would come up close and personal as we drifted along in our own private whale watching tour! We would see their plume of spray like geysers when they came up to breath. Typically, they would have 5 or 6 shallow breaths and then a deep one where they dived right down, their tails stuck high up into the air and then slowly slide down to the cold watery depths. Then they would say down for about 5 to 10 minutes. They were fishing for small little baitfish and there were millions here. They would jump up and snap they jaws so the water bellowed out the frills on their neck. We were seeing on average over a dozen whales a day and we would be lulled to sleep at night by the sound of whales. It was so amazing to see them jump and breach all around us and it felt like we were in the middle of a national geographic documentary!

We left and journeyed up the Fitzhugh Sound, which wonderfully seemed to always have a tail wind and the current going with us. A real treat after Cape Caution area! The humpback whale galore continued until Namu, the site of an old fish cannery which has now shut down and is slowly crumbling away. Human habitation has moved out into the the floating docks and harbour where cool caretakers, Peter, Rene and Theresa, live and a unique flock of boaters gather as salal and mold slowly take over the old buildings and houses. Bryan caught a 43 pound halibut, which Rene expertly fillet and we cooked over a huge fireplace for a potluck that everyone in the harbour was invited to and ate all the fish they could. We still had fish left over! Doug and Gail Stewart invited us onto their yacht for the night and it was amazing to sleep on a bed again! Such a small world, Gail just happens to be the sister of our neighbour back in Ladner!

We next when to Bella Bella, where everyone was super friendly. The moment we stepped into the First Nations community, we were invited to a community wedding. We thought it might have been weird since we didn't know anyone so we just talked to a few people outside but retired back to our campsite. Apparently, it was destiny that we meet them because the next day, we find the groom and bride's family and friends having a beach day and bbq on the beach where we were camped out. Everyone was so nice and it was great just hanging out with them. Hello Shawna ;)

Klemtu, the next First Nations village we went to, was super nice as well. People just go out of their way to be friendly and help you out! We went and visited the Big House there and it is amazing to see how their culture is being revived. When the Big House was built in 2002, Vern was telling us that they only remembered 6 traditional songs, when they were known to have hundreds, because small pox and residential schools had wrecked havoc in their histories and age had taken away many elders. Now, there has been 25 new songs composed and lavish potlaches are once again celebrated in the Big House, which hosts about 5 on average a year.

After Klemtu was the Princess Royal Island channel. We went to Princess Royal Island to try our luck at seeing the spirit bear of the pacific rainforest. The spirit bear is a small genetic subset of the black bear population that is white. Well, we didn't see any bears but we did find the rain forest... or well rain found us in the forest! The rain pelted down on us non stop and when it finally broke, there was a thick fog hanging in the air.

We stayed at Swanson bay and it was a lot of fun to explore the old remains of what must have been a really bustling place. The crumbling buildings of old cannery and mill is covered in Virgina Creepers but the old framework of buildings are still found in the rich, moist forest floor. Everywhere, there are bits of metal from machinery and bricks stamped with "clay burn". In the front, wooden poles form straight lines into the water: the last remnants of a massive deck. So much history and so much stuff just slowly being reclaimed back by nature. The B.C. coast is dotted with ghost canneries and villages.

The channels around Princess Royal Island are decidedly weird. Current flows are schitzophrenic and wind can be a bastard. For the first stretch, it seemed like the current and wind was always with us, then for the second part, it was decidedly always against us. Fraser Reach was the worst with huge rock cliff escarpments that shot vertically from the water to pierce the heavens. The place was stunningly beautiful in a barren, moonscape kind of way. Stark cliffs with lots of waterfalls tumbling off of them in cascading white and hardy trees clinging to the rock, making their own soil that they grow in. However, in this landscape, the wind and currents just whip through and there is not very many places to land and camp. We did find this amazing campsite in the middle of Fraser Reach on a rocky tumble out into the water. A gorgeous waterfall tumbled down into a little pool that was surrounded by oppertunistic greenery and it was like a little hidden paradise pool. Great for a cold "invigorating" dip!

Lowe Inlet in Grenville channel as we head up to Prince Rupert was extremely cool. Lowe Inlet was a very interesting place. There are the remains of what seems to be a large fishing wier which someone has put a hole in so it is not functional anymore. There is also a lot of old wooden poles in the water, maybe the remains of an old dock. When we were there just a week ago, there was so much salmon by Verney falls that the water was thick with them. They would be jumping all around our kayaks and some of them jumped so high, it looked like they were about to take flight! Verney falls is a tidal waterfall that has two tiers when it is low tide and only one in high tide. When the tide was high, Verney falls became smaller and salmon would try and jump up the falls...and often into waiting jaws of a bear! Every 15 minutes or so, a new black bear would come and snatch a huge salmon from the falls. One afternoon was ruled by a huge black bear that must have caught 8 huge salmon. He would only eat the stomachs. Once, he caught one by the head at the top of the falls but was caught up in the current so it flowed away and Bryan snatched it up! Salmon stolen from a bear was pretty much the best salmon I've ever had! Good job Bryan!

There is a fisheries and oceans cabin up at Lowe Inlet and we hung out with some friendly boaters, Earl and Aden from the "Hey You" Thanks for the yummy treat of steak and wine! Organic steak grilled over an open fire was absolutely delicious and a close second behind the salmon from a bear! hehe

I tried my luck the next morning and actually hopped onto the waterfall but unfortunately, all the salmon carcasses were a little too mauled and a day old.

Anyways, now we are up in Prince Rupert and I am rapidly running out of internet time. Bye until next time!!

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