September, 2007 Archive

The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (5)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Day 5

The morning of departure from Insect Island was rainy, making it easier to pull up stakes. Again led by Navigator John we wended our way down Misty Passage, past Tracy, Mars, and Hudson islands, through Spiller Passage, across Arrow Passage, past Betty Cove, through the Fog Islets by Cedar Island to Owl Island, situated at the mouth of Knight Inlet.

The trip was punctuated by a pee and gorp stop on an unvegetated rock islet. We glided through several liquid slits between islands, challenging to find in the fog and thrilling to negotiate.

Here at the edge of the open sea, vegetation was sculpted by prevailing winds into thick rounded hedges. Unperturbed, a bald eagle in a snag observed our progress.

We found the campsite at Owl Island squeezed into a narrow terrace between vertical rock walls and the high tide line, protected from exposure at the head of a long bay. Tall spruces, second growth but 200 feet high, fronted the water, and a fire ring was placed in the shelter of large vegetation-covered driftwood logs.

After carrying the kayaks safely onshore, we pitched tents, found appropriate toilet locations, and built a bench and footrest with the capacity to seat the whole crew comfortably near the fire drying out clothing wet from the voyage and last night’s rain. Once again the weather cleared and insects stayed away.

Steve, the resident sculptor, started work on a Zunoqua totem, using flotsam he found on the beach and nails ingeniously pried out of the wide driftwood board that served as our kitchen table. We searched for water but found no source nearby. This was the first location we stayed at that did not include a shell midden.

Murray and Steven prepared the dinner of canned Chili, couscous and bacon bits. The sunset gave the treetops and rocks at the mouth of the bay a golden glow. From different directions two wolves howled.

For a full set (67) of my Zunoquad pictures click here.

For a pool (184) of pictures by several people on this trip, click here.

For a wiki including these journal entries and writings by other participants, click here

The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (4)

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Day 4

The continuing sunshine and the comfort of our campsite persuaded Murray our leader of the day to allow a slow start and optional activities.

John, Rob, Murray and Steve elected to paddle to some of the outer islands at the edge of the Archipelago facing Queen Charlotte Strait. Steven, Peter, Ian and Lionel decided to explore the interior of Insect Island. Before splitting up someone came up with the idea pooling the collective wisdom about reducing aches and pains by taking turns teaching and leading our favorite stretches.

There was agreement afterwards that this was a profitable exercise. It would have been a good idea to make this a daily ritual, but that would have been too virtuous.

The kayakers traveled to Blackfish Sound via Misty Passage and touched on Arrow Passage (see map).

After a long arduous paddle, they landed on an unvegetated island of smooth rock where one could sit and stare out into the open ocean”a good place to fish, but where no fish were caught.

The landlubbers went in search of the southern tip of Insect Island, hoping for a view of the convergence of Misty Passage, Old Passage and Blunden Passage. They hiked through the second growth hemlock forest, finding familiar immense old growth stumps with spring board grooves, a number of which looked liked recently created cedar bark “cultural modifications,” and a delicious huckleberries.

Though crisscrossed by steep ravines, the bush was relatively easy to crash through because of the absence of salal and the soft springiness of the soil. The destination was something of a disappointment since the water on all sides could only be glimpsed through the tree cover.

After a return to the campsite for lunch, the land explorers napped, read and wrote in journals.

Steven and Ian took a brief kayak jaunt around the island at the center of Misty Passage. Peter and Lionel prepared Tuna surprise for the voyagers who were grateful for the hotmeal immediately upon their return. A weather report came in over Steve’s radio predicting lowering pressure. It rained for about two hours during the night. Peter and Lionel got wet because their tent fly didn’t work.

For a full set (67) of my Zunoquad pictures click here.

For a pool (184) of pictures by several people on this trip, click here.

For a wiki including these journal entries and writings by other participants, click here

The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (3)

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Day 3

Ian was today’s elected leader. He commanded us to switch paddling partners. The new combinations seemed to work well and remained in effect for the rest of the trip.

Murray picked mussels at 6 AM and packed them along for the night’s dinner.

We decided on an early departure for destination Insect Island.

Under lowering skies and patchy fog, across wide channels and amidst narrow passages that left me utterly lost, Rob my taciturn co-kayaker, coached me on proper technique he learned as a member of a Vancouver outrigger canoe club.

He told me to keep both arms rigid, making a triangle with the paddle shaft and to move only from the waist, using abdominal and lateral lower back muscles”the “core” that I had been urged to rely on by a physiotherapist last year. Move slowly and with less effort, feel the boat pulled through the water with each stroke, dig deep and quick with the tip of the paddle, he’d repeat quietly at long intervals. I concentrated on the motion, fearful of injuring muscles that chronically ached, constrained by the life jacket I had left inside the spray skirt to cushion my sore back. After a while I would feel the rhythm, a kind of figure-eight movement that reminded me of the synchronized paddlers I had seen many years ago at the Lund-Sliammon dedication ceremony. But most of the time I felt awkward and scared.

An hour or so into Fife Channel, we pulled up to the lead kayak and shared some smoke. Afterwards my movements became more fluid, but the pain in my left hip joint resulting from immobility worsened. I fished two soggy Ibuprofens out of my shirt pocket, swallowed them with saliva and continued paddling with eyes closed, coordinating my stroke with drawing and expelling breath. I was getting soaked by the water trickling down the paddle falling into the grooves of the life jacket. If a headwind should come up or it started to rain I would face a serious challenge.

Once when I opened my eyes, a vision of exactly the kind of movement I was striving for came out of the fog. On a big aluminum boat with his back to us appeared a blond crew-cutted man with huge shoulders and upper arms wearing an orange parka. Hand over hand, rocking from side to side in a figure-eight motion, he was pulling something heavy and deep out of the ocean”a net–with movements as sleek and flowing as a seal’s. My hip ache went from a moan to a scream as we approached him. John was negotiating to buy prawns. The boy’s face was a little puffed, smiling and open. He said he worked for the salmon farm up the arm and was out fishing for the crew on his off time. He offered to give us his last net full of prawns for nothing, but agreed to take a twenty-dollar beer allowance. After dumping five pounds into one of Ian’s dry bags, he thanked us profusely and disappeared into the fog.

Unable to share in the general rejoicing over the new dinner prospect because of a shellfish allergy, I lapsed back into my rhythmic stupor, which combined pleasure in the flow of my paddling, amazement that I felt no fatigue or pain in my arms or back and panic at the damage to my hip. Passing round a corner through a tight channel we came upon a narrow clamshell beach at the base of a banked midden at least twenty feet high, surmountable by a steep slippery trail. We pulled up and exploded into activity”building a fire ring, sawing wood, unpacking the kayaks, cutting steps into the bank, hanging wet clothing out to dry as the sun started to come out, and preparing lunch. Not a great campsite, but a place to stop.

As soon as I was able to move around, the hip pain disappeared and I climbed to the top of the bank, where others had already deposited gear and pitched tents. I wandered down a well-traveled trail above which rose two more flat terraces carved from the mountain of shells. A hundred yards down and around two corners, the bank protruded into the water on three sides, creating a spacious platform with a fire ring in the middle, at the convergence point of three channels heading north, east and south and a view down one to the snow covered mountains of Vancouver Island. This must have been the seat of the monarch, where he’d preside in state surrounded by wives, reviewing the parade of canoes approaching from all directions with tribute of mussels, prawns, and clams. I ran back to the landing spot shouting, “home’s around the corner.” On the beach where we finally parked the canoes was this sign: “This is MUSBAMAGW DZAWAD-ENUXW territory. Respect our land.”


Down a well travelled trail from the spectacular campsite we found water in a creek running through an enchanted glade, a perfect example of “one of the most under-represented terrestrial ecosystems in the province – the Outer Fiordland Ecosection Coastal Western Hemlock very wet maritime submontane variant.”

To celebrate our arrival, Ian led us in the paddle cheer. Murray swam across the channel, but the water was too cold to tempt any of the rest to join him. Our travel south had brought us into the glacier-fed waters of Knight Inlet.

Despite the name, there were no bugs on Insect Island

Steve figured out how to use the GPS unit he’d bought almost a year ago to initiate his retirement. It took over an hour to hook up to the right satellites overhead.

John tried to keep the prawns alive by changing the water every hour. Murray cleaned his mussels.

John and Murray cooked dinner with the fresh seafood. Steven enjoyed the pasta pesto made with a jar of the real thing.

Cocoa with Nutella and rum concluded the meal of the trip.

For a full set (67) of my Zunoquad pictures click here.

For a pool (184) of pictures by several people on this trip, click here.

For a wiki including these journal entries and writings by other participants, click here

The Zunoquad: Kayaking in the Broughton Archipelago (2)

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Day 2

The morning was bright. The tradition, for many years, has been the election of a leader for the day. The appointed leader must choose a title. Lionel, our elected leader going right to the top for his title “Your Holiness,” bowed to the general desire to hang around the campfire and drink yet another pot of high quality coffee.

On average, it turned out, six hours a day were devoted to serious discussions of topics like what we would tell wives and partners we did on the trip and a business plan for our restaurant with a “roughing it” theme called “Ecoccino.” Around 11 am we finished cleanup, hoisted our food bags into trees to keep them away from mice and raccoons and departed on an expedition to replenish our dwindling water supply.

Heading for Simoom Sound where it was rumored one could find creeks emptying into the sea, we encountered a pod of dolphins on the north side of the islets and then crossed the broad expanse of Tribune Channel.

The vertical granite cliffs glistening in the sunlight on the opposite shore grew to 300 feet tall as we approached. The echo effect from the sheer wall dropping into the ocean prompted a chorus of sound effects.

Close to the base we came close to some unusual sea birds with white spotted wings and red feet.

Rounding the point, one kayak came upon a bald eagle feasting on a salmon. They closed in and chased off the raptor, but not enough of the fish was left to be worth stealing for our lunch. John continued fishing. Down the Sound we saw one of many fish farms scattered through these waters. These nests of ecological evil in the midst of the pristine landscape are hated by most coastal residents but loved by foreign investors and politicians. (see this article by the Raincoast Research Society of Simoom Sound entitled, “What has gone wrong with salmon farming in the Broughton Archipelago” for a hair-raising scientific account of this disaster) They stimulated rich fantasies of ecotage.

Fortunately we found a creek in a cove out of their sight, where we pulled up on the warm rocks, filled our containers, ate lunch, napped, swam, and mooned a large passing yacht.

John’s crab trap landed a couple of formidable sun stars.

Exploring the south side of the Burwood Islets on the way back to camp, Ian used his professional fisherman expertise to disentangle a rope from the propellers of another yacht–a service performed without thanks. Another swim in the relatively warm waters of the clamshell cove was followed by a golden sunset illuminating the summit of Bumcrack Mountain to the east”named by Dennis for the cross-shaped snow formations visible near its summit.

Dinner was fish free: chicken-with-rice and butterscotch pudding, which received mixed reviews. The wind came up strong enough to require a windbreak engineered using a large tarp, trees and rocks. Tonight’s co-occupant was as fit and serious a kayaker as Ron. Mark from Portland was cruising the islands in a rare Necki boat, a kayak with a scull rowing mechanism that allowed him to travel at twice the normal pace. Evening entertainment included a lengthy and heated game of cards.

For a full set (67) of my Zunoquad pictures click here.

For a pool (184) of pictures by several people on this trip, click here.

For a wiki including these journal entries and writings by other participants, click here