Hiking the Nootka Trail (3)

August 29  Midway between Bajo Point and Bajo Creek

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This morning dawned foggy.  Paul had coffee already brewed on his stove as I crawled out of the tent, less stiff and achy than on previous days. Walking on the hard grey sand along the smooth curve of Skuna Bay was fast and fluent.  We were greeted by a flock of killdeer at a little creek’s descent into the ocean.  A distinct track preceded us, which Paul identified as wolf.  For a while it was joined by bear prints and the delicate tracks of killdeer and sanderlings which follow the water’s moving edge, a double oscillation of waves within tides.

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As we rounded the point at the south end of Skuna Bay under an awning of horizontal spruces, the sky disrobed, revealing its naked blue splendor and the sun’s brilliance. The top end of the bay where we’d camped remained in clear view, but continued shrinking into the expanding landscape.  Three days now with no trace of other humans—no logged stumps or springboard notches, no boats or planes or even contrails—except for a sprinkling of detritus on the beach: mostly water bottles and net floats.

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Calvin Falls came into view, a white cascade of fresh water pouring into a deep pool with a slow circular current that empties into an ocean-seeking stream flowing across the wide beach. I welcomed the chance to get out of my wet boots and take a cleansing swim before lunch.  As we continued on, the friendly packed sand was replaced by large polished boulders, at first difficult to negotiate but soon allowing light-footed progress guided by close attention to the steps immediately ahead, enhanced by the stones’ artful variety of texture and color.  Then the boulders got covered with thick deposits of seaweed and eelgrass ripped by storms from kelp beds offshore. We either had to slog through the soft wet piles or balance our way along the driftwood stacked at high tide line. At first the stench was overwhelming but after an hour or so, one got used to it.

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We found a fresh water rivulet and nearby a tent site on a soft bed of rotten eelgrass behind a thin barrier of logs that separated us from mountains of broken bull kelp, giant kelp and other algae that would provide a fortune in sushi, fertilizer and xanthan gum to anyone who could harvest it. After a nap Peter and I headed up into the bush to reconnoiter, drawn by sky visible above the treetops. We tunneled through salal up to a bench where it thins to allow relatively easy walking among widely-spaced first-growth trees and windfalls. We made for a huge gnarled cedar and found around its back traces of removal of cedar planks by native inhabitants long ago. Such “Culturally Altered Trees” provide evidence in present-day land-claims negotiation. We wandered further back along the trunk of a windfall hung up in the crossing of a cedar and a spruce and ended up fifty feet above the forest floor in the middle of the clearing it created.  Peter’s foot dropped through a hole in the moss, but he didn’t fall.  We bushwhacked toward the little creek leading to our campsite on the beach and crossed on a windfall leading to another old-growth cedar with a bear’s lair in its hollow base.  When we returned to camp, we found Paul napping instead of cooking. After a rude awakening he cooked up a much-anticipated meal of jambalaya and sockeye salmon with chocolate pudding for dessert. The incoming tide nudged piles of seaweed into gracefully curved windrows along the shore.

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I got up to pee at 1:00 A.M. and was shocked by a bright orange moon sinking behind the shelf it exposed by pulling out the tide.

Hiking the Nootka Trail (4) »

For a full photoset and slideshow of this day’s sights, go here

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