Hiking the Nootka Trail

Hiking the Nootka Trail (5)

Friday, September 4th, 2009

August 31  Yuquot


We broke camp early on a dazzling morning, reluctant to leave the cove for the long hike ahead. The trail required travel over headlands with beautiful forest and spectacular views and along small beaches passing a bead curtain waterfall, a thunder hole, ponds and meadows, and a log bridge.  The grandest of the headlands is Maquinna Point, where the coastline turns from facing the open Pacific to Nootka Inlet. We stopped there on a ledge of grass, wild onion and paintbrush to share our last lunch provisions, walk on the jagged abrasive rock and enjoy the 240-degree view. After that we started losing interest in spectacular prospects in preference for flatter ground. The last cove visited by the trail was dominated by a marooned pleasure boat, quite new with hull intact but windshield, cabin and motor smashed and cannibalized.




The trail emerged onto the long beach that belonged to the settlement of Yuquot, or Friendly Cove, some of whose history I had read in White Slaves of Maquinna, John Jewitt’s early nineteenth-century account of being held captive by the Nootka chief for two years mostly in this location. (Heritage House Publishing, Surrey BC, 2000) It was the Spring and Summer residence of the Nuuchanulth tribes who resided along the protected beach in long houses that they disassembled every year and transported to their Winter residence up the inlet at Tahsis.  Friendly Cove was also the center of the otter trade during the late18th and early 19th centuries, at one time the most important port north of Mexico. During this time the otter population was virtually wiped out and the native population of the area declined from 200,000 to 40,000. The otters are now making a comeback.


The beautiful views along this beach all seemed to center upon the church with its steep red roof and bright white walls. After Peter’s swim, my nap and Paul’s water gathering, we walked along soft sand and then through the outflow of a tidal lagoon where an older man sat between a small tent and a kayak.  He was waiting for the wind to die down so that he could paddle around Maquinna Point to Calvin Falls to meet a friend of his kayaking from the other direction.



We continued along the beach to a campsite by a seastack, close enough to Friendly Cove to get us to the dock in time for our pickup the next morning. As we unloaded packs, Peter said, “A perfect trip. Cue the whales.”  Within a few minutes the action started out in Nootka Sound, not too surprisingly, since the Indians who lived here were famous as whalers.  First, two Orcas spouting way offshore and coming closer.  Then out near the horizon catching the late afternoon sun, continual explosions of a surfacing humpback, and finally an Orca coming in close enough for Paul to catch him on camera “skyleaping,” a wild behavior that seemed to have no purpose but to entertain us. Peter cooked dinner of beef rotini generously purchased from the Powell River outfitting store, enriched with chanterelles remaining from the earlier harvest.




Hiking the Nootka Trail (6) »

For a full photoset and slideshow of this days sights, go here

Hiking the Nootka Trail (6)

Friday, September 4th, 2009

September 1 Friendly Cove

Tuesday morning, we loaded our lightened packs and followed the last part of the trail onto the Yuquot Reserve, passing a group of trim holiday cabins and a cemetery with early 20th century graves marked with stone crosses and a recent one for a seventeen year old girl marked with a carved bear totem. The large campsite adjoining the Church was well mowed but as deserted as the trail had been for the last five days.  We entered the store attached to the church at 10:00 A.M. and awakened the young caretaker, who bore a strong resemblance to the image of Chief Maquinna embroidered on the garments for sale, and who checked our receipts for the $45 we each paid at Gold River for permission to cross tribal land.  He said the boat on which we had confirmed reservations was not expected today and let us into the Church sanctuary, dimly lit by stained glass windows featuring chalices and crosses. On the stripped altar lay an opened Roman Missal, behind it stood two colorful totem poles and at the back of the sanctuary two more flanking a brilliant carved eagle. The incongruous mix of delapidation and restoration was also evident in the vestibule museum, where a ransacked display case and strewn framed historical photographs accompanied posters detailing a recent government plan for developing the whole settlement as a tourist attraction.  Ours were the first signatures in the guestbook for several days, but earlier entries indicated that several hundred hikers had passed through during the current season.



We roamed the paths cut through great mounds of blackberry brambles growing on the site of the old longhouses pictured in the museum and came upon a large fallen totem pole next to a pile of trash.  My book mentioned that this had been carved in 1929 as a gift to the Governor General of Canada who returned it to the Indians along with a chainsaw, which they’d expected in trade.  As we headed for the dock near the Coast Guard station, the caretaker hailed us and said that he’d called the MV UChuck office and confirmed that they were not coming to pick us up today, but that his grandfather could provide us a ride back to Gold River in his speedboat for $300, a discount from the $500 normally charged.  Somewhat perturbed, we thanked him and asked permission to phone ourselves.  The woman at the office said that the boat would be there within the hour as promised, and indeed the elegant old minesweeper turned freighter turned tourist boat soon appeared out of the fog.  In the galley we were amiably welcomed with coffee, home cooked soup and sandwiches. The sky cleared as we steamed up the inlet, escorted by the Air Nootka Cessna overhead.




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