Archive for the ‘Bella Bella to Butedale’ Category
Posted on June 25, 2012 - by Nadia
Wednesday, June 19, 2012
Work Bay, first cove, off Finlayson Passage
The new moon and summer solstice are conjuring big tidal swings just as camping has gotten scarce and information about specific sites all but dried up in my guide book. So it was that I circumnavigated four sprawling coves of Work Bay long after I should have made camp.
There were plenty of spots for a five-foot tide, but few to even contemplate for a 15-foot tide. I looked behind creeks and waterfalls, scampered into the cedar thicket and measured the elevation of every sloped beach with my GPS. I contemplated hoisting the boat up steep cliffs. I wished I had a hammock. At about 7:30 I went back to the first cove and measured the beach and did the math over and over again. A conservative estimate warned the highest tent site was about 6 inches too low. An optimistic one said it would be dry by about the same. I had no choice. I needed to stop. I pitched the tent, putting a minimum of gear into it.
The boat was a different story. If I was with someone else, we would carry the boats and secure them above the high tide line and near camp. I always store the boat at or above the tide line, but I hadn’t carried my kayak yet this trip. Usually, I slide it across logs. Sometimes I slide it for great distances, sometime fetching logs from far away. The reason I had initially passed this beach by was its long, slopping shallows. Even at the low-high tide of the day, the closest I could get the kayak to the tent was about 150 yards. The low-low tide promised to triple that distance. In between the kayak and camp lay a field packed with ankle busting, slime- and barnacle-covered cobblestones the size of bowling balls.
I pondered. It was already clear I wasn’t eating dinner. I was willing to risk the bears and leave all the food in the boat. In fact, I would leave everything in the boat except the tent and sleeping bag and sleeping clothes. That way, when the tent flooded, not much would get wet, I figured. Moreover, I would tie 5-foot-lomg logs under the boat so that when the tide went out it had a platform to land on and protect it from the barnacle balls. I did all that and tied the kayak to the only thing on the beach that wasn’t a barnacle ball – a five-foot wide, 40-foot long chunk of tree that looked like it had been there forever.
It was 9 o’clock when all that was done. I choked down a peanut butter tortilla roll and surveyed my work. I was not happy. I ran through a list of things that could go wrong. I had thought of everything, except the things that would spell disaster, I figured. Actually, I hadn’t thought of much but the tent and tide. Now I was overcome with ill-defined anxiety. What if the log moved? What if it floated away? What if it lifted up and came down on my boat? Leaving the boat so far away, alone, was the worst idea I’d ever had. By the time the tide lifted my boat, I would be cut off from it by 150 yards of rising water. In the dark. I needed my boat up with me. If this beach flooded, at least I’d be able to keep an eye on the kayak, my only way out of this wilderness, never mind my every worldly possession.
I raced for the boat. The rising tide was already lifting the back end. I untied all my knots and let the log go. I did the same for the front log. I hauled the boat forward to buy time and grabbed my two carry bags. I threw every small item I could lay my hands on into them – TastyBites packets, VHF radio, sandals, sponge, baggies of gorp, baggies of gorp, baggies of gorp. I filled the bags, grabbed as many other dry bags as I could carry and raced for the tent site. I threw everything on top of a truly giant and ancient log next to the tent and raced back again. The water was rising. Lapping now at the log that had been my moorage, now at the stern of my boat.
Once I’d emptied the boat of absolutely everything, I reviewed the rules for moving her: Stop as often as you want, but never fall and never drop it. I hoisted the 70-pound boat to my shoulder and walked the barnacle boulders like it was a hallway at home, never stopping or falling or dropping. I looked back from the tent site. Water had filled the space I left behind. The cove’s long shallow was filling quickly, but high tide – the time that would tell – was not until 1:40 a.m.
I was mad at myself for being lazy and compromising everything a good camp should have just because this location was challenging. I slowed down and started doing things right. It was 9:45. I sorted the food into the two carry bags and hoisted them on a double pulley high into a tree down the beach. Scouting the forest behind another cove I’d seen the skunk cabbage-looking muskeg plants ripped up, their roots eaten. Bears were afoot.
Focused on the hoisting, I jumped in my skin when I heard a burst of air come from the ever broadening reach of the cove. My heart leapt. I spun around in time to see the tiny fin of a humpback whale break the water—grey on grey — just beyond where I had shouldered with the kayak. It surfaced and blew again. My heart leapt. I was not so alone. The whale seemed to be a prize for setting camp straight. Things were turning around.
Back at the log, I made sure everything that couldn’t got wet went into a dry bag. I lined everything I owned up inside a long notch at the highest point on the ancient log. Paddles, computer, clothes, dop kit. The notch was about 8 feet off the ground. I covered it with a tarp, anchored with two sticks and six rocks, three on either side. I had a plan. When the water approached the tent, I would grab my sleeping bag and scamper onto the log myself. I would throw the tent itself, taut, poles and all, onto the log’s sprawling roots. I would stay there until the tide receded. It was 10:45 when true dark fell. I crawled out of my wetsuit, threw it under the tarp, and crawled into my damp sleeping bag.
Unbelievably, I slept. But as the sounds of the approaching water changed from distant slaps to what sounded like waves, lapping at my feet, I woke up and listened and wondered what time it was. The watch was on the boat, where it usually is. I got up to get it so I’d know the time of the tide. I had set the kayak parallel to a long tree that was itself parallel to a busy creek, rushing out of the snow-covered mountain behind the cove. I had tied it at the bow; it was nestled in grass. When I reached for the watch, I stepped into 8 inches of grassy water. The tide had exceeded the stream bed. It was starting. I grabbed the watch and used my throw rope to secure the stern of the boat, giving it room to play, but holding it from rushing headlong down the stream, which was growing wider and higher.
With about 45 minutes to go, it was unclear whether the tent was more at risk from the streamside or the bay side. The water was creeping up the side of the ancient log, about a foot from the roots, my safety ladder. I threw my sleeping pad and bag into another long split in the trunk, and heaved the entire tent onto the roots. Then I scrambled up the back side of the roots, wriggled into my bag as it slumped into the nook, just the width of my hips. I looked down. By the light of my headlamp, I saw water was everywhere. Under the giant log and rising. Rising up the beach. Spilling from the stream. The kayak, which has reflectors on the bow, bucked, but was secure.
For the first time this trip, I lay back and looked at the night sky. It was blurry with clouds, and I gave thanks that it was not raining. And then I heard it: The great exhalation of the humpback. It was in the ever-filling cove, now, much closer than my kayak had been on the rocks. It was too dark to see, so I snuggled into my notch and just listened as the whale glided back and forth over the stumblesome rocks I had raced across just hours ago. Reminding myself I had no room to wiggle, I leaned back into the log, listened to the whale and watched the blurry stars until I was supremely happy and my eyes closed and I slept.
Posted on June 19, 2012 - by Nadia
Sunday June 17, 2012
Hose Harbour, 8 miles around the bend from Bella Bella
Posed from Klemtu, 40 miles from Hose Harbour
At 4:30 in the morning the bow of the ferry lowered into the water, in the middle of the ocean and revealed a predawn sea. Two tandem kayaks were lowered onto a platform, their heaviest gear stowed, and the paddlers pushed away from the ferry. They call it a wet exit and the BC Ferries – maybe this BC ferry – is one of the few ferries anywhere to do it. The paddlers in this case were four recent grads of Olin School of Engineering who somewhat whimsically decided to paddle the coast about 40 miles south of Bella Bella after attending a competition in Seattle. I’m not sure they were prepared for their adventure, but I sure give them credit. It takes guts to push away from a huge boat and head toward distant island in the near dark dawn.
The wet exit sure seemed attractive as I hustled to get my gear reloaded as the icky, oily tide rose around the boat at the Shearwater ferry terminal. I had never heard of a wet exit or I might have requested one. Or not. The huge tandem boats the kids were paddling loaded in a snap. Mine, with its small volume pretty well maxed out, loads with a shove here, and a tug there. I pushed off at high tide and headed for a cove that would set me up for a fairly significant crossing the next morning. The crossing should set me into the Inside Passage proper. I look forward to beginning that part of the journey. As usual, it was raining when I packed the boat, raining when I set up tents and is raining as I type.
There is no cell service here and little service expected as I wind my way toward Prince Rupert. I’ll post a this series of shorter entries and photos when I get service. I expect this section could take 10 days to two weeks and should give me the opportunities to get used to camping with bears all around. Be nice, bears.
Klemtu postscript: Dramatic breakers yesterday as ocean swells crashed on shoals that guard the Inside Passage. Rain has let up, made for nice camp to let things dry out. Highlight today was a humpback whale showing its flukes as it dove.