On Mar 11, 2002 we waved goodbye to friends and family as we paddled out of Cadboro Bay in Victoria. Paddling buddies Mike and Christy joined us for the day. John and Gordin were in it for a longer haul, paddling with us as far as Nanaimo.
Our route north through the Gulf Islands took us through the worst weather of the trip. Cold winds, rain, sleet and snow were a daily occurence. A good test of our camping gear, clothes and determination!
With short days and heavy boats the emphasis was on easing ourselves into the paddling routine rather than making big miles. We arrived at Newcastle Island in Nanaimo Harbour on Mar 16th. We were happy to warm up beside a firebox in one of the campground shelters.
The next day proved to be our first sunny day. John and Gordin hastily departed for warm showers and hot breakfasts as we relaxed in the sun and dried out our gear before continuing north along Vancouver Island.
The next day found us pinned down on tiny Southey Island by the return of cold northerlies accompanied by sleet and snow.
After a luxurious stop at Pacific Shores Nature Resort in Parkesville we crossed from Vancouver Island to Lesquiti and Texada Islands, seeking out more remote environs. It snowed on us again at Lesquiti before a spell of fine but cold weather.
From the tip of Texada Island we crossed to Powell River where we camped at the local campground, relaxed and stocked up on chocolate bars at the local supermarket.
From Powell river made most of Southerly winds to push us along to Desolation Sound. This area was named by Vancouver for the bleak weather he encountered when charting the area.
We encountered both the grey, dismal days experienced by Vancouver but also days of bright sunshine. On the grey days a haunting beauty pervaded the area making for happy paddling. Sunny days treated us to the incredible reflections of the snow capped peaks in tranquil waters.
Desolation Sound is also renowned for powerful tidal rapids. Our zig-zag course took us through Surge, Hole in the Wall, Yuculta, Dent and Gillard Rapids.
From our campsite on Peck Island we were able to watch the roaring overfalls of Surge narrows grow out of the calm, still waters at slack tide. We made our way through Hole in the Wall at slack but arrived at the Yuculta Rapids too late to make headway against the rapidly building ebb current. Forced off the water we passed the time exploring the shore and sheltering in an abandoned cabin. We sneaked into Big Bay on Stuart Island as dusk fell. Here we met Sam and Travis, too young adventurers who had just returned from a wet day of bushwhacking in an attempt to do back country snowboarding. Sam and his Dad own Nanook Lodge in Big Bay
While camped at Big Bay we hiked over to the Arran Rapids at the north of the island and watched the ocean thunder by at 12.2 knots. Wheew - eee! From our vantage point on the rocks above we could watch seals surfing the standing waves that formed in an 8 -knot back eddy!
We left Big Bay early on Apr 2 to make the most of slack tide and avoid the 12 knot tidal currents that would form in the Dent and Gillard Rapids. Curious stellar sea lions watched us paddle by, making us nervous whenever their 1000 lb bulks ventured too close.
Our route took us through Cordero channel before we joined Johnstone Strait on our way to Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island. Perhaps the most disappointing section of our trip - not a single slope seemed to have escaped being clearcut.
At Telegraph Cove we waited three days before being able to collect our first food drop, held by the kind folks at Stubbs Island Whale Watching. It was disappointing to see the new development since our visit in 1997, that had clearcut and levelled the south side of the cove. Although not pristine forest it is now all gone, replaced by a motel and RV park with a golf course sceduled to replace further forest alonmg Johnstone Strait.
From Telegraph Cove we made a run to Port MacNeil, encountering some surprisingly nasty water. Mike, the local taxi driver transported our boats inside his van to a great local campground where we enjoyed awesome hot showers! We spent 2 days relaxing and stocking up on chocolate and baking goods before setting out on the next leg of our trip.