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I woke up this Wednesday morning to a much needed hot coffee and while sipping it in my pj’s (the everyday uniform these days) read that British Columbia parks, ecological reserves, and campgrounds are now closed until June. This would no doubt include all the wonderful stops around where I live on Salt Spring Island which is part of the ever-expanding marine park trail system. If I go for a paddle and set foot on any of these places I could be in trouble and a hefty fine. As far as I know I can still walk to the mailbox once a day but no more trees, trails, parks for some time.
For most, this would not be a hardship. The reason for the closure is due to the fact that a sudden pre-peek season surge to the parks has been witnessed and social distancing has proved to be too challenging to enforce. Again, staying indoors is not a big deal if you don’t visit the outdoors that often. But the stress and anxiety being felt by so many has even the most ardent couch potatoes rushing to the forested areas just for a change of scenery from the hike between the living room and kitchen.
Two weeks before all of our lives shifted gears so dramatically that the grinding could be heard from space I had begun shooting footage and material to create videos for a new You Tube Channel designed to get some of those You Tube watching couch potatoes to drop their devices and go outside. That fun project has now officially been put on hold as I can’t even access the places I was going to use to inspire others. Alas, Murphy’s Law strikes again!
This morning I find myself reflecting on simpler times. In the early 2000’s I had the luxury of time and cash to get outside whenever I wanted and with three other friends spent many weeks kayaking the west coast of Vancouver Island. These remain my main memories. Focal points of better times and reckless abandon to the great wilderness experiences. From being surrounded by a colony of Sea Otters off Nootka Island one misty rainy and muggy afternoon to riding the larges ocean swells beating against the cliff sides during a physically committing five-hour paddle on the impenetrable shores of Flores Island. Nights laughing around a campfire as our kabobs sizzled over the coals.
I started to search through the archives of my computer to find some nuggets from those trips to share with you all. There are too many to choose from but here are a few bits and pieces from Tofino, Clayoquot Sound, and Nuchatlitz Marine Park near Nootka Island.
My buddy Pete bashing into the winds gathering prior to a storm that would find us later on that evening in the sheltered bay we chose to camp in Nuchatlitz Inlet south of the archipelago of amazing islets to pitch a tent upon.
With one of out water bags gone Awol during a botched surf landing we made do with the guarantee of rainy days to gather water off the tarps. We ran out of pans in the end. Mmmm tasty tarp water.
My good friend Colin and I had a sudden change of paddle plans with the weather took a turn for the worse on our way to the Hot Springs north of Tofino BC. It could have been a lot worse. We spent a week watching the landscape evolve into something different each day with winds gusting to 70km and raindrops the size of marbles.
Yes, we always ate well out there. On Clark Island in Barkley Sound we put our heads together for a big meal of peanut sauted chicken skewers, rice and steamed snap peas.
A very rainy start to a final day of paddling back to Toquart Bay from Hand Island in the Broken Group Islands.
In a hidden grotto on a small islet we discovered a treasure trove of artifacts and burial boxes from a bygone era on the outer coast of Vancouver Island which has a rich history.
Catala Island was home for a few days of sunshine after many days of rain. We set up clothes lines, and wooden walkways on this island of beach pebbles which would find their way into our shoes. It was all ours and threw our group back in time. The mice were unusually large and fearless here as well.
Recon walk on the San Juan River Estuary to find a way to paddle though a long log jam. There was a narrow slot however so no portage this time, though there were more to come as we explored.
Winter’s chill made an early surprise attack on my little island freezing pipes and icing roads. We even had a minor dusting of snow the other morning that brought joy to some and panic to others. Though the snow barely settled before it was but a memory of winter’s past the chill has remained for days. About a month early for these parts and my weekend was spent partly attending to west coast winter dilemma such as rummaging about the workshop looking for that lost chicken coop heat lamp. There is nothing sadder than the scene of a chicken beak-frozen to the water trough. Alas, I take it with humour because it could be worse. December on Salt Spring Island usually means wet winter storms, high winds and power outages. I will always take a clear and chilly winter day.
With Christmas sneaking up fast and a space cleared in the living room of our cabin to be filled shortly with a tree the items under it wrapped with care and my anticipation of happiness at their giving, it is those items that cannot beat the gift of a Sunday morning coffee and a spontaneous outing to the woods at the south of the island with good company. What we found with our cameras was worth being pulled from the warmth of a coffee shop to standing chilly on the fringes of an icy lake and waterfall. Here is a sampling of what we found.
When I think about Tofino, BC many images come to my mind’s eye in an overwhelming stream of memories from childhood wanderings and play on Long Beach (now Pacific Rim National Park) amongst the hippie kids and resident squatter community living a sandy lifestyle of the mid-70’s, and my more current experiences kayaking the area.
Much has changed in the little village that is quite literally at the end of the road to the west side of Vancouver Island, and much has remained the same. Time and tide are the constant though Tofino endures an annual invasion of summer tourist that whips the local routine into a frenzy. Campsites are bursting to overflow, beaches packed with wanderers and surfers. The town is populated with bus tours and backpackers. But in the fall, much like my home on Salt Spring Island, which is also a tourist destination the flow slows. Regulars in town reappear after a summer hibernation and everything returns to a normal pace.
In the case of Tofino that pace remains humming as the ‘storm-watching’ season begins. The surf warning sign is changed from low to moderate or even high, the campsites are plentiful and the air is always clear and crisp. That is the first thing that hits me each time I set out on whatever beach I am closest too upon arrival in Tofino. The air at home is still, rainforest calm scent of trees and seaweed. Out there on Chesterman’s Beach, McKenzie Beach, Cox Bay or Long Beach the air is like a chilled white wine by comparison to my luke warm Merlot air of home. West coast Pacific air immediately refreshes the spirit and it all seems somehow brighter.
Last week my wife and I revisited the place of our honeymoon and the familiar scene that welcomes us even after a two-year absence. We set up camp near the ocean and our soundtrack that first night would be pounding surf mixed with the rapid attack of raindrops on our tarp. By morning, nothing but high clouds and mild temperatures greeted us as we sipped coffee at the Common Loaf Bakery in town before heading to Cox Bay, home this year to the Queen of the Peak women’s surf competition hosting wave riders from all over, with the high content of local talent. The first day of the meet was the short boarders hitting the larger waves of the weekend following some stormy days. This was my first experience watching real surfers doing what they do best and the show did not disappoint. The joy, smiles and pure athleticism of these women was astounding. Making the paddle out through a rockery to sneak out behind the incoming sets of waves was made to look easy. The rides were in some cases long and the return paddle to get the next wave equally daunting.
This was a trip that led me to Tofino at the head of one of best kayaking destinations around, Clayoquot Sound once more without my kayak on the roof rack? Though I was not there to paddle the Tofino experiences only added to the library of lovely memories from my first sight of the endless beaches when I was still in single digits and all the way to present day when I can share the experience and love of a place with the love of my life. But next time I am taking my kayak!
Summer it seems is showing the signs that the last act of the play is about to start and a season of heavy kayaking has come and gone for me without much time on the water. This was a summer of working, not playing. That said, I pulled my wooden kayak off the seas for a well-deserved renovation and care. The new job slowed the process and though I had the enthusiasm, the body was pooped and my days off spent catching up on rest and other more important things.
Alas, October is now scratching at the door like a wet cat and my kayak sits partly done. sigh. Today I realized that my gelcoating efforts should be beefed up as sanding her belly smooth revealed more wood than smoothness when removing the orange rind dimples I really should have been more generous with the gel coat… Another few coats to be added and a few more evening, and weekend sessions wet sanding to get the pro finish I really want. My newbie efforts at refinishing are showing but a bit more elbow grease is okay with me. She deserves it after so many years of keeping me safe and joyful.
So my summer project becomes a fall project. The kayak rebirth in the new year, her tenth year on the water with a shine and a new look.