Posts Tagged vancouver island kayaking
I like kelp. I have fond beachy childhood memories of family trips spent car-camping on the beaches that are now, but not back then in the 70’s a National Park. Running and riding my bike on hard damp sand after the tide receded leaving our beleaguered Volkswagon campervan tired from the struggles of too many mountains on the potholed and washboard textured roads to the Pacific coast was now half sunk in the sand as my dad did not read the tide table correctly. In those days, one could park on the3 beach and camp and oddly enough the very spot we preferred to park is now a paved parking lot.
Herds of beach folk, squatters mainly who inhabited the alder and scrub lined barrier between highway and surf came to attempt the excavation and pushing of the van before the next high tide. Great fun for a 10-year-old getting his first hints of the sea air that would draw me back and back so many more times to paddle these same shores. Making ramps with beach wood to leap my bike over tangled gnarls of these twisted sea weed cords as the crowd gathered and a party began, and warm beers were drunk as now it was a clear job for the only tow truck in town. Some of the bundles of kelp spread out with loose tendrils reaching towards the sea. All manner of debris collected in the tangles as the tide rose and fell, tumbling them like unraveling logs on the sand. Some heavy and immovable stayed on the beach while other smaller rafts were pulled back to the ocean.
For me, these bundles were natures puzzles. To pull a single length successfully from the mesh was nearly impossible. I would then turn to a lone length washed up. The starter of a kelp bundle waiting patiently for others to curl and hug and cuddle with it. These slender kelp tails worked well as bull whips, and I would be found swatting anything that moved. Lines of cans on a log, imaginary enemies and I am sure my baby sister has tales to tell about me chasing her around with the stuff.
A walk on just about any beach will result in a kelp find. I have photographed the best of these messy tangles and am enthralled by them. On the water, these great rafts can be a tremendous obstacle. I have paddled, poked and prodded my kayak through large rafts of kelp. Oft times my kayak resting up on them as I struggled to pike pole my way across and seeking out any gaps big enough to get at least one good swish with the blade.
Coastal kelp is far larger than the puny gardens or lone stragglers bobbing about in my home waters of the Gulf Islands. Out there on the wild coast it thrives, and as much as it can be problematic for kayak navigation, this is a good thing. Kelp gardens breed life. There is a fine balance between us and nature and occasional tipping of the scales by interfering with the natural balance such as the decimation of the sea otter population on the coast of Vancouver Island driving them close to extinction. This caused the environment to drastically change. Without the sea otter diving to the sea bottom and snatching up tasty urchins, the urchins took over, as did namy other species of shellfish. The shellfish over population aided to the removal of the kelp. They destroyed it and in doing so removed the homes of many other species. The scales so tipped so far that a new industry formed all along the coast and into Washington State. Shellfish became the latest harvest replacing the otters and claimed itself a tradition.
In 1969, a mere 89 otters were relocated from waters in Alaska to Kyoquot and the Bunsby Islands just south of the Brooks Peninsula on Vancouver Island. They have been moving southwards and colonizing. I had the lovely opportunity to glide my kayak quietly into one such colony near Nootka Island. Since 1969, that small group has grown to over 3,000 individuals. Astonishingly good results. However this has caused a problem. Sea otters eat shellfish. Good for the health of the kelp forests and all that live in them, as well as good for the otter as in his absence the growth of urchins has made a smorgesbord for them. The problem has come from some grumbing from the shellfish industry people who claim the reintroduction of the urchin-eaters is causing a downfall in their catch. The cute little otters are going to destroy them! I seriously doubt this. For some years this industry has grown only due to the fact it had no competition for the resource. But I hardly think 3,000 otters could result in the ending of an industry.
As an ending note, I at the tender age of 48 picked up a long healthy length of kelp on McKenzie Beach near Tofino last year and in an attempt to use it as a whip, I most efficiently swatted myself in the face with its tip. Thanks sea otters!
“Far away from where I live, I am home”, David Barnes Dreaming in Nuchatlitz
Where was the last place you found bliss? I am not talking about the gooey bliss of licking you favorite ice cream cone, or the lovey dovey sweet bliss of your first kiss. I am talking about the full-blown irrational abandonment of all that you thought to be important case of bliss. The category of joy of finding a place where you instantaneously forget everything. At the first breath of the place’s air you inhale the amnesia that erases all of your ‘small stuff’ troubles, and at the first sight you become conscious of what is real to you. Then, when all of this has settled down and your heart regains a more normal rhythm than when you are at home, the initial twinges of enlightenment may begin to seep in. This release of the day-to-day at home tensions can be found for me when my paddle touches Mother Ocean. Stroke upon stroke the water and scenery pass by, the winds may rise and the cool morning sun lost behind rain clouds but this is all part of my session and journey to the ultimate bliss.
I found this place by chance and without a conscious searching on a remnant of the past, a far away place from where I live where I pitched my tent towards the morning sun rise and watched sea otters playing in the phosphorescent sparkles after dark. It is an island that gives evidence of the powers of nature that make each and every one of us humbled in the shadows of earthly grandness that it takes to make one pebble. Catala Island is a pile of pebbles trapped against a ridge of rocky cliff and raked level by the elements. The landing is steep and formidable on a rougher day, but as I nudged my bow into the stones with a gentle crunch I realized to jump out now would have me standing up to my midriff in icy cold Pacific waters. I did just that. The humid air after days of rainfall felt heavy and the sun-drenched crossing from the Nuchatlitz Marine park was a relief from too much camp time under dripping tarps. I pulled my kayak up the slope feeling the aching chill from the plunge leaving my body as the radiation off the pebbled surface rose to greet me. It felt good and though I had been ‘out there’ for over a week the small stuff that should have been erased if temporarily from my soul had clung to the back of my mind. Small stuff can be sticky and no matter how much paddling, endurance of wind, rain and sun, lunching on far-flung islets facing the horizon and beers by the campfire by nightfall, it sticks.
By the time I had my tent erected and the wet gear including the fly splayed out upon the slope to the water, I was settling into a kind of pre-bliss state. I lay in my tent with the door flaps wide open, the sweat dripping down the outside of my can of beer and the moist warmth rising up from below me. Our group dynamic had faltered somewhat on this trip. Tensions rose, ebbed and lingered like the sand that builds up in the corner of the tent that with no amount of shaking will allow all of it to escape. We had gone out separate ways for a few days and the reunion cleared the air. The rain clouds parted above and within our camp. Was it the pebbles working the magic on us with the same tenacity as they had to lodging so firmly between our bare toes? Who is to say, all I know is that by late afternoon we were laying on the pebbles, gooey and silly as we picked out what we hoped to be pure pieces of Jade from the mosaic mess left behind after the crush of glaciers receded from this part of the coast. I lay face down, snoozing in a hole I had dug and only woke when a sensation of suffocation set in. I looked around me to the other three and found two of them with a mount of greenish stones in front of them and the third of our group swimming on his stomach downhill and sweeping his arms for propulsion through the pebbles like some kind of weird sea turtle returning to the sea. Giddy, and relaxed from the pebbly magic we lay silent, each owning his own measure of enlightenment about the place we found ourselves, and how far away from home we may be, this is where we truly lived.
As this is the 100th post on Kayak Rogue I would like to thank all of you for stopping by from time to time. There is more to come…
On my bookshelf I have a pile of stones. I have a jar with even more stones beside that pile. I have a box out in my workshop holding even more stones. All of which, found on kayaking journeys. I am a pack rat at heart, so there is little surprise that I horde pebbles and I can tell you where I found each and every one of them too. They carry energy from a kayaking trip home with me. They resonate.
I have a bunch of shells as well, but they will be left for another blog I am sure. For now, it is the humble pebble that I would like to direct your attention towards. They are everywhere! Not once have I landed my kayak and set up camp to find one, two or several stuck in the corners of my tent within a day or two. They get under, in and everywhere especially in the hollow space between my bare feet and sandal as I walk, and I must stop with each step to shake out the lumpy little bastards.
We make catwalk highways from logs and driftwood to walk upon on pebble beaches so as to avoid the discomfort. I swear, if I find one more in the bottom of my bowl, and not know how the heck it got there, I will go insane. I lift my kayak onto the car at the end of a journey and voila, the entire hull sounds like it is filled with marbles.
Why then do I collect them from the beaches on these trips if they are so troublesome a thing? Aren’t we all drawn to the things that are worst for us? I spent a lovely afternoon on Catala Island on the wild west side of Vancouver Island with my mates searching the pebbles. Our camp was made up of nothing but the little guys. Mother Nature’s gravel pit is the west side of that island and in the hot sun they warm up with the dampness trapped inches beneath. Nothing feels better than napping on sun-warmed pebbles. We collected our share that day. Mainly on the hunt for Jade, but all we came home with were just green stones, not Jade at all. No matter, we enjoyed every minute of laying face down, wading through them like sun=warmed lazy beached sea turtles.
Lying in my tent later that evening and there was pain from my left hip as I rolled over onto the pocket lumpy with stones. I pulled them out one by one, examining them individually. Deciding who makes the cut and who, who would get tossed out the vestibule of my tent, unworthy of the jar on the bookshelf.
So, for all you paddler folk out there with time on your hands when kayaking, I challenge you to a game. The next time you go paddling and stop somewhere for a break, as you sit eating your lunch lean over and find the pebble of your dreams. Pocket it. Then the next time you go out paddling, now this is the hard part. Take your beloved pebble with you and when you stop again for a break, this time drop your pebble and replace it with one better than the first. Good Luck!