Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stairway To Nowhere

Changing our kayaking plans from camping this weekend until next weekend we decided to head out for a day of exploring Saanich Inlet. For the benefit of our readers who may not know where this is, it is located between the Saanich Peninsula on the east and the Malahat on the west on south Vancouver Island. The inlet is about 24 km long with a maximum deapth of 225 m (738 ft.) and extends south from Satellite Channel at Saltspring Island through Squally Reach and down to Finlayson Arm in the south. Goldstream River (BC Provincial Park) feeds into the inlet and is home to a major Chum salmon run in the fall months.

Our put in location was next to the Brentwood Bay BC Ferry Terminal that operates between Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay. The small beach suits us just fine for our Brentwood Bay launches but it is recommended to have a set of kayak wheels to roll your fully loaded rides down to the water. The municipality has done a wonderful job in providing a cement walkway (although steep) to the water and recently installed washrooms next to the unloading area. Parking can be a bit of an issue and it is not uncommon to park a good distance away up the main drag unless you have connections (local parking lot attendants / friends houses) LOL or arrive early in the morning to get parking close by.

Robyn on a perfect day launch next to the BC Ferry Terminal. 

On plan today was to make our way to Spectacle Falls on the western side on the inlet and in particular visit a site known as Stairway To Nowhere. We were on the water at 09:00 and with mirror like water we headed across the inlet to check out the decommissioned Bamberton cement works. Established in 1921 the cement works operated as the BC Cement Company was a major source of cement on southern Vancouver Island until it was closed in 1980.

Moon Jellyfish
On the 3 km crossing from Willis Point over to Bamberton we noticed a large number of Moon Jellyfish. We had seen these jellyfish in the early spring but the largest ones were no more than a couple of inches in diameter. Today the largest ones were around 9 inches in diameter and there seemed to be a lot more than in the spring.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish
Our real find was the giant Lion's Mane Jellyfish that Robyn spotted just under the surface about a kilometre from Bamberton. The "hood or bell" of the jellyfish was about 2 feet in diameter and the tentacles extended for several meters flowing in the ocean currents. On our track you can see where we stopped and got to work with our Fujifilm XP50 waterproof cameras. With the early morning sun and calm water it was the perfect conditions to take some underwater pictures and videos.  

No much left of BC Cement Company
After our jellyfish adventure we made our way  to the Bamberton cement works and checked out how much is left of the plant. Other than a couple of fuel and water tanks there isn't much left of this facility that I remembered from my youth. This morning a couple of workers were busy with cranes hoisting parts onto barges for disposal.

Our next goal was to make our way down to Squally Reach and then find the Stairway To Nowhere. This landmark was created for a movie 'Commandos Strike at Dawn' filmed in 1942 and was left as is. When coming around Squally Point we saw the stairway and it is kinda weird seeing it for the first time.

Stairway To Nowhere
One of the reasons that we wanted to reach the stairway was to locate a Geocache that is located there. However as we were looking for a place to land our kayaks the winds from the north picked up dramatically with white caps starting to form. It was decision time and we could see that the eastern side of the inlet was calmer so we high tailed it out of there and sloshed our way across the inlet to the sheltered waters of McKenzie Bight. Murphy's Law ..... once reaching the other side the winds dropped and the water flattened out so ........ back across we went to the stairway!  LOL

Robyn on the stairs
We found the Geocache that hadn't been found since October of 2011 and had a great lunch stop on the small beach just around the corner. It was time to head back across the inlet for the third time to fully explore McKenzie Bight and although there wasn't really any wind what there was was being forced through Squally Reach. It really showed us how the wind and the landscape can work together to create crazy water conditions. I wonder what Squally Reach really looks like on a bad weather day???

Seal colony on a beach nook
We had been to McKenzie Bight before when we hiked down to the beach so this was neat to paddle in and see the hikers / tourists taking our picture as we played in the rock gardens. One thing that I forgot to mention was the great number of seals that we saw on both sides of the inlet. They seemed to be our escort for the whole day as we never were really alone exploring all the nooks and crannies of the shoreline. Several times we came across seal colonies in some of the small crevices and so many curious baby seals were checking us out.

Feeling pretty good with our paddling today we decided to check out Tod Inlet on the way back to our put in location. It was just around 3:00pm when we made our way past Butchart Gardens dingy dock and holy cow ......  the number of mega yachts, sailboats and about 2 dozen rental kayaks all trying to maneuver in such a small area. The big attraction was the Saturday night Butchart Gardens fireworks show and the boaters were all jostling for anchorage. The only thing I could think of was how the heck were they going to get out of there in the dark???? Maybe some of them would be smart and wait for daylight before trying to leave the inlet. 

A few rental kayaks and only about a 10th of the total "money boats" at anchor.

Leaving Tod Inlet we checked out the Brentwood Bay marina and played "duck" under the dock gangways as the tide was coming in. Good forward fold yoga practice beats banging your head or catching a paddle.  LOL

We arrived back at our put in location at 3:45pm (6.75 hours) and with a total of 26.70 km travelled making it our longest paddle to date. Good practice for next year when we look to head to the west coast on a multi-day trip.

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