Wednesday, August 5, 2015

God's Pocket - 7 Days plus 1 (Part 3)

Day 3 - Monday July 13, 2015

The easy way to wash breakfast dishes.
We up at around 7:00am and just as we started breakfast it started to pour so we went about the business of storing runoff water for use later. :-) Before retiring for bed last night we had a visit from the leader (Chris) of the Vancouver group located on the point. He wanted to check with us about making a run for Vansittart Island located at the north end of Nigei Island this morning. After confirming tides and the weather forecast with us their group decided that they would be vacating the primary site by noon and since it was raining we decided that we would spend the day relocating camp and just relaxing.

Since we had a couple of hours before moving, Robyn and I decided that maybe we could hike through the forest towards the eagles that we saw the previous day in Christie Passage. Outfitted in our Misty River raingear and rubber/neoprene boots we had a fairly easy trek the first several hundred feet until the undergrowth became too dense to make any headway without bushwacking.

We decided to head back towards camp taking our time to explore the forest while being protected from the rain by the canopy of the trees. Although we could hear the rain, very little made it's way to the forest floor other than the large droplets that fell from the canopy boughs high above us.

Most of the forest is now second or third growth but we did find evidence of some of the old growth trees that once would have covered the island.

Harvested many years ago, a stump of a very large cedar looks out of place.

relatively fresh wolf footprint. 
The island is known to have a small population of coastal wolves which we found evidence of at camp in the form of very old scat. While on our hike we came across fairly fresh wolf tracks in the mud around the headwater of the creek that runs past our camp.

I always wonder when hiking through a known wolf habitat if they are keeping watch on us. Once again it would have been a very special moment if we had come across one of these amazing animals in the forest. No such luck today. ;-(

We did however find possible evidence of a den in the bottom of a hollow stump. Something had definitely cleared all the moss and plant life away and the dirt was dry and semi compact.

Fungus and abalone shell
This forest did have treasures that we found like the fungus in this picture. Glistening from the rain drops that had made it to the ground there was also another treasure close by.

Sitting on top of the same log was an abalone shell that was firmly secured in place by the moss that it was lying on. In fact all throughout the forest we found many abalone shells that were always on a log and never on the ground.

An abalone shell located in the forest.

After seeing all the eagles in the area all I could think of was maybe they harvested the abalone and dropped them from their perches high above and then flew down to the forest floor to finish their catch.

And then we came across this solitary giant in the forest. Why was it still here after all these years? If it only could tell the tale of the history of logging on the island and why it was spared. Although alone, it was great to see it standing as a reminder of the old growth that once covered these islands.

Things grow big out here and some are centuries old.

Arriving back in camp, Chris and his group were just departing for Vansittart Island as the rain was easing up a bit. It was now time to go to work and relocate our camp to the point.

The Vancouver group leaves camp. We would see them again in a few days.

After a little bit of planning at the point campsite we set up tarps where our tents would be relocated to, moved our kitchen gear under those tarps, did a little bit more kitchen tarpology and moved the dry kitchen gear under it.

Our 12' x 15' tarp worked great to cover the kitchen area.

Carabiners come in handy when doing tarpology. Quick and easy to set up. 
Then it was time to move the fully assembled tents across the dry creek bed, through the trees and to our tarps. By the way, we did this with the mats and sleeping bags still inside the tent and any other lightweight items we decided could go along for the ride. Everything worked like a charm and made it's way to the new site nice and dry. Planning is everything!!

Gary and Jane arrive at the new camp with their tent after a challenging traverse through the trees. Thankfully what they thought might have been a retractable tent pole breaking was only the snap of an eyelet letting go from the pole attachment point.

This way, no this way, no this way, no this way ..... :-) LOL

Robyn's ... this one went back.
Robyn (using a hand line) and I decided to do some fishing around the Lucan Islands in the afternoon but we had no luck other than small rock fish that we both released. A small powered aluminum boat arrived  unexpectedly with a couple of fishermen right next to me. They casted their pink buzz bombs and caught a salmon on the first cast and promptly left leaving us feeling quite dejected. :-(  We did however see a humpback whale feeding in the same eddy line as yesterday so that lifted our spirits a bit.

Back at camp Gary and Jane served up smoked salmon and cheese followed by lamb orzo and feta. With all the rain we had the past 24 hours the mosquitos were hungry too and we were the perfect food bank for them. Pass the bug spray please!!!

Dinner, bug spray and relaxation was on the agenda for the evening.

The clouds started to part and we got our first glimpse of the sun since we arrived. It was a welcome sight and the forecast was for a building high which would clear out the clouds but it also meant that we were to expect the winds to pick up later in the week. But for now, we took in our first sunset in God's Pocket ....... spectacular!!!

Stan and Paula reading in a tranquil setting

Sunset in God's Pocket 

Day 4 - Tuesday July 14, 2015 

What was that? In the middle of the night I heard something thrashing around in the water very close to camp as well as a lot of blowing sounds which I thought might have been a sea lion. Trying to make sense of it, I thought it could only be a very, very large group of sea lions but until now we had only seen one occasionally. Oh well, back to sleep.

The glow in the tent could only mean one thing ..... no rain to wake up to and brilliant clear blue skies with not a breath of wind. The plan for the day was to paddle to the Bell Island campsite and circumnavigate Hurst Island. Finally, the perfect touring conditions!

You can see the high water line behind Robyn, Paula and Stan. Almost 15 feet difference between high and lows this week.

Gary and Jane .... loving the great day!

Leaving the shelter bay of our camp we headed out past Jerome Island and the view east towards Bell Island was stunning. We could see the two small islets (Noble Islets) right of center in the picture below, Duncan Island in behind, and beyond that, Miles Cone rising 139 meters above sea level on Doyle Island in the Gordon Group 6 miles in the distance.

We could see for mile and miles and miles.

Photo credit:
Crossing Christie Passage we paddled through a flock (thousands) of rhinoceros auklets which is a close relative of puffins. Its name is derived from a horn-like extension of the beak and the horn is only present in breeding adults. From what Robyn and I could tell this was one big mating party as they all had horns!

Gary watching the rhinoceros auklets as we paddled through them slowly.

Everything grows big out here, even the shellfish. Check out these California Mussels!! They aren't bite size but meal size and no .... Robyn and I have never had one. What were we thinking???? 

We always carry the fixings for oysters but we have never harvested mussels. That has to change next time out!

I have mentioned about the great number of eagles that we have seen since arriving on the north coast of the Vancouver Island. Getting close enough by kayak while taking care not to frighten them and yet being able to capture imagines that do them justice was sure a challenge. The one below is of a juvenile bald eagle taken using our 6 year old Sony Cyber-shot with 8x zoom. It certainly is one of my favourite images from the trip.

A juvenile bald eagle stands guard outside of the God's Pocket Resort

Crossing Christie Passage we decided to check out God's Pocket Resort which is a favourite location for divers visiting the area. I can imagine what the view underwater must be like based on the diversity of the underwater marine life we had seen up to this point.

The very colorful God's Pocket Resort located only about 1 nm from our camp.

Continuing on along the south shoreline of Hurst Island we spotted Bell Island in the distance gradually being cloaked by fog. We were hoping that maybe the warm sun might burn off the fog but just in case Robyn had her GPS recording our track if we needed to retrace our way back to camp.

The fog completely covers the islands east of Bell Island

We entered the protected channel that lead us to the campsite on Bell Island. This site would have been our first camp location in the event that we were unable to make it to Nolan Point due to weather conditions after leaving Port Hardy. The campsite is situated high above on top of a midden with a pretty view of the islands nearby.

Lunch stop on the shell beach below the campsite.

There is room for several tents although it would take a bit of work to haul your gear up to the camp area from the beach. Still, this is a site that I really liked and would stay at in the future. There is also a fish farm a short distance from this site but we couldn't hear any evidence of its operation while we were there.

Can you envision your tent perched at the top of this cliff? What a great viewpoint!

Look who we came across. It's the Pacific Paddling Symposium Travelling Mug

The view of Harlequin Bay from the campsite.
After our lunch stop on Bell Island we headed back to Hurst Island and explored Harlequin Bay, stopping at the campsite on the north side. This site is also located on top of a midden and although not as high as the one on Bell Island it is a fair bit smaller in terms of the number of tents that could be set up.

This fire ran underground through the root system ... scary!
There are other possible places to pitch tents in the forest just behind the campsite if needed and I found evidence of a fire that might have got out of control in the past couple of years.

This is a perfect example of the need to keep any campfires on the beach and if possible below the high waterline.

We left the protected waters of Harlequin Bay and headed north to complete our circumnavigation of Hurst Island. For the first time on this trip we were able to see beyond the islands of the Walker Group and get a view of the mainland coast of BC.

The clear weather provided great views today and started future trip opportunity thinking :-)

The effects of the water and weather on the north end of the islands presented us with nooks and crannies to explore. Some of the crevices that we could paddle into were almost 100 feet deep and their walls were covered with a curtain of west coast rainforest flora. We kept our eyes open for one of the wolves that Chris and his group spotted here the day before but we couldn't find them. It looks like this might be a bucket list item that we might not be able to cross off on this trip.

Not much swell allowed us to explore the crevices.

Paddling back into Christie Passage we spotted the Scarlett Point lighthouse in the distance as we were gently carried south with the flood currents towards Nolan Point. Robyn and I were busy taking photos straggling behind the others when a humpback whale surfaced just off our starboard side. From the direction it was travelling it must have swam under our fellow paddlers without them knowing!

Stan admires the Scarlett Point lighthouse

Reaching the eastern shoreline of Balaclava Island we were greeted by a large group of eagles closely keeping an eye on us. It was hard to know which way to look as another humpback surfaced close to the group on our port side and then disappeared under the surface. Robyn and I decided that we would come back to this location in the next couple of days to try capture more images of the eagles with the Canon SLR that Gary lent me for the trip.

Another image of a mature bald eagle taken with the Sony Cyber-shot

Rehydrated strawberries are perfect for this!
Arriving back at camp Robyn and I were on chef duty and we served up our version of chicken cacciatore followed by a pretty decent strawberry shortcake for dessert. So easy to make and it was really quiet in camp while everyone savoured this tasty treat.

After dinner Robyn and I explored a magical place that I discovered while having a salt water spa wash the day before. Not far from camp and on the way to the tip of Nolan Point there is a pretty little bay. On my previous visit here I wandered into the forest behind the logs and found something very special.

Robyn exploring one of the bays close to camp

A fellow paddler (Morley) who we have tripped with before, happens to be an archeologist and he had told me about some of the culturally modified trees that he has come across in his line of work. Entering the forest there were several dozen culturally modified trees all around us and for me it almost was like you could feel the spirits of those who once inhabited these islands. Seeing evidence that first nations peoples not only lived here but relied on the forest to sustain them was very special.

Culturally modified trees. A cut is made at the base and the bark is stripped off.

As the day was coming to an end we spotted another humpback whale from camp and soaked in the scenery before retiring for the night. A pretty spectacular day all around.

The little bonsai like tree just across from camp. At high tide it is completely surrounded by water.

2015 Paddle #26 - Bell to Hurst Island Circumnavigation
Distance: 12.26 nm (22.70 km)
YTD: 219.63 nm (‪406.74 km)


  1. Hi Mark and Robyn, greetings from Scotland. We continue to follow your adventures from afar, clearly another great one! You've certainly mapped a lot of the beautiful VI coastal scenery. Keep it coming. :) Best wishes, Duncan and Joan.