A couple of weeks ago, my friend Alex Kozma dropped me a note saying he'd abandoned a kayak race up the inside passage after an ill-timed gale left him short of making an early mandatory cut-off point, and he wasn't permitted to continue. Suddenly, he had a whole bunch of time on his hands—and luckily, I happened to have a bit of time, too. We quickly cobbled together a route and set off for the Broughton Archipelago region of BC's Central coast for a week of exploring with our kayaks.
I love these last-second trips... there's no time for over-planning. You just scrape together what you can and head off into the wild. No packing and repacking, no purchasing superfluous gear, no overthinking your route plans. You simply react and go.
I dug into my gear closet and pulled out some old freeze-dried food and camping gear, then borrowed some charts from a friend, swept the cobwebs from inside my kayak, and of course, packed my trusty robe. Made of shiny satin, patterned with dragons and other Chinese symbols, the reversible red and black garment has become an essential piece for various journeys I've taken over the years that don't require a lightweight packing regime. I put it on at the end of the day, replacing my damp day clothes with pure luxury. It represents leisure, pleasure and rest—which is what the evenings of any fine journey rightly consist of. There's something about that silky feel that turns any campsite into home.
Alex had his Seaward Chilco kayak while I was armed with my P&H Cetus. With Nimbus paddles in hand and Mustang Hudson drysuits to protect us from the weather and waves, we chose a 190-kilometre route that would give us the best bang for our buck, crossing over to the mainland and back from Telegraph Cove via Gilford Island, Broughton Island, North Broughton Island and the matrix of other small islands that form the archipelago.
A couple of nights in, we were looking for a campsite along the steep-sided shores between the mainland and Viscount Island,off the east end of Gilford Island We passed by a black bear and her three cubs turning over rocks and snacking on crabs in the intertidal zone. They saw us and scampered into the woods, but no campsite presented itself. We ended up paddling a couple of hundred metres further up to a marshy meadow by a creek and got out of our kayaks to wander around, looking for dry ground above tideline.
That's when I came face to face with another bear having an evening graze of grass. This one was larger, lightly coloured and had a distinctive hump. It glanced at me before exploding like a cannonball towards the forest line 50 feet away. That young grizzly wanted nothing to do with us—but it's path into the woods pointed to the only decent camping spot we'd seen in the past couple of hours. With dusk approaching, we settled the tent onto a grassy patch at the back of the meadow. There were fresh diggings from the bear all around us where it had been pawing around for something to eat, but otherwise it seemed ideal.
For me, this ended up being the most memorable site of the trip—it seemed earned rather than given, which is always most satisfying. Hemmed in by green-draped mountains along a crystal-clear channel teeming with flounder and schools of herring, it felt like we'd stepped into a lost world.
We set up the tent and boiled up water for dinner with our MSR Reactor Stove. I slipped on the robe, lit a candle for ambience and settled into my folding chair. In the waning light, we ate our food and watched the tide creep in around us. The forest was alive with birdsong as the creek babbled away beside us. We were sleepy but the tide was a "high tide" and wouldn't let us go to bed as it rose ever closer to our tent, which occupied the last patch of flat ground on the forest's edge. The sea was speaking to us and said "Hey, don't to go bed yet... sit back and enjoy, for you shall never pass this way again." And so, we obeyed, and were glad to bear witness on an evening that will forever be known as “Tide Watch 2019.” We reclined, drank a sip or two and sank into the moment until well after darkness had wrapped us in its embrace like the luxuriant folds of my robe.
Once the tide had settled safely below our tent, we lingered yet a little longer outside, having been shown the true delight of this wild place. We savoured the leisure, pleasure and rest that a fine campsite and appropriate lounge wear provides.
Watch the video from Frank Wolf's adventure
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