Another year, and another summer fades into memory… but does it have to? We chose to burn this one in by staring directly into consecutive brilliant west coast sunsets. With a general distaste for hiking, especially when there’s an alternative, our party set out to pioneer a well-known route deep into the semi-developed wilderness of northern Vancouver Island. Vehicles are packed to the roof with every conceivable piece of gear: tarps, tents, beer, food, wool, beer, hot tub, more tarps, whiskey, fishing rods, crab traps, beer, down, synthetic down, actual geese, beer, and roughly 100 bags of chips. Taking cues from the local inhabitants, we also loaded up on flannel, plaid, boots and beer. We might just be able to pull this off.
Three intrepid adventurers, two four-wheel drive vehicles, and eleven watercraft: the classic North Island 3:(2x4X4):11 combo.
Apparently this spot doubles as heavy equipment storage, at least at high tide.
With one of the highest Watercraft:People ratios I’ve ever encountered, we were well set up for jerry-rigging together some kind of raft. Fortunately, we had a canoe and a SUP among the crafts and didn’t have to resort to a backcountry flotilla (not to be confused with backcountry tortillas, which were much sought-after later in the trip. ) The boat was filled to the brim with provisions, (ie. beer and hot tubs,) and we nervously made out way out into the main channel. We’d all heard horror stories from people who came in at night, in a storm, with no map, etc., and had an awful time, so were bracing for a bad time. Fortunately, we were disappointed.
Loaded, (not quite to the gunwales,) and J-stroking away from danger, Andrew is in both his river hat and his element. Coincidence? The author doesn’t seem to think so.
Gliding past giants, X marks the spot? Hands back on the paddle, stern!
Paddling amongst the forest.
Mother Nature blessed us with a glorious display of sunshine, feeling more like a hot August afternoon than the beginning of October, but chests were bared and our intrepid band paddled in wonderment through winding columns of old-growth forest. Blue skis and calm waters lured us down the river, but the gnarled and twisted ancient cedars and spruce that lined the way told a much different story. This is the west coast of Vancouver Island, and things can get wet and windy in a hurry.
Johnny No Plan, pulling his weight.
Q: How many juicy coho have been smashed by something watching from this tree?
A: Plenty. Thankfully, Andrew and Melissa look nothing like a fish and cruise by unnoticed.
Melissa, relaxing into the captain’s role and enjoying the perks of the job.
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) extending the traditional coho welcome-slap. It is customary to slap back.
This is apparently the quantity of good you can carry in a canoe. But really, what else could we have brought?
Fish. Not ours. Our only luck was skunkfish and tiny crabs.
Walking out onto the beach was like meeting an old friend; two years had passed, but nothing about the relationship has changed. We show up, stand around and stare in awe, then gather firewood. The landscape just continues being awesome, with juuuuuust enough cloud to make for epic sunsets.
Out for an evening stroll along the beach.
Majestic AF chainsawing.
The couple that gathers together, tubs together.
How many thousands of footsteps over how many thousands of years have people been turning driftwood into fire here? Too many to say, but only a rare few get to recover in a hot tub.
Some jobs are more satisfying than others. Here, Melissa monitors the carefully fake-engineered hot tub fire and firewood drying system.
Some views are better than others, and this might be one of my favorites.
Goodnight, and good luck Mr. Tug. See you tomorrow!