Where to Eat, Stay and Play on the Sunshine Coast
by Shelley Arnusch
Ocean adventures set against a mountain backdrop make the British Columbia Sunshine Coast region an ideal escape for landlocked prairie dwellers in search of some sea time.
British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is often mistaken for an island region, which is understandable, considering the 180-kilometre stretch of coastline is only accessible by air or ferry service, and is scored with numerous inlets that create island-like land formations. However, the Sunshine Coast is in fact the mainland coastal area northwest of Vancouver. The region is bisected into northern and southern lobes by Jervis Inlet. The primary population hubs on the southern Sunshine Coast are Gibsons and Sechelt, while Powell River is the largest centre on the northern coast.
With its laid-back, unpretentious vibe, the Sunshine Coast beckons to land-locked Albertans hungry for ocean views, peaceful rainforests and marine adventure, all set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of B.C.’s Coast Mountain range.
Sea kayaking is wildly popular on the Sunshine Coast — pretty much anywhere there’s easy access to calm waters, you’re bound to see pods of kayakers skimming along, taking in the local wildlife. Powell River Sea Kayak offers a variety of day and overnight trips into Desolation Sound, a sprawling marine park on the northern coast dotted with forested islands to explore. Nervous novice paddlers can team up in a double kayak with a more experienced partner to help pilot the craft if the going gets rough.
The Sunshine Coast has a growing craft-brewing scene that beer-lovers can tap into via the B.C. Ale Trail, an online guide to craft breweries in the province organized by region. Located on an 11-acre spread just up from the Langdale ferry port on the southern coast, you’ll find the Persephone Brewing Co. The self-described “beer farm” grows its own hops and runs a tasting room that feels like a family cabin with communal tables featuring chess boards and crokinole. On the northern coast, you’ll find Townsite Brewing in the old post office building in the historic Townsite District of Powell River. Helmed by an experienced Belgian brewmaster, the brewery incorporates local flavour into the names of its beers, which you can sample in the small tasting room adorned with a growler collection that extends over an entire wall.
Where to stay when you're here
Cabana Desolation Eco Resort
Run by the owners of Powell River Sea Kayak, this exclusive resort on otherwise uninhabited Kinghorn Island in Desolation Sound consists of four guest cabins and a cabana-style hub where meals are served family-style. Accessed only by boat (guests can opt to send their bags with the boat and kayak themselves in) Cabana is the ultimate unplugged experience, though the rustic setting doesn’t mean you’re roughing it. The morning wake-up call comes with a French press of freshly ground coffee on a finished round of wood, and the gourmet meals are a far cry from camp cuisine. Days are filled with kayak excursions, stand-up paddle boarding and relaxing in ocean-side hammocks. If conditions permit, Cabana staff will gather fresh oysters to barbecue over an open fire on the beach. Keep your ears pricked for the splash of breaching whales.
Read the whole article at Avenue Magazine here.
BC's Sunshine Coast: Cabana Desolation Eco Resort ...
by Kristen Ross
It’s the middle of the night when snorting sounds outside my cabin wake me. Half asleep, I stumble outside with my lantern and peer towards the shore. A bright, full moon provides the only other light, suddenly, two round black eyes pop out of the water. The seal holds my gaze a moment before snorting out a huge puff of air, then dives back below the surface.
I’m at Cabana Desolation Eco Resort on Kinghorn Island—a fleck of earth, around 2 miles in circumference, in the deep waters of Desolation Sound. Less than 2 nautical miles north of the Sunshine Coast Trail, the tiny island is unpopulated save the resort. With just 5 cedar-wood cabanas and an open-air “café” that acts as a communal restaurant, this rustic endeavor was built from the ground-up by its owner, Adam Vallance; a veteran kayaker with a keen eye for architecture. Vallance began the first stages of planning almost ten years ago with the kind of vigor one needs to complete the type of project everyone else thinks is impossible. “It was really when we found a freshwater source on the island that everything else became possible,” he says.
This is the type of place one comes to disappear and disconnect. There is no electricity, indoor plumbing or Wi-Fi available at the resort, and hot water as well as the single stove and fridge are powered by propane. Lodgings here come equipped with the bare essentials. Hot water bottles and heavy blankets are your only protection against the cold, and midnight runs to the standalone washrooms require a headlamp or lantern and a certain presence of mind not to topple off the boardwalk that connects them to the cabanas.
Cabana Desolation is not for everyone, yet all this is precisely what makes this place so special.
In the morning we’re eager to get out on the water with Abby, our free-spirited kayaking guide. Capable of such amazing feats as free diving for oysters, it’s not long before she has us channeling our inner Huckleberry Finn—moving from one discovery to the next along the beach’s pointy fingers of rock. Teeming with sea stars in thrilling shades of violet, midnight blue and blood orange, it’s with no less than childlike enthusiasm we watch one gobble down a tiny mussel through its stomach; a clear, jelly-like sac that protrudes from its middle.
Kayaking is definitely the best way to see the island, particularly its steep terrain on the southwest. And as we round a corner we see a family of seals sunbathing along a splintered embankment of ashen grey rock. The colour of wet stones, with brackish orange splotches splattered across their backs they dive back into the water but the boldest of the group, swims towards us, curious and playful.
Our senses heightened by the briny sea air and exercise, we’re not even out of our kayaks when the smells of grilled oysters reach us from a campfire on the beach. Manned by chef, Dan, who has been serving us Julia Child-worthy dishes from his post over the island’s stove, the oysters pop and hiss as they split open. They are smoky and firm, and we drown them with swigs of beer under the colourful sky.
When we left Vancouver a few days earlier, I was still convinced that one must travel long and far to reset—but the broad skies of the Sunshine Coast have me changing my mind.
Read the whole article at the Vancouver Sun here.
In Need of a Digital Detox? 6 Best Spots to go Tech-Free
by Juno Demelo
Cabana Desolation Eco Resort
Kinghorn Island, British Columbia
This uninhabited island off the coast of British Columbia is accessible only by boat or kayak. You'll stay in one of four water-facing cabanas connected by cedar boardwalks to an open-air cafe, where chefs prepare the kind of food you wish you made at home, liked grilled salmon and chocolate-avocado mousse. Turn off your phone alarm and wake up to a gentle knock announcing a carafe of Frenh-pressed coffee left just outside your door, and spend the day kayaking past sea lions, reading in a hammock perched on a hill, or combing the tide pools for starfish.
Read the whole article at Allure Magazine here.
Life in an Aquarium
Ocean adventure begins at Okeover Inlet
by Darren Robinson
I am officially a resident of Powell River. A mid-sized, oceanside community right off of Hwy 101 on British Columbias Sunshine Coast. Being born in Vancouver, I feel at home close to the sea. But I am no longer close to the sea. I am on top of it, surrounded by it, engulfed by it. This is my new home. My aquarium.
It's time to get out and discover what magical toys and treasures line the four corners of my shiny new tank.
Destination: Okeover Inlet.
"Have you ever been in a kayak before", inquires Sheila, guide extraordinaire and newly appointed friend. As I stare at my fully stocked kayak, provided by Powell River Sea Kayak, it dawns on me that after a lifetime on the west coast of BC, I am about to truthfully answer her query with a simple "no."
Her cheeky grin as she carries on with her task of loading the kayaks speaks volumes to me. Although silent, I swear I hear her inner voice staking claim on my vast inexperience. Another cherry for Sheila.
"Today, we are heading out to The Aquarium." Could that sound any more intriguing?
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by Maria Coffey
photography Ron Watts
Sailors, boaters, and paddlers sing the praises of this West Coast provincial marine park, whose name belies the scenic beauty of its sheltered anchorages.
Sailing into Desolation Sound for the first time, I felt like Alice in Wonderland going through the looking glass. As we ghosted around Sarah Point on the tip of Malaspina Peninsula and entered the sound, the 13-metre junk-rigged boat ahead of us seemed to shrink to toy size, dwarfed by Coast Mountains rising some 1,000 metres from the sea to their snowy peaks. As we floated at the foot of these giants, surrounded by forest-clad islands, I was overwhelmed by the scale, grandeur, and majesty of the landscape.
During the last ice age, massive glaciers gouged deeply into the igneous, mainly granitic rock walls here. When the ice retreated some 10,000 years ago, the sea flooded in, creating a system of fjords. Today, BC Parks describes its 8,449-hectare Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park at the northeast end of the Strait of Georgia as "a yachter's paradise,", encompassing protected anchorages, superb scenery, easy hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and, in summer months, unusually warm ocean temperatures up to 23 C.
Founded in 1973, Desolation Sound is one of the largest and most beautiful marine parks on British Columbia's coast, from Price Point and the gloriously scenic Prideaux Haven anchorage in the north to the confluence of Malaspina, Lancelot, and Okeover inlets to the south. Its abundant atributes--including more than 60 kilometres of coastline--attract sailors, boaters, and paddlers in droves. From June through September last year, park authorities counted 13,507 boats and 4,784 kayaks.
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Don Mankin, co-author of National Geographic's Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean. Excerpt taken from Tropical Idyll, an article written for AdventureUS.com after a 7 day Into the Majestic Mountains tour with Powell River Sea Kayak.
This article can also be found on Don Mankin's Blog.
A Tropical Idyll In The Pacific Northwest
Part I: Kayaking The Sunshine Coast
My two Teva clad feet poked above the water, framing the view of the mouth of the cove opening into the broad channel that wrapped around us. The silhouettes of several tree-covered islands and mountains overlapped in different shades of pastel and receded in the distance across the channel. I was floating on my back in the waters of coastal British Columbia. Not exactly the Caribbean - no palm trees, no rum drinks with paper umbrellas, and the water temperature was more than a tad or two colder. But the water was warm enough for a late afternoon swim, the scenery was more dramatic, and there was no one else to be seen other than my four sea kayaking companions relaxing after a long day of paddling in the warm bright sunshine of the aptly named Sunshine Coast.
The Sunshine Coast is just a relatively short drive and an even shorter flight northwest of Vancouver (about 3 hours by car but most of that time is spent on two ferries; about 30 minutes by plane). It's easily accessible but still feels somewhat remote -- most of the coast above Powell River, the "urban" center of the region, can only be reached by boat or float plane. Like almost all of the BC coast, it is strikingly beautiful -- islands of all sizes covered in Douglas fir, hemlock, cedar and madrone; narrow inlets and fjords indenting the rugged coastline; and jagged snow capped mountains in the distance framing long views across wide sounds. But unlike most of the BC coast, the Sunshine Coast is in the rain shadow of the low mountains of Vancouver Island to the west across the Georgia Strait, so the weather is usually sunny, dry and warm, sometimes very warm. The convergence of two ocean currents, one from the north and the other from the south, also keep the waters warm enough for swimming, especially for the hardy Canadians who frequent the coast and the occasional American, kiwi, and European willing to explore beyond the immediate vicinity of Vancouver. I was here because it was easily accessible and, therefore, relatively inexpensive, not an unimportant concern in this era of bursting economic bubbles and fiscal uncertainty. The trip that lured me here was the seven day "Into the Majestic Mountains" kayaking trip offered by Powell River Sea Kayaking Inc (PRSK). There were five of us on this trip, our guide Jaime, Kathy and Tracy, a 50ish couple from the San Francisco Bay area, Tania, a 36 year old woman from New Zealand, and I.
The opportunity to paddle a single kayak was another reason why I chose this trip for my annual kayak adventure. I have taken many sea kayak trips over the years, but have rarely had the chance to paddle a single kayak for any length of time. Most trip operators use doubles because they are more stable, not an unimportant consideration when there are relatively inexperienced kayakers on the trip, as there usually are, or when the waters are rough and cold -- challenging and potentially dangerous conditions for even experienced paddlers. The warm, protected waters of the Sunshine Coast create ideal conditions for relatively inexperienced kayakers to try out single kayaks. The four of us, not including Jaime, rotated among two singles and one double so we all had ample opportunity to paddle the more maneuverable singles and go off on our own - but not too far off - to explore the rocky shores or to spend a few minutes in thoughtful silence.
But don't let the phrase, "warm protected waters" fool you. This trip was no piece of cake. We paddled 10-16 miles a day, probably closer to the upper reaches of that range on most days. In addition, the steep, rocky beaches presented their own challenges, requiring both agility and muscle to shlep camping equipment, food, and other supplies to and from the kayaks and our campsites which were often back in the trees or high on the beaches, well above the tide line. On many days, the kayaks also had to be hauled up at day's end, and back down to the water the next morning. So, despite the seductive ease of the weather, it was a fairly demanding trip. We ate well, sometimes very well (see shortly), but I still managed to lose a few pounds.
Seven Days of Sunshine and Serenity
At the top of the Sunshine Coast is Desolation Sound, one of the most popular boating destinations in the world. Despite the name, the Sound is anything but "desolate." It was named by Capt. George Vancouver, one of the first Europeans to discover the Sound, who had the misfortune to arrive on a damp, foggy, ergo "desolate" day.
This is not a wilderness but a wild area, an area where humans have worked and lived since the earliest years of the First Nations people who first inhabited the region. Signs of humans, past and present, are all over - oyster farms, vacation homes, boats (both power and sail), and logging. This is all part of the historical, cultural and visual fabric of the area. But the wildness of the place is also easy to see in the scenery and in the wildlife -- bald eagles, loons, ducks, seals, orange and purple sea stars, and the occasional porpoise, as well as in the wildlife that we didn't see but are there, nonetheless -- black bears, grizzlies further up the remote inlets, and cougars, though from what I hear, you don't see actually the cougars until it's too late.
We crossed the Sound the first day of the trip and spent most of the second day putting some distance between us and the boat traffic in and around the Sound, especially the big power boats and the yahoos on deck. But with each day that passed, the scenery grew more beautiful and dramatic, and we felt more remote from civilization. By the third day we were into a semblance of wilderness, a wild, scenic, and serene landscape with few signs of civilization other than the occasional boat, vacation house, or distant patch of logged and partially re-grown forest. We were now in the Discovery Islands which are technically north of the Sunshine Coast but share the same weather and climate. We set up our tents on a high, mossy rocky point jutting out into the water and went for a swim in the warm shallow waters of the cove below.
Our fourth day was sheer ecstasy. It was a layover day so we didn't have to pack up camp and had time for a leisurely breakfast of eggs Benedict with smoked salmon made by PSRK's owner, Adam Vallant, from locally caught wild salmon. The plan for the day was to poke around and explore the nearby islands and channels. It was overcast at first, and the water was like glass. Everything was hushed. It was one of those magic paddles - a couple of hours of muted light and sound as we glided past rocky banks on the lookout for seals poking their heads above the water and eagles diving for fish.
The sun peeked out, then burst out in full as we pulled onto the beach for lunch. This spot was even more magnificent than our camp site. Beyond the small grove of trees behind the oyster- and mussel-strewn beach was a high point almost surrounded by water on all sides. Stretched before us was a vast expanse of water broken up only by islands and mountains in the distance. This is where we ate our lunch, in reverent silence accompanied by the occasional squawk of birds. After lunch we dug for clams and gathered as many of the oysters and mussels as we could carry to the kayaks and paddled leisurely back to camp in time for another swim before dinner.
The next day we paddled to our last destination, Toba Inlet, a long fjord that cuts deep into the coastal mountains which had been a distant backdrop for our trip until now. It was another great day of paddling, but the highlight was dinner. Jaime, ably assisted by Tania, cooked the oysters, mussels and clams we had gathered the day before. He steamed the oysters and mussels in garlic and butter and chopped up the clams in the veggie chili. I am a big fan of oysters - raw, steamed, pan fried, whatever - and I eat them whenever I can. I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur, so I don't think that this is just a case of camping-compromised taste -- where everything tastes good, even the freeze dried crap we would never consider eating at home -- when I say these were some of the best oysters I have ever had! Realizing that we were nearing the end of our trip, we spent the rest of the evening sitting on the beach looking silently at the mountains growing dark across the inlet.
The last full day rivaled Day 4 for highlights. The plan was to paddle deep into the inlet, then return to our campsite for our last night. The first highlight was the waterfall only a quarter mile or so from our camp. Everyone had the opportunity to paddle their kayaks under the waterfall for our only shower of the trip. It was cold but the air was warm so it really didn't matter. Then after a couple of miles of paddling, we rafted all four kayaks together, hooked two corners of a spare rain fly to the two outside kayaks and rigged the other two corners to paddles held vertical on the decks of the outside kayaks. With this improvised sail, we sailed briskly down the inlet. It was a wild ride with Jaime and Tracy holding the paddles upright, me in the stern of the double holding onto the stern of the two kayaks on either side, and Kathy and Tania just holding on.
In what seemed like no time at all we were pulling onto the beach for lunch. It was one of the most beautiful spots of the trip, except for the logging in full operation a quarter mile away on either side, reminding us yet again of the tradeoff between accessibility and intrusiveness - the easier it is to get to the wild, the less wild it will be.
We didn't linger long. We ate our lunch, took in the scene with enough tunnel vision to block out the sounds and sights of the logging, then headed back, but only after a few minutes of wrong way white water kayaking up the stream that ran by the beach - i.e., paddling upstream against the current through a small rapids just far enough for a brief thrill. The wind that had been at our backs and filled our sail on the way in, was in our face on the way out. I'm sure I burned more calories heading back than were saved by our brief sail in the other direction, but the thrill of sailing in kayaks down the wild, narrow fjord was well worth the extra work.
The next day, we packed up camp and paddled several miles to our pick up point. After an exciting, 45 minute, high speed ride in a Zodiac, I was soon on my way to the airport for my short flight to the Vancouver airport to meet my wife for a long weekend in what is one of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities in North America, perhaps the world. I felt as relaxed as I had felt in months and fitter than I had been all year. I was also as tan as a South American tourist on Venice Beach and as slim as I ever get. Within just a few minutes of landing we were off to one of the many outstanding Chinese restaurants that can be found in this glorious city in a successful attempt to regain some of the weight I had lost during the trip. There is a lot to be said for accessibility, other than its easy to get to.
For more information on the kayak trip and the trip operator, Powell River Sea Kayak (PRSK), go to www.bcseakayak.com. Besides their home made smoked salmon, bread, energy bars and other goodies, PRSK also features top of the line equipment including new, high-end fiberglass touring kayaks.
I stayed at the Cedar Lodge B&B (www.cedarlodgebb.ca) the night before the trip. It is an attractive, affordable, quiet place to stay that is only short drive to the offices of Powell River Sea Kayak, where the trip begins (the friendly owners, Mary and Andy, will drive you there if you don't have a car, and a 10 minute walk to an excellent gourmet restaurant, the Laughing Oyster (www.laughingoyster.ca).
Vancouver has some of the best, most authentic Chinese restaurants to be found outside of Asia. My personal favorite is Sun Sui Wah Seafood (www.sunsuiwah.com). At the other end of the elegance/cost (but not quality) scale is Sha-Lin Noodle House for fresh, hand cut noodles made right before your eyes. Great entertainment, great food. They don't have a website but they are easy to Google.
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Desolation Sound & Into the Majestic Mountains - July 2009
Tracy and I left for Powell River, British Columbia on the Strait of Georgia to spend 12 days kayaking on two different trips, all in region called The Upper Sunshine Coast. We were delayed at SFO from the onset, forever repeating the joys of flying in the 21st century. But there never fails to be someone to talk today and I met this woman who was flying up to Canada to join her husband on their re-fitted old fishing vessel. They were going to spend the summer motoring, going 10 miles an hour up the Inside Passage all the way to Alaska, with diesel fuel wafting through their nostrils. The only smells in a kayak are those of nature!
After a night in Vancouver we got up and took the van to the South Terminal and ate breakfast beside our airlines, Pacific Coastal Air. As we waited to depart, a long line of very strange looking folk appeared before the departure gate doors. It was one of those "better get a picture moments" or no one's gonna' believe you saw what you saw. To this day, we debate it. It was the band Kiss or was it? It was ACDC or not? We talked to someone from the line and he said it was a "Rockers and Roadies" fishing trip to brag about who caught the biggest one. Okay, that explains it. Of course if it wasn't the real thing, then it must have been people dressed up as these people. But why? And who else but the "real deal" would go fishing dressed in white face and leather and chains? We have a close-up of the lead singer from Kiss and OMG it's a match! Or not. And then our young pilot escorted us out on the tarmac and we walked up the steps of our compact 20 passenger plane, and were politely warned to watch our heads. Ah Canada!
If you've ever seen the TV show "Wings" then you've seen the inside of Powell River Airport, a small building with about 4 rows of seats between two opposing counters, but unlike the show, not competing airlines. The other counter was for Budget, and yet we never even noticed the rental car agency as we walked right by. It wasn't until a week later that we realized we were going to need a car when we found that Budget was practically screaming out at us "rent a car, fools" as we walked through the airport on the first day. Instead we took a cab out to our trip launch site, a ride of 30kms and a cost of 70 Canadian dollars.
Powell River Kayak is owned by a man named Adam Vallance, a name I think that is much better suited to a movie star. The first thing you notice about Adam is that he speaks a lot like an owl. And I'm not making fun. He really does make those oot sounds in every sentence. He and his wife and 2 young children and a few locals and hired guides run the place. Adam lives in a log home on the property which was one of the first homes built in Powell River. Within minutes of arriving, we met our trip guide, Jamie Sharpe from New Zealand. Mate?
By mid morning we had the 3 kayaks loaded with 5 days worth of gear and were off to explore the islands that spread out before us. It is said that in 1792 Captain Vancouver came upon this area on an unusually dreary day and claimed it was the most desolate place he'd ever seen and thus called it Desolation Sound. These islands are made of granite covered with oyster shells and barnacles and shaded with Spruce, Red Cedar and Madrone trees. For the five days, we paddled from island to islands across both calm and choppy seas, with and without the wind, in sun and in rain. We saw bald eagles daily, often perched on the branches of the shiny orange Arbutus (Madrone) branches. We also paddled by brown speckled mergansers and dark brown merlots, black and white harlequin ducks and loons and guilliomots and the flocks of oyster catchers, streaked across the sky, always made a lot of racket. In the water was an abundance of colorful sea stars and sea cucumbers. The deep purple ones were called Ochre sea stars and the thin delicate orange legged ones were called Vermillion sea stars and the Sunflower sea stars were extremely big, leggy, slimy orange creatures, that Jamie liked to scoop up with the end of his paddle to admire.
At the beginning, our guide, Jamie, was a stranger. But by the second day, we were talking, eating and singing together. Jamie was 28 years old, a white water kayaker, world traveler, wildlife biologist, photographer, musician, gourmet cook and had real survivor skills. A fire made of wet wood? Not a problem. The trick is that wood which has been soaked from salt water is dry on the inside. Ah! You learn so much about people on kayaking trips and certain things pull you together quickly. Every day we worked in unison to keep the companies' fiberglass kayaks from being damaged by the granite rocks. Jamie would tie up the kayaks offshore while we ate lunch or rested, but we still had to keep a keen eye on the boats to make sure they didn't come close to shore as the tides came in. The large boat wakes were a hazard as well, as they could easily push the boats into the rocks. The area we were in often had 12 foot tides, so at night we had to carry the boats high up off the shore and over the barnacled laden rocks, past the high tide mark and onto a smooth surface, which was usually several giant fallen red cedar logs. It can be tricky keeping your balance on wet rocks and slippery rockweed while carrying sea kayaks. Although Tracy and Jamie were the strongest and did most of the carrying, I did help steady the kayaks and I could do my share of carrying unloaded boats. And then one rainy morning I spied Jamie alone hoist each one of the kayaks over the rocks to the water's edge.
The night before that, a thunder and lightening storm hit our island and while all I wanted to do was sleep through it and wake up when it was over, Tracy was worried that our tent was pitched on too high a ground. And being in a tent that was being lit up by lightening made me feel vulnerable too. So Tracy got up and went over to Jamie's tent just to make sure we didn't have to move. We stayed put and the storm passed while we all had gone back to sleep. That day it rained from morning to night and we spent the whole time in the kayaks, ate lunch in the boats, too and only got out for one reason. We began the day around 10am and returned around 6pm having circumnavigated Hernando Island, about 15 miles. It wasn't an easy day. On the way home during a large crossing between the islands, the water was rough and I was doing okay up until the moment that I was approached by two larger waves and my boat was turned sideways. I freaked a bit at the thought of being rolled by the waves and I got nervous. I told Jamie that I was scared. We rafted up and talked as the waves tossed us forward and he explained that the waves weren't like large shore waves because they were short with a beginning and a quick end to them. He told me to do that thing that is so hard to do when you are nervous. Relax. I will never forget it because it worked. The boat and I stopped resisting the waves and we went with them. The waves increased even more near the shore of the island that we were headed toward, so we stayed a ways off and paralleled the shore towards home. The waves decreased in size to a foot and for fun or for ease, Jamie got out a sail he gerry rigged from a tent fly and with the fly attached to two lines and two kayak poles, we sailed back to our camp in the cold and wind and rain. When I got back to the camp I got into my sleeping bag and stayed their until dinner, warming and drying. That night Jamie made a campfire on the rocks by the water in the drizzly rain and I don't know if Jamie had planned it or not, but staring into the warm fire, I suggested marshmallows and it wasn't long before we were smelling burnt sugar.
Eating, along with unpacking and packing the kayaks, and attending to bodily functions were other events that pulled us together. Jamie was the Julia Child of outdoor cooking and with a two burner stove and many spices he was able to whip up exotic dishes from Mexico to Thailand. We always ate together using logs for chairs and driftwood for tables and afterwards, often as the sun was setting, we would wash the dishes on the rocks by the sea. By 9 or 10PM exhaustion always took over and I would crawl into my tent and go to sleep. If the day had ended there for our guide I'm sure he would have been pleased to have gone right to bed, but in bear country all of the food had to get put back into the kayaks away from our camp and before I would hear that last zip of his tent door, I would hear kayak lids being opened and shut and loud bangs as the kayaks as they were being shoved farther back from shore. Until alas, silence.
That first week ended in the rain as well and we paddled the morning back to the mainland wet and tired. We were happy to be getting out of the kayaks onto dry land with the expectation of a warm shower and dry clothes and a cozy bed. We were going to enjoy it, because, in a few days we would be heading right back to Powell River Kayak to start our second trip, but this time for even longer.
Our two days and three nights in Powell River were spent in a wooden castle in the woods overlooking Okeover Inlet. But within moments of arriving at our wilderness respite, we realized we needed a car because there was no food available walking distance from our castle. So out came the Taxi driver from our first day and he drove us to the same airport to the same Budget counter we passed on our way in...dumb dee dumb. Did I mention dumb! But once we had our car in hand, we ate and slept and toured pretty Powell River for two days. On the very first day in town, we were standing in an outdoor gear store and got talking to the man behind the counter. He informed us that another person was coming on our next kayak trip, a travel writer named Don. And a few moments later, we ran into Tania. It was really hard to ignore Tania. I heard her say "Awwwww, I'm outta here mate" to the store clerk, so I walked up to here and asked her what was wrong. Apparently, she had come to Powell River alone expecting to do some rock climbing but all the climbers seemed to have left town for other adventures. She had tried to hire a boat for scuba diving but no boats were going out and when she tried to rent a sail boat she came up empty. She had spent a day running into dead ends. So I suggested she come with us kayaking and I handed her the Powell River Kayak phone number and told her to call. Of course I mentioned that our guide was a mate. Well I didn't say it like that, but she understood! And as if fate was taking the wheel, a half hour later, we entered another store and Tania was there with a smile on her face saying she was coming kayaking with us. That night we all went out to dinner and talked until late into the evening. Tania was 36 from the Tasman Coast of New Zealand with a thick accent which at times was truly difficult to understand. Her father was a yachtsman with a 60 foot catamaran and her mother part Moiri Indian. Tania was a sailor, climber, scuba diving instructor and triathelite. She had come to the Sunshine Coast of BC for a friend's wedding and being in between IT jobs, she was taking time to see BC.
So on the first day of our next trip, our 7 day kayak to the outer islands of the Discovery Islands, Don from Venice Beach, California, Tania, another Kiwi and Tracy and I followed Jamie out of Okeover Inlet toward the majestic mountains of the west coast of British Columbia. Each day thereafter we paddled farther and farther away from civilization, racking up about 15 miles a day before putting ourselves and our boats up for the night. The islands we landed on were idealic, the water we paddled was like glass, the food we ate would have made chefs drool. When Don declared that he felt more like he was in the Carribbean than in the northern Hemisphere, we all agreed. The days were hot, the water was green and the seafood abundant. One day at Tania's insistence, we collected clams, mussels and oysters for dinner and Jamie served them up as delicacies with garlic and butter. I think that is the finest I've ever had on a kayak trip, even beating the fresh lobster appetizers on our Maine trip.
Each day we paddled as far as we could to get deeper into the wilderness. We kayaked by an echo chamber where everyone called to the island in different voices and laughed as the trees and rock sent out a mimicking clear response. We paddled to a lushes waterfall and Jamie pushed our boats under the cascading water, so we could get really soaked. We took advantage of the windy day and sailed all of the kayaks together for miles with the wind behind us, knowing that we would be paddling against the wind for hours on the way back. We sang and laughed and took in the world around us from our kayaks, be it snow-capped peaks or the rare sandy beach, clear-cut forests or sixty foot yachts, the red tide or the water clear with reflections and we took in each day as it was presented to us as we explored the Discovery Islands all the way from Okeover to the Toba Inlet. I don't think I'll ever forget the irony of having to burn my toilet paper during a ban on fire or the fleet of party yachts anchored by our intended campsite, or Don's resemblance to Hulk Hogan, or Tania snorkeling for hours to find her sunglasses, or Jamie complaining about bloody american banks. It was a wonderful trip.
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