Fall 2016 Wild Coast Magazine

Page 1

Fall 2016

BC's real best beaches


Whales first?

Creating the North Island Whale Heritage Site

The Top 10 list that The Guardian missed.

Coastal Journeys

Issue #4

A look at some unforgettable trips from the BC Marine Trails.


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6 Cover story: Refuge for whales

10 BC's best beaches – for real

This issue's cover photo is a cropped version of a magnificent photo by Jared Towers, a mariner, co-founder of the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association and cetacean research technician for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Jared's current work for the DFO includes managing the Bigg's (transient) and northern resident killer whale photo-identification programs as well as operating and maintaining the research vessel fleet. He typically spends over 100 days a year at sea conducting field research on killer whales, so as you can imagine, his portfolio of whale encounters is second to none. Another of his images can be seen on page 7.

40 History retold

42 34 Fall colours

Easy vistas FALL 2016




Google Maps to add British Columbia trails An 18-kilogram backpack with about 15 cameras designed to capture 360-degree views will be added to the load of a group of hikers this summer as they complete some of the province's most remote and picturesque trails, including Haida Gwaii, Garibaldi Park and the Kettle Valley Trail. The result will be the ability to hike these routes from an armchair. The question becomes if this adds to the trails or removes some of the mystique.



COAST Magazine

Fall 2016

Volume 2, Number 4 PM No. 41687515

Who we are:

Follow us on Facebook: stupid is as stupid does...

Wild Coast Magazine is the magazine of outdoor recreation, adventure travel and ecotourism for the Pacific coast. We publish three times a year in print and online with unrestricted global access. Print copies are free at select locations but we encourage paid home subscriptions to ensure you can continue to receive the magazine into the future. The magazine is a product of Wild Coast Publishing, a BC company and publisher of the BC Coast Explorer guide book series and other recreation resources. Editor: John KimantasÜ Find Us:

Online: www.wildcoastmagazine.comÜ In print: We distribute to more than 300 locations across British Columbia and the United States.

Feeding a bear on the road to Tofino, and the aftermath of a weekend outing is filmed for posterity to show just how poorly people can treat the outdoors, leaving graffiti and mounds of garbage in the wake of a short visit to a remote camping site. Join us in tracking stupidity such as this and other better examples of how to treat the outdoors.


They're back and healthy! It's a starfish baby boom Nothing could have made us happier the day we looked down at the piling off to the side of the Wild Coast office and saw a host of starfish clinging to the wood. After almost disappearing from the coast due to the wasting disease, they are back and returning order to marine life.

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In person: Aboard the MV Wild Coast, somewhere on the Pacific coast, during the summer season. Or Loreto, Mexico in the winter. We are a nomadic company. Best to phone or email before visiting. By phone: 1-250-244-6437. By fax: 1-866-654-1937. By email: editor@wildcoastmagazine.comÜ Facebook: Follow us and stay in touch with us between issues! www.facebook.com/ wildcoastmagazineÜ A product of:

Wild Coast Publishing PO Box 24, Stn A Nanaimo, B.C., Canada, V9R 5K4 The world’s only magazine published from aboard a boat (that we know of, anyway). © 2016. Copyright is retained on all material (text, photos and graphics) in this magazine. No reproduction is allowed of any material in any form, print or electronic, for any purpose, except with the permission of Wild Coast Publishing.


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A refuge for

Whales? W

hen the World Cetacean

Alliance announced the designation of Whale Heritage Sites to mark the world's locations where humans and whales are coexisting at their best, the idea couldn't help but capture the interest of the North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association. The result is that North Vancouver Island will likely be home to one of the world's first Whale Heritage Sites. The program's goal is to grant status to places around the world where cetaceans are celebrated through art, education, research and cultural events; where sustainable practices ensure the health of cetacean habitats; and where coexistence is supported through law, policy and cooperation. This mirrors most goals of the North Island stewardship association, and whale researcher Jared Towers believes the designation will only help strengthen the programs already underway. "We can incorporate a lot of conservation measures into the whale heritage site," he says. "There is a lot that already exists, but it's an excuse for everyone to take an active role

in looking after this area even more than we already have." It's good news for the region's whales, which have already had their measure of prosperity, particularly as the northern resident population of killer whales has seen its population double over the last three decades. "Basically these animals are recovering from a history of persecution – being shot at and also being captured for the marine aquarium industry," Towers says. "There is still a lot of concern about man-made noise and their environment as well as the availability of fish. These whales prey primarily on chinook salmon and chum salmon in particular, and there's a lot of worry about whether or not they're finding enough food. But when you look at their population trend, that's increasing, so that's a good news story." Humpback whales are making a similar comeback. "They really only showed up here 15 years ago and since then we're seeing more and more every year," Towers says.

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Photo courtesy Jared Towers


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Standing up for

Desolation O

ne of Russell Hollingsworth's

most vivid childhood memories of visiting Desolation Sound is seeing

the stars. " It was the first place first place where I could see the stars reflected in the ocean because it is so still and so quiet," he says. Then of course there was the warm water, probably the warmest north of the Gulf of Mexico. And the scenery. " I can see why Captain Vancouver named it Desolation Sound, because it's kind of powerful and awe -inspiring, with fjord-like features and beautiful rock outcroppings around Prideaux Haven and Melanie Cove and those kinds of places, and the magic of Refuge Cove just around the corner." Then came notice in a government publication of plans to do exploratory drilling for a gravel plant in the heart of Desolation Sound at Lloyd Creek. "First I was kind of incredulous, thinking it was some kind of joke, and then I turned to thoughts being up in Desolation sound over the years and being a young person there and enjoying the special place it was and the

thought of what this would do to it. "So the thought of hearing the buzz of machinery disrupting that kind of experience really started to concern me." It was enough, in the end, to prompt Russell to form Save Desolation Sound, a group dedicating itself to blocking the gravel pit. Lehigh Hanson Materials Limited has received a permit for exploratory surface drilling from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to determine the potential for aggregate extraction. Lehigh Hanson already operates the nearby pit in Sechelt, visible from Vancouver Island. That operation creates as much as 4.3 million tonnes of aggregate a year. Russell says the Lloyd Creek operation would be smaller, but not by much at about 3.5 million tonnes per year. Russell adds the impact could be worse in Desolation Sound as the pit won't be part of an electrical grid so will require generators, which will add to the noise and pollution. He says he's not opposed to gravel pits and acknowledges the need. The issue, he




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says, is there are other places you can get gravel without sacrificing a pristine wilderness setting. "At this little corner of the gulf is one of the last places you can slip into that is relatively pristine. It's a relatively unique experience for most people and it is known internationally as one of the finest cruising areas north America.



Left: A view up Homfray Channel in Desolation Sound just north of Lloyd Creek. Above: the region around Desolation Sound Marine Park pinpointing Lloyd Creek.

"All those reasons suggest to me it would be profoundly ignorant to trade those high, high values for the future for gravel for a company based in Hiedelberg Germany on land they don't own." Lehigh Hanson indicated it does not have any specific plans for a mining operation at present and "fully understands that any

such decision would be subject to respectful involvement of First Nations, dialogue with communities and stakeholders and consideration of environmental stewardship." If the decision is made to go ahead, an environmental assessment review will follow. In advance of that, Save Desolation Sound is urging people to write letters voicing

opposition to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Premier of British Columbia. Donations will also help finance a legal battle.

savedesolationsound.com lehighhansoncanada.com

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The Real


Beaches 10


FALL 2016


hen the

British newspaper The Guardian

ran an article in February listing their choice for the best 50 beaches in the world, it wasn't too surprising that two beaches were from British Columbia. Perhaps the biggest surprise was their pick: Chesterman Beach (#33, and also best in the category of "Wild and Remote") and #47 for English Bay in Vancouver. Fair enough. We don't know enough about the world's beaches to argue. But we do know British Columbia's beaches, and as far as "wild and remote goes," it's a stretch to say Chesterman Beach is anywhere near that, given it is backed entirely by private property and invariably

overrun to the point that on most days parking is difficult to find along adjacent streets. And there is the irony of the international perspective of what constitutes wild and remote – that a foreigner's choice should have parking issues. Trust us, BC's most wild and remote beaches don't have parking issues. For the most part they don't even have parking. So in response, Wild Coast Magazine has put together a list of the real best beaches in British Columbia – with most substantially more wild and remote than any on The Guardian's list You will note neither Chesterman nor English Bay made our list.

10. Ahous Bay Located on the west coast of Vargas Island, Ahous Bay is a great example of the vast beaches to be found on the outer islands of Clayoquot Sound, but still within easy paddling distance of Tofino. This is one of a number of beaches that all get the nod for superb getaways in Clayoquot Sound, from the more wild and remote Cow Bay on Flores Island to tiny but sandy Whaler islet. Here you'll begin to find the real 'wild and remote' coast – where the population of wolves will likely outnumber the people staying here in tents.

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9. Long Beach It may seem odd to disparage Chesterman Beach as a 'best' choice then include nearby Long Beach, but you need only drive the highway into Tofino to understand why. There is a crest in the road as you get near to Tofino that offers the first stunning view of Long Beach stretching into the horizon, an expanse of sand flanked by surfing waves invariably capped by a self-generated mist. At that moment, it will hit you. You have arrived at the West Coast. For that reason Long Beach has come to define what that means. Long Beach is a 16-km broad swath of sand, and though it may attract many surfers, it has the advantage among road-accessible beaches that it is entirely within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, so



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there is no private property backing it, just miles of forest. You can stroll here, surf here, camp at Green Point Campground within the national park, stroll nearby adjacent beaches for more secluded getaways, or enjoy a viewpoint of it from atop Radar Hill. There are many other good beaches nearby, such as the more secluded northwest neighbour Combers Beach, or the southern neighbour, Florencia Beach. Pocket beaches can be found at Wya Point, or in the resort areas of Tofino including Cox Bay and Wickinninish Beach. Take your pick or explore them all, but be sure to take some time looking out toward Japan from Long Beach. You'll miss an incredible location if you don't.

8. Lucy Islands

Sometimes it's not just about the beach. It's about discovering the unexpected that goes with it. And few places are as wonderfully surprising as Lucy Islands. Lucy Islands is a tiny dot of an archipelago set west of Prince Rupert in an open stretch of water between the Dundas Islands Group and the Stephens Islands just off Dixon Entrance, one of BC's most notorious storm-ridden waterways. So it is not a place to evoke images of sprawling sand. But there it is, amid the cluster, this wonderful length of sheltered beach worthy of a tropical postcard. The Dick Daniels nearby larger archipelagos provide most of the shelter, and what little of the open ocean they do allow through Brown Passage is further dissipated by the rocks, shoals and islets that surround the main central islands. The sand, however, isn't the real star. It is the rhinoceros auklet. Lucy Islands is a globally significant breeding and nesting area for these odd seabirds, which choose to nest in burrows along the shoreline, making them vulnerable to disturbance. For that reason, and for the heritage including Coast Tsimshian cultural and archaeological sites, the islands are an ecological reserve. Luckily access is allowed despite that, with a boardwalk and tent pad provided to avoid disturbing any nesting birds. FALL 2016




7. Carmanah

Haida Gwaii – the edge of the world A trip to this archipelago is an adventure offering everything from off-grid surf-shacks on the beach to cozy B&Bs overlooking secluded inlets. Take daily flights from Vancouver or a ferry from Prince Rupert. Drive, rent a car, cycle or hire a charter to explore the natural and cultural attractions of traditional Haida territory. Museums, artists, accommodations and more welcome visitors year-round, while summer is best for charters into the protected land and waters of Gwaii Haanas. Hike, fish, paddle, camp, surf or just relax – you’re on island time now. “When you’ve reached the edge of your world, ours begins.”

info@gohaidagwaii.ca gohaidagwaii.ca 14


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For those who think they know the West Coast of Vancouver Island but have never seen Carmanah Beach, your education is not yet complete. Hikers of the West Coast Trail will likely remember Carmanah well, as it is one of the longest beach walks on sand on the 78-km route, even more famous for Chez Monique's, a restaurant set in the middle of nowhere on the beach's north end, serving beer and burgers to often amused but invariably thankful trail hikers. It differs from Long Beach by being more remote, more rugged and several degrees more wild. Whereas Long Beach is famous for its surfing waves, the Carmanah Beach waves are in disarray, breaking over a long distance to create an white jumble of water that crashes onto half-hidden rock ledges and boulders. It is not a place to take lightly, as no true West Coast location should ever be. Perhaps most impressive about the beach is the amount of work most people have to take to get here. For all the hardship of mud and ravines and uphill scrambles, this is the reward – the chance to breathe in the salt and witness the power of the ocean. It can be a cathartic, even a life-changing experience, to arrive at this point under your own power. It is a key reason to attempt the West Coast Trail and one of the features that keep it on a best-of trail list, as well as a best-of beach list.

6. Goose Group Beaches along the central coast of British Columbia can be as rare as sunshine, so when you encounter one during a visit, there is always reason to rejoice. Most such rejoicing in BC's Central Coast will take place in or around the Hakai Conservancy, a large group of islands north of Vancouver Island. If you plan to go, a good way is by ferry to Bella Bella or Shearwater, then a kayak trip into the wilds of the Great Bear Rainforest's most remote coast. Many of the province's most wild and remote beaches can be found here, such as Wolf Beach on north Calvert Island, or an enticing little spot on the McMullin Islands, a tiny offshore archipelago that is like a sand oasis in a setting of rocky islets, shoals and coves. It is amazing how these sandy locations develop in a sea of rock shoals and stark granite bluffs. There is also Koeye River, a cove set into the mainland with a sandy shoreline on the protected inside waters. A very pretty spot. Most stunning, though, is the Goose Group, set in its own archipelago with only Japan farther west. Wonderful expansive beaches can be found on the north end of Goose Island by the adventurous who don't mind risking the exposed water, or the inner southern shore for tho whose prefer to stick to shelter. There is also a good sand beach on tiny Snipe Island, but the low tide choice award goes to Gosling Island, pictured here. The island's sand spit extends northward from the island's north end, and there is no feeling quite like the luxury of dipping toes into the softest of soft sand after paddling long days along rocky crags and reefs to get here.

Connect with us.

The BC Marine Trails Network

Visit the BC Marine Trails Network website to plan your next coastal visit. Use our maps, Paddling Experiences pages and more. We’re developing the world’s longest marine trail. Join us on this incredible journey.

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5. Campania

Campania Island excels on two levels. For one, the beach. There are few as tropical in appearance this far north, and if you discover it from the north you're in for an extra treat. You'll pass a long and thin peninsula separated from the main island by equally long and thin McMicking Inlet as you head south, so when you first see Campania Island's main outer beach it will suddenly come into view (the photo to the left shows passing the final rocks before the mouth of McMicking Inlet). Not only is the beach wonderful, the island is just as stunning for exposed bedrock and sparse forest cover, making it a break from the uniform green of the surrounding hillsides. Credit the Milbanke Strandflat, a geological formation filled with many peatlands and shallow lakes, accounting for the scrub forest and open landscape on the island. Campania is now part of the Lax Ka’gaas/Campania Conservancy that includes the Alexander Islands to the south. It is remarkable in one other aspect. There are three main northern communities – Kitimat, Prince Rupert and Bella Bella, and if you triangulate the three to find the location on the BC coast equally distant from all three, you'll be near The beach is problematic as it tends to disappear at spring tides, the centre of Campania Island, making it by that measure the most leaving campers scrambling to find a dry spot. But then again, if your remote location on the BC coast. Nowhere else is as far from all the main goal is to visit the most remote of the most beautiful beaches in British northern coastal communities. Columbia, don't expect it to be easy. 16


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4. Calvin Falls A surprise of British Columbia is how few waterfalls of any particular size or force drop directly into the oceanfront. Maybe such a grouping deserves its own Top Ten list (if enough exist to make a full list). But regardless of the number, the combination of best beach and waterfall has to go to Calvin Falls on Nootka Island. It is set amid the Nootka Trail, a remarkable hike covered in detail in issue #1 of Wild Coast Magazine. It is a focal point and a must-stop location for any hiker – or even a kayaker, as there are decent allweather landing spots thanks to rock bars to the north and south of the main cove overlooking the waterfall. And yes, there was a strong contender for the best beachwaterfall category. Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail is an incredible combination of beach and waterfall. We suggest you visit both and decide for yourself which deserves the top honour.

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3. Jackobson Point

Listen for the gasps of disbelief: "What? Jackobson Point is better than Heater Point? Or Crabappable Islets? Or Spring Island? Or Barney's Island?" Well, suffice to say there are many

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candidate 'best' beaches near Brooks Peninsula on the outer north coast of Vancouver Island, and many readers will have their personal favorite, but the Wild Coast choice goes to Jackobson, mainly because it is on Brooks Peninsula, a favorite among wild and remote destinations on the BC coast (cause for perhaps another Top Ten list?). Plus there is a choice of two spectacular beaches nearby to pretty well ensure you

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have one to yourself. Plus there is a really cool shoreline trail leading to a really cool cave. Oh, and an honorable mention goes to Nordstrum Creek, the beach on the outer west shore of Brooks Peninsula. It is spectacularly difficult to reach due to the reefs and surf, but magical if you get there on one of those elusively rare days. It also has a really nifty cave as well to explore. So many choices...

2. Cape Sutil

There is no set criteria to select the single best beach, but Cape Sutil excels in all of them regardless of what they are – plus it adds its own unique elements of charm just to raise the bar that much more. For those expecting a torturous and unforgiving coastline at Vancouver Island's northernmost point – perhaps a place that lives up to the Cape Scott reputation of a storm-ridden Graveyard of the Pacific – Cape Sutil is not that. Rather, it is a crescent of white sand set facing east – wide, white, soft and infinitely welcoming. It is set facing away from the prevailing westerlies, keeping the beach

nicely sheltered, with two pretty headlands – one mid-beach (crossed by a trail) and one at the point. The point is an interesting aspect of Cape Sutil, it having been a fortified village deserted in 1851 after being shelled twice by the British Navy. The bombing was in retaliation for the killing of three British Navy deserters. Unable to find the actual culprits, HMS Daedalus shelled the whole community in 1850, then when the community was rebuilt, HMS Daphne returned to level it again. The community then moved to Bull Harbour on nearby Hope Island and never returned. Whatever remains of the village is probably

gone within the dense forest, with the exception of a petroglyph that could make for a lengthy game of hide and seek if you set out to find it. Previously reachable only by water, that changed in 2008 when the North Coast Trail opened, with Cape Sutil an official camping location that includes a yurt for a trail maintenance crew during the summer. The trail has opened up the whole region to the adventurous, and a water taxi can even drop you directly here (see below). For more on the North Coast Trail and how to reach here, see issue #3 or grab one of our trail maps (below left).

Take us with you! If you're planning a hike of the North Coast Trail or a kayak trip through North Vancouver Island, Wild Coast has a waterproof mapsheet perfect for you. It is the primary resource for hiking the North Coast Trail, but it also contains all the information you'll need for the North Island Circle Route from Port Hardy to Coal Harbour.



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Port Hardy, BC





1. Rugged Point

It may actually be impossible to step out of the forest trail at Rugged Point Provincial Park to face the outer beach for the first time and not stop dead in disbelief at what you see. The inner beach is fine enough. This is where most people arrive, as the cove inside Kyuquot Sound protects the beach nicely and allows boats to anchor nearby. The trail isn't long to the beach on the outer coast, but the landscape is worlds away. At the end of the forest is an expanse of white sand stretching as far as the eye can see. The beach actually continues much farther. If you walk it, you will cross a multitude of sandy stretches and scramble over rocky ledges and headlands to eventually reach north Nootka Sound. This beach scramble ranks as one of the easiest and most rewarding beach hikes on the BC coast (and yes, that would make another interesting Top Ten list for the future, no doubt). You may see no other person if you attempt this hike, but you won't be alone, and the tracks on the beach are a great indication. Expect to see bear, wolf and cougar prints, and if you visit at low tide you'll get an idea of just how fresh they are. Yes, this is remote and very, very wild. Rugged Point is set at the south entrance to Kyuquot Sound, a fjord remarkable for being devoid of any communities at all. Instead there are just two launch points, one at Artlish River and another at Fair Harbour. For those looking for just a hike, an option is a water taxi from Zeballos or Tahsis (try Tahtsa Dive and Charters. See page 25). They can 20


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drop you off at Yellow Bluff on the Nootka Sound side, so your walk would end at Rugged Point rather than begin here. While Rugged Point is picked for being the largest and most spectacular, people might actually prefer some of the many smaller options in the Kyuquot region. And maybe that's what The Guardian's list really missed – the fact that any sand beach is a good beach.

The Best Beaches Deadman Inlet, Banks Island.

Where they are Koeye River.

Goschen Island

Plus some honorable mentions

Wolf Beach, Calvert Island.

Redsand Beach, Smith Sound.

San Josef Bay.

Dick and Jane Beach, Vargas Island. FALL 2016




Coastal Reflections Photo by Dave Resler 22


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This year the BC Marine Trails launched the Coastal Journeys Team, a collection of active paddlers and personalities to represent the BC Marine Trails on the water. We asked them their favorite coastal experience. Here is a collection of the answers we received.

FALL 2016





Great White of the North


t is one thing just to get to the

Great Bear Rainforest. It’s another thing altogether to catch a glimpse of one of the rarest and most elusive animals on Earth. On Sept. 6, 2011 I travelled from Courtenay to North Vancouver Island, spending the night in Port Hardy at the Port Hardy Inn. I boarded BC Ferries Northern Expedition the following morning at 6 a.m. for the sailing to Prince Rupert. The route is nearly 10 hours, with stops in Bella Bella and Klemtu. It might seem long to some to sit on a ferry for that amount of time, but much of that was spent outside viewing the amazing coastal landscapes that make the Inside Passage famous. Upon arriving in Prince Rupert I took a taxi from the terminal to Parkside Resort Motel for the night. I was up early the next morning to take yet another taxi to the Seal Cove Seaplane Terminal to board a small Seaplane to the Gitga’at community of Hartley Bay. The aerial views and perspectives on the flight were nothing short of astounding. 24


Coastal tales #1: Martin Ryer

I was greeted at the dock in Hartley Bay by Eric Boyum, owner of Ocean Adventures and the 54-foot motor yacht the Great Bear II. This was the start of a seven-day adventure cruise dubbed "Islands of the Spirit Bear – Waters of the Humpback." On board with me was Captain Eric, chef Barb, biologist Eloise and four other travellers from the United Kingdom – Linda, Ticco, Janet and Ken. The hospitality offered by Captain Eric and staff was second to none and I enjoyed the FALL 2016

company of the other travellers from abroad. After spending the first five days touring and hiking through mist-shrouded coves, mystical inlets and dense rainforest, it wasn’t until day six that we arrived at Gribbell Island with the hope to finally see a Spirit Bear. This island is known to have the highest concentration in the world; the animals are found nowhere else but in the Great Bear Rainforest. Nearly 50 percent of the estimated 100 to 150 bears on Gribbell Island are white. Marven Robinson, a resident of Hartley Bay, acted as our guide for the day. Marven is a true champion of his people and the Great Bear Rainforest. He had also just recently acted as a guide for National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen for the cover article surrounding the Spirit Bear in the August 2011 issue. We knew we were in good company.

Martin Ryer A short and informative hike from our mooring alongside the edge of Gribbell Island led to a bear viewing platform above a tranquil and slow-moving river filled with salmon. It was a perfect setting. After getting my camera equipment set up, it didn’t take long for a very large black bear to appear out of the forest. This particular bear, I was told, had a favorite place to catch and feed on salmon and sure enough the bear went to that exact spot. A couple of hours passed, and though optimistic given the population of Spirit Bears here, I started to wonder if I actually would see one. As I pondered this, I will never forget the loud whisper from someone to my right. “Look, a Spirit Bear.” I looked anxiously. At first I didn’t see it, but then it appeared from behind a log farther down the river. It was a majestic entrance and a moment I will remember forever. That day three other Spirit Bears came to the river and some right in front of the viewing platform. Having spent much time exploring remote areas of Vancouver Island and the Central and North Coasts of British Columbia, I can recall several experiences that stand out, but none really more than this moment. Martin lives and in the Comox Valley and paddles on Vancouver Island and the surrounding areas. As a photographer he’s provided with endless opportunities for sea kayaking and photography. See Martin's website mryerblog.com.

The Great Bear II.


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A kayak trip of the Broken Group Islands & Clayoquot Sound brings memories that will last a life time. Explore the hundreds of islands, white sandy beaches and temperate rain forests. Paddle through clear sparkling waters and photograph the abundant wildlife. Watch the sunset and stay up for the stars, sleep beneath the forest canopy or on the beach, Nutritious meals are freshly prepared. Our guests tell us that what they like most is that we are friendly, organized, professional and knowledgeable. For 20+ years, we have been delivering a fantastic experience that is truly majestic…



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oceankayaking.com WILD COAST MAGAZINE



Coastal tales #2: Sheila Porteous


om, can we do one of those miserable trips to

somewhere beautiful?” This was my adult daughter’s request a few summers ago when she had just two weeks to visit her family after returning from a year of university in Germany. Raised camping, hiking, canoeing and playing in the wilderness, my daughter had spent 12 months in an urban jungle surrounded by buildings and concrete, and was now longing for the coastline of Vancouver Island. Kiera’s request filled my heart, for throughout her teenage years, Kiera claimed to hate kayaking and backpacking, even though I still ‘made’ her do it. Some of our best times spent together as a family involved exploring remote wilderness locations of BC, and what better way to reconnect with a loved one than enjoying time together unplugged. The destination for this adventure was already in my mind. The summer before I had rounded Cape Scott in a kayak and spent a few nights in San Josef Bay. I discovered that this bay had hike-in options and so planned to return as soon as possible. When my daughter arrived in Canada, we prepared our packs, grabbed a strong friend and headed to the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. The trailhead for San Josef Bay is a few hours west of Port Hardy and accessed via logging roads. Ironically, reaching one of the most rugged and pristine spots on the coast only requires an easy 2.5 kilometer meander down a well-groomed, wheelchair-friendly trail. Neil (the strong friend) and Kiera literally skipped down the trail in front of me having been told it was a Yellow Brick Road to paradise. The old growth forest and dense underbrush concealed the coastline until the end of the path. The trail ends in an abrupt opening that reveals kilometres of soft sandy beaches and west coast surf. Our party chose to camp at the most western end of the string of beaches past the iconic sea stacks. The parks brochure indicates that one must have an understanding of tide charts to reach this area, and generally, I agree. Fortunately, we didn’t mind the delay caused by the sea. When we reached water that was over three feet deep, and before 26


FALL 2016

The sea stacks at San Josef Bay and, inset, Kiera reconnecting.

Neil knew what had happened, Kiera and I had stripped, donned our swimsuits and were playing in the waves while we waited for the tide to recede. My daughter and I will use any excuse to swim, especially on the open coast. Neil enjoyed the break by exploring the nearby cool caves and tide pool. We had come to the northwest coast expecting rain and fog, but instead experienced a rare heat wave where the daytime temperatures climbed above 26 degrees Celsius. We set up our tents ‘cabana style’ to take advantage of the breeze. The next day Kiera and I were out of our tents and swimming again by 9 a.m. We managed to convince Neil and

Sheila Porteous

One of those

Miserable trips another family to join us this time. By mid-afternoon we sought the cool shade of the forest and sat around conversing and enjoying tea. As the sun set, we wandered the long sandy beaches, often in silent awe of the mountainous surroundings. Then we crawled into our tents on the soft sand to dream with the sound of the surf lulling us to sleep. Time on the west coast tends to morph and elongate to suit the whims of the traveler. Being able to reconnect with my daughter for a few days on the coast was a precious experience that I savored for the long winter that came after. I hope Kiera continues to enjoy our “miserable� trips together and

even passes the painful joy of outdoor exploration and adventure on to her friends and future children. Until then, I will begin planning our next foray into the wilderness. Based in Victoria, Sheila Porteous supports the recreational and professional kayaking community in BC by sitting on several executive boards, plus instructs and guides. An advocate for inclusion, access and diversity, Sheila endeavours to contribute her passion and knowledge to a network of associations that promote shared and responsible access to the BC coastline. FALL 2016




Flotsam Coastal tales #3: John Dowd


he barge washed ashore

during the night, close to my favorite fishing rocks at the eastern end of Dick and Jane’s Beach on Vargas Island. It was about the size of a flattened apartment block, a rusty mussel-encrusted platform of heavy planks built on two large steel pontoons. Each was tapered at both ends like a gigantic river catamaran. One end had a couple of box structures and a fuel drum. Against the grandeur of Catface Mountain, its sudden presence was startling. Coast Guard radio had reported that a barge, used as a landing site for helicopter logging, had broken free from a tug on its way from Winter Harbour to Ucluelet during the night. It was described as a hazard to navigation during the early morning broadcast and now there it was on our beach. “It looks like expensive junk, “ my friend Alain said as we drew closer. “Lucky it came ashore where it did, on clear sand,” I said. “It would have been destroyed on the rocks.” “Maybe it is salvage?” Alain said. My wife Bea had been out taking photos in the early morning light, and caught up with us, clicking away with her camera. “What a huge ugly beast, “ she said, “We’d better call the Coast Guard and let them know it’s here.” I went to the point for cell service and called the Coast Guard then the RCMP and finally BC Parks for good measure. As I was returning a Cessna 150 swooped low over the trees and circled tightly. Faces were pressed against the windows. “We should get an anchor from the boat shed,” I said. “If we are going to claim salvage, we need to have a line attached to this thing.” Alain and I trotted back to the house leaving Bea to guard the prize. We set the first anchor with its attendant 28


buoy out as far into the surf zone as we could reach without swimming, then returned for a second, larger one to set at an angle up the beach in case the increasing surf knocked the barge sideways onto the rocks before we could tow it out to sea. When we got back to the barge with our wheelbarrow full of rope and the second anchor (itself the subject of a prior salvage), a small white runabout of the style used by sport fishermen hovered off the surf zone facing off with Beatrice, who stood defiantly at the water's edge pointing at herself then the barge and mouthing “Mine!” in no uncertain terms. “They tried to grab our buoy,” she said. As we watched the boat, the three men aboard made another attempt to scoop up the float. By now a surf break close to four feet had built up with the rising tide. One of the men lunged for the float with a boat hook and was almost thrown into the water as a green breaker smacked into the side of the boat, almost capsizing it. They barely escaped being swept ashore but managed to scuttle for open water where they waited. “That is our barge,” the man yelled. “It is salvage,” I replied. “There is a tug with a five-thousand-pound pull on its way,” the man yelled. “Great,” I replied. The tug was one of the powerful looking aluminum work boats I’d seen pulling barges to the fish farms. It had a crew of two and FALL 2016

came alongside the white fish boat where the men held an impromptu conference as they tried to decide what to do about the fierce grey haired lady on the beach. Meanwhile I returned to the boat house and launched the inflatable. The tide was coming in fast and was half way up the beach by the time I joined the other two boats beyond the surf line. “You can’t claim that as salvage,” the tugboat skipper yelled across the water to me. He was crusty and bleary-eyed, having been up all night looking for the barge he’d lost. “I have,” I said. “I’ll call the police.” “I did already. And the Coast Guard and Parks too. They seemed real worried about oil spills.” “Oh man, this is going to be messy." He spoke briefly to a man who had been standing back listening and watching. “Okay I’ll tell you what, I’ll pay you five

John Dowd

among the crew and passed it over. A seaman climbed into my boat and we ran a light line through the surf to shore. He then pulled a heavier line from the tug and made it fast to the barge that was by then mostly afloat. Tension came on the line and the sea astern the tug frothed and seethed. Slowly the barge moved and broke free. It went out through the surf zone and was on her way. We walked back to the house for a late breakfast laughing and discussing what to do with the money. By the time we reached the front door, we had agreed on the perfect solution: We’d donate it to The Friends of Clayoquot Sound – for their fight against helicopter logging in the area, naturally. hundred dollars cash to take our line ashore and make it fast to the barge.” I considered the offer for about half a second. I certainly did not want their junky old barge. For me it was a fun game. For them

it was a big worry. “Deal,” I said. “But your guy must be the one to attach the line.” “No problem.” The skipper collected the cash from

John Dowd is an adventurer, writer and photojournalist with a wide range of credits under his belt. He is the author of Hogsty Reef and Rare and Endangered. He lives on Vancouver Island.

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Magical light O

ne of my favorite things

about paddling the BC coastline is the way light is accentuated, diffused, bent, filtered and muted to create impossible colors and a million shades of grey. The precipitation that created the world’s largest temperate rainforest can provide greyness in seemingly endless quantities, but in smaller doses it interacts with light and makes magic. Paddling in fog or overcast skies you may experience a visual transformation of dark monotones changing to silvers that suddenly erupt into violent explosions of color. Longer angles of sunlight passing through moisture suspended in the air can bathe us in unworldly colors without names. There is a particular magic light that occurs when the sky has a low overcast or a thin fog layer and the sun tries hard to work its way though. Everything is in shades of silver and grey. The water is in motion and reflects light like mercury. The cloud cover thins in places and beams of sunlight break through, exploding then disappearing. Once while traveling the Outside Passage, Dave Resler, Greg Polkinghorn and I had camped near Monckton Inlet with the intent of crossing Otter Channel to Campania Island. We were up at 3:30 a.m. to paddle the six-plus nautical miles to the end of Pitt Island to arrive at low slack tide. Otter separates

Coastal tales #4: Jon Dawkins

Pitt and Campania Islands and each tidal exchange pushes and pulls huge amounts of water through this 2.6-nautical mile wide channel. That might sound wide, but in reality it is a restriction that can create conditions that need to be considered by vessels of any

size. Any wind opposing current here can be bad news, so we were up before the wind foregoing breakfast and instead fueled only on an energy bar to maximize our 11-minutelong window of slack water. We would eat later.


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FALL 2016


Jon Dawkins

Photo by Dave Resler By the time we were loaded and left the inlet there was a bit of light filtering through the fog creating a world of dark monotones. We paddled southeast down the coast of Pitt as the sky lightened and introduced some dark greys. After two hours of paddling in fog we reached Fleishman Point and started our crossing. The fog was lifting but the sky, while still thick, was now silver-grey. The air was cool and moist and each breath produced a wonderfully crisp and silver-white cloud. Low overcast reduced the north shore of Campania to a narrow line on the horizon while Pitt disappeared in the fog off our sterns. Continuing across the channel the sea state changed as currents intermingled and interacted with the building southwest breeze. Accentuated by the far shore we could see the mist from the exhalation of whales. The plumes stood in the air, highlighted against the dark background of Campania’s forested slopes. I counted seven of them rising up towards a long snake-like cloud that formed beneath the cloud deck. As we drew near it became clear that what had appeared to be a large group of whales was actually a single adult and a calf resting just outside of the kelp. The sound of their long, soft breathing carried across the water and their plumes stood like tall, silver wraiths marching slowly up Otter Channel. Each breath hung in the air long after the next was issued, eventually dissipating near the downwind edge of the snake-like cloud. Our path took us just west of the pair over a silver-grey sea as the black backs of the resting whales glistened in the magic light. Jon Dawkins is a veteran of the outdoor equipment industry and is active in hiking, climbing, cycling, skiing, hang gliding and paddling.

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FALL 2016

Keith Nicol

When herring spawn


hen we moved across the

country from Corner Brook, Newfoundland to Courtenay in the fall of 2014, we were immediately awestruck by the pink and chum salmon runs. Not only was it impressive seeing the salmon swim up the shallow creeks that drain into the Puntledge River, but also seeing all the seals, sea lions and eagles that were attracted to this salmon buffet. In the spring we were treated to another impressive biological rush of activity associated with the annual herring run. Fortunately the weather in early March was sunny , warm and windless for close to a week. Our herring adventure started on March 1 when a friend sent us an email reporting that he had been cycling past Point Holmes and that he had seen lots of activity in the water just offshore. Don wrote, "I saw hundreds of gulls, sea lions, and one man kayaking through the green water of the herring spawn." So the next day, with sun and light winds in the forecast, our kayaks were loaded up and it was off to Point Holmes to see this action for ourselves. Immediately the barking of sea lions and the squawking of circling gulls could be heard and there were even people fishing for herring from the end of the boat launch. The silvery herring seek out shallow

Coastal tales #5: Keith and Heather Nicol estuaries and bays for spawning and arrive in such large numbers that they colour the water green with the milt from the males. They typically prefer eel grass, sea weed and other submerged vegetation for spawning and each female may lay as many as 20,000 eggs. But perhaps even more remarkable is that once spawning is set in motion, all of the herring in the area begin to spawn. This may produce densities of six billion eggs per square meter and the milt colours the water green for kilometers along the shore. This abundance helps attract many predators to feast on the herring and the eggs from both above and below the water. To sit in a kayak in the middle of this frenzy

of activity is simply amazing, and it has been our highlight of paddling so far in BC. Seals popped their heads up everywhere, often having herring in their mouths, and groups of sea lions barked loudly, adding to the excitement. The numerous rocks were perfect places for eagles to congregate and we had a great time taking their pictures with the snow-capped mountains of the mainland in the background. What a great introduction to paddling along the B.C. coast.

FALL 2016

Keith and Heather Nicol are avid sea kayakers, skiers and hikers and have written over 800 magazine and newspaper articles as well as two books. keithnicol.blogspot.ca/




Join Claudia Schwab on a photo journey to her favourite fall colour destinations



FALL 2016



The colour of


An evening view from Mount Strachan on Vancouver’s North Shore looking north along the Howe Sound Crest at the Lions.

FALL 2016





hen summer is coming to

an end, it is often a great time to get out for some hiking and exploring. The weather is more stable, bugs are less frequent and high elevation hikes are as snow-free as they will get. And fall has another treat in store for outdoor enthusiasts: fantastic colours can be found with the right timing at the right location. Blueberry bushes, mountain ash and elder put on displays in many shades of yellow, orange and red in the alpine. Vine maple, cottonwoods and aspen trees show off their colours at lower elevation. The time for best colour viewing varies, but generally it extends over several weeks throughout September and October. This spectacle is based on biochemistry. It is caused by a change in the mix of molecules of different light-absorbing properties: chlorophyll (the photosynthesis molecule), carotenoids and anthocyanins. Almost all broad-leafed trees have tender leaves that don’t survive harsh and cold conditions and the leaves are shed when winter approaches. Shorter daylight and colder temperatures activate this process. During summer both chlorophyll and carotenoids (which are also found in many fruits and vegetables such as carrots) are present in leaves, with the green chlorophyll masking the yellow/orange carotenoids. In fall, when the production of chlorophyll drops off, the yellows and oranges are revealed. Changes also occur in the metabolism of sugars and other molecules, which triggers the anthocyanins (the reds and purples) to be newly produced. Fall colours can be found right in Vancouver’s backyard in the North Shore Mountains. One of my favorite areas to check for fall colours is Mount Strachan at the Cypress Bowl ski area. The quickest way to the summit is on the ski runs and access roads to the top lift station of Sky Chair. On the ridge northeast of the lift station, spectacular views of Howe Sound are to be had and great fall colours can be found. This hike is especially rewarding on days when the city and Howe Sound are covered by inversion clouds and the mountaintops are basking in sunshine. It’s a bit of a scramble to get to the proper summit of Mount Strachan (at 1,459 metres). Look for a trail at the northeast end of the ridge behind the chairlift. The trail drops about 50 metres into a col and then climbs to the true summit with some easy scrambling required. 36


FALL 2016

FALL DESTINATIONS Fall at Yellow Aster Butte in the Mount Baker area, with Mount Baker in the centre horizon. Also what to look for: bright yellow fern frond, below left; Vine maple leaves in lower elevation forests, center; and blueberry and huckleberry leaves turning bright red and yellow.

FALL 2016



VANCOUVER COAST MOUNTAIN Golden Larches and Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires in Washington’s North Cascades Park. Below: mountain ash berries and leaves.

Mount Strachan can also be reached by taking the Howe Sound Crest Trail to Strachan Meadows. There are no signs, but from the meadows a faint trail leads into Christmas Gulley and after some scrambling over rocks up a creek bed to the col. Mount Seymour also has a nice colour display. From the parking lot, a trail leads up to Brockton Point and Pump Peak (1-1.5 hours one way). The trail continues to Second Peak (Tim Jones Peak) and Mount Seymour proper (at 1,449 metres, 2-3 hours one way).

Another good area for fall colour watching is the Chilliwack Valley. The hike up Mount Cheam (2,104 metres) is popular enough that it takes an early start to score a parking spot at the trailhead on sunny weekend days (though there is more parking along the logging road). To get to the trail, head from Chilliwack Lake Road on Foley Creek Forest Service Road and Chipmunk Forest Service Road. A four-wheeldrive vehicle is required. The hiking trail passes Spoon Lake and traverses the side of Lady Peak onto the south slopes of Mount Cheam,

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FALL 2016

which in September are painted in red by blueberry leaves (don’t forget to sample tasty leftover late blueberries). Once on the peak, the view opens up into the Fraser Valley 2,000 metres below and across the valley to Harrison Lake. Two-wheel-drive options to see alpine colours in the Chilliwack Valley are Elk Mountain (take Highway 1 Prest Road exit, then Bailey Road and Elk View Road) or the full day trip up to 1,953-metre-high Flora Peak with the trailhead almost all the way to Chilliwack Lake on Chilliwack Lake Road.

FALL DESTINATIONS Compared to North Shore and Chilliwack Valley, the Coquihalla area is less busy. A great hike to see fall colours is up to Illal Meadows. At the 19-km marker on Tulameen Forest Service Road, a spur road leads to the trailhead (lack of four-wheel-drive adds about 2.5 km one way to the hike). The area is well worth an overnight trip with many peaks to bag. But choose your camp spot carefully. When we visited the wind was so relentless all night that we considered taking down the tent fly. The lack of branches on the windward side of the few scrubby trees showed that this is not a rare occurrence. A trip south of the border to the Mount Baker area offers smooth two-wheel-drive roads to alpine fall colours right at the trailhead at Artist Point, Ptarmigan Ridge or Chain Lakes at Mount Baker ski area. It is not just deciduous trees that change colours in fall; there are also needle trees that shed in winter: the larches! The golden larch forests are a more typical sight in the Interior and the Rockies, but some stands of these trees can be found in the Coast Mountains. Late September and early October is the time for them to put on their golden fall attire. Although of small size, some of these trees have the ripe old age of 2,000 years. It takes a

long 30-km round-trip hike and considerable elevation gain to reach the summit of 2,408-metre-high Frosty Mountain in Manning Park, but the views are magnificent and the larch groves at Frosty’s base are especially scenic if there is already some snow on the ground (which can make for tricky and exhausting hiking conditions). There are easier ways to see the larches. One very popular place is Blue Lake, reached in an hour's hike from the trailhead on North Cascades Highway (Hwy 20) in Washington. The beautiful turquoise lake is surrounded by the granite towers of Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires. Golden larches line its shores. Before setting out on hikes in fall, there are some things to consider that are different from summer conditions: days are getting shorter and it is easy to get caught out in the

dark, so plenty of time should be allowed. When night temperatures drop below zero, snowy and icy sections can build up and should be crossed with care. If the summits already received their first snow cover, it may be best to pack some traction devices like microspikes. On fall hikes tasty berries and edible mushrooms are an added bonus for the ones who can tell the edible from the poisonous. But bears are feasting in the same places, so don’t disturb or surprise them. Timing of the best colour displays depends very much on weather and is different from year to year. Sunny days with cool nights (but above freezing temperatures) in fall after a summer that provided enough precipitation are the best conditions for brilliant colours. Late summer drought and persistent early frost are less than optimal and can end the display prematurely. Claudia Schwab is a neurobiologist on sabbatical and on the quest to get back to the roots of biology. She is also a whitewater guidebook author and avid photographer. But most of all she enjoys wild places; be it on a hiking trail, in a kayak, on skis or in the air under a fabric wing.

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f all the pioneer names in British

Columbia that have survived through the generations, perhaps the most unusual is Maria Mahoi. She was not a politician, nor wealthy coal baron, explorer or Hudsons Bay Company official. Rather, she was a mother. And yet that alone has been enough to earn her a place of honour and have her homestead enshrined as an integral part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Her defining trait was her spirit, which allowed her and her family to flourish at a time when Maria had every reason to be

suppressed, being twice indigenous – as both a Hawaiian and as a British Columbian native. "She was a woman who had a value of success and wanting to achieve that, a woman who was entirely a mother and a

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great-grandmother also," says grandson Larry Bell. "She did that by the legacy of her values and her convictions." Her home was Russell Island, a beautiful spot set in the entrance to Fulford Harbour off Salt Spring Island. Salt Spring became an unlikely haven for Hawaiians who came first for work and then settled out of necessity, as their aboriginal status in the United States denied them basic rights such as the ability to own land. In all Maria raised a dozen children on the Russell Island homestead, with the 1903 building still standing today. "She was born in the time when Vancouver Island was still a small fur trade post, but she lived into the 1930s. She went through a large span of time and she did it in a very positive and very effective fashion," says Jean Barman, author of Maria Mahoi of the Islands. "She was a woman who was resourceful and resilient at the times that she had to be and she also had a large family of a dozen or so children and very much took care of that family and oversaw that." A volunteer park host program allows tours of the homestead through the summer


season, many of whom are descendants of Maria. There is no passenger service to the island, but for kayakers it makes a great day trip from a launch in Fulford Harbour or as a side trip from the popular campsites on nearby Portland Island, also part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Boaters can anchor on

the inside facing Fulford Harbour. A crushed shell beach on the island's southwest side is a good landing spot while visiting boaters will appreciate the dinghy jetty. Maria Mahoi of the Islands is published by New Star Books, newstarbooks.com, with a new version due out soon.

Above left: the 1903 homestead. Above: a view of the outer bluffs on Russell Island. Opposite page: a view of the anchorage from the crushed shell beach and the cover image showing Maria Mahoi from the book Maria Mahoi and the Islands.


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Easy vistas



FALL 2016



n easy vista? Well, maybe 'easy is understating it. There

Soames Hill offers what may be the Sunshine Coast's best view for the effort

are, after all, 434 steps to reach the top – not to mention the various additional dirt scrambles, roots and climbs up exposed bedrock. So you may need a break on the way up. Or six. No matter. In the end it is more a good workout than a torturous climb, and the reward is a view that will make it all worthwhile. At the 240-metre summit are several chances for eagle-eye viewpoints over the north entrance to Howe Sound and across to the many islands that dot the waters off Gibsons Landing. Gibsons Landing may be familiar to you if you are one of the earlier generations of Canadians who grew up watching The Beachcombers in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. If you do remember Relic and the others, you'll know that few things are as ingrained as deeply into the Canadian psyche as that television series based out of Molly's Reach. Gibsons, naturally, has cashed in on that fame and so the presentday waterfront restaurant Molly's Reach is usually busy with customers, probably a good majority of whom are more than a touch gleeful to be sitting at the namesake location that figured so prominently in an era when the world was so much simpler. The simplicity follows on a trip up Soames Hill. You need no fancy equipment, no trip planning and no special skills. Just sturdy shoes and the tenacity to reach the top.

Above: Wild Coast skipper Yoshi looks across Howe Sound, as do a pair of other hikers (left). Right: a look at the steps that lead to the summit. FALL 2016






FALL 2016


Discover your Nature.

Top: The view south over Gibsons Landing and the entrance of Howe Sound. Keats Island is to the left. Above: the Sunshine Coast Regional District map of Soames Hill Park. To download a full-page copy, click on the map in the online version of the magazine.

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Volume 1: West Coast Vancouver Island North u

Volume 1 covers the north and west coasts of Vancouver Island, from Port Hardy to Bamfield including the Cape Scott region, Kyuquot Sound, Quatsino Sound, Nootka Sound, Clayoquot Sound and Barkley Sound.

Desolation Sound is one of British Columbia’s top cruising and kayaking destinations, but there is so much more to discover than just the namesake waterway. The surrounding Discovery Islands and their waterways offer one of British Columbia’s most varied travel destinations, with remote wilderness, frequent community centres for services, mountainous fjords, a number of provincial parks and off-beat camping locations. This mapsheet details it all, in oversize 22x32” format that folds to a handy 4x11” size for easy transport and storage. Made on synthetic paper it is waterproof and virtually indestructible. You won’t want to travel here without it.

The Broken Group/Barkley Sound: The Broken Group Islands are one of the most popular kayaking destinations on the British Columbia coast – and for good reason. There are a myriad of islands, serene passages and campsites to explore, as well as sea caves, historic locations and wildlife galore. This mapsheet details all of that in large 22” x 32” format, double sided, waterproof and tearproof synthetic paper.

Our other Recreation Maps: Our series of coastal recreation maps covers all the key regions of the British Columbia coast. Available for: • The Gulf Islands • Clayoquot Sound • Broughton Islands/Johnstone Strait

www.thewildcoast.ca FALL 2016





FALL 2016

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