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Summer 2016

The North Coast Trail revisited


Eight years after its opening, Wild Coast revisits the trail to read what’s been written in the sand.

The long road from Sea to Sky

Issue #3 The latest BC Marine Trails segment is now open in Howe Sound.


PM 41687515

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Sea to Sky Marine Trail



The Great Bear Rainforest About this issue’s cover photo Wild Coast Publishing has been representing Mothership Adventures since first started publishing Wavelength Magazine in 2008. Ross, Miray and the rest of the Campbell family of Sonora Island have been running their coastal cruises aboard the MV Columbia through the Great Bear Rainforest for years now, so you can imagine how they have amassed an amazing collection of images, including this one of a grizzly at work. You can join them on one of their trips to see for yourself, but you’ll have to be patient – they are now booking for 2017.

8 North Coast Trail

Gwaii Haanas SUMMER 2016



WILD COAST MAGAZINE: Adventures? We’re just getting started! Wild Coast Magazine is proud to be producing our third edition of the Adventure Tour Guide. It’s a chance to visit locations and check out travel options that you may never otherwise see. Join the famous Canada Day barbecue on Saturna Island July 1. Thinking of a yoga retreat? Why not combine that with a kayak getaway? Looking for training? We have that covered too. As well as coastal boat tours and even some adventure accommodation.


COAST Magazine

Summer 2016  Who we are:

Volume 2, Number 3 PM No. 41687515

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.

Soar to incredible heights with us

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. In addition, you can subscribe to ensure you never miss a copyÜ.

What is it like to soar along some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world? Find out with us by joining us on Facebook. We cull the world for the most interesting and relevant articles, videos and photography to share places and things you might not have thought possible.

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

We just passed one million impressions on issuu Wild Coast Publishing has been using as its main online publishing service since 2012. Four years later we crossed a milestone – 1 million online impressions. Okay, that number doesn’t mean they all read us. But it’s still a nice milestone to pass! Here’s to the next million! 4



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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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Skirting the

Salish Sea


he concept was unveiled at a ceremony last year in

Vancouver’s English Bay on World Water Day, and it was an easy one for the audience to bite into philosophically – creating a Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary. There is certainly a valid precedent, as the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches along the central California coast from San Francisco to Cambria, creating a political and geographic base for promoting environmental protection, stewardship and ocean research. The Salish Sea version would be even larger. But it is just one part of a bioregional watershed strategy being espoused by the Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary Foundation, led by Bellingham resident Doug Tolchin, that could best be described as a treatise. The central founding document begins “We the people” and contains eight articles proclaiming everything from restoring natural wildlife population levels to reducing pollution by more than 50 percent. It also aims to produce more than half the region’s energy usage from solar sources. In other words, it looks at a sweeping range of initiatives well beyond the scope of a marine sanctuary. Despite the broad goals, one straightforward concept is the idea of a Salish Sea Coastal Trail. And again, the precedent has been set, with such coastal trails stretching the length of California and Oregon. “The Salish Sea Coastal Trail is like the missing piece of the coastal trails,” Tolchin says. “Our 1,000-kilometre trail is quite reasonable in scope in comparison, and probably 50 percent of the trail is already in place.” It’s a statement that probably better applies to Washington. But as more than half of the Salish Sea coast is within Canada, the trail is envisioned to border the Strait of Georgia along Vancouver Island


Partly a marine sanctuary, partly a coastal trail, partly a manifesto to change the world, watch for it on a ballot near you soon. Maybe.

and the Sunshine Coast to the Discovery Islands, a region bisected by channels and passages that will be the bane of any trail planner. As an example, the proposed trail route is pencilled in along a section of coast the Trans Canada Trail found to be impossible to use – the shoreline of Howe Sound (see the Sea to Sky Marine Trail feature starting on page 12 for details on that route). So while the full route may be in the hazy dreamworld stage at this point, Tolchin is rather more down to earth about the prospects for realizing it on the Washington State side. For starters, the experience from two other coastal states means valuable details, such as a cost analysis, are already available to be adopted for Washington. Tolchin sees it as connecting the dots between existing trail segments. “So that’s the key – to identify the gaps and then organize the public will, budget and scope of work and design to complete those gaps.”

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---- Watershed Boundary Coastal Trail

BC Marine Trails creates coastal team

The BC Marine Trails Network Association is hoping to create some interest on the coast this year by creating a team of talented and inspirational paddlers to share stories, adventures, images and memories of their adventures on the coast. The Coastal Journeys Team was launched April 1 and you can keep up to date on who's who and who's doing what on the Coastal Journeys media centre. :;,

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The Salish Sea Coastal Trail in its early stages of route development.

There’s even the chance to drop the trail concept on a Washington State ballot, as happened in California. “Somebody put it on the ballot to provide a pedestrian-bicycle trail the whole length of California and the voters voted yes, so it became a mandate the state has to work to fulfill,” Tolchin says.

Wild Coast photo to get artistic touch A Wild Coast photo has been chosen as one of a group of images to be painted for an art exhibition this fall by Vancouver Island artist Derek Rickwood. You can follow the progress of the work on the Wild Coast Facebook page as each phase is painted.

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A warm return

in Haida Gwaii


hen the water drained

from the pools at Hot Spring Island in Gwaii Haanas National Park after a major earthquake in 2012, people waited like family members surrounding a loved one in a coma hoping for a sign of life. But as the months passed and the pools remained dry, hope faded that the hot spring would ever return to its previous level. “We did hear from the leading experts that if it didn’t come back in six months it never would,” says Gwaii Haanas National Park Field Unit Superintendent Ernie Gladstone. “That’s being proven wrong.” The island, also known by the Haida name Gandle K’in, is famous for its spring on the southwest side of the island where water had historically reached 76°C. The island has also been given other names through history, including Smokey Bay by Joseph Ingraham when he sailed through

the region in 1791, and Volcanic Island by Francis Poole in 1862. The pools of ‘Hot-Water-Island,” the interpretation of the Haida name Gandle K’’in, had a reputation as a sacred place for healing and spiritual qualities, and became the location for a small village for a time. The earthquake on Oct. 27, 2012 was centred on Moresby Island in the Haida Gwaii archipelago – the second largest Canadian earthquake recorded by a seismometer. Residents at Masset, Skidegate, Sandspit and Queen Charlotte City were moved to higher ground, but fortunately the tsunami never amounted to more than a few small waves. “We went back early in the new calendar

year with some of our science people with some heat detecting equipment and we detected some heat returning around the shoreline area,” Gladstone says. “And since then we’ve been continually monitoring pools of all water sources we knew about prior to the earthquake, and both the temperature and the water have started to come back. And they’ve been steadily increasing very, very slowly, although nowhere near where they were. But it’s interesting. There seems to be something different, maybe a little higher water temperature, each time we go down,” he says. Water has recently been measured as high as 70°C.

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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.”

Photo by Brady Yu/Parks Canada


Water levels are tested while sitting in the bed of the old pool, with the water level a far cry from the historic level that filled this basin.

The main problem now is the water is limited to an intertidal pool flushed twice a day by high tide. Meanwhile, the higher pools aren’t getting enough water to fill them – yet. But there is the possibility of creating new pools. “We think that there’s enough water now that if it doesn’t come back to the way we once knew it, there’s probably enough water to hold some pools in some other areas, but we haven’t gone there yet. We’re still hoping water will return to the old pools.”

In the meantime, the Haida Watchmen have brought artists to the island to do artwork such as carving and weaving, making it a great opportunity to visit with Haida artists as they work. Or you can simply enjoy the island. “It’s a nice place to walk around. It’s small enough you can walk around the entire island in a couple of hours and there’s a trail down the middle through old-growth forest,” Gladstone says. “It’s a nice quiet place to visit.”

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The Marine Conservation Society is urging the public to avoid single-use plastic items in June – bottles, sandwich wrappers and pre-packaged meals. It’s a start to fight ocean debris. SUMMER 2016




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Paddle Fest returns for second year

Race series hits Vancouver Island

The end game is to build a paddlesports boathouse in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, but this part of the path to getting there is a chance to paddle together, race in kayaks and generally have fun. Hosted by the Nanaimo Boathouse Society, the weekend takes place at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay and will include a number of short races for paddlers of all abilities in several categories, with the longer ‘Nanaimo Shack Attack’ race for more experienced paddlers. There will be displays, presentations by pros, demonstrations and instruction for all skill levels in canoes, kayaks, dragon boats, outrigger canoes, stand-up paddleboards and other watersports. Instruction clinics and races involve a small fee. The rest is free. It’s also a chance to paddle in a flotilla with Bob Purdy, founder of ‘Paddle for the Planet,’ with a chance to talk to Bob and hear about his travels and environmental passion.

In the last issue we told you of a group heading through southern Patagonia to forge a kayaking route. They made it, but it wasn’t easy – including a harsh two-week cold front that stalled them.

A new island race series combining paddling and biking is simply the founder’s way to share his love of his favorite places. “Every year I go to Hornby Island and circumnavigate the island by bike, run Helliwell and paddle Tribune Bay ,“ says Paws for Nature founder Marc St. Jules. “I time it with the Hornby Island Music Fest and spend a full week savouring all the elements of the majestic island, treating myself to yoga classes, massage and the ultimate plant-based fuel from the farmers market,” he says. One client who joined him summed it up and planted the seed of the idea: “You need to bottle this!” The result is a new race series with destinations a treasure map of locations and experiences on Vancouver Island, including Hornby Island, Courtenay, Comox, Ucluelet, Shawnigan, Campbell River and the finale in October in Gold River. The Paws for Nature race series is designed to promote human power, awareness, education and sustainability while providing first-class events based around paddling, biking and running with what St. Jules calls “realistic“ distances suitable for weekend warriors. Racing times are estimated between two and three hours with course distances varying between 2km to 5km for the paddle, 8km to 12km for the bike and 3km to 5km for the run with the exception of the Klondike, which is a 5km paddle, 30km road bike and finishes with the “ Ridge to Ridge “ 10km run. St. Jules calls it North America’s most scenic run as it follows two rivers and two lakes at a higher elevation. Events will take place Saturdays with a limited number of individual and team categories in each race.

May 28-29

Team forges route through Patagonia


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t was like kids turning over rocks on a new beach. The

pair of BC Marine Trails explorers had no idea what they might find when they first set out to look for sites for a marine trail in Howe Sound. It was in the early days, even before Mick Allen and Nick Heath had spent any time looking at maps or land use designations, but there it was – their first indication that a marine trail might work. All it took was finding the first perfect camping area to provide the inspiration. “It was this gorgeous little site. It was very difficult to access, very rocky, but it had gorgeous little bluff camping sites with south views, not unlike Thornborough Channel, but more exquisite I would say,” Allen recalls. “We clambered up onto it and noticed people had actually been camping there before. And then out on the bluff all these little shelf areas had room for about a two- or three-person tent, a gorgeous little place. That was the first one we found and the first one we really realized there are possibilities in Howe Sound that we could maybe get developed into sites.” It remained a marine trail best-kept secret for many years. Not every site they found could be immediately incorporated into the Sea to Sky Marine Trail when it was officially opened last year, but it was on the list for a later addition – until they had a chance to revisit the site just recently. “We noticed a logging road had been built right through it, a landing had been done and it had basically been blown up, just dynamited. This wonderful little bluff, half of it was completely demolished and it was just astounding, heartbreaking, heartrending. Part of the reason we lost it was we just didn’t realize there would be these threats, that this threat was right there.” It was a lesson there’s an urgency to the marine trail work. “We have to get it known that we are interested in various sites so at least a conversation can be held beforehand,” Allen says. “Maybe some of these situations wouldn’t necessarily happen. You don’t always know where these threats are coming from. That one just blindsided us.” u

Howe Sound scenics. Background: Kayaking north Thornborough Channel; top: A very desirable campsite at Plumper Cove Provincial Park; above: A view north through Thornborough Channel with Port Mellon in the hazy distance.





Reefs near Defence Islands.

The dock at Porteau Cove Provincial Park.


owe Sound was never going to be the easiest location

to convert to a marine trail – everyone involved in the process knew that early. Bordering the east entrance is the huge metropolis of West Vancouver and the BC Ferries terminal at Horseshoe Bay, and as a result of urban encroachment most of the accessible land had been privatized with all too much of that involving industrial use. But what Howe Sound had in its favour was political will. Gordon McKeever was project manager of the 180-kilometre Sea to Sky Trail from Squamish through Whistler. That trail caught the attention of Trans Canada Trail organizers, who wanted to link it into their route across the country. “ We have similar history, similar objectives, et cetera, and they were hoping to see the Trans Canada Trail become a significant part of the Torch Relay Route. And that’s what brought Whistler into play, because our trail was just like their route. It went up to Whistler and that was appropriate for their objectives,” McKeever says. But the problem was the Sea To Sky Trail was disconnected from the rest of the Trans Canada Trail by the Howe Sound coast. “I knew the land route was too hard. There’s not much room along Howe Sound for anything other than the existing railway and highway that’s scratched into the mountainside. So our kind of moderate grade, arterial, metre-and-a-half wide trail wasn’t going to fit into that




landscape,” McKeever says. “I thought no problem, we’ll do the water.” That was in the mid ‘00s, when McKeever was a municipal councillor in Whistler. At about the same time the BC Marine Trails Network Association was starting up and looking at the British Columbia coast as a whole. Neither knew the other existed, so the question remained how to move the Trans Canada Trail project forward. “It just percolated there a couple of years. I came to realize it wasn’t just possible, it was desirable. So I kept pushing it forward.” Eventually the trail caught the attention of a couple of key regional recreational officers, Alistair McCrone and Theresa McMillan of Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC), the department that looks after recreational use on Crown land, including public recreation sites and trails. Their involvement of provided the necessary organizational clout to move the project forward, McKeever says. It's a central role played by RSTBC in other sections of the BC Marine Trails Network as well. “I had a need and they saw an opportunity and that was kind of the conduit. It took more than me just whining – somebody with the authority had to make it happen,” McKeever says. “And so we had some great synergy there. We already had a governance model for the Sea to Sky Trail that was working really well u


Water made turquoise by freshwater runoff and a pretty rock bluff near Squamish.





Wind and currents combine for whitecaps looking towards Britannia Creek. Timing is everything in Howe Sound, as it can get ugly.

so we knew we had the capacity to have some effective governance. What we did with the Sea to Sky Trail is we brought all the stakeholders, especially the legislative stakeholders, into the room so we had representation from each municipality; we had the SLRD [SquamishLillooet Regional District] at the table, we had BC Parks, we had RSTBC, we had First Nations, we had a lot of the people not only with the responsibility to do it but also the authority to do it,” he says. “That governance model was key so we were able to cobble together a pretty effective multi-stakeholder coalition to help drive it forward.” In the end, though, it was the BC Marine Trails that pitched in for the majority of the groundwork. “They were just workhorses,” McKeever says. “They had boats; we were out on the water together for a few years, scouring the shoreline together for opportunities. We were able to identify the better part of a couple dozen sites. We cross-referenced that against land ownership information and so saw anything that had a conflict with private land, et cetera, then got down to a list of a dozen or 10 sites, which RSTBC moved forward.”


he final tally for the grand opening was six new recreation sites in Howe Sound. With three provincial park campsites added to the mix, the combination offers enough flexibility in routes and distances to make the trail work, even if it’s still in the early stages. One of the great challenges was finding decent locations, as the best and most accessible spots in the sound had long since been




taken. But in an odd way, that almost helped. “The good stuff is all picked over,” Allen says. “The stuff left over is more dramatic to achieve a landing, as it is rocky. You don’t necessarily have great beaches left for recreational use, so you have to work at it just a little bit to get to these places, but the reward is so high,” Allen says. They realized that their role wasn’t just to select the sites, but to make them accessible. And that meant some back-breaking work clearing rocks and boulders. “Part of what we’ve volunteered to do is make these places a little more accessible in terms of finding a landing and being able to bring your kayak up and put your kayak up once you arrive,” Allen says. “So we decided we would make canoe runs in the places that needed them in the order of two metres wide. Some of these places have really big rocks on the shore so we moved them out of the way in what we call a boat run, but historically they’ve been called a canoe run.” For users, it means selecting the right weather window and from there the sound is accessible to almost everyone. “When it is calm and predictable it is spectacular paddling and spectacular scenery,” Allen says. “If you can get across the more easterly part there’s an awful lot available out there.” The initial sites are just a start, with many more in limbo in the marine trails inventory. “We’ve pored over every square inch of Howe Sound both by map and also by boat and we think that, at the outside, there could be as many as 40 sites,” Allen says.

SEA TO SKY MARINE TRAIL “That would never be realized – there’s no way we could get that many – but we think it is certainly possible to increase what we’re looking at by another two times. We think it would be pretty cool to get in the neighbourhood of 30 sites, and that would open up the whole area. The sites we have now are a little more oriented toward the north end. What we’re looking at now is expanding it into a whole island archipelago so that there are ways in which you can access Howe Sound from any location and go in any direction and go camping for week-long trips over four different years and not hit the same camping sites twice.”


owe Sound itself remains a study in contrasts – beautiful

mountain and ocean scenery, a mix of large and small islands to explore, three provincial parks and yet some of the worst industrial polluters on record. “Howe Sound didn’t have much recreation before. It was a toxic wasteland. You had some of the most egregious point sources of pollution in the land with Woodfibre and Port Mellon, but also Britannia Mine which was so lethal that if you put salmon in a cage near the mouth of Britannia Creek the salmon would be dead within hours,” McKeever says. Added to that was a chlorine plant on the Squamish waterfront. “They would routinely lose some of their product into the ecosystem so you’ve got chlorine coming in as well,” McKeever says. It was about as grim as it could get for a marine zone – between untreated sewage, chlorine spills, sulphates from both pulp mills at Port Mellon and Woodfibre and acid from the Britannia Creek copper mine, Howe Sound became labelled a marine dead zone.

“Even algae were hard to find,” writes Michelle Molnar, an environmental economist for the David Suzuki Foundation Ü. The region’s crab and prawn fisheries closed, salmon disappeared from the smaller streams, herring vanished and rockfish dropped to two percent of the historic population. Slowly, though, the picture began to change. Woodfibre closed and Port Mellon upped its game, adding cleaning technology in the late 1980s. Britannia Beach had a water treatment plant added to filter out heavy metals and eventually the ecology began to recover. Most evidence of the recovery may be underwater, but sometimes it reaches the surface. “Not too long ago I was out there with a group and we saw a small pod of killer whales swimming past the north end of Anvil Island, and that’s a pretty amazing thing to see right in close to this highly populated and previously heavily industrialized area. That speaks to the really cool ecological change that has the potential to happen in Howe Sound if we’re careful,” Allen says. “That’s one of the things we hope to encourage by getting as many marine trail places or recreational places as we can in Howe Sound.” McKeever adds that’s a key part of the puzzle. “ It’s important to inject a bit of recreation into the milieu to see if we can shift the values just a bit,” he says.


ust as the industrial backbone of Howe Sound seemed

to be broken, a new project is emerging. A Liquid Natural Gas plant is being proposed for the old Woodfibre site south of Squamish. The company, Woodfibre LNG Limited, sees it as the perfect location u

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. SUMMER 2016




Know the risks before you start

Above left: a view north from a rock islet connected to Anvil Island. Above right: the view from the dock at Halkett Bay Provincial Park.

for exporting BC’s natural gas. It is a former industrial site with a deepwater port and access to both electricity and a natural gas pipeline. The company is billing their project as revitalization of Howe Sound, the result of moving thousands of truckloads of contaminated sediment and woodchips from the foreshore of the site. In addition to that, they plan to remove about 3,000 creosotecoated piles from the foreshore and create a ‘green zone’ around Mill Creek, which runs through the middle of the project site. “All of these measures will help improve habitat for freshwater and marine fish, including herring, and will ultimately improve Howe Sound,” the company says. Woodfibre LNG is licenced to export about 2.1 million tonnes of LNG per year for 25 years, which means should the project go ahead, about once a week an LNG carrier will travel through the sound. Woodfibre’s message isn’t getting much traction locally, though, with all municipalities on Howe Sound passing resolutions opposing the proposal.

One of the more disturbing fatalities in paddlesports in recent years was the death in 2007 of two people among a group of adventure racers heading to Anvil Island to run the peak before paddling back as part of a long day of training. The group was swamped by high winds and strong waves as they left Anvil Island, with two perishing before making it back to shore. More has been written about this incident than most because of its high profile and also because of the willingness of the survivors to talk so candidly about what went wrong. The mistake was not anticipating the weather, not taking proper precautions once within poor conditions and not wearing protective gear for the cold water. For more details, click the link Ü in the online edition. Specializing in Unique Coastal Real Estate

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The opposition is based on a range of arguments, much of it focussing on the fact that the sound shouldn’t return to its industrial roots when so much progress has been made. Another source of opposition centers on the pollution – not necessarily that the plant might be a major offender, but that the scope of the project overall is a step backwards in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Then there’s the effect of what an LNG spill might do. The main source for concern is a study undertaken after Sept. 11, 2001, to assess the risk LNG tankers posed in terms of becoming a terrorist target. The study found that a large spill would create a cloud that wouldn’t evaporate but instead spread and then diminish in concentration to the point it becomes highly flammable, possibly resulting in a conflagration spread across miles. This puts West Vancouver and Bowen Island within a recognized hazard zone. The Squamish First Nation didn’t initially oppose the LNG plant, but it did give Woodfibre a list of conditions, which slowed the approval process. McKeever says it was encouraging that the First Nation community was so supportive of the Sea to Sky Marine Trail, even contributing traditional names to the trail sites. “They want these sites so they can get out there and paddle around and go camping and share and nurture that experience in their youth,” he says. In the end it was the fact that all sides were working together and supporting the trail that made it come together. “That synergy made it happen and I think we had something really special,” he says.






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Waterfront parks (land access) Kayak/small boat put-in Strait of Georgia


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Wade wisely into the LNG debate A view along the north end of Thornborough Channel.

Perfect places

Picks from the trail builders

We asked two of the key trail builders their picks for their favorite sites in Howe Sound. Here’s what they had to say: Gordon McKeever: “Ramillies Channel is where I spent the most time. It’s one of the best beaches for landing. It is a series of three beaches, actually, but the middle one is where the camping is. It is on Gambier facing Anvil. It has a natural bench sufficiently above the high water mark, there’s a great place for tents and the beach just lends itself to fires, sprawling out and camping. It’s wonderful. “I also like Islet View. It’s a wonderful site. They’re all good. What’s your favorite kid? How do you pick?” Mick Allen: “I guess Thornborough Channel. I call it the king of the mountain spot. It takes a little bit of time to walk up to it, although there are some spots right close to where you disembark, but there’s about a 200 yard walk along a trail which we developed that goes onto some rock bluffs, and when you’re up in the rock bluffs you get this spectacular southern sunny view and the whole sound is laid out at your feet.”

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Often it is difficult to distinguish emotion from fact when it comes to reasoning against an industrial initiative, and facts from propaganda when it comes to rationale in favour. To weigh for yourself, you can read the company’s perspective here: The project has received a partial go-ahead by being granted an environmental assessment certificate. You can follow the government paper trail Ü from our online edition or search “woodfibre lng epic”. Various opposition groups are lined up against the project. You can view the Future of Howe Sound Society web page here:

Discover your Nature. Imagine gliding over the ocean floor, peering down through clear green waters in a kayak. Terracentric Coastal Adventures offers a choice of wonderful day tours leaving from the picturesque harbour in Lund. Our destinations include the sandy shores of Savary Island, the archipelago of the Copeland Islands Marine Park, and for something longer, overnight trips into Desolation Sound. Guided day tours are available daily from mid May to mid September, 3.5 to 8 hours in length from $75 to $139. Overnight trips can be customized. Families are welcome, with discounted price for kids 10 and under. No experience is required! We’re the only company offering adaptive paddling equipment. SUMMER 2016




One more island saved! This view looks south from Lone Cone Trail on Meares island towards Tofino, with Stubbs/Clayoquot Island to the far right. You can see the sandy expanse off the island’s north shore facing Meares Island. The island is now a nature preserve thanks to its donation by the owner.

Clayoquot Island gifted to Nature Conservancy


ou need only pass by to see

that Clayoquot Island is remarkable. Wrapping the island’s north end is a sandy beach, an expanse to rival any tropical island despite it being just offshore from Tofino on Vancouver Island. The shame of it, of course, has been its status as a private island, so the riches beyond the fabulous beach have remained hidden. The one exception, on the Victoria Day long weekend, is a tradition that started in the late 1800s as an open house and community celebration known as Clayoquot Days. On that one day the public has been welcomed

out to the island to wander the trails and visit the gardens and old-growth forest. This year will be an especially meaningful Clayoquot Days celebration Ü, as it will be the first following the island being gifted as a nature preserve to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Susan Bloom purchased Clayoquot Island in 1990. It was a lucky save even back then, as the previous owner had hoped to subdivide it and create an island of vacation homes. Susan saw the chance and instead of developing it, created the Clayoquot Island Preserve and let most of the island return

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WEST COAST VANCOUVER ISLAND to its natural state. The settled portion was converted into a heritage garden. “From the very first time I visited and then became the owner of Clayoquot Island, my goal has been to protect the island from any more development, to preserve it in its natural wild state and to remove years and years of accumulated human garbage and refuse,” she says on the Nature Conservancy website Ü. “My recent lifetime goal is to see that this beautiful land, steeped in Canadian history, be placed into safe conservation hands and cared for in perpetuity.” The gift now places the largest and wildest portion of the island in the conservancy’s care, while a smaller portion remains private property. Officially in the books as Stubbs Island, it was the site of Vancouver Island’s first fur trading post on the west coast in the mid 1800s. It became a town called Clayoquot that at one time boasted a hotel, beer parlour, post office, school and dozens of homes. In the early 1900s its population dwindled as Tofino grew as the regional town centre. The new preserve adds 93.38 hectares to the Nature Conservancy’s portfolio. It features a mix of old-growth and mature second growth coastal western hemlock forest along with a substantial stretch of oceanfront. A boardwalk leads from the centre of the island through the forest to the western shore, where California wax-myrtle forms dense thickets reaching more than four metres – one of only a few locations the waxmyrtle can be found in coastal areas between Ucluelet and Tofino. The island’s coastal sand dunes and eel-grass beds make it an important migratory bird stopover.

Enter the open pit mining debate Most attention has been focussed on the open pit copper mine proposed for the Catface Range (shown above in a view from Vargas Island). But Selkirk Metals, a subsidiary of Imperial Metals, already infamous for the August 2014 spill of toxic tailingspond sludge at its Mount Polley mine in central BC, was also issued an exploratory drilling permit to assess opening up a gold mine on the Fandora tenure in Tla-o-qui-aht territory in south Clayoquot Sound. Opposing the mining are local First Nations as well as a host of environmental groups.


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hen politicians, logging industry representatives

and conservation groups gathered in Victoria March 1 to mark the introduction of the Great Bear Rainforest Forest Management Act into the legislature, it was an outcome worlds apart from the beginnings of the process 20 years ago. Eduardo Sousa, a negotiator for Greenpeace for the last seven years of the process, was in Victoria and couldn’t help but think in terms of the 20 years of progress the tabling of the legislation represented. “Twenty years ago we would never have thought given the conflict, the arrests, the blockade, the controversies, all that kind of stuff, that 20 years later it would lead to us not only being invited to Victoria, but to be invited to Victoria to hear the Rainforest Act being introduced,” he says.

More remarkable were the partners congratulating one another. Roll back the clock 20 years and there was a war in the woods with organizations like Greenpeace battling both the logging industry and the government. One tactic Sousa recalls was getting customers to boycott Great Bear Rainforest wood and paper products. A generation later, the reversal was complete. Those same companies they campaigned against were the companies that ended up collaborating with Greenpeace to complete the agreement. An equally stunning transition has taken place in the forest. In the late 1990s, only about four percent of the region was protected from industrial logging. Now with the new agreement, 85 percent of the 3.6 million hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest’s forested land base is off-

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Everyone at the table knew something had to be sacrificed to protect the Great Bear Rainforest. 24




THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST limits to logging. Most remarkable, perhaps, is that both environmental groups and the logging industry are on side about the agreement’s benefits – a situation that has observers wondering if environmental groups haven’t possibly given up too much in order to earn their place at the podium. The reality, though, was the framework underpinning the entire process. It had to achieve two goals normally mutually exclusive: ecological integrity for the rainforest on the one hand and a sustainable forestry industry on the other. The eventual outcome, naturally, meant a compromise on all sides. But for negotiators like Jens Wieting who participated on behalf of the Sierra Club of British Columbia, it is not just the amount of land that

has been set aside from logging, but the quality of the conservation: a significant enough representation of all ecosystems and ecological habitats to support all forms of Great Bear Rainforest ecology. That foundation is called ecosystem-based management, the new recipe for sustaining life in the Great Bear Rainforest, where decisions are now being made from the bottom of the food chain up. The result is now enough land is set aside to ensure the survival of all Great Bear Rainforest species – a spectacular turnaround for a region where just 20 years ago resource extraction was almost completely unrestricted. “For us it’s a huge success and a solution-based story,” Sousa says. “Between where we were 20 years ago and what is being protected now – and protected in law as well – is pretty significant.” u

mpromise So what was given up? And why? SUMMER 2016




What was gained: • Number of protected Areas: An increase from 136 to 144 in the latest agreement representing 2.4 million hectares, up from 2.1 million. • Amount of protection: 42 percent of the rainforest will be in protected areas (38% of the landmass), plus an additional 43% is off limits in the remainder of the region as a result of targets that companies are legally required to respect in the form of landscape level reserves. • Landscape restoration units: These reserves will set 90,000 hectares of forest aside with additional level of “spatial certainty” for damaged areas. • The amount of logging is reduced: The rate of cut will go down to 2.5 million cubic metres, a 40% reduction compared to 2006 levels, and 19% less when compared to 2009 objectives. • Legal loopholes closed: Land use objectives and the associated policies have been strengthened with landscape reserve designs now legally required, old-growth definitions have been improved, cultural objectives implemented, red and blue listed ecosystems flagged and a new bear dens objective created. • Transparency: Greater ongoing transparency will be possible through annual reporting and fiveand ten-year reviews. • First Nations involvement: First Nations have revitalized their governance and economic relationships with the province (for forestry, carbon revenues and land management), with new agreements between First Nations and logging companies.




o get an idea of the scale, the Great Bear Rainforest is about the size of Ireland (6.55 million hectares compared 8.4 million). The southern end dips down to the Discovery Islands, including Sonora Island just north of Quadra Island, and extends north to Prince Rupert and up Portland Channel at the northern end of the British Columbia coastline. Between those two extents it includes all offshore islands with the notable exceptions of both Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. About 57 percent is forested, or about 3.6 million hectares. Of the forested region, 3.1 million hectares is now off limits to logging; 550,000 hectares is still available to be logged. The amount of logging may still seem high: about 73,700 hectares of logging each year, or 2.5 million cubic metres, but Wieting is confident the new agreement has enough safeguards in the new logging rules to ensure protection of everything from riparian areas to cultural values and even bear dens. And that, he says, is enough to put his mind at ease that this new agreement does what it set out to achieve: to build in enough safeguards to protect the ecological future of the Great Bear Rainforest. “I’m very passionate about old growth forest and I understand that many would prefer there to be no old-growth logging in the Great Bear Rainforest, but the logging that will happen will be a combination of old growth and second growth forest. What we have is a package that means a very high level of certainty that rainforest ecosystems will be intact, that the bear and salmon will have a future in the Great Bear Rainforest and the rate of logging will not undermine the web of life in this region,” he says.


t’s not an outlook that has satisfied everyone, especially considering that logging is continuing seemingly unabated in some coastal regions, one example being Boat Bay in Johnstone Strait, a location directly across from the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. The planned logging also happens to border a base camp of one of the major tour operators in the region, Spirit of the West. Spirit of the West owner Rick Snowdon is hopeful that a review of the second phase of the logging under what is called a visual quality objective review will change the logging proposal. But if not, it means potentially abandoning the base camp. “By the time they go ahead with all three


of the cuts I wouldn’t feel comfortable running trips there the way we had been running trips. I don’t feel in good conscience that we could sell people on a base camp that takes them to the middle of a clearcut. And that’s what they’ll feel like when they look around them,” he says. For some observers, the fact logging can still adversely affect tourism, despite all the measures being introduced, calls the whole process in question. One critic is Bruce McMorran, who runs the Paddlers Inn in the nearby Broughton Archipelago. “Boat Bay is already in the Great Bear Rainforest,” he says. “So how can they be logging waterfront across from Robson Bight in the Great Bear Rainforest if it’s 85 percent protected? That area is part of the 15 percent still open for business. Does that make sense, right across the street from Robson Bight, to still be open for business even though it’s designated as part of Great Bear Rainforest?” McMorran is hopeful the Great Bear Rainforest protection will dovetail with other initiatives such as making the region a World Whale Heritage Site (more on that in the next issue of Wild Coast Magazine). But given experiences like Boat Bay, he remains skeptical. “You have all these different interest groups and designations and all this stuff going on, and when I look out the window I don’t see any changes. I see the same kind of stuff that’s been going on forever as far as logging, resource extraction and continuing plummeting lack of public input on anything.”


he villain is that logging continues to remain in the highest concentration in the southern extremities of the Great Bear Rainforest boundary, where traditional logging is highest, where access is easiest and the human population most widespread. This includes the region of the northern Discovery Islands and through the BroughtonJohnstone region. The whole area is part of a different designation within the Great Bear Rainforest agreement in recognition of the historically higher level of logging. Essentially, there was less there to preserve to make it a priority for a greater level of protection. “It’s been whacked, frankly, compared to other areas of the Great Bear,” Sousa says. Much of the blame he puts squarely on the major timber operator in the region: Timberwest.



A tranquil moment in Fish Egg Inlet in the central coast, where the north border to the inlet is protected and the southern open to partial logging. “What was happening was we had one major operator, Timberwest, operating with a, shall we say, flexible or loose understanding of ecosystem-based management,” he says. “There was logging in areas they should have been setting aside for conservation, they had strange definitions of old growth. It was just really problematic.” Their forestry practices were actually brought to light by a Sonora Island family, the Campbells, operators of Mothership Adventures. Their participation in the process brought negotiators down to a more earthly scale, Sousa says. “They were able to groundtruth a lot of the ideas being proposed. So we’re really grateful to them,” he says. “ When you’re operating at that level [at the negotiating table] it’s actually really hard to see what’s going on at the ground level. It’s a huge area, so it’s hard to be everywhere at once. We were able to road-test a number of ideas around how to close some of the loopholes that Timberwest had found in the way they

were operating in the southern part of the Great Bear Rainforest.” One of those loopholes was the structure of a reserve, an area set aside not to be logged. Previously, reserves were not legally binding, and Timberwest used that to its advantage, creating liquid reserve boundaries. “They would develop a reserve and then they would later maybe decide to change their mind and that they would actually like to log this 80-year-old forest, take it out of the reserve and put some younger forest into the reserve design,” Wieting says. Ensuring the reserve is maintained meant including one of the more bizarre aspects of the rainforest agreement – conditions that carry forward until the year 2,264. “That means in 20 years you cannot take out your older second growth and put in a young forest as that would result in always having a mix of young and old, of logged and unlogged forest and reserve. We want to close this loophole,” Wieting says. u SUMMER 2016

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What was left out: • Trophy hunting: Grizzly bear trophy hunting was not addressed in the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, despite calls from most First Nations to end the practice. • Pipelines and tankers: The agreement does not prohibit tankers and pipelines within the Great Bear Rainforest. • Old-growth still being logged: New logging will be a combination of oldgrowth and second-growth, but with a cap for the amount of old-growth available for logging. • Mining: Rather than eliminate mining stakes and claims within the Great Bear Rainforest, a classification of land use was utilized that incorporates the possibility of mining within specific zones within the Great Bear Rainforest. • Gribbell Island: The island with the highest concentration of kermode bears has been given a lower status of protection where mining, logging and tourism are acceptable uses in some conditions. • The southern Discovery Islands: Quadra, Cortes and Redonda islands were not included within the Great Bear Rainforest boundary, with the border ending at Sonora Island. • Other regions of BC not included: The Great Bear Rainforest now exists as a region under ecosystem-based management whereas the rest of BC and in particular Vancouver Island protection levels remain “dismal.” • Monitoring and oversight: Provincial cutbacks mean it is questionable whether the province can effectively monitor in the field to ensure compliance.



Bear prints in the sand at Koeye River, in the midst of a huge protected area on the BC mainland in the central coast.



THE GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST Certainly the Discovery and Johnstone regions of the Great Bear Rainforest will continue to have the highest rates of logging, in part because it has very little remaining old-growth forest and fewer protected areas. What it does have now is what is called landscape units: about 100 of them. Logging companies will have to develop reserve designs for each of these landscape units where logging takes place, Wieting says. These reserves will have to capture the percentage targets for protected forest, identify which areas are off limits to logging in perpetuity and take into account wildlife habitat and even, where applicable, cultural areas. In addition, in areas where logging has been most destructive and where little old-growth remains, about 90,000 hectares have been categorized as restoration reserve. The requirement means forestry companies must place 30 percent of the forest within a reserve. To clarify, that target is for forested area, not the land base. “They are a priority,” Wieting says. “These will be on the map with a very high level of certainty that the reserve cannot get logged. It will not be possible for logging companies to make changes to a reserve design later.”


nother designation within the Great Bear Rainforest is

called Biodiversity Mining and Tourism Areas, a rather ominoussounding designation that includes Gribbell Island in the central BC coast, an island recognized as having the highest percentage population of kermode bears. A study by the Valhalla Wilderness Society found that about 40 percent of the 100 to 150 bears on the island are white, compared to one in 10 percent elsewhere within spirit bear habitat. Why the island wasn’t given a higher level of protection such as a conservancy is not easily explained by those involved within the negotiations. Wieting explains it in a global context. “This is one example where you work over such a vast region and you focus a lot of your energy on how to capture ecosystems in a representative manner. What took so long and resulted in so much work is we wanted to ensure we get 70 percent by ecosystem so we have a representation across this vast area. And then you have this remaining tension that there are some places you maybe would like to go back and look at, but at some point that is no longer possible,” he says. ”I think it’s fair to say in terms of all interests and communities’ perspectives this is a very good package for conservation, but you cannot get everything into protected areas.” Sousa says more simply the political will wasn’t there to advocate on u behalf of Gribbell Island.

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A kermode bear crosses a natural bridge in search of lunch. Advocates believe enough habitat is now protected to ensure their survival. “We really had wished Gribbell Island could have been fully protected. In our deliberations with industry we were stakeholders making recommendations to decision-makers, those being First Nations and the provincial government,” he says. “Part of Gribbell was proposed, but there wasn’t the support to make it fully protected.” The troubling part of the designation is that mining remains a possibility – and critics need only look to the mining proposal for the Catface Range in Clayoquot Sound to see how mining operations can fly in the face of a regional land use plan if not banned as part of the original land protection process. The Great Bear Rainforest is not a mining hotspot, but there is a history of gold mining on Banks Island south of Prince Rupert. A mine operated there in 2014 and 2015 before it was ordered shut down by the province over pollution concerns. Negotiators see no mining threat for Gribbell Island and point to the fact 80 percent of the island’s trees are off-limits to logging, with no current plans in place to log them. “If there would be new interest in logging Gribbell Island, the company would have 30


to develop the reserve to ensure the right amount of rainforest is off-limits to logging and address all objectives and have a very careful plan with the First Nations in the area,” Wieting says. And while Gribbell Island may be a sentimental favorite for protection, Wieting says enough habitat overall is protected in places such as adjacent Princess Royal Island that, in a more global view, enough kermode bear habitat is available to the bears to ensure their continued existence. The designation for locations such as Gribbell Island as a Biodiversity Mining and Tourism Area is just a pragmatic way to live with pre-existing mining claims. “A hundred new protected areas were proposed. As a result of having stakes in some areas and a lack of willingness to pay compensation, we now have 300,000 hectares or five percent of the region in socalled Biodiversity Mining and Tourism Areas,” Wieting says. “This designation is to protect ecological and cultural values, but mining and tourism are not prohibited unless they undermine the primary purpose of these protected areas -- to protect ecological and cultural values,” Wieting says. SUMMER 2016


ne of the great successes of the Great Bear Rainforest agreement for the negotiators involved is incorporating First Nations involvement, a role that comes as an addition to any other rights and titles a First Nation may have. It is also a shining example for creating consensus to create ecosystembased management (EBM). “It’s now having ripple effects around the world on how you can engage in multi-lateral negotiations with various stakeholders that also intersects with indigenous rights,” Sousa says. The key to ecosystem-based management is to ensure enough habitat is set aside through enough of the rainforest to meet the needs of all ecosystems. “You can best describe this as a package. You have protected areas; land-use objectives which contain many objectives addressing ecological and cultural values from wildlife habitat to riparian protection to cultural values like monumental cedars and other First Nations use; bear dens and a lot of conservation-related content; but most importantly the percentages of forest to be set aside,” Wieting says.







CONSERVATION A question mark is how to ensure it gets done as planned with oversight by a government that has cut back significantly on monitoring compliance. To that end Sousa says a step is being taken independently to create a satellite monitoring system to gauge how things are developing and to ensure that areas meant to be protected are not being incurred upon. Eventually it will be handed off to First Nations, Sousa says, but in the meantime annual reports and five- and ten-year reviews will have to suffice. “There isn’t a coherent monitoring system in place at this point. It is going to be frayed,” he says. “It is a grey area.” A larger potential void, though, is what is happening – and going to happen – across the rest of the country. “We have a huge gap. We have a good model in place now in the Great Bear Rainforest but we have a shockingly insufficient forest management framework for British Columbia overall. We have lack of protection for endangered old-growth forest in other parts of the province, we have lack of forest stewardship, we have lack of capacity for monitoring and implementation. We have a series of Forest Practices Board reports and also general reports highlighting how the BC government is failing to protect biodiversity province-wide and how the BC government is failing stewardship,” Wieting says. “It means we might end up with one wonderful intact region in the Great Bear Rainforest and an ecological wasteland in other parts of the province, so we really have to make sure we keep the pressure up and continue work to implement solutions on Vancouver Island and the south coast to connect the rainforests, the remaining areas with corridors of older second growth.” The problem, Sousa says, is the government is tending to view the Great Bear Rainforest agreement as an end rather than a beginning. “The government frankly doesn’t want to see this extended elsewhere.” he says. “They just want to be done with it in the Great Bear. And that’s it. Whereas we’re interested in pursuing EBM to other parts, but right now there isn’t a lot of openness to exploring that.”

Landscape variations in the vast array of forest types represented in the central coast: top, a forested bog on Calvert Island; below, a waterfall in Princess Royal Channel.

Wild Coast Magazine is travelling to the central coast to visit Gribbell Island in May with the hope of reporting on the status of this location in the July issue. 32




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t took years and even protests by

kayak, but Grace Islet, a tiny property a stones-thrown from the community of Ganges on Saltspring Island, is now another among the protected islet gems that dot the Gulf Islands. It took the province $5.45 million to purchase the tiny property, a chunk of rocky land smaller than the typical city block and only accessible by foot from Ganges at low tide. A house had originally been planned by the owner, but the discovery of a First Nations burial ground created a land-use dispute that simmered for several years and pitted the rights of private landowners against those of First Nations to protect culturally significant land. The purchase halts the construction of a 3,000-square-foot house and means steps will be taken to erase damage already made to the sensitive ecology on the small islet. “It’s very positive for recreational paddlers,” said Ben Isitt, a Victoria city councillor, Capital Regional District director and First Nations rights advocate who got involved in demonstrations and fought to stop the construction of the house on the islet. The battle was complex as the land was legally zoned for development and the owner had received a building permit. Its recent purchase includes a partnership with two southern Vancouver Island-area First Nations and the Nature Conservancy of Canada for the long-term conservation of the island. That will see the island restored to its natural state, including the remnants of a Garry oak ecosystem. “The natural plant species will be able to flourish and ecologically it will be more sound,” Isitt says. The controversy stems from the discovery of human remains and eventually 17 burial cairns plus other features identified by the B.C. Archaeology Branch in 2006. Even so, it is not considered an official burial ground under provincial law – a situation critics say highlights a bias in favour of non-aboriginals in B.C. law. A marine protest was staged in August 2014 to protect the land, and to highlight the legal conflict that sparked the issue: While the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act recognizes the land as a burial site, to be considered a cemetery it must have been operational after 1846. The question remains what onus


Who wins when property rights clash? In this case, the islet.

Saving Grace landowners should have to ensure land has no cultural or archaeological values before buying property with the intention to build. Opinions are mixed on the matter within the Ganges business community, but many residents of the Gulf Island are pleased with the outcome, says Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce president Li Read. She say it was the community that came together to stage a flotilla that blocked contractors from getting to the worksite on the islet two summers ago, raising the profile of a cause for the First Nations wanting to protect their ancestral burial grounds. Read says the community’s inability to control use of the land illustrates shortfalls of authority granted by senior government to the Islands Trust regulation, the unique form of local authority over land use on the Gulf Islands. “I always feel we fall between the cracks in a way, with nobody in charge,” Read says. The Trust has limited authority to control

land use, and the situation left many residents feeling powerless to stop the development, short of using civil disobedience. “I think if we had a municipal structure – a mayor and council, it might be easier to get a glimmer of a cohesive response,” says Read. Isitt considers the provincial legislation regarding cemeteries a problem, calling it racist “if we apply two different standards on whether a person is indigenous or not.” Lawyers, archaeologists and other professionals have already urged the province to address this legal discrepancy. The settlement deal of $5.45 million is about four times fair market value, Isitt estimates. “I think it should be a warning to anybody who owns land in this province – we are on indigenous land, and there are legal and cultural rights (to consider),” Isitt said. Darrell Bellaart is a Vancouver Island journalist.

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ost first visits to the North Coast Trail tend to have some element of drama to them. It’s just that kind of place, where adventure and the unexpected go hand in hand. But for Shaun Korman, his first visit was particularly memorable.

“I flew in on a helicopter and landed at Nissen Bight and I was just blown away that we had these kinds of beaches in our backyard. I had been travelling all over Latin America beach-bumming it and it was like this epiphany – whoa, are you kidding me, this is right here,” he recalls. Shaun’s visit was straight out from his home city of Vancouver, but his journey here has never really ended. He few into Nissen Bight back in 2005 to become project manager for the construction of the North Coast Trail, the 43-km extension to the Cape Scott Trail across the north end of Vancouver Island. The construction took four years, and after four years of living in a tent, it had changed Shaun’s life. “I spent four years tenting out there and literally never saw anyone. It almost started to feel like it was between us and the animals. It was kind of our secret little thing,” he says. The opening in 2008 changed that. “It was actually a bit emotional when I started to go out and there would be 25 people out there in one day,” he says. It has also been an evolution in his own life. Korman started working on the North Coast Trail as the building project manager, a position that has since branched off into his own company. He and his partner Ben McGibbon now oversee maintenance on the trail plus other locations such as the outback in Strathcona Provincial Park. u





Stories in the

sand The first surprise of the North Coast Trail is how much sand you will find. As for the rest... well, hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a selection of tales from the tail-end of Vancouver Island

Images this spread: The beach at Irony Creek at Shuttleworth Bight; top left, the water taxi at Shushartie Bay; middle left, emerging from the overland bog route to Skinner Creek; bottom left, clean and happy hikers on the way out of Port Hardy.





That part of the business involves places like Paradise Meadows, Forbidden Plateau, Bedwell Lakes and the Elk River Valley. It makes for a great work environment. “We’ve got two of the most beautiful places on the island – the coastal stuff at Cape Scott and then all the sub-alpine and alpine in Strathcona. We’re pretty lucky that way,” Shaun says.


haun isn’t alone in moving a business forward following

the opening of the North Coast Trail. George Burroughs and his wife, Babe, happened to buy a water taxi business in Port Hardy just prior to the trail’s opening. The timing was perfect as the trail requires travel by water to reach the eastern trailhead, set about 35 kilometres by boat northwest of Port Hardy at the upper end of Goletas Channel.

“We didn’t buy the business with the trail in mind, but we did hear there was a trail going in and we wanted to be part of the transportation for it, so that’s why we decided on the name of the business,” George says. “We didn’t know what the name of the trail was going to be, so we picked Cape Scott Water Taxi as the name for advertising.” Not long afterwards the pair also bought the shuttle service that takes hikers to and from the trailhead of the Cape Scott Trail at San Josef Bay. The combination has proven to be the necessary ingredient to transform the business, which started as mainly a transportation and freight service for the region’s logging camps and other industries. “Now we’re probably doing the same moving hikers as we do our freight when we do trips up and down the coast to logging camps and such,” George says. It’s a business case for how outdoor recreation can benefit an area’s economy, with often two water taxi trips required in peak season to ferry hikers. In addition there are accommodation services in Port Hardy catering to hikers and Shaun’s company employs a half dozen people for trail management in season.


f there is a business case for the trail’s success, it hasn’t filtered

down to BC Parks yet. The statistics are encouraging – the number of hikers using the trail each year has doubled since the opening – but trail investment hasn’t kept up. “We struggle with the given resources to keep it to existing standards much less to improve it,” Shaun says. “Unfortunately Cape Scott is an easy park to put lower on the priority list because it is so ‘out there.’” The main casualty is the overland bog section, the first section of the trail from Shushartie Bay that leads through a stunted forest bog to reach the north Vancouver Island shore at Skinner Creek. It is a source of criticism for those who brave the mud for an extended slog, but that was never the intention, Shaun says. “It was a calculated move to put that part of the trail through what they call the upland bog. The upland bog system is one of the primary reasons that park was set aside for protection, because that ecosystem is so unique,” he says. “We wanted to expose people to that. We also like the way that trail unfolds. It starts off difficult, really challenging, and then it kind of unfolds in front of you,” Shaun adds. u Top left, muddy feet are inevitable on the Shushartie Overland section of the trail; bottom left, a pioneer mug finds a new home at the Nahwitti River campsite; opposite page, a pleasant boardwalked portion of the Shushartie Overland section of the trail. Enjoy it while it lasts, as the alternative is mud. 38








If a tree falls in the forest, is it in a convenient spot? Not always, as this monster took out the longest set of stairs on the North Coast Trail near Cape Sutil. Also pictured: a trail viewpoint west of Cape Sutil; a look at how you’ll have to get across the Nahwitti River. Opposite: hiking poles in the sand at Cape Sutil. “It gets more and more beautiful and probably easier and easier until the point you reach the Cape Scott Trail. By then a lot of people are jogging it, it’s such a piece of cake.” The trail opened with several kilometres of boardwalk across select sections of the bog. “The plan was that we would continue to improve that section, ideally with boardwalks,” Shaun says. But except for maybe an additional 500 or so metres since the trail opening, the majority of that 8.6-km stretch remains on the ground, making it easily churned up by foot and turned into a channel for 40



water to collect. The result is what could best be described as a mudbath. It doesn’t help that well into the slog – at about the time you think you might be getting near Skinner Creek – there’s a sign that marks the halfway point. It is the perfect way to deflate the morale.


elping hikers avoid the mud has become a large part of Cape Scott Water Taxi’s agenda. They offer a choice of points to start the trail: the full trail from Shushartie Bay or a choice of shorter routes







A selection of impressions along the North Coast Trail, clockwise from top left: a nicely constructed bridge in a forested section; the tree with the most character on the trail; the campsite at Nels Bight at the connection with the Cape Scott Trail.

that involves dropping off hikers farther up the trail at either Nahwitti River or Cape Sutil. “If you get off at Cape Sutil it makes for a pretty civilized hike and it cuts a day or two off a trip. They miss a lot of the tougher stuff that a lot of people can’t do,” George says. Not all hikers are equal, naturally, and many come determined to do the full trail no matter what. Some are more determined than others, and the honour of most determined has to go to the Club Fat Ass pair of runners Jeff Hunt and Bob Wall, who chose to run the full 58 km of the trail on opening day on May 10, 2008. “We mucked along at a reasonable pace, but we were slightly behind a 10 min/km pace by the time we finally found Skinner Creek,” they write in a blog Ü. The pace slowed even more when they lost the trail at Nahwitti River and were forced to bushwhack through salal for a half hour. Even so, they managed to complete the trail in 11 hours. Naturally not everyone can be that fast, and possibly the slowest record goes to ‘Old Mike,’ one of the more memorable hikers that George can recall – a fellow in his 70s who set off on a solo hike. “We were concerned but he wasn’t concerned about himself,” George recalls. “We had a ‘Mike Watch’ for hikers going the other way. We‘d pick them up and ask, ‘Where’s Mike?’ and they’d tell us, ‘You’re worrying about the wrong guy.’ “This guy was just a rock,” George says. “When he came out he looked fresher than most of the young hikers do.” 42




here are also the non-hikers who attempt the trail.

“We get a lot of interest from people who hike hardly at all. Once they start doing their homework they either get training or back out. We have to be honest with them and let them know how tough it is just so they’re not stranded out there. Once you get past Cape Sutil and you get a northwest wind blowing it’s not easy to get people off the beach,” George says. Still, some of the non-hikers do show up, including one memorable group of three. “The one guy didn’t look like a hiker and his buddy didn’t look like a strong hiker. The wife looked like a hiker as she had all the top gear and was fit. The two guys looked like they had been drinking beer all their life. They looked kind of like me,” George says. “So I drop them off and the one guy says to me that he doesn’t know how they talked him into this. The next morning when I go to drop off the next group of hikers, there’s one guy on the beach and it’s the buddy of the couple. “He got on. I said, ‘what’s going on?’ He said, ‘Take me back to Hardy.’” George had previously told him the trip to Skinner Creek was straight up and five to eight hours. “The lady turned right and after 45 minutes they were standing on a cliff looking down at a rocky shore and she says this is Skinner Creek. He said, ‘no, no, George said it was five to eight hours to get to a beach.’ So they turn around, get back to the start and he says, ‘Hey, if you can’t find the first beach I’m sure as hell not going with you the


Expressionism, North Coast Trail style. The visual impact of most North Coast Trail graffiti is usually quite fleeting. rest of the way.’” Apparently it was a trick to make the trail seem easy so she’d have some hiking company. It didn’t work for the friend. “He sat on the bar stool for six days in Port Hardy and had a hell of a good time.”


n some other trips the

relationship dynamics seem to work out better – as they did for Drew Foster and his soon-to-be extended family.

“It was the first time my girlfriend [Mel] and I hiked with her parents,” he recalls. “I think we all had our breaking points along the trail but everyone came out the other side a little different, very happy we accomplished what we set out to, and energized to plan the next.” His plan was to propose along the trail at a beautiful spot with a beautiful sunset. That place turned out to be Irony Creek on Shuttleworth Bight. “I really wanted a beautiful beach that faced the setting sun... And I got it,” he says. The logistics were tough, and tougher still on the nerves, which involved carrying a secretly packed ring. “Anyway, we arrived to find the perfect beach and began clearing driftwood up behind a huge pile to set up our

tents. Somehow in doing so my fiancé’s mom struck her head on a large piece of wood, giving her a cut near her eye and a concussion I’m sure. In my professional life I’m a paramedic so I grabbed the huge first aid kit I had been carrying and leapt over logs to patch her up. She had quite the nice head dressing, complete with head strap, when I was done,” he says. “With that all that said, I decided it wouldn’t be today as it wasn’t fair her mom would be under the weather. As the day went on she improved and the beach was setting up for an amazing sunset right in front of us. Her dad was in on this whole plan of mine and just as we were getting dinner ready he commented on the nice beach and perfect sunset. I agreed, and we had an awkward conversation about getting cameras ready in front of the others who had no idea what was about to happen.” Long johns with no pockets didn’t help the odds of carrying a ring unseen. “I had to backtrack for my sweater, leaving Mel a little confused. I put the ring and a shell I had found on the beach in my pocket and went back to the group. I then asked Mel to grab her camera because I wanted to take some pictures. As she reluctantly went for it I ran to the beach and wrote “will u

marry me” in the sand. “The only problem was she saw me half way through but couldn’t read my message upside down from the driftwood. She came down to the beach, she read the message. I knelt down and put the ring in the shell I had found (I was shaking terribly and thought I was going to shake the ring out of the shell). She took it out and said yes. I put it on her finger and then had a wonderful celebration on the beach!” Writing in the sand was popular that trip, and included an NCT bowling lane, a recommendation for a swim and the good u


Your North Coast Trail connector! We can take you hiking, kayaking, and surfing. Come along on any of our tour or freight trips and see whales, sea otters, sea lions and all the North Island has to offer. 1.800.246.0093 |


Port Hardy, BC




news regarding one of the most engaging moments in the history of the North Coast Trail.


ildlife encounters are a given on any North Coast Trail hike, and chances are you’ll have met a few locals just on the water taxi ride. George estimates the odds of seeing a sea otter are around 50 percent now that they established themselves across the north end of Vancouver Island (having been reintroduced to Checleset Bay on the other side of the island in the 1970s). Plus usually there are black bears foraging in the intertidal areas of the estuary in Shushartie Bay near the drop-off point – a reminder the odds are good you’ll be near some wildlife you might just as soon stay well away from.

And then there will be eagles. Though probably not like this. It had been an unusual day for the trail-building team to begin, as one of the crew developed pneumonia during an unusually cold spell in April and had to be airlifted out. The crew found themselves back at the campsite at Nahwitti River. Shaun remembers it for the distinctive burls in the trees there. “We were sitting there and all of a sudden this bald eagle flew right into the trees at full speed right over top of us and another bald eagle flew through at the same time and smashed into the other one,” Shaun recalls. “He went tumbling through the air right into our wall tent and completely collapsed our wall tent literally a foot over our head.” And even that wasn’t the end of it. “They got into a scuffle and the bald eagle that got smashed flew off and the other one, the one that was the aggressor, turned around and flew right up to us and hovered right in front of us, swooped its wings a couple of times, just stared at us all then flew away,” Shaun says. “It was such a cool power-of-nature experience.” The cause was found later when they went to repair their ravaged camp: the carcass of a big rockfish had been dropped in the feud.


he most enduring story of north Vancouver Island is of the

pioneers who settled here – or at least tried to – at the beginning of the last century. The Cape Scott Trail is dotted with reminders of a community destined to be defeated by distance and weather.

Particularly telling is that sections of the North Coast Trail follow parts of the trail used by the community to get goods by boat from Shushartie Bay. There was no safe anchorage closer to the cape and all attempts to come up with an alternative failed – notably the ship hulk brought into Fisherman Bay as a breakwater that was destroyed by a storm the night they celebrated getting it into place. Nature has a long history of reclaiming its intended state of affairs in the North Island, and aside from a few graves, rusting boilers and decaying shacks, the Cape Scott community has all but vanished into the earth and forest from which it was built. With nature such a powerful force here, the odds of having a trail stay in good shape seem slim. So it was no surprise that when a huge old tree decided to topple, it did so directly in the midst of the single largest trail aid built on the North Coast Trail, the steps down to the beach from Long Leg Hill. That has meant diverting the trail around the huge trunk. Another incident was a debris torrent that took out the cable car across Nahwitti River. But otherwise, Shawn says nature has been remarkably benevolent. “In terms of major failures, we see major failures a lot more often up in Strathcona,” he says. It’s been nice to see things holding up.”


astly, there is the group from Germany that had to complete

the trail... or else.




Wild Coast editor John Kimantas earns the obligatory “I survived the North Coast Trail” photo after completing the trail in 71 hours – nowhere near the fastest time, but enough to lose two toenails. No, this isn’t the group that camped at Cape Sutil and was convinced they were hearing a monster all night, the monster that turned out to be the deep-sounding motion-activated buoy marking the entrance to Nahwitti Bar. No, this is the group that pushed themselves through the trail in fear they might be stranded at the trailhead if they were late getting back. George says it was all a result of a misunderstanding. “I told them be at other end at a certain time. They heard me say, ‘or else.’ All I meant was I won’t get them that day, I would get them the next day.” They didn’t interpret it that way. All they caught was the doomsday phrase: ‘or else.’ “They weren’t all avid hikers,” George recalls. “They pushed on and pushed on late and for long days. They got to the end cut up bleeding and beat up and tired, but they made that van ... or else.” Fortunately it just meant a good laugh. The group ended up staying an extra three days in Port Hardy with George and Babe as hosts, a stay that involved a pig roast, a prawn feast, crab traps and – in true German style – lots of beer. It was their suggestion to create something to mark the completion of the trail. “They said you need a shirt to tell people they survived that trail,” George says. “So we made the T-shirt that says you’re a North Coast Trail survivor.” There’s also a sign at the San Josef Trailhead. When you’re picked up to take the shuttle back to Port Hardy, shuttle driver John Tidbury will take your picture alongside it and email it to you as a keepsake. He’ll even stop at the Scarlet Ibis Pub in Holberg on the way back for a burger and beer if you request it (and naturally many hikers do). The road from San Josef across the northern tip of Vancouver Island back to Port Hardy is a rough one, but it’s almost certain to be a relaxing drive in comparison to the work spent hiking over the previous few days. Even if you didn’t jog along the relatively easy Cape Scott Trail to the parking lot, being driven home is a beautiful ending and a great way to decompress and filter through the memories of some wonderful sights and experiences of your time on the trail. Assuming, of course, you survive it all. For full logistics involved in hiking the North Coast Trail, see the new North Coast Trail waterproof mapsheet, available at retailers everywhere or online at


This map shows the location of the North Coast Trail in the regional context. For a more detailed look at the trail, plus the North Island Kayak Route from Port Hardy through Quatsino Sound to end at Coal Harbour, Wild Coast Publishing is producing a duel-purpose NCT kayak route mapsheet on waterproof stock, available in mid-April. Visit


Blissful adventures on the West Coast Choose a scheduled guided hiking, kayaking or canoeing tour or design your own. We pick you up from your hotel, and look after logistics. Book early to secure your space!

Discover the Port Hardy Experience! From a rugged coastal shoreline to the vast watery depths of the Pacific, Port Hardy has all the ingredients for the perfect wilderness adventure. Visit Port Hardy today!

Planning your North Coast Trail trip: The North Coast Trail is relatively unique as one trailhead is located at a remote bay and so requires a water taxi. That is available from Port Hardy, a five-hour drive north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The trail then runs 43 kilometres across the north end of Vancouver Island to connect to the older Cape Scott Trail at Nels Bight. This makes the entire trail 58 kilometres, ending at San Josef Bay on the islandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s west side. The most difficult section is between Nawhitti River and Shuttleworth Bight, though the muddy overland section between Shushartie Bay and Skinner Creek can be taxing as well. In all it is a difficult trail and rivals the West Coast Trail as a challenge. If you go, plan for five to seven days. To reduce both the time and distance, consider the option provided by Cape Scott Water Taxi to be dropped off at Nahwitti River or Cape Sutil instead of at Shushartie Bay. Trail updates are available on the BC Parks website: SUMMER 2016



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It’s a work in progress. Here’s what we’re up to Wild Coast Magazine is partnering with a group of dedicated retailers and manufacturers to bring you the best gear at the best possible prices. What we’ve done is the shopping on your behalf to make sure you get value. Here’s a sampling of the result. On our online edition, click the link Ü to go straight to the selected product in our online store. If you are reading this in print, you can visit the store at Find the product you are looking for, plus many more not shown here. So browse here, and browse more online. It’s a way to get value, to support independent retailers and to take advantage of a new resource for your outdoor needs. Watch us as we grow!

Paddling power: Your paddle is probably the most complex paddling purchase you’ll make. You will need the correct size, the correct blade for your paddling style and the right materials to fit your budget and need for weight and durability. This means buying from a rack probably isn’t your best idea. So consider getting a paddle custom made for you. Browse the Nimbus Paddles selection for the blade type, material, length and extras perfect for you.

Shown here is the Kiska, a good all-round paddling blade.

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Sorry we couldn’t cram more in this issue. But we still have tons more to tell you about. Our next edition comes out in July followed by the Winter/Spring 2017 issue in November. We hope you join us, and the best way to ensure we’re not missed is a home delivery. One year / three issues costs just $7.99 and gets us delivered to your home. Hooked already? Need another quick fix? No problem. Visit us online at Because it’s a new website we’re going to be adding content continually throughout the year. Plus don’t miss our Adventure Tour Guide. The 2016 edition is out and being updated constantly with new trips and options. Watch for it and more online. 46



$7.99 One year/3 issues

To subscribe: Visit www.wildcoastmagazine and follow the links. If you are reading us online, just click here Ü.


Guide Books:

Waterproof Mapsheets:

16 0 2 r o f New The North Coast Trail: The new edition of the North Coast Trail covers this fantastic trail that runs the north coast of Vancouver Island. The same mapsheet also details the North Island Circle Kayak Route from Port Hardy to Coal Harbour through Quatsino Sound. On waterproof stock and available for shipping in late April 2016.

Desolation Sound

The BC Coast Explorer Volume 2: Vancouver Island South Through maps, photography and route descriptions, the BC Coast Explorer Vol. 2 provides the building blocks for a trip by foot, paddle or bicycle to all the must-see locations on southern Vancouver Island, from the coastal community of Bamfield down the West Coast Trail, through Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands to Comox Harbour. You will find access points, campsites, points of interest, historical interpretations and the necessary technical details to get you there. Price: $34.95

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.

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 SUMMER 2016






Summer 2016 Wild Coast Magazine  

Our conservation issue! Join us for a critical analysis of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, for a journey to North Vancouver Island to h...

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