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Kitimat to Prince George British Columbia

After years of consideration and months upon months of actual planning, the expedition finally hit the water on May 5th, launching from the coastal village of Kitimat on the northern British Columbia coast under sunny skies and light winds.

During the first few days, I was accompanied by my friend from Kamloops, Darryl Spencer, who drove me to my starting point and proceeded to join me for the first few days of my journey. Darryl was paddling a Necky Elaho sea kayak, generously loaned to him by Dale from Ocean Pacific in Kamloops, the local Necky Kayaks dealer. Myself, as you know, am paddling a “Sea 1” solo canoe, built in Kevlar by Clipper Canoes of Abbotsford BC.

By the time we had the boats packed…by now I realized I’d brought along far too much gear and equipment (my canoe will weigh a ton out there! Yikes!)…It was nearly 2:30 PM and I was just finishing with an interview for the local newspaper. It was almost high tide and we were finally ready to launch. We slid our craft into the waters of the Pacific Ocean, dipped in our paddles and just like that… the expedition was underway. I paddled a few strokes, hollered out “NOVA SCOTIA”, let out a big “Woo-Hoo” and we were off, paddling out along the Douglas Channel.

Not much after launching, the tides turned and we were now riding an ebbing tide. The sudden headwinds however took away any advantage the out flowing tides may have provided however and we were soon working hard against the heavy winds and building waves. Due to the late start, it wound up being a short paddle for day 1, winding up with a mere 23 kilometers as we set up camp in a small clearing in the woods just off a section of beach exposed at low tide. Slept great until about 2:00 AM when we were awakened by the sound pf the high tide pulling at our boats at the waters edge. Thankfully they were securely tethered as we made a rookie mistake and underestimated the high tide line for the next incoming tide. That won’t happen again! (Famous final words ‘eh?) After fishing our water bladders out of the water, we returned to our respective tents for a few more hours off in dreamland.

The following day we moved pretty slow in the morning, still tired from the long drive too our put-in and the frantic last few days of final preparations. Eventually, we were back on the water at 1:30 PM after I finally got my canoe packed with my abundance of gear…did I mention my tendency to over pack for trips? We paddled our way down through Amos Passage, past a nice little beach at Eagle Bay and continued on along Devastation Channel towards tonight’s eventual campsite at Weewanie Hot springs. Yes, I said HOTSPRINGS! All a part of the “Roughing it experience” 😉 Along the way we saw numerous whales surfacing around us, some of which appeared to be of the rather large variety! What a sight. Just a little too far off however for any good pictures.

The take-out at Weewanie however was a tough scramble up over a steep embankment of large, loose boulders, slick from the seawater near the waters surface. It took the two of us over an hour to unload the two boats, haul up the gear and then the kayak and canoe. It was more than worth it though as upon setting up camp for the night, we walked up the trail to the Hot springs and immersed ourselves in the piping hot water of Weewanie Hot springs. Ahh, this is the life! A deep pool of hot, fresh water, beautiful mountain views all around and a beer to top it all off! You know the saying “Life is Good”? Ever wonder where THAT came from? Times like this, that’s what! Oh yeah!

In total, we paddled another 25 kilometers for the day, or would that be for the “Half day”? Bright sunshine and warm temperatures, just a light headwind today. Not bad at all! For the third day of my travels, I awoke again to beautiful sunshine. The Pacific Northwest coast is noted for its heavy rainfall and I’d anticipated day after day of rain and drizzle but so far the weather has been amazing.

After a breakfast of hash browns and eggs, we once again loaded the boats and set off upon the water. Today however, Darryl would paddle with me for a couple of hours and would then turn around for the return paddle back to Kittimat to return to Kamloops. We stopped at a little beach that would soon be underwater where we said our goodbyes, took a few photos and eventually parted ways. I was very sad to see him go, he is a great friend and an amazing paddler. Darryl is one of the main forces behind the Marathon Canoe Racing Association of British Columbia, and I’ll miss his company. Thanks for all of your help Darryl, I look forward to having a beer with you when the trip is over and filling you in on all the details.

Now back on the water, paddling by myself, the true “Solo” part of my expedition begins. The scenery was amazing as I paddled along the coast, past old growth forest, rocky shorelines, scenic cliffs, waterfall…just breathtaking to behold.

At 7:00 PM I reached today’s destination, Europa Hot springs and cabin. The cabin is small but cozy, has 4 double bunks, a small table and a woodstove. The Hot springs of course were the real bonus! I spent the evening sitting on the front veranda, reading my novel, doing a bit of writing, just general relaxation after a good day of paddling along the magnificent BC coast. I’d planned on taking it easy during the first phase of the trip as I work myself into paddling shape. I paddled 37.5 kilometers today and I’m going to take my first rest day tomorrow and allow myself to enjoy a day of cabin life and hot springs before putting on the push for Kemano and the start of what would later became known as the “Portage From Hell”!

Day1coastalpaddlingThe weather was good once again for my day off and I slept in, read, wrote for awhile, sat in the hot springs and ate generously from my food supply. In the evening I enjoyed some tasty little chocolate covered treats that my friend Jennifer in Kamloops gave me to take with me when I saw her just days before leaving. Thanks Jennifer, I hope you are reading this and know that I appreciate your kindness! It was a good day off, likely a good idea to let my body recuperate as I ease myself into the more difficult parts of the trip coming up over the next several days.

It is now Saturday, May 8th as I launch my canoe back into the water and begin the 37.5 kilometer paddle into the remote village of Kemano. There were moments during today’s paddle that it looked more like a high mountain lake than the ocean. On all sides snowcapped mountains, rugged peaks and cascading waterfalls as I wound my way in to Kemano, surrounded me. This is also the first day of rain during my trip, luckily though it never started until several hours into the trip. It was also the windiest day thus far with a strong gusty wind at my back with following seas building as the day progressed. This made for some exciting paddling, especially as I paddled near the cliffs on my left side. The incoming waves would crash into the refracting waves bouncing off the cliffs creating some nice clapotis…. the effect of two waves meeting, coming from opposing directions…nothing but FUN! The following seas had built to about 3 feet or so, nothing much but enough for me to get used to the handling of my Clipper canoe. The canoe, with its flared ends, handled all the waves, clapotis and all, with great ease. This canoe has such a high degree of secondary stability it is amazing! The speed is impressive for a touring boat as well. I think I chose wisely when I picked the Clipper Sea 1 canoe as my boat of choice for this expedition. 17’9” by 28”, semi decked, adjustable seat both in height as well as forward/ backward, flared ends, a long waterline…. fast and very seaworthy, particularly with the expedition spray cover attached and in place.

After several hours of paddling, interspersed with a couple of brief food breaks, I finally reached the Alcan docks at Kemano Beach. I quickly pulled offshore next to the boat launch, changed into a dry Valhalla Pure base layer and Moonstone Gore-Tex outerwear…(thanks go out to David Harley of Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Vernon BC for the generous support of my expedition with your fine outdoors clothing from Valhalla Pure and Moonstone), I assembled my portage cart, strapped the canoe into place and began the first portion of the “Portage From Hell”.