July 7, 2015
James wanted to take his daughter kayaking, but we realized we couldn’t go anywhere too remote. We opted for Cluxewe Resort, just a turn and a short drive off Highway 19. If you are travelling from the south, it is 12.2 kilometres north of Port McNeill, and then a turn to the right. There is a big Cluxewe Resort sign at the turn off, so it is hard to miss.
I stayed with the cats the night before and got a lot of cleaning and garden watering done. I watered everything: the flowers in front, the pots, and the vegetable garden. I even left the hose on mist for a good long time in strategic places like the zucchini planter, the blueberries, the rhubarb, etc. Except between the hours of 12 and 4, I was watering all day and well into the night with the misting hose. You’d think I was living in the desert instead of the rainforest! It’s getting to be that way, little by little. It was a good thing I put down some grass clipping mulch to hold in the moisture. I left the balcony for the morning, did my house-sitting job and then went down to James’ place. We hit the road, James in my truck with the two kayaks, and I in the Camry with his daughter, Tyra, and her friend in the back connected to their media devices. As we drove along, I met a very slow logging truck, a bear (which the girls didn’t see because they were in that other “media dimension”) and a mama deer and her two babies. The baby Bambis hooves were proportionally larger than their growing bodies. Running away from the car they were leaping awkwardly, looking not quite as graceful as Mama. I couldn’t help but think they looked like kids trying to move fast in their mother’s oversized high heel shoes.
We went to the campsite we reserved but we weren’t happy with it. It was narrow, with not much greenery and lots of traffic driving by to the islet. James took the bike and went on a tour around half the campsite. When he returned, we took the car to the islet and checked out some other camping spots. We really liked 54, but wrote down some other numbers just in case. When we got to the office, we found out 54 was reserved starting tomorrow until September! We ended up in 100, just across from 54. When we were unloading at site 100, I wasn’t much help, as I had trouble sleeping the night before. I did my usual duty, and set up the tent and the air mattress. Once that was done, I collapsed onto the air mattress and slept for a good part of the afternoon. James woke me up and put the end of Chloe’s leash in my hand so he and the girls could go kayaking. Though I was barely awake, I noticed that the particular sound of the waves meant they were getting rough. I got up and had a couple of iced teas in my folding chair with Chloe on my lap, struggling to get myself fully awake. When I finally got up to go to the bathroom, James was coming down the road. He told me their trip was cut short by the waves (tell me something I didn’t know!). They had some trouble coming in with the surf and Tyra ended up getting splashed. At first Tyra wanted to go to the lighthouse, but James vetoed it. They said they had fun bobbing up and down, but they didn’t feel like kayaking for very long. It seems like the girls had fun, but got bored with kayaking pretty quickly.
In the evening, we grilled steaks on the BBQ because there was a fire ban. I complained that we did not have lemon juice and olive oil for the grilled vegis. I’m very persnickety about following recipes to the letter. James often makes fun of me because I won’t go “outside the box” when I cook. I often answer back that I go “outside the box” in just about every other aspect of my life, so I’m allowed. I went toward the office to see if there was a store, but there was only a restaurant. James offered me some olive oil based margarine and butter and I took it, but we couldn’t find a substitute for lemon juice. I was having a crisis! I was so bothered by not having lemon juice, I ended up going to Port McNeill the next day to get it and a few other things.
James and I went for a bike ride around the campsite, then followed a path into the woods that lead us to the river, a huge pile of water worn rocks and a trail on the beach. We parked our bikes and sat on a log for a while, watching the scenery and musing. We went walking along the beach for as long as my knee could stand it. I thought of Hawaii and how it is very much like this, exotic, but just a lot warmer. James expressed a wistful desire to go to Hawaii someday. I wasn’t interested in Hawaii at first, because I thought it was probably too touristy. When I got there though, after spending a winter in China and Hong Kong, I was actually impressed. I stayed there a couple of months in ‘83, living in a Philipino lady’s apartment with a Swiss roommate and a whole lot of cockroaches. One of those cockroaches was nearly the size of my hand and had sneaked into my bikini bottoms when they were hanging to dry on the closet pole. It gave me quite the scare when I gathered my stuff for a day of snorkeling at Hanauma Bay! With no campfire to sit around because of the fire ban, I asked the girls if they would be interested in playing poker. They didn’t know how, so I offered to teach them. I first taught them the hands, from lowest to highest, then we played a few practice rounds. We then we had a rousing game well into the night, our table lit with several battery-operated lanterns.
After we finished the game, James and I retired to our tent. As soon as we were in, the girls pulled the poker chips out again and started playing between themselves. While James and I were reading by flashlight, we had to shout out the answer to the occasional poker related question.
July 8, 2015
We got up around 10, expecting the girls to follow suit not long after…but no such luck. In fact, when we came back from our kayaking trip that day, they were still asleep! I forgot what teenagers were like! The other times we kayaked, Chloe whined a lot on the water. This time, however, she whined to get into the kayak! She didn’t whine at all when we were on the water! She is probably so used to kayaking now, that she would probably feel lost without it. It would be much harder for her to stay home alone all day with only a couple of visits from a dog-sitter. Even though she is well into middle age, she is very much a baby at heart and has to go everywhere with Mommy and Daddy!
Following the tide going out, James and I kayaked close to shore in the direction of the estuary. We paddled in the fog, feeling calm, and not inclined to paddle too hard. The estuary water was very shallow. We realized we weren’t going to get too far in at low tide. We decided instead to paddle into the fog, staying close to the shore so as not to get lost and inadvertently paddle out to sea. It’s quite a mystical experience, paddling in the fog. It felt like we were in a bubble, and it was so quiet. We came across a reef of rocks and realized we had to go around. We ran into a kelp bed and a community of rocks encrusted with barnacles. We spent some time paddling around them, snapping pictures of rocks, barnacles and each other.
The islet. Paddling in the fog. Paddling around the rocks. Apparition in the mist. Kelp bed 1 Kelp bed 2 Barnacles. Mommy and Chloe. It’s a duel!
Seeing a lot of driftwood on the shore, James and I debated what it was all about. James thought they were man made structures and I disagreed. We paddled there to see who was right, and it turned out James was. Someone had piled driftwood into crude shelters. We landed to check things out. Chloe was excited about the structures, hopping around and energetically sniffing in and around them. We walked down the beach, noticing deer, wolf and even Chihuahua tracks in the sand! We commented that Chloe has gotten a lot stronger and healthier since she started kayaking (even though she doesn’t paddle) and is in much better spirits these days. She gets more exercise, and a lot more varied and interesting things to sniff. We determined that we definitely have to camp here some day.
Driftwood shelter 1. Driftwood shelter 2. Driftwood fortress. Lots to sniff. Inside a shelter. Whale sculpture. Driftwood beach and little dog. Animal tracks in the sand.
James mentioned that we should have brought a snack and should always bring a snack. We thought we were only going to go to the estuary, but it didn’t turn out that way. We admitted we always end up going a lot further than we expect. It was resolved from that day forward that we will always bring a snack when we kayak, no matter where we think we are going. It’s a big deal, because it is very hard to paddle hungry.
On the return trip, we found that the ebbing tide had changed the scenery. There were more rocks than before. The rocky reefs were bigger too, forcing us take longer detours into the centre of the bay. We met two other kayakers on the water—which is a first for us. You would think there would be more kayaking traffic on the North Island in general, but there isn’t. We exchanged our delight in seeing other kayakers. We asked them if they could suggest some good kayaking spots. Many that they had suggested we had already been to. They also suggested that the south end of Nimpkish Lake and Huson Caves were a must. We eventually did go to Huson Caves in 2016, and the verdict is a definite “yes.” At Nimpkish Lake, however, though the scenery was stunningly beautiful and I was able to take some great photographs, it is not a good place for kayaking. It is a very long lake, making it a wind tunnel with plenty of rough water. Nimpkish Lake is more of hangout for windsurfers and parasailers. It is also good place to camp on the beach. Our campsite appeared out of the fog sooner than expected. The fog and the calm water made us lose our sense of time. The shoreline was much longer than it was when we left it, which probably also helped to shorten the trip. We were having a struggle carrying our kayaks up the now significantly larger shore. We thought to alternate carrying them, but, in the end we gave up and decided to leave them where they were, halfway up the shore, as the tide would probably not reach them before the next time we went kayaking.
We had a much needed quick lunch of smokies because we were really hungry! After lunch, James took the girls kayaking while I stayed behind with Chloe and wrote my reflections on my laptop until I got sleepy and had to have a nap. They were not gone too long. When the bunch came back, James told me of some of the unusual ideas they had. Tyra said she wanted to jump in the water and swim! She also kept bugging him about the lighthouse, which he considered out of the question. Then they said they were getting too hot and wanted to come in. I don’t think our 10 or 12 kilometre treks would be these girls’ cup of tea!
Writing my reflections with Chloe.
James and I went out on the kayaks again at around 6 pm, when the estuary was at high tide. The fog had cleared and the water was fairly calm, with a few breakers at the shore. Even though we were only planning to do the estuary, we still packed a lunch as per our previous pact. Just as we got to the beach, James got a funny look in his eye. He looked around at the water, turned to me and said, “How ‘bout we try it?” At first, I didn’t understand what he was talking about. “Try what?” I asked. He didn’t answer me right away, as if he was expecting me to read his mind. It turned out he was meaning paddling to the lighthouse! I was taken aback, as he had been telling me and the girls all weekend that the lighthouse was off limits. I realized that it would be somewhat of a trepidatious paddle, but said a hesitant “OK.” I am a sucker for lighthouses! It would turn out to be a lot more than we bargained for!
We had a clumsy launch. I tried to go out onto the water on my own and ended up getting splashed. I had taken out the rim around my cockpit when I set myself inside and, in the hesitation, got my splashes. I jumped out and James fixed my cockpit. He told me to jump in quickly, and then he gave me a push out onto the water. We met with huge swells that lifted us way up and brought us way down at regular intervals. It felt a little like being on a ferris wheel. James seemed to be keeping his cool, but I was freakin’. It was especially scary on the Eskia, because it was a much lighter craft. We paddled steady, carefully— no speeding or sudden moves. It was not just water, it was ocean, very deep and full of powerful currents in this narrow passage called the Broughton Strait, and I was one tip away from being in it! Getting capsized in this water would be very dangerous indeed—there is no telling where the currents would take us! I set aside my apprehension and just kept my mind on getting to the lighthouse. We were going at a moderate speed and only took a half an hour to get across, but it seemed like it took much much longer! When we got close to the lighthouse, we were salivating for that solid shoreline!
Grabbing James’ camera right away, I snapped shots of the lighthouse and the view around. In the back of my mind I was still thinking about the journey back and if I had the stomach for it, but I was savouring my time there. I got James to take several pictures of me with the lighthouse in the background. As he was taking one, he accidentally snapped a selfie and Chloe just happened to join in! The pictures of me didn’t turn out so well, but that selfie turned out to be a gem! No one came to greet us from the buildings, but we couldn’t be too sure there was no one there. We just stayed on the shoreline, presuming it would be trespassing if we went up to the buildings. Shorelines are public domain.
The lighthouse. North of the lighthouse. The photograph. The clutsy photographers.
As we had lunch, I noticed waves curling around a point. We later took a video of it, and a few photos of a big stump. Looking to the mountain range to the west, we saw a mountain top that had a shape of an indigenous chief laying on his back. It reminded me of a peak at Ironstone Lookout that the residents of Crowsnest Pass coined “Mt. Mulrooney” that looks very much like an exaggerated profile of our 18th prime minister. I also thought of the ape face at Raspberry Ridge, in Kananaskis Country by Turner Valley. When the sun is at a certain position in the sky on a sunny mid-summer day, it casts shadows on the Continental Divide producing the face of a giant ape.
The Broughton Strait. Driftwood root. Indigenous chief.
For the trip back to the campsite, we switched kayaks. James gave me a lecture about points, that we should avoid them because they have dangerous currents. A fishing boat was passing by and James told me we had to stay back and let it pass. After it passed, he instructed me to steer straight into the waves, in case they might end up being rollers. They ended up being not that bad. I was feeling better in the Manitou because it was much more stable in the water. Chloe poked her nose out the cockpit in the beginning and sniffed, then hid herself in the cuddy for the rest of the voyage. I instinctively tried to make a B-line for the campsite, but it turned out to be the wrong plan. James actually started complaining vociferously—which is unusual for him. Because of the wind and the tide still coming in, he told me to point myself toward the estuary, which was north, even though we were trying to go west, to the campsite. Even though we were paddling like crazy to the north, we never passed the line between the campsite and the lighthouse! We just gradually drifted sideways, getting closer and closer to the campsite! It was an odd experience to say the least. Under these conditions, if I had been leading the way, we would have ended up further south in Port McNeill! It is amazing that tides, wind and currents can make such a difference!
As we got closer to shore, James devised a plan for landing. We were to head north of the campsite a bit and then drift into shore at a south-westerly angle, getting a boost from the waves. He ordered me to ride the waves and then start back paddling when I catch a surf. I’m not sure if I really understood his instructions at the time, but somehow, I seemed to have instinctively done the right thing. Mind you, I spent some time in Hawaii riding surfs, so maybe that experience came in handy. I jumped out quickly and hardly got splashed at all.
We were greeted by some onlookers who had watched our landing and were intrigued by our kayaking Chihuahua—especially 3 little boys in shark helmets. When I took Chloe out of the kayak, she seemed to be stuck in my arms, not wanting to be let down. I had to carry the kayak while holding her. I put Chloe on a log to socialize with the boys, while James and I answered grown ups questions about what it was like to kayak with a Chihuahua. When Chloe was done with the PR, she faced both James and me, then looked to me to pick her up. James commented, “You want mommy.” I guess when one has been through a harrowing experience, it’s mommy that they need! Once we were done tying up the kayaks, James emphatically told me he was done kayaking for the day. Later he confessed to me that that trip gave him cause to pause, which says a lot! He doesn’t get scared easily, let alone admit it! We considered kayaking the estuary later that evening, but we were unable to get up the gumption.
That night, after I drove to Port McNeill to get (compulsively) needed ingredients and a few treats like chips and pop, we grilled vegetables on our propane grill. James had the left over steak. To the girls, who seemed to not need food, I gave some cheese and crackers and cucumbers that they barely picked at. They had been playing poker most of the day and wanted us to join them. After we had supper, made coffee and cleaned up, we played poker by the music from the girls’ cell phones until we started yawning. The winner of the all in hand was Tyra’s friend, even though Tyra and James tended to be the winners most of the time. Late at night, we marvelled at the brightness of the stars and how many would could see. We could easily discern the band of the Milky Way.
July 9, 2015
James and I planned to get up for 8 am to take the high tide into the estuary. We woke up at 7 am, discussing it and checking the tide guide, but fell back into our beds and slept some more. At about 8, I again asked James if he wanted to get up to do the estuary, but he brushed me off saying he wanted to sleep. Later he was angry at himself for not getting up. James ended up getting up around 10:30 and I, 11:30. As we had our breakfast and packed up the vehicles, he kept beating himself up for not getting up in time to paddle the estuary.
You win some. You lose some.