November Camping

Halloween blue moon over Sayward Junction.
A nautical superstition is to never begin a voyage on a Friday. We did.
Hoomak Lake dawn. A placid lake betrays the ongoing business of the North island highway and the rest area where we spent a long night. The traffic never stopped.
End of the road. A view northward from Port Hardy to the central coast and all points beyond. I miss my boat!

These breathtaking copper panels adorn the lobby of the new Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy. A venture of the local Kwakiutl First Nations the hotel is an elegant example of Neo-Westcoast architecture. It alone made my drive worthwhile. Each panel is about six feet tall and the mural portrays the history and culture of these people.

I’m starting this with the rain drumming on the metal roof of the camper. It has slowed enough for the moment to allow me to hear individual drops. This morning I first awoke to hear the wind roaring in the tree tops hundreds of feet above me. The din was like a passing high-speed train. The trees are massive ancient Sitka Spruce, already venerable when the first of us Caucasians stumbled into these swamps hundreds of years ago. The rain now crashes down again in barrel-sized dollops. Our shelter shudders under the assault. I worried about a tree falling on us but realized they had withstood far worse weather in the hundreds of years they had grown here. Many of the bases are more than ten feet across. It will take more than my dark karma to bring one of these down. The notion of a crackling campfire is a mad fantasy.

Finally! The objective after over seventy kilometers of rough muddy logging roads and a long walk. San Joseph Bay on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Jack galloped ahead as if he were suddenly ten years younger. The trek back was hell but he was determined to do it all on his own.
He trotted across the sand to inspect this creature emerging from the icy sea. It had no pockets or treats. Surfers pack their gear the entire distance of over 2.6 km in and then back out after a day in the water.
Mystery flotsam. How did this ball of copper wire manage to end up here?
A roll of bull kelp not to be confused with a load of bull.
Hawaii next stop. There are three surfers out there. What a way to celebrate being alive and young!
And then the reluctant turn back.
There is magic everywhere and the coastal rainforest seems filled with the presence of many spirits.
They lurk overhead.
They reach out as if to draw you into their boggy world.
There is magic under every root.
This beauty was about twenty centimetres tall
Berry nice
The entire ecosystem depends on massive amounts of moisture. At times it seems one can reach out and wring a handful of water from the very air.
Beneath giant’s feet. The wind thundered in their tops a few hundred feet up.
Whoosh! Beside the camp spot. There was no dry firewood.
The watcher of Nahwitti Lake
The whole damned downtown. Holberg  once had upwards of 3000 people living in housing built on log rafts. It was the largest floating community in North America. It is still an operational logging center.

We arrived the day before in pristine weather. I’d wanted to find a place called Palmerston Bay but on arrival discovered a simple ending of a logging road. The slippery scramble down and back from a rocky, surf-bashed shoreline would have been too much for old Jack and so we retreated back the way we had come. The described “recreation site” proved to merely be a wider spot in a muddy trail surrounded by old logging devastation, not a place to cheer my soul. Eventually we arrived at San Joseph Bay. I hadn’t been there for over thirty years and recall being able to drive almost to the beach. Could my memory be wrong? The developments since made by the Provincial Parks people are impressive. Their pathways are like narrow highways and meander through the rain forest in a circuitous route which is far longer than I recall. It is a beautiful walk and Jack bounded ahead, full of enthusiasm for what lay around each corner ahead. I thought I’d have to carry him back but how could I impose on his joy? He was exhausted on the return walk but soldiered along determined to stay on his own pins one staggering step at a time. What an amazing character! After a long sleep he seems none the worse for wear and is, as always, eager for the next adventure.

Near Holberg is Vancouver Island’s first wind farm. In a traveller’s stop in Port Hardy, a defunct turbine blade is a grand curiosity. Take a lunch if you’re walking to the other end. This massive chunk of carbon fibre is not recyclable and consumed massive amounts of toxic substances when it was manufactured. There are some obvious green questions about the hundreds of thousands of these machines around the world: Eco-politics versus common sense.
Where the Marble River drains out of Lake Alice. Free, clean constant energy, no dams or exotic plastics required.
I remember when this engine was still working as a back-up for the diesel locomotives and to haul eco-tourists out to show them active logging operations. It seems sad to see the logging locomotive relegated to being a lawn ornament in the venerable logging community of Woss.
Old 113 is a mere 100 years old and probably still capable of earning her keep.
This photo of her at work in 1944 is how I remember seeing her in the early 90s. I’d love to hear the whistle echoing up a valley again. How fortunate to at least have the memory.

The next night we are well on our way toward home. The rain is incessant so again I sit with Jack in our little box. The winter weather has certainly made it seem much smaller when forced into confinement. Jack is cuddled against me as I sit on the edge of the bed and write. The blasting rain has revealed leaks which will, of course, be addressed once home. It is damp enough for the wallpaper to be separating for the inside panels. I curse myself for my restless nature and being up here in these conditions. Of course I look forward to going to drier country so these test runs are necessary to ensure there are no nasty surprises ahead. Tonight we sit fifty feet from the high water mark on Johnstone Strait. The wind and rain are increasing again but we are warm and dry with full tummies. Who could ask for more?

“Right then, that’s being the welcoming party done with. Let’s find a dry spot for the night, it’s going to be a wet one.”
This doe and two very healthy fawns seemed very tame when we arrived at Elk Bay on Johnstone Strait.
The next morning. The rain eased for a little while but the rising puddle made it obvious, that along with mechanical problems, it was time to pack up and reload for the next adventure.
Even this former logger was appalled by such a devastated clearcut.

Driving southward, trees with leaves began to appear and now back in Ladysmith it seems we’ve regained a month. Only two and a half degrees of latitude on an island of rugged mountainous shorelines makes a huge difference. This massive rock angles out into the North Pacific and catches hell from a very long way off. Wintry wind and rain have followed us home but as soon as repairs are made to truck and the old man box, Jack and I will be off to some local remote nook. Covid may have us trapped here, but I know the Snowbird flocks have filled every possible private campground on the island. It’s clearly a great place to be, especially with a civil war looming just south of the border.

Splendour in the grass at the edge of the sea.
The tide in the raincoast jungle. It is flooding and ebbing just as it has for a very long time.
Not a friendly place for humans, it is an amazing ecosystem.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at svpaxboat@gmail.com

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