We were excited to get outside after many days of smoke-induced quarantine. So we packed up and travelled Up Island for a weekend of camping and paddling on the shores of Johnstone Strait. We were not sure what we would find. Would it be smokey? Weather forecasts were ever-changing so would weather cooperate? Would we see orcas? We decided we could handled whatever happened. And we are sure glad we went. It truly was a weekend of magic moments.
Out of Smoke
About 3 hours north, we seemed to be losing some of the smoke. The highway wound its way up and down mountains and when we stopped for a break, I saw blue skies and clouds. We did a happy dance!
We were headed into logging territory, well off the beaten path. The last 30 km of our trip, which took an hour, was on active logging roads. Packed gravel, washboard, potholes and hills. Huge trucks loaded with logs travel these roads bringing logs from the hillsides to the ‘log dump’ on the shores of Johnstone Strait. The road signs indicated the distance from the log dump. We figured “Up” meant mileage count was increasing away from the dump, and “Down” the opposite.
Being in the heart of logging country brought along with it concerns. #1: We were off map! The final road did not register on our GPS; we figured were were going to land up at the end of the world.
#2: What happens if we meet a truck? The road was not wide enough for 2 vehicles and we were pretty sure the logging trucks have right of way. Thankfully we met a guy in a truck that held us at the bottom of a steep hill, warning us a truck was coming our way and to wait. It was the last truck of the day so we could proceed, once it passed, with no concern. As we drove the roads we were trying to figure out the mechanics of this important industry. To find where to build the roads, the immense effort to build and maintain them, and then the network of trucks and boats needed to get the wood from hillside to market is incredibly complex. We see part of the network from our deck with the log barges dumping logs to be sorted. But this was an up close and personal experience with more of the upstream operations. During the weekend we saw a tug carrying a huge boom of logs as well as a tug carrying a barge full of logs. Action on the water didn’t stop!
Good news – we did find the campsite and our weekend paddling buddies
I love the rhythm of the tides. The landscape and what you can see changes so much. And it was so evident at our campsite. We had a lovely site right by the shore. We discovered, however, that the difference between high and low tide was a very LARGE distance because of the very low sloping shore.
Tide was out when we had dinner so we had ‘dinner on the grasslands’ which was the sea grasses that were exposed during low tide.
The blue skies we briefly saw on the way up disappeared on Friday and we awoke to pretty thick fog. Fog created many magic moments because it was always moving in and out. Sometimes it was so thick that we could barely see anything, and then it would move out and landscapes would be revealed. Trees would appear and disappear, as would coastlines! The strait is only about 4km wide at this point but there were many times that we could not see the island across the way. So it was an ever changing landscape and we had a great paddle, staying close to the shore.
Johnstone Strait is a premier place to see orcas along with humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. We saw a large male feeding in the middle of the strait when we arrived, but the real magic moment happened one morning. We were all standing on the shore chatting and we heard the blows! The fog, however, had just moved in and so we could not see much at all. But listening told us a great story. We could hear small, medium and large blows which told us that it was likely a family with a small one. We could see a fin once in a while in the middle of the fog, but I found the experience of just listening quite magical. Besides just the rhythmic blows as they surfaced, we heard tail slaps and even breaches. So we did ‘see’ the orcas thanks to their sounds. We could follow them as the moved from east to west along the strait. And then they were gone. So no pictures but the sound memories will last!
Saturday dawned less foggy, with some patches of sky and clouds showing. The water was glass smooth so we headed the other way. The reflections were beautiful, creating a magic moment.
The entire paddle was like being in an aquarium. Without waves we could get up close to the many rock cliffs that create the shorelines, and the water was so clear we could see deep. We saw urchins of so many sizes and colors, sea cucumbers, sea stars of many shapes and colors, jelly fish, barnacles etc. We didn’t paddle far, but this paddle was another magical moment. Being able to see so much was a treat. I did not have my underwater camera so I didn’t get too many pictures but it was a great experience.
In this marine environment there are large kelp beds. The bull kelp is anchored on the bottom and it floats on top. The long tendrils look like ‘fairy hair’. We paddled through and around many of them.
Evenings on the Grasslands
As mentioned earlier the ‘grasslands’ was where we enjoyed our evening dinners.
Life was good – we even had a chocolate fondue:
We also enjoyed our new fire pit that we brought, thinking campfires would be verboten.
We enjoyed the magical landscape and evening light that was different every night.
So evenings on the grasslands created many magical moments.
The last magic moment was arriving home. The smoke is gone and colour has returned to the landscape. The world as we know it has been restored. It was a very good magic moment to cap off a wonderful weekend full of magic moments. We gained an appreciation for a new area, met new friends and really enjoyed being outside again.