Kayaking in Gwaii Haanas National Park

Aug 11-20, 2012

We took Zodiaks to Rose Harbour at the south end of Gwaii Haanas National Park, where Steve Konik and Christine Hawes introduced me to Kayaking (the other 7 in our crew had all done some or a lot of kayaking.

We loaded all of our food in the 8 kayaks – 6 single, 2 double and we were each given a compartment in one of the kayaks for our personal gear.  They shoe-horned me into one of the singles, showed me how to get my feet on the rudder pedals,  snapped the sea-skirt around me (an operation I was never able to do on my own), and pushed me out into the bay at Rose Harbour.

I was shocked at how tippy I felt as I paddled about waiting for all the kayaks to be launched.   Surely they remember that I can’t swim, and have never been in one of these things.  I did tell them that didn’t I?  Soon all the kayaks were out and I struggled with the rudder and the paddles to keep a straight line.  It was hard to keep up as I zig-zagged behind the others who all had kayaks that seemed to go straight.  Christine, my saviour, paddled along beside me cheering me on.

We got out of the harbour into some fairly rough water.  We were headed to our first camp.  I was flailing my paddle furiously to keep up.  Somehow I didn’t tip and didn’t fall hopelessly behind.  After what seemed like hours we headed in to face my next challenge … getting out.  Steve waded out to pull my kayak in and hold my hand as I extricated myself from what seemed to me at the time will surely be my watery coffin.  How stark the contrast between my ability here and the biking Rich and I had come from.

We set up camp, which turned out to be our home for three nights.  Rich and I have done this countless times and so I was back in a comfort zone again.  Christine cooked a wonderful dinner, the precursor of many incredible meals that she and Steve put on.

The next day, a real highlight for me, we visited SGang Gwaay.  Formerly called Anthony Island, it is the site of a village that has been declared a UNESCO heritage site.  The watchman for the site, James, showed us around and shared a great deal of history about the Haida and the site.  Many totems and other artifacts have been removed to museums around the world, the remaining vestiges of the village are being let return to the cedar jungle from which they were originally crafted.  We are so priveleged to observe this process at one point in its inexorable progress.   We kayaked out to look at some sea lions and then returned setting up camp at the same place.

Our group was beginning to gel, as we shared our snacks, our booze and our stories.  Betty and Dave from Calgary, Monika from Vancouver, Jen and Coral from Toronto and Andy from Rhode Island had all kayaked before, Coral not as much as the others. I was the only real novice

The next day we were camp bound as high winds came, but on day 4 we were off again.  We had seven great weather days as we paddled north, in and out of the islands and bays, to near Hotspring Island where we were picked up by a big Zodiak at about 7:30 pm on Aug 20.

I was moved to a wider single kayak, as my minders struggled to bring me up to snuff, and while I still struggled to keep up I was getting a bit more comfortable.  I found that balancing the thing was a bit like balancing on a bike.  You can’t fight it.  I did lose my pedals a couple of times and once, with Rich’s help I was able to lift the skirt to get my knees up enough to find the pedal.  One time I just used my paddle to steer.  In a heavy wind I found this very hard and almost needed to call for help.  By now everyone was helping me get in or out of the kayak, which remained my bug-bear.  Rich and I spent four days together in a double and found it to be faster, easier to steer and quite enjoyable.  We switched positions back and forth during each day.  In the back you steer, in the front you day-dream and gawk around.

The views and experiences each day were incredible.  Steve caught 5 Sea Bass in 5 minutes one day, which Christine battered and fried up, wonderfully.  We saw no end of humpback whales, Bald Eagles, Pigeon Guillemot, Sitka black-tailed deer.  We had periodic sitings of numerous other species.  We had a spooky fog bound crossing of Juan Perez Sound on completly smooth waters.  We spent three or four hours on Hotspring Island, dipping into three pools with varying degrees of hot.

Each day Steve, listening intently to his weather phone, created his own forcast prescribed the day’s starting times and route.  Not alone, this skill is one that would be hard for an independent to duplicate

The food, each meal was incredible.  Most notable for me, was that much of food was cooked over an open fire. It had been years since we have been able to do this in the mountains.  Christine also cooked cakes, biscuits and muffins using a little propane cooker that worked exceptionally good.

All told this is one incredible experience for me.  Thank you Ocean Sound Kayaking, Steve and Christine.

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About kenmyhre

I am a retired educator, computer professional. Now I like to travel the world by bicycle, on foot and periodically on skis
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