The West Coast – Zeballos, Nootka Sound, Kyuquot



Wanting to have a look at Nootka Sound I decided to bike to Zeballos.  Shortly after leaving the highway that road became gravel and was in heavy logging truck use.  It made for a memorable day.  I don’t recall the elevation gain in crossing the divide from east coast to west but the effort expended that day was greater than either of the days crossing Rogers Pass or the Blueberry Paulson.  The drag on a gravel road is much greater than on pavement which made it necessary to constantly get off and push.  The truck drivers were very courteous. It was a warm day with plenty of dust but they’d slow when they saw me.  Late in the day a passing pick-up stopped.  It was a logging truck driver I’d spoken to earlier and his friend.  After their shift they’d driven out just to see how I was doing.  The other fellow was keen to try pedaling the bike with the canoe in tow. I was happy to oblige him and used his camera to take pictures.

Once over the top I was lucky to make it down the steep downhills without having a ‘train wreck’.  My weight on the back tire provides all the braking traction on gravel roads.  If loose gravel were to cause a skid that had me putting a foot down to keep my balance, I likely wouldn’t be able to control the push from the canoe, except to try to immediately maneuver cross slope.  There were a couple of dicey moments had me wishing I had made a tree drag as on the Bella Coola hill.  Braking on downhills is never a concern on pavement.

Zeballos like Bella Coola gets plenty of rain, but like Bella Coola when I arrived there, Zeballos was overdue for some wet.  I was looking for drinking water when I reached the valley bottom and crossed numerous dry creeks before finally being able to fill my water bottles.  The dry spell ended that night though and the tent was thoroughly tested with a deluge that lasted all night.   I knew the rain was coming and expected to be spending three days in Zeballos waiting for the sun to shine.

20130920_105223Best I could find for a campsite on the outskirts of Zeballos.  The morning following a very wet and thunderstormy night.

20130919_115951It’s not only trucks that haul logs on northern Vancouver Island.

19991231_161545The federal wharf in Zeballos.

20130925_115407Zeballos and environs from the water.

20130925_121719When I arrived in Zeballos I intended to paddle south through the inside waters of Nootka Sound to Gold River harbour.  That plan changed when I learned of the ‘Uchuck’, a coastal freight vessel that also takes passengers.  It nearest stop was at Esperanza, a mission camp about 20 kilometres from Zeballos.  Most of my paddle to Esperanza was with mill pond like conditions.

20130925_161842Nootka Island is a short distance across the channel from Esperanza.  While investigating it’s shores I passed by what I thought was just a black stump or boulder on the shore – my vision being restricted by the the setting sun.  Chewing sounds made me turn and come in for a better look and the dark stump became this guy.   I also spent some time using binoculars to watch a large sea lion feed on what was likely a school of herring or similar.  It’s feeding methods had the interest of a flock of seagulls who were very engaged in picking up what scraps they could find.

20130927_073653The Uchuck III.  Originally built as a minesweeper it has been serving the west coast of Vancouver Island for more than 50 years.  I recommend the  trip to Kyuquot.  You can spend one night and return the next day or do as I did and spend a week until it returns.

Scooped by the UchuckBeing ‘scooped’ aboard the Uchuck. As simple as paddling onto a weighted pallet they lower into the water.  Re-entry by the same method.  Kayakers make frequent use of this service.  My thanks to Cathy Berger for providing this photo.

DSC_7666Sea otter were easy to spot from the Uchuck.  Laurence of Http:// was able to get this photo of an otter with what appears to be an octopus or perhaps a squid.

20130927_082224When we arrived in Kyuquot I asked the boat crew if they knew of any nearby camping spots.  They didn’t but mentioned kayakers sometimes slept on the dock.  This seine net drum served my needs and my improvised shelter kept me dry in spite of the rain during the night.

19991231_224934En route to Spring Island to spend a week a la Robinson Crusoe waiting for the Uchuck’s next week return.  Japan dead ahead some 7000 kilometres … should I try for it?

20000101_002657Japan will have to wait.  Not enough time this day.

20000101_132216This camp area is used by a kayak adventure company during the summer months.  The amenities I was able to make use of made my stay more enjoyable.  There were three days of heavy rain followed by three days of sunshine.

19991231_175957This cement foundation is all that remains of a  sentry hut in use during WW2.  Spring Island was one of many such lookout locations keeping watch on the Pacific.

19991231_165107A stormy day on the west coast.19991231_160551A wet and stormy day on the west coast.

19991231_194233A very pleasant day on the west coast.

20000102_133522Thought this was a cougar track but it’s a wolf.

20000101_194141Tannins in the organic matter turn the water on Spring Island very brown almost red.  Creeks that flow wine.  I chose to catch and drink rainwater.

20000102_194833The second day I was on the island I walked out to the west side for some storm watching.  I had my Spot personal locator in my coat pocket and didn’t realize the pocket zipper was partly undone. Also  I  hadn’t properly tightened the back of locator when I last installed batteries.  As a result my only means of doing a daily check-in got wet and stopped working.  It was too rough to paddle back to Kyuquot to phone and I suspected that my sister might be calling the Coast Guard to report my absence.  The photo is of my ‘all’s well’ message written in seaweed should they have sent a plane out to check.  On the fourth day I was able to paddle in and phone. 20000101_213210Sea otter were plentiful, but timid, and not easy to photograph.  This one was in the harbour at Kyuquot and less fearful of people.  I have video showing him grooming himself with his paws and then without diving using a rock to break a clam or such.   I wondered how he could do that – do they have pockets?  Will, indeed they do.  They are able to store clams and their favourite breaking rock in folds inside their front feet.  They constantly groom themselves to trap air in their fur which is their means of staying warm.  As well their hair is extremely dense – up to 100,000 hairs per square centimetre.  I had the opportunity later to examine a sea otter pelt at the Vancouver Aquarium and their coat is so dense that it is not possible to push the hairs aside to view the skin

20000101_123557Cameras exaggerate sunrise sunsets – it’s pretty, dishonest though, wouldn’t you say?

20000101_234938Back aboard the Uchuck and still on the ‘outside’.  That being waters open to the broad Pacific where it can get very rough.   Not so this day. Once we turned into Nootka Sound the remainder of the trip to Gold River was all in protected waters.  It was by no means a direct trip as the vessel had freight stops to make in numerous places.

This trip on the Uchuck took me all they way back to Gold River Harbour.  From there I cycled through Gold River to Campbell Lake which I canoed to within five miles of the town of Campbell River.  From there I cycled to my aunt’s in Fanny Bay where I stored the canoe for the winter.