Kyuquot

Paddling Kyuquot Sound

The paddle might as well be slicing through glass. The lowering sun glistens off the still water and the mountains descend on either side of Paul’s blue kayak. It’s August and we’ve been enjoying the best of summer weather, 25 degrees Celsius and sunny. Paul, our chef, has conveniently stashed a few cans of Kokanee on the shelf in his boat. He stops paddling, grabs a can, pops the tab and enjoys a long sip of cold beer while his boat continues to glide across the calm water.

This image of lush green mountains meeting the water under the bright sunshine brings to mind places like Hawaii or New Zealand. You may see the photo and quickly dismiss this as some southern Pacific paradise outside of the practical and financial grasp of most North American travelers but rest assured, we’re still in Canada.

This is the Kyuquot Sound on Vancouver Island.

Page through kayaking books and you will find a wealth of information pertaining to paddling on Vancouver Island but very few pages, if any, will be written about this gem of a spot. Situated in the sparsely populated northwest quarter of the island, this area is home to the Kyuquot and Checleseht First Nations People; and is the northernmost of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. While the population of Kyuquot/Checleseht in the area has decreased dramatically over centuries, a few hundred Kyuquot/Checleseht remain here and there is a wealth of artifacts that document their rich native history throughout the area. Travelers have been welcomed to explore as long as they “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”

While the Sound and its surroundings are becoming increasingly popular among sea kayakers and fishermen, it is still only accessible by sea or air and is much less crowded than some of the more known spots further south on Vancouver Island. Today, we have paddled from Fair Harbour, the closest town with access to Vancouver Island’s main highways. We are a group of seven traveling with Kit Perrick of Kit’s Kayak Crusades, also known as Rising Sun Kayaks. Kit, born and raised in the Vancouver area, is a lawyer who turned a passion for kayaking into a business about 10 years ago. Throughout the summer he leads groups of kayakers into the waters that he has spent a good percentage of his life exploring by paddle. This week’s trip is especially exciting because aside from a couple boats traveling from Kyuquot Village to Fair Harbour, we seem to have the Sound to ourselves.

Our trip will take us through the Kyuquot Sound, along the west coast of the Vancouver Island to the Bunsby Islands and then on to the southern beaches of the Brooks Peninsula. This entire stretch of land and water is native to the aforementioned Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations people and it is rich with temperate rainforests and wildlife. We see far more sea otters than people here and while the waters are virtually motionless for our trip this area is exposed to the open ocean and future paddlers should note that our smooth paddling is not the norm. On our first day we paddle through nearly the entire Kyuquot Sound and we beach our boats at moonrise on the western side of the tiny Amos Island.

As we set up camp, Paul grills us some cheeseburgers for dinner. We sit by the fire for our meal, watching the moon rise over the water and thinking “forget Margaritaville, this is a cheeseburger in paradise.” We quickly learn on this trip that with Paul working as our chef, we will not be going hungry. Paul casts aside the traditional staples of camping cuisine like wieners on a stick and trail mix in favor of well-planned, healthy and delicious meals such as Greek Salad, Salmon Salad, curry dishes and pastas all made with fresh vegetables. And for breakfast, blueberry pancakes one day and loaded breakfast burritos the next. With Paul paddling along, what was once a rugged camping experience becomes a luxury dining adventure.

Paul’s meals fuel us to paddle on past the Kyuquot Sound to the Bunsby Islands stopping to camp on McLean Island and on an expansive rocky mainland beach along the way. The beach we stay at on McLean Island is enclosed by land on both sides keeping the water calm and convenient for an afternoon swim. Our mainland campsite is on a long, rocky and windy beach facing the open Pacific. There is a creek next to our campsite with cold drinkable fresh water and judging by the footprints here, the beach is obviously a happening spot among the local wolf population. One guide filling her water bottle before our morning launch even makes eye contact with a wolf grabbing a drink across the water. The wolf eyes her, takes a drink and slyly retreats into the forest.

When we beach our boats in the Bunsby Islands we feel as if we have washed ashore at some tropical island oasis. There are two beaches on the island where we set up camp. On one side, emerald water meets a rocky shoreline and on the other, white sands greet crystal clear turquoise water. Several of us take the opportunity to swim here and we quickly make the decision to stay for a couple of days. There are plenty of places to explore in the Bunsbies and several people take day trips. One day a few of us take an extended day paddle to the beaches on the south side of the Brooks Peninsula. We meet a group from Seattle who are camping here; they are the first people we have seen all week. The beach is long though and there is plenty of room to share. The water between the Bunsby Islands and the Brooks Peninsula is rumored to be a popular hangout for migrating whales but we miss out on spotting the wildlife on this particular afternoon.

Our final night was spent in the Bunsby Islands and Paul treated us to another fabulous dinner with a side dish of hot dogs on a stick. Not all campfire foods were forgotten after all. Leo Jack’s Voyager Water Taxi escorts us back to Fair Harbour the next morning and we reach the Ferry Terminal on the mainland just in time to see a full moon rising over Horseshoe Bay.

For more photos of paddling Kyuquot Sound CLICK HERE

One Response to Kyuquot

  1. Paul Bikehike says:

    It seems really calm and peaceful. I have visited some of the places having adventurous rafting, and that’s awesome adventure.

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