Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Great Bear Rainforest Stand Up Paddleboard

This was an incredible trip to a place that i have worked in for 10 years. This place continues to amaze me but what truly makes it special is the time we spent with the gracious people of Hartley Bay. I have guided in the Great Bear for a long time and it was one of my goals this year to stand up paddle this place with hopes of bringing excited clients up here next year. As Masa, the writer for Explore Magazine, stated at end of this expedition, "the trip exceeded my expectations." 

Here it is: 

July 15-16th, Jen and I drove the 17 hours to Prince Rupert from Squamish where we met Masa and Taylor. Masa was covering the story for Explore Magazine and Taylor was taking the pictures. Both guys were true professionals and a pleasure to spend 5 days with. Here is what our itinerary looked like.

Day 1:  We took the Tshimshian Storm ferry down to the small native community of Hartley Bay to stay with my adopted family the Hills, Cam, Eva, Rachel, Morgan and Brother Max. Cam had just gotten in from sockeye fishing on the Skeena River and that night we had an incredible meal of fresh sockeye salmon, dried seaweed, halibut and coho and oolichan grease. 

Day 2: We loaded up Cam's boat early in the morning and got a boat transfer down to a secluded inlet. It was our first chance to test out our gear and see how everything paddled. Jen, Masa and I were on SUP's and Taylor was shooting out of a kayak. I was paddling a custom built Andy Lambrecht Red Cedar Board while Jen and Masa were riding a tricked out Southpoint Kalama. I had attached NorthWater attachment loops on the rails and bonded with contact cement. I then attached our 115 litre dry bags with bundgy cord. The whole system worked really well and it was quite easy. We paddled to the back of this beautiful fiord and spent our first night in a GitGaat Longhouse. We saw a black bear in the estuary and we explored a stunning river at the back of the inlet. Incredible perspective from a stand up board. The weather was typical GBR........wet, rainy and misty. Just how I like it.

Day 3: It was a big day as we headed back out of the inlet and worked our way south to another Gitgaat Watchman Cabin. We found out for the first time on our paddle how difficult it was to paddle against the wind and chop. We managed to grind through and got to our destination. Jen was doing all of the cooking on the trip and she put together a killer menu plan and did an outstanding job with healthy delicious meals, essential on long paddling trips. I could have used more chocolate. We decided we were going to stay two days at the watchman cabin so that we could just go on a day trip the following day.

Day 4: This was our day trip and with an early wake up we were off to explore this magical area. The conditions had changed and we awoke to blue skies and flat calm conditions. Just perfect for SUPing. We took advantage and headed out to see the Stellar Sea Lions on Sea Lion Rock. Up travelling there we also encountered a pod of resident killer whales. They were a little ways off but very impressive. We also saw Humpbacks Whales who are here feeding in their traditional areas. After all of this wildlife we stopped at Hartley Bay's summer camp called Kayel. It is here that they collect and dry seaweed and harvest halibut. We were fortunate to have Brodi Danes accompany us on this paddle. I have worked with Brodi in a student mentor program and recently taught him and a number of the highschool kids their Level 1 Paddle Canada certification. Brodi helped to lead today's excursion and took us on a tour of Kayel. Afterwards we headed back to the watchman cabin for a late lunch. After lunch we headed over to King Pacific Lodge , a place i had worked at for the 7 years and continue to do contract work with, for a tour of the impressive adventure/fishing lodge. We ended the day with a hike into the rainforest to check out some incredible Sitka Trees.

Day 5: We awoke at 5 am to take advantage of flat conditions for our big push north but our trip was stopped cold when Taylor realized the tide had taken his kayak for a long ride. After the Mountain Surf Search and Rescue Team were unsuccessful we headed back for breakfast and waited by the radio. Shortly we got a call as a Seiner had picked up a floating red kayak and another boat was kind enough to drop it off for us. We got going and stopped at Herman and Janey's. They are whale researchers and have been working up for 8 years. I know them quite well and it was great to see Janey again, Herman was out helping a Seiner with his nets. After a short visit we headed west and started to work our way up the west side of an untouched island. Conditions again got choppy and challenging but that was what we got for a late start. When your paddling on the coast you have to get up early and get off early if you really want to go anywhere. Travelling by SUP you have to take advantage of the good conditions when you have them. That night we stayed at another watchman cabin in yet another beautiful inlet. 

Day 6: This was our final day. We had yet another incredible day of weather and flat early morning conditions which we spent exploring the vast intertidal life. This last day was spent mostly apart since i had to go back to the cabin to pick up something i had forgotten and by the time i got back my team had left. They were not at the spot we had agreed on to meet so I was way behind and spent the rest of the afternoon searching/catching up. I was finally picked up by Marvin, our boat transfer and taken to meet the group who took advantage of great downwind conditions. All was good and we were stoked to have completed this fantastic trip. Our celebration was again at Cam and Eva's as they put a feast on that I will never forget. We had halibut, crab cakes, sea cucumber, octopus, fried seaweed and Dungeness Crabs. Unreal. I was on a high from the trip and really excited that Masa and Taylor loved the trip so much. I was also very happy to have brought Jen up here for her first time to experience both the rainforest and most importantly the people of Hartley Bay. She said it was a trip of a lifetime.....and she has raced everywhere. Very cool and special for me to be able to share that with someone. 

Day 7: We spent the final morning having fried bread(yum,yum) and maple syrup at Lynne and Ernie's house(Cam's parents). From there we packed our gear, headed back onto the ferry and up to Prince Rupert. We said good bye to our friends Masa and Taylor and Jen and I got back into the Jeep for our 17 hour trip back to Squamish. 

The article for this trip should come out in Explore this spring. I am looking forward to seeing it and to seeing the pictures that Taylor took. I also want to thank Meg Chun, and Kialoa Paddles for supporting us on this trip. They gave us paddles, tshirts and paddling shirts for this trip and I am very grateful. The Kialoa paddle is the best out there and were amazing to paddle with over 5 days. More to come on the Kialoa paddles. I also would like to thank Ryder Eyewear for there polarized sunglasses which were a huge help on the really sunny days. It was amazing to have a pair of glasses that fit well, stayed on your face, and allowed us to clearly look into the water at the intertidal life and fish. If anyone is interested in this trip for next year we are going up in September when the salmon are in the rivers. It will be even more spectacular than this trip in terms of wildlife including Spirit Bear, Coastal Wolves, Humpback Whales and more. I will only be taking 6. If you have other questions about this trip or if you have a group that would love to see an incredible slide show just let me know.......now.......on to the next adventure.