Broken Islands Kayak, Day 1
Pacific Rim National Park
Sunday, August 2
Much like the hubbub of early this morning, there was once again a flurry of activity as the large group of kayakers - us among them - made ready to head out into the wild. The next thirty to sixty minutes was spent hurriedly rearranging gear, stuffing sacks, sealing compartments, and zipping up life jackets and kayak skirts. With all of the back-and-forth traffic along the dock, there was barely enough space to organize.
I was worried about taking longer than everyone else, given my proclivity to bring extra gear (primarily camera gear) and the need to ensure that anything electronic was safe against sea water intrusion. I was fairly well-oiled and efficient when it came to terrestrial backcountry travel, but this watery stuff was still fairly new to me. Still, I managed to secure, wrap and mount everything properly, and with my orangey-yellow kayak fully loaded up, I tentatively slipped into the cockpit and clumsily mounted my skirt to the rim - with the grab handle out, mind you.
The afternoon was perfect for a first-time sea kayaking experience. Sunny and relatively calm. There was no swell or chop of any significance, and it was pleasant and easy going as we started out, paddling south across Sechart Channel - the main body of water that separated the first of the Broken Islands from the "mainland" of Vancouver Island.
It took us about 30 minutes to cross the roughly 1.5 kilometer-wide Sechart Channel, giving me my first sense of how much ground (er, water) I could cover in a given period of time. Soon the first set of islands closed in, and we were paddling in a very un-ocean like narrow corridor of water, trees crowding in and overhanging the shoreline on each side. We were passing through the narrow passageway between Prideaux, Denne, and Nettle Islands - the most northerly of the major islands of the Broken Group.
Successfully through the narrow passage, we began the crossing of another open stretch of water to the next big cluster of islands. Then it was back to another tiny set of passageways to a shallow lagoon, sheltered on all sides and dotted with little rocks and islets. We landed at one of these and set up for our lunch.
Sheltered from the wind and with a hot sun beating down on us, several of our group decided to have a quick swim in the lagoon. Despite the warm day and shallow depths, it was still fairly chilly - not surprising, being essentially the waters of the north Pacific and all.
Roy through the tiny group
With the afternoon drawing on, it was time to move on - and to think about where we were going to stay the night. Arn had his mind set on a backcountry campsite located on Dodd island - about midway down the group and on the west side. We had already come more than half the distance to Dodd island in the two hours since we left the Lodge, so this seemed totally reasonable to me.
Emerging from the inner lagoon we were in (between Jarvis and Jacques Islands) we paddled across another stretch of open water, this one dotted with little islets, many not more than a rocky prominence that just barely poked above the waves. This was the so-called Tiny Group, and it nicely showcased the beauty of the Broken Islands - expanses of relatively calm water with scenic crags, often dotted with a banzai-like tree or two, and all of it backdropped by the rugged-looking skyline of the Mackenzie Range on the mainland of Vancouver Island.
A few of us decided to pull ahead of the rest in order to get a slightly earlier crack at the campsite. We had been seeing quite a few other kayakers about, and we half-wondered if the campsites might already be filling up.
We soon approached the cluster of large islands that included Dodd, bending around Chalk Island and heading up a small passage until we reached the little neck of land on the far eastern tip of Dodd. Here it became obvious where to land: a nice curved beach near the neck. Already many other kayakers were landed here, and we wondered if there would be enough place for our ten-person group.
The shady forest covering the neck of land on eastern Dodd had quite a few spots, more than enough to accommodate us. Jenn and I got a particularly private little spot, well-sheltered on all sides by trees and with nice soft ground. It sat only a few feet from where we'd parked our kayaks, and offered a nice little slice of a view out to the channel we'd just paddled up.
It wasn't all that late - perhaps 5pm - so we took advantage our downtime and laid out on a grassy verge just above the high tide line. Arn, always with a background process in his mind that is thinking about fire, asked to borrow my kayak so that he might paddle off to a nearby island to gather driftwood for tonight's campfire.
Jenn and I had brought our typical boil-and-go dehydrated meals for dinner. The others, in massive contrast, had brought all sorts of very fancy fresh stuff - various vegetables, baking supplies, fish - most of it totally unprepared. We saw a lot of time being spent making a lot of fancy stuff - including full rolls of sushi.
During the middle of dinner preparations, a square-hulled metal boat pulled up to the camp area, and three guys got out in work clothes, carrying buckets. They looked to be park employees, and set about doing some maintenance on the campsite's composting toilet facilities. Afterwards, though, they went around and introduced themselves, revealing that they were members of a local first nation, and that if we were interested, they would be giving a cultural talk in a few minutes.
First Nations Talk
Most of us interrupted our dinner prep to walk over to the north beach at the campsite to hear the talk. We learned that the three guys were members of the Tseshaht nation - based in the Broken Island group. The talk itself was a mix of origin story, history and culture, sprinkled here and there with a few park rules and some suggestions. Much of the historical stuff had to do with the relationship (often in conflict) between neighboring first nations. The three guys were quite friendly, but one - Willard - was the principal speaker. A younger man next to him was clearly there under his tutelage, getting a few tips and practicing a bit to give talks of his own in the future.
After the talk, we returned to our dinner preparations (well, Jenn and I just stood around, since our dinners took perhaps a total of ten minutes of work to prepare). Arn formed a compact little fire, and we lounged around until dusk. We even got to sample some of the sushi.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Broken Islands Kayak Day 1 - Sechart Lodge to Dodd Island - click map to view
Sechart Lodge to Dodd Island Campsite - Paddle Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet