Some of you may remember a post from a year ago where I raved about a guided sea kayaking expedition in the Johnstone Strait/Broughton Archipelago (near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, British Columbia). Mike wasn’t able to come with me because of an injured shoulder. We decided to book the trip again with our friends Trish and Steve. I was a bit apprehensive. Could this trip possibly be as good as my first experience? It was! Six days of spectacular ocean kayaking and wilderness camping, awesome wildlife encounters, a dream group, and extraordinary guiding provided by Spirit of the West Adventures (SOW).
In this post, I’ve focussed on some of my fondest memories from the trip (mid-August, 2016). For more details about the itinerary and logistics, and some really great whale photos, please read my post from last year. Check out the maps at the end for Broughton location.
Beauty and Tranquility
We were lucky—six days of glassy seas. On some days, clear skies showcased the wilderness islands and snow-capped peaks beyond. On others, moisture-laden air highlighted the Pacific Northwest rainforest in all its wet glory. Yes, it would have been nice to have a tad more sun and warmth, but even in the fog and drizzle, it was smooth paddling all the way—and that was incredibly soothing.
Sunsets, Porpoises, Humpbacks…
You’ll have to trust me on the humpbacks and porpoises, I was not camera ready. The porpoises put on a beautiful show in front of the small island that is illuminated in the photo below. A massive humpback, on cue for sunset, made a spectacular appearance just beyond our makeshift clothesline (sadly the clothes didn’t dry). All night, from our fabulous campsite on Swanson Island, we heard the blow of the whales in Blackfish Sound.
While the big ocean mammals are the stars of these trips, I loved our daily eagle sightings. I also enjoyed our slow, shore-hugging paddles where anemones, urchins, sea stars, chitons, and all sorts of other interesting creatures make their home in the intertidal zone.
Dream Group and Guides
One of the worries on organized tours is whether you’ll end up with a nice group of people. We won the lottery! I could not imagine a kinder, more considerate, easy-going and interesting group of people. They may not say the same about me, the one who has a habit of ordering around her hubby (note to self: request single kayaks).
I wish the photo above included our guides Robin and Tyrone, because we won the lottery with them too. They’re the two whipping up a fabulous meal under the yellow tarp in the photo montage below. These guys worked non-stop from dawn until well after all of us were tucked into our sleeping bags. They guided us expertly; they taught us about flora, fauna, and history; they prepared exquisite meals; they even transported a box of our bodily wastes on the back of their kayaks. On top of it all, they were nice..really nice.
Gourmet Wilderness Dining
Salmon roll appetizers, Thai chicken curry, chocolate fondue…how do they do it! There is no support boat and all the ingredients and cooking supplies for six days get schlepped in the kayaks. I’ve been on two of these trips now and I still can’t get over the taste, variety, freshness, and presentation of the meals.
The Paddler’s Inn, a really cool floating lodge just north of Echo Bay, is an awesome place to start or end a SOW Johnstone Strait/Broughton Expedition. Tours run back to back and the travel direction reverses each time, so the first or last night is always spent at the Paddler’s Inn. It’s rustic and charming, and comfortable and dry! Bruce, one of the owners, runs a water taxi service that shuttles the groups to and from Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island. He’s also a professional massage therapist (great work combo!). Trust me, having a massage is a really nice way to end (or start) the trip!
Maps and Info
- The Broughton Archipelago is located near the north end of Vancouver Island.
- Spirit of the West provides van transportation from Quadra Island/Campbell River to Telegraph Cove where a water taxi transports groups to their first night’s accommodation—either the Paddler’s Inn, if trip is running north to south, or a campsite in Johnstone Strait if trip is going south to north.
- The map below shows our route (roughly) and the islands we camped on. The route and sites change from trip to trip depending on weather, site availability, currents, etc.
- Spirit of the West offer trips of different durations, locations, and “comfort” levels. I totally loved the wilderness camping but for those who aren’t as keen on this, I’ve heard rave reviews about the Johnstone Strait base camp trip.
After our kayaking trip we spent a few days exploring Quadra Island—check out my post.