Sunday, April 04, 2021

Life and Death on the water!

After leaving the northern end of Vancouver island, and seeing fresh snow on the sides of the road in the high places, we needed a place to camp again.  With lots of available options out around Campbell Lake, that's where we headed.  For the first night back we ended up in the same spot as our very first night on Campbell Lake two weeks earlier, Burnt Beach rec site.

It is a beautiful spot, and would better be enjoyed in summer time when shade is desirable, but with no generator along for this trip, solar exposure was a more important criteria.  So in the morning after we had our kibble and coffee, we started to check some nearby alternates.

Gosling Bay rec site is only a few km down the shore, but the prime sites were occupied :-(.  But just down the road from it was Petite Gosling, that really only has one site, on a small point in the lake, and there was no one there!
We swooped right in, got kinda level, confirmed some decent data speeds with the MIMO antenna - good to go. 

 The sun was shining, so the damp firewood collected earlier from the beach at Elk Bay was spread out on the table to dry.  There were quite a few painted rocks on the beach.
While I'm not normally a fan of painting the natural environment, these creations were certainly done with care - even if some of them were advertising!

Ms Hailey was keen to get out and check out the bush and the beach.

She always wears her collar when she goes out, and I hang a bell on it so I can keep track of her.  She never ever takes off, and always knows where 'home' is parked, but that doesn't stop me from multiple panics when I can't see her, or hear her as she stalks some mouse under a bush! 

From out on this point, I could also see a camper down the shore at Gosling Bay site, and looking the other direction, someone was in the Fir Grove Rec site.  While sipping my coffee and watching Hailey, I noticed a Bald Eagle just offshore making several dives at the same spot on the water.  I thought perhaps there was a fish there that it was trying to catch?  Then I realized it was a small duck it was harassing.  The eagle would swoop down, and at the last moment the duck would dive, the eagle would miss, and the duck would pop back up again!  Clearly, it was a dabbling duck, not capable of staying under water and swimming away.

The eagle would fly up, only 10 or 15 feet, then dive again at the duck, over and over.  I wondered how long this standoff could go on?  Then, the duck made a break for it, flying away over the water as fast as it could.  

 (view video full-screen)

The eagle put it in overdrive, and went right after it in an aerial chase!  Just when I thought the eagle would catch it, the duck dived right out of the air, straight under water.  Then the same swoop - dive - swoop - dive scenario resumed.  I thought it might go on for most of the day, till the duck's worst nightmare happened.  A second Bald Eagle showed up.  Now, the two eagles would alternate their dives, and clearly the second one would try to be there just when the duck popped up again, unable to stay submerged.

Soon, the inevitable happened.  One eagle crashed into the water and stayed there, wings spread out a bit, floating, but not moving.  I assumed he had the duck in his grasp. 
But then, just when I thought of running for my decent camera, I realized that Hailey was AWOL!  While she was likely nearby, just hiding under a bush or in the trees, I didn't want her spotted by these eagles who were clearly in hunting mode!  She would be safe if she stayed hidden, but what if she ran back to the camper that was parked out in the open!  So I was unable to keep a good eye on the life and death struggle in the water, but I did see the eagle in the water start to 'swim' with its wings in the direction of shore.  
I finally located Hailey nearby, hiding, and secured her back in the camper.  But I never found out what had really happened out on the water!  But immediately afterwards, I saw both eagles flying around.  IF they had caught the duck, I assume that one or both would be feeding on it now, or at least have taken it back to their nest, but they were both still flying.  Also, I did see A duck on the water in that general location, but the eagles were not bothering it - which doesn't make sense to me.  If they caught it, they should be eating it.  If they didn't they should still be trying to catch it.  Unfortunately, the video I have was taken at a distance with the iphone in the early phase of the chase.  I was too concerned about Hailey becoming eagle food that I never did get my good camera or find out the final outcome!
Petite Gosling rec site, Lower Campbell Lake, B.C.  
Just down the shoreline

I think we spent three days there enjoying the peace, quiet, views, and partly sunny days.  Then it was time to move on, for points unknown.  Moving southward down the coast we came across Miracle Beach provincial park, with a huge beach, and a nice looking campground.

It was about that time when I suddenly became aware of what day it was.  It was a retired boondockers worst fear.  The approach of a long, long holiday weekend.  Quick decisions needed to be made.  Either find an even more remote, scenic place to hunker down and avoid the weekend crowds, or get out of Dodge and hit the ferry and get off the island before the crowds did.  So - that's what we did, and made a beeline for the ferry terminal at Departure Bay in Nanaimo. 

We arrived at the ferry terminal at 6pm, just as the boat was leaving - not a surprise.  The advantage of traveling with your house, is that it doesn't really matter where you are.  I think we were a few vehicles short of getting on the 8:45 boat.  Oh well, there's another one at 10:10, we'll be on that one, just a bit later than expected. (Trying to remember convenient overnight spots near the ferry's arrival point at Horseshoe Bay, hmm?)
Alas, it was not to be.  I was scanning local marine, ferry and emergency radio traffic while we waited and overheard conversations about a 'man overboard', throwing of life rings etc.  I have no idea whether it was ferry related, but the arrival of an ambulance and rcmp car a bit later seemed to indicate that it may have been?  Finally, at midnight, we got on the 10:10 ferry!

Due to Covid, rules and regulations on the ferries have been changing and evolving.  For this sailing at least, all 'car' passengers were required to stay in their vehicles.  But for us 'big boys' on the lower deck with the trucks, we were not permitted to stay in our vehicles.  I have to admit, keeping Hailey company and catching a few Zzz's was very tempting this time around.  But, recalling the recent sinking of the Queen of the North ferry after running into an island at full speed in the middle of the night, I opted to follow the rules and leave Hailey to her fate below decks!
As a result, I had the front lounge area on the boat pretty much all to myself!

We arrived at Horseshoe Bay at 0120 in the morning.  Luckily, my memory had recorded a perfectly adequate spot to park for the night, not more than 5 minutes away - and included a view of the ferry docks!  Rather than the typical 'no parking' sign, we found this one!

After a very short night we hit the road early, hoping to avoid any traffic issues going through Vancouver, and that plan worked out very well.  A lot of the snow had melted in the last month in the two major mountain passes we had to go through, so even though slushy conditions were reported on the overhead signs, the worst we had was some wet pavement from snow melt on the side of the road.

As a precaution, the water tank was drained, and the camper was winterized along the way.  Luckily, the truck camper is super simple to winterize, and takes only about 10 minutes on the side of the road.  But without the usual amenities, it was easier just to keep rolling to the east, making it about a 14 hour day on the road.
It was good to get close to home and see some familiar mountains for a change!

 Besides, we didn't want to ruin our record on this trip.  In over a month, we only spent one night in a spot that was not on a lake shore, or ocean front property!  And that was a perfectly adequate trail head parking spot in the bush, with just a 20 minute hike to the ocean!

We got home to find only a few patches of snow remaining in the trees or in shaded areas, so no shoveling this time around.  My skating rink was ruined.  Time to put the skates away again!

With the lack of snow, any decent weather may find us out on the trail again soon, looking for more spots to camp and hang out in the local area.  Not sure when that will produce the next blog post?  Till then, stay safe.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Marooned on an Island!

 We enjoyed the time camped at Elk Bay rec site on Discovery Passage, north of Campbell River.  The weather was a mixed bag, and even when the sun was shining, the tall trees to the south blocked much chance of solar.  Plus, it was time to replenish the propane supply!  So we headed back into Campbell river briefly.

With no real plan of where to go next, we headed back out to Lower Campbell Lake by a different route.  We found the preferred spot at Burnt Beach vacant, so gladly moved in, and managed to get close to level.  We had to go through this very solid looking gate along the way.

Ms Hailey has been eyeing up a lot of the trees around here, trying to decide how best to climb them with 3 legs.  Well, she surprised me by climbing up about 5 feet, and hung there a while before deciding to retreat.  She was too fast for a photo though.
(Video of camp spot)

We spent three nights at that rec site.  It was wonderfully peaceful and quiet, like most of my camp spots have been on this trip.  We debated going further north on this trip, and finally decided to go for it.  Some of the rec sites along the highway were marked as closed, so that usually means a gate, so we avoided those ones.  We did go south of Woss and checked out the one on the north end of the lake, but it was heavily treed, quite uneven, and most importantly was pretty much full of what appeared to be long term or permanent residents, possibly working in the area? 
Last summer we had checked out a site on the very south end of Nimpkish Lake, but after a very long, overgrown dirt trail, it was found to be very small, with hardly room to turn the truck around. So it was easy to skip that one this trip.  But the map showed another one just up the lake a ways.  Most of these spots do not have signs on the highway, so you have to try and figure out how to get to them.  After going down an unmarked road, it was a pleasant surprise to find a long, narrow rec site along the shore of the lake.  My map showed it was called Kinman Creek, but the sign at the entrance called it Nimpkish Lake rec site, so we'll go with that, I guess.  It was a great spot, stretched out for about 500 yds along the shore with all sites right on the water.  There were a few rigs present, but there is enough room for good separation and privacy.  I even managed to heat up my solar shower ... :-)

I had some beach wood with me from Elk Bay, but even after split it seemed a bit wet, so it was nice to find literally tons of mostly dry driftwood just waiting to feed the fire!
It was tempting to stay more than a night, but morning proved cool and cloudy, so we kept on heading north.  I hadn't been to Port Alice in a while, so that's where we headed next.  Marble River rest area and rec site was a good place to stop for a break, but the rec site itself was gated and closed.  It looked like there had been some recent extreme winds and a lot of blowdown in the area, so I suspect that is why it was closed.  Onward into Port Alice for a look around.  An attempt to go south of the closed pulp mill south of town was discouraged by very poor road conditions, so backtrack it was.

The pulp mill appears to have been closed for years, but there is still security and workers around, so I suspect they are starting to dismantle it, or reduce it's impact on the environment, etc?
Heading back from Port Alice, we took another logging road leading to the end of Rupert Inlet.  Many of the roads out here have signs warning of active logging traffic, and are radio controlled for commercial users.  Recreational users have to use lots of caution to avoid getting run over!  I usually scan multiple radio frequencies when on these roads, and I have my amateur radio I can tune in and talk back if necessary.
The map showed another rec site there, and we did find a couple of long-abandoned outhouses, but it seems like this one is no longer in official existence.  It does not appear on the official Recreation Sites and Trails BC website, so I guess that is the case.  Notwithstanding, there is enough space for a number of rigs, with great views of the inlet.  Skies were overcast and grey, but we set up and had another peaceful night with ocean view.

With no solar about to happen in the morning, we continued on into Port Hardy.

Ate breakfast on the waterfront, before heading out to check the Georgie Lake rec site.  Found it had too many trees and a bit too rough with only marginal lake views.  Next, we hung out near the ferry terminal, watching the ferries come and go, while getting caught up online.  One ferry departed, then returned and docked again 15 minutes later! Trouble, or just crew training?

Then we headed back to Port McNeill, where there is a spot right on the water with great views, but still close to town.  Weather was a very mixed bag; driving rain, brief sunshine and calm, then howling winds, more rain.  At high tide the waves in this relatively sheltered area were crashing within 20 feet of the rig.  With no better weather in the forecast, it was time to just hunker down and enjoy the occasional break for Hailey to get out and explore.  The sun really tried to come out on the final morning as we departed for points south.

There are some higher elevation sections of the road as we moved south past Woss and Sayward.  It was easy to see that the rain we had received down at sea level was heavy snow up here.

After being on the road for almost a month, and avoiding the snow at home, we thought it might be time to go home and see how my skating rink and hot tub were holding up!  Pretty sure there is no grass to mow there yet - unless you want to use the snowblower first!
But then, a quick check of the weather and road reports, put that plan on hold indefinitely.  Days and days of snow were forecast, and there had been some major pile-ups of up to 70 vehicles on area highways!   :-(

So, I guess Hailey and I will just be marooned on this island for a while longer! 
We'll check in later.