Clayoquot Sound – 2006
Written by Jim Standen (edited severely by Sheri Standen)

It was billed as an expedition trip to the beaches and forests of Clayoquot Sound, where we might be able to see wolves and bears.  Well, just fresh from my retirement splash at the University of Calgary, and years of only having the time for local day and overnight kayak trips in the Gulf Islands, it was time for an upgrade.  A six-day expedition to Clayoquot Sound seemed like a dream.  So Sheri and I signed on.


After some “adjustments” to the attendees, which I guess tends to happen with trips of this nature, our group entailed expedition leader Sam Lightman, Andrea Rankin, Sheri Standen and me.  We met at the crack-o-dawn on the Vesuvius ferry and then again at “the bakery” in Tofino where we discussed our final arrangements and departure.  We decided on a beach launch and were on the water mid afternoon. After a relaxing paddle,  we were setting up our camp at the north end of Vargas Island towards dinner time.  Of course, that is happy hour (you know the story). 


Day #2 had us crossing Calmus Passage and Russell Channel to what we thought was White Sands Beach on Flores Island.  (A friendly RCMP officer later corrected us saying it was Third Beach).  The crossing was very pleasant and as we approached the beach, Sam indicated the in’s and out’s of a surf landing.  Needless to say, some of us (who shall remain nameless) got wet! 

The beaches were sandy with a somewhat “wild look” and we observed many things, including fresh wolf tracks. We could also see a different weather pattern in each direction but sunlight was directly above us, so I fired up a solar shower and water was heated in 1-2 hours.  This was our second evening and we were becoming adjusted to our new social tribe.  Conversations on all subjects abounded but Sam and Andrea took the lead on most topics.

On Day #3, we stayed in the same camp and tried a hike to Cow Bay, ending up in quite a different direction (now where is that GPS when you need it) through a sandy/swampy and curious trail leading to some sulpher springs on the edge of a beautiful cove.  The water was not exactly warm, but after the number of days we were without significant washing facilities, a bath was enjoyed by all.

On Day #4, we set out for Cow Bay for a day paddle.  Rounding an outcropping of rocks into Cow Bay, we were exposed to open ocean water and were delighted to enter some of the largest swells we have experienced to date (with a nice chop as well).  We were being quite careful as this water was out of Sheri’s and my experience.  We enjoyed the swell sensation, and began to observe whale spouts on the horizon and then …several grey whales surfacing very nearby our kayaks. 


SpoutsWe knew we were closer than you are supposed to be to marine mammals but had no idea how to move away as the whales seemed to be spouting and surfacing randomly in all directions.  At one point, we counted 12 – 15 whale spouts.  It was literally for Sheri and I the best kayaking experience to date.  We were, quite simply, thrilled and somewhat in awe of this spectacle playing out before us.  Sam and Andrea had pressed on towards shore, but later came out to view the whales when they noticed we were not following behind. 

On our paddle back to our campsite, we were escorted part of the way by one of the grey whales.  This proved to be equally thrilling and what great company!

On Day #5 we returned to our campsite on the north of Vargas Island.  The trip was long and arduous and we had a strong headwind and I suspect, significant current as well.  We made it, but were keen on setting up the tent and collapsing into Happy Hour. 

Day #6 we were to have a nice relaxing paddle to Tofino, but instead, found again a strong headwind and current, making the return a real grind.  There was a point when we were paddling that seemed as if we were “standing still”.   Halfway across the bay near Tofino a current created by the sand bar swept us off course till we corrected for it, but probably adding another half hour to the final crossing.  We felt like we cold smell the aroma from the Tofino coffee houses – we were that close).

All in all, a wonderful trip in which we learned so much from our trip mentors, Andrea and Sam.   We didn’t see wolves or bears, but we did see evidence that they were there and while whales were not mentioned, we saw several and this ended up being the highlight of a trip we will always remember as our “First Kayak Club Expedition”.  We were so inspired by this trip that Sheri and I ended up returning on our own for another Clayoquot experience later in the summer.


A Great Adventure !!!