Mikhail Belikov Photography (nature, adventures, travel)

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Kayaking Queen Charlotte Strait Solo



DAY 15: TO MACKENZIE SOUND

Woke up at 8:00am. There was no rush with the departure - after sweating against the tide yesterday, I wanted to wait for a strong afternoon flood tide to push me through Grappler and Mackenzie Sounds. I had finished the rice leftovers for breakfast, adding the fruit-and-nuts trail mix for the sweet taste, and completed it with the coffee from my thermos. Then I photographed the sawmill ruins.



I also took pictures of the rocky outcrop next to my campsite, resembling a crocodile. This was the place where I got stranded yesterday expecting a dangerous encounter with a bear only to end up facing flirting squirrels.



Left the campsite at 12:30pm. The tide had pushed me most of the way to the rapids and I only paddled leisurely, except in a few places where I experienced counter-currents. In one hour I had reached the passage where Roaringhole Rapids were forming during the strong tide. I could not see anything unusual there, just the calm water and no current.



Cautiously, I was advancing into the passage, ready to speed out if the current would pick up. Twenty meters in, I had finally detected some light current that quickly accelerated as I drifted deeper in. I had turned around and just managed to get out before the current would overpower and suck me in. I still saw no rapids in the passage, just the smooth water as far as I could see. I had assumed that the rapids were farer ahead, invisible from my location, and I still wanted to photograph them. The only way to do so safely seemed to be from the shore. I had found a suitable place where I could leave my kayak tied up to the shore but safely floating inside a field of seaweed. From there I would try to walk through the forest to the narrows and then along them, trying to reach the rapids. Just when I was about to leave, a motorboat had come very close to the narrows and then stopped. The two people aboard had discussed something, most likely that it would be too brave to continue. Then the boat had turned around and very bravely ran away at a high speed, sending a wake so powerful that it had picked up my kayak from the seaweed field and would have deposited it on the rocky shore if I did not manage to stop it with my body.



There was no way for me to leave the kayak unattended in this environment, so I got in and paddled back to the rapids. Now, I could both see and hear them, from a safe distance. After taking a few pictures, I headed for Kenneth Passage leading me into Mackenzie Sound. Unfortunately, the fog had limited the visibility to only nearby hills and I could see no mountains -- the main reason for undertaking this trip. Still, I had paddled through the sound for an hour.



Overall, it was a very quiet and wild place. The only signs of human presence were logging scars on the slopes. Otherwise, I could have been in a completely different century.



Saw a number of Bonaparte's Gulls throughout the day. By 4:00pm I had reached the middle part of the sound. There was no point to move any further: the fog/cloud cover had not lifted, so no vistas ahead. I had floated for a bit, enjoying my late lunch and waving to a sailboat passing by - the only boat I had seen in the sound. Then I had turned back aiming at a campsite at Hopetown Passage entrance, listed in the guidebook.

I did not feel the current, but the front wind was slowing me down. In about 1.5 hours I got close to Hopetown Passage and started looking for the campsite. Unfortunately, I could not locate the site marked in the guidebook and at the end had settled on a low-lying shore, next to Hopetown Passage. I had found a small patch of grass, just enough for my tent, and camped there.

Some raccoon scat nearby had indicated that I had neighbors. The area was quiet, except for a dinghy motoring around, with two people inside  -- their sailboat had passed me in Mackenzie Sound and was now anchored nearby. I had also seen one or two dolphins, likely feeding. After cooking pasta with cheese for dinner, leaving enough for the cold breakfast, I went to bed at 9:30pm.  The plan for tomorrow was to pass through narrow Hopetown Passage at a slack. The timing had to be just right. If I started too early, while the tide was still ebbing, I would have to paddle against the tide further down the road. If I started too late, the tide in Hopetown Passage would be against me, and the narrowest part would create a strong current, impossible to paddle against.  The tide tables had indicated the slack in the area at around 10:30am. Since the tide timing was never precise, I had decided to be ready an hour earlier, just in case. After Hopetown Passage I was planning to paddle again through Sutlej Sound and camp in Cypress Harbour on Broughton Island, some 20km away.


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