Butedale was a former cannery that at it's peak ran 24 hours a day and house some 500 people of Native, Chinese and European decent, strangely they were all allowed to work together but weren't allowed to interact after work. Two staff were actually fired for abusing this policy.
Today however Butedale is home to only one person, Lou, and is slowly falling into the ocean and being reclaimed by the forest. We reached Butedale from Bishop Bay via the Princess Royal Channel, which is only slightly shorter and has a few more bends in it to differentiate it from Grenville.
We arrived in the late afternoon and established ourselves by putting on dry clothes and drying out all of our wet gear from 4 days of rain. We spent the evening with Lou, enjoying his stories from life on the pipelines in northern Canada and Russia.The following morning Lou treated us to a tour of the former township, checking out the old factory relics, hydro generator and herring oil collection. With a strike, Kim knocked down the pins in a game of bowls across the old warehouse floor which is slowly falling into the ocean. Butedale is one of those experiences that should be had if you get the chance. Lou is an icon of this remote area (the closest communities are 30Nm away in either direction) and enjoys the company of those who drop in to say hello.
After just one more rain shower, we headed off early afternoon from Louís Butedale and history lessons. Lou was a gem and helped Kim to repair half of her personal gear that during the past 2 days gave in to its brutal and consistent treatment.
With fishing line in my sandal, pipeline plastic in my boat and WD40 on my tent poles, all repairs were complete. We were ready to leave.
With a break in the rain clouds, Gortex on, ready for the approaching onslaught of weather, Lachie and I got back into our kayaks and headed south hoping for a glimpse of the rare Kermode bear, otherwise known as the white spirit bear. This is actually a black bear, although white in colouring. It may be a white sow with black cubs or a cub of both black and white colouring, a white sow or a combination of both. Only found on a few of the Islands in this group, they are hard to find, often high in the rivers and mountains.
Unfortunately for us, along the Graham Channel, from the ocean we were unable to find even the slightest evidence that they even existed. We knew of a few hot spots, but they were not present. Yet just one more reason to head back into this area.
Continuing on, we paddled late into the afternoon towards Sarah Island and into the Tolmie Channel. A barge heading north passed us in amongst the mist and rain on a flat ocean. Lach and I appreciate these moments that to us seem strange and a world away from what we are used to. Logs and constant debris littered this channel all the way into Klemtu, making night paddling an interesting challenge. Lachie and I appreciated the fact that we were negotiating these waters by kayak and not powered boat, due to the amount of floating obstacles.
As we approached ÖÖÖÖÖ.in the serious dark under sail, we were given one of the most adrenaline seeking moments in weeks. A massive sea lion decided to torment us off the rear of our kayaks, somewhere about 10pm, in complete blackness. Lachie and I stuck close to each other, kind of amused but completely freaked out by the antics of this particular mammal. Within a meter of us as we continued to paddle, it persisted to frolic in the darkness and the wake of our kayaks. With only strobes, cylumn sticks and LED lights to navigate our way, we had virtually no visuals on this animal that followed us for over and hour, constantly huffing and splashing right behind us. We had seen these sea lions during the day and were in excess of 1 tonne. We had no idea of the size of the one on our tail, although Lachie and I will always state that it was huge. Finally it backed off and left us to concentrate on the silhouetted trees and ocean walls. I love paddling at night for its surrealism, intenseness and navigational difficulties. Lachie would often rather be in his tent reading a book. These things we negotiated on, and the undisclosed campsite intention for the night would often be compromised. Fortunately for us, this time it was within our reach and Klemtu became our home , somewhat very late in the evening. Itís always a challenge paddling into an unfamiliar place, not knowing where to tie up, what the locals are like, how safe is all of our world? While we rest for the evening.
Until BC we had avoided populated areas and spent the 3 months in Alaska in remoteness. Now with the constant rain and push to return to Squamish our plan shifted. Docks were very appealing, due to lack of portaging and ease of camping on a flat surface (although every time it actually rained and made it harder to pack up the following morning) was way more appropriate.
Klemtu locals visited our tents somewhere around midnight as we were establishing camp. It made me kind of nervous, but given the tired state that I was in and ability to now trust in the environment, I fell asleep quickly, only to be awoken a short time later by yet another visitor. Still not sure whether the remoteness or the communities are more of a challenge to gain a restful night in, I shut my eyes and within minutes closed out to the world around. Woken by trucks around 7-8am, we clambered out of our tents into a very public area. Lachie and I got into breakfast mode and spent the morning now familiarising with Klemtu and the locals that stopped and chatted with us.
Around 2pm we took the tides out across Finlayson Channel passing landslides and into Jackson passage. To our fresh eyes we discovered a heap of fish farms. Upon the channels exit we realised that we were in fact in Jackson Passage Marine Park. Yep I still donít get that bit! We paddled a little further but because of the ebb against us in Jackson Passage, we made poor time. Finding a home for the night, we lifted our kayaks onto a small Island on the west side of Mathieson Channel as the sun was setting. Scrambling up into the dense moss covered forest, we set up for a nights rest amongst the woods. We cooked dinner about 20ft below our tents below the high water mark, and tied our kayak onto nearby trees. Resting on a half inflated thermarest on a bed of moss with birds in the trees and fighting bushes to access the tent, it was one of the most welcomed campsites of the entire trip. Thatís what itís all about.
The morning presented with a light breeze, in our favour and ebbing tides. We departed alongside the land otters and spent the morning padding south, negotiating Reid Passage into Seaforth Passage with helicopters buzzing above our heads. Avoiding the notorious Milbanke Sound we headed through these back channels and towards Kynumpt harbour but into New Bella Bella. Passing a Canadian customs ship we rounded a spectacular lighthouse and landed at New Bella Bella around 5pm. We had a quick visit and then departed towards Shearwater where we intended on spending the night. With a little confusion on just how many communities were in the area, we arrived in Shearwater.
A well established boating facility, we needed some washing facilities and desperately! With a majority of the washing and wet clothing in the machine, the 2 people left in the laundrymat were greatly amused as Lachie stripped down to his jocks, posing for the levis ad! Into the showers; we gained some respectability before being accepted for dinner on board the Maple Leaf. A beautiful 92 ft long ketch that cruises these waters regularly during summer with her respective clients. An amazing night was had and Lachie and I were overwhelmed with hospitality.
The Following morning we got our gear together, acknowledged the weather reports and had a long decision making process. This was a crucial time for us both.
It was the decision on whether to sit out a possible storm and weather at Cape Caution or transport through one night to get ahead of it. Knowing that it was on the cards, we were well aware that we could be sitting on a beach for 2 weeks longer than expected at this time of year, or we could get ahead and paddle the inside of Vancouver island.
Knowing what we wanted to experience from this trip, we decided to load up and experience the next 10 days on water as opposed to 10 days on the beach at Cape Caution.
Lachie and I have both negotiated big waters before, and though this was desired, it was not enough to stop our transportation from Shearwater to Port Hardy. As it was, we loaded up late that very evening and slept through the night on board a BC ferry. Early morning we approached the deck of the ferry and watched the sun rise over the Queen Charlotte Strait. Disappointed in our transportation decision, we soon counteracted it and decided to shoot hard for Squamish, as I had just booked a date to fly back to Australia. My sister had just given birth to my new baby nephew, Lachlan.
|heading into Butedale|
|Butedale falling into the ocean|
|part of the hydropower line, Butedale|
|inside the hydro works|
|looking at the hydro shed|
|the hydropower line in need of repair|
|Lou heading towards the waterfall & flume|
|the flume that feeds the hydropower line|
|the beautiful forest|
|inside the spectacular warehouse|
|setting up for some bowling action in the warehous|
|get it down!!!|
|random old bottles|
|the old dock falling into the water|
|the herring pits|
|Lou on the dock|
|leaving Butedale, here comes more rain & wind|
|paddling south, Tolmie Channel|
|Heading towards Sarah Island - rain|
|littered debris and logs in Tolmie Channel|
|the lights of Klemtu|
|arriving at night|
|fish farms in Jackson Passage|
|sunset over Oscar Passage|
|needed to go for a bit of a climb!|
|the lighthouse just north of New Bella Bella|
|Canadian Customs boat, Seaforth Channel|