Buckley Bay to Qualicum Bay

July 16, 2019 – It rained much of last night and was still raining when we took my gear down to the beach and carried it and BABS to the water line. It was a smooth but wet loading and I was on the water by 7:50. The farther south I get along Vancouver Island, the more populated and more impossible it is to find isolated beaches that are not private property, so my target take out spot was the Qualicum First Nation’s campground in Qualicum Bay, a 14.6-mile paddle from Buckley Bay.

This time I had no birds or seals to see me off in the warm rain. It took me only three and a half hours to make the journey. Houses dotted the shoreline pretty much the entire stretch. Well, houses and RV resorts, guest cottages, cabins, etc. were pretty solid all along the way. I noticed as early as Union Bay, above Buckley Bay, concrete block sea walls installed along the beaches to bring yards and pedestrian areas all the way out to the high tide line.

I did see harbor seals. Regularly. Their curious little sentry faces popped out of the water all throughout the morning’s paddle. I still wonder if they are as enthralled as I am to look into their sweet faces. I also saw my first Canada geese in BC. 60 of them. I heard some up north a week or two ago but haven’t actually seen any until today. They were in the estuary here in Qualicum Bay along with a bunch of Bonaparte gulls, harlequin ducks, and the other usual suspects. I also saw a great number of medium-sized jellies with pinkish centers in the bay.

I arrived at the campground just before low tide so it was five 160-yard long loads to my campsite, but I got here so early I had time to take a nap and make a couple of small gear repairs before supper. Now I am sitting at the picnic table provided by the campground looking out at Georgia Strait and the southern tips of Denman and Hornby Islands with the occasional harbor seal swimming by and checking me out.

I’ve decided to paddle all the way to Southey Island tomorrow. It will be at least 26 miles. It’s is about eight miles north of Nanaimo but right off the coast of Vancouver Island. It’s small enough that some billionaire doesn’t own it and there is no formal campground, but Dennis Dwyer says it’s perfect for kayaker tent camping. So if there is anyone else there, they will be like me hopefully. I will aim to leave at 7 am to catch the last five hours of the ebb which should get me most of the way there before it turns.

I’m mourning a wee bit my first five weeks of being able to camp anywhere I wanted with no humans around. I’m also celebrating this new and still stunning landscape at the same time where there are other humans nearby almost always. I can still paddle these fine waters and then find a piece of earth to pitch my tent and that is really what matters. I’m out of the wild and into the civilized. I adjust. I am sitting and finding the inner place despite the screaming kids and weed whackers. They both eventually quiet down and it’s all good. I am really liking how easy it is to paddle almost 15 miles, then haul all the gear and boat so far, then walk a few miles to stretch out the body and legs. I am liking this experience. Staying in this place in this moment and imprinting it into my memory database.

Qualicum and other first nations’ canoes on their way to Lummi Island to bring attention to the Orca decline.
If you look carefully you’ll see BABS way down 160 yards where I carried all the gear and BABS herself up the shore to the campsite.
Lots of jellies in the bay. These had a pinkish middle and were 4-6 inches in size.

Written by

kyleenaustin

I am passionate about outdoor exploration. In the recent years I have discovered how much more I can experience from a kayak. I am a professional musician and own a dairy where we produce raw milk, butter and cheeses. My son tells me I have "too much on my plate". He is correct, but I wouldn't live life any other way.

2 thoughts on “Buckley Bay to Qualicum Bay

  1. How exciting that among the creatures on the water you are also seeing the first of the Native families en route to Lummi Island for the Potlatch! We will be welcoming thousands, all coming by canoe! I imagine you will be seeing many more!!

    1. Hi Carola, they launched early this morning only to be grounded at Qualicum. The same big winds that forced them off the water have grounded me for the day. The forecast for tomorrow looks good.

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