The last 15 days have been a real treat, and a huge shift from the pace of our trip up to this point. By this point, you'll probably guess that it's a serendipitous chain of events that happened over a longer than logical timespan that cumulated into an exciting experience, so I'll start from the beginning.
Teamwork makes the dream-work. Especially when carrying loaded boats.
By February 2023, 2 months before the trip, we'd confirmed 2 additional joiners, Jay (Nathan's dad) and Sarah (Nathan's partner) for a section starting May 21st from Bella Bella and "as close as we can get to Prince Rupert by June 3rd". By March 2023, Griffin (Nathan's childhood friend), was locked in too. Nathan and I were able to shuffle to welcome these joiners, adjusting the meal plan and doing some extra shopping. By May 1st, we'd locked into two more joiners, Barton (a friend's dad) and Jordan (my frenemy). This is two weeks *after* we left Victoria.
Thanks to a Herculean effort but Sylvia (Nathan's mom) who reshuffled food, sewed stuff bags, the ragtag group was able to coordinate everything and make it up to Bella Bella by May 21st by a chain of cars and ferries.
Pam, a local leader we'd met on in the Goose Groups the week prior offered us an incredible tour of Bella Bella. Pictured is their awe inspiring Big House. ǧiáxsix̌a to our hosts, Pam, Max, Dayton, and Marvin!
For Nathan and I the story begins in Bella Bella, where on May 20th we found the cabin Jay booked from some loose instructions as "just past the beacon on the south end of Lama Passage on Denny Island." We found it, complete with a hot sauna, warm shower, a cute dog, and even a washing machine. Booyah. After washing our clothes, and ourselves, and enjoying some homemade food from Dorota, Don -- a local Coast Guard mechanic of 17 years who happened to be passing by -- gave us a multimodal (boat & truck) trip to Shearwater. Later that evening we took the local seabus across to Bella Bella and met the crew at the ferry terminal at 2am.
We spent May 21st in Bella Bella, and received an incredible tour from Pam, a local leader, of the Old Town and Big House. We learned a lot about past and ongoing reconciliation efforts. I was particularly excited to learn more about the Heiltsuk Climate Action Plan and the impacts it's had on the community.
As a group, we also decided to totally re-do the plan to minimize the need for a water taxi at the end and also to allow for less exposed seas than
originally planned. This meant following the inside passage up on the east side of Princess Royal Island, where we'd hoped to find Spirit Bears and Hot Springs.
Unsuccessfull in our Spirit Bear and Hot Spring search, we happened upon this Grizzly. We landed on this beach before Sarah saw the bear. From this point on I started carefully scanning for wildlife before approaching shore.
This was one of the few times I've done any sort of outdoor trip with a group this big. I loved it. There were moments I was entirely overwhelmed with all the gear, some of the more complicated meals, considering group dynamics, and some life challenges back home. But I also loved getting to learn more about people. Jay and Barton had some incredible travel stories to share. And I really enjoyed learning about some of the exciting next steps that Griffin, Sarah, and Jordan are taking in their lives. A truly diverse and incredible group of people to hang out with.
Barton frying up some prawns gifted to us by local fisherpeople for a curry Sylvia prepared. It's lovely to be cooked for!
One of the best parts of traveling with a group this big is the downtime. Normally, when it's just Nathan and I, there are a lot of tasks for us to do. Cook, move boats, dishes, setup tents. You're packing, moving, and resetting your town every day. These tasks take time. With a bigger group, we were able to share tasks. One person could cook while others relaxed. Many people paired up in tents, reducing the amount of time they had to spend setting up and tearing down. I really appreciated all the work everyone put in to make the experience great for everyone else.
Having daylight hours to drink Rooibos and read about Canadian Climate Policy was a real treat. We each spent a fair amount of time reading on this stretch.
Our paddling days weren't short, either. Over the 13 paddling days we covered over 200 NM, including some 12 knot winds and some unavoidable hours-long fights against currents. Despite that, we had time every day to enjoy some solitude and hang out with others in the group.
Lots of time to laugh and be silly, our moving in the making by Jordan.
We got really lucky with campsites and weather, for the most part. There was always enough space for us to setup well spaced tents and hammocks, never having to have more than 2 per tent. We had times where we spread out 7 of us into 6 shelters.
A beautiful view from my hammock
With more people comes more free time, more laughs, and more stories. Way more than we can fit into one blog post. We're super grateful that this group put in the effort to join us. Over the next few weeks we'll be posting more from our co-expeditioners about their experiences on trip.
And now Nathan and I, with the addition of Jordan, are off to Juneau. Next stop, Alaska!