Garibaldi Lake Backpacking Trip: The Remix

I’ve been to Garibaldi Lake 3 times. The first time was a day hike in 2015 and it was what inspired me to take up backpacking in the first place! So I followed up that hike with a 3 night trip the following year where I camped at the lake and day hiked to Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. In 2018, Carolyn convinced me to return on another backpacking trip over the Labour Day weekend because she still hadn’t been to the lake at all.

DSC06958

Both trips took place over 3 nights and had identical starts, but the itinerary diverged after that. On both trips, I went to work on Thursday morning and then drove out to the Rubble Creek trailhead in the middle of the afternoon, starting the hike at around 5pm. The trail ascends 800m over 9km and is a bit of a slog, but it’s a very well maintained trail and isn’t that difficult, so it usually takes us about 3 hours to get to the lake, even with large backpacks. My first trip was with Seth and Emily, but on this occasion I went with Carolyn and Brandon.

It was September at this point, so we had less daylight than my previous trip, which had been in early August. We needed our headlamps for the last kilometre or so of the hike in the woods, but arrived at the campsite before it was completely dark. The 3 of us are a pretty well oiled machine at this point, so we quickly set up camp and hit the sack for the night.

HOP_0753

On both trips I left on Thursday and took Friday off. I really like this approach because the park is inundated with people on the weekend, so it allows you to beat the crowds on the way in and enjoy at least one day of hiking with less traffic. Fortunately, Garibaldi does have a reservation system, so you are guaranteed a campsite so long as you book far enough in advance to get one. Don’t even think about coming up and trying to camp without a reservation – Garibaldi Lake has a full time ranger and they won’t hesitate to send you packing.

DSC06761

Since it was Carolyn’s first time at the Lake, she wanted to do both the Black Tusk and Panorama hikes. I love Panorama, but I vowed I was done with Black Tusk after the last time (it’s a scenic hike, but I’m not a fan of all the scree). We agreed in advance that we would split up on the first day. Carolyn would day hike up to Black Tusk and I wanted to try day hiking up to Mount Price. Brandon had already done Black Tusk as well, so he decided to join me. Since Black Tusk gets a lot of traffic and Mount Price doesn’t, it worked out pretty well safety wise, plus Carolyn ended up making some friends on her Black Tusk hike, so in the end we all had company!

The hike to Mount Price leaves in the opposite direction. Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge head back the way you came and then continue on the north side of the lake, but the Mount Price trail continues south around the lake. It’s not a well maintained trail as the crowds tend to gravitate towards the more popular trails, but wow, is Mount Price ever scenic!

DSC06789

We followed the trail through the trees along the edge of the lake where it heads further back into the woods. The first part of the hike isn’t too challenging and we made good time to the foot of Mount Price. There are nice views looking back at the lake and towards Black Tusk and we didn’t see any people on the way in. The benefit of this was that I got my first real sighting of a pika! I’ve since seen them a few other times, but this was the first time I saw one and we were very close to it, so I got a great view of this cute little furry creature.

DSC06783

We stopped at the base of the mountain for a snack and then continued on. From there, the trail get’s pretty difficult. It’s about 11km round trip from the lake (the same as Black Tusk), but I think this trail is more challenging. Once you start climbing up the mountain, it’s all a big boulder field and it is really easy to lose the trail (to be honest I’m not sure there’s even really a trail in this section). From the map, we could tell where we were headed – there’s Mount Price and Clinker Peak, with a smaller peak between the two. We more or less made our own path across the boulder field as we headed up towards the saddle between the peaks.

It is very steep and many sections have loose rock, so we took our time. Once you reach the saddle, it’s just one last push up the side of Mount Price. Mount Price is very definitive because it has a huge flat top. Once you reach the top, you can still easily spend an hour walking around the entire top of the peak taking photos, which is exactly what we did! Because the top is so large, you can’t really get a 360 degree view, so we made a wide loop.

DSC06832

The back of the peak looks out towards the Elfin Lakes/Opal Cone area and there’s an awesome view of Garibaldi Mountain. then as you make your way towards the front, you get a view of the back end of Garibaldi Lake and all the glaciers. Finally, you can see Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk at the front of the mountain. The views from Mount Price are totally out of this world! Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk get all the glory, but honestly, I think Mount Price might be my favourite – the only view that might rival it is the view of Black Tusk from the top of Panorama. As far as lake views go, I think the view from Mount Price is just as good as from Panorama.

HOP_0538

We hung out on the top for ages and had our lunch looking down over the lake. It was pretty windy up there, so we found a nice sheltered viewpoint while we ate. We started to see some more people on our way back down the trail (some of which were day hiking 27km from Rubble Creek!), but we didn’t see anyone else while we were on top of the peak.

As usual, the hike down was worse than the hike up. I’d definitely recommend poles and take your time – it’s steep and there’s a lot of loose rocks. There was still a bit of snow up there and it was September, so you definitely want to be prepared for that earlier in the season as well. The best views of Black Tusk are actually from the saddle and we had a little photoshoot on the way down (one of our favourite activities).

DSC06889

Unsurprisingly, Carolyn beat us back to the campsite and was taking a nap in the tent when we returned. Normally we’d be anxious to take a swim in the lake, but it was September and quite chilly by the time we got back, so we opted not to and instead hung out on the dock by the lake while we made dinner. The Ranger was fishing off the dock when we arrived, so we ended up having a big chat with him. Apparently there are tons of fish in the lake since it was stocked in the past and now, because of it’s alpine location, there’s nothing to prey on the fish. So while he has a big canned food cache in the ranger cabin, he likes trying to get fresh fish.

DSC06828 (2)

We had a big chat with him about the reservation system as well, which is how I know you will get kicked out if you try and camp there without a permit. I accidentally ratted out a few backpackers we’d seen heading up towards Mount Price (you can get a wilderness permit for sections of the park, which I assumed they had, but apparently Price is not included in this permit). He indicated he’d already kicked 3 groups out of the campsite that day and that he wouldn’t be following the Mount Price campers, but if he saw them having a fire later, he would boot them out. Apparently you can see it all the way from the campsite and because he has a boat, he knows the secret quick trail up Mount Price that can only be accessed from the water. Anyways, trail reservations and camping restrictions exist for a reason people, please follow them.

After that we befriended a few Newfoundlanders that were also staying at the campsite! I was wearing a Newfoundland toque, so they asked me about it and then of course we discovered that Carolyn knew one of them and that we’d all studied engineering at MUN around the same time (classic occurrence TBH). So we had a fun night chatting as the sun went down over the lake while enjoying Brandon’s infamous thai chicken curry.

DSC06940

On Saturday morning we got up early and had breakfast at the lake before taking down camp. Carolyn still wanted to visit Panorama Ridge, but because I wanted to try and do something different than my previous trip, I had no trouble convincing her that we should make it a through-hike and end at Cheakamus Lake. So we lugged our packs with us away from the lake and back up towards the Panorama Ridge trail. The trail between Garibaldi Lake and Panorama is still one of my all time favourite trails. What I love about it is that pretty much the entire trail is incredibly scenic. You pass through the alpine meadows towards Black Tusk and then branch off and continue across the open plains towards the ridge.

DSC06974

The trail in this section is relatively flat, so it makes for a pretty easy hike until you hit the ridge. When we reached the branch that goes up towards Panorama, we ditched our packs in the woods and repacked our food and essentials into our day packs (if you’re caching your pack somewhere, take all your food so that bears won’t be attracted to it, and of course, always have the essentials). So we had lighter packs to climb up towards the ridge.

DSC06993

It’s not a long trail to get up to the ridge (1-2km I believe), but it’s definitely steep. This is one of my favourite parts of the trail though because it has the most stellar view looking back at Black Tusk! I love the view looking down at the lake too, but it’s always so windy and crowded up there that I somehow enjoy it less. We had a nice stop at the top though where we layered up and ate our lunches looking out over the lake and surrounding glaciers before heading back down.

HOP_0804

On the way back, we had our second photoshoot with Black Tusk. Carolyn decided she wanted to get a picture that looked like her sitting on Black Tusk, so Brandon spent forever trying to manipulate the picture to make it look like Carolyn’s throne with mixed results (it’s a lot harder than it seems!) so we just resorted to taking pictures of us crushing it instead.

Once we retrieved our packs again, we were into new territory and I was very excited about it. At the start of the hike, we met at the Cheakamus Lake trailhead and left Carolyn’s car there, driving Brandon’s back to the Rubble Creek trailhead. So instead of looping back to Garibaldi Lake, we would be continuing on to Helm Creek.

HOP_0839

From Panorama Ridge, the trail to Helm Creek looks like a bit of a barren wasteland, but I found it so interesting to explore! It’s pretty open, so I could see it being really hot in the summer, but it was September, so not bad when we visited. The weather forecast had been a little bit mixed before we left and we’d been anticipating rain, but to date we’d fortunately been spared. We continued past Helm Lake and followed the creek down through the wilderness. Traffic reduced significantly as soon as we left the ridge and we were back to having the trail to ourselves. After that all we saw were a few trail runners who were doing the entire pass in a day!

HOP_0851

I had a lot of fun walking this section, we crossed the river several times and ended up having another photoshoot with Black Tusk as we continued around the back of it. Between this trip and some others I’ve done in the area, I think I’ve seen Black Tusk from every possible angle! Eventually though my feet started aching and the last few kilometres to the campsite were a bit rough. The vegetation increases as you head towards the Helm Creek campsite and the barren rocky outcrops turned back to meadows.

DSC07034

The campsites at the lake are all nestled along the trees and have decent privacy, but the Helm Creek Campsite is pretty much just a big open field with some tent pads. Unlike the lake, these don’t always sell out and there were a lot of empty tent pads, so if you really want to visit the park and can’t get a site, you could consider hiking in from Cheakamus Lake and staying at Helm Creek. I don’t like tent pads and prefer to set up on the ground, but tent pads are often constructed to protect the native vegetation, so we made sure to use it and always stick to the trails instead of stomping through the meadows.

Helm Creek isn’t as scenic as the lake campsite, but you can see right up to the back of Black Tusk from the meadow, so it’s still a gorgeous site. Being out in the open though, it was definitely the coldest night in the tent. We had dinner and then decided to go to bed pretty early as we were exhausted from all the hiking. Tent pads create a bit of a draught under the pad so it took us a while to warm up and fall asleep – I’m not sure if poor Carolyn warmed up at all. It rained a little bit overnight, but that ended up being the only rain on the trip, so we consider ourselves pretty lucky.

DSC07045

Sunday was our last day and the only order of business was to hike back towards the car. The trail goes back into the trees pretty much right after the campsite, so there’s not much to look at and we made good time on the trail. The trail length and elevation are pretty similar to the way in, but this trail has a long flat section along the Cheakamus River at the end, so overall it’s steeper. Once you get down the mountain, most of the elevation is done and you can either hike in towards Cheakamus Lake, or back towards the parking lot. Like most trips, we intended to go see the lake, but it was our 4th day and we were all pretty tired, so in the end we opted to skip it. We went back the following year and spent 3 days at Cheakamus Lake though, so no regrets!

And that concludes the trip! I haven’t been back to Garibaldi Lake since, but I have very fond memories from both of the trips I made there! I’ve explored most of the trails in this section of the park now, but it’s just so scenic I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. I’m hoping my next trip there will be a snow camping trip as I’ve never seen the lake in the winter! I took an insane amount of photos on this trip, so here’s a few more to end the post.

DSC06835
HOP_0525
DSC06986
HOP_0636
HOP_0819
DSC06999
DSC07015
HOP_0829
HOP_0868
DSC07036
HOP_0897
DSC07053

Skyline II Backpacking Trip

Continuing on with my mini-series about Manning Park, I’m super thrilled to finally write about the Skyline II Trail! After my amazing hike to 3 Brothers, I was inspired to go back to Manning. My goal was to hike the full Heather Trail, but I needed someone to do it with me. This was back in 2017, so I didn’t have as many hiking and backpacking friends as I have now, so that pretty much left Carolyn and Brandon because Seth isn’t really a fan of backpacking. I think Carolyn must have been on vacation at the time, but Brandon happily agreed to go with me. I wanted to hike from Blackwell Road all the way down to Cayuse Flats, staying overnight at Kicking Horse Campsite and Nicomen Lake. But since this requires two vehicles, we decided to try out the Skyline Trail instead.

The Skyline Trail is located on the other side of the park (basically, the other side of the highway) and continues for 25km to Skagit Valley Provincial Park. Since hiking to Skagit Valley would also require two vehicles, we decided to do a there-and-back-again hike from Strawberry Flats in Manning Park. The Skyline Trail is also well known for its wildflowers, but it doesn’t receive quite as many visitors as the Heather Trail, presumably because of the elevation gain. We wanted to beat the crowds to the campsite, so we decided to take Friday off and head out early.

DSC01154

It was late July and a beautiful blue sky day. We started hiking around noon and our goal was to stay at Mowich Camp, which is located right at the halfway point along the trail: 12.5km. The start of the Skyline II Trail is a bit of a slog. You leave from Strawberry Flats, which is a little way past Lightning Lakes. You can also hike the Skyline I Trail, which leaves directly from Lightning Lakes, but is longer and takes a different route up. On the Skyline II Trail, it’s about 5km to the junction with the Skyline I Trail. There’s not a whole lot to see on the way up – it’s pretty much all uphill in the trees, but they start to thin out near the top and you can catch a glimpse of Snow Camp and Goat Mountain. While it’s not the most interesting section of the trail, I’ve always liked it because it’s not too steep, so it takes about 90 minutes to hike up.

Once you reach the junction though, you are greeted by one of the most beautiful views in the park! From the junction the view completely opens up and you can climb down to this rock viewpoint that looks out over the park, all the way to the distinctive peak of Hozameen Mountain in Washington. The viewpoint isn’t for the faint of heart as there’s a pretty big drop-off, but we loved hanging out there while we ate our lunches.

HOP_5700

After that, it’s back into the trees for one last challenging section. You have to climb back down and up Deception Pass. You head right back into the trees and follow the switchbacks down along the pass before starting to climb back out – I think it’s about another 1-2km, but then you’re home free for the rest of the hike! That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is damn beautiful! Skyline II Trail is what firmly cemented Manning Park as my favourite provincial park and to date, I still consider Skyline II Trail to be my favourite hike in all of BC. Now I still have yet to hike in the Rockies, but until I make it out there, Skyline Trail is definitely holding on to the top spot.

Once you climb out of the pass you quickly realize where the trail takes its name from. The rest of the hike is along the ridgeline looking down over meadows full of wildflowers to the Lightning Lakes Chain Trail, and out towards Hozameen Ridge and Hozameen Mountain. We had picked a dream day to hike the trail. There was absolutely no one on it since it was Friday, it was sunny, and the wildflowers were in peak bloom! I can’t recall exactly how long it took us to get to Mowich Camp, but it wasn’t the fastest. I have a feeling it was somewhere around 6 hours, which is a bit on the slow side for us, but we were constantly stopping to take pictures of the wildflowers and had a long lunch break at the viewpoint. Brandon is pretty silly and I was have a fun time hiking with him – he indulged me by taking lots of Sound of Music inspired photos of me dancing in the wildflowers.

HOP_5815

The big thing to be aware of if you’re camping on the Skyline Trail is the water supply. In hindsight, we were pretty lucky because we weren’t super prepared for it. There’s only one campsite on the entire trail and the water source is pretty small. It’s just one tiny stream that runs through the campsite. We weren’t sure if it was even going to be running, so we kept out eyes open for other water sources along the way. There are a few other streams running by, but it would have been a long walk from the campsite. Fortunately the stream in the campsite hadn’t yet dried up. Our plan had been to bring Brandon’s water filter since it was only a small source, but he forgot it, so we had to make do with the emergency water tabs in my first aid kit. Obviously we could have just boiled the water, which we also did to leave overnight, but the last thing you want after hiking all day is to drink hot water (or worse, no water if the stream was dried up). So plan accordingly if you’re going out there. In future, I would bring extra water with me just in case.

DSC01220

Despite the rest of the trail being breathtakingly gorgeous, Mowich Camp isn’t much to write home about. It’s hidden in the trees, so there’s no viewpoint from the camp. But it still goes down in my memory as one of the more memorable campsites. For the first, and only time, on all of my hikes, we were the only people at the campsite. Manning Park is too far to drive after work and then hike into the camp, so we ended up being the only ones there! It was a weird experience. I’ve camped several times with only a limited number of other people (Juan de Fuca Trail and Ring Lake come to mind), but never as the only people. We took over the whole campsite and picked the best spot to pitch our tent. Brandon set up his hammock across two trees and we set up his bluetooth speaker while we cooked to scare away any animals that might be attracted by the smell. Brandon made chili for supper and had even brought dessert up with him! Overall it was a relaxing evening, except when Brandon left to go get ready for bed and I was left alone in the tent with only the sounds of the forest to keep me company. It’s kind of creepy being the only people around and I was definitely more aware of the potential for animals to wonder into the campsite. We were very careful about keeping all of our smellies away from the tent.

But we weren’t disturbed at all and woke up in the morning to continue our journey. Our plan for day two was to hike along Hozameen Ridge to Monument 74 at the Canada-USA border for a view of Hozameen Mountain. We continued along the Skyline Trail for a little while until we reached the junction for Hozameen. The Skyline II Trail continues down from there all the way to Skagit Valley. I’ve never done that section of the trail, but I have heard there’s more elevation gain to reach the bottom, so it’s not as scenic as the Manning side of the hike. But our destination lay along the ridge. We took the junction onto the Hozameen Ridge Trail, which continues all the way to border, and I suspect onwards past Hozameen Mountain and Ross Lake. I was never able to find a proper map for it, so I’m not really sure. My GPS says the trail ends shortly before the border, but it definitely continues to the monument and beyond.

DSC00958

Hiking along the ridge is pretty easy. It’s mostly flat and you meander back and forth through the trees, catching views on both sides. As you approach the end of the ridge, you start climbing. This is definitely a more challenging section, but as you crest the end of the ridge, you’re rewarded with an unimpeded view straight to Hozameen Mountain. If you’ve ever been to Manning on a clear day, it’s likely you noticed Hozameen Mountain. It’s the biggest mountain in the area, with very distinctive jagged peaks. We decided it was the perfect lunch spot and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to soak in the view while we ate our wraps. While we were eating, we came across our first visitors of the day, three trail runners that were training for Manning’s ultra marathon in August, the Fat Dog 120. They had started running that morning and caught up with us at the half-point of their run (and our 3 day trip). They downed a few gels, snapped some photos of Hozameen, and then took off again while we stared flabbergasted that they’d run the same distance it took us 2 days to traverse in just one morning. I bet we had more fun though.

HOP_5937

Our lunch viewpoint is where it looks like the trail ends on my GPS, from there it’s a steep downhill towards Hozameen. We could see the border monument and trail continuing at the bottom, but I was reluctant to go down there because I didn’t want to have to climb back up again. There was no way Brandon was leaving the last stretch of trail unfinished though and he dragged me down over the side to finish what we started. It is difficult to follow the trail down over the edge and it is pretty steep, so be careful if you’re following this route, but I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment when we reached the monument. It was my first time hiking to a border monument (I’ve since done Monument 78 as well) and we had a lot of fun snapping pictures and dancing around the monument.

I was surprised to learn upon reaching the monument that the entire border is actually clear cut through the park. As we hiked along the ridge, we noticed there was a corridor of clear cut trees, but never considered it was the border. I just assumed there was a transmission line down there. But once you arrive at the monument, it becomes pretty clear that it’s the border. I researched it after the trip and confirmed that it is true. There’s no signage at the monument, but I later learned when I hiked to the PCT monument that the border is also monitored by cameras. There’s a sign at the PCT monument asking you not to moon the border as you are on video! Wish I known this when I was flipping Trump the bird at the monument by Hozameen!

HOP_5979

We continued along the trail a little bit further to get another view of Hozameen Mountain before finally deciding to turn back. The trail definitely continues on, but it’s hard to judge the distance because mountains as large as Hozameen can be very misleading when guessing distance. All in all we hiked about 15km there and back to the campsite. We didn’t see anyone on the trail on our way back, but upon arriving it was obvious that other people had been busy hiking in all day. Our little solitary campsite was now filed with campers who had driven up in the morning to hike in for one night. It made me glad that we had taken Friday off and had the opportunity to hike the trail on our own, but we made some new friends with some of our fellow campers and swapped stories while teaching them to play exploding kittens.

DSC01079

We’d had two beautiful blue sky days, but the weather was forecasted to change on Sunday. When I hike with Carolyn, we’re always the first people up and on the trail, but when I hike with Brandon, we’re usually the last. Carolyn is a major morning person, while Brandon likes to take his time. I tend more towards being a morning person, but I can swing either way and enjoy sleeping in and taking it easy when I hike with Brandon. So despite being the first people to the campsite, we were among the last to leave. The clouds had finally moved in, but fortunately the rain was staying away. We made better time on the hike out, but we still stopped a lot to take more pictures. Even though I prefer round trip hikes, I find there-and-back-again hikes still look different from both directions and I have a tendency to take all my pictures twice – especially when it’s different weather conditions and all the photos look different anyways.

We stopped again at the big viewpoint for lunch and then pounded the last 5km back down to Strawberry Flats. I can’t remember if it ever did rain on us, which itself suggests that likely it didn’t, or at most was just a bit of drizzle. So even though it was 3 years ago that I hiked the trail, it still stands out in my memory as one of my most memorable backpacking trips and my all time favourite trail!

HOP_6069

Kayaking Pender Island

Me and Seth went on our second annual kayaking trip over the labour day weekend and I have to say, kayaking is definitely working it’s way up my list of favourite hobbies. We had a great time exploring Sechelt Inlet last year, but I still would have picked a backpacking trip over a kayaking trip, but since Seth doesn’t like backpacking that much, it’s a lot of fun when the two of us go kayaking together. You’re definitely a lot more vulnerable to the elements in a kayak, but when you get great weather it’s the best.

This trip started with a really early morning ferry ride. The ferry doesn’t run very frequently to Pender, so we were pretty much forced to catch the 7am sailing out of Tsawwassen. The water was looking pretty calm, but there were some pretty dark and foreboding rain clouds hanging around during the ferry ride. Fortunately, the rain wasn’t in the forecast for long and the rain moved off by the time we reached Pender Island and the clouds started breaking up. We picked up our kayaks from Pender Island Kayak Adventures at 9am and hit the water as soon as we could get them loaded up. I have to give a shout out to Pender Kayaks because their kayaks are awesome! Ours seemed like brand new to us and had really nice hatches. I was looking back at our photos of the kayaks we rented in Sechelt and they really couldn’t hold a candle to what we rented on Pender.

We launched the kayaks out of Port Browning Marina, which is located on North Pender Island, near the road that connects to South Pender Island. There’s a small canal between the two islands at their closest point and from there you kayak into Bedwell Harbour, which is essentially a bay between the two islands. Our first campsite, Beaumont, was located in Bedwell Harbour. It isn’t too far from our launch point, so we were planning to kayak all the way around South Pender Island on Saturday, but we changed our minds last minute. We started the paddle down the east side of South Pender and there was a headwind coming back at us, so we decided to ditch the long 15km paddle around the island in favour of a more chill day at the campsite.

Our change in plans involved kayaking through the Pender Canal, which was a piece of cake at the time because the tide was going out and there was a nice current pushing us through the canal (foreshadowing!). We took our time exploring both sides of Bedwell Harbour before pulling into the campsite just before noon.

Pender Island is part of the Gulf Islands and has two backcountry campsites as part of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. I was really excited about the prospect of staying in a national park, but I was a little less than enamoured when we pulled the kayaks up on to the lower beach at Beaumont. In addition to their dozen backcountry sites, the reserve also has a dozen mooring buoys located in the bay where people can park their yachts. I don’t have a problem with this, it just takes away from the view a little bit when you look out into the bay and instead of the natural surroundings, all you see is a bunch of yachts. Our campsites in Sechelt Inlet had been extremely remote, with kayaks as pretty much the only way to access them, so it was just a change in pace from that – something I had to adjust to.

What was more annoying though was that the site we had pre-booked had danger tape all around it warning that the campsite was closed due to a hazardous tree. I get it, you don’t want people camping somewhere unsafe, but come on Parks Canada, don’t sell reservations on sites that are not useable. Or if this was a new thing, then at least notify me and assign me an alternate site. It was super annoying to have to walk around and find another place to camp. The sign said that overflow camping was okay, to just try and pick somewhere low impact, so we set up on the bluff, only to be told hours later by a park ranger that we couldn’t camp there either. He did find us a new site, but it was a more than frustrating experience and we were not pleased to have to move the campsite.

But that was really the only hiccup with the sites and we did still end up with an amazing site along the bluff overlooking Bedwell Harbour. It was quite busy during the day with all the yachters riding in on their little dinghies to explore the park, but come nighttime, it was pretty deserted and we had lots of privacy.

Since we had cut our kayaking short for the day, we decided to have lunch and then go on a hike in the afternoon. From Beaumont, you can hike up to Mount Norman, which is the highest point on Pender Island and has a great view of the Gulf Islands. At first it’s just a lovely little hike along the shoreline, but eventually you start climbing up to the point.

Now, it was pretty overcast and a bit windy when we kayaked in, but since then, the clouds completely moved out and we were suddenly faced with a gorgeous, completely cloudless, blue sky day. It’s only a 250 metre climb to the top of Mount Norman, so I wasn’t expecting anything too strenuous, but boy was I wrong. It’s not a technical trail by any means, but there are no switchbacks and it pretty much goes straight up to the point. Couple that with the hot and humid weather we were having, and it made from a pretty exhausting hike. It’s about 7km round trip from our campsite, but we were a puddle of sweat by the time we reached the top (to be honest, I think I was also fighting a bit of dehydration from our morning paddle).

But it was totally worth it for the view at the top! From the lookout, you could see straight over North Pender Island and out to Salt Spring and Mayne Islands. There’s no shade at the top though, so we enjoyed the view for as long as we could bare before seeking relief in the trees again. We were rewarded at the bottom though and went for a quick swim before dinner. The water was shockingly warm for the ocean and felt great on our muscles.

Our view from the bluff looks out on two small islands, although island is a generous term because at hide tide they shrink down to a collection of rocks, but it was a popular hang out location for birds (although surprisingly not seals). Seth wanted to get a closer look at them and the wind had died off completely by evening, so we went for a little sunset paddle to explore. There wasn’t much of a sunset (foreshadowing!), but it was so nice not to have to fight against any wind. After that we hit the sack and spent one of the warmest nights I can remember ever sleeping in a tent. I guess I’m used to sleeping in the alpine, which is generally cold at night, but it was so warm on Pender I don’t think I even did my bag up all night.

Day 2 had a lot more paddling in it than Day 1, but we had a little sleep-in and enjoyed a lazy breakfast looking out over the harbour. It’s hard to stay still for too long though because the water is so calm in the morning and evenings. That was probably my second biggest (foreshadowing!) lesson learned from the trip. It’s worth it to be an early riser as a kayaker because the wind tends to pick up later in the day and the water is a dream to paddle in at dawn.

But we hadn’t yet learned that lesson so we took our time on Sunday morning and it was probably around 9:45am when we finally pushed back from the beach. Our plan for Day 2 was to paddle out of Bedwell Harbour and up the outside of North Pender Island to Shingle Bay – the second backcountry campground in the reserve. It was about a 12km paddle, which we knew we had lots of time for, but would be more than we did on any one day on our last trip. We took our time paddling out of Bedwell Harbour. We paddled back to the islands and Seth was thrilled to see 2 black oystercatchers chilling on the rocks (the bird he did his Master’s thesis on). The wildlife viewing was excellent on Sunday and on the way out of the harbour we saw a number great blue herons and other birds and an otter playing on the rocks. We followed the otter for a bit as it swam along the shore and then found some islands at the end of the bay with a seal colony hanging out. We counted 7 seals on the rocks and a bunch in the water.

From there we started to make our way around the outside of the island. This was the single biggest mistake we made throughout the trip. It was a bit windy (although not too bad), but the water definitely got harder to paddle in when we rounded the corner of the island. It was still totally fine for paddling, but it’s a little more intimidating when you’re on the outside of the island with open water on the other side of you. We decided we were ready for a little break to recharge, but we’re dismayed when we couldn’t find any beaches along the coast. Which brings me to my biggest lesson learned: study your maps and know where your stopping points are.

We did have the marine chart for the area and we had given it a look, but we hadn’t adequately mapped out where we were going to stop. Our experience in Sechelt Inlet and the day before was that there are always lots of little beaches around to stop in. But around the south side of North Pender Island, it’s all steep cliffs with no beaches. It makes for scenic views, but not great when you’re getting tired and are in open water. A closer inspection of the map revealed that there weren’t really any beaches for a while. We rafted up for a bit for a little break, but your legs do start cramping up after long periods stuck in your kayak, so we soldiered on to try and get to the first beach we could see on the map, the appropriately named, Boat Nook.

I have to say, I did start getting some anxiety at this point. Seth really needed to pee, but I don’t think I was actually that tired, I just got really nervous about the lack of stopping places and the remoteness of where we were if something happened to us. The water was manageable, but it wasn’t the calmest and we did still have to work against wind and currents. I talked myself down as best I could though and we did eventually make it to the Boat Nook, which was a huge relief.

I couldn’t believe it though when I checked the time after we pulled up the beach. We hadn’t even been kayaking for 2 hours! We ended up paddling probably 9 of our 12km in just 2 hours. It had felt like we were on the water forever, but the anxiety had just made it seem longer than it was. It wasn’t even noon yet, but we wanted a nice long break, so we decided to have an early lunch. There wasn’t much paddling left after that, so we had a leisurely paddle to Shingle Bay.

It’s hard to say which campsite I liked better. Shingle Bay was pretty much just a meadow and orchard, so it didn’t have much privacy, but I liked the vibe there a lot better than at Beaumont, which had been dominated by the people in their yachts. Shingle Bay was really chill. There’s a bunch of apple trees in the orchard and there was a family of deer that hung around all day eating fallen apples. It was low tide when we arrived, so Seth spent some time exploring the tide pools and I did a bit of reading.

What did surprise me about Pender Island though was the lack of kayakers. Sechelt Inlet had pretty much been exclusively kayakers, but because of the nature of the campsites being located on an inhabited island, there were all sorts of people at the campsites, none of which were kayakers. We saw a few people out for day trips, but the two nights we were out, Seth and I were the only people that kayaked to the campsite. People at Beaumont either hiked in or came by yacht, and everyone else at Shingle Bay hiked in. It was a bit odd though because while the campsite is promoted as a backcountry site, apparently it’s not very far from the parking lot, so everyone was carting in all this fancy car camping gear like grills and coolers in wagons.

We hadn’t planned to go out paddling again, but everyone was crowded out on the point to watch the sunset, and we decided it would be more enjoyable to watch it from the water, so we decided to go for another evening paddle. Best choice ever! I didn’t think the sunset was going to be that great because it was pretty cloudy, but it ended up being incredible and lasted for ages! It started off as golden yellow and then changed to pinky-purples, before going a deep red/orange at the end. It made for some really gorgeous photos on the water and we saw a few porpoises as we were paddling around.

We had an early night again though because we had a big day ahead of us on Monday. We had to undo all the paddling we’d done over the past 2 days, about 15km, and we had to do in all in time to catch the 3pm ferry back to Vancouver. We got up at 6am and were on the water by about 7:15am. This was one of the best decisions we made all weekend and really cemented the lesson that the water is best in the early morning. It was slightly choppy right when we started paddling, but it was only because we started just as the tide was changing, after that it was dead calm on the water.

We took a short break again at Boat Nook to prepare for the long section, but the kayaking was a dream this time around! It was so calm, we cut through the water so easily and we saw so much wildlife! We saw tons of otters, seals, and birds, and were again joined by 2 porpoises. There was still some mist hanging over the water and it made for some really gorgeous photos against the rocks. It was a totally different experience than the day before, thank goodness.

We had planned to stop at Beaumont for an early lunch, but we made such great time on the way there that it was still too early. So we stopped in for a pee break and then decided to make an attempt at the channel. We asked Pender Kayaks about the channel when we picked up the kayaks and they said it could be challenging when the tide is going down (which is was), but we didn’t have much choice but to make an attempt at it. As soon as we got close you could tell there was a current, which tried to turn us around, so we stuck to the edge of the channel. The hardest section though is going under the bridge because all the water funnels through the piers and it’s quite strong. That was the hardest part for sure and was pretty exhausting. I was making progress through the opening, but it was definitely a challenge to make any headway and my arms were so tired.

Fortunately there’s a beach just to the left of the channel when you exit, so we made a beeline there for a quick break before crossing the rest of the channel and landing on a beach on the north end of South Pender Island. We had lunch there and enjoyed the last few moments of the trip before kayaking back through the marina and returning the kayaks.

So it was definitely an eventful trip, as evidenced by the length of this post! It was only our second trip, but I definitely feel we learned a little something new every time. Our paddling skills are definitely improving and hopefully we’ll continue to get more planning savvy as we continue. It was a lot different than Sechelt Inlet and I’m pressed to say which one I enjoyed more. Sechelt is definitely more remote, but we saw so much wildlife on this trip and I felt that there was a lot of variety between campsites and paddles. There’s a ton more campsites to explore in the Gulf Islands, so we’ll definitely have to go back!