Kayaking Sooke Basin

Since we recently got kayaks and I’ll likely be writing a lot more about kayaking, I figured I’d write about some of the day trips I’ve done in the past. I’ve been on three overnight trips in BC (and one in New Zealand), but I haven’t written about any of my shorter adventures, which are likely accessible for more people than overnight trips. Admittedly, my day trips are pretty limited as well, but I always have fun out on the water!

I kayaked Sooke Basin in 2019 with my Pathfinder unit. We went on a week long bike trip on Vancouver Island, which consisted of a few days camping in Sooke during which we went kayaking! We split the pathfinders into two groups, so myself and my co-guider accompanied 5 girls on a 3-hour morning paddle. The rest of the group had gone kayaking the day prior in some pretty heavy winds, so they’d been pretty confined to the shoreline and didn’t stray too far from the dock. But the wind and waves had settled a bit on the day we went, so they decided to take us across the basin. We were all in double kayaks, so I was paired up with one of the pathfinders.

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We rented from Rush Adventures, which is located inside the marina in a very sheltered area. The trip started off pretty chill and we saw some sea stars and jellies hanging out around the rocks. Then we pushed out into the basin to paddle over to the Goodridge Islands to look for seals. These islands are sacred to the first nations, so it’s important to keep your distance from them (and also from the wildlife). It’s also prohibited to land on the island, so our goal was to do some wildlife viewing from a far.

The guides that accompanied us were very enthusiastic, but I’m not sure how much experience they have in going out with younger paddlers. Obviously they’re experienced paddlers themselves, but I’m not sure it was the wisest decision to take a group of teenagers out in these conditions. Despite it being less windy than the previous day, we were still paddling into a pretty big headwind and one of the boats really struggled to stay with the group. I like to think I’m a decent paddler and the girl I was paired with was also very strong, so we didn’t have too much trouble, but unfortunately my co-guider didn’t have a lot of experience paddling and the girl she was paired with wasn’t giving her a whole lot of paddling support. The guide helped them out as best he could and put a tow line on the boat, but the rest of us were forced to paddle in place while we waited for them, which was also tiring because the headwind still required a fair bit of paddling to avoid going backwards.

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Eventually we made it to the sheltered side of the island and spotted a few seals sunning themselves on the rock, before eventually heading towards the other side of the basin and swinging around to head back. By this time we’d already been on the water for the better part of 2 hours, so I was getting pretty stiff and dying to pee. I asked the guide if there was somewhere we could stop and he said, “no, their are no washrooms”. I guess he assumed we’d be requiring a real washroom, but of course, we’re girl guides, so I insisted on stopping at the next beach because there was just no way I could hold it the whole paddle back. Once he realized we’d be “earning a badge” as we call it, he got the whole group to pull into the beach and I was joined by most of the unit, who were apparently all dying to go. It’s another reason why I think the guides maybe didn’t have a whole lot of experience with youth groups as they’d essentially planned to take us on a 3 hours strenuous paddle with no breaks for food or bathroom. Girl Guides is all about trying to make things fun, so we shared around some candy to prepare ourselves for the paddle back.

We made the decision to switch the girls paddling with me and my co-guider since I was a stronger paddler, and launched back into the water for the paddle back. The guides were optimistic we would have a tailwind on the way back, but wouldn’t you know, the wind had changed and we were AGAIN facing a headwind. I discovered the challenge my co-guider had been up against with my new paddling partner. Unfortunately she had virtually no power in her paddle (basically just dipping her paddle in and out of the water), so I really had to push to get us back to the other side and was pretty exhausted when we finally drifted into the marina. The girl later confided to me that she hadn’t been using the footrests because they were “uncomfortable”, which explains why her stroke was so weak. Oh well, we made it and rushed back to camp where the rest of the group blessedly had lunch waiting for us!

So it wasn’t my favourite paddling experience, but I do think the girls had a pretty good time. I’d definitely advise against taking young paddlers out in windy conditions, especially without scheduled breaks, but at the end of the day the girls all proved they could overcome the difficult conditions and had some fun stories to take home with them. Personally, I’d like to return someday and give this area another paddle in better conditions!

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Wedgemount Lake Backpacking Trip

It’s been 3 years since I hiked Wedgemount Lake, but this trail still haunts me!

Wedgemount Lake is a 14km round trip hike with a whopping 1200 metres in elevation gain. All I can say is, don’t underestimate it. Wedgemount has recently been added to Garibaldi Park’s database of reservable sites, so you now have to book to go up there, which wasn’t the case when I visited. I suspect this may have actually increased the traffic up there though because people that aren’t able to get a spot at Garibaldi Lake or Elfin Lakes, see it on the map and decide to go there instead. I don’t actually know if this is true or not, but I did meet a group of 5 guys at the trailhead to Elfin once who were changing their plans to go to Wedgemount when they realized Elfin was full, but just a guess!

Wedgemount is incredibly scenic once you get to the top, but boy is it a long slog to get there. I went in late August with Brandon the first summer I started camping and I believe we started hiking sometime after noon. There’s very little to see but forest until you reach the halfway point across a short boulder field. After that, it’s back into the woods again until just before the end when you have to climb a steep boulder field to get up to the top. Don’t get me wrong, the whole trail is steep, but the boulder field is definitely tough with overnight packs as you’re basically climbing up over the rocks.

When you get to the top of the landslide, you’re in a valley of sorts, with Wedgemount lake at the bottom, surrounded by another set of peaks and the Wedgemount glacier. You hike down into the valley, which is completely wide open with very little shelter. Over the years, people have moved the rocks around to create little rock-walled campsites to protect from the wind that funnels in through the valley across the lake. There is a small hut up there as well, but I think most people opt to camp as there’s tons of space up there and lots of sites to choose from.

It was certainly windy when we went up there. Even though it was August, it’s one of the coldest camping trips I can remember. I was fine once I got in my sleeping bag and went to bed, but until then, it’s freezing sitting out on the ridge with nothing to shelter you from the wind. We set up our tent as fast as we could and tried to find the most sheltered place to quickly make and eat out supper. Then we hit the sack pretty early because it was just so cold outside.

It’s a beautiful location though. Wedgemount Lake itself is quite large, but the soils must be a lot siltier than other lakes in the park because it has a much paler blue hue to the water. The wind died down overnight and we got up early to do a little exploring around the lake. Like I said, it’s a wide open space surrounded by other mountain peaks, so there’s tons to explore up there. Our exploration was pretty limited, which kind of makes me what to go back, but that landslide still haunts me and I don’t want to have to haul my backpack up over it every again.

We did explore to the glacier though. If you walk around to the head of the lake, you can see the Wedgemount glacier. I’m sure it looks different every year depending on how the ice changes and melts, but the year we visited had left another lake at the base of the glacier with lots of bergy bits (real technical term – I’m a Newfoundlander, I would know) floating around. The glacier is huge and looks misleading in pictures, but Brandon got a few great photos of me standing at the base of the glacier that really put the size in perspective.

The lake is nice, but the glacier was definitely the highlight for me. The only other glacier I’ve hiked to is the glacier at the top of Brandywine Mountain, so it was a landscape quite unlike where I usually hike (the Brandywine Glacier was very different as the ice melt was flowing down the mountain instead of pooling).  I can’t decide whether Wedgemount makes for a better day hike or overnight though. A day hike seems like it might be rushed, but having just a day pack sounds a lot nicer, so it might be a judgement call based on your fitness level.

The clouds were looking pretty threatening though, so we didn’t stick around too long at Wedgemount. We packed up our things just before the rain hit and hiked back over the landslide and down again. Wedgemount is just as tough going down as it is going up. It’s a steep hike over the landslide and then the trail feels like it goes on forever after that, with nothing to look at and no respite for your knackered knees. It was a relief when we finally hit the parking lot.