Vancouver Island Part Three - 21 to 25 September 2014


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North America » Canada » British Columbia
October 16th 2014
Published: October 20th 2014
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KNIGHT INLET

We left Painted Lodge at Campbell River and set off on what we hoped would be one of the highlights of our six month North American journey. Access to the mostly uninhabited Knight Inlet was with Corilair Sea Planes as our next destination, Sailcone Grizzly Bear Lodge on Minstrel Island is only accessible by boat or float plane.





We were a little early at the jetty but the staff were very friendly, booked us in and took our bags - a really quick checkin….… They said they were waiting for a couple more passengers but hoped to take off earlier than scheduled. We drifted outside and walked around the shoreline for a while waiting for our flight - not a bad way to wait for a journey.



We returned to the small airport and two other passengers had arrived, they were Patti and Ellen from Pennsylvania, on the East Coast of USA. There was one other passenger missing but she soon arrived, this was Sophie who had a problem with connections and was running late and arrived in a bit of a panic, she was from Guernsey. These three delightful people made our next few days very memorable indeed. We made friends very quickly - in fact I was holding hands with Sophie just after we took off as this was her first flight on a float plane and she was a ‘little’ nervous.



The flight though was really smooth and we travelled over some stunning scenery. Broughton Archipelago Marine Park consists of a wonderful collection of dozens of undeveloped islands and islets situated at the mouth of Knight Inlet on the west side of Queen Charlotte Strait on the northern end of Vancouver Island. This is British Columbia's longest fjord (they have many) with 95 miles of mountainous wilderness.



A bit of trivia - I read somewhere that the British Columbian coastline with all its islands has more coastline that Australia … … … you better believe it … …



We flew low in the float plane for mile after mile and all we could see was coastal mountains and forests with dark green vegetation set against a bright blue sea. Small fjords branched off from the main waterways and disappeared into the distance - a truly stunning landscape. We saw large areas of cleared forests where the loggers had been busy at work and other areas where they had replanted trees to replace those that had recently been felled. About 30 minutes after we took off we at last noticed a couple of buildings below us - we had arrived at our Sailcone Lodge. The pilot flew in skimming the water and did a ‘sweep’ over the area and then gained height before coming in once again to land smoothly on the water … … … …. We had been on a float plane before in the Maldives but it always amazes me how they just land these small planes so easily. Apparently they do this sweep to check the sea for debris and it is standard procedure for all float planes.



The pilot ‘sailed’ the plane along side a small wooden jetty where our host and owner of the lodge, Angus was waiting to greet us together with Madeleine the cook and Lily her terrier dog. Later we were to meet George who was ours as well as Ellen and Patti’s allocated guide for our visit and Glen who guided the other guests. Geoff also helped out at the lodge and we found out later that he was the boyfriend of the excellent naturalist guide we had on board during out trip to see the Orca at Telegraph Cove - they make a lovely couple both so interested in the flora and fauna of the area.







MINSTREL ISLAND

Minstrel Island a small island at the mouth of Knight Inlet and is rich in local history. It is particularly famous as the bustling epicentre of the coast's golden age of logging. From 1907, when a general store and hotel opened, until the 1960s it was a steamer stop and ‘watering hole’ for hundreds of handloggers. They all ‘carved’ a living out of the maze of islands which were all covered in thick forests ripe for felling in those days. The island hotel and ‘brothel’ became quite notorious in its heyday … … ….



Today the island is much more serene with only a small number of people forging a living out of the short tourist season. Angus had taken over the running of the lodge from his father and has to make a living out of the three magic months of summer on the island. During the rest of the year he moves south to the mainland to work, as do the other guides at the lodge, apart from George who has retired but just loves to come back for the tourist season - we were so lucky to have his expert knowledge and many years of experience at our disposal during our stay, we couldn’t have wished for better.



The lodge itself was delightfully positioned above a rocky outcrop looking out over a scenic inlet. Its very hard to describe to those who have not visited the islets but this really is a superb location.



Nearby were a couple of other wooden buildings with their own jetty but these were empty during our stay apart from the coastguard boat which was using the wharf for overnight mooring. Apparently the previous owner of these building was arrested for having a marijuana growing operation and is now serving time in prison. So the small resort has been abandoned for several years now and the buildings have been confiscated by the government. It seems a shame that the resort was used for such ill gained means - the place was so naturally scenic, quiet and out of the way but I suppose the owner thought that was useful too!



With five guests bedrooms the lodge could accommodate only up to ten guests which was a good size. Meals were served ‘family style’ around a large dining table which opened out into the kitchen area where Madeleine would prepare our meals. Madeleine lived on a small nearby island so would arrive each day by boat with Lily her dog and leave after dinner each evening. There was also a small living room where guests could rest and read a variety of useful guidebooks or one could sit in the outside area which had tables and chairs and a small garden leading down to the waters edge. Lily the dog loved to come into the living room and sit on your lap but as soon as George whistled she would jump off and leave with her tail between her legs - she was not allowed in the dining room or the living room but would still sneak into the living room when George was not looking. She loved playing in the garden though with any guest that would play with her. The only downsize of the lodge was that there was nowhere to wander off to for a hike which was a shame but we were kept so busy for all of our stay so it was never a problem. In any event we could always chase Lily around the garden which she thoroughly enjoyed ... ... ...



We arose early every morning with a wake up knock on the door by George. Breakfast was a do-it-yourself affair which had all been laid out on the dining table. Lunch was a picnic wherever we may be with a slight variation each day. The evening meal prepared by Madeleine was always different, although she really liked spice and this dominated most meals. There was always ample and it was all very well presented and served by Angus and George - who gave out much too large a portion!



Most of the day we would be out wildlife viewing travelling on the lodge’s small speedboats. They had three and there was never more than four guests in a boat. The scenery as you motored around these waterways is stunning and the days passed far too quickly. When we returned from our trips we were served delicious seafood - the home smoked salmon and fresh prawns were excellent.



As mentioned, George was our guide and we joined up with Ellen and Patti, so just five of us which was great - plenty of space for everyone and they were all such good company.



We were supplied with bright orange/red float suits to keep out the cold as well as to keep one afloat if the boat capsized. We looked a bit like astronauts and it was quite comical each day trying to get in as well as out of them. They were great though and kept us warm, in fact too warm at times and slightly awkward when you needed the bathroom! We nearly lost Paul off the back of the boat one day as he was sat on the only non-fixed chair and it started moving overboard in choppy seas, but he was ‘saved’ by Ellen and myself grabbing hold of his chair!!! He had his bright suit on though so would have stayed a float and kept warm … … …



The small boats were really useful as we were able to get up real close to the shoreline and the wildlife. Being in such a small like-minded group was great also as we all enjoyed what we were seeing and everyone was quiet when necessary. We had a brief boat trip the afternoon of our arrival but had not seen any bears!!





BEARS AND BEARS

What we had really come to this area for was to see Grizzly Bears catching wild salmon in the rich waters of Knights Inlet - research had led us to this lodge as one of the best viewing spots. Grizzly bears emerge from hibernation in Spring to feed on the succulent new spring growth and later the wild berries. Changing their diet in the autumn (fall) when the salmon are running they converge on the salmon spawning streams to feed and stock their fat reserves in preparation for another long winter ahead of them.



We set off on our first day really excited to be going at last to the Lodge’s viewing platform at Glendale Cove and keeping our fingers crossed that we were going to see some bears. The river estuary was about 26 miles away and just over an hour from our lodge. On the way George said to keep a look out for anything as more pairs of eyes were better than just his. So we all scanned the beaches for bears, the trees for bald eagles and the waters for whales/dolphins - the bald eagles won hands down .…



It is a little confusing so to clarify there are no grizzly bears on Vancouver Island but the coastline around Knight Inlet covers both the mainland and the island, both sometimes really close together. If we saw grizzly bears it would be on the mainland but if we saw black bears it could be on either - with so much coastline it was sometimes confusing whether we were looking at the island or the mainland!!



For most of the time the coastline was forested right down to the water’s edge but in some areas large rock boulders covered a pebbly beach. There were also white sandy beaches but George said that these were not sand but shell dumps (middens) the islands having been utilised by First Nation people for generations. As well as middens the beaches in the area have ‘clam terraces’. The terraces are basically beach gardens - rocks were gathered and piled into a ring along the low-tide perimeter to cultivate Clams - an important source of food for people living in these waterways.



We passed long sections of forest that had been entirely stripped of trees and all that was left was the bare rock face - it looked like a multitude of massive avalanches. You could tell by the unnatural scarring that these had not been felled by loggers. George told us that last September after heavy rains a huge landslide hit Knight Inlet near Glendale Cove. The waters were littered with debris which caused dangerous navigational hazards and major disruption. He said it took ages to manoeuvre his boat as thousands of trees had tumbled down, crashing into the sea and in some areas completely blocking the streams. We thought that the noise itself must have been quite frightening. It would take many years for these mountain sides to recover but they will given time.



We finally arrived the river mouth at Glendale Cove where we moored our boat alongside a small wooden float jetty. George said we had to now board a flat bottomed skiff to enable us to reach the shore - the tide was out so we had to ‘wade’ across the mud but it was not too bad. The first thing we saw was a sign which said ‘Extreme Danger - Grizzly Bears’ - oh good … George told us to wait for him and not to move while he tied up the boat with a really long rope. He needed the long rope as when we returned our skiff would be closer to shore as the tide would have come in and we would not have to repeat the wading process as he could just pull the skiff in. A large Bald Eagle was perched on a nearby tree but flew off as we waded a shore.



We walked up a few wooden steps and were surprised to see a couple of old 4WD trucks parked nearby. These belonged to the two guiding lodges that were the only ones with access to the bear viewing platforms. George got the truck started and we all piled in and made our way towards the spawning channels.





We drove for about 4 km along a narrow track following the estuary with George relating some ‘local’ stories. He said that there are restrictions on fishing when the grizzly bears are feeding on the spawning salmon. Two guides from a nearby lodge decided that they wanted to ‘fish’ despite being warned that there were bears about, saying they had Bear Spray with them so they would be fine … … … They moored up and started fishing when a bear started heading towards them. Grabbing the bear spray they thought it looked a bit out of date but they opened it and it exploded right in their faces which of course blinded them both … … … They could not see a thing but luckily managed to get hold of their radio which had a one button direct link to their lodge. The lady manager was not amused and set off to find them. When she arrived at the waterway, one chap was in the water splashing water on his face and the other was on the bank flapping his arms - around them were about six grizzly bears just standing watching them - the moral of the story - ‘do not go fishing for salmon when there are bears about’. This was just one of many stories he told us.



We crossed a bridge spanning the Glendale River and as we slowed down we spotted a mother grizzly bear with three little cubs walking on the bank ……….. we were all elated to see one so soon. A little further up stream were four more bears feeding on the jumping salmon. George said that he was not allowed to park/stop the car until we got to the viewing platforms so we could only snap a few shots from the car windows … … … We were all so excited at seeing those bears so close that we really did not want to move on, but had little choice. We also had further sightings of more bears fishing in the river but again could not stop … …



We finally arrived at the viewing platforms, which were basically two wooden structures overlooking the Glendale Spawning Channel with a raised walkway joining them. We parked the truck and climbed up a few steps to the first platform. We could see that the man made spawning channel formed a finger of land with the natural river on the other side. A holding pool was formed behind an aluminium weir (small dam) at the entrance to the spawning channel - this could be raised or lowered depending on how many salmon had entered the channel.



The second viewing platform allocated to Sailcone Lodge was located along a short raised walkway. George said that this stand had a better viewing area as there was an unobstructed view of the river and the holding pool. We walked along the walkway and arrived at our platform. GUESS WHAT - there were no bears in sight. After seeing those along the river where we could not stop and enjoy them we were all very disappointed!



We had just a two hour ‘window’ on the platform so time was going to be a big factor on our day. We waited for an hour and all we saw was fish and more fish and lots of noisy gulls. Hundreds of fish wee swimming up the river and into the spawning channel. There were also just as many laying died on the banks. George said that because of this year’s low rain fall the river was extremely low and hundred of fish were dying before they had a chance to spawn - he had never seen it quite as bad as this.



He finally spotted a grizzly feeding on salmon but it was so hidden in the water behind a large fallen tree that it was very difficult to see without good binoculars - but see it we all did. It never come into a clear view though and soon quietly disappeared into the bush. We were just about to give up hope and return to the boat when I spotted two light brown grizzly bears striding over a fallen tree in the distance - I did try not to make a noise, but I think I did a little!!! These two bears proceeded to get closer and closer and even wading in and swam right below the platform and everyone was able to get superb views. We watched them walk up the river and one swam out to grab a salmon then with just its neck hovering above the water it held the fish in its front paws and devoured it right in front of us. There were so many dead fish laying around they did not have to waste much energy chasing them. One did make a feeble attempt to chase one across the shallows but soon gave up and proceeded to eat the ones floating around him instead!



Whilst we were watching them two more, this time jet black grizzly bears arrived and climbed on to a grassy bank where they proceeded to play fight with each other. George said that he thought it was a mother and a three year old cub - both of them were very large, the biggest he had seen in a long time and a lot bigger than many males. He later said that the cub was probably a two year old as it is unusual for three years olds to still be with their mothers - probably so big because of its mothers ‘large’ genes. It was strange seeing these jet black grizzly bears next to the light brown ones, we thought at first they were black bears. You can see why people mistake a grizzly bear for a black bear and visa versa … … …



Size is not a good indicated although a grizzly is usually larger. Colour is also not a good indicated as black bears can be black, brown, cinnamon and even white. Grizzly bears can also range in colour from black to blond. The main difference between the two is that the grizzly bear has a pronounced shoulder hump, a ‘concave’ facial profile, smaller ears and much larger claws than the black bear. Black bears have a flatter, ‘roman-nose’ profile, larger ears, no shoulder hump and smaller claws.



Having seen bears feeding on salmon on film I though I knew what to expect but seeing them in real life and up so close was so much better. Films do not give you the sounds as they eat the salmon crunching up the bones or the close up look in their eyes. It also does not give you the strong smell of the river which is filled with uneaten salmon, many with just a small bite out of them! It reminded me of when we were in the bush in Africa and you could smell a dead animal long before you saw its remains. We will never forget seeing a large female elephant dead on the side of a river or a large lion dead in the long grass. We will also now never forget the smell of the dead salmon in the waterways of Knights Inlet but at the same time giving ‘life’ to the grizzly bears.



George, Ellen, Patti, Paul and I watched these two black and two brown grizzly bears so close to us we were really happy and quite content with our day. However more was to come as we spotted a female grizzly with small triplets wading slowly towards us along the middle of the river. It was just magical and something we will all remember forever. We stood and watched this family of bears for the rest of our time allocation as they walked across the small weir and devoured any salmon that took their fancy.



The highlight of our day was watching the triplets following and copying their mother, learning to fish and then trying to hold them in their paws or their mouths. One triplet kept eating the rotting fish rather than catch the fresher ones - I suppose this was so much easier. The mother watched carefully over them, guiding and ensuring that they remained close-by as they paddled along the weir where the fish were more plentiful. She was aware of our presence but was not disturbed whilst we stood on the platform however when George went to put something in the car she backed off with the cubs following her. When he reached the platform again she came straight back out on to the weir. The cubs scrambled down the bank after her, one of them pushed his brother/sister who was hesitating down and the other two followed. They all started feeding again quite relaxed - it was time for us to go though and it was really hard to drag ourselves away but we left them there in the wilderness free and well fed just as we had found them.



We had a picnic lunch on board the boat and headed back up the inlet to the lodge. On the way the stars were definitely shining on us as George spotted a female Black Bear with two cubs which had come out of the forest to feed on crabs and mussels along the shoreline. We watched the mother and her two cubs from the safety of our boat as they foraged for food, edging their way along a bleached white rock face before disappearing into the forest only to emerge a little further down where the access was easier. We followed this little family of bears for ages as they constantly dived in and out of the forest. The black fur of the bears stood out vividly against the stark white of some of the rocks but when they were under the canopy of the forest they completely disappeared. This very protective mother watched her cubs constantly, ensuring they were safe and guiding them away from the water where the rocks were steep and slippery. After a while they all headed back into the forest and disappeared as quickly and silently as they had appeared. It was a great privilege to be able to sit and watch this female black bear with her twins before we headed ‘home’.



That day we had sightings of 24 Grizzly Bears from the platform and around the river from the car windows - more than we would have ever hoped for. This included two mothers both with triplets - it is obviously a good place to bring up so many young with the waters so rich in food. We were also fortunate to see the Black Bear with two cubs on the shoreline on - oh what a perfect day … … …




TRAPPER RICK

The next day was a more different excursion which took us north of Sailcone Lodge to a part of the island group known as Thompson Sound, where we would meet up with ‘Trapper Rick’ a legendary story teller and friend of the lodge.



We set off with Ellen, Patti and George and eventually reached the end of the inlet and approached Trapper Rick’s makeshift dock. He was aboard his boat putting his boots on - he had seen us coming. We pulled into a nearby jetty and watched a dozen lazing harbour seals dive into the water as we approached. Once out of our boat we had to climb a set of steep ‘homemade’ wooden steps up to the bank. These steps had a definite tilt, so we all went up individually - just in case! Rick was waiting for us at the top with his ‘adopted’ granddaughter, Gloria and we all introduced ourselves. We piled into Rick’s battered old truck and rattled and rolled our way inland. The landscape all around looked like it had been blown up - trees had literally been hacked out of the forest leaving the land devastated. The gravel dirt road was also in a mess but Rick managed to keep the truck on track … He was really angry that the loggers had left the area in such a mess and was just about to take up issue with the relevant authorities. We must say we were quite surprised for most of the areas we had seen logged had been replanted with new trees and the forest left to replenish itself once again.



Rick parked the truck on the side of the track, nearby was a rusting truck covered in dead leaves and in the back was the remains of an old sofa. Rick said this was his but it had broken down - unable to be repaired it was just left to slowly be swallowed up by the forest. We walked for a while and arrived at a wide river which we needed to cross to be able to reach Rick’s cabin. A small waterlogged boat was tied up on the bank and stretching over the river was a rope guideline fixed to the other side. Gloria bailed out the boat and we all clambered down the slope holding on to a rope and somehow managed to get into this very small boat … … Rick then pulled the boat across using the pulley rope and we safely reached the other side.



Along the way Trapper Rick told us about the importance of the river during the annual salmon spawning season and about bears and other animals that frequent the forest around his cabin. He had got to know the wildlife individually and had even named the bears that returned each year. He named about seven or eight bears but I can only remember, Bertram and Andy - the latter being named after a friend because he looked like him! He was worried about Bertram as he had not seen him for a while and he had heard a gunshot a few days before so was extremely concerned for his safety.



On the other side of the river we walked along a muddy track and eventually arrived at Rick's isolated cabin. The simplicity and beauty of its setup and its incredible ‘front yard’ view were something that money just could not buy - the A framed wooden cabin and porch looked directly down the Kakweiken River with the mountains beyond. Just below his ‘garden’ was a small waterfall and concrete built fish ladder to aid the fish who could not jump up the steep fast flowing falls.



Trapper Rick liked to smoke a pipe but also liked cigarettes - George had bought him a present from Glen of two packets and he was delighted. However when he opened one packet it was completely empty - I think they have a standing joke between the two of them!!! We spent most of the day chatting, we walked around his grounds and chatted some more. We had a picnic lunch sat on his deck and yes we chatted some more! We later walked down and watched the fish jumping by the waterfall and yes we chatted some more. We sat and watched the salmon launch themselves out of the water in the struggle to head up river and chatted some more. Rick can really chat but at the same time he kept watch for bears with a can of bear spray clutched in his hands but we did not see any. Just as well probably as the can of bear spray looked well out of date and the fishermen’s story mentioned above came to mind … … …





Trapper Rick had lived alone for much of the last 26 years but recently due to ill health he lived part of the year on Quadra Island. Due to the isolated location of his cabin, the difficulty we had just getting here there would be no help readily available if he got sick and he was not in the best of health. In his youth he had been a rather rough and wild character and said he had ‘lived on the edge’ for a lot of his life. Those days were long gone and he just enjoyed each day as it came now. He sure had some wild and funny stories to tell about his life on the river and about hunting and trapping which was his true passion.



Trapper Rick told us that he trapped Pine Marten and he holds a licence to trap in Thompson Sound which he believed had the biggest and best marten. He said a lot of folk think a trapper is just out to kill as many animals as he can, but a trapper has to find what is sustainable so that he can continue to put down traplines year after year. A bit like farming domestic animals ensuring a healthy livestock for future years. Trapline areas are assigned to individuals licensed to harvest what is classed as plentiful fur resources. To obtain a licence the person must successfully pass a three day course that focuses on humane trapping methods and trapline management. Rick showed and explained to us how to set such a humane trap, before their use became mandatory leg hold traps had been used.



Rick also related lots of ‘fishy’ stories - he believed that the Pink Salmon was the king of all salmon - although for most people it is classed as the poor relation. I have mentioned the five main types in one of our Alaskan blogs and how to remember them; using five fingers; Chum rhymes with thumb, Sockeye was pointing finger, King was large finger, Silver was ring finger and of course Pinky your little one! So Chum, Sockeye, King (chinook), Silver (coho) and Pink.

We later took a hike with Rick and George into the bush where we came to an wooden bridge, very much in need of repair. We walked across the top, careful not to fall through the broken flooring or over the edge. We all stood and watched the river far below where you could make out the footprints of recent bear activity all along the bank but there was not an ‘owner’ in sight! Rick was afraid that the bridge would soon collapse and was concerned that if it did it would block the waterways which would have a devastating effect on the wildlife.



Rick always had a story to tell - some were probably ‘tall stories’ whilst others were quite true, some were old and some were new. He told me about his Irish roots and strict upbringing with Catholic/Presbyterian parents. A very elderly friend of his was looking to buy a new car. He had just seen an old blue truck which he really liked for sale and was going to buy it - just because it matched his blue eyes! Another story he told me was about three grizzly bears that had became a real nuisance to a nearby logging camp so they were tranquillised and airlifted to another area but within six days the bears had returned. So they were airlifted to another area further away - this time it took them ten days to return - but return they did. Bears tend to stay in their own territory and have a powerful homing instinct. They need a varied habitat of meadow, swamp, grass and of course fish-bearing rivers and streams and bushes of wild berries. They need old growth forest in which to live and hibernate in the winter - so once they find these ideal conditions why should they move - would you!



We enjoyed our time with Trapper Rick, his enthusiasm for the river and his passion for the pristine wilderness was thought provoking. We returned the way we had come crossing back over the river by the boat and guideline and waved goodbye to Rick and Gloria at the entrance to the Sound and headed back to our Lodge.



On our last night we had a jolly nice dinner of roast beef with real gravy and hot horseradish sauce but best of all there was no spice! I helped one of the other guests recover some photographs he had deleted off his camera. We had to download some software and it took a while to sort but in the end we recovered all the photos he had deleted off his camera card - most were of the day he had spent with the grizzly bears so he was delighted and I was happy for him I know how memorable our day with the bears was.



We awoke on our final day to rain showers which did not look good for our planned excursion to see the marine life that inhabit Knight Inlet before our departure in the late afternoon but at least we had our warm bright red float suits to wear!



We boarded our speedboat, luckily we were with Ellen and Patti again and of course George our captain/guide. On the way we were fortunate to see two Black Bears foraging on a beach. George manoeuvred the boat in really close to shore and we watched these magnificent animals walk along the shoreline lifting huge rocks with their paws, turning them over and checking underneath for anything good to eat. We stayed and watched for ages before we headed off looking for the marine wildlife we had come to see. Although I would have been quite happy to stay and watch these bears all day and the waters were starting to look choppy …



George was a very knowledgable chap though and he soon found a large population of Stella Sealions basking on the rocks. The weather was not getting any better and the visibility was not good but we did spot quite a number of humpback whales as well before we moored to have lunch. With no mooring buoys George tied the boat to some bull kelp that grows really thickly along the shore. We met up with three of the other guests in their boat as they wanted to use the ‘bathroom’ we had on board our boat. These bathrooms were really difficult to use as there was only enough space to stoop - also getting out of our bright red float suits was another story !!!!



As we had lunch we watched more humpbacks breaching just off Malcolm Island, seeing them hurtle their bodies out of the water is indeed memorable. We also saw them arching their backs before one got a lovely glimpse of their fluke slowly disappearing as they dived deeper into the choppy water. It really was a peaceful place to relax and have a picnic, tied to the bull kelp in our boat. We sat and watched these magnificent animals splashing all around us. You usually heard then saw the splash though and did not get a glimpse of the whale!



On our way back the wildlife viewing continued as we passed by a number of bald eagles perched high above the water keeping an ‘eagle eye’ out for potential meals in the water below. Their snowy white heads make them easy to spot at the top of the trees. Ellen was very good at spotting these and in fact Ellen, Patti and I calculated that we had seen over 50 on our visit to Knight Inlet! As well as Eagles we had seen other birds including, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Marbled Murrelets, Rino Auklets and Surf Scoters. I would have liked to have got a close up of the Scoters but they were much too fast to see.





And so it was time to leave Knight Inlet as we watched our floatplane approach the island. As on our inward flight there would be five us on board, Ellen, Patti, Sophie, Paul and me and of course the pilot. The weather had not improved and the pilot said that it was going to get a bit bumpy on our return flight. He said not to worry though just to put our hands up in the air and think we were on a Roller Coaster. The look on Sophie’s face said it all … ….



We motored out into the inlet and within minutes the plane smoothly lifted off the water. On top of the pilot’s head was a huge spider but none of us said anything just in case it ‘freaked him out’ and he was at the wheel of our plane after all!



Needless to say we soon hit some turbulence and the pilot did as he said raising both his hands in the air, much to everyone on boards astonishment - although I think Patti and Sophie had their eyes tightly closed, gripping each others hands across the back of the seat.



The pilot was superb and flew carefully at about 1500 feet keeping away from the thick clouds. I felt fine - after all we had floats on the bottom of the plane and we were mainly over water although we did not have our bright orange float suits on.



We arrived back in Campbell River and gave Sophie a lift back to Painters Lodge and later that evening all five of us met up for dinner sitting around the fire as it had turned much cooler discussing the wonderful time we all had at Sailcone Lodge and all the wildlife we had seen.



CAMPBELL RIVER

In the morning we met up with Ellen and Patti for breakfast and they joined us on some hiking in Elk Falls Provincial Park. We hiked Canyon River Walk which followed the Campbell River which was teeming with salmon but again no bears to be seen but then we had been really lucky with these. We did find a dog though which came up behind us as we were watching the salmon struggling up stream - it made us all jump but not as high as the salmon!!





We looked around for an owner but there was no-one in sight. We finally came across a couple walking the other way and asked them if it belonged to them. They said ‘no’ but they were local and thought they knew the owner. They did not really want to take it but in the end the dog followed them instead of us which was just as well - not sure what we would have done with a dog. A while later we met a very distressed looking young man and we pointed him in the right direction - he ran off at a gallop. Later he caught up with us with his dog safely by his side, apparently it had run off chasing a deer - he said it would never be allowed off the lead again! a happy end to the story though … ….



So it was time to say a sad farewell to our two new American friends, Ellen and Patti. We had so enjoyed their company and had many laughs at each other's expense. They really did have a very strange command of the English language, using so many different words out of the right context - however they thought we did, surely not! They did not even know what a ‘lorry’ was - do you?



Ellen and Patti were shortly heading back to their home in Pennsylvania and we wish them a safe journey and thank them for making our stay on Minstrel Island so delightful. We do not have far to go - just a short ferry ride to Quadra Island - see you there.


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20th October 2014
Grizzly Bear with triplets

What a delightful adventure!
This is really your best adventure of all! Bears, eagles, whales and a float plane--really, I don't think it can get better than that! What wonderful photos, too, though I must say, I'm partial to those little cubs. Incidentally, I'm living with some Brits now, and I do think you/they have some very comical expressions, some of which I now use such as dodgy, brilliant, beastly, cheeky and knackered. Cheers!
25th October 2014
Grizzly Bear with triplets

Happy Travelling
Hi Tara - We are nearing the end of our north american journey and have so loved hearing from a likeminded fellow traveller - wildlife and travelling are such delights - we are so fortunate ... ... Regard S&P
22nd October 2014

Vancouver Island
Utterly fantastic. We are ready to start driving north.
25th October 2014

Vancouver Island
Such a wonderful island - you are fortunate that it is so near to you - we will be back ... ...

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