Image by Greg Polkinghorn
Paddling the west coast of Vancouver Island, in one trip or in many, can be complicated.
There are few hard surfaced roads that cross from the inside to the outside of the island. Owing to the extensive logging that has been undertaken there are a number of gravel roads that provide access but their condition varies and they are subject to closures. They can also take their toll on your vehicle. This seriously complicated the Point A to Point B route that we were going for.
The route is exposed and subject to changing weather. Conditions can get very large and you have to pay attention and stay within your skill set. Some stretches of the coastal route can be long, requiring extended periods of cockpit time and potentially difficult surf landings and launches. Many of the places that make sense to land were First Nation village sites or fish camps hence Maa-nulth Treaty lands that require prior approval of the local band office prior to entering. For the most part if there is a good beach it has First Nation’s historical significance and should be treated as such.
Enter my friend and Nanaimo area paddler Glenn Lewis. He offered to ride with us from his house near Parksville up island to Port Alice and out 60-some miles of bad roads to Side Bay where he dropped us off and then delivered the vehicle to the Ucluelet Campground where we hoped to finish in 2-3 weeks. His knowledge of the logging roads out of Port Alice proved invaluable as we made all the correct turns and arrived at Side Bay around 4:00PM. Oh yes, his wife Joan then drove the 2 hours out to Ucluelet to pick up Glenn and bring him back home. Amazing, right? On the way up he provided weather and site specific data that helped us solidify our route.