West coast rainforest shoreline with kayaker

Two things had me thinking of BC’s Central and North Coast as I sat down yesterday afternoon to start this post. One was the noon hour CBC radio coverage of the hearings in Prince Rupert on the Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker proposal. Everyone who called in was, like us, opposed to the project, concerned about the likelihood of a spill and the impacts of tar sands on the marine life and communities of the coast.

The other thing turning my mind north was the hard rain that was teeming down here on our little island in the Strait of Georgia: filling our ponds, drenching our garden beds, and feeding the groundwater reservoir that we’ll need to carry our island and all of the plant and animal life it supports through a dry summer and fall.

The rain reminded me of last summer on the Central Coast.

The photo above was taken in mid-July 2011, off Stryker Island, about 15 miles north of the Goose Group on the outer coast of BC.

Twenty-eight days into our summer boat trip, we’d had 19 days of rain so far with no real let-up in sight – forcing us to don a full set of raingear each time we left the boat to go kayaking. Still, any exercise is better than none, and it was an antidote to the claustrophobia that comes from hanging out together for too many hours in a relatively small boat. But vitamin D had to come from a bottle.

Off-and-on rain, at times heavy, continued for most of the remainder of the trip, ending only when we finally made our way back to the South coast – just in time to catch the last few weeks of  blue skies and summer warmth.

So why do I want to return to the Central Coast?

I love the quiet and remoteness – finding anchorages where you’re the only boat – and it’s inspiring to watch humpback whales, seldom seen in my home waters of Georgia Strait.  Some of the paddling spots are sublime, such as the outer coast kelp beds, where we’ve seen sea otters, another endangered species. And I have long felt a passion for BC’s remote coastal communities – places that cling tenaciously to life despite the odds, like Ocean Falls.

I also love the subtle colours and textures. All that rain nourishes a remarkable profusion of growth: hemlock, red cedar and fir, salal, thimbleberry and countless other bushes, even on steep, wind-battered shorelines where vegetation seems utterly improbable. Thick mounds of moss grow atop the rocks and along the tree trunks, and everywhere you look, branches are festooned with long garlands of lichens that dance in the wind like Buddhist prayer flags.

So despite the rain – even, perhaps, because of it – we may head up the coast again this summer for more of that wild, wet and wonderful world of green.

A few more photos of Stryker Island (click for larger view):

Moss and lichens on rock, Stryker Island Colours of mosses, lichens, trees and bushes Trees and bushes along shoreline, Stryker Island

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About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer focused on nature and nautical on the BC coast

2 responses »

  1. ehpem says:

    Hi Laurie – the link below is an assessment of the risks associated with tanker traffic in the confined channel out of Kitimat. It is very sobering reading, even if only 25% is true, then approval of such traffic is insanity…

    I have never been to the Central Coast, but the North Coast is somewhere I have spent quite a bit of time. I am hoping for some time in Gwaii Haanas again this summer – I have been lucky with the weather there in years gone by, so am hoping for more sunny weather this year.

    • Thanks for commenting & for the link, ehpem, I’ll check it out. I have never been to Gwaii Haanas, though my husband has been there and loved it. For now, it just seems like way too far away for our little boat! We did make it to the North Coast in 2009, to Rupert and the Kitkatla area and west side of Pitt Island, which was gorgeous. On the day we ran down from Pitt to Hartley Bay, we had six separate marine mammal encounters – multiple humpbacks and Dall porpoises. Amazing…and frightening to think of massive tankers full of tar sands bitumen moving through these pristine but fragile waters…the same waters, of course, where the Queen of the North met its end. “Human error” is inevitable and its consequences can be tragic. I wonder if we will ever really learn from our mistakes.

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