The Secret Coast Expedition was a year and a half in planning. We would be hiking and kayaking along Vancouver Island’s remote, and nearly entirely uninhabited, west coast for a month. We expected to see few people – and we definitely would have no cell service or internet connectivity. So everything had to be organized and finalized before we left: from our food supplies (we had three food drops along the way, but everything had to be purchased, packaged and delivered before we actually hit the field), to route planning (taking into account tides, terrain), to the few pick-ups and check points we had along the way.
If I missed anything in the planning… we would pay later!
Those check points were few, but important. Nootka Marine Adventures would be our first. They are a sport fishing/tourism company that operates three fishing lodges in Nootka Sound. I selected them to contact as a potential collaborator on the Secret Coast because I like how they operate: with a strong environmental ethic and very respectful to the local First Nations. Happily they agreed to support us!
They would be picking us up at Port Eliza, at the end of the Tatchu Peninsula, and boating us across to the second hiking stage on Nootka Island. But if we didn’t show up on time, they would contact Coast Guard and SAR crews to initiate a search – a situation I definitely did not want to happen. I would have no way of contacting them if we were delayed (other than by VHF radio, once they were already out looking for us), so I had to make sure my planning was spot on. We had to be there. Same for our other checks over the next month: Nootka and Estevan Lighthouses and Boat Basin/Cougar Annies Garden.
My previous two months had been incredibly hectic. Planning the Secret Coast had been my full-time job! So it felt almost surreal when, the morning of June 8, Dave and I arrived at the Atleo Air dock in Tofino and started to carry our stuff down: our folding kayaks, plus kayak gear, plus food drop #3 to get dropped in to await us at Boat Basin – plus ourselves and our hefty Fjallraven backpacks to get flown up to our starting point, Rugged Point, at the entrance to Kyuquot Sound.
The flight up was fantastic – a bit overcast, but incredibly calm, both wind-wise which made for pleasant flying, and surf-wise which made for an easy landing and unloading. The flight up also served as a great overview of the terrain we were about to hike across, a chance to try to scope out the places that we already knew, from studying the maps, might prove to be tricky.
We landed at Rugged Cove, unloaded our packs and watched the plane take off.
And then… silence.
We were here! The Secret Coast expedition had finally begun!
But, instead of feeling elated, we were both exhausted. We had been in high-gear, planning and preparing, for weeks. We had each only slept a couple of hours the night before. So we set up camp and poked around – but, honestly, it was a struggle to stay awake until a somewhat reasonable bed-time.
We finally hit the mattresses at 8pm (yes, an hour and a half before sunset) – and we both slept 12 hours! Wow. But we awoke well rested and feeling great, ready to embark on a month hiking and kayaking along some of Vancouver Island’s wildest and most scenic coastline.