Lots of interest in our first Secret Coast tour!

Many thanks to our many sponsors, and a huge special thanks to the hosts of our autumn 2019 Secret Coast Expedition presentation tour! For this first tour (hopefully of many), we presented our show at two different venues in Vancouver, as well as here at home in Port Alberni. In spring 2020 we expect to get to Vancouver and Tofino and to several other British Columbia communities, before taking the tour across Canada and to the USA. (Send us a message if you want to stay in the info loop or if you have suggestions).

Thanks to Fjallraven manager Matt Armstrong for this photo!

We launched last week in Vancouver with two sold-out shows, each hosted by one of our gear sponsors. We started on the North Shore, at the Salomon Store in West Van, and presented the second night at Fjallraven West Broadway. Both Salomon and Fjallraven have been great supporters of our expedition, and of course they each attracted a very interested and interesting, as well as very active and outdoorsy audience.

thumbnail_IMG_20191113_180827cThen we ferried back home, to present here in Port Alberni yesterday evening – and what an incredible event that was. They had to keep bringing in more chairs! In all, we had over one hundred people show up!

Honestly, it is super-gratifying to see such a high level of interest in this project. Our crowds are really loving the photos (which I only finished sorting through last week – so it has been fun for me to finally go through them and to relive this adventure in doing so). But they are also very interested in my historical investigations – those earliest contacts, between the Spanish and British and American traders and explorers and the Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants. These historical stories will be core to the book I am working on.


Once again, many thanks to our presenting sponsors, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the Spanish Embassy in Canada, to the Wickaninnish Inn (sponsoring thumbnail_IMG_20191119_192158cthe indigenous oral history component of my research), and to the many supporting sponsors who helped out with gear, food, and logistical support. We will be continuing our presentations through the coming year. If you want to receive an occasional email about our upcoming presentations or the book, send us a message (don’t worry, I will never spam you!)

November presentation tour: Join us for events in Vancouver, West Van and Port Alberni!


November 2019: reserve your free tickets for West Van, Vancouver and Port Alberni

Spring 2020: events in Victoria, Nanaimo and Tofino (dates/venues TBA)

Join Dave and me for an evening of story-telling, and photos. We were so lucky with the conditions (most of the time – can’t spend a month on the wet west coast without seeing a bit of rain). And we had such wonderful experiences with the wildife – from wolves and bears and orcas, to our first experience with a mammal we had never even heard of: a Townsend’s vole. (Tiny and fast – but look, I did actually get a photo of him!)

LsqDSC_9828The secret to great wilderness photography is really spending a lot of time out there – and we definitely had that on this expedition. So come and see the great pictures I got – from gorgeous wildlife to stunning scenics to pix of Dave and me (sometimes happy – other times, struggling a bit!) Find out how we made out when our coastal route became so rugged that we found ourselves up on the cliffs above raging surge channels (more than once!), or what it was like to sleep in a little tent with wolves growling and snarling outside (turns out they were just playing…)

LsqDSC_4019All of the events are free admission – but please note that, for the two Vancouver events, you need to register for a free ticket on Eventbrite (links below) if you want to be sure you get a seat.

Tuesday November 12, West Vancouver at the Salomon Store, West Vancouver. Doors open and meet-and-greet with the presenters at 6:45pm, show starts 7:30pm. Entry is via a free ticket, which you can reserve here: Eventbrite ticket for Secret Coast Expedition show, November 12

Click to download print-ready event poster

Wednesday November 13, Vancouver at Fjallraven, West Broadway, Vancouver. Doors open and meet-and-greet with the presenters at 7:00pm, show starts 7:30pm. Entry is via a free ticket, which you can reserve here: Eventbrite ticket for Secret Coast Expedition show, November 13

Tuesday November 19, Port Alberni at the Alberni Valley Museum, Port Alberni. Doors open and meet-and-greet with the presenters at 6:30pm, show starts 7:00pm. Entry is free at the door, get there early to secure your seat!



We’re back! (And a reminder – be grateful for good health when you have it)

It’s been a while since I’ve updated our blog, and here is why. Dave and I felt at the top of our game when we embarked on the one-month Secret Coast Expedition last June. And right from our first days, hiking down the wildly beautiful coastline along the Tatchu Peninsula, we talked about how grateful we were to be strong enough and fit enough to be out here (and enjoying it). This is a part of the world that many people just physically would not be able to get to.

LSQDSC_5310Well, little over a month after we returned, things had completely reversed for both of us! By late August, I was working a contract as naturalist/guide on a ship up in the Arctic when, for no apparent reason, a hernia that I had had operated on two and a half years ago reactivated. The very same day that that happened, back at home, Dave was unexpectedly admitted to hospital for irregular heart rhythms.

So, long story short, it has been a challenging two months for us. I had to be evacuated from the ship, and Dave has been undergoing all sorts of tests to figure out what is going on. (His arteries are 100% clear, as they should be for how healthy we live: eating well and exercising regularly). I had my surgery at the beginning of October and am recovering well. Dave is still awaiting some tests – it looks like his heart issues are LsqDSC_8238related to damage by some sort of virus – but he is doing generally OK.

So we are back on board and beginning to get back to a somewhat regular routine. And I will be posting here somewhat regularly again now. But a reminder to y’all out there: Live well and stay healthy! Take good care, both of your body and your mind! And be grateful for your good health when you have it – because sometimes bad luck just strikes you anyway.

Video: Homais Cove, where the Spanish first made contact with the Nuu-chah-nulth in 1774

Day 18 of our expedition, at Homais Cove, on the outside of the Hesquiaht Peninsula: A windy day for me to be shooting a video – just like that day back in 1774 when the Spanish sailors on the ship Santiago, under the captainship of Juan Pérez, became the first Europeans to make contact with the Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants. That day, the northwesterly was blowing their ship towards the rocks, so the Spaniards were unable to come to shore.

That failure to actually set foot on land ended up being a very important detail. That’s because, four years later, Captain Cook arrived just north of here, at the sheltered bay he named Friendly Cove on Nootka Island, and claimed these lands for Britain. The resulting conflict over ownership led to the Nootka Crisis which, in the 1790s, nearly brought Spain and Britain to war.

Tatchu Peninsula Hike, Part One: Cruising (mostly)

The Secret Coast Expedition route was divided into four stages: the first three were coastal backpacking trips of around a week or so each, and the final stage was sea kayaking. Stage One was the Tatchu Peninsula hike, planned for six days/five nights. Here’s how the first part of that hiking trip went – mostly pretty cruisy! I’ll leave it to a Tatchu Part Two post to describe what happened when things got a little crazier…

We float-planed in to Rugged Point, a very small, water-access only, provincial park at the southern entrance to Kyuquot Sound, on June 9, 2019.


Our first morning on the expedition – we raised the RCGS flag! The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the Spanish Embassy in Canada, are the two presenting sponsors of the Secret Coast Expedition. We poked around and explored for the morning, and saw our first bear of the trip, a little guy foraging along the shoreline. (We did some foraging, too – more about that in a separate post).


Then we crossed the tip of the point via a short trail through the rainforest, and found ourselves on the coast. Not a person to be seen… the only prints on the beach of wolves and bears and ravens and eagles.


Navigation was, for the most part, very easy – just follow the shoreline. This section of the Tatchu hiking route was mainly broad sand beaches and rocky headlands.


Out first days out were a lot about getting familiar with our gear. As I have written elsewhere, it’s essential that you have rugged and reliable gear for a committed wilderness trip like this. We had not hiked in our new Fjallraven Kajka packs fully loaded, so it was a bit of a learning curve to get them adjusted properly – but these packs are amazing for the many ways you can customize the fit to every part of your body and to the load you are carrying. They were very heavy, and we noted that every time we took them on or off – but they felt fine on our back. Another piece of equipment we were still breaking in were our new Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX hiking boots – which we loved right away partly because of their comfortable fit and flexibility, but came to appreciate as life-savers once we hit the really rugged stuff on later days: cliffs to round just south of here and on Nootka, and miles of slippery boulders on Hesquiaht.


One of the things that slowed us down was the geology! Especially on the Tatchu Peninsula section – these are sedimentary rocks deposited in the deep ocean, but showing evidence of current flow. We saw so much – fossils, magmatic rocks with gas bubbles in them (now filled in with minerals), faults and folds… and pretty much every time, I had to drop my pack and get down on my hands and knees to check it out.


Our second night was spent on a pretty beach beside Porritt Creek. Dave and I both tried our luck fishing at the creek-mouth, while we waited for the tide to go down so we could cross it – but no luck.



Morning coffee… the nights were still cool the first weeks of our trip, but once the sun came out, the days were just gorgeous!

I had planned our daily distances on the short side right from the start, and this was very intentional. First of all, this time up our sleeve would be essential in case anything went not to plan, e.g. due to weather or injury. Hopefully that would not be needed, and we could use that extra time for other expedition goals: photography and exploring, getting to actually know the place rather than just hoofing it through. Here I am checking out the shoreline and tidepools.

The photography actually was really time-consuming  – especially the tripod shots of the two of us hiking. (Drop our packs, set up the gear, put the packs back on, set the 10 second timer and try to walk through the frame in the planned positions, run back to the camera and check, repeat it until we have it right, drop the packs, stow the gear again, put the packs back on, and continue on our way). One shot could delay us half an hour or more… and I was taking a lot of shots!




Stream crossings slowed us down, too – it’s not fun to hike in wet boots (and you are much more likely to get blisters… and then have them get infected, which could end a long trip like this). So many of the crossings meant dropping the packs and changing into sandals, and then drying and de-sanding the feet before putting socks and boots on over on the other side.

The long days of June worked both to our advantage and to our disadvantage. Lots of daylight hours to hike, if we needed them.  But with sunset at 9:30 and darkness more like 11:00pm (and then light very early in the morning), we ended up using those hours and staying up very late… and becoming pretty sleep-deprived! Here’s the late-night view from our third night campsite at Tatchu Creek.


So far, everything had gone to plan. The weather was gorgeous, and it all seemed a bit too… easy… for a wilderness expedition. But tomorrow, that was all about to change. Stay tuned for Part Two of our Tatchu Peninsula Hike.