Indian Arm kayaking, 20-21 June 2009

Our first overnight kayak trip! We’d been wanting to do an overnight trip for ages and we were looking forward (mostly) to getting some significant paddling experience. It was Brenda’s last chance to do any overnight trips before she returned to Ottawa, and we teamed up with her, Susanne, Dawn and her son Kyle to make the journey.

A few day trips out in singles convinced us that our best bet was to rent a double for such a trip, the so-called `Divorce boat’. The previous weekend, we had spent a morning practicing in False Creek with Dawn and soon got the hang of it, Maria in front (navigating), me in the back (steering). No problems there :-) We were still a little unsure whether we’d make it all the way up Indian Arm, but the way things worked out meant that whatever happened, we’d have company: Dawn and Kyle opted for a second double.

Saturday

Saturday morning we packed our gear into Dawn’s car and went to collect their double down by False Creek. Then it was over to Deep Cove to unload and sort out the rental of ours. Having never packed a kayak before, we were a little slow getting sorted out but we had so much room that we didn’t really need to be so careful stowing our gear. The only thing to make sure of was that the heavier items were lower in the boat and in the centre compartment.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 20 Jun 2009

Eventually we were ready to go and at just before 10am we floated into the calm water of the cove. Despite the number of people on shore, the water was quite quiet with only a few outrigger canoes and kayaks. Our plan was for us and Dawn and Kyle to stick together travelling up the west side of Indian Arm while the faster pair of Brenda and Susanne crossed the Arm and paddled up the east side, meeting us at the campground at Granite Falls.

Off we went. It took us a few minutes to warm up and sort out our rhythm. My shoulders were soon aching but thankfully that was temporary. We left Deep Cove and headed north, keeping close to shore. Within about forty minutes we were on the map, I mean, chart as we approached the light on Lone Rock.

We had timed this trip to take advantage of the incoming tide on Saturday morning and it gave us a good push. Dawn measured the speed with her GPS and reckoned we had a 2-knot push. That suited us just fine, and we were easily able to keep up a 4-knot average speed. The wind was also in our favour and it was possible to make progress by holding up our paddles with the blades flat against the wind. Fun :-)

Indian Arm Kayaking, 20 Jun 2009

We paddled onwards, passing an area known as Brighton Beach before rounding a sheer headland at the narrowest point of the Arm. We marvelled at the cliffs and drifted along quite slowly, taking full advantage of the rising tide. The water was a deep green, almost an oily black at times, dotted with occasional jellyfish. We came to Camp Jubilee and headed on to Thwayte’s Landing in search of a place to get out and stretch. The tide was still quite low so there was a small sandy area close to where the creek entered the water, big enough for two kayaks. At first we tried to land broadside to the beach but were caught by some nasty little waves that threatened to dump us. We back-paddled and chose to beach bow first. That worked very smoothly and within a couple of minutes we were hauling both kayaks well away from the rising tide.

Time for an early lunch! It was 11.30 and this was our only place to haul out before Granite Falls. Thwayte’s Landing is actually a regional park with a dock and an outhouse. There was a trail signposted to a waterfall 100 m away, which we thought we’d save for another time. We ate our lunch on the barnacle-encrusted rocks (which would make landing here very difficult at high tide), watching a couple of families of Canada geese swim by. Suitably rested, we got back into our kayaks and set about paddling the rest of the way.

As we rounded the next corner we encountered a boat which had been `parked’ on someone’s dock. It really looked like something out of an action film where the boat had been driven at high speed up out of the water. It looked very odd. We paddled onwards, Silver Falls our next point of reference. It began to rain lightly, enough to prompt waterproofs to be put on but not enough to detract from our relaxing progress. We paddled in close to Silver Falls to get a good look – very pretty set of falls.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 20 Jun 2009

The rain eased as we continued our way up the Arm. We passed under more interesting cliffs and soon came to Croker Island. We paddled on the west side of the island, looking at the flat open area of the Bishop Creek floodplain, where some people were camped. We rounded the north of Croker Island and caught our first glimpse of Granite Falls, much taller and more impressive-looking than Silver Falls. The water was calm and there were no power boats which made our crossing easy.

As we approached the camping area we realized we didn’t actually know whether the camping was north or south of the falls. Maria and I ended up hauling out on a gravelly beach to investigate, at which point we saw Brenda on the other side of the creek, gesticulating at us to head in her direction. So we got back into our kayak (it was good practice, I suppose) and paddled the extra 100 m or so round to the actual campground. We drew up alongside Dawn and Kyle’s kayak (passing a number of acrobatic swallows flying between some old pilings) and got out, hauling our boats up off the beach.

We unpacked and set up our tents before exploring the base of Granite Falls. We lounged for a bit, washed our feet in the cold running water and generally soaked up the atmosphere, while Brenda and Susanne went off to explore the Indian River at the north end of the Arm. We watched someone flying a radio-controlled float plane, quite well by the look of it. It was otherwise peaceful, the campground being almost empty (in contrast to the week before, apparently – we were glad of the less-than-perfect weather to keep the crowds away). A real float-plane flew by. Young cedar waxwings chirped like crickets.

The others returned and we decided it was time for dinner. There was a trio of logs set up around a fairly flat rocky area far enough away from our tents. We cooked and ate and relaxed. After cleaning up and hanging our food, Dawn, Kyle, Maria and I decided to venture up to the Indian River ourselves, leaving the other two to relax and have an early night. It was the longest day of the year so we figured we had the time.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 20 Jun 2009

We soon found our rhythm again and after about 45 minutes of paddling we reached the mouth of the river. As we paddled up the river, we could feel the colder water beneath us – it was really quite noticeable! The water was so still, our surroundings were reflected perfectly. After a while we realized we were finding it harder to paddle and remembered we were in a river flowing in the opposite direction! We checked our watches and aimed further up-river. Eventually we came to a point where we had to turn around, not too easy with a double kayak in a narrow river.

We drifted back downstream in the fading light (we’d gone well past our turnaround time) when Kyle yelled out, saying he’d seen a seal swim underwater between our boats. We all turned but none of the rest of us saw it in time, just a flash of movement. Reluctantly we began our return journey. It was even more peaceful here than back at the campground and it was tempting to just sit in our boats and drift. But we were losing light and we still had a couple of km to paddle, so we put on a spurt of energy to get home. We paused briefly at a dock for a rest stop and made it back to camp just as we really needed headlamps to see well.

Then it was just a matter of hauling out the kayaks and crawling in to our tents.

Sunday

We stirred around 8 am, and rose to low threatening cloud. Breakfast was leisurely and we packed up our gear and loaded the kayaks. The four of us set off together ahead of the other two (as they’re faster). This morning Maria took the back seat and had a go at steering. We retraced our route over to Croker Island and followed the west side of the Arm south again. It rained on and off, but only lightly; again not enough to worry us.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 21 Jun 2009

We paddled on south and took a break again at Thwayte’s Landing. The tide was almost as low as the day before, which made it easy to beach. A quick rest break, some stretching and a quick snack before we continued on our way. We had agreed to meet the other two at Twin Islands over on the east shore of the Arm, but they caught up with us as we reached our crossing point and we all crossed more or less together.

It was quite a long crossing but we made it quite quickly as the tide was still in our favour and it was calm. Reaching Twin Islands we slowed to a crawl as we explored the rocks, admired the many starfish and looked down to the sandy bottom below, covered in many-armed sunstar starfish. We spied our lunch spot and paddled around the southern tip of the south Twin Island to a muddy bay. We got out here and picked our way up the rocks to a really nice little lunch spot.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 21 Jun 2009

We had a little wine left so we shared that out as we ate a deliciously hearty lunch. Very Continental :-) The incoming tide had us hauling our kayaks further up the squishy beach on a regular basis. It was warm now, and the sun even made a brief (and misleading) appearance or two.

Sated and happy we made our way back into our boats for the final crossing, via Raccoon Island. The first stretch wasn’t too bad, the water was a little choppier now and there was much more boat traffic. However, we looked up Indian Arm and noticed heavy grey clouds heading in our direction. The wind picked up, and the tide was now decidedly against us and we had to work very hard in quite choppy conditions (for us at least) to make it to the western shore. Maria and I were extremely relieved to reach the more sheltered waters as we were tiring quickly.

Indian Arm Kayaking, 21 Jun 2009

Now for the final stretch! Deep Cove was within sight and seemed to take an age to reach. As we entered the cover proper, the weather caught up with us (and all the other kayakers out there). Within minutes we were soaking wet and needed to keep paddling to stay warm. I was wishing I had gloves of some kind as my hands were beginning to feel chafed by the wet paddle.

One hundred metres, fifty metres, twenty-five… ten and suddenly we were back on the beach amongst a frantic group of fellow kayakers trying to get beached and hauled out to get out of the rain. We dragged our kayaks up the beach, unpacking while Dawn went to retrieve her car. Long minutes later we had everything in the car and had the kayak on the roof.

From there it was just a matter of squeezing into Honey’s for doughnuts (except us, as we’d had quite enough of Solly’s babka for breakfast to leave us feeling a little queasy on the choppy sea…) and a hot drink. We’d made it: our first overnight kayaking trip. It was great :-)

Photos on Flickr

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