It’s raining this morning. The tide is high and we paddle into the estuary and as far up Barnard creek as possible. Soon the fins of our stand up paddle boards are scraping the gravel bottom. The rain has raised the creek levels and the earliest of salmon – the Chum – are starting to congregate and attempt moving upstream. Schools of salmon rapidly swim beneath and beside us. From above they are quick shadows, although they are silvery on the side their backs are dark. They wait in groups, in the deeper pools, in the shadows of big trees – camouflage from overhead predators like eagles.
We set out from Cameron Cove, past Barnard Harbour and into Aikmen Passage enroute to Barlow Point and then on to McNeill Point.
After a couple of hours of paddling and a few Humpback sightings we reach the rocks at McNeill point. This is a Stellar Sea Lion rookery. We are able to drift in close. It is very loud and downwind the air is quite thick with their smell. The huge males range from 600 to 1100 kg (1300 to 2500 lbs), are territorial and are thoroughly displaying themselves to us. A few of them slide into the water and spyhop close to us for a better look. They aren’t used to seeing people stand on the water. We decide to kneel on the decks of our board so that we aren’t seen as a threat. The sea lions like to come in close behind us and pop out of the water.
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We circle around the rocks and make our way back across Casanave Passage and into Kiels. Kiels is the Gitga’at spring fishing camp. Its also known as the “seaweed camp” – the place where seaweed (rockweed, like Japanese Nori), is harvested in the Spring.
We paddle into the still bay – the tiny village is empty and the buildings shuttered. Paddling to the shore gives the same feeling that we had seeing Hartley Bay for the first time. The shallow peaked cedar buildings line the shore similar to how they might have generations ago. When we first touch the shell covered shore we feel like we are intruding on some long sleep. It reminds me of Roy Henry Vickers image of Kitkatla. I only recently learned that Kitkatla was what the Gitga’at elders refer to as “old town”. It is the winter camp located North and west of Hartley Bay on Dolphin Island.
Another long day of paddling and a deep sleep within the absolute and muted darkness of the moss covered forest.
Great Bear Rainforest Stand Up Paddle Expedition · Day 4: Seaweed Camp