A high-summer, resort-based, guided trip with Sea Kayak Adventures at a remote wilderness archipelago called God’s Pocket.We cannot display this gallery
July, 2009. Hurst Island, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. My wife Kate and I join with guests of Sea Kayak Adventures on a resort-based kayak trip—five days paddling and five nights at the God’s Pocket Resort. The location is in God’s Pocket Provincial Marine Park, which includes a chain of undeveloped islands and the surrounding waters off the north end of Vancouver Island, BC. It’s also home to some spectacular cold-water diving at sites like the Browning Wall, which no less than Jacques Cousteau called the best cold-water diving destination in the world. For kayakers, the clear waters and untrammeled wilderness offer a taste of wilderness without the rigor of camping.
After a drive up from Seattle and an overnight in Port Hardy, we motor to God’s Pocket by water taxi. It’s high summer. Temperatures are in the upper 60’s F, and we’re lucky to catch a high pressure cell that lasts the week. We get marine fog in the morning, but by 11am it’s burned off and a cerulean sky rules the horizons. The crossing is about 50 minutes, and we motor by acres of bull kelp and scores of sea birds, with a distant view of snow-capped coastal mountains to the east. At the God’s Pocket dock guests and crew form a chain like a bucket brigade to shuttle all the gear up the ramp to the Resort boardwalk. In no time we move into our rooms, no locks required.
The lodge is a converted fish camp, with a boardwalk connecting the boat ramp, dining hall, game room, and a couple buildings that house the guest rooms. The rooms are comfortable, and quaintly named not by number but by local biota. My wife and I sleep in the Kelp room. A huge underwater photo of the bizarre Kelp Crab—residing in a tangle of subtidal kelp—adorns our wall. We spread clothes and paddling gear between the closet and extra bed, but we spend little time in the room.
God’s Pocket Resort is rustic, unpretentious, funky—and remote. There’s no TV or Internet. No Facebook. No Twitter. It’s possible to call home on the Resort’s phone, but for general cell service, there is none. Nothing but the sea, the salt air, and the ocean waters rushing through the sieve of archipelago islands with the twice daily pull of the moon. The call of the Swainson’s Thrush issues from wooded hillsides; we hear the poof of whales, and sea lion breath. Mink, river otter and even deer seek meals in the sweet intertidal that fronts the wooden boardwalk. Short wooded trails from the lodge lead to a hilltop view, or to one of several beaches.
The Resort is run by congenial owners Bill and Annie Weeks, with an assist this summer by niece Claire. How they manage to serve the eight-rooms full of guests and guides so well is a mystery to me. Annie shines as a chef; the meals are fantastic.
We quickly fall into a routine that begins with the dinner bell. Each day, Sea Kayak Adventure guides Lexi and Mike shepherd us into kayaks, and we’re off exploring the intricate shorelines of the archipelago. It’s totally wild, and except for the lighthouse on Balaclava Island, devoid of a human presence. The rocky shore is a panoply of intertidal life: barnacles, mussels, sea stars, sea anemones, sponges, kelp. We head off each day in a different direction, like spokes on a wheel, the chosen route influenced if not dictated by the tides. For lunch we pull ashore at sheltered beaches, often at shell middens piled high over the ages by native Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) and other groups.
The wildlife and terrain feels wilder than at nearby Johnstone Strait, including a subtle swell from the Pacific that bends in from the north. We get some manageable breezes in the afternoon. We see one pod of Orca, and a couple of Humpback Whales. Daily sightings include sea birds, with huge numbers of Rhinoceros Auklets. They fill many channels, often popping to the surface with bills full of fish, and then it’s a taxied take-off, a banked turn and off to a nest colony for these flying footballs. Occasionally, near-shore bait balls get the Auklets, Gulls, and Bald Eagles into a frenzy. Harbor Seals inhabit the quieter bays, sometimes popping up to follow behind our kayaks. Ubiquitous Eagles dive for herring. Black Oystercatcher squabble and Harlequin Duck rest and preen on the rocky shore. For 6-days, this wilderness paradise is our playground, and our retreat each day to the lodge is rewarded with an extravagant dinner.
If you’re yearning for wilderness, but just want to get your feet wet, lodge-based God’s Pocket beckons. Got a spouse who doesn’t want to camp?
My only regret is missing out on a 10pm night paddle to see the legendary phosphorescence, or bioluminescence. My wife later described a swirling, white light emanating from every paddle stroke, spooky and surreal. I stayed ashore to photograph star-trails: my bad.
The paddling was a joy, the happy hours a blast, the meals incredible, but my favorite part was when the owner’s niece Claire, smiling and poised, took desert orders after dinner. At first I thought the order routine silly—why not just serve the desert? But each night there are options, and the deserts amaze every time. If anticipation was ever to die for, this was five-star-it.