Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, BC July 6th to 18th 2009.

Several years ago Don Fleming went on a trip to the Tofino area of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. He apparently had a good time, or a terrible time depending on which stories you hear. On the whole I think it was a good time. Ever since he has been grumbling that he cannot wait for people like me or Joe Petolino to retire so heíll have someone to go back to Tofino and paddle with him. Well, he got tired of waiting and planned another trip to Tofino anyway, and invited us to come along. Of course we took time off from our busy jobs for the opportunity to go to a location that is known to have spectacular kayaking.

I made the mistake (again, but I may have finally learned my lesson) of thinking that I could save time by taking a commercial airplane flight. It certainly didnít save money. The price of a ticket varied by hundreds of dollars depending on which day, which hour or which airport you land at. Then the price changes (up of course) again WHILE YOU ARE LOOKING at the WEB page trying to decide which one to buy. Thereís all the camping equipment you cannot carry on an airplane: Stoves and fuel and aerosol cans and knives and lighters and such. This makes flying by air a logistical nightmare. I could have taken the ferries for part of my trip, but the airline and ferry schedules beat against each other. There would be no way to get from the airport to the ferry on time, so I would look into arriving on a flight two hours earlier. Only to discover that THAT flight was $200 more than the later one! Did they design the schedules this way on purpose?

I even looked into hiring a small airplane company to take me by float-plane to meet the rest of the guys in Nanaimo Harbor. This was expensive (they charge your luggage by the pound) but might have been worth it. However the rules for crossing international borders in airplanes meant that I would have to take an expensive commercial flight to Vancouver first, or pay for two floatplane rides.

Eventually I found a way to make it work: I gave my kayak and most of my gear to Doug Hamilton on his way to camp out in the San Juan Islands the week before the Tofino trip. I bought an entirely too expensive ticket (a few months earlier the same ticket was hundreds of dollars less) to Seattle. From there I took the shuttle to Bellingham. There I met my good friend Roger Lamb who put me up for the night and drove me to Anacortes the next morning to catch the ferry to Sidney (on Vancouver Island). Don and Doug had been camping on the San Juan Islands, but the ferry to Sidney does not stop there so they had to take a ferry to Anacortes and then ride a different ferry back through the same San Juan Islands to Sidney. So we met at the Anacortes ferry terminal and from then on I would simply be driving with Don.

The trip back was going to be similarly complex. In Donís truck we would take the ferry to Vancouver and drive south across the international border. He would drop me off at Rogerís house; I would take the shuttle to the airport and the flight home. One complication is the rigidity of commercial airline schedules. Iíd like to treat an airplane as if it was a mass transit device and just show up for the next one going my direction. But NO! You have to get your ticket in advance and if you want to fly a day late or even two hours earlier they charge you $75.00. THIS IS MORE THAN SOME PEOPLE PAID FOR THE WHOLE FLIGHT! A kayak trip is rarely done on a rigid schedule; we might be pinned down on a beach by bad weather. So I had to reserve my ticket for a few days later in case I came back late. Roger put me up for those extra days, but Don drove back and was home long before I made it. So besides being expensive the airplane flight actually added days to my trip. Airplanes are supposed to save you time by zooming you around at hundreds of miles an hour. Next time Iím driving.

All text and images Copyright © 2009 by Mike Higgins / contact