July 6-12: Miles Inlet to Pruth
thumbnail July 6 -- we are in the fascinating little maze called Miles Inlet. Here, faults in the bedrock run approximately at right angles to one another and the inlet is a strangely rectangular grid of fairly narrow channels. One main channel goes inland and then comes to a 'crossroad' where moderate-draught vessels can anchor. There are a couple of other boats here already, but plenty of room for everyone.

thumbnail Of course the first thing we do is launch the 'yaks and go exploring. I hear running water nearby and find a treat: Miles Inlet contains a salt lagoon with a spillway higher than the inlet level at lower tides: the lagoon fills at high tide and then drains away, creating a 'salt waterfall' or mini-rapid (here seen in the middle distance). Note the kelp streaming towards me in the fairly strong current. We played about in this salt stream, paddling right up to it and then letting it whisk the kayak away again (wheeee!); had we been here at high tide we could have ventured into the lagoon beyond.

thumbnail The stillness in Miles Inlet was remarkable: once again, perfect reflections. It's a snug, secure anchorage.

thumbnail The reflection shows off Full Moon's nice lines and proportions.

thumbnail More "totem pole" reflections catch my eye: here I've rotated the image for (what seems to me) a striking effect.

thumbnail Maybe it's just me, but I see what look like faces and vague figures sculpted in stone, in the symmetrical reflection: like some elaborate carving on a temple in Bangkok, perhaps.

thumbnail I'm starting to build a collection of these "sculptural reflections."

thumbnail In the hinterland of Miles Inlet, around a couple of corners and back in a dead end channel, we found a little wonderland. More salt lagoons lie behind more tidal waterfalls and salt streams: we can only catch a tantalising glimpse of the open spaces past these bottlenecks. I would surely like to explore this place on a high tide; but, as always, we must be moving on tomorrow morning.

thumbnail Before our departure I had the notion of bottling a crate or two of red and white wine and pear cider, and printing Full Moon 50th Anniversary Tour labels (see the lead photo in Chapter One of this cruise story) to go with them. My fiendish plan was to give away 'Full Moon Private Reserve' Goodwill Plonk as gifts to anyone who was friendly, helpful, hospitable, or just admiring of Full Moon. At Miles Inlet we met a Yank cruiser who became the first recipient, due to his enthusiasm for Full Moon's lines and looks. He was quite appreciative :-) After delivering the cider (by kayak) and wishing him well, I returned to Full Moon and we settled down to dinner. I was hoping to go for another little photographic kayak sortie in the morning -- but it dawned grey and drizzly and depressing: we hauled our shore line and left, damp and rather tired.

thumbnail Jul 7 -- at the end of a longish day, having sighted a whale or two in the distance, we arrive in what will turn out to be one of our favourite places in BC: Pruth, at the northern end of Calvert Island. Here the large channels mimic the smaller grid-geometry of Miles Inlet: we take a hard left and travel a few miles westward to an "intersection" and a secure anchorage. Though a private resort (ugh) occupies some of the foreshore, the beaches are a public park and access is guaranteed via a right-of-way footpath across the resort property. The outer shore of this end of Calvert consists of a series of perfect pale sandy beaches separated by ridges covered in scrubby forest. We emerge from the green tunnel of the footpath into this open landscape full of light; I am so delighted I start to run, spontaneously, down the beach and back. Here is the perfect antidote for claustrophobia!

thumbnail The woods on this part of the coast are lush, yet scrubby; dense, twisted, clearly marked by a struggle to survive poor soil and harsh winters with strong winds. Paths are narrow and winding as we make our way to the next beach North. The biome feels exotic after the taller, richer forests on more protected shores.

thumbnail Our path crosses a log bridge over an ominous-looking bog. The drop is not much -- maybe 8 feet -- but the water is cold, the mud is deep, and there is a nasty, pointy-looking log jam to fall into. Friendly souls have installed some metal mesh to help keep hikers' feet from slipping, but it's still not the most pleasant crossing. The hand rope is very slack and too far off to one side! Having made it across, I was not looking forward to the return journey :-)

thumbnail The bog is carpeted with water lilies, still and cool and mysterious. This is wet country, even in July. The next beach North is, alas, a bit of a let-down; the cloud cover is closing in, the beach is chilly and not as pleasant as the first one. I rather regret the effort of scrambling over the peninsula and feel quite sad that with only one evening here, we have no more time to explore or just sit and enjoy the scene.

thumbnail On our way back to Full Moon (whew, we made it across the log bridge twice), I'm thinking that I really don't want to get up tomorrow morning and roar off on the next leg; I want to see more of this lovely shoreline. We do sit a while watching the sunet, but pretty soon bugs drive us off the beach. After dinner I suggest to Jon that we could, after all, stand to "waste" another day here. The weather forecast is fairly promising -- no heavy rain, at least. Why not stay and rest up, sleep in, take another day to explore the chain of beaches to the South? Jon allows as how he's tired too, and it would be nice to have a harbour day.

thumbnail July 8 -- Seldom have I had a better idea. To our surprise and delight the sun comes out -- the weather is damn near perfect -- and we hike from one beach to another all day. It's a bit like a treasure hunt, finding the trailheads -- usually marked by an old fishing float or other flotsam hanging in a tree. The trails themselves are fun and challenging; sometimes we have to use ropes (left in place by earlier travellers) to scale steep cliffs. Each beach has a slightly different character. Each seems more perfect than the last; we cannot decide which is the best.

thumbnail The water is beautiful: clear and clean, jade green in the sandy shallows. Outer reefs break the brunt of the Pacific swell and leave only tame little wavelets lapping at the sand. The sun is actually warm enough and the beaches so deserted -- we never saw another human all day, though we followed some interesting boot prints -- that we go skinny dipping in a tide pool! Alas a few seconds later we leap out again, as we find ourselves nibbled by tiny biting shrimp!

thumbnail I'm not sure, but I think this is the picture Jon was taking :-)

thumbnail Curious about the rugged, scrubby terrain above the beaches, we hike up a steep hillside to the terraced uplands. It is a whole new biome, almost alpine despite the low altitude. Exposed bedrock alternates with thin pockets of soil and small tea-coloured tarns. The landscape is exotic, almost alien to my eye.

thumbnail This is a typical tarn among the stones.

thumbnail There's little life in these shallow pools...

thumbnail ... I only recall this one species of water plant, and it occured as an isolated individual rather than in mats.

thumbnail From the higher trails we catch occasional spectacular views of the sandy coves below. The upland terrain is so open that we can wander anywhere, but the rocks and hillsides are so strangely similar that it seems quite possible to get lost among "identical" hillocks and ravines. We follow for some time a set of prints -- large hiking boots and dog tracks -- hoping to find a way down to the last beach in the series.

thumbnail There's that tantalising last beach -- a perfect secluded cove. We never did find a way down to it; the afternoon was drawing on and we didn't have time to go bushwhacking without fear of losing the light. Finding our way back to the anchorage in the dark could have been a little too much adventure, particularly since the blackflies come out around sunset.

thumbnail Jon looks back down to a beach we visited earlier, from a rocky outcrop near the summit of a hill. The stones are warm in the sun and we could almost take a nap up here.

thumbnail Piles of silver driftwood line the back of this beach -- more open to the sea than the others. On the way back I wish we could dawdle; I could spend a day exploring each of the chain of beaches, but we are now "on a mission" to get back to Full Moon before the blackflies come out to play. We experienced them last night, and that was quite enough. Blackflies are a particular curse of the Northwest. They are small and silent and you don't feel the initial bite; but a little while later, a powerfully, maddeningly itchy welt appears. It stays itchy for days. I've been bitten by various kinds of mosquitoes and fleas, plus a couple of spiders; and I've been exposed to poison oak; but I've never experienced an itch like blackfly bites. Therefore, with many a wistful glance aside and astern, we hasten over the series of ridges and back to the anchorage.

thumbnail The last light of the day is golden and serene.

thumbnail The anchorage is perfectly peaceful.

This was the best, happiest day of our trip so far: adventurous and challenging hiking, gorgeous and exotic scenery, warm sun, beautiful beaches, and not a soul around but us. I fell in love with Pruth and formed a resolve to return there and spend more time. "I'm so glad we stayed here the extra day," I said to Jon. He agreed. Rested and relaxed, we planned our next move: out into Hakai Pass and North (on the outside) to Goose Island. On the way we thought we might pay a call at Spider Group, take a lunch break and do a little kayaking. While this meant anchoring twice (more work), it also meant taking a break from the engine noise and getting off the boat for a little excursion halfway through the day. Sounded good to me :-)