Friday July 27th Butedale.
Woke up at 5:30 am. An uneventful night, slept well, broke camp and headed out early to catch a bit of the flood current. We moved along making good time. As we packed up on the beach this morning Raven and the 2 crows noticed and began squawking and watching us again, both of our kayaks had been shat on and the tent rain fly as well. These birds are very curious about us. Raven played a trick on me, eating my oatmeal as it sat on the beach in the bowl cooling while I loaded my kayak. Raven took my spoon and hid it on the beach. Raven the trickster. Raven the creator. Raven the trickster – but the trick was on raven because my oatmeal just was not that good. We passed by several amazing waterfalls on our way here to Butedale travelling until 1:00pm. 24 miles in the morning, first few hours with a current – then hugging the shore to avoid the ebb current. After a few hours the current switched direction and the wind picked up – a tail wind. I even surfed my fully loaded kayak for a mile or so around the point to the light at Red bluff just outside of Butedale. That was fun! It was the first time I felt any speed in over 600 miles of paddling.
Butedale: Neither Traci or I expected to find more than an old dock and helipad we could sleep on here. Pete in Namu had told us he heard Lou the caretaker was not in Butedale anymore. So we were both happily surprised when we paddled up to the old floating docks and Lou appeared from his house/workshop. The place has the look of an old abandoned farm/factory with 2 houses up on the hill and Lou’s house across from the old factory. The tall dock with helipad still stands and has a workshop with Lou’s freezer, tons of old rusting mechanical parts, tools and derelict fishing gear mixed in with newer crab and shrimp pots. We chatted on the dock for a while and asked about a place to sleep. $20.00 and we had a house with beds, toilet, kitchen. It even has an old wood burning stove. The power does not work in it, but who cares. Fresh water, a sink, soap, mirror, table, beds, chairs. Paradise!! While getting on some dry clothes and lifting our kayaks up onto the dock we stuffed our faces with chocolate and peanut butter, dried mango, venison jerky and almonds. Only Lou lives here, so I changed right on the dock next to my kayak and peed in the water, relief! (I am a bit concerned about re entry to civilization, since I will no longer be able to just drop my pants and pee anywhere or take off my clothes and change anytime or place that I want to.)
The sun even made a shy appearance as we slowly reorganized our gear and headed up the steep ramp to our rented cottage. My legs are not use to hiking and climbing up and the ramp had me breathing hard, but it sure felt nice to be upright. We washed our bodies and our paddling clothes in the sink with ultra marine aqua dishwashing liquid. Seemed appropriate and a different odor from the usual smoke, body smell or Castile soap over smokey salty body odor. Really, humans are such smelly creatures. Either we smell of chemical soapy odors or its stinky body odors mixed with what ever we have been eating or touching that day. As far as stink goes, Traci and I are pretty meticulous about washing off and rinsing everything, every chance we get and we sure admire our Secret deodorant stick – that stuff is magic! All the same, your sense of smell and awareness of it when camping with large predators makes you keenly aware of these types of things. I digress again – so back to Butedale.
After being invited to Lou’s house/workshop and hearing some great stories and looking at several old pictures of Butedale in its hey days and subsequent decline, we decided to hike up to the lake. I borrowed a fishing pole with a neat little spinner spoon and red bead to try to catch some trout, Lou said were there. A 30 minute hike up into the moss draped forest. We were huffing and puffing and talking to the bears as we went up the muddy trail. Thank goodness for boots. We past skunk cabbage and blue huckleberries, trillium, and deerfern, every NW groundcover you can think of. The blue huckleberries tasted great and we ate them as we climbed. This must be a great year for berries in fjordland as the salmon berries that surround the buildings and open areas are as large as my thumbs. The huckleberries could be found on some plants as large as green peas. (When we arrived Lou was out picking some of the giant salmon berries). We followed the wandering trail up and through a muskeg bog like opening, stopping to take a picture of the small bear tracks next to a boot print, before moving on to the lake edge and natural log boom of floating dead trees at its edge. We walked on the logs out towards a good fishing spot, zigzagging and hopping from log to log. I positioned myself on an old floating nurse log and made short casts out into the open water. I had 5 strikes and landed two beautiful spotted trout about 10 inches long in an hour or so as I was just figuring out how to use this old borrowed pole and spoon. (I caught and lost the first trout right away – then got one netted.) Since Lou told me he would like the carcasses for shrimp/prawn bait I did not want to disappoint and leave before getting at least 2 fish in the bag. Traci C was just hanging out on the logs and it was late afternoon, I felt like I better quit since we still had to hike back down the trail and who knew what we might come across. I told myself 10 more casts and bagged the second trout on the 10th one. Few! A respectable catch for a quick first outing. Two nice trout in my net, pole in hand we worked our way back along the logs and quickly down the trail to the buildings. This is a sportsman’s paradise! I am fishing in places few people ever have, eating amazing berries and seeing NW wilderness as it is up here. A privilege few people – few outdoors people will ever have. Of course it took just over 600 miles of paddling to get me to this place.
Mile 610, Butedale
Conditions: cooler, high 50s/low 60s. Overcast, brief afternoon clearing, followed by more clouds and a light drizzle; barometer rising to 1015
Yesterday we were watched by ravens, and this morning was more of same. We started out by putting our sleeping gear on a one small islet/peninsula, and all our food on a rocky ledge further out. As the tide came in we finished our activities and eating, and prepared to paddle over to our sleeping space. Loading up the boats was a bitch. Dealing with coming back in the morning to get the food suddenly seemed overwhelming. I decided there was enough room on our sleeping rock to put the food far enough from us, and T2 agreed. I paddled back over to the crock and crammed all the food gear in and came back and stashed it on a log. Camp was a small mossy clearing, full of bugs, just big enough for the tent. I slept like a log.
In the morning, Raven was waiting for us. He ate part of T2’s oatmeal while she was loading her boat, and took her spoon. I later found it in the sand. We set off earlyish to get a ride from the still flooding tide. The wind was light from the SE, slowly but steadily building. Off to Princess Royal Channel, Graham Reach. Tons of waterfalls off the island, very steep with minimal places to even pull out. We managed to find one for a quick break. The wind built, and the current shifted against us. A bit messy. I am paddling steady these days, but have no extra energy at all for any acceleration on waves. Around Aaltonhash Inlet the current switched, just as predicted. We saw what I hoped was Work Island, with Butedale just around the corner. Yes, this appeared to be so. Thank goodness. What would we find? Any buildings still standing? Anybody there? In Namu we’d heard maybe not. Butedale is really tucked in when approaching from the south. We saw the waterfall first – spectacular. A sign proclaiming “Moorage. Water. Ice. Shower. Ice Cream”. I suspect it is all lies. I’ll settle for a safe place to pull out and camp! Then some buildings came into view. Hm, still some signs of human presence. We pulled up to the dock and a man calling “hello” came down the steep ramp to the dock. “Are you Lou?” I asked? Yes indeed. He welcomed us to Butedale, and said there were rooms with foam mattresses if we liked. We liked immensely.
Lou was very hospitable, a welcome presence at this point in our journey. We met his cat Tiger, but his dog had passed away last fall. T2 asked about fishing, and was told that this time of day her best bet was trout fishing at the lake. We secured our boats, brought our sleeping gear up to the house, got a tour of Lou’s place and artwork, and went hiking. Yes, we used our legs. Salmonberries and blue huckleberries were fat and ripe, the trail steep but clear, and the lakeshore filled with logs. I found a couple of comfy logs to hang out at, and T2 proceeded to catch a couple of trout. Lou had invited us over for spaghetti dinner, so we had the trout as an appetizer, and then had huge plates of spaghetti. I am stuffed.
Lou showed us a video on the Kermode bear – a professionally produced one as well as a couple of clips he took last year of one that came into Butedale. While we were watching the video a couple more boats showed up, and Lou went to take care of them. He came back with a rhubarb crumble which he shared with us. We eat everything in sight, so we thanked him and tucked that away too. Delicious. We then went up to our house and fell into bed. Oh, we asked about the hotspring – way up the head of the inlet on the other side of Work Island. It sounds delightful, but waaaay off course. I don’t think I have the physical or mental energy to devote most of a day to go chasing after a hot spring…