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Deep Six

Sail Away Up Toba Inlet

Words by Derek Dix. Photos by Derek Dix & Taylor Loughran. Video by Art Barn.
September 18th, 2013

Deep Six from Derek Dix on Vimeo.

Setting out on this journey, we left the dock with a rough idea of what to expect; fishing, exploring by boat, bush-whacking with bikes while burdened with camera packs, camping, and possibly a bear or two.

Only one of us had previously been in the area, tethered to family on a childhood trip, and left with a with a strong will to return clutching to the beauty and remoteness of the area.

We anticipated the wildness of the region, and had heard many stories to leave us with hovering concerns of safety. The one thing that we didn’t anticipate was the immensity of the area, and that has left each of us in awe since our departure.

One thing we all agreed upon was the idea of self-reliance while being in the back country, and considering the trip’s guide was in the form of 120 pages of paper back, it left a fair bit of work in our hands to keep things ship-shape.
It sounds laughable to say we felt understaffed with a crew of three on an 18 foot run about, and at the same time being in an 18 foot run about had us overloaded.

The conversation surfaced a few times while the lines were in the water, so it’s something that was difficult to ignore. Once the hats of rider, photographer, videographer, skipper, cook, photographer, fisherman, etc… Get placed upon each other’s heads with the addition of setting up camp every evening, and taking it back down each morning it leaves little room for much else other than sustaining and self-reliance.

The best way to describe the trip would be ambitious, and one more head to focus on the buddy system would have been far more productive. Day by day, we became more aware of our surroundings and better at dealing with pushing through life’s basics and onto exploration, just as day by day is the best way to describe the journey.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Departing from Secret Cove.

DAY ONE
This day felt the longest, and was the most straining. Departing from Secret Cove we were met with a fairly strong southern wind, which kept us in harbour the day before. We were not letting that happen a second day.

We pushed onward up the Malaspina Straight to Powell River for the first fueling. From there we pushed straight through the calmer waters up to Lund for the second fueling, and some amazing baked focaccia bread. From Lund we moved forward to Sarah Point, here we dropped a line to bring in dinner and quickly brought in the first and only salmon we kept on the trip, which really raised the expectations of everybody.

Life caught back up to us soon after. After bringing in dinner, we headed to the first harbour of the night; Refuge Cove.

– Mark it: Night one, Salmon for dinner. Also had some delicious focaccia and swiss chard.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

These are the forms the feed zones can take, fire, bush, point and reef all help nourish.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Sunset on night one.

DAY TWO

After packing up camp and heading to the public docks to load up on the extra fuel for the journey (Which subsequently was still not enough to make it to the mouth of Toba River) we decided to chat up a few locals to see what knowledge we could round up. This panned out to the majority of words coming from their mouths leaving us instilled with a solid sense of fear when residents who have worked the forests for twenty years constantly use language like “grizzly(ies)”, “sow”, “shotgun”, “bush”, “don’t camp on the mainland” and then just laugh when you bring up trails, hiking or otherwise.

With this newly instilled sense of confidence in our bottles of bear spray we set off expecting to be masters of our domain. After a few solid hours of travelling north up through Waddington Channel and taking in the sights, we started to get an understanding of what we were told. We finally passed the mouth of Waddington Channel and crossed Homfray Channel into Toba. From there we really understood the scale mentioned. We made it over to Brem Bay after a few more hours on the water where we pulled in to talk with the guys working the log dump, the recommended us to check out a waterfall which sat “Just around the point across the inlet” so without hesitation to get into some epic scenery we set off, and soon realised that “Just around the point” was half an hour after the one hour crossing. We dropped the lines to try our luck early in the afternoon, and soon a storm blew in with some strong winds gusting down the inlet forcing us to tie up. We found somewhat of a decent shelter behind a point at Alpine Creek. We tied to the dock, watched the boat throttle the sides of the submerged log keeping everything afloat, and headed up a rusted iron ladder and onto shore. From there we filled all our water containers, bushwhacked around in hopes of finding trail and called it quits to head back out in search of safe anchorage for the night.

After seeing how fast the wind moved through the inlet, and how exposed everything was we opted to head back into Waddington Channel for the night. Once we were back in the calm and sheltered waters we threw lines in, and expediently brought in a ling cod. Dinner had been dealt with… some what. From fishing we pushed on to Walsh Cove for the night, where we whipped up the cod with some seared ramen (luxury) and hit the hay on full stomachs, and without any bear encounters (which never happened the whole trip) or sinking the boat.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

The harsh and unwelcoming landscape of Toba Inlet.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Pilfer all the water from here. It’s called Alpine Creek, it was previously used as a bottling site for a company but the piping has been laid to waste by multiple winter storms.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Wild blueberries paired with deep moss, and incredibly thick brush.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Small frogs living among small forests.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Exiting Toba Inlet after gale winds began pushing down the fjord.

DAY THREE

Waking up on the bluff of a small island in the cove was exceptional, feeling fulfilled by the beauty of nature we had breakfast cooked and camp packed within an hour and were back on the water. First stop was in search of a logging road marked in the back road atlas. This wasn’t too hard to find as the bay was occupied by a derelict freighter and shellfish farm, and unwelcoming arms. We opened the table for discussion with the man who seemed to run the operation, and he seemed fairly adamant that we wouldn’t like the land, or the lake up the mountain and that we shouldn’t come ashore, and venture up his private logging road. We decided to agree with him on that.

Part two of the day took us back farther south than we were hoping in search of more water, which we never found. We threw the lines out at dusk pulled in a rock cod, headed into the nearest bay, which was Roscoe Bay, and conveniently a Marine Park with a campsite and bench on the shore. Given that this area was used as a log dump we had a struggle getting anchored and once the sun set during this endeavor we opted to just beach the boat, set up camp and get our cod cooked up.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

This freighter was listed under Kingston ownership, given it’s condition we were debating if it was Jamaican or just from Ontario.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Mount Denman looming in the background with some serious alpine to be explored.

DAY FOUR & FIVE

Given that we beached our boat during a full moon, there were some heavy tide swings. This worked out to our benefit, we managed to harvest a good number of oysters to go down for breakfast, and also get a fair bit of exploration of the islands trail system done… This trip had a common theme we picked up on, the majority of trails are usually around where people go. Good thing we were in a marine park. we set forth on our bikes for the first time of the trip, and managed to get a fair bit of riding in and got a nice view of Black Lake from a bluff the trail passed over.

We got back from the trails in the later afternoon and fortunately the tide was up and we were able to sneak out of the bay to catch our second rock cod of the trip for dinner. He made good company for the root vegetables we had in the cooler sitting in the sun all day.

Day five had us doing much of the same. We set out to ride more after breakfast, and came back to our camp after. We chatted with another boater who was on his way over the Black Lake who happened to be from North Vancouver, and were invited to swim out to his sail boat to pass the time before tide crept back up. After sharing stories, we made the swim back to the camp where tide had lifted our faithful vessel onto its legs once more. We packed camp and set off to our next destination in the evening light. Mink Island. At the island we were greeted with hesitation by the locals, who happened to own the entire island. After some coaxing they warmed up to the idea of us camping on the shore, and with that our tents were up and we were on the water at dusk to grab another ling cod.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Sleeping in and basking in the cool breeze of the morning air.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

The oysters from Roscoe Bay were outstanding breakfast nourishment. The site originally was used as a log dump through Black Lake due to the out-flowing creek into the bay. The oysters growing at the mouth of this creek live in the brine during high tides, and are flushed with the fresh water at low tides.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Starting the pedal taking us to the bluff.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

One of the few existing trails in the area.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Immersed in the dark and thick forest on Redonda Island.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Traversing a tight and over-grown goat path that took us to a bluff overlooking Black Lake.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Majority of trail took the form of former skid road reclaimed by the forest.

DAY SIX

This morning treated us like the rest; camp packed and on the water quickly. The unexpected journey south had us pondering our fuel situation and we decided to stick to the area around Desolation Sound. We crossed the channel to the Martin Island, which are a destination for kayakers and a few had beat us there to set up in the prime camping locations. We dropped our gear and claimed a site and headed off in search of an area to put in a line to shoot. Directly across from us was Redonda Island, and there was a point with a solid vantage over the water. We hiked up into the woods and got to work. Making short work of putting the line in we started shooting, hoping to get incredibly advanced we utilised the boat in this situation.

After nailing a few angles, we reversed over a stray rope floating in the ocean. We were baffled by what had happened as the engine would cut soon as it was put into forward, and then stuck in position. Reverse worked fine but there was a bit of a competing wind for us to get to harbour and inspect what we assumed were throttle problems. Soon enough another boater passed by and we flagged them down and dangled a tow. Arriving at dock and being in a bit less hectic atmosphere we were quick to diagnose the problem and remedy things. From there we got into fishing hoping to put food on our plates, but were cut short with the boat problems and dark setting in. Dinner was very bland, given we just ate pasta without sauce, and the vegetables had also spoiled.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Believe it or not, near Refuge cove there is a short line that exists out to the water.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

From dense forest to open bluffs, the office was expansive.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Coming out of the woods and down to the shore for pick-up.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Peaking out of the woods and onto a bluff for a short moment.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Descending down to the waters edge.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Cutting along the bluff ridge down to the water.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Emerging from the trees onto the sun baked bluffs of Redonda Island.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Ran into some kayakers on our last night who were more than open to sharing some stories. The dusky blue light had been all too familiar for the majority of the trip and tinder dry ground.

DAY SEVEN

That is that. After nobody going malnourished, starved or landing scurvy we managed to survive. We whipped up some hearty porridge and threw a good measure of salal berry in with it to get over the feeling of consuming goo and seeds. Camp was packed and we were off once again, but this time we were bounding out on the same leg as day one without looking back. There were ferries to catch and responsibility to accept after a week of dodging life. Breakfast was in us, and the boat was due for fuel after matching the tank volume with the jerrycan stock, things were dry and due for civilization.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

These men are men of strong character.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

The constant watchful eyes of nature followed us.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Surprisingly, both these animals fall into the ‘predatory’ category.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Blue and orange. The most common colour scheme of the trip.

Deep Six, Derek Dix, ArtBarn Cinema, Secret Cove, Desolation Sound, Toba River

Intended vs Executed Route

Hopefully this has whet the appetite for exploration, on or off the bike, or just an appetite for some sea faring creatures.

Without the support of the following companies, it is without a doubt in our minds that the boat would have never left the marina. We owe them thanks and gratitude for allowing this story to be told.

Pinkbike.com || Banshee Bikes || Chris King Precision Components || Urban Distilleries

The recount of this adventure will come together and be housed at the Deep Six website.
In the mean while we will be plugging through our additional social media channel – Instagram , Facebook and Tumblr .

Direction & Production — Derek Dix
Principal Cinematography — Art Barn
Photography — Derek Dix & Taylor Loughran


 

“Epic” is a word that gets bandied about a lot these days, but is put to good use describing this trip. Consider us inspired to start planning excursions into the wild for next year.

  • Bryce

    duuuuude… this is great storytelling, very inspiring. Of all the bike media out there, so little of it is about real adventure. Keep up the fantastic work!