Like anything in life, hope and expectations play a role in how we react emotionally. If expectations are not met, we feel disappointed or frustrated. If an experience goes beyond our expectations, we feel happy. In an effort to create realistic expectations and positive mental preparation, here are a few points to understand.
Foremost, this is a self-supported wilderness trip.
While Powell River Sea Kayak has been a key leader in the expansion of sea kayak touring on the BC coast since 1995, and we work incredibly hard – from management to our guides to our office staff – to make these experiences as comfortable, safe, and relaxing as we can, some important clarifications sometimes need to be made to ensure that all our guests are 100% aware of the reality of these wilderness excursions.
Our expeditions head to more remote areas, but have been designed so that groups attempt to avoid any overly long arduous days of paddling on the water. While we say our vacation tours spend 3-4 hours on the water each day, expeditions should expect anywhere from 4-6 hours of paddling, with breaks for lunch and short rests throughout.
Distances per day vary, with the topography in places limiting where we can land and camp as we get more remote, and some days will be longer than others. The fact that these tours aim to move every day (or almost every day) mean that guests should expect to ‘dig in’ on occasion to reach their goals. The rewards are certainly worth the effort!
Topographical Considerations & Challenges
Our expedition tours travel deep into the Coast Mountains of mainland British Columbia. While this means you will be in some truly epic and impressive locations, the steep nature of the landscape mean that the deeper the group travels, the more difficult it can be to safely launch and land kayaks, and the more dangerous it can be while hauling kayaks and equipment from the shore to the camp through the slippery and uneven intertidal zone.
From experience, this aspect of the day is often the most challenging for our guests – especially those that are less sure on their feet. The desire – even necessity – to help with this process can lead to injuries, and unfortunate evacuations, of guests. On the flip side, if an individual is unable to manage this effectively and needs to avoid helping with the camp setup, all that more stress and responsibility falls onto our guides, who are already working exceptionally hard to deliver a memorable experience and keep everyone safe.
All this is to say that if you are unsure about your ability to safely travel – and help move gear – on rocky, steep and uneven surfaces, perhaps one of our vacation camping tours or Cabana Desolation Eco Resort packages are more suitable for you.
Any costs relating to evacuations – for any reason whatsoever – of guests who are unable to complete the trip are solely the responsibility of the guest(s). As always, we highly recommend that your personal insurance covers expenses due to accidents in remote locations, including transport. An evacuation from a remote area on these trips could easily cost $500 or more.
Campsites & Facilities (or lack of…)
The camps used on our expeditions can range from provincial park sites with tent pads, to remote beaches with small clearings in the forest for tents and driftwood ‘dining areas’. Toilet facilities can range from private outhouses, to the use of a shovel to dig cat-holes in a designated area of the bush.
The positives of such remote camping, of course, is the solitude and the serenity that can only be achieved by getting away from other groups and the trappings of civilization. To get to these amazing areas, a little ‘roughing-it’ is certainly required!
Our expedition tours of course are designed to get as deep into the wilderness as possible during the 6 or 7 day duration, and guests on these tours can expect to find themselves in some truly awe inspiring and remote locations, but with minimal facilities. Some of our private tenured sites may have some improvements, depending on government restrictions on the tenure, but guests should expect that each camp has minimal facilities, especially as the trip goes on.
Storage & Management
Everything we use on the tour – all the food and equipment – must fit into the group’s kayaks at the time of launch. There are limitations on what we can bring – including how much each guest can bring personally on the tour.
Having said that, we have been running kayak trips since 1995, and have developed very efficient systems over this time. This efficiency allows us to bring many items that would otherwise be considered luxuries on a typical wilderness trip! The equipment we do bring is of the highest quality from leading brands in the outdoor industry.
Food & Water
Food can be a unique challenge on a self-sustained tour. Despite this, we pride ourselves on our backcountry meals that constantly impress and amaze our guests year after year – a far cry from traditional backpacking food and cooking!
Unique diets are becoming more and more prevalent these days. Without a kitchen, fridge, oven or well-stocked pantry, it can be extremely difficult to cater to individual tastes and diets for a large group over many days. However, we do our best and hope our guests understand these challenges!
If you have unique dietary preferences, please let us know as soon as possible so we can best prepare our menu and logistical planning.
Finally, all our water for drinking and cooking is generally completely brought along with us, and ‘showering’ is only possible if the route of the tour takes us near a hidden freshwater lake. Depending on the time of the year and the route taken on the tour, this is not always possible. This can be a challenge for some guests used to the convenience of warm running water on demand, but rest assured that it makes the inevitable shower on returning to civilization all the more luxurious.
What it Means to Choose a Group Tour, and Expected Guest Participation
Paddling speed is a point of communication. Ultimately we can only paddle as fast as the slowest paddler. Joining a group tour assumes you are happy to go along with the group, and understand that each trip has paddlers of different strengths and abilities; if not, a group tour is probably not for you.
In a group tour, you are agreeing to listen to and respect the guide’s decisions, judgements and requirements made in the best interests of the entire group, and bring a positive attitude to respect to all guides and fellow guests.
No matter the pace, we often cover as much as 8-12 nautical miles per day on our expeditions. In addition, a more relaxed pace allows for a more intimate experience and exploration of the intertidal marine life and beautiful scenery. If you are not an experienced paddler and worried about keeping up, we recommend electing to paddle in a double kayak as opposed to singles, which often proves a great leveller for people of different strengths.
With all the great gear we bring comes a little extra work both for our guides and our guests – and especially so on our expedition tours. We do not have Sherpas for hauling gear or setting-up camp (besides, this would make the tour significantly more expensive). When arriving at a new camp, the kayaks must be emptied and then everything (kayaks included) hauled to the camp area, above the high tide. This is a group effort (guides included) and is a great way to get the blood flowing either before paddling or after sitting in the kayaks for a few hours. The point: some hauling of kayaks and equipment and setting-up of camp is required by everyone.
Finally, while guests are not expected to help preparing meals, the cleaning up process (for example, washing and drying dishes) is another area on these longer remote expeditions where guests should expect to shoulder some of the load and pitch in so that the group can reach their goals as a team over 6 or 7 days.
The weather on the BC coast can be unpredictable, and even the relatively warm and dry months of summer can be peppered with consecutive days of wind, rain, and cool temperatures. While many of our tours enjoy unspoiled blue skies from start to finish, you should be prepared for the potential of cooler, wetter, windier weather during your tour, even if the long-term forecast does not indicate the possibility.
While the sun and warmth are certainly ingredients for a great trip, many of our most memorable tours in the past have experienced days of moderate winds and that classic west coast rain. The scenery is rugged and inspiring no matter what the weather brings, and our guides work amazingly hard to ensure that each and every guest has everything they possibly need to immerse themselves in and enjoy this beautiful part of the world.
Choose not be to disappointed if the weather is inclement, but instead choose to embrace the many changing faces and conditions that exist on this beautiful west coast!
As mentioned, this is a wilderness camping tour. Part of the charm on a wilderness tour is connecting with nature at a more intimate level and getting out of our comfort zones in life. A little ‘roughing it’ is good for the soul! With that said, more and more guests are looking for a higher level of comfort and features on these wilderness trips. For guests seeking a higher level of comfort, we get it! We therefore created Cabana Desolation Eco Resort, which provides such “luxuries” as cozy beds, hot showers and flush toilets. However, as a wilderness camping tour, not only are these types of features unavailable but even seemingly basic features may not be possible. This includes:
- Pit toilets (aka: outhouses). Not all our wilderness sites have outhouses. What does this mean? At certain sites guests will need to dig ‘cat-holes’ for when they are using the bathroom. Guides will explain the best methods for this on the first day of the trip.
- Fresh water. We use some pretty wonderful sites for our camps, many on small islands with beautiful views and an unsurpassed connecting with the ocean. With a lack of freshwater, all this must be packed into the kayaks. If you like to wash your face with freshwater daily, this likely won’t be an option as we simply cannot pack enough for drinking and cooking as well as washing.
- Sleeping pads. There are some pretty large and luxurious options available these days. Unfortunately, these will not fit into kayaks full of kitchen gear, tents, sleeping bags – and everything else needed for a safe and enjoyable trip. We carry a standard thermarest that more than adequately does the job.
- Tents. As we often use remote sites away from the more commonly used areas, it is important that we are space-efficient with our sleeping arrangements to ensure a comfortable use of these sites. If you are a solo traveller, you will of course be offered your own tent, but if you are travelling in a group our policy is for 2 people to share (or perhaps more, if a family group).
- This list could go on and on, but the point is to simply get people in the right frame of mind. If you are starting to think this is not the right experience for you, please see: www.cabanadesolation.com
As you will see under the gear list, we mention bringing a positive attitude. We can’t stress this enough. Of the things under our control, we have plenty of experience and will do a very good job. However, there are many things we can’t control, such as the weather. For all the things we can’t control, it is up to each individual to choose a positive attitude. With that, we are very confident your experience will be awesome!