There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.-Aldo Leopold
The wilderness calls to me. All of the wild and ancient elements of the earth- mountains, the ocean, wildlife, old growth forest- are reasons why I moved to Vancouver Island. This was encapsulated for me recently upon seeing the newly released documentary on Netflix that features my home, called Island of the Sea Wolves. Watching this now familiar landscape on screen spoke directly to my soul, further solidifying my decision to choose a home that satisfies what my spirit regularly craves. The footage reminded me of an experience I had this summer that I have been meaning to write about- to commemorate it for myself while giving others another glimpse into life in this region of Canada.
In the early days after moving to Vancouver Island, I came across a photo online of a small group of people on a remote island who were in a wood-fired hot tub at the water’s edge. I was immediately enticed to learn more- most prominently: where is this and how can I transport myself here? The photo was taken and posted by a tour company called Spirit of The West Adventures that offers guided kayaking trips in the remote waters of Northern Vancouver Island. I added this to a wish-list of experiences that I have written down in a notebook of all the places I hope to explore over time on this island home of mine.
When the pandemic was declared and travel was severely impacted, the dream of joining a tour had to be postponed, as they were only offering private group tours during that time. Finally, this past summer, they opened their tours to individual bookings again and I could not ignore how strongly this experience was calling to me. I would consider myself a beginner kayaker but knew that they catered to all skill levels, and the idea of spending a few nights in a wilderness basecamp in the Johnstone Strait (especially with the chance of seeing a multitude of wildlife, including whales), was too good to pass up. The north coast of Vancouver Island is just the sort of wild place that makes my spirit soar.
We were transported to the secluded base camp via water taxi, slowly making our way along the Johnstone Strait, out of service and into wilderness heaven. Arriving at the camp left me in a state of awe. A slow meander through the trees led us to an open clearing where the hot tub (the very same one I had seen in that photo years ago) was puffing inviting, cedar-tinged smoke into the air and large canvas tents were spread out comfortably among the rocks and trees in either direction. As I was travelling solo, I ended up with my own tent which as an introvert, provided the perfect place of solace after each day of adventuring and socializing with the amazing group we had. The beauty of doing a trip like this is that you end up meeting so many people with similar values- everyone was friendly, outdoorsy, lively and had a vast appreciation of nature.
Each day was leisurely paced, with priority given to following your desires. While there were guided kayaking outings offered daily (usually a morning and an evening paddle), there was no pressure to participate. One couple chose to remain at the camp for a whole day to simply relax, enjoy the hot tub and soak up the sun, and they ended up saying it was one of their favourite days of the trip. I went for at least one kayak each day and balanced the activity with lots of slow time simply taking in the beauty of the camp, reading or practicing yoga on the private deck of my tent. The outdoor hot water showers were also a highlight and completely divine to come home to after a day out on the water.
The food they served to us throughout this experience was incredible. The guides cooked hearty meals and snacks for us daily using many locally sourced ingredients which was a detail I truly appreciated. Having a hot breakfast and steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee in the wild was one of the most cozy and memorable moments of each day- not to mention the perfect motivator to get me out of my sleeping bag in the morning. On our kayaking adventures, they would also bring thermos’ of hot coffee and tea along plus a variety of other goodies which we would enjoy while taking breaks on remote beaches along the route.
In terms of wildlife, we saw a pod of orcas one day while out on the water (a huge highlight), pacific white-sided dolphins, eagles, black bears, and an incredible array of intertidal life. The guides on the tour provided a wealth of knowledge about everything that we encountered and were happy to answer any and all questions that we had. I felt completely safe and supported in their capable hands for the duration of the four day tour.
If you ever find yourself travelling to the west coast of Canada or visiting Vancouver Island- I could not recommend this experience more (this post is not affiliated or sponsored at all- I simply had an unforgettable time and want to spread the word). Spirit of the West has just released their tour dates for 2023 and their tour options give you a taste of all the best elements of this incredible region, no matter your skill or comfort level in the outdoors. It is worth the splurge, I assure you. Being on this adventure made me feel free and alive, as though I was truly honouring the spirit of summer and the soul of the island.
Have you had any memorable wilderness adventures? I would love to hear a trip highlight in the comments below.