Trip Report: Paddling Around Flores Island

Aug 13, 2021
2021 Route

Let me tell you about one of my earliest memories. I’m young, a toddler, maybe three. My parents have taken me on a kayaking trip, and I’m playing in a stream that flows into the ocean. It forms many pools and has cut deeply through the rock to form menacing black walls that tower above me. The water is piping hot.

For years, I wondered where that stream was, if it even existed. In 2018, I found out. On a paddling trip to the remote Hesquiat Harbour, my dad and I stopped at what I immediately recognized as the stream from my childhood, Hot Springs Cove, a 2-day paddle from Tofino.

Last week my dad and I, accompanied by a few of his friends, completed a similar trip and circumnavigated Flores Island in six days. It featured whales, wolves, a terrifying encounter with the ocean, and a trip to that special place of mine.

We left Tofino on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. After a few hours of paddling the winds began to rise, and so we set up camp on a small beach on the north shore of Vargas Island.

After dinner, we embarked again to watch the sunset from our boats.

Vargas is known for its wildlife, and I awoke early the next morning to the sound of my dad yelling “wolf, wolf!”. Unfortunately, it quickly escaped back to the woods before I had the chance to leave my sleeping bag.

By the time we embarked our kayaks were shrouded in fog.

After another short paddle, we arrived at White Sand Cove, a sandy beach on Flores Island. Given that it was only mid-afternoon, Osa and I decided to explore. Others told of a natural spring only a few kilometres away that someone had fashioned into an outdoor pool. It proved to be well hidden, but after almost four hours of searching we managed to find it.

The water was tepid and crystal-clear, and the concrete basin provided a gorgeous view of the adjacent inlet.

A remote spring-fed pool on the shoreline of Matilda Inlet.

Again, the sunset that evening was stunning.

Sunset at White Sand Cove

Friday was the first long day of paddling. Between White Sand Cove and our destination, Sharpe Point, lay over twenty kilometres of inhospitable coastline, exposed entirely to swells from the Pacific. Thankfully the wind was mild that day, and after five hours we reached our destination. Along the way we saw a variety of wildlife: seals, otters, whales and the highest concentration of jellyfish I’ve every seen.

We camped on a crescent beach, sheltered from the swells by the point.

The crew

Naturally, by the time we set up camp, rain had begun to fall. A sputter at first, then a downpour. Regardless, we decided to paddle across the inlet to the hot springs.

Little did we know, Hot Springs Cove—normally a popular attraction for tourists—had been closed for many months due to construction. As a result, the trail was completely overgrown. Again, we bushwhacked for hours, the drizzle only intensifying. The others soon gave up and once again only Osa and I pressed on. I, too, had nearly accepted defeat when I stumbled across a miracle: ticker tape, accompanied by a faint trail. We followed the trail, dodging fallen trees and enormous slugs, for thirty minutes before reaching the beautiful boardwalk that runs lengthwise down the peninsula to the springs.

Osa following the boardwalk in the rain.

Twenty minutes later we reached our destination. Here, just like I remembered, a piping hot stream erupts from the ground, flows over a waterfall and through a series of pools into the ocean. We had it to ourselves, save for a lonely worker who let us pass. We bathed for a few minutes, and it was a moment of bliss on a grimy day. I didn’t take any pictures.

By morning the rain had subsided and we paddled another twenty kilometres to a beach marked on our map. Unfortunately, it didn’t exist. We searched around, peeking into inlet after inlet, but never found it. In the end, the best spot we could find was a grassy swamp at the head of a river featuring only a few dry spots at treeline.

5/5 campsite

It wasn’t pleasant, but all was well—at least I thought. At midnight, I woke up and rolled over: straight into the ocean. The tide had risen much higher than anticipated—almost three metres—and my mattress was floating in six inches of water. Horrified, I called out to the others. “Tide! I’m underwater!”

Fortunately, they were spared. The tide had almost peaked, and the water stopped only inches from their tents. My sleeping bag and other gear were totally soaked, and so I crawled into my dad’s tent and went back to sleep.

The next morning. Everything in this picture was entirely underwater the night before.

Needless to say, that event put a downer on the whole trip, but luckily it was almost over. We had only one more night, and we camped on the magnificent ‘Cable Beach’, a paradisic cove that wouldn’t be out of place on a small island in the Carribean.

Cable Beach

My dad

It was a trip full of ups and downs, but I will remember it for years to come. To me, this area epitomizes the beauty of the West Coast and I feel so lucky to be able to explore it again, if only for a week.

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