Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vantasy Island: The (not so) Exciting Conclusion ...

Happy Friday! Below is the end of our Vantasy Island adventure .. but if you haven't yet seen it, please scroll down past this post & check out Bryan's latest entry regarding a big win for BC rivers. Grassroots opposition is working!


Before we even launched on the Klanawa, Jakub knew that he might have to bail on the rest of the trip. His wife had called & let him know that his son was sick & getting sicker. It was obvious that Braden, with his mangled boat & injured ankle, was pretty much done for the weekend too. It worked out well for Jakub, who needed a ride back to Vic (but who didn't want to force us to drive all the way back) .. So there in the fading light, alongside a logging road in the middle of nowhere, we drank one last beer with our tour guide & then bid farewell to Jakub, Braden & Chris. That was a good day!

Before leaving, we made sure to get some local recommendations, but being left with only one rig presented some shuttle challenges. Then, as the designated MiniVanIslandVan driver, I very nearly crippled our progress on the way home. We were all just fired up on our day on the Klanawa, &, since we were almost certainly the only moving vehicle on any road within 20 km of us, I was driving fast & taking chances. I charged head-on into a huge puddle of snowmelt/rainwater doing about 45 m.p.h. & BOOOOOM!!! We bottomed out, slamming the underbody of the van on a big submerged rock. I'd never felt that big of a shot to the bottom of a car before! I limped the rig up out of the puddle, totally embarrassed & scared that I'd really done some damage to the borrowed van. Steam billowed up from underneath, but a quick inspection with headlamps didn't reveal anything out of order. So we cautiously continued on, counting our blessings, as being stuck indefinitely out in the woods due to my own stupidity would have been a sad end to this story.

Upon returning to our cabin, I got in touch with Shayne out in Nanaimo, who said we were welcome to join up with his friends on the Gordon on Sunday. The Gordon's a classic, so I was stoked to have a "sure thing" in the pocket to offer the Van Island virgins that comprised my crew.

In the morning, we discovered a half-deflated tire on the rig, so we preemptively swapped the spare, & then set out for a long bumpy drive south toward Port Renfrew. Passing over & beside several beautiful gorges, we drooled over the unknown goods, but kept our eyes on the prize & pushed on toward the Gordon ..

Until we got another flat ..

At this point, all we had was the half-flat spare & we were a long way from civilization. We'd have to make do & take it slow, but we were already pushing our luck on meeting our crew on time. Trouble came when our weak-ass jack caved-in on itself under the weight of the van, leaving us with a flat, a half-flat, a busted jack & deep-fried nerves. We'd have to MacGyver our way outta this ... which, fortunately, we did.

We came into a what could only be called a "community", like a crossroads or neighborhood, with no commercial services. We spotted 2 guys in a yard & I jumped out to ask them for some advice. They said we'd need to find "Brad" in the 4th house on the right on a different road. This Brad apparently had tire fixin' skills, and lucky for us, he was at home.

Brad was excited for visitors & told us to pull the van right up to his garage. He was a bit embarrassed about the condition of his "shop", which was littered with a million different tools, fasteners, & junk. But he got right to work on our tires & told some amazing stories the entire time. He's a logger by trade, but fell back on wrenching after an injury forced him off his logging crew. His advice regarding getting hurt on the job: "If you work, wear hockey gear & don't get hurt. Aaah, nevermind that -- DON'T WORK!"

Brad's garage/shop

That's our tire on the machine. We stood amidst what he called his "toolbox".

This is Bruno. He had a thick chain restraining him.

I was pretty sure he wanted to chew my face off, but he turned out to be nice .. smelly, but nice.

15 minutes & 20 bucks later, we were outta there, but we were waaaay past-due on meeting Shayne's crew on the Gordon. We'd have to call an audible .. we'd backtrack a half-hour to the Nitinat, which was reportedly foot-shuttle friendly. Only thing is, Where the hell is this river???? We spent hours driving back & forth between 2 obvious landmarks along the same 5-km-stretch of road, looking for a supposed Provincial Park that existed on the maps, but not in real life. We followed some rarely used roads & trails trying to locate the elusive gorge. It was getting late & I was getting very kranky about our wasted day. We ended up bushwhacking several times & finally found what looked like a stretch of incredible whitewater set among ginormous old growth red cedars. Yessssss!

I'm always fascinated by all the vegetation & mossy trees we come across during our bushwhack missions.

So are the Coloradans ..

Given the time & a takeout above some "unrunnable" falls, we'd have to make quick work of the runnable stuff. We had no idea where the takeout even was ..

Clear, green water on the Nitinat

Evan dropping into the first rapid

Leif on a different line in the same drop.

The entrance of the gorge reminded me a bit of Ernie's Canyon, which is a backyard run for us Seattleites. The basalt bedrock intrusions & boulders were full of sieves & potholes, but the water lines were clean as a whistle.

These potholes were big enough to climb through.



The crew among the beautiful basalt gorge

Leif leading



One of several big drops on the Nitinat.

We made it to an obvious horizon line that revealed a very steep, twisting, blind secion of ledges, beginning with a 10-12 foot clean vertical drop. It was just before dark. Scott volunteered to billygoat up the river-left canyon wall for a scout, & came back saying that the first drop was all glory, but anything after that was impossible to see. We quickly made the decision to get the heck out while we still had a bit of light. After the second roped pitch, Evan & I bushwhacked downstream to see if we could sort out anything on the "falls" section. Looked pretty good to us .. full-on, but good.

Turns out, we made it to the "take out". After climbing out of the canyon, we were thrilled that the MiniVanIslandVan was parked a 10-minute walk upstream of where we reached the road. We were still way out in the middle of the Island & would not be making the last ferry over to the mainland. Stopping for burgers at the first tiny sign of civilization, we made a friend. We called her the Silver Fox. She was in her 50's or 60's, dressed to the nines, & quite tipsy on wine. She made a beeline to our section of the restaurant & invited herself onto the couch with Scott. Upon learning that we were "stuck" on Vantasy Island for the night, she insisted that we stay at her house with her.

And her 28 y.o. son.

And her elderly tenant ..

Outside a cool steady rain set in. Ughh ... decisions.

The Silver Fox ignoring Scott's sweat stench & admiring his "cowboy in off the range" masculinity.

The Silver Fox promised to cook us pancakes in the morning, & while Scott may have been her huckleberry, we had a ferry to catch in Victoria in the a.m., & an awkward night in this lady's house followed by a leisurely & equally awkward pancake breakfast wasn't on the agenda. I feigned receiving a call from our "friend in Mill Bay" who had room for us. We hightailed it outta there, laughing our lungs out at the ridiculousness & hilarity of our never-ending SitCom-worthy day. I swear sometimes Larry David is writing my script. In fact, we did end up sleeping in Mill Bay, but not at a friend's house -- Leif & Scott caught z's in the van while Evan & I set up our bivvies in the mud. We were in a parking turnout alongside the highway.

This is what we looked like at 6:30 a.m. the next morning

In those old Fantasy Island episodes, as I remember it, Mr. Roarke's guests signed up for some far-fetched, totally unrealistic experience that he could somehow provide on the Island. These well-funded, naive people showed up from LA & Houston & Chicago expecting some pretty big things -- Mr. Roarke could make their wildest dreams come true during their visit. But on Fantasy Island, as in real life, it's a thin line separating dreams from nightmares. (insert evil laughter here.) What one wants & what needs are usually two disparate things, & on the Island you usually get what you need in spite of what you want.

A month or so prior to our trip, I was the de facto Mr. Roarke (hopefully a lot less creepy though). I promised my buddies an amazing experience on Vantasy Island -- bedrock gorges, waterfalls & old growth all within spittin' distance of the ocean. They were coming from frozen Colorado & needed to just go kayaking. They wanted some adventure, classic new whitewater, waterfalls, & good times. It was a tall order, but I'm stoked to say that we got what we wanted and what we needed.

Check out the video piece that Evan & Jesse from Thrillhead put together:

Thrillhead TV - Vancouver Island Spring 08 from Thrillhead Creations on Vimeo


Dave said...

lol, Scott could have got some granny action, nice. Sounds like some frustrating experiences, but it makes for a good story.

yetigonecrazy said...

sounds like fun, guys! glad you all came out of there with big smiles and a great story!