There is a story about the colorful character named Bob in the Broughton Islands. If you are lucky, you can see him for yourself.
You just need to get into a kayak and go on an early morning paddle through the island group. Soon, you will pass close to the shore of an islet with a small beachfront house (the locals can tell you where it is). In front of the house, you might spot a large man doing his morning bath rituals—Bob. He plunges like a small whale into the Pacific Ocean and afterwards stands drying off, stark naked, hairy, and rotund, and greets you with arms outstretched and bellows: “Hello, nature!”
It will be hard not to wave back and agree. There is a lot of wonderful nature to say hello to in the Broughton Islands.
The Broughton Islands Marine Park was established in 1992 and today, it is the largest of its kind in British Columbia. The area consists of a wonderful collection of dozens of undeveloped island gems located at the mouth of Knight Inlet on the west side of Queen Charlotte Strait near the north end of Vancouver Island.
About 15 years ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit this area. I had been asked to lead a fun group of past clients from Texas on a wilderness paddle through the Broughtons and in the more southern Deer Islands. It was clear from the start that physical exercise was only a small part of our adventure. The group had asked for an extra Zodiac boat to bring copious amounts of beer, wine and hard liquor along our route and after each day of jam-packed adventure, we would party under the night stars and toast wildly to our good luck of just being there in this greatest of nature.
The whole west coast off Vancouver Island offers excellent boating, kayaking and wildlife viewing opportunities. The coast provides visitors some sheltered waters and anchorages with a backdrop of the magnificent coastal mountains to the east and the waters of Queen Charlotte Strait to the west. These islands have been utilized by First Nations peoples for generations, and there is ample evidence of their extensive use of the area. On our trip, we discovered white midden beaches, culturally modified trees, clam “terraces,” and even petroglyphs on the coastal rock walls.
For years, Natural Habitat Adventures has taken our clients on wildlife trips off the coast of Western Canada. One is a sailboat-based intimate discovery of Canada’s Inside Passage and the Great Bear Rainforest.
The other trip is small expedition ship journey south and east of Vancouver Island that includes Washington state’s San Juan Islands, as well as Canada’s Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia.
British Columbia is an absolutely enormous place, and could fit California and Oregon inside with room left for most of New England. The coastal ranges on Canada’s far western edge have some of the planet’s oldest and tallest trees and is the richest wildlife area in Canada. Thousand-year-old cedars and Sitka spruce grow in a landscape inhabited by grizzly bears, bighorn sheep and wolves. Off the coast, you often see plenty of humpback whales hunting for krill. Twice every year, virtually the entire global population of Pacific Gray Whales migrates along the British Columbia coast.
BC is Canada’s most biologically diverse province and is home to about half of Canada’s total grizzly bear population. It has more bird species than any other province in the country, with more than 500 bird species (including more than 300 breeding species). However, the sad fact is that more than 1,900 animal species found in BC are at risk of extinction, and in many instances, it’s because of the continued logging of their wild forest habitat.
The coastal areas of Western Canada are under enormous environmental stress and have been under siege by logging practices for years. Today, the primal North Pacific forests, which once produced some of the largest trees on the planet, has been reduced to a fraction of 1 percent remaining. Before serious industrial logging started in the 1920s, it was estimated that British Columbia’s remaining timber came in at 366 billion board feet—enough wood to build 20 million homes, or a boardwalk to Mars. One of the biggest logging plots in British Columbia—the Bowron Clear-cut—was a star-shaped swath of shaved planet spreading for more than 200 square miles. Local foresters described it as the only man-made object besides the Great Wall of China and the Alaska Pipeline that was visible from outer space.
The cutting of ancient trees continues unabated. Raw log exports from public and private forest lands in coastal BC have been going up—even today. Now, big stumps mark where the great giants once stood tall. Plantations, where second-growth trees were planted after the original wild forest was logged, are now growing throughout much of BC and some areas are now being logged for the second time.
During a visit to Canada in 1929, Winston Churchill once remarked to his son,“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees… to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization!”
To make matters worse, climate change has also impacted these forests. More than 9 million hectares of forest lands, mostly on British Columbia’s central plateau, have been hit by the pine beetle epidemic and other pests due to warming winters and forest mismanagement. Wildfires due to increased drying of the underbrush take their toll, as well.
What to do in the face of all of this? In times full of climate change skepticism and denial, excessive natural disasters, and basically our planet in peril, perhaps we should just join Bob and strip naked. Then face our own piece of nature and bellow with deep joy, hope and respect into the elements, “Hello, nature!”
A way of thanking nature for what is has given us without ever asking for anything back.