Tatchu Route Description/Trip Report
This route description / trip report is based on a trip that Neil and I did in August.
We decided to do the 35 KM route from south to north (from Port Eliza to Rugged Point) thereby saving the most beautiful sections till last. We took 4 days to complete the route. There is no trail just shoreline hiking. And although it can be completed more quickly I recommend taking plenty of time to enjoy the unique scenery. And if the tides are against you, lots of time is needed for waiting to cross the several low tide dependant sections.
For transport, I highly recommend catching the MV Uchuck ($50 per person) from Gold River to Port Eliza and then chartering Air Nootka to pick you up at Rugged Point ($800 for 3 people). Other options, such as a water taxi from Zeballos to Port Eliza ($350) and a water taxi from Rugged Point to Fair Harbour, are also possible but will not save you much money or make the adventure any easier.
We arrived in Gold River the day before the trip and met with our Air Nootka pilot to discuss pick-up procedures. We then boarded the MV Uchuck at 6:30 AM the following morning and had a most enjoyable 6 hour sail to Port Eliza. The ship provides an excellent cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs, hash browns, etc.) which is highly recommended. The Uchuck is a historic vessel (old WW2 mine sweeper) and was a lot of fun to be aboard.
At Port Eliza the crew lowered us over the side of the ship and down to the dock using their cargo crane (there was no gang plank available). And then they sailed away leaving us completely alone. We didn't see another person until we reached Rugged Point four days later. There is nothing at Port Eliza (no buildings, equipment or people). Just an old dock and a logging road dotted with fresh bear poop.
We followed the logging road for a couple of hours (about 7 KMs) until we reached the first beach access point at Yellow Bluff Bay. We took an overgrown path through a clearing, near an old mechanics shop, which leads down to the beach. Since it was about 4pm we made camp here. The beach is worth exploring and at the north end are some cool sea caves carved out of the beautiful marbled rock. Fresh water on this beach can be found at a large creek near the caves.
That evening a bear came down to the beach for a while and completely ignored our shouting and waving. It begrudgingly left only after we let off a couple of bear bangers.
Unfortunately there is absolutely no way to follow the shoreline at Yellow Bluff Bay due to some high cliffs. So we re-joined the logging road and headed north. Just past the cliffs there is a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Yellow Bluff Bay. We were hoping we could get back down to the beach at this point but it was not at all feasible, so we continued along the logging road for another 1.5 KMs. We were looking for a spur road on the left that leads down to the shore. But this spur road is completely overgrown and easy to walk right past. We used a GPS and waypoint to find it. We bushwhacked down the spur road for about 1 KM through maturing alder. The road was flat but the alder was quite dense.
Once we reached the beach we stopped for lunch. For the next three days we would be following the shoreline to Rugged Point. After lunch we explored the south east end of the beach where it joins Yellow Bluff. We found an interesting tidal channel and some wolf tracks. We also noticed a very old shed in the trees. Fresh water on this beach can be found at the north end, just before Tatchu Point.
That afternoon we continued in a north westerly direction along the shoreline around Tatchu Point. This section is an Indian reserve. There are no houses or people. Just virgin forest. And since the reserve is the only un-logged section of shoreline till Rugged Point, we admired the superb old growth trees.
At the east end of Tatchu point is a small cliff which can only be scrambled up at low tide. Since high tide was at noon that day, we were forced to stop and wait for two or three hours. We spent much time looking for an inland route around the cliff, but came to realize that any inland travel along this coastline was impossible due to dense Salal and very rough terrain.
While we were waiting for low tide, a bear turned up and made every possible attempt to walk right past us, despite our shouts. Eventually it got around us and sat on a nearby log, rubbing its arse. Then it started digging through sea weed. Clearly it wasn't leaving, so we did.
About 1 KM past the cliff, we came to the first surge channel. This is one of the more challenging obstacles on the route. It requires a tricky scramble down a slippery algae covered chimney. The scramble is only about 10 foot high but we felt that the possibility of injury was significant.
Given how far we were from civilization, we had some reservations about climbing down it unassisted. We felt a rope was required. But since we had no rope we slung some thin nylon cord (used for hanging food) around a rock and shimmied down into the surge channel (we also lowered our packs down first). The channel itself can only be crossed at low tide. And in rough seas I imagine it could be very dangerous. Even in calm seas the water sloshed in an out of the channel quite vigorously. But getting out of the channel on the other side was a trivial scramble.
It was now quite late in the day so we stopped and made camp at Sandstone Point, which is one of the most beautiful places on the whole Peninsula. The view was spectacular and the rocks contain tidal pools just like Botanical Beach. But unlike Botanical Beach these ones are completely undisturbed by humans and teaming with life.
We noticed a lot more wolf tracks on the beach at Sandstone Point. Fresh water in this area can be found where a tiny waterfall trickles down a sandstone cliff from the forest above.
The next section took us around Jurassic Point, which supposedly has dinosaur footprints embedded in the shoreline rocks. We didn't know this at the time and were very disappointed to learn, after the trip, that we had missed such a unique sight. Apparently this area was not covered by the last ice age and has lots of unique geology.
About 100 metres past Jurassic Point is Tatchu Creek which was trivial to cross and didn't even require removal of shoes and socks. The next 2 KMs of shoreline has an interesting section of flat rock shelves which are easy to walk on and studded with many fossils (what appeared to be petrified wood or some other kind of fossilized vegetation). With hindsight, I wish we had taken more time to stop and explore this area.
Immediately after rounding Gregoire Point we came to an unnamed creek. We called it Gregoire Creek. At high tide it was about 5 or 6 feet deep at shoreline, but not particularly fast flowing. We didn't want to swim across it, or wait several hours to see how shallow it would be at low tide, so we started hiking upstream. We got lucky and found a stretch of forest which was easy to bushwhack through and after about 50 or 60 metres we ran into an overgrown logging road. The road took us back to the creek where we found the remnants of a bridge (or at least the footings of a bridge). The creek was only a couple of metres wide at this point and easy to scramble across. After crossing we were able to easily bushwhack back to the beach and continue along the shoreline.
The next 1 KM of shoreline presented a couple of major obstacles. First was a short section of cliff that could not be passed at high tide, so we sat and waited for an hour for the tide to drop a little. Then we came to the second surge channel on the peninsula, which can only be crossed at low tide, so we waited another couple of hours. This surge channel does not require any scrambling and is really just a cliff that must be walked around on some barnacle covered rocks close to the low tide line. But in rough seas it could be a different and more serious matter.
After we got past the second surge channel we walked along the rocky shoreline for another couple of KMs until we reached Porritt Creek. The rocks were flat but very sharp along this stretch, and a fall could have been nasty.
Porritt Creek was easy to walk across at shoreline, and just upstream the creek deepened into a beautifully clear pool of slow moving water. It was late in the afternoon and had been a hot day so we made camp in Porritt Cove, close to the creek, and went swimming in the pool. It felt very good to wash away three days of sweat and grime.
On the morning of the 4th day a bear and two cubs turned up at Porritt Cove just as we were about to leave. They were right in our path so we let off a couple of bear bangers. The cubs scarpered but the mother stood her ground and briefly looked like she might get aggressive. But when she realized her cubs had gone she retreated into the bushes and we were able to get by.
About 1 KM from Porritt Creek is Mushroom Point and this section required about 500 meters of scrambling over rocky shelves at the high tide line. It was easy scrambling and a lot of fun. After Mushroom Point there was a section of small grassy coves and tiny points of land that were easy to cross. It was an extremely picturesque area. Most sandy sections had fresh wolf tracks. One stretch looked like there had been a wolf rave the night before. I have never seen so many wolf prints and fresh wolf scat before. Literally hundreds of paw prints in the sand. I found some dry wolf scat and examined the contents. It looked about 90% crab shells and about animal 10% hair.
The further we went, the more attractive the coastline became. The small rocky coves gave way to larger sandy beaches. At Brecciated Point the beaches became silvery white with very fine sand, and the water became turquoise. It was a hot sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky, and the area had an almost Caribbean feel. This really was the highlight of the route and is worth savouring if you have the time. We stopped for a while to enjoy the area and looked through our binoculars at the Grassy Islands just off shore. They had an inviting look to them and we wished we could have explored them. This area is a kayaker's paradise.
1 KM further north, we came to Kapoose Point which has flat rocky shelves with unusual wave-like curls to them. Also a small sea stack. There was a tiny sandy cove which had been ruined by a freshly made stone dock and an ugly new clearing in the forest. Later that day we ran into some people at Rugged Point that claimed the area had been bought by a developer with plans for some kind of lodge.
Rounding the corner of Kapoose Point we came upon a new obstacle - Kapoose Creek. This creek marks the southern boundary of Rugged Point Provincial Park. It was almost high tide and the creek was about 6 or 7 feet deep with clear green water that seemed to be flowing slowly up stream. Since low tide was about 4 or 5 hours away we decided to follow the creek. The going was difficult. The forest was completely impenetrable and the bank was quite marshy. We hopped from one tussock to the next, walked along rotting logs and under low hanging boughs until, after about 100 to 200 metres, we came to a spot where the water seemed only about 3 or 4 feet deep. The creek was still about 20 feet wide but we decided to cross. Halfway across I looked upstream and could see a small section of rapids where the water was definitely flowing upstream. Closer examination of the topographic map (and satellite photos) shows that there is actually a tidal marsh about 1 KM inland from the shoreline. When the tide goes out and the marsh empties, the current must be very swift and probably quite hazardous. So crossing this creek is clearly best done at slack tide.
Once back at shoreline we stepped onto a big, 750 metre long, beach with beautiful fine white sand. We met a group of first-nations people swimming in the ocean and they mentioned they had seen the wolves on the beach at 6 AM that morning. At the north end of the beach, just before Gross Point, we found a small creek and soon discovered that this provides the only source of fresh water in the whole provincial park. Kapoose Creek is salty and all the other "creeks" (really just trickles in the sand) are brackish.
We dropped our packs at a small sandy cove on Gross Point and then walked north west along another even bigger (2 KM long) white sandy beach. The view was really spectacular. We made our way to the park shelter on the north side of Rugged Point. This side of the park was less attractive but completely sheltered from the weather and the ocean was as flat as a pancake. But since there was no fresh water we retraced our steps to Gross Point and made camp for the night.
Rugged Point Provincial Park really is beautiful and, like Tatchu Point, has the only section of old growth forest on the whole peninsula. But the park also shows signs of human use, and therefor (in my opinion) lacks the feeling of isolation and wilderness that the rest of the peninsula offers.
The next morning I woke at 6 AM and did a quick search of the shoreline to see if I could spot the wolves. No luck. But unfortunately I slipped and fell on some tidal rocks. I ripped up my hands pretty bad on some barnacles. There was a lot of blood. We cleaned and bandaged my hands as best we could and then packed our gear. The float plane was due to pick us up at 10 AM on the north side of Rugged Point. It was a little 4-seat Cessna and the flight back to Gold River, over Nootka Island, was extremely spectacular. The pilot mentioned that they had been worried about picking us up. Apparently the conditions had been too foggy for much of the previous four days.
Trip photos can be found here: