Keeha Bay

Keeha Bay Family Backpacking Trip

In Activity, Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, Backpacking, Clubs, Family, Hiking, Island Mountain Ramblers by ExploringtonLeave a Comment

In recent years, it’s become part of my New Year’s ritual to sit down and plan a year of adventure. It does take some finger-crossing, regarding annual precipitation and seasonal snow, but I’d rather do that than miss out on a chance to get out of the house. This year, I booked an easy, family-friendly backpacking trip to Keeha Bay for March 19-21, during my annual break from work.

Keeha Bay Trail

There’s always time to play

Anyone who’s ever visited the west coast in March knows that the region is usually taking a bath at that time of year, so we approached the planning with our rain jackets in hand. Back in January, I couldn’t have had a clue how much I would need the trip. As the weeks crept by, I began counting down the days; I was really looking forward to spending time with my family.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1drVYe-zU3MQGGhB4MYzRIvlwrIE15tQ8&usp=sharing

In the weeks leading up to the trip, a series of winter storms hammered the coast, and in the draft of the winter’s polar vortexes, the ambient temperatures hovered not much above freezing. I’m stubborn –I’ll camp rain or shine– but I was worried about the kids, and spent a fair amount of time ruminating over a plan B.

Keeha Bay Trail

Ready to hit the trail!

As it turns out, Kim had a lot of anxiety too. As the date neared, her packing list grew by layers and layers of clothing. I worried that we wouldn’t have space for everything she needed to bring. Packing for four takes a lot of space!

Fortune smiled on us: just two days before the trip, the weather broke. Rather than cold, wet weather, the forecast predicted clear blue skies and a spring heat wave. We hit the jackpot! It was the type of weather that meant there was no condensation in the tent.

Keeha Bay Trail

a walk on the beach

In the first two days, the sun blazed hot, bringing temperatures in the twenties. It was so great that by the end of the second day, Hemingway commented, “The hardest part of the trip was being in the sun all day!” Don’t worry, we found some ways to fix that.


This three kilometres trail continues to see improvements year over year. Sections have been rerouted around near impassible obstacles and rudimentary backcountry-boardwalks are added over the wettest features, all making the worst sections easier. But there is still plenty of mud, slippery roots, and trees crossing the trail. And, for all the sun we were going to get, it did little to dry up the trail for us. True to its legacy, it chewed Hemingway up.

Keeha Bay Trail

How do I get through this?

The adults of our group moved through the complex conditions with relative ease and made it to the beach in a little over two hours. Octavia spent about an hour walking in the driest sections, and otherwise spent her time in the backpack; she wasn’t impacted by the conditions beyond the ol’ stick in the face. Hemingway, on the other hand, faced the worst of the problems, which included boot-swallowing mud and shallow puddles that caused water to seep into his winter boots.

Keeha Bay Trail

Really, it’s not that deep!

The adults of our group moved through the complex conditions with relative ease and made it to the beach in a little over two hours. Octavia spent about an hour walking in the driest sections, and otherwise spent her time in the backpack; she wasn’t impacted by the conditions beyond the ol’ stick in the face. Hemingway, on the other hand, faced the worst of the problems, which included boot-swallowing mud and shallow puddles that caused water to seep into his winter boots.

Keeha Bay Trail

someone isn’t afraid of the mud!

Regardless, he walked the whole trail and gave up the backpack only when we were already through the worst of the terrain. Despite scheduling several sit-down/bag-off breaks, the going was tough. The still air and high humidity were unpleasant, and his waterlogged boots were probably worse.

Just before the floating bridge, he snapped at Mom. When a five-year-old can articulate, “my boots are too heavy,” we know enough to stop and listen. Taking a short break was an instant fix. He immediately changed his attitude, though he was probably distracted with Octavia.

Keeha Bay Trail

sometimes it’s over

At the bridge, Octavia was released from the backpack, and Hemingway was liberated from his backpack, which was then stowed in my own pack. Under her own power, and much supportive hand-holding, Octavia trundled along. As a family, we moved up and over the berm at the head of the beach, and down the other side to the beach.

After four hours of walking between trees and around water features, crawling over and under logs, and hunching under salal that vaulted overhead creating tunnels so long that the light was dimmed, we reached the beach.

Keeha Bay Beach

Disrobe in 5, 4, 3….

They were exhausted and exhilarated at the same time (exilerhausted?). With the emotional weight of the walk lifted from their shoulders, they stripped off their boots –water streamed from Hemingway’s boots– and Octavia stripped down to her diaper. Together, they ran off hooting and hollering, straight to the rolling surf!

Keeha Bay Beach

NOPE!

In my mind I saw her being washed away, but a huge roller crashed into the sand and pushed water way up the beach and hit her legs. The look on her face was utter shock! She had no idea the water was going to be that cold, and that was the last time she tried to get close to the water.

When night fell, Hemingway was asleep before the sun was down, while Octavia transformed into a Tasmanian Devil. The four of us in the tent, including her sleeping brother, were faced with a forty-pound two-and-a-half-year-old who needed to steamroll around the whole tent, climb on top of her brother, and stick her feet in places they had no business being! It was a testament to how tired Hemingway was, because he didn’t wake up once, not even when Octavia lay on top of him and pressed her face to his and growled!

After about 75 minutes of speaking in tongues, she finally crashed. It was like a switch being flipped: one moment she was gnashing her teeth at us, and the next, she was asleep. Kim and I gave each other the Is this really happening? look, and then we were down too.

Day 2 — Hanging on Keeha Beach

The morning started cool in the shade, but as soon as the shadows receded, the sun was smoking hot! The heat completely dried Hemingway’s soaking wet boots. We spent the day relaxing, with only a moderate amount of exploring.

Keeha Bay Beach

some sunshine with your breakfast!

We walked halfway down the beach, then returned to the other end and explored the arch. Mostly the day was spent stripped to the skin, playing on the rocks, in the shallow areas of the creek, and at the edge of the waves cast up by the frigid ocean.

Keeha Bay Beach

jump!

I enjoyed watching the kids play. Out here, everything becomes a toy. The giant boulder on the beach became a jungle gym; pebbles in the water source became sculpture supplies; sticks became drawing tools and fishing floats, balls.

Keeha Bay Trail

child for scale

When the kids got too hot, they swam in the creek, and when they got too cold they lay out on the hot sand. It was a day filled with adventure that allowed Mom and Dad to fiddle about doing parent-type things and occasionally to sit and watch the kids play.

Keeha Bay Beach

Don’t be so cheeky!

When evening fell, we had a beautiful sunset. We let the kids play until the sun was below the horizon, and then it was off to bed. Fortunately, the devil had been cast out the night before, and Octavia was asleep in record time.

Day 3 — Back to the Car

Dark grey clouds hung low in the sky, and rain looked imminent. Despite our hope for a relaxing noon departure, the clouds pushed us to quickly pack and get moving.

Keeha Bay

Ready for the hike out!

On the move again, now with dry boots, Hemingway was in great spirits. He was light on his feet because I took the books from his pack and put them in mine. Octavia was keen to ride in the bag and prodded us along.

Keeha Bay Trail

Careful steps down

On the trail heading home, everything seems a bit easier: perhaps the promise of a cozy bed and a real meal help to motivate us. We stuck together as we walked the trail, taking each obstacle slow and easy. There were a few places where Hemingway struggled and got tired, but there was only one outburst, having to do with a lack of gummy bears!

Keeha Bay Trail

the floating bridge, on the way home

By the time we reached the Jeep, the sky was blue, the air warm, and the kids exhausted. We were keen to get home, but first drove into Bamfield for the best slice of pizza the town has to offer.

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About the Author

Explorington

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Matthew is an adventure blogger and photographer. He documents his adventures on explorington.com. His stories create a vivid backdrop that give his photographs cotext. He finds his adventures with the Island Mountain Ramblers, and whenever possible, his family joins his adventures.


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