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September 2022

VPO Victoria Staff Trip Report: Macjack River

Guest Authors: The Staff from VPO Victoria

Leaving directly from VPO in downtown Victoria, the four of us set off on an adventure. Our plan was to paddle out to Raft Cove on the north west coast of Vancouver Island along the Macjack River, spending 3 days on the beach, before paddling back up the river and beginning our return journey. Between us we have plenty of paddling, backcountry camping and remote adventure experience, and all had new gear we wanted to put to the test.

Stopping overnight in Courtenay, we made the drive up to Port Hardy with a (very) full car where we picked up our canoe.

From there, we began the 2 hour logging road trip west; dodging bears, navigating detours and realizing we had not downloaded enough offline playlists. Our second night was spent camping at the River Macjack put in, ready for an early start to catch the morning's tide.

After a quick breakfast and plenty of coffee/tea under headlamp light (3-1 Petzl to Black Diamond), we dropped camp and packed all our gear into duffels and drybags as the sun rose.

The short gear haul and an easier than anticipated canoe-down-ladder-maneuver later, we were ready to start paddling!

From here it was around a 6km paddle out to the beach, assisted by the river and dropping tide. The scenery varied hugely; from a narrow fresh water river with plenty of underwater logs to avoid, all the way to a wide and meandering salt water estuary surrounded by huge western red cedars. We put the majority of our gear in the canoe for ease of stowing and its huge payload, plus 2 iSUP’s for the lighter drybags and more awkward to stow gear.

We broke no speed records but found we still made good time, arriving on the beach to find a camp spot out of the prevailing breeze yet in prime sunset watching position.

The rest of the day was spent building camp, wolfing down a delicious pasta salad lunch (which felt long overdue but was actually only 11:30), perfecting our tarp configuration (we had both a Siltarp 2 & 3 to experiment with), playing in the sea and power napping. Our dinner was a stroke of genius from Matt (who used to guide canoe trips back out east). Naan bread wood fired pizza.

Yes, you read that right. We were blessed by a spectacular sunset followed by some incredible shooting stars.

After a lazy morning we went for a walk along the bay, finding some massive wolf prints and busy little rock pools, before returning to camp collecting the odd piece of sea garbage and some firewood along the way.

We were blessed by the weather gods with another sunny day, so slapped on the sunscreen (All Good is made from reef friendly zinc oxide), wiggled into wetsuits and went to play in the surf. We saw some huge Lion’s Mane jellyfish, and plenty of Bald Eagle’s which sent the Seagulls screeching for cover. We can also confirm 11’6 long recreational iSUPs do not surf amazingly well for us beginners!

Our last day on the beach followed a similar, relaxed timeline, with us not needing to leave until late afternoon to catch our tide back up the river. The weather was still being kind to us with glorious sunshine and blue skies throughout the day, albeit the forecast of wind and showers, meaning we all had waterproof jackets and pants buried in our packs. Hope for the best but plan for the worst certainly worked in our favour, this time!

Our pack up was a smooth one, putting all our garbage into (still mildly cool) Pelican coolers and Ursack Odor bags. Pro tip: Put a household garbage sack, around 30L, into your Ursack Odor Bag, this makes the clean up when you get home a lot easier! We loaded the canoe and boards in good time, only to turn the first bend on the river and hit a doozy of a headwind. The canoe certainly handled it much better than the boards, thankfully the wind died off the further we got inland, and the journey in reverse was just as beautiful as the way in.

We had a family of river otters accompany us a short way, watched an osprey hunting overhead and had something which sounded fairly sizable crash through the undergrowth just out of sight. The funniest fail of the trip was within meters of the put in, when one of the SUPs got its fin caught on a shallow tree, sending the not-to-be-named paddler splashing into the water.

I promise we didn’t laugh… too much. Packing up Lola (the vehicle) with the threat of a logging road in the dark certainly happened faster than anything else so far. Thankfully the drive back out to Port Hardy was uneventful, if a bit long.

We arrived late into our overnight spot; had a burger at (almost) midnight and a delightful hot shower, before falling into bed after the long day.

The last day of vacation was spent driving from Port Hardy back to Victoria, with several snack and puppy visit stops along the way. It was a relatively quiet ride as we were all contemplating the amazing trip we had just been on, and ok yeah, we were worn out after our big weekend on the beach!

Paddling adventure 10/10.

Beach relaxing 10/10.

Road trip 10/10.

Gear 10/10.

Gear List


Sleep Setups

“ I finally completed my sleep system this year with my Sea to Summit Either light XT mat. This mat replaced my old Sea to Summit mat, which I loved too. Because I am a bigger guy I have a Nemo Riff -9 bag, this gives me lots of room for a comfy night's sleep. My Nemo Fillo pillow is the best pillow I have ever used camping. Now I sleep like a baby.”

“I’ve been piecing together my sleep set up for a while now. I got the Nemo Tensor insulated because of how small and light it is for the R value. My tent is so roomy and surprisingly small to pack. My sleeping bag is from 13 years ago so I’m definitely upgrading it soon. My pillow is a Sea to Summit I got before this trip and I cannot believe I waited this long to get it, it’s all the comfort of a home pillow in such a small size! I am a chronic over-packer so I definitely prioritize pack size!”

“I had to start my sleep set up from scratch when I moved here a few years ago. My tent was the first thing I purchased, it’s maybe a little heavier than I would like, but I can put it up with my eyes closed and has put up with some less than ideal situations without incident. I upgraded my sleeping bag from a chunky synthetic to the incredible Rab Mythic last year and can’t explain how much I love it. My liner helps keep everything feeling fresh and clean and comfy!”

Cook Systems and Kitchen