Haʔukmin Tribal Park to t̓iičakhsaʔa
The Nuuchahnulth words in this article have unique sounds that can not be spelled in the english writing system. For the purposes of this article the words are put into english spelling as close to the proper sound as I could get. The spelling used here is just to give the reader a rough idea of how the word sounds.
Haʔukmin Tribal Park to t̓iičakhsaʔa, (Ha-uuk-min… Teech-ak-h-sa-a) is better understood due to colonial influence as Kennedy Lake to McLean’s point at Grice Bay.
To describe this journey some local ƛaʔukʷiʔatḥ (Tla-o-qui-aht ) place names are used that would be good to hear more often.
For this stand up paddle board tour, the plan is to load up our Raven touring boards and put in at second bridge, Kennedy Lake. From there we will embark on a paddle down the Kennedy river that will lead us to the Pacific ocean, our takeout being at Grice Bay.
My Mother has been kind enough to act as a shuttle for Emre and I. It is a hazy grey day and the spirit of exploration and adventure have summoned us on this October 9th day of 2013. We begin our 20-or- so kilometer journey as we launch at second bridge Kennedy Lake and paddle back toward first bridge, the area called as čuʔis, (choo-is) ,by my ancestors. čuʔis meaning “creeping up on ducks” is the mouth of lower Kennedy river. A story I’ve been told is that this is a site where my ƛaʔukʷiʔatḥ ancestors prayed for food at one time and then a thunderbird came and dropped a whale there from the sky. It is said that whales bones were found there for some time after this event.
We float under the bridge and shout “see you later!” to my ma, who has waited at this bridge to watch us pass underneath. There is a nice echo under the bridge and the river gently moves us along as we fiddle with our cameras and dry bags. The flow of the river does not continue long after the bridge. It mellows to near zero knots per hour. We would very likely take longer than our stated 3.5 hour estimated trip time to complete our journey.
We continue into saayačan’uł, (sy-a-cha-nuth) channel, saayačan’uł meaning “narrow all along” because it is a narrow top section of river. This area is said to be a good place to pick bulrushes for weaving by the late Mary Hayes. “Isn’t that something?” Mary would pleasantly exclaim to even the most unexciting statements. Thinking of Mary makes me smile. We paddle for a long time. It is very quiet in this place today. Besides bulrushes, it seems to be a great area to pick crabapples. After the first frost they become sweet. The leaves of the Crabapple bushes stick out bright yellow and orange in October. November may be the time to come back and find out if they are ready.
We paddle on and through some tall grass, past some lilly pads and wider sections of the river to the area called hilhp̓iiʔa,(hill-h-pee-a), meaning “at the back (head end) of the rapids”, right where the Tla-o-qui-aht hatchery is today. There are some hatchery workers out floating in a skiff. Joe Curley and some others hoping to net some 40 more female salmon in order to gather eggs for the hatchery. Catching salmon has been going slowly for them today.
We asses the rapids and my kidneys kick into high gear as they often do before larger rapids. I become tangled in some nets trying to get to shore to relieve myself. Emre helps me over my hurdle then we make a plan to tackle the rapids. I Shrug off some heebie-jeebies and get into rapid-stance on the paddle board. I watch Emre paddle down the tongue, then follow. The touring board, made for tracking straight, is being turned by diagonal waves. I attempt to point the tip of the board back downstream and I am unsuccessful. My board is being hit by the waves broadside and I lose balance and fall into the flow. I scramble back onto my board after dodging a rock and a hole by swimming. We both finish the rapid standing. I feel like a nut-bar adventurer going down rapids on a paddleboard. We pause to float by uukʷmin, (ook-min), the old village site to take photos, eat chocolate, and enjoy post rapid exhilaration.
uukʷmin, “always calm” is the village site at the ocean end of the river. My ancestors would pack up and move there and during the salmon runs time. There used to be many salmon coming home to spawn. It is said one used to be able to walk across the backs of the salmon here. Edible roots of wild clover and Pacific cinquefoil roots grow on the beach at this site.
We realize now that we had better hurry up as it looks like we’re going to be late. We are tired and rushing; hungry and eating small amounts rapidly. We hope not to worry my mother who will be waiting at our pick up spot very soon. We pass a Creative Salmon Farm, in an area called kayisakc’us, (kay-is-ak-tsus). It is a little bay where late Mary Hayes used to pick berries. We pass on the shore side of the farm, catching whiffs of caged salmon. Mysterious bubbles come up from somewhere below and create little patches of rainbow oil slick. The source is to be pondered.
Further on, some beautiful jumping hicwin, (hits-win), meaning porpoises, give me a little lift even as my body grows weary. I sit down paddle on my board to relieve the ache in my lower back. Emre shoots me an over the shoulder look that I read as “Hurry up!” even as he asks “are you ok?”
As we round the south side of Indian Island, we note that the current is against us for this outgoing tide and we had thought it would be with us. It isn’t always obvious which way the current will be going just by looking at the marine chart and knowing what the tide is doing. Here’s to experience and local knowledge. The evening dims, and we see our end point at t̓iičakhsaʔa, (Teech-ak-h-sa-a) meaning “securely anchored”. It is the place where there is still water in Grice bay even when the tide is low. Thus, it has a modern day boat ramp installed. My mother is visible on shore standing by the Mazda Tribute. There are also strangers and a hippie van of some sort enjoying the evening. Wafts of pot smoke thicken the evening air as we approach.
I apologize to my mom for being late; and she says she expected we would take longer than we said. Thank goodness. We stretch a little then load the boards on the roof. We sort out the trip stress issues we had during the drive home. Notable things could have prevented the unpleasant trip stress we experienced on the last leg of our journey. It is said there are 6 “P’s” in this order: ” Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.”We could have made a more accurate trip time estimate with a bit more research and thought. We also could have called my mother for a pick up once we got to the take out spot (which has cell phone reception), instead of having her wait there for us. The other thing we will do better in the future is communication (better checking in with ourselves then each other). Our trip certainly had avoidable imperfections, but we learned, and we feel accomplished … and hungry. We unload at home then make way to our dinner engagement at Shelter Restaurant, where we gorge!
If you are interested in learning Nuuchahnulth language, one great source is on youtube.Search “Nuuchahnulth language”. On the Nuuchahnulth language channel, there are basic sound pronunciaton excercizes to more advanced phrases. http://bit.ly/1b95ZaQ