Ruminating over Rum (the Island)

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by Dan_Millsip, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Ruminating over Rum

    My daughter Maddie and I decided to go on a paddling trip for a couple of nights before she heads back to another busy year of studying at university. It had been really difficult to coordinate busy schedules all summer but we found a few mid-week days (Aug 26-28) that we could both free up and decided that we were looking for a couple of days to enjoy the scenery and quiet. The details and reasons for our trip however, is inconsequential other than that we selected our destination with the hopes that we'd be avoiding any large groups of people.

    We chose to go to Rum Island -- arguably the smallest of all the Gulf Island campsites with only three tent pads and a very smallish common area. We paddled to the destination with the outlook that there was a possibility that we might have the campsite to ourselves (which would be great) but the likelihood was that there might well be others there -- and that's totally fine with us. If the campsite was full, i.e., all the formal tent pads were occupied, we'd paddle on to D'Arcy Island and camp there.

    We arrived at an unoccupied Rum Island around noon and took our time setting up our tents on designated tent pads, set up a tarp over a picnic table, had lunch, and then headed off for a small hike around the island. On our return to the campsite Maddie decided she was going to lay her head down for a while as we'd had a previous very late night. I decided to go to my tent and read for a while. As I got into my book I heard voices approaching from the beach trail and saw a couple of people walk through the campsite. I sat up in my tent and looked through the screened door and one of the people waved at me (I'd later learn that this was the guide) and I waved back. I figured we'd be sharing the campsite but it was no big deal as I had expected we would not have the island to ourselves at this time of year. I proceeded to put my book down and drifted off to sleep for about a half hour.

    I'm a pretty heavy sleeper but I found myself being wakened by very loud voices. I poked my head from my tent and was shocked to see that there was a group of TEN people who had completely overrun the campsite, completely surrounding us.







    I got out of my tent and looked around -- there were tents literally on every piece of level ground in the campsite and it was impossible to walk anywhere in the campsite without being more than a few feet from any tent.

    I sat at the picnic table under our tarp and Maddie soon joined me.

    So here we are at a campsite with three designated tent sites with our two tents as well as the group's seven tents! That's an awful lot of tents for such a small campsite. Upon arrival of the group, the campsite went from feeling nice and roomy to being completely crammed.

    Of course, our discussion became nearly entirely focused on the situation and remained so for the remainder of the trip. We talked very little with the group -- what were we going to say? That we were unimpressed with their actions? Probably best to say nothing. We pretty much kept to ourselves and commented that this was the first time sharing a campsite that we didn't interact with fellow campers.

    We watched the group for a while and determined who the head guide was and from things overheard in discussions from the group (a few of the guests were quite loud, making it nearly impossible to not hear), we were able to find the guide's website online. My findings were confirmed when a guest walked by with the company name on a drybag.

    One of the guests (a very nice fellow) spoke with us a bit as he walked past us to get to his own tent and mentioned to us that the guide recognized Maddie's boat on the beach and told the group that Maddie had built it and that we were from WestCoastPaddler. The guest would also offer us some wine later but we politely refused. We asked him what their plans were for the following day and he told us that they were planning on going on to another campsite in the morning but didn't know the name of the island. Ah, some solace was to come on our second day. Or so I thought.

    The next morning we awoke to rain. Lots of rain. We got up and started breakfast at our picnic table when the fellow we met earlier from the group walked by -- I asked him if he now knew the name of the island they were heading off to and he said that the plan was changed and they were going to stay another night! He stated that the guide said there was going to be strong wind in the afternoon so they were going to stay on Rum another night. The weather report was for winds 10-15 knots. In the Gulf Islands, this is almost always the forecast in the summer and as expected, later in the afternoon looking over the water we were presented pretty much with a duck pond. My guess is that the guide decided that he didn't want to pack up wet gear to move to another spot. If this was the case, fair enough.

    Shortly after breakfast, the group donned their wetsuits and gear and headed off for a day paddle around Rum and Gooch. We enjoyed the quiet for a couple of hours while chatting under our tarp while it poured rain. It was very nice.

    On the group's return, the guide walked past our tarp and without stopping asked if we'd seen the orca they had seen earlier. This was the first verbal contact that we had with the guide and it was quite short. Nothing said about the invasiveness of the group. No comments about staying another night. No introductions.

    Maddie and I continued to discuss the situation. We wondered why the guide had not spoken to us. Surely, a brief explanation was due? At least some casual conversation? The guide seemed to be avoiding us the entire time. We assumed that perhaps he was a bit sheepish because he knew the group literally took over the campsite and was a bit conscious of this.

    I considered expressing a few of my concerns to the guide but really didn't want to put a damper on his guest's trip -- after all, they likely had nothing to do with the destination decision -- and I had no idea what kind of reaction the guide might have had if I had expressed my concerns. Best to leave it for the time being.

    The group retired to their tents fairly early after their dinner and a few drinks. Maddie and I stayed up talking for a while (quietly, I might add) and then retired to our tents to do some reading.

    The next morning, I awoke at 7:15 AM to shouts across the campsite and loud (making absolutely no effort to talk softly) voices. I lay wide awake in my tent contemplating whether I should bellow out "SHUT THE F*CK UP!" Sheesh. All I wanted was to sleep in a bit. Instead, I lay there wondering if perhaps I was over-reacting. It was a large group and there's bound to be a bit of noise but no -- I wasn't over-reacting. It was rude and totally unnecessary to be that noisy in the early morning when other people are sleeping or still in their tents. I'd wait until the next loud shouting and then I'd say something. But to my amazement, and relief, there were no more loud noises from the group -- they'd left. Got in their kayaks and paddled off. I closed my eyes and slept for another hour.
    ---


    So...

    I found this to be a very interesting kayaking situation that I'd never experienced before and I have some comments and questions. Hopefully my bringing this to this forum will encourage some good dialogue about this situation and I really hope that guides who visit this forum will also contribute their thoughts to the discussion.


    Here's my thoughts/opinions:

    - The guide should not have selected Rum Island to camp with such a large group. The campsite is far too small to host that many people. There are several other Gulf Islands options better suited to large groups -- Portland, Prevost, Sidney, South Pender, and D'Arcy Islands all come to mind. Maddie said to me that this uninitiated group would not have had any less satisfying experience had they been at any other Gulf Island location. I agree with her.

    - Since two sites were already taken in the three site campground, the guide should have continued his group to a different location. Their arrival time was later in the afternoon -- but they could have easily have made it safely to another location such as Sidney Island in daylight. Sea conditions were a slight ripple at best.

    - Before setting up camp, the guide should have talked to Maddie and I regarding their intrusion. A friendly chat when they arrived would have gone a long, long way in making this situation completely different. I'm a pretty accommodating sort of guy and had the guide told me that he didn't feel it best for his group to continue (for whatever reason) or on the second day asked if we'd mind if they stayed so that they wouldn't have to pack up and set up wet gear, I may not have liked it, but I would have understood and likely been OK with it.

    - I think the guide has a responsibility to give consideration to ALL those who are occupying a public campsite. There is more at stake here than the happiness of his own group. Keeping his group quiet and explaining to them that they should be considerate to other campsite visitors should have been automatic. There is a sign on the island regarding keeping quiet between 10PM and 8AM.

    - I've no intention to jam up this tour operator -- I fully support the service that tour operators provide. I will be sending him an e-mail with a link to this discussion so that he can hopefully understand where I'm coming from and how the actions of the group affected others who were using the campsite. Yes, I know his name but don't ask for it -- I won't name him or the company.

    - I'm hoping that the tour operator got our "vibe" over those three days and realizes that his decisions with regard to location could have been better made.

    - In general terms, I just don't think this type of situation does anything towards creating good will towards kayak tour operators.


    Some questions:

    - Should Rum Island be off-limits to tour operators?

    - Should locations such as Rum Island be limited to specific sized groups?

    - Would it make a difference if the group had arrived before Maddie and I?

    - I'm not sure -- are tour operators required to hold permits to conduct business in federal parks?

    - Should agreements between Parks Canada and tour operators be encouraged so that specific sites can be provided/built for tour groups?


    I need to be crystal clear here about one thing -- despite this situation Maddie and I had a very enjoyable few days of camping in the Gulf Islands. Although we were hoping for and anticipating a much quieter and relaxing time, it was much better than staying at home doing yard work.

    As for a message to the guide -- we all hopefully travel along on our journeys with things to learn and I don't hold any hard feelings about this incident so long as it's acknowledged in the future, that the campsite should suit the size of the group.
     

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  2. drahcir

    drahcir Paddler

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    Your forbearance was epic, but anything else would have been unproductive. Clearly the guide was clueless, but perhaps able to learn as he matures - a path your subsequent email will open to him. The tour company he works for has failed in its guide training, a real concern. I know it's a hard business with financial failure around the next point, but the company needs to have core values which they pass on to their guides and, ultimately, their clients.
     
  3. AM

    AM Paddler

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    http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/gulf/activ/activ9.aspx

    I appreciate the fact that you were patient with the group and didn't give in to your frustration: no sense spoiling their holiday when they were likely in ignorance. I'll be interested to hear if the guide gets your point.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  4. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    You did the right thing, Dan. I would have engaged them in some way, and probably tried to sound out the guide privately to try to determine whether he was flouting the site guidelines or not. I would have given them the first night as a wash, but I agree with your assessment that the guide likely twisted the rules for the second night, for sure. Moving off a wet site is part of the game.

    That said, the tent spacing and crowding shown in the photos is pretty similar to some of the cheek by jowl crowding I have experienced in the Broken Group, on Clarke, Willis, Dodd, and Gibraltor. Not the sort of experience I enjoy or seek, but what happened to you might be the norm for Rum, official rules or not. An ethical guide would have gone to another island, as it did not sound like there was a safety issue.

    In the absence of a permitting system, I suspect it will continue. Even if a Parks official had shown up, what could he or she do? How to determine who was there first, etc.
     
  5. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    That's my hope as well.

    I don't want to get in the way of tour operators making a living but I think there is a sensible decorum that needs to be adhered to -- one that includes being responsible to other people who are visiting these islands. A little bit of common sense in these situations would go a long way in establishing a supportive rapport with the local kayaking community. If a campsite is occupied and cannot reasonably support the addition of the guided group, then it's time to move on if conditions permit. It's the polite thing to do.


    Andrew, thanks for the link -- the company is listed on the site as a government approved licensed operator in the Gulf Islands.

    Yup, no point in bringing negativity to someone's holiday and as I mentioned, our trip was not totally a wash. It's my hope that through this discussion the guide can see how invasive the situation is from the point of a "non-guest" who is using the park. I'd have had no problem with this scenario had this been at one of the other islands that I mentioned above -- it's just that this particular location is far too small to support this many people. And as Maddie observed, their experience likely would not have been any less pleasurable or meaningful if it were at a different and larger Gulf Island location.


    Dave, It wasn't so much that they stayed the second night -- it was that the guide didn't approach us to discuss or explain the situation from the get-go -- doing so would have made the situation seem less intrusive -- and certainly more friendly. Regarding guidelines, I'm planning to make a few calls to find out what those guidelines are -- if there are any.

    Agreed. I don't know what the norm is for Rum but I'm certain that if the group had occupied the campsite ahead of us, we would have moved on. No question about it. The difference I think with Rum (compared to the Broken Group campsites) is that it's really, really small. There just isn't much room for high-occupancy camping there without disturbing the natural environment of the island.

    I suspect that Parks Canada placed three tent pads there as that is the optimal number of occupants. I also suspect that there is a tolerance for additional tents off of pads. I've no idea what the Parks Canada policy on this is (and I doubt that they'd say publicly if one exists) but I've always thought that the campsites in the Gulf Islands could reasonably be occupied by up to twice as many tents as there are tent pads -- but it would be crowded and the surrounding areas would likely be impacted more by the increased number of people.

    Using this as a guideline, Rum Island could support six tents total -- a number that I think is quite reasonable for the site. With nine tents the place felt far over a reasonable limit.

    We could prove our arrival there as we submitted our payment in the box when we got there. I could easily show photos on my camera that I took upon our arrival where no other people, kayaks, or tents are on the island. Further to this, would an entire group of guests lie, if asked by Parks Canada, about who was there first? I doubt it.

    I do recognize that there was a good chance that the island would not have been occupied and had we not been there, the site would have worked fine for this group. However, this was not the case, and I believe that if they are allowed to use the island with a group of people this size that they should do so only if no one is occupying the island on their arrival.

    Even better I think, is that Rum Island because of it's small size should be off limits to tour operators. There are plenty of other options.
     
  6. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I've camped on Rum and there are several areas apart from the 'main camping area' that would make good, low impact tent/hammock sites. You can easily see where brush has been cut and piled on the old access paths to block people from these sites.

    Depending on the strength of the party and the currents and time of day, there are sometimes not a lot of good alternatives, if Rum Is is 'full'. I had a talk with a Parks Canada staffer who said that Sidney was often 'full' in the summer.

    What, exactly is Parks Canada thinking when they decide the 'optimal' number of campers for an area? It seems to me that discouraging human traffic is Priority #1.

    Another example: Is there anybody that thinks that 8 (small, 2-person) tent sites is the maximum capacity for (all of) D'Arcy Island?

    Dan: Although I 'feel your pain' (I like to have campsites mostly to myself...), it's not just commercial tour operators that are at fault. Large kayak camping groups aren't uncommon from what I've seen- whether from kayak clubs, online forum campouts, or just big groups of friends.
     
  7. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    John, I totally get what you're saying about groups and have seen it myself -- and been a part of it too (not in the summer) as you well know. Also get what you're saying about the number of available campsites and agree that there could be more at most locations. But then again, there might well be good reason for Parks Canada designating fewer campsites -- preservation of as much land as possible being as good a reason as any.

    I think tour operators need to hold themselves to a higher level of stewardship than the average casual park user, as they are in essence, advocates for the area -- and for the responsible enjoyment of the area, not only for their guests but also for park visitors in the immediate vicinity.

    I really don't know what the solution is for this. I doubt that it's much fun trying to organize a trip for novice paddlers without knowing from day to day (or hour to hour) whether you have a campsite for the evening or not -- I can only sympathize for the amount of frustration that tour operators have in this regard. It's a strange way to run a business. Having said this, and after my recent experience, I also completely sympathize with the average park user who is inundated by a large group.

    A possible solution to lessen the problem might be for tour operators and Parks Canada (and Tourism BC) to work together and build new campsites that are for the exclusive use of tour operators. I've no idea if something like this is already in the works or is even possible but it seems (on the surface) to be a viable option that would perhaps solve a lot of problems for all users of the park. The tourism benefits alone would be significant. Maybe this is something that the Marine Trails Association could help with. It's something that I'm sure we at WestCoastPaddler would be willing to offer support to.

    I don't have the answers but in this particular instance, a commercial group completely took over the campsite, was noisy in the early mornings, and not very considerate to others in the campsite. I expected a bit better. Perhaps I expect too much, I don't know. My mind's not completely made up yet. That's why I'm posting about this here -- to discuss it with those such as yourself.
     
  8. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Rum's location is a set up for limits to fail without strong supervision. Beautiful, small, fragile soils, on the route to other kayak friendly islands, and very accessible to large population centers. I agree education of the paddling crowd, perhaps especially guide training, can help. However, from Dan's photos, looks like lots of erosion and loss of vegetation. Hardened tent sites/platforms would stave off closure, if they were honored. Currently, they are not.

    Would Parks enforcement come through and oust every tent not on a designated platform, gravel or otherwise? I hate stuff like that, but Rum's situation may force that to occur. I know in backcountry areas of extremely high popularity, strict permitting and enforcement of tent siting are used in some of the US national parks. My memory is very hazy on this, but something like that was in place when I did an overnight along a popular ridge hike in Jasper, 1974, I think.

    Maybe orcas will move a little higher in the food chain and solve the problem for us ... :shock: :lol:
     
  9. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Don't we already have this (unfortunate) situation up north (Johnstone Strait) where commercial operators are given ('leased') some of the best campsites on Crown land, and 'ordinary people' are shuffled off to 'alternate' spots?

    In the present political climate, I'm sure that the federal government would be all too happy to turn over more Parks Canada areas to private for-profit businesses. I would be completely opposed to such an idea, and I hope I am not alone.

    If there is room for more campsites in the Gulf Islands Park, they should be developed for everyone to use.

    A reservation system for a good proportion of the campsites (not all) would help prevent the situation of too many people arriving at one location late in the day, with no/few other safe destinations available.
     
  10. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    When I was on Rum a few months ago, there was certainly no evidence of " lots of erosion and loss of vegetation". Most of the W end of the island (where the campsite is located) was a tangle of downed brush and undergrowth. A lot of the downed brush had been cut and piled across old campsites and pathways.

    I have no problem with an 'occupy the tent platforms first' policy, and that's what I've seen people following, even without explicit rules. However, so-called 'tent platforms' and 'hardened sites' are really not that well thought out. First, there is not much evidence IMO that those structures are solving a problem, with a couple of exceptions:
    -tent platforms on rocky uneven terrain
    -tent platforms on areas prone to boggy conditions - i.e. prevention the creation of a muck hole.
    In fact tent platforms and gravel enclosures may make the situation worse, not better, by concentrating use/wear on a very limited area.
    Also, it is very difficult (impossible without a lot of creativity in many cases) to pitch a tent that requires guys on most tent platforms (no eyebolts?) or on the loose gravel of the tent 'pads' like the ones on d'Arcy (loose, deep pea gravel inside a wood enclosure). What non-camping genius thought that loose gravel/rocks was a preferred underlay for a tent floor anyway?
    I'm sure Parks Canada would be happy to do something like that. I've heard stories (are they true?) of a helicopter 'flying squad' swooping down to ticket naughty campers a couple of years ago.
    And, I don't understand what the 'Rum situation' is , exactly, other than a refusal to allow a reasonable number of tent/hammock sites by Parks Canada...
    A reservation system makes some of the other rules we are talking about feasible. Without it, we have the present situation: "Whoever gets there first, gets to tell others to move on, since there is 'no room'."
     
  11. VanIslePaddler

    VanIslePaddler Paddler

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    Interesting discussion, and I'm sorry your experience was negative. As a guide for the last dozen years (not the guide in this particular situation mind you), I can see some of this discussion from different perspectives.

    Please remember, as I was not there I cannot speak to the situation in particular, but may make some points on the general principles. I am playing devils-advocate. Please take my comments with a grain of salt.

    Please, I fully know there are some BAD guides out there. My comments are based on my perspective of what the average responsible guide would/should do. I'm sure many may have a bad story experience with an encounter with a guide... however I will restrain myself, and avoid sharing the many stories of poor camping etiquette I have witnessed from private recreational kayakers. Let's keep this conversation to a debate on principles and good etiquette.


    Shared Campsite Etiquette:
    I agree that it can be a challenge to balance the needs and wants of numerous user groups (private and commercial). A guide will try to situate their camping to maximize the experience of both their guests, and other users sharing the same site.
    The Broken Group Islands example has been used a couple times already. Shared sites, sometimes people get territorial. Sometimes things get crowded.
    - Consolidation of tents. Guides are taught to minimize the 'spread' of their group to allow other users to have space when sharing sites.
    - Time of year - Mid August... unfortunately many of us like to paddle this time of year...

    Rum Island in particular:
    Yes it is a small site... I agree it may not be appropriate to camp a large group at this site.
    - I do not know the factors that lead up to the guides decision to camp there...

    Separate 'Commercial-Only' sites:
    I'm not a huge fan of this idea. It seems great in this case, but the other side of the coin is having sites CLOSED to the general public... there would be an uproar. There are sometimes conflicts with having both commercial and recreational sharing the same sites (such as in this case), but most of the time it works well, and leads to a greater availablity and variety of sites available for all users.
    - Safety issue: Designated sites leads to groups pushing beyond safe paddling conditions because they 'MUST' get to a particular site... (sounds like weather was okay on this weekend...)

    Communication with the Guide:
    You seem upset you did not have a conversation with the 'Guide'. With almost a 1000 days of guiding experience I have learned a few things about dealing with other private users. Often private paddlers wish to maintain the illusion of independent camping, and often do not like to be approached by the guide. However, if approached, or the situation requires it, guides are generally more than willing to discuss issues. I will talk with other users upon arrival if it is unavoidable that we will be interacting.
    - In future I would recommend one approach the guide and discuss plans and issues
    - I will discuss float plans with other private groups, to try and avoid sharing sites later in the trip and maximize all our experience

    Guides as Stewards:
    Dan you mentioned your belief that Guides should act at a higher level of stewardship and as role-models in the wilderness, and I could not agree more! Guides consistently share stories of giving guideance, weather interpretation, wildlife etiquette talks, and cleaning up the sites of other private users. I would argue that 95% of the time, guides are a valuable resource in the wilderness to both their clients, and other private users who encounter them.
    - I would likely suggest you are in the 5% of paddlers who are experienced and knowledgeable enough to not require, or desire, additional help.
    - Although commercial groups are generally larger than private groups, they generally have a low impact during a stay, and leave a site cleaner upon their departure. (Of course there are always exceptions)

    Noise: morning
    I could not agree more... morning should be a time of quiet contemplation... I am not very friendly first thing in the morning, and I directly tell my guests to keep quiet in the morning.... There are morning people, and those who are not... Morning people should stay quiet to keep the rest happy
    - I have had some very loud clients over the years. Sometimes they do not realize the impact this has on other users or fellow group members.

    Beach arrival time:
    Guides have to balance many factors... and learning 'timing' as a guide is a challenge.
    You mentioned they arrived late afternoon, but could have arrived at another site during 'daylite'. As a rule I rarely like to land a group at our campsite any later.... Clients need time to set-up camp (sometimes a challange for those with little experience in the wilderness). Guides also cook dinner, set up group areas (tarps etc) ensure boats are clean and secure (food, equipment, tied up safetly for night), may have to repair equipment, manage group expectations, assist with guest issues, listen to weather, plan the next days route, tell jokes and stories, and many more. Guides are the FIRST people awake, and usually the last person to sleep. It is no fun (and arguable a hazard) to cook dinner by head-lamp.

    Commercial Permits and Certification:
    Yes, to legally operate in a National Park, every company must hold a National Park Business License (and comply with the regulations as stipulated by that license)
    Yes, every Guide must hold appropriate certification (generally issued by SKGABC). To act as an overnight leader in the Gulf Islands National park, the lead guide must be (at a minimum) a Level Two Guide, and any assistant guides must be an Assistant Overnight Guide (AOG). Every SKGABC training course includes camping etiquette.

    Complaints against my guiding:
    Over the years, it is perhaps inevitable, but I have had a few occasions where individuals have taken issue with decisions I have made as a guide. By and large, it all stems down to different perspectives. Decisions I make are based upon factors being weighed in my mind, versus the perspective of a private user who witness them. These conflicts are generally based upon what one group wants versus the other, and sometimes neither of us were perfect. I have learned from them, and my thinking has matured.



    Dan, I applaude you for keeping this discussion focused the issues and not naming names. I think discussion on how one user groups actions impact another can help develop respect and awareness for all of us.
     
  12. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Liam, thanks for joining the discussion -- I was hoping that you'd contribute. Your thoughtful and level-headed insight in these matters is always much appreciated.

    I wouldn't say that our experience was entirely a negative one - it was just different from what we had anticipated. In some regards, the situation gave us much to consider and discuss during our stay on the island -- having something to think and talk about is not so bad. Had my tent leaked during that midnight downpour -- that would have been a negative experience. ;)

    I've met many guides in my travels (including three months of regular interactions last summer at the Paddlers' Inn) and agree with you that the vast majority do hold themselves to a higher standard of stewardship.

    If I have given the impression that I thought this guide was a "bad" guide please know that this is not the case at all. From what I observed, the guide(s) did a good job with their guests, who seemed quite happy with their trip. Their camp area was kept tidy and organized and when they left, the campsite was spotless. Aside from a large group being at a small campsite, the biggest issue I had with respect to the group as a whole was the early morning noise -- if I were the guide I'd have been on top of this one.

    The overall problem I think, was more of a (mis)communication issue -- and that was not only on the part of the guide.

    I completely get what you are saying about some people not wanting to be approached. In all honesty, I didn't give the outward impression that I wanted any contact and I really didn't. The whole situation was novel to me and I was a bit overwhelmed. Because there was a lot more to consider than what appears on the surface, I didn't quite know what to say or how to properly say it. I certainly didn't want to come across as disgruntled or obnoxious -- especially in earshot of the guests. Or insensitive to the commercial aspect of their being on the island. Speaking out before giving adequate consideration to the situation might have resulted in my saying something out of line so I opted to say nothing for the time being.

    What I had hoped for, and still do, is for an open and non-emotional dialog about the situation and how it effects both parties. And possible solutions to avoiding conflict, both short and long term.

    In retrospect, I've considered how the situation might have been better with an initial conversation -- had I been aware that ten people were going to be joining us on Rum when I first saw the two people in the campsite, I'd not have drifted off to sleep on their arrival. I'd likely have made a suggestion that Maddie and I move our tents to the knoll to the west of the campsite, use the closest picnic table (that we were already set up at) and the group occupy the rest of the campsite -- this would have put us at one end of the campsite and eliminated the need to walk through each others camp. It wouldn't have solved the problem of an overcrowded campsite but it would have lessened the stress of being in each others spaces.

    Overall, I think the experience comes down to two main concerns:

    - How commercial outfitters and general park visitors can best co-exist at a small campsite and,

    - Is Rum Island (in it's current state) an appropriate destination for large commercial groups?

    These are not simple questions as there are many complicated aspects to each. Although this discussion may not result in hard-fast solutions, perhaps some understanding by all park users can be attained.
     
  13. jk

    jk Paddler

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    Dan, ouch, bad timing. Rum is so rarely occupied. Did you hit all red lights driving home as well?

    I can't help but think the tour guide doesn't owe an explanation. He is using the park as it is intended to be used (unless he's breaking park rules, of course), and in doing so needs to make no apologies to others for simply being there. His view might well be if you wanted to know something just ask. That's a reasonable enough mindset. You can fault him on the social level, maybe, but social rules are hazy at the best of times and I just don't see any requirement that he should explain himself for public use of a public place. To apologize or explain is essentially admitting fault or lack of entitlement, which is a slippery slope for a business conducting its business.

    No, Rum Island is not well suited for a tour group, but if I was a tour operator and planning a Gulf Island tour I'd probably lean towards Rum Island as a better bet than the other options you mentioned, which can be quite congested during the summer. Meanwhile Rum is usually vacant. You were an anomaly being there mid-week. I suspect 9 of 10 tours there don't bother anyone, and I doubt there are close to 9 or 10 tours there a year. Plus distances between campsites in some of the other locations you mentioned limits the tour potential of them. Rum, Sidney Spit and D'Arcy at least offer a reasonably attractive tour itinerary without requiring 30-mile paddles between campsites. So I'd suggest to ban tours at Rum would be to severely limit the kayak tour potential of the south Gulf Islands which is already quite small.

    Dan, I'm going to call you on this one. It sound suspiciously as if arriving first equates to entitlement. We all hope the flotilla approaching our campsite will see us and pass on by to preserve our solitude, but to have expectation of special consideration based on being at a public place first... We all do it to various degrees ("excuse me, we were here first"), but if the approaching group is not breaking rules, to suggest they "should" do anything for our benefit is a stretch.

    I'm mentioning that solely so I can share this doozy, which still makes me chuckle: Leanne and I stopped for a break at a designated campsite beach in Desolation Sound. There were two others on the beach, and the man came over and said "I find it ridiculous that you would stop here when you could clearly see we were already here..." His point was we should have seen him and gone to the next island as common courtesy. Oh, the comebacks I could have had if I wasn't speechless, things like, "It's okay, we're not staying because there's a big Scouts group on the way. About 20 kayaks. Yup, about two hours away" (to be sure to ruin his next few hours) Or: "Oh, actually I already phoned ahead and reserved this beach. What, you mean I can't reserve a beach? Exactly!"

    The real problems you've experienced, in my mind at least Dan, are noise and lack of consideration, which are pretty universal and have nothing to do with this being a tour group. Once we have a solution for loud, inconsiderate people all our camping trips will be improved, no doubt.

    Last possible point for the two people who bother to read this to the end: I've kayaked the Gulf Islands for oh 12 years now and have yet to share a campsite with a tour group anywhere. I've camped Rum numerous times and congestion has not been an issue. Far from it, as it's one of the most certain locations to camp alone in the southern Gulf Islands. So I don't think it's an issue to write your MP about. You just lost the campsite lottery is all. Sucks.
     
  14. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Seriously? Since the campsite was going to be extremely crowded (likely overcrowded) you bet he owed a brief explanation. I believe there is an obligation to lessen the impact of his group on others. Talking to those that will be affected by their presence is prudent to providing good relations between park users and outfitters. Not only is it polite, it's good business.


    There definitely is some entitlement to those who arrive first. Had I arrived to an island that was full or near full does not give me a right to barge in and take over the campsite because my group is bigger. Take your view a step further and people will be removing other people's tents because they want that particular spot. After all, no one has more right to that spot than anyone else. Sorry John, but second comers fit in, they don't take over.


    Not even remotely the same scenario. Your story is laughable (although I have in the past, paddled past couples on a beach just because it was occupied) and cannot be compared. The differences are stark in that I was not in any way telling anyone that they could not camp on the island. Seriously John, do you think I don't know better?


    Actually, it has everything to do with being a commercial tour group -- the guide controls his group, as difficult as that may be at times -- but the bottom line is that the guide is responsible for the actions of the group as it relates to others that they are in proximity with.
     
  15. mikec

    mikec Paddler

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    Dan, next paddle trip grab a plane and head out east to my neck of the woods. the coast is empty, the spaces are huge, and the campsites are all wild. and not a single tour operator within 1000 km ;)
     
  16. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Mike, thanks for the invite but I've no problem at all with guided tours -- they get a lot of people into the outdoors who normally wouldn't venture out into wilderness areas on their own. For many of these people, its their first encounter with a concreteless world. That they experience it first hand allows them to share in the appreciation of the planet that we on this website know well. Goodness knows that we could use a few more people working towards and advocating to protect our environment. I think guided tours provide a very much needed service to all of us who work and play in it the outdoors.

    I also however, think their stewardship includes a responsibility to the people around them -- with the same respect that they give to the environment and wildlife. Many of the guides that I've spoken with very much realize that it's in their best interest to co-exist with others and seem very willing to work out solutions to avoiding conflict with other outdoor users. Mostly, it simply requires a showing of good manners.

    There are more and more people exploring our paddling areas and to do so we all need to get along -- it helps a great deal if we're able to understand each others viewpoints and be willing to make concessions in our own behaviours if necessary.

    But I would like to come paddle in your neighbourhood some time -- perhaps I could persuade you to take me on a guided tour. :big_thumb
     
  17. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Be interesting if Dan and that guide now had a discussion, strictly between the two of them, about miscommunications and misunderstandings, stemming from the lack of dialog when the larger group arrived.

    This whole discussion certainly has motivated me to have that dialog ASAP in a similar situation, if it were to occur.
     
  18. jk

    jk Paddler

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    Dan, I don't think many campers are going to appreciate a tour group in any circumstance, and I suspect many well-meaning and conscientious tour guides will run afoul of other campers simply by being a tour group nearby. What constitutes barging in and taking over a campsite is a matter of perspective, and my example was the polar opposite to your circumstance -- someone complaining about intrusion with absolutely no defensible right. Given this range, for a tour operator to mediate the happiness of neighboring campers is a tall order, as some will simply not be happy period. So for a tour guide to recognize your personal need for communication, respond to it and then possibly set himself up to have to accommodate it... Dunno. Especially if you're a tour guide forced into that grey area of intrusion due to a small campsite. Opening a discussion could lead to all kinds of trouble, particularly suggestions on where to put tents, etc, that might be completely inappropriate to anyone but the person making the suggestion. A well-intentioned chat can go sour very quickly when there's no chance of seeing eye to eye.

    That's the general hypothetical vein I'm putting forward. Being intrusive and inconsiderate is another matter entirely. Clearly this was the case for you, and if some social etiquette had been followed no explanation would have been necessary as there'd be nothing to explain. Inconsiderate people rarely apologize for being inconsiderate, though, and if they do it usually rings hollow. "Sorry to take over your campsite and ruin your weekend." Um, yeah, thanks.

    I have no dispute a tour guide should examine the situation and think how can this be arranged to minimize impact on other people (as we should all do). But as there's a range of measures for what's acceptable, the simple fact is a public place is a public place, and so if all rules are being followed there isn't much recourse but to grumble and post on WCP. Which is actually quite cathartic I find and possibly the best therapy out there. I use it regularly and highly recommend it.
     
  19. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    jk reminds me of the several pleasant encounters we have had with guides and guided groups, all in BC, spread over a period of some 14 seasons. Never ran into anybody unfriendly or standoffish. To the contrary, all were generous with helpful advice on campsites, attractions, weather, Parks rules and regs, shellfish warnings, etc. A good bit was unsolicited and given in good cheer to we non-Canadians.

    The four or five times we shared a beach with a guided group, we had no conflicts, even though things were tight a couple times in the Brokens and the Deers. Instead, we regularly got invites for dinner, dessert, the odd shot of brandy, and willing hands to get us off the beach.

    In sum, I felt guides went out of their way to represent their profession in a positive light, and in an entirely genuine way. I never felt an element of us versus them, anyplace, any time.

    The prince was clearly the late Peter Marcus, who put us onto a cool, small campsite in the Charlottes suitable for our small party, as his group edged next to us. I will never forget Peter's good cheer and big grin. Would that all of us could have known him. Here is a link: http://www.gck.ca/about-peter-marcus.php
     
  20. Jurfie

    Jurfie Paddler

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    To me, this is the main point. The ability to co-exist with one another in an area where our priorities and trip goals may vary from others. Most of us are looking for peace and solitude...I can accept losing solitude and sharing a campsite, as long as the other campers respect my need for peace and quiet. Sadly, not everyone shares my priorities (powerboaters and some teenaged campers come to mind).

    The other important point is the group's choice of Rum. I would choose to go to Rum because of the few tent sites...even if there was someone already there, it would be relatively empty. Dan and Maddie had it to themselves when they got there, and they probably would have been fine if another couple people showed up...just not (understandably) an additional 10. I wouldn't have a problem if the group had arrived first (assuming the leader ensured the protection of the island, which I'm sure he/she as a professional guide would), and Dan has already said he would have paddled onto another site if Rum was full, as would I.

    But since Dan was already there, unless there was a safety reason, I would expect the group to move onto another location as soon as they saw someone else already on Rum. Being midweek, they probably wouldn't have had too much trouble finding room on another island. At the very least, the guide should have taken the other campers (Dan and Maddie) into consideration. It should have been pretty clear what kind of campers they were (mid-day nappers) and kept the volume down.

    Having said that, I might have tried to have a friendly chat with the guide (away from the other guests) to get a feel for what their plans were, and to see why those chose Rum over one of the other (larger) sites.