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.