Access: From Horseshoe Bay via water taxi. For details on Getting to Horseshoe Bay see the Appendix. The water taxi leaves from the foot of the red-railed government wharf 1½ blocks to the south [left] of BC Ferries foot passenger entrance. To arrange for drop off at Halkett Bay on Gambier Island contact Cormorant Marine. Reservations are a must. Drop off or pick up in the course of one of their regularly scheduled runs costs $14 per person while a custom shuttle over to Halkett Bay costs $65 per group one way. Scheduled runs as below during spring, summer and fall. Be sure to schedule your pick up as well as drop off to avoid becoming stranded. Call for winter schedule.

Water Taxi: Cormorant Marine (604) 250-2630

Friday: 5 PM and 7 PM and sometimes early afternoon.

Saturday: 9 AM and sometimes early afternoon.

Sunday: 5 PM and 7 PM and sometimes an extra run later in the evening.

The hike to the top of Mount Artaban can be easily done as a day trip but secluded Halkett Bay is the perfect place for an overnighter. If your private yacht is at the dry cleaners you can still reach Halkett Bay Provincial Marine Park via water taxi. Beyond the dock and to the left you'll find a number of rustic campsites, some with picnic tables. Since most visitors float in on their own boats you'll likely have the camping area to yourself. The surrounding maple forest is not so common in coastal British Columbia. The high, bright green canopy arches, cathedral-like, over the dark empty spaces below. Like many island parks, campfires are not permitted here. The shore-based facilities include pit toilets but not drinking water. Fill up a big jug on the wharf in Horseshoe Bay and carry water ashore. The tap is just to the right of the water taxi ramp. If you run out there is a clear running brook in the park but water should be boiled or treated with iodine before drinking. For more on water concerns in the outback click here.

Halkett Bay at one time served as a seasonal camp for members of the Squamish nation. Collecting clams was the main activity here as the midden above the beach reveals.

In springtime you'll be sharing the bay with flocks of nesting Canada geese. When exploring the rocky islets at low tide approach with caution lest you startle the geese away from their nests. They will not return the gesture, however. These highly communal creatures will most surely keep you awake much of the night calling in newcomers, shouting out warnings and chattering about goose stuff. If sleep isn't a high-priority, witnessing their interactions is certainly fascinating and far more fruitful than counting sheep.

Hiking Mount Artaban

Level: Challenging

Distance: 10 km

Time: 5 h

Elevation Change: 614 m

Topographical Map: See pg 36 or 92 G/6

Click to View Map

Season: Year Round

The trail to Mount Artaban parallels the brook up the hill behind the campground. After 40 minutes or so on this old logging skid road you'll reach a T-junction with a directional sign. United Church Camp Fircom lies to the left while our destination will be found ever uphill in the opposite direction. As you proceed in a large arc you'll leave the maple forest behind, rising into more open terrain. Soon you'll reach another fork in the trail. A few steps to the left will take you to a viewpoint with a cross on top while a few steps to the right will yield another sign at the top of a large clearcut pointing out the way you want to go. The most obvious trail, a kind of over-grown logging spur, goes nowhere. From the directional sign you should re-enter the forest, mature conifers this time, almost immediately and soon begin losing elevation before the trail flattens out. You'll be following the contours for quite some time before you meet the next trail junction. Downhill and to the left connects with Gambier Estates while you want to go, you guessed it, up and to the right. The next stretch of trail is the longest and gets progressively steeper as you approach the summit of Mount Artaban. The first 45 minutes will be spent rising through a mossy gully before the trail cuts to the right steeply up toward the summit. The last 5 minutes will be spent scrambling up and over steep rocky outcrops. At the top, the perfect place for lunch, you'll discover the remains of a former fire surveillance tower and magnificent views of Anvil Island and the Howe Sound Mountains.

The End


Dentalia Shells

These thin, tubular mollusks formed the currency of commerce throughout the Pacific Northwest as long as 3000 years ago. Pre-European civilization is often considered a barter economy, with, for instance, coastal tribes swapping oolichan grease directly for prized Oregon obsidian. Commodity traders, however, could rely on this wampum to close a transaction when interest in the goods was decidedly one-sided. Called hykwa in Chinook jargon, dentalia shells possessed all the necessary attributes of money, being portable, recognizable and durable but rare and desirable enough to foster trade. Being available in a variety of sizes, the tusk-like shells were even divisible into small change. Professional traders are known to have tattooed measuring lines on their forearms as a handy calculator of individual shell values. Only a handful of groups, including the Nuu-chah-nulth in the vicinity of Tofino, possessed dentalia in quantities sufficient enough to make them wealthy. Harvesting the deep water mollusks was no easy undertaking however. From a dugout canoe a long, broom-like apparatus was thrust straight down into the muddy sea bottom then retrieved. With any luck a shell or two would be trapped amongst the stiff twigs at the end of the handle. Dentalia were also ostentatiously displayed as symbols of wealth and power in the form of body adornments. Perhaps most recognizable are the breast plates invariably worn by cheesy Hollywood Indians.

Illustration by Manami Kimura