We Left Our Hearts in Canada: Kayaking with Whales and Wild Camping in British Columbia

Let’s set the scene . . .

Andy and I miraculously made it to Canada after one frantic, adrenaline-filled journey last summer . . .

Once our plane landed, our kayaking group of two guides and ten people were immediately whisked away to British Columbia’s Telegraph Cove . . .

From there, we set off on a boat ride then overnight stay in the charming Paddlers Inn . . .

 

Day One on the water

And all of this means the following day, our group was well-rested and ready to embark on our week-long kayaking with whales and wild camping adventure!

For me, I was in high hopes — I felt comfortable, happy, ready to go even . . . which was a big deal because you may recall that both Andrew and I had zero kayaking experience yet (in our brilliancy) thought we could handle a holiday that required moderate paddling all day . . . for six days . . . around remote Canadian islands.  Not only this, but the apparent kayak goal was whale-viewing, which meant paddling our tiny kayaks stuffed in our tiny bodies over the ocean and within eyeball range of massive humpback whales and orcas.  As if that wasn’t enough, we decided to make our holiday more special by foregoing glamping opportunities — Comfortable mattress?  We don’t need that!  Posh tent?  Hell no!  Ability to shower daily?  I’d rather smell of the outdoors!  Wood-fired hot tub overlooking the ocean?  Psh, we don’t need that style and relaxation!  Therefore, this meant we ultimately preferred to wild camp, which entailed pitching a tent, unfurling our sleeping bags, and laying on the ground in a different location every night because that, my friends, is how you pamper yourself on a vacation.  Oh, and I forgot to mention we opted not for a private holiday but instead one with a group of highly skilled kayakers . . . because, you know, keeping our embarrassment a secret isn’t enough.

I hope, therefore, it is apparent that we booked this holiday when we were comfy on our sofa — probably in our pajamas, eating ice cream, watching a movie — when the excited idea of our next great adventure pushed aside realistic thoughts.  This is us after all.

Clearly, dwelling on the past though is no help, I told myself but still I was frozen in concern as Andy and I were about to begin our venture.  My wide eyes were watching our group, which had moved from their organized frenzy on the dock to the water in their kayaks . . . except — pause for a moment — everyone had to wait for our guides to assist me into my kayak despite the fact that I am a fully grown adult who should be able to slide into a kayak solo.  Thankfully (and after much assistance) I got in and moved my paddle enough to get relatively near my waiting-group.

This, I felt was a huge accomplishment so I grabbed my camera as our guides slipped into their kayaks, and I took this first picture of our course . . .
IMG_0166when my camera had a sudden, utter meltdown and stopped working immediately.  Blank pictures after blank pictures were snapped automatically — the shutter never pausing even when the camera was turned off — so that the only way to quiet the contraption was to pull the battery out entirely.

“My camera stopped working,” I told Andy.  What else was I supposed to say even though it was apparent to all around as the sound of my camera’s shutter came as loud as gunfire on the silent sea?

“Already?!” Andrew was in mid-paddle towards me, looking calm and content — Truthfully, he could have been confused as an expert.  “L — You just got into your kayak!”  Trust me.  No one was more surprised than me but with the serenity of one area broken, our group was eager to move on so I popped my camera into a drysack never to be used again for the remainder of the trip.  (For all curious, the rest of the images are either taken by Andrew or taken using his camera.  Oh, and by the way, my illogical camera magically worked again the moment we docked in Telegraph Cove . . . )

You need to keep going, I said and so, to combat a feeling of failure at the start, I took a deep breath in — one giant breath — before looking around at beauty so raw I got chills.
20190813_192534Silly incidents, such as an inoperable camera, should not be allowed to ruin such a tranquil trip.  This will be a trip you do for you, I said to myself.  A trip you will not feel the urge to turn into a story but instead a trip that will live in your memory and live in your heart.  With this resolution, I tried to follow the group.  In one blink, Andrew gained paddle strength to zoom ahead . . . and everyone else was a tiny fleck in the distance . . . and our guides were resting their paddles in their laps waiting for me . . . and I, well, I was still in front of Paddlers Inn.

“ANDY!” I yelled.  Hell, I already broke the silence of the wilderness once.  “I’m not moving?”  I remember posing this as a question to him because in my mind, it was a clear kayak-problem and he would see this — the way he spoted vehicle issues and diagnosed repairs.  Instead, he returned and stated this: “That means you need to paddle.”

Brilliant.

Then he took this picture of me before he went off again, skimming the water so that barely any ripples formed.
20190811_104246Needless to say, I tried to smile but did not feel it in my body as I struggled to turn my sudden cruise ship-sized monster towards our group.  From here, I did (somehow) learn to move my kayak enough to get within a few yards from everyone waiting.  This, they assumed meant I had suddenly mastered the ability to paddle — or at least gained valuable insight worthy of carrying me on — so off they went again . . . only to have to wait several minutes for me to arrive . . . late again.  And that is ultimately how our entire first day on the ocean went.
20190811_121155“I can’t do this,” I told Andy during one stopped phase before pleading (in tears) for him to please stay behind with me.  At this point I couldn’t determine which fear consumed me more: That I had a full five days left of kayaking or that I would fall overboard unseen and be eaten by a whale-beast below.  Listen, I have no problem admitting I just wanted one person to take responsibility of me — to feign care and concern.  I was childlike.  Sensitive.  I needed someone.

“It’s alright,” he said in his happy-go-lucky attitude that made my blood boil with rage.  “Oh look!” and he pointed towards the sky.  “Wonder if that’s an eagle!”  Clearly we were on different levels in life so to show spite, I refused to look.  Optimism unaltered though, he slow-paddled next to me and moved behind while I grunted and huffed and made war cries to try to get my kayak to move.  At this point, the most effective way I found was not in using my paddle but in using every inch of my body in a forceful rocking motion. I wish I could say I was joking but this is how much I struggled.

“L, what are you — ”

“WHAT AM I WHAT?!” I shrieked, knowing his question.  I think members of our group turned to look at our commotion.  Either that or they made an effort to paddle away as quickly as possible.  Oh no, we have one of those — A relationship argument now and for the rest of the week, they must have thought.  That or Why didn’t he leave this uppity city girl at home because she clearly has never spent time outside?  I felt the urge to yell to them my nature-résumé but in that moment, I confess I was not one for nature, the outdoors, or any type of adventure.  I was essentially that person playing loud music on an external speaker when you reach the peak of a mountain after a hike — You know, that person we all hate.

“I just meant — ”

“Just meant what?!  That I’m not paddling?  That I don’t know what I’m doing?!  I think that is obvious to even the animals in the forest, Andy!”  I said his name harshly — as were all of my enunciated words, and I should stop here to make this understood: When recounting this portion of the story, it is not one that makes me proud.

“Okay.  Let me help then,” he whispered while putting his hands in the air as if an unspoken truce was decided.  Then, he paddled closer — so close he may have even placed his hand on my kayak.

Help, I thought.  Finally help and it truly was like a ring buoy was thrown my way a second before I took my last breath and went under the water.  “Okay, I’m listening,” I told him and felt sudden peace.

“Right,” he responded before his next most serious question: “Are you even trying?”

Dear friends, to write in a way that shows how confused I was that he possibly thought I was pretending not to paddle well — Let’s just say it was clear in that moment that the ring buoy was filled with lead and sank rather quickly while at the same time Andrew paddled away following my furious roar.

And so I was on my own.

Again.

Tackling the uncharted waters, learning to survive on my own.

Hours went by in the same fashion — Our group paddled and waited, paddled and waited, occasionally Andy would brave coming back to check on me only to be eaten alive and spat back out, and then it was lunch time.

“Let’s have a snack today on the water!” one of our guides announced and I understood this to be code for “Because we are behind schedule due to L’s paddling, it will be too much time for everyone to get out of their kayaks on shore and eat a proper lunch.”

“Alright, let’s form a chain where you are beside another person on a kayak!” and here we all learned how to paddle not ahead or behind but to the side.  “This will allow us to lock together by holding one another’s paddle.  Now, let’s form that chain!”  Eyes darted from group member to group member determining the best place to form.  I’ll be honest, my eyes were looking at my paddle.  Learn to paddle to the side?!  I hadn’t even learned how to paddle forward!

“Our chain can start at . . . at L!” and I breathed the heaviest sigh of relief that — for the first time — I did not have to move but everyone else did.  Call me selfish but I was more than happy to sit and watch everyone else learn to paddle and move to me.

“Thank you,” I whispered to our guide.  “I know you have everyone coming around me because I am the weak link of the group but thank you.”  My heart was filled with gratitude.  If it weren’t for worrying I would fall out of my kayak, I would have hugged our guide.

“No way!  You’re going great!” I was told.  “I picked you because you have the brightest kayak so it is most visible!”  Guys, you tell me if a faded light green is brighter than red, orange, or yellow — but you know what, I’ve heard it said before that white lies are okay and I openly accept this as truth.

Following our quick lunch, we were back to paddling for hours and this also meant back to a new concern: I was soaking so much so that I honestly worried that my water-filled kayak would sink.

“How do I have so much water on me and in my kayak?” I whispered to Andy while both scooping water and noting that everyone else was remarkably dry.

“Well, you are obviously doing it wrong,” he told me and this, to say bluntly,  lead to another rant about how I was obviously kayaking wrong based on the fact that I moved a yard an hour; how all I wanted was for someone to tell me what I was doing wrong because I was trying, damn it, I was trying; how I was literally over this trip and how I would pay every penny I had for someone to medflight me out of the godforsaken wilderness; and how I could not wait to pick the next vacation because I sure as hell was gonna pick one that made him understand my all-consuming misery and torture.  I’m sure the list went on but basically Andrew and I agreed we needed kayak-time apart.

Then a miracle happened: After paddling for hours, one of the women in the group slowed her kayak to glide next to me.

“I admit,” Liza said breathing calmly and not breaking a sweat, “this is harder than I thought.”  I had the feeling she kayaked often but for that glimmer of a moment, I wanted to pretend she found the journey a challenge too and for that I appreciated — so much — her empathy.
20190811_121158Meanwhile, group members continued to slide beside someone new, carrying on pleasant conversations and getting to know one another.

I wish I could say I was in a positive mental space enough to carry on a proper conversation with Liza, but between my humiliating ability to paddle and my horrible effort to communicate, I was alone more often than not.  This was fine, too, because when I did open up, my conversations went like this:

“You look great!” Andy yelled as we kayaked on, surely near the end of our day on the water and therefore enough time had passed in our kayak-separation.  I shot him a look that said otherwise as he moved quickly and gracefully towards me.  “Really!” he said, probably chuckling.  “You do!  I wasn’t kidding!”

“Oh I know you are serious — but let me ask you this, Andrew.  If I said you looked great when your hips hurt and your legs have lost feeling — Does that help?”  Clearly my response was not what he expected.

“I mean — ” he started but I cut him off.

“That’s where I’m at — My seat cushion fucked off the moment I sat down in my kayak and I didn’t want to adjust it for fear of tipping over so my ass is numb.  Only my big toe touches the rudder pedals and they only touch with my legs fully extend so let’s hope I don’t need to turn anywhere.  My shoulders ache, I’ve already removed layers of skin from my hands so my gloves clearly aren’t helping, and my hands have locked up with arthritis because I’m holding my paddle too tightly — so when you tell me ‘I look great,’ forgive me if that doesn’t make me feel better.”

I knew my temper tantrum warranted me returning to time-out but if I was going out — I was going out in a puffed state of glory!  I had reached past a point of caring.  And apparently Andrew didn’t either.

“I was just asking.  Fuck off then” and with paddle dipped into water, in one fast movement he was yards ahead of me.

I mean, I totally deserved that, I thought.  It wasn’t his fault that I was reckless by nature.  It wasn’t his fault that I keep getting myself into situations I should not put myself into.  It simply wasn’t his fault.  I felt the need to apologize but the only way I could was to talk to him . . . and the only way to do that was to be near him but he was so far away and I was so far behind.

The good news is that it was time to drag our kayaks ashore on South Tracey Island.  To say I suddenly became the happiest person alive is an understatement.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0004.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0015.JPGThe shore was lined with shells — each layer showing a new time period so that in total, it dates back centuries to the First Nations, or indigenous Canadians who were the first people to come into contact with the Europeans when they went exploring.
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Directed to find a place to pitch our tents, our group split under the canopy of this old-growth forest while our guides made the most delicious, fresh dinner.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0005.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0009.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0029.JPGWe pitched our tent under this falling tree . . . which now that I type I — well, I don’t even know what to say.  Our decisions continue to astound me.

After eating, everyone assisted in cleaning and organizing the dishes so that it was complete before I felt we even started.

This also meant I had no more obligations — I didn’t have to keep up with the group, I didn’t have to help, I didn’t have to be present anymore.  I was done — I was done with paddling.  I was done with kayaking.  I was done with talking to strangers who all found our journey joyful.  I was done pretending so while our entire kayaking group leisurely strolled to the shore for an after-dinner pow-wow — I sulked away alone.  My body ached beyond misery, my head was pounding, I was cold and wet, and on top of that I had berating self-confidence reminding me that I was not only the group’s worst kayaker but I was the world’s worst kayaker.  I knew too well the only medicine I could provide myself was comfort in the one place I felt most happy, safe, and familiar: in the woods in a tent in a sleeping bag.  Let tomorrow come and the next day and the day after that — Let these days pass quickly because sleep was the only way to cure this sickness.

Andy crawled into the tent several minutes later to check on me, and I remember our conversation distinctly and the look he gave when he entered the tent.  It was a look that asked if I needed help (once more) getting back to the group.

“I went in here because I have a headache and I’m cold,” I huffed, tucking myself deeper into my sleeping bag.

“No,” he corrected me.  “You went to bed because you are miserable.”

“Whatever,” I grumbled rolling over so I didn’t have to face him.  “At least I didn’t get seasick.  I still have a chance to actually be cool around our new friends.”

“Sure, L.”  He said to me.  “But you didn’t even say goodnight to our new friends.  I just said goodnight for us so while you hope you don’t get seasick, I hope tomorrow you wake as a new person.”

And that, dear friends, is when I fell asleep.

 

Day Two on the water

Alright reader, if I haven’t lost you yet there is hope — I do get better at kayaking (in fact, not to blow my own horn but I master the hell outta it) and this trip was truthfully the most incredible experience I could ever imagine . . .

but . . .

and I’m gonna be blunt here . . .

You do still have to put up with the reality of the situation and that is that after my tears and temper tantrums and stalking off the day before, it was another rough — very very rough — day.

Day Two started with renewed hope that I could (somehow) learn to be a kayaker, but the reality is I learned there is no such thing as magic because if it was possible to be worse — I was undoubtedly worse.

Combined with being sore and having popped blisters on my hands, I was basically told the moment I was dry and warm, fed and watered, and therefore comfortable and happy — I was told I needed to re-enter my kayak to be wet, cold, more uncomfortable, and therefore more miserable and irritable.

But what can a woman do?  There were certainly no helicopters coming to my rescue, and trust me — I was looking often.

So off we went into the water and, no surprise, Day Two essentially passed the same as Day One.

It would be a miracle if I made it out alive.

Or if Andy still loved me.

Or hell, if Andy still wanted to cross paths with me again — even as some estranged person in a random grocery store encounter.

But he has this ability to stick by my side — no matter how dark the day actually is or how dark the day is only to me.

At one point in our kayak, he offered this helpful advice: “Why not ask a guide what you are doing wrong?”  This was a great question.  Why hadn’t I?  It was true — I did speak to nearly all group members and tried to (passively) seek advice from them.  The most noteworthy advice I got came Amy and Dave . . . 

Full of love and hope, Amy has one of the most compassionate spirits I have ever met so I was eager to hear how she successfully glided across the water.  She spoke to me between strokes of how she gets lost in nature and her thoughts then returns to nature and tries to lose herself all over again, and how that was such a beautiful experience.  I let Amy slide off then water-splashed my way towards Andy to report what Amy shared.  “Listen — The words ‘meditate’ and ‘kayak’ clearly do not have a relationship together.  I don’t know how she is able to do that — It is otherworldly and I’ve heard of people who go for ‘morning paddles on the kayak to start the day’.  Seriously?!  Who are these people?!  Getting into a damned kayak first thing in the morning — Oh ho ho!  That is definitely the worst way to start any day.”  I think I continued to grumble how this image was so unrealistic and I would never have believed it if it weren’t for seeing Amy firsthand — seeing someone who (and I am 100% honest) wore a smile the entire time we moved over the ocean.  Every single day.

Then there was Dave, who appeared to excel more on the water than on land.  He had a dry and straight-forth sense of humor so when I asked for his advice, I remember wondering if he was joking or not.  I, of course, went to report this additional finding to Andy, too, and I think I muttered that it didn’t matter if he was being truthful or not because he was clearly birthed in a kayak and knew how to paddle as a newborn.

So sure, I asked for help, though some could argue (okay everyone could argue) that I was not willing to receive help.  Still, I did as Andy encouraged.  I mean, clearly I have no problem appearing as an idiot or shying from a question so I asked the two people most capable to give help . . .

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked one of our guides as he paddled slowly beside me at the back of our group.

“What are you talking about?  You’re doing great!” Mike answered.  The sweet man, I thought.  He must have to boost everyone with confidence on a trip like this so that the people truly believe they can do this.

But I am not one of those people.

This is not a lesson to be learned — This was a rescue mission.  I had succumb to being last, I had given in to being a crap kayaker, I understood that all activities are not for everyone.  Now, I simply needed to know how to survive — how to barely survive — the next few days.

“Listen.  I know I’m shit — ”

“You’re not — ”

“I know, I know.  I know you have to say that — It is very kind.  But I am.  I am shit.”  I should say when I am angry or defeated, I cuss more.  Sorry but the pain was real.  “And I’m totally okay with being shit but I need you to be honest with me — truly — and . . . Can you just watch me while I paddle and tell me what I am doing wrong?”

I think he realized how desperate I was — how this was a need and not a want — because he nodded and agreed . . . then waited who knows how long for me to slow paddle past him to model my lack of skills.

It took all of two seconds for him to find my problem: Apparently, I needed to move my entire body — from my head all the way to my toes — and really engage every single muscle so that it aids the paddle, which therefore aids moving me.

Then he smiled at me and, bless his heart, I think he thought he handed me the most astounding treasure because he paddled ahead, modeling how all of his body was engaged.  And it was — his muscles were flexing and he was moving and gliding across the water in some superhuman way.

“Andy,” I whispered as Mike passed.  Then I just sighed — so heavy I felt the weight of my breath fall onto my lap.

“Yeah?  How did it go?  Did you ask Mike?”  I’m not gonna lie — Andy appeared to be cowering from me after our interactions the day before.

“I mean,” another sigh, “I did.  And he said I needed to ‘engage my entire body’.”  Then I hesitated — tears streaming from my face — “But I am.  I really and truly am.”  The fact of the matter was I was working out so intensely that I had shed the company’s kayaking jacket  . . . then my own rain jacket . . . and then bundled up my shirt sleeves.  My next step was going shirtless and showing off my sports bra but I felt my crew had seen way more than enough of me.  Still, even over an open ocean and in the Canadian cold, I was sweating buckets.

Poor, Andy.  I think he saw my sweat and exercise-induced redness.  The look of heartbreak in his eyes showed me how he understood my plight and was sincerely apologetic for picking this vacation.  “L, I’m so sorry,” he whispered back in a way that made me feel I was so pathetic that it may move him to tears.  “Listen, we have four more days and then we never have to kayak again.  Four more days.  Do you think you can do it?  Because if not, I’ll see if the guides can get a boat to us — no problem.  I have no problem asking that.  And they will understand too if you’re scared they won’t.  Everyone will understand.  Listen, this is hard — It is hard for me!  I’ve even heard other people saying this was more than they thought it would be.  So if you want to leave, we can leave.  It’s fine.  I’m not mad.  We can leave.  Just tell me so I know what to do, okay?”

His kindness, his sympathy, his ability to realize how close I was to falling from my kayak and sliding under water was uncanny.  And for some odd reason, it gave me hope.  This was his dream — to kayak with orcas and we hadn’t seen any — not even a fin so there was no way I could be that selfish and force him to leave.  I ruin his ability to make new friends on my pick of vacations after I vomit off the side of a boat (for hours) on scuba diving adventures so this was his pick.  He never imagined diving.  I never imagined kayaking.  I would do this for him.

“Thank you,” I said probably through tearful, snot sniffles.  “I think I’ll try it one day longer.”

“Are you sure?  Because we can leave, L.  We can leave and we do not have to talk to anyone here again.  There is no shame.”

“I know.  Thank you.  But I’ll stay — one day more.  I’ll stay.”  And then I paused.  “And Andy?  Can you please promise not to tell anyone here what we’ve talked about?  Please.  It would mean a lot to me and, to be honest, I just need to know that right now.”

“Of course,” he told me.  “No problem” and never a word was uttered to our group or guides so much so that I hope they had no idea any of this even happened.  Have I made it clear yet: Andy is a saint.

To make this long, painful, laborious, almost-hopeless story shorter, I continued — accepting my lack of abilities and speed.  I was no longer berating myself.  I was no longer fixated on my weakness.  I was just slowly following the group — the last kayaker next to the second last kayaker who was my incredibly sweet Andy.

And this allowed him to have time to take pictures as we slow-paddled together . . .DCIM100GOPROGOPR0039.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0033.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0034.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0026.JPG
We moved past British Columbia’s breathtaking rainforests . . . past huge eagles perched on rocks and in trees (which are hard to see in these pictures) . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0047.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0048.JPGHours passed before it was time to once more pull our kayaks to shore and search for the best place to pitch our tent on North Owl Island.

Docking once more filled me with some type of hope that I could possibly endure another pain-filled day . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0059.JPGand so Andy and I walked hand-in-hand to the forest to set up our tent . . .I felt safe here — safe on the multi-colored pebbled shore looking out at the ocean.

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20190812_193107This island had less space for camping due to the numerous trees, though, looking up — I was at peace knowing they claimed the land.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0050.JPGThe area felt too enchanting, too stunning to be real, and I found myself in amazement at how island forests — directly next to one another — could be so dramatically different.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0051.JPGFluffy green moss clung to tree trunks as it was explained how long moss lives and how it slow-grows.  As our guide talked, he handed us dead moss from the ground — Even then the soft moss still had beauty.

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As the sun went down, the tide crept back and we made our way to the trees and tent to end our second day . . .
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Soon a light rain began to fall.  Then, we heard a commotion next to us — a voice that sounded as if a woman was talking to herself.

“Andy, I think that’s Liza,” I whispered.

“I think so too” and so we sat in silence a second longer trying to decide if maybe she had some strange ritual of talking herself to sleep or if she needed help because something was wrong.  Moments passed — some silent, some with solo conversation — then we heard our guides talking.

Sticking our heads out of the tent, we learned Liza’s tent was leaking — This, after a day of hard kayaking . . . after setting up her tent, sleeping bag, and belongings solo . . . after being exhausted and desiring only a good night’s sleep . . . her tent was leaking.

We offered to help in whatever way we could before returning to our tent.

“We should ask Liza if she wants to sleep in our tent with us,” I told Andy.  I knew how it felt to have to keep going when all you wanted to do was give in and sleep.  I knew how it felt to —

“L.  There’s barely enough room for us in this tent, never-the-less another person.”

Life seemed fraught with bad situations.

 

Day Three on the water

I spoke earlier about there was no magic and now, I admit, I was wrong.

Canada is magical.  British Columbia is magical.  The forests there are magical, and in all of this — true magic does exist.  The next morning, this magic somehow filled me — filled my lungs, my body, and my mind with the sole resolution that I will learn to kayak.

The tide had fallen, leaving kelp to cover the rocks . . .20190813_072422and a sweep of sea fog hushed over us as we paddled out . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0159.JPG20190813_103535The fog at times blended with the horizon so much so that there was no distinction between water and sky . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0153.JPGand the water was so still — so still that I was worried my mere blinks would cause ripples.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0154.JPGAll was silent around us and so we mostly followed suit — waiting as the guides took the lead.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0156.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0158.JPG

For me though, I was on a mission and I realized how intent my mission was when one of our guides, Estelle, breezed by me.  The way she paddled was unlike anyone else in the group (and trust me, I had been watching everyone).  It was honestly as if she was not paddling at all.  She moved lightly — so lightly in fact that she never had a crease on her brow or squint in her eye.  I joke not but she held the paddle with a mere three fingers from each hand and — prepare yourself for the truth — extended her pinky fingers as if she was sipping tea while directing her large sea vessel.  In short, she glided quickly and effortlessly above the water — no ripples, no water drops, nothing — and even seemed to be mediating.  In short, she was the most peaceful and beautiful kayaker.

I must learn to paddle like her, I told myself.  If she can do this, I can too and so for mile upon mile I paddled behind Estelle — sometimes struggling to keep up, sometimes so close I hit her kayak, and other times passing her . . . PASSING HER . . . and it was then, I realized — I MASTERED KAYAKING!

I know.  It is almost too unbelievable and too crazy a thought.  But I did — I totally mastered sea kayaking mimicking Estelle.  I held that damned paddle so tight in each of my three fingers, making it appear I was learning to use chopsticks and my life depended on not dropping the sticks.  I extended my pinkies so forcefully one would think I had invisible splints on each.  I moved — awkward and twisted — in the most hideous way as I watched her body move — not forward and backward — but left to right.  I reached my paddle forward to the farthest point in front of me — not right beside —  then swept the water back until my paddle was at the farthest point behind me.  And I paddled in such a way that not a drop — not a damn drop — of water fell onto me so that with each stroke, I was completely dry.  Basically what I am trying to say is this: Gradually, I was one badass kayaker.

“L?” Andy said a bit out of breath as he paddled hard to catch up to me — ME! — as I held my pace at the front of our tribe — eyes unwavering from Estelle in front.  “I’m not trying to be funny but you suddenly look like you are actually kayaking.”

“I KNOW!” I exclaimed.  “I AM!” and it was true — I could feel it!  I could feel what Mike meant when he said to engage every muscle, and I could feel what Amy meant by finding peace once you get your rhythm, and I understood what it was sort-of kind-of like to be Dave and be so comfortable you may as well have been birthed in a sea vessel.  I could feel it!  “LOOK!  LOOK!” I announced to Andy, letting Estelle slide away — I could catch her easily now and I was up to the challenge.  “This is what I learned — I’ve just been watching Estelle and copying everything she is doing and this is what I learned!” and I then began to model all I have told you here.  I felt like a child running back and forth modeling the most simple and mundane, but my excitement was overwhelming.  “TAKE A PICTURE OF ME!!!” I shouted.  And so he did, and bless him — He took many many pictures at my request all of me looking like this goon with a huge smile . . .
20190812_130223(0)I felt calm and at ease so with elongated strokes, in seconds I was behind Estelle leading the group again!

Before I even realized it, Day Three was over and we were once more docking our kayaks . . .DCIM100GOPROGOPR0174.JPGand for the first time, I was letdown to get out.  ME! I thought.  LETDOWN!  Oh how perspective can change so dramatically!  And this was only one tick in my day of firsts . . .

Not only did I learn to successfully kayak . . .

but I got wraps and tapes to protect my blistered hands . . .

and this island was our first less rainforest-y island and so we scattered to claim one of the visible camping spots — some noticeable based on the smooshed grass, others closer to makeshift structures.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0171.JPG
Andy and I claimed this one, which was surrounded by these large, beautiful pink flowers . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0166.JPGbut let’s be honest — The main reason I was ecstatic was because there was a blackberry bush right next to our tent . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0167.JPGand I tell you — with emphasis and emotion — that nothing in life is better than eating vine-ripened berries outside in the summer heat.

So, friends, that is exactly what I did.

While everyone else was toiling away unfurling their tents and bags and belongings — I stood right there eatin’ blackberries, and I ate all the blackberries my hands could hold and stomach could take.

Sure, sure — I did notify everyone of the treasure that was awaitin’ and even offered my own just-picked berries from my hands, but they seemed intent on accomplishing camp.

“And?” I asked as he worked to set up the tent alone.  “First do you need help?  And second, do you mind if I eat these berries?  Because I will help with all of this but right now — there are berries!”  I think I must have had blackberry juice dripping from my mouth and onto my shirt and a grin so large my that blackberry-stained teeth showed — so Andy paused in his labor, looked at me and said this: “L.  Today is the first day I’ve seen you smile since we started this trip.  Eat all the berries you want.”

Y’all.  I love this man.

So that’s exactly what I did until camp was set up (courtesy Saint Andy) and we were strolling our way back to the shore, following the same pink flowers . . .DCIM100GOPROGOPR0164.JPG20190813_192550

From here, Mike offered to take us on a casual paddle around islands.  And while some stayed behind, I admit — That idea was appealing because why should I risk ruining a perfectly good day?  I decided to forego my judgement and instead take to my kayak again.

And know what?

I’m so happy I did.

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This paddle was leisurely as Mike rattled off information about the island, the island’s people, the plants — He was a wealth of knowledge.  More a living, breathing Encyclopedia Brittanica than man, and we listened with great interest.  We learned the area has granite, limestone, gneiss, and basalt rocks, and some have renderings by First Nations people.20190813_17081220190813_17043520190813_170809It was a quick but exciting casual paddle and so we made our way back . . .
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Once there, Estelle and Mike found a bit of shore, covered their faces with their hats, and had a quick snooze.  Hey, it’s rough being guides.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0177.JPGMeanwhile, the water was so blue, so clear, so calm that it must have beckoned to Andy and Crispin — Crispin, a kind-hearted and humble man in the group.  The two of them ran trotting towards the ocean before plunging into its icy waters . . . only to determine the waters were, well, icy so they ran back out.
20190813_132503Meanwhile, on the shore, I made these finds . . .
20190813_154914(from right to left) hermit crab shells, a whale vertebrae and other portion of bone, and a dried urchin . . .

The urchin — I truly have not seen a design more beautiful.  It was a vibrant white and so thin and intricate it appeared more as the finest lace.

Turning from the shore, Andy and I went to eat with the group and for the first time, I felt I could breathe and take time to get to know everyone.  That night, we were able to talk and joke and laugh, and I remember feeling as if I fit in with the kayakers.

We climbed into our tent that night before the rain began to fall.  Inside, Andrew and I listened to the pitter-patter of the drops as they fell onto our rainfly and, at some point, we fell asleep.

 

Day Four on the water

By now,  I had learned to kayak and was self-assured in my abilities to become a master-kayaker . . . that was until Day Four: The Day of the Bull Kelp.

The morning started the same way as the others — slippery rocks due to stranded kelp and a thick layer of fog over the ocean.
20190814_082306Loading into our kayaks, we began our journey through a series of bull kelp.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0149.JPGBull kelp is a super long kelp that grows thirty centimeters (nearly twelve inches) in twenty-four hours.  Similar to seaweed, kelp is very beneficial to the environment because it absorbs a massive sixty percent of the world’s carbon dioxide — which to give you an idea, we were told trees absorb less.

Kayakers can also like bull kelp because if there is a bit of current or a need to stop, holding the kelp firmly can create a type of anchor.

Because of all of these facts, I therefore began with a grand respect for bull kelp — I talked to Andrew about how eerie but incredible a dive through a bull kelp forest would be; and I praised the bull kelp aloud for its protective qualities as we passed.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0148.JPGThere is a catch with the kelp though: For the most part, you want to paddle around it because rudders can get stuck in it, rendering kayakers and their vessels in a struggle to remove the plant.

So, of course, I would get caught in it.

At the start, I was leery to get too close to the plant.  I would take extremes to paddle around even one bull kelp because, sure, I’ve seen sci-fi movies so of course bull kelp could suddenly grow three hundred meters in one moment and effectually trap me useless on my kayak . . .

which is essentially what happened.

Everyone somehow was many nautical miles ahead of me — well, everyone except for Crispin and his son Rhys who were only slightly ahead — when I got caught in the daggon bull kelp.

“I think I’m stuck!” I yelled to Crispin as he and Rhys continued paddling in their tandem kayak.  They had this dreamy way of moving their two-person monster kayak in a way that made it appear there was not a trouble in the world.  Well, until they paddled with me.

He slowed immediately — the kind man — so while his back was turned, I took the liberty to hack at the bull kelp with my paddle — fierce, powerful strokes at a ninety-degree death-angle.  Listen, he didn’t need to see that.  By now, we all knew I was a heathen but damned if I was going to let some sea plant prevail!

“I am — I absolutely am stuck and cannot get out.”  My hacking proved worthless against the plant-beast that seemed to pull my paddle into the heart of it and so I watched helplessly as everyone else paddled on.  Crispin and his son were my only hope.

By now, Crispin had succeeded in turning his kayak diagonally to get a better look at my situation and that’s when my heart sank.  “Oh no, L,” Crispin said in this tone full of disappointment.  That’s when I knew my entrapment was bad.  Not only did he give recognition to my state of affairs but he validated my short-comings by then saying this: “Do you need help?”

“Yes,” I wanted to say to him before explaining that in order to assist me, I needed him to remove himself from his own kayak, forego his son, and walk — literally walk on water — towards me to please tug me out of the kelp . . . but I refrained.  Instead, I flailed and jerked — forward and backward and side-to-side — until , in a heap of pants, I aloud begged, “Just — just don’t — leave me.”

By now the dire situation caught the attention of my group as kayaker after kayaker slowly turned our way.  I imagined them playing a game of Telephone where the one closest (I mean, closest is relative) to Crispin passed on the following words: “L’s stuck, again.” Gradually all kayakers had turned to watch the drama unfold.

Aware of my sea performance, I came to the conclusion that I would signal a need for rescue — The problem was I did not know the signal and so I determined the only way I could make this evident was by throwing my paddle over the side of my kayak.

Right when I was about to perform this last-ditch action and raise my paddle-that-symbolized-a-white-flag in the air, the bull kelp magically released me.

“I think . . . I think I’m out . . . “I huffed to Crispin as we slow-paddled back to the group.  By now I was sweating, panting, and exhausted . . . and that’s when Estelle announced, “Now we have to do a crossing!”

Great.

For all those curious, a ‘crossing’ means crossing a large portion of the ocean that can be dangerous due to the boat traffic.  Because of this, the number one important rule to remember is not to stop paddling but to keep going.  As a group together, kayakers are more visible; alone, one kayaker can be missed in the expansive ocean, which means there is little a paddler can do to avoid an approaching fast boat before there is a collision.

Basically what Estelle was saying is after my near-death battle with bull kelp, I now had to paddle non-stop and full-force for at least an hour across a portion of ocean.

Again, great.

But there was little to be done — The group was ready to go so I took a deep breath and paddled and paddled and paddled my heart out.

This crossing was unlike any we had done before.  For starters, it was the longest and therefore most serious of crossings.  Second, it was in complete fog, and I’m talking the most thick fog.

I would say I wish I had a picture but combined with the need to continue to paddle and the would-have-been image being entirely fog-white, the picture would not have done justice.  Just know this was one of the most otherworldly experiences both Andrew and I have ever had — It was as if we were paddling in a gigantic cloud.  Estelle lead the group and each of us packed tightly around her kayak.  One lapse in paddle and she would have disappeared entirely in the fog.  It was that dense.  Not only this, but our direction was on our pure faith in her abilities — We could see no land, no trees, no lights, nothing to guide us so if we were paddling into the heart of the ocean, straight into the shore, or over a sudden waterfall, we would only know the moment it happened.

And again, you cannot stop.

We paddled for what felt like days and then more days — with barely any talking as we all continued in full concentration, and this is when I realized how mediative kayaking actually is.

In the middle of this gigantic fog-cloud, I thought about myself and how far I had come — from a person with zero kayaking experience to someone keeping up with our guide in an ocean crossing.  I felt confident in Estelle’s abilities to lead us and in my ability to follow her.  I thought of how proud I was at my determination to continue this entire journey — how I am capable of this and more, how with enormous focus and strength I can master skills I have zero experience in, and how no matter how painful I can continue.  I thought of Andrew and how patient he was and always has been with me.  I thought about how far he and I have come together — to starting out as strangers interested in becoming hiking partners to crossing an ocean full of whales in kayaks in Canada.  I thought of our past — our bruises, our pains, our heals — and how we have learned so much about ourselves and each other.  And I thought about how incredibly fortunate I was to be — just be — in that moment beside twelve of the most incredible people I could have ever had an opportunity to meet.

By now, land was slowly appearing in front of us and so we all cheered for Estelle’s guiding abilities and talked and laughed with one another.  Paddling in and out of different conversations — This, I have to say, is what made our trip the best we have taken yet.  I learned about Estelle’s burning passion to help kids and how years ago Dave devised a plan to bump into a cute cyclist (unbeknownst to her at the time) who later turned out to be his wife, Sheri. I learned how Dave and Sheri have a heart for animals and have fostered so many that they consider themselves successful “foster failures.”  I learned how beneficial meditation is for the body from Mike and Amy and how muscles store emotion and memories and how that can be released in the most simple, focused movements.  I learned more about the people I was with and therefore the world through their eyes than I can fill the pages of this blog.  I learned about friendships and acceptance and respect and kindness, and I learned that feeling of my abs tightening from laughter and my face stretching from smiles — that feeling is rare in the company of strangers but not rare in the company of true friends.  They taught me to maintain a belief that the world is primarily good, and because of all of this I learned that if I could have this moment — this trip with these people — bottled so that I could return to it again and again, I would have given beyond asking price.

But another day was down — our last full day now — and so as we passed land I also thought about how soon land like this would be where we stand again, ready to return home.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0178.JPGPaddling towards shore, we made our way onto our last island where we would find our last place to camp.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0198.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0196.JPGHere, we walked into the rainforest and set our tent on top of a wooden platform next to bright green moss and under tall evergreens.

That evening, Crispin’s wife Sally and I helped Estelle with dinner . . . and by help, I mean Estelle basically did everything but we assisted where we could, such as in the chopping of vegetables.  This time with Estelle though felt sacred.  While she cooked, she told Sally and me legends — legends of why the trees are shaped the way they are and legends of why the trees carry pinecones, heavy branches, and more.
20190815_101225While the following legend is certainly not word-for-word, it is one I begged Estelle to re-tell so that I could rapidly scrawl it down.  I hope it captures not only the beauty of Mother Nature and her trees but the beauty of Estelle’s carefree personality . . . .

Long, long ago, Mother Nature wanted to recognize her hardworking trees in her prized Pacific Northwest forest so she told Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and Cedar she wanted to give them each a gift and present this gift to them the next day at 8:00 a.m.

The next day, Mother Nature was waiting — You know, she is always on time because she does what she wants.

At 7:50 a.m., Douglas Fir wakes and meets Mother Nature.  He’s reliable in the forest so of course he will be on time.  Because he is ten minutes early, Mother Nature is stoked.  She presents him with a nice fir cone — a pretty big, delicate, and beautiful cone with ‘mouse tails’ hanging out of it — and she says, “Dougie, you support life.  You are tall and strong and fire-resistant, and because of all of this, you get this beautiful cone.

Douglas is grateful and heads away, happy to be given that gift.

On his way back, he sees Cedar at 7:59 a.m.

Mother Nature welcomes Cedar over — He woke up and made it in time — so Mother Nature gives Cedar a beautiful smaller, flower-shaped cone that contains seeds to reproduce.  She says, “Cedar, man, you are the giving tree — You are the tree that gives life with your bark and your beautiful, strong wood and your amazing nutrients, and I want to recognize your part in this dynamic ecosystem.”

Holding his branches up high and proud, he leaves.

On his way back, he stumbles onto Hemlock — who has just woken up after 8:00 a.m so Cedar tells Hemlock, “Mother Nature will not be very happy about this.  Hemlock, dude, get to Mother Nature, man” so Hemlock groggily shrugs his branches and gets there about twenty minutes past eight.

Mother Nature is okay though — she has all the time in the world — but she teaches Hemlock an important lesson.  She says, “I gave away my most beautiful cone and my biggest cone so you will get the smallest cone in my collection.  You did not show up on time so while you do still get a cone for reproduction, I am not too happy.”

Hemlock shrugs and walks with slouched branches and to this day, he still sags his branches.

As Estelle told her legends, our group slowly began to wonder in and gather around her until dinner was ready and our bellies, hungry, could wait no longer.

Together, we ate our last meal then went to the shore to take in our last moments . . .
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Here, we performed various skits re-enacting our experiences and we each added a bit to the artistic shore rendition of our journey . . .
20190814_202952Then we built a fire and watched the sun set fire to the sky . . .
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“Alright!” one of our guides said.  “If you want to give me your maps, I can mark the route we took so you can see how far you came” and Andy and I sat, unmoving, watching everyone pull a map from his or her kayak.

Friends, it was here — after our five days in Canada battling the seas — that we realized we were the only ones never given a map.  I’d like to say no wonder we struggled — or I struggled — but let’s be honest: I struggled because it is me.  Since we missed the pre-trip meeting, it was an easy miss that the guides were incredibly apologetic over and an easy miss that we, personally, found hilarious.

So while Mike marked up all maps and noted our route, the rest of us walked towards our tents for our last sleep in British Columbia’s forests . . .

That night, Andy and I dipped into our tent and lay listening to the sounds of the island — Evergreen needles plinked on our tent like raindrops, the trees squeaked and groaned as they sang their old whispered songs, the gulls laughed with one another as they flew over the sea, and humpback whales exhaled powerful bursts of air from the water.  So far, we had yet to see any trace of a whale from our kayaks but their music gave me hope that they were there and that we could see them on our final day.20190814_214845
“You know,” Andy whispered to me in the darkness of our tent.  “It doesn’t even matter that we never saw a whale.  I mean, I know that’s why we came but it doesn’t even matter.  This trip was perfect in every way.”

Next to him I thought about ‘perfect’ and our future — how I yearned to hike and camp as much of Canada as Andy and I could walk, how I wanted to keep breathing in that clean British Columbia air, how I needed to see those protective grandfather trees above me whenever I looked up so this last night, I wanted to speak of dreams.

“Andy?” I whispered back, cuddling up closer to him, after awhile had passed.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“It feels like home here,” I told him.

“I know,” I heard him sigh back.  “I was just thinking that too” and I felt a tear slide down my cheek.

 

Day Five on the water

This was our last day.  It had arrived.

I remember waking and wanting to move slowly in the hopes that I could still time but people were packing around us then breakfast was being served and before we knew it, we were waiting for a boat to gather us and our gear.  The good news: We had a few hours to spare, which meant enjoying one last kayak.

20190815_065237Estelle stayed behind and took these super awesome pictures of not only her adorable smiling face but of us heading off . . .20190815_06544720190815_065547We slipped and slid over the kelp, helping one another into his or her kayak until slowly everyone was waiting in the sea . . .20190815_06592720190815_07024720190815_07044920190815_070504Then we were off on our last search for the elusive orca and humpback whales . . .
DCIM100GOPROGOPR0181.JPGand incredibly — amazingly — we found one.

On the last day, on our last kayak we heard and saw large blows of air from a massive humpback whale.  Paddling faster and faster, we got closer to this dream that all of us had held on to — this dream that lead each of us here — and there before us was the whale . . .GOPR0186GOPR0188
At first, we worried we would miss it because it appeared to be heading away from us but it quickly turned and came straight at our group before blowing again in front of us and disappearing under the water.

Heading back, all of us were filled with awe, energy, and smiles.  Sure, it was only a glimmer of a humpback and sure, we never saw an orca but truthfully, I liked it better this way.

Not truly seeing the whales proved that they are wild and not directed for human entertainment.  It proved that this part of British Columbia is undisturbed and breathtakingly beautiful for that reason.  It proved that animals and humans can exist in a relationship together as long as there is respect.  Therefore, I am grateful — I am grateful knowing there were massive whales around and under us but that they were able to stay hidden and safe and be just as happy as we were above water.

Waiting for our boat, we entertained ourselves by allowing baby crabs to dance across our hands . . .
20190815_095220and learning about ‘wish rocks’ (rocks created with the appearance of a line all the way around) . . .20190815_101621and — finally — seeing exactly how far we paddled.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0208.JPGThe answer: Thirty nautical miles!

Nautical miles are used for navigation and used on the earth’s circumference so they are a bit different (and slightly longer) than standard miles.  Therefore, one nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude, which also equals about 1.2 standard miles.

Looking at the maps, I have to admit, I felt a bit overwhelmed and speechless.  To say Andrew and I had never truly kayaked before and were able to pull this off — well, I’m so insanely proud of us.20190815_095636
Then that was it — Our boat was here and our week, over.  It was time to leave . . .
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On the way back, Mike and Estelle kindly let us travel with them across the ferry where Estelle took us to get the best ice cream while we waited to board the ferry . . . 20190815_170338(0)then they drove us all the way back to Quadra Island where Andy and I were staying for our last Canadian night.  (More to come in another post soon!)

As the vehicle moved around bends in the road, I took pictures of the green swooshing past. Soon, we would be hurdled back into the hustle and bustle of society.  Soon, our lives were about to change again . . .20190815_141610
Since we have returned home, I’ve told people about our trip, of course in my self-deprecating type of way; and I’m continually surprised at their response: “Surely that didn’t happen,” they tell us through laughter.  

Maybe they say this because I nearly killed myself at sea more than once.  

Maybe they say this because they cannot imagine how Andrew can continually extend more patience and kindness towards me.  

Or maybe they say this because they cannot believe both of us made it out of Canada — not only alive but together.  

I like to believe, however, that they say this as a compliment — That the only way they can fathom our magical trip is by believing I simply created the entire story . . . .

For more on our Canada trip, head over to British Columbia’s Most Tranquil Bed and Breakfast!

 

* * * * *

 

Our group
Sheri, Dave, Liza, Jane, Rhys, Sally, Amy, Andrew, me, Crispin
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Believe it or not, Andy took this picture of Guide Mike.  Now as to why Andy chose to sneak a picture of Mike through our binoculars — You’ll have to ask Andy that one.
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Guide Estelle

To our kayaking group, we truly hope our paths cross again.  Thank you for making our trip incredible . . . .

To Mike,
Andy says it perfectly: You are the type of guy that looks like he could build a house with a toothpick and tarp in the middle of a fire.  Essentially, you look like you can survive anywhere and this is a huge compliment because it means the moment we saw you, we knew we were safe.  Andy and I entered with no sea kayaking experience.  To say we were definitely over our heads on this trip is an understatement so thank you for your constant cool.  We were weak when we started but your encouragement and support made us work to become super strong kayakers, and we are still amazed we paddled as far as we did.  That feeling of accomplishment is one I will never be able to properly describe.  I found myself paddling faster to be next to you simply for an opportunity to learn more about the area.  You are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the history there, and I wish I had my notebook with me when we were kayaking (and an ability to kayak and write) so that I could have written down every fact.

To Estelle, our guide,
You have a personality that makes people gravitate to you, which I hope you saw every day but mainly on last when you approached Andy and me on the rocky shore and began talking to us about Canada’s nature.  Before we knew it, more of our group showed up, listening to what you were saying, following you down the shore, and eating whatever you gave — no concern because it was you (and trust me, we at least would not have eaten random forest berries or munched seaweed from anyone else).  Always keep your positivity, passion, and energy — As we talked about while paddling, I wanted to tell you that you made me see so much hope for our world so do not let people or events change you.  You are the goodness we need.  Thank you for telling me your legends over cooking (again and again so that I could write them down) and sharing glimmers into what you were taught as a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest.  Even if it was a passing comment or one of your stories, I walked away feeling as if time passed with a good friend.  I hope one day to improve my ‘Estelle-esque’ paddling.

To Crispin,
Andy and I have spoken of you probably the most, which goes to show we are in awe of you.  You have the most pure and kind heart of anyone either of us has ever met.  We feel you are the type of person that would give the last of anything if it meant helping another, and meeting someone like that is rare.  Your calm, down-to-earth, genuine demeanor is clearly evident in your relationship with Sally, your patience and care with your teenagers, your welcoming spirit towards all of us as strangers — and I hope we have more people like you in this world.  I’ve learned so much from you — things I don’t think you even knew I was taking in — You reclaimed my belief that marriage comes from one’s own definition; you showed me that there are remarkable parents in this world with just as remarkable kids; you challenged me to be the first to help but also be the last to eat.  In the end — not that Jane or Rhsy would ever say this — but on the off-chance a teenager tells you or Sally that you aren’t “cool” adults — Totally disregard this.  You two epitomize cool, truly.

To Sally,
You and Crispin are meant for one another — You, too, are kind and caring, and there is a sense of warmth that surrounds you.  I felt welcomed whenever I stepped near you and saw first-hand how you made an effort to connect with everyone.  You are also a great conversationalist and talk with you is easy so I found myself smiling whenever you joined a conversation.  One of my favorite moments was cutting vegetables with you while we listened to Estelle’s stories when we both stayed back from kayaking after setting up camp.  It felt, in some strange way, as if I were home.

To Jane,
Andy and I both loved sharing laughs with you — though I am certain your laughs were more to jest at Andy and I acting foolish!  I found myself wondering about your classmates often — Would they find it cool you hung out with a group of adults for a week?  Do they see what you do — sea kayaking with whales — as hip and rad?  If on the off-chance someone questions this, know you are one of the coolest teens we have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.  And I’ve met many, many teens.
You did not hesitate in joining a group of adults and taking part in adult conversation — To most teens (and even adults) this would be highly intimidating but you did this seamlessly.  Not only did you join in, but you added a great and different dynamic to all we did.  And PS–I’m still jealous I never got to ride in the kayak with you.  You are a force to be reckoned with.

To Rhsy,
Thank you for talking to me about your interests and thank you for also talking to me about mine.  I can ask a lot of questions and you answered all I threw your way, which is a challenge many adults cannot even manage.  I love your honest nature and found myself giggling with you at many things you said.  I hope you always stay yourself, and if you are ever pressured to be someone different to ‘fit in’ — I tell all of my students this: “Fitting in is ordinary.  Ordinary is boring; long to be different.”  Your kind heart is seen too, and Andy and I noticed how you never hesitated when asked to do something.  I’d love to see your pictures from comic-con conventions.  Honestly, I would so please share.

To Amy,
I’m going to miss your positive outlook on life and I’m going to miss your laugh.  It is not often I’m around someone who is as clumsy as I am, so first, I want to say not only do I understand how you felt but you are kickass for getting up each time to keep going.  It takes a lot of strength (as I know all to well), and every single time you were still in your kayak at the head of the group, you still had a smile on your face, and you still had kind words to say.  I cannot wait to tell you about my first try at yoga when the world opens back up, I cannot wait to learn about more of your adventures, and I also cannot wait to see more pictures of Murphy and you.  You have an amazing soul and I hope the world treats you with the kindness you put out because you absolutely deserve it.

To Dave,
Your kayak skills made us think you should also be a kayak guide — You were controlled and never wandered off course; you made kayaking look easy.  Not only this, but you always helped — from the moment we launched the kayaks to bringing them back in.  What I’ll miss most though is your sense of humor — Andy and I are finding ourselves still laughing over things you said (like when you told Estelle — with the most straight face — it was “hard being a guide” when she asked who would sit on the ‘boombox’ on the way to Bruce’s boat).  You have such a dry sense of humor that both of us found hilarious.

To Sheri,
I hope we are still invited to see you and Dave in Oregon because our travels there in our motorhome are now at the top of our list solely because of you two — and I cannot say this enough.  One of my favorite moments on the water was when we were paddling behind Estelle (trying to secretly be more ‘Estelle-esque’) and you told me about how you and Dave met and about your life.  I admit, I asked Dave to tell me the story of how you met when I happened to be kayaking next to him so to hear your side of the story, honestly gave me butterflies.  I admire you and your husband and your heart for fostering animals.  While I hope you do keep fostering, I also hope you are always foster failures too.  In the end, I’ll miss our conversations and your amazing smile.

To Liza,
As I’ve been writing, I’ve asked Andrew if he wanted to add anything and he was surprised I left out one bit for you: “She’s your spirit animal, isn’t she?” he asked and this is true.  I probably had the most laughs with you.  You (unfortunately for me) showed there is a definite difference in an elementary school teacher and in a high school teacher.  From your team-bonding at encouraging everyone’s hand in to cheer of ‘Humpback’ . . . to your attention-grabbers . . . to your ABC song and dance (which we still want to hear and see in full — well, except for your dangerous ‘K’) . . . to your children’s story with Amy — You embody all about being a great teacher.  I know you mentioned you did not camp often but you adapted easily and never complained.  You unpacked your kayak quickly, set up your tent just as fast, and — what wasn’t talked about but should have been — you were the only one to sleep in a tent that leaked and a paddle with a kayak seat that was damaged.  This wasn’t talked about because you never talked about it, and in a time where complaints are heard more, this goes to show how incredible you are.

To Andrew,
Thank you for being up for adventure with me, always.  I know this was your Bucket List Trip choice . . . and I also know you absorbed a massive amount of cuss words, frustrations, anger, and unhappiness from me on those first days when we were the last two kayakers.  You stayed behind because I was the weak link and you continued to encourage me even when we both knew I looked far from great.  In the beginning, I was working hard to keep up so when you asked what you could do to help and I said — I’m positive this was my quote — “For you to call a damn helicopter to fly me out of here,” I’m so fortunate and humbled by your ability to simply laugh, smile, and support me still.  I would have left me on that first day if roles were reversed.  Thank you, my love.  As I became a stronger kayaker, you were the one I wanted to share my excitement with and you were the one that listened and looked each and every time I exclaimed, “Look at me paddle harder!” and “Look at me paddle faster!” and “Look at me paddle smoother!”  Thanks for those many — many, many — looks.  I cannot wait for our next crazy adventure — You know the one where we continue to pick possibly the most advanced sport without skill or experience but take it head-on together.  I promise you we will find those orcas on kayaks one day the same way you continue to promise me we will find those whale sharks on a scuba dive.  In the end, I want you to know I noticed when you stayed behind with me so I wouldn’t be last, I want you to know I heard the sweet words you said about me and us in your conversations to others when you didn’t think I could hear, and I want you to know I saw the times you looked my way to tell me silently that you love me.  I love you, too — completely and honestly.  I love our crazy, spontaneous, over-ambitious life together.  Here’s to Year Three of adventure — The next will be even more miraculous, eh?

* * * * *

 

Disclaimer One: Due to COVID-19, this trip was in August 2019 before the virus.

Disclaimer Two: In case it was not evident, any negative thought I carried was in no way, shape, or form related to the Canadian company we kayaked with or anyone on this trip.  I cannot encourage you enough to try this adventure and — more importantly — to book with Spirit of the West.  Truly.  They went over and beyond and in the end, if I can do it — You sure as hell can too.

Disclaimer Three: I am a horrible blogger.  Despite trying, my pictures and writings may not be perfect so know this story exists in my memory of a time that seems so far away.  Still, I hope our pictures and words fuel your interests and desires to get outside and seek new challenges.  Thank you for reading, friends.

Author: Soul of a Seeker

We are one American girl and one English bloke who seek an escape in nature. We chase a different life, one not dictated by society. With our pup-kit-cat and rare 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome, we have one soul of a seeker.

2 thoughts

  1. Bezzy.! Such a beautiful story. It has everything, Adventure on the high seas, mystery, love and (almost) wildlife.! 😁 I think if Andrew can survive your early onslaught (you were obviously frustrated) he can survive anything.! Love your writings.! Midad. XX

    1. haha Thank you, midad! Yep, your son is a saint. He undoubtably put up with much from me (along with dealing with his own battles because he had never sea kayaked too) so I agree — He definitely can survive anything! haha

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