Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Friday, April 8, 2022
Having spent the majority of my life at REI I have been surrounded and inspired by young-at-heart, active people who have a taste for living life to the fullest and well-practiced risk management skills. Not a sedentary group of folks and our activities of choice have often been viewed as fringe sports or sports participated in to the fringes of sanity. For us the “Three Types of Fun” are nothing new and probably learned as adventurous children. For those who have never heard of this system of rating fun I’ve listed some things below that can potentially define a “Type” as relates to my reality. It goes something like this:
- Type I Fun – Blue skies, isolated puffy Cu’s, winds 5-10 KT’s or whatever it takes to keep you cool, feeling strong, skills are right-on, friendly surf-free beaches, currents are favorable, campsites are plentiful with highbacked beaches and tent-sized clearings, no bear sign, whoever might have been there before left no beach architecture or other sign of their passing, your camping gear is all dry and only gets damp from the evening dew. These are the sorts of things that you enjoy as they are happening and would gladly repeat.
- Type II Fun – Tired but happy, weather is within reason, rain might be involved but you are dressed for it, small craft warnings might be issued so you have to pay attention and active paddling is required, beach surf is spilling and not dumping, camping above the next expected high tide can be managed, currents are mixed but manageable, there is bear sign but more recent wolf sign, thoughtless beach architecture left as monuments to the previous paddler’s passing can be easily taken down and scattered, camping gear may be damp but still functions as required, tent and contents stay dry if it rains. These are the sorts of things that may not be enjoyable as they are happening and may take you from your comfort zone but add to the overall fun and though they cause some angst to think of doing them again you are willing to repeat the experience.
- Type III Fun – Worked to near exhaustion, feeling ill, hard rain driven by near gale to gale force winds and associated sea states, difficult conditions requiring regular bracing to stay upright, surf is high or dumping, adverse currents, campsites are scarce, hard to find with no tent-sized clearings or available places to hang a hammock, obscene beach architecture so massive and involved that there is no way to remove it, previous visitors left obvious poop and toilet paper, all gear is soaked and it dumps rain throughout the night. These are the sorts of things that are not fun at all as they are happening, maybe dangerous, you wouldn’t wish them on anyone, creates an overall miserable experience and you never, ever want to repeat them.
We were nine days and 130+ NM into an outer coast jaunt from Bella Bella to Prince Rupert. It was day 2 of 4 days that we would spend on Banks Island, the coast of which is festooned with all sorts of confidence-inspiring place names. Calamity Bay, Terror Point, Grief Point, Foul Bay, Junk Ledge and Wreck Islands to name a few. As we ground against the current and quartering wind I pondered how all of those features ended up being named after bad experiences. Little did I know that I would soon be adding to the Banks Island Collection of Nightmare Names.
We were into what has probably been my least favorite day of kayaking ever and it was followed by what was certainly my least favorite kayaking night, period. The paddle up island was just a raggedy, grey wet slog. Low grey clouds, heavy grey rain, endless grey water and a battering grey gale. A very tough day paddling in rain and moderate to strong west winds with associated sea state. Awkward wind direction, adverse currents, bent and reflected waves. Staying upright took concentration. Staying warm was more difficult. No place to land, let alone camp.
About 1.5 NM south of Kelp Point we entered a narrow tapering cove to get out of the conditions and found a beach-of-sorts that was choked with large drift logs. While it would be inundated by the evening’s high tide it was out of the wind and we had been in our boats for five hours so we landed to see if camping was possible. Everywhere, rivulets carved streams in the sand beneath the confusion of large logs and anyplace we stepped immediately filled with water that didn’t soak in but pooled in our footprints. The steeply ascending forest that backed the beach was impenetrable.
There was one tiny place at the base of the rock-lined forest where Dave’s two-person tent could be crammed in to accommodate one person. Then, we found a small sloping spot for me to jam in up against the rocks that bordered the beach. It took a lot of clearing and laying of sticks and still wasn’t nearly large enough for my tent but it looked like someplace I could maybe seek shelter from the rain. Greg was screwed as there was no room inside our tents and I had taken the last possible spot. He vowed to sit, watch the tide and move below the logs after the tide retreated. He placed all sorts of small flotsam in front of the logs that would make noise if they moved and woke him up.
I stripped out of my dry suit inside the tent and noted that the floor was already soaked as water moved beneath it. I had to be careful about letting anything touch the floor as it would immediately be wet and I was already cold. My sleeping bag was damp and didn’t provide the insulation I needed so I kept my neoprene helmet liner on, changed into my last clean and dry long underwear, put on my last dry socks, wrapped my jacket around my feet, zipped up my bag and attempted to stay on top of my air mattress which provided a tiny island of sorts. If I could keep everything dry by staying on top of the mattress, I had a chance to warm up and get some rest. That was a fool’s mission, though, as the “ground” sloped significantly towards the water so I continually migrated down the mattress and had to wriggle back up. The wetness on the tent floor increased and by the light of my headlamp I could see water pooling beneath it while air bubbles migrated upwards. Just as I would start to doze off, I would feel the end of the tent with my feet and do the uphill wriggle again. At least my feet and legs were warming up.
About this time, I was figuring that there wasn’t much else that could go wrong when between wriggles I received an unwanted visit from the Gastro-Intestinal Fairy. “Wait-what?!” I had been bothered by odd rumblings for a few days but had been able to keep things in check. Now the GI Fairy was calling checkmate and it was time to get out of the tent in a hurry. Like about 5 minutes ago but I was zipped tightly into my bag with my legs zipped tightly into the sleeves of my jacket.
No time for a zipper to get stuck but in my haste, I jammed it up good.
Doing the uphill wriggle to exit my bag while struggling to accomplish a favorable outcome I quickly abandoned any attempts of keeping things dry.
I had to get the damn insulated jacket off of my legs.
Next came unzipping the tent but in my panicked attempt I grabbed the upper zipper instead of the lower.
Time was up and I had to be outside. I didn’t have time to zip it back up and grab the lower zipper so I negotiated the partially open tent door with as much care as was possible, which under the circumstances was to say none at all. At the point of exploding I threw the vestibule door up over my head and rapidly crawled out into the driving rain in my last clean and dry long johns and socks, the very same ones that I had worked so hard to keep dry. On my hands and knees I aimed away from the tent and paid homage to the GI Fairy.
I didn’t sleep that night as I was soaked, cold, fixated on the water in my tent, the migrating bubbles, worried about another visit by the G.I.F. and wondering whether it was worth trying to stay on my “air mattress island” or just roll over and die of hypothermia. Death would have brought relief but after much consideration I chose to live.
So, on a 238 NM, 15 day trip that was one of the best experiences of my life there wasn’t a ton of Type I fun to be had. Lots of Type II experiences and one totally Type III day and night. Would I do it again? Damn right I would. In a heartbeat. The unnamed beach on the Nightmare outer coast of Banks has been appropriately named “Crap Camp” and I’ve replaced my soiled long johns so I’m good to go.
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Sunday, January 23, 2022
During my solo camp-sitting stint, ‘Kayak Bill’ dropped by for a visit. I had been told a little bit about Bill – he tended to keep to himself, lived largely off the land and travelled everywhere in his kayak. My boss seemed to know Bill to some extent, and in hindsight I wonder if he had arranged for Bill to drop by and check on me and make sure the ‘new kid’ wasn’t having any difficulties while alone at camp. Whatever his motivation, Bill paddled into my camp one morning and introduced himself.
Friday, October 15, 2021
At one point or another every paddler who travels the BC coastal waters hears about Kayak Bill Davidson. For me it came on August 4, 2005 in the Shearwater bar at the culmination of my first coastal kayaking trip with Dave Resler, Keith Blumhagen and Larry Longrie. Having run out of food we had cut our trip short and paddled in from Quinoot Point. We were feasting on pizza and beer when a dark haired, sunburnt man walked up to our table and sat down. He smiled and introduced himself as Keith Webb. We poured him a beer.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Meyers Passage Camp to Milne Island Camp – 7.8 NM
Clouds in the morning clearing by afternoon. Winds SW at 10 kt