by Dan Lewis, Tofino
I don't know. Maybe it's middle age creeping up on me.
The thought of paddling an empty boat all day, to meet up with a mothership
waiting in some secluded cove, salmon on the grill, hot showers, beds
made up… it's starting to appeal. In fact, the mere thought
And yet, what I love most about paddling is the sheer simplicity
of it all. Getting away from our crazy, mixed-up, post-industrial world.
Leaving behind all things that require motors or electricity. Paddling
is a chance to return to the basics of life: food, water, shelter,
warmth, companionship, Nature.
I like feeling empowered, being in control of my technology. Slapping
a bit of duct tape on a cracked hull I can handle—distributor
caps, carburettors and the like just freak me out. And then there's
the fuel. There are few things worse than running out of gas—your
vehicle suddenly becomes a huge, immovable burden. If my fuel runs
low, I can just scarf back a snack bar and power on!
I love camping out with a minimal amount of gear. I usually fly a
tarp just in case of rain, but actually sleep out under the stars in
bag. If it does start to rain, I just get up and hop over to the tarp,
like a sleepwalker in a potato sack race.
This is a great set-up for early morning— some of my best birding
has been done while lying in bed! Nothing beats the experience of waking
up to watch a flock of Greater Yellowlegs eating sand fleas from a
tide pool on the beach, not twenty feet away. Once I perched my sleeping
bag right at the edge of a lake.
As I opened my eyes the next morning, five Common Mergansers swam
right past me. Last summer I slept out on a tiny island, and was woken
by a noisy flock of warblers, whose undisturbed, real-time morning
routine I proceeded to watch.
The thought of grooving to tunes in the evening sounds great, until
I remember that I actually like to get away from mass-produced entertainment
commodities every now and then. My head is still stuffed full of theme
songs from childhood TV shows and advertising jingles. It's good
to go on a media fast now and then, to stop the constant input of information
overload, listen to the sound of wind in the branches, wolves howling,
or whales spouting in the bay.
A galley to cook in seems like a grand idea, until I realise how
much I would miss the simplicity of gathering a small armful of dry
and the creative challenge of balancing the pot such that it doesn't
tip over as the wood burns down, spilling its contents and putting
out the fire. And the feeling of satisfaction as I burn the fire down
to white ash and leave no trace.
Camping by kayak, we're not just tourists while on shore. We
stay long enough to begin to tune in to the community of life around
us, to rediscover our place in the scheme of things. When we find a
beach we like, it's nice to set up a base camp and spend a few
days getting to know the area more intimately. On a long trip, although
each night may be spent on a new beach, the overall feeling for an
area deepens, and the similarities between each beach allow lessons
to be carried from one beach to another. Once you have heard baby crows
on one beach, for example, you will be more likely to notice them on
Once in Haida Gwaii, Bonny and I were weather-bound on a beach for
most of a week. We noticed that each morning around 11 am, a huge black
bear would cruise along the high tide line, checking the debris for
tasty morsels. It would veer off into the woods about 100 feet from
our camp and disappear. Its pattern was so regular that we began to
anticipate the daily opportunity to watch in silence. It was like watching
a nature show on TV, same time every day. We began to call the bear 'Channel
8'—our whispered code to head down to the beach and marvel.
There's something about that daily transition from land to sea,
then back to land again. Like re-experiencing the evolution of mammals,
first in rewind, then in fast forward. Being at home in both realms.
Experiencing the sounds and smells of the sea, the feeling of bobbing
in the waves, then returning to the deep rich smells of the land, the
comforting darkness of the forest. Returning to the Earth, our true
Dan Lewis lives in Clayoquot Sound where he operates Rainforest Kayak
Adventures with Bonny Glambeck. Phone him at 1-877-422-wild, email
at email@example.com or check out his website at www.rainforestkayak.com