In Bob’s September 8 blog, he noted that he would be going to Italy and Florida for a few weeks while I stayed in the Pacific northwest. It was strange to be apart after four months of non-stop togetherness, and sad to interrupt our camping and hiking mojo. In particular, we felt we had really hit our stride with backpacking, enjoying 8 backcountry nights in the month of August and anxious to push ourselves further.
But we were slated for a break, and I was determined to make the most of it. Last summer, I went sea kayaking with our friend Helen off the coast of Maine, and both of us were excited to kayak together again. So, within hours of Bob’s departure, Helen landed in Seattle to join me for a week that included a 4-day kayak trip off northeast Vancouver Island. This is one of my favorite parts of the world—beautiful waterways, countless islands, large and small, and snow-capped mountains in the distance both on the mainland and on Vancouver Island. The waterway that separates the mainland coast of British Columbia from Vancouver Island goes by various names in its 300-mile expanse, but it is also known as the inland passage.
Just getting to the launching point for our trip was an adventure. We drove from Seattle to Canada (with an oyster stop along the way), took a ferry, drove along the east coast of the Island (ate more oysters) and took another short ferry to arrive on beautiful Quadra Island, about halfway up the island. Bob and I and the kids had actually visited Quadra once before. In 2005, we rented a house overlooking the water, did some memorable kayaking, and harvested gigantic oysters on the beach, which we ate until we were groaning and could eat no more. (Ben Kingsley was possibly involved in the oyster scene, but I’ll skip that part.) It was exciting to be on Quadra again and find it’s quiet, rural loveliness was just as I remembered.
From Quadra, Helen and I travelled about three hours up the inland passage with our group and our gear on a small boat to Blackfish Sound. Our kayaking company, Spirit of the West Adventures, has a “glamping” basecamp there on Swanson Island. Glamping (“glamourous camping”) can be defined in various ways. In this case, the camp had tent cabins with views of the water. We slept in very comfortable beds with down comforters and hot water bottles. The camp had an outdoor kitchen, dining room, living room, privies, sinks, and a shower. We were served three delicious meals a day (though sadly, not a single oyster). Perhaps best of all, there was a wood-fired hot tub on the rocks, right on the edge of the water, which was really glorious, beer in hand, sun setting over the island mountains, at the end of a long kayaking day.
We saw many humpback whales from our camp and from our kayaks (one popped up right behind our cluster of boats!) You know where to look for humpbacks because you hear them blow before they breach; and in the mornings, while lying in that comfy bed, you could hear them out there blowing—aah…
One afternoon, we all took a boat trip one afternoon to an area frequented by Orca whales (aptly nicknamed “sea pandas”). We saw so many Orcas, we lost count; at one point, there were Orcas in every direction. Zipping along in schools of four or five, they would suddenly leap up or just stick their heads up out of the water. Brown, furry stellar sea lions occupied entire rocky islands groaning and barking, or just passed out lazily on the rocks—entertaining, but frankly, not as exciting and charismatic as Orcas. Sorry guys.
This was a really great trip! British Columbia should be on every sea kayaker’s bucket list. I still have not made it to the west coast of Vancouver Island so I hope to return. Thanks Helen for doing all the research to find the perfect trip for us! It was great fun and I look forward to our next adventure!
After dropping Helen off at the airport, I spent a lovely evening with my friend Aditi and her partner Paul in Bothell, Washington, and learned about Aditi’s yoga practice and the co-housing community where Aditi has lived for many years—very appealing! I then headed off for the San Juan Islands, an archipelago off the northwest corner off Washington, not far from the Canadian border. There I stayed for a week in a rustic cabin on Lopez Island in the backyard of Elf and Eric, who are close lifelong friends of our friends Stevik and Robert. I biked and kayaked and hiked on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan islands. I feasted on fresh berries every day! And I learned to shuck my own oysters! All delicious, and Elf and Eric’s lifestyle was beautiful and inspiring.
For my final few days before Bob’s return, I was fortunate to be able to visit with additional friends on Washington’s Olympic peninsula–Kathy and Dean in Port Townsend (stopping for oysters along the way), and Colleen and Dan in Port Angeles. We shared lots of laughs, good food, and music—thank you!! I did some solo camping in the high peaks section of Olympic National Park, just to make sure I still had my mojo, and then headed back to Seattle to meet up with Bob.
Bob and I stayed for the weekend with our friends Camilo and Magdalena on Mercer Island near Seattle and had a wonderful time reconnecting with them. Camilo and Magdalena are terrific hosts and tour guides, and it was a special treat to go with them to Seattle’s Jazz Alley to hear bassist Victor Wooten. We also shared laughs and memories with Peace Corps buddy Kimball and his wife Jackie, and with Caroline, a Seattle native who worked with Bob and Camilo at the Inter-American Development Bank.
So…I guess the wrap-up is that September turned out to be a busy and wonderful month for me, thanks to good friends (and oysters). But I missed Bob very much and am glad he’s back now and that we’re back in our camping and national park routine. Everything is more fun when we do it together—really. How amazing is that?
Next installment: Bob and Lorrie get their mojo back, and fast. Lorrie shows off her oyster-shucking skills—twice, and decides that her oyster needs have been fully satisfied, and then some. Also: a big blue lake, the wild Pacific coast, very tall trees, many ferns, the return of the Truck Mice, and one very cold morning.
I tried to post pictures here (unsuccessfully), so check instagram instead (@boblorrie) or the picture gallery on our website.