Good Omen

Just before I launched my kayak, I checked my waterproof digital camera and couldn’t get it to power up. Strange and annoying; this is the camera that replaced the one I dropped overboard last time I was Kyuquot Sound; I lost all photos from that trip.

Thankfully this time around I had my phone with a good camera as an option so I put it in a dry bag behind my seat, just in case.

After only 5 minutes on the water, I see some movement on the far bank; something large and black on the water’s edge. I paddle closer, and sure enough, it’s a black bear digging around in the tidal zone. Good sized, jet black with a light brown face; He doesn’t see me as he searches for food on the rocky shore.

I fumble for the phone as I drift towards him and snap a few pictures before he turns, sees me and freezes. He is staring me down, totally motionless; Probably doesn’t see too many kayakers.

A crow call startles me, nearly causing me to drop the phone in the water, just like on my first trip here! I realize I’ve drifted not far from shore, about 50 feet from the bear- too close, so I quickly back-paddle as the bear continues to stare me down, transfixed.

On the long drive up to the launch site the previous day, I was just thinking that I’ve not seen a bear in the wilderness for a long time. I’ve driven by a few but that’s very different; It’s powerful, primal, seeing a bear when hiking or kayaking in the backcountry; in his territory, on his terms. Not in a car doing 50.

As I paddled on, I thought, whilst some people would think the complete opposite, seeing a bear in the first few minutes was a good omen; A sign of the adventure to come.

Categories: Americas, Kyuquot sound kayak trip 2019, Kyuquot Sounds 2019 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Kyuquot Sound payback.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been out to Kyuquot Sound on the NW coast of Vancouver Island, BC. I had a few minor issues on that first trip; actually to be more accurate, Kyuquot kicked my butt. I came stumbling out of the woods reeling and stunned the first time around; The PTSD caused me to paddle calmer waters for the next few years.

Even so, I was touched by the remote, brutal coastal wilderness I had just survived and I knew I would be back; I felt I had some unfinished business out there. I was not going to be a one and done. This time around I’m doubling down and going further… further out into the wilderness, further off the grid and for longer too: 8 days.


What I also remembered from last time, is that it takes forever to get to Kyuquot. After several long highways, a border crossing and a two hour ferry, I finally turned onto the road that leads to the launch. It was 8 pm, I had left Seattle 12 hours earlier and it was still 100 kilometers left to go on a primitive logging road through the woods. I bounced and slid my way along at twilight hoping not to get lost. I pulled into camp just after 10pm and set up camp on the banks of Kyuquot Sound.


Sunrise; Broke camp, loaded up the kayak and was on the water just after 10am. It was cloudy with a light drizzle but calm winds and seas. Good, almost perfect conditions, as I had an ambitious plan to paddle 14 miles to an island campsite just off the coast. It was deja vu; the exact same conditions when I launched 8 years ago. As I pushed off the beach I was excited, yet nervously curious about the upcoming adventure and totally ready to conquer Kyuquot Sound.


Categories: Kyuquot sound kayak trip 2019 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Peanut hell, SE Asia. Peanut trilogy part 3



Having a severe nut allergy, I thought there was no way I was going to survive our five week trip to SE Asia. Travelling through countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka that all incorporate lots of nuts in their cuisine, and with us not speaking the local languages, I thought I was going to be in trouble. I also couldn’t imagine going to the hospital in any of these countries in allergy-induced anaphylactic shock and surviving. I thought about bringing a case of Epi-pens. Maybe even wearing a bandolier style belt of them across my chest à la Rambo.

Before we left on our trip, Helen created a paper explaining my allergy in every country’s language we were visiting, as well as a couple of icons, the idea being that we could then show it as we were ordering food, as a preventative measure.

Multilingual No Nuts sheet

She used google for the translations, so we were both a little skeptical on the outcome. We showed it to local guides on the first day in both Vietnam and China. Both read it and shook their heads; it made no sense to them at all. But both of them were kind enough to re-write it. Even then, most people were still massively confused when we handed them the anti-nut sheet, but with a little bit of added pantomime, most got the general gist, we think.

” Chicken Leg” chips ?

Still, eating on the trip was always a little stressful. Especially trying the delicious street food, which was so, so good but had an increased chance for nut ingestion (not to mention dysentery!)

Sri Lanka

Being scared of your food is a strange concept for people without allergies, I’m sure. But if food could kill you, you’d be nervous too. I do have a technique that works (most of the time). I take a initial small bite and wait a few minutes. Usually I get an electric tingling sensationin my mouth if I ingest some form of nut, but mostly I haven’t eaten enough to cause a major reaction. It is really difficult waiting to see if I have a reaction or not, especially when you’re starving and the food is good. Which was usually the case on this trip.



Dong Ba market, Hue
Shrimp pastry

I ate some strange things in some strange places. Gelatinous shrimp pastry in Dong Ba market in Hue. Mystery dumplings in Beijing. The amazing curry and fresh fruits breakfast of Sri Lanka. And through it all, not even a hint of an allergic reaction.

No nuts eaten.

No Epi-Pen jabbed into my thigh.

No trips to a third world hospital.

Beijing mystery dumpling 
Categories: SE Asia - March 2016 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A is for anaphylaxis and Austin. Peanut trilogy – part 2


We were in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference and to visit my cousin Amy. We grabbed a quick breakfast, and I had a bite of Helen’s veggie BBQ sandwich. Big mistake. Before too long there was a slight tingle in my mouth; almost an electrical sensation. That could only mean one thing, symptom #1. I had just ingested some form of nut. Initially it wasn’t as strong as some reactions, so I decided to wait and see what happened and didn’t mention it to Helen. But it didn’t take her long to figure it out though; she knows me well. I confessed and she was instantly concerned, rapidly asking questions about my condition.

It was a slow creeper reaction, not the kick-in-the-face type I have experienced before, but my condition was worsening. Round 2 of symptoms were hitting hard; throat irritated, sneezing, nose running. We were still trying to decide the best course of action, so Helen ran into a busy restaurant to get me a glass of water. When the hostess said “it will be a minute, I have to go find a plastic cup”, I could hear her shouting, “My husband is going anaphylactic shock. Just give me some #*+#ing water.”

While I waited, the 3rd set of symptoms showed up: Massive hives, the size of silver dollars started forming on the top of my head. Obviously, this was a bad sign. I was crying, sweating, salivating uncontrollably; my body was in now full revolt. Quickly, the decision was made to use the Epi-pen and call my cousin for a ride to hospital, knowing that if things got worse, we would have to call a ambulance. As I got ready to administer the adrenaline shot, Helen made a panicky call to Amy.

The correct way to administer an Epi-pen, is with arm outstretched at shoulder height, you then drop your arm in a pendulum motion and drive the syringe deep into your upper thigh. It has to be hard enough to go through clothing and into the muscle. Committing to do this is not easy and I had a few false starts. I could start to feel the hives move down the back of my head to my shoulders. Time to go! I finally mustered the nerve, lifted my arm, then dropped it, driving the syringe into my quad. Painful? Yes! The worst part is you have to leave it in for 30 seconds; Counting it off felt like a eternity. The first thing you instinctively want to do is pull it out and scream and fall down in a fetal position. I felt a little queasy as I counted it out, pulled it out and then almost fainted at the sight of the long needle. I still get the chills when I think about it.


Amy luckily arrived within minutes and dropped us off at the ER as distressing symptoms #5 began. Hives moving south down my torso. One good thing; the hives never developed on my face. One bad thing; my eyes were starting to swell shut. Another good thing about allergy induced anaphylactic shock, there is never a wait at the ER. All you have to say is two words. Peanut allergy.

The experienced nurse immediately began to hook me up to an I.V. It’s always been hard for nurses to get needles in my vein, for some reason. She is having a hard time, she sticks the needle in and it starts bleeding, bleeding a lot. No luck, she pulls it out. I’ve gotten queasy in my old age and as she tries a second time, I tell her calmly. “Heads up- I’m going to be sick in about 30 seconds.” She gets it under control just in time. I stand up, walk over to the sink and vomit.

I lay back on the hospital bed, not feeling particularly great, but the allergic reaction is now on the decline and my body is calming down. Thankfully this was still a mild reaction and the worst of the symptoms didn’t come. The dreaded #6 (throat swells shut and constricted lungs take in less oxygen) and the catastrophic #7 (breathing labored, and as less oxygen reaches your brain; you fog out as you slip unconscious.) I won’t get into the final symptom.

The nurse returns with what looked like a tube of caulking. She has a strange look on her face, with a hint of a smirk. As she mixes the contents of the tubes with water into large styrofoam cups she explains. “This is charcoal, it absorbs the nut toxins in your stomach. We use it for drug overdoses too. It not the best tasting and you have to drink them both.” And with that she hands me two large cups filled with the dark mixture. “You’re doing good, once you finish these you should be able to leave.”
Great. Easy. I want out of this hospital.

Charcoal shake, yum

After I had a sip, I had a different thought; this is not going to be easy. It was thick, gritty and tasted like burnt charcoal. It turned my teeth and lips black. But I drank them as fast as I could. My tummy was on the spin cycle when the nurse came back in. “How was that? Yummy? How do you feel?”

Charcoal teeth

My luck, I get a wise-ass nurse. “I feel fine,” I lied. She left and I began to sweat, my stomach doing somersaults; I ran to the toilet and barfed up the charcoal. It tasted even worse on the way up. I sat back on the bed and felt a little better. The nurse checked in again, “you ok?” There was no way I was telling her the truth; I was not going to drink any more charcoal milkshake. I was discharged.

Like after most allergic reactions, I was exhausted afterwards. It felt like I ran a marathon, my whole body was spent, so I went back to the hotel for a nap while Helen and Amy went for lunch. When I woke up, I felt a lot better, and was starving. So we went out for a bite in one of the bars which were holding industry parties for the SXSW music bigwigs. When the bartender noticed the hospital bracelet I had forgotten to cut off, he asked me “So is that for an exclusive party?” I answered wryly, “you could say that.”

Categories: Austin, TX - March 2008 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Peanut Trilogy – Santa Fe

I have had a nut allergy since a very young age. In my teens and twenties it became less severe, but over the past few years it has come back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, I have had a few of these episodes while traveling.

Part 1. Santa Fe, NM.

It was a Sunday morning and we were wandering the Native American art fair in the Santa Fe Plaza.

Santa Fe

I needed coffee more than art, so we made plans to meet at a small cafe after Helen had finished browsing. I picked us up some coffee and pastries and found a seat.

Helen joined me a few minutes later and I handed her a plain croissant. She was not pleased. “With all those options, you got me this? Yours looks better, What is it?” “Not really sure, it tastes good, it has something called marzipan in it.”

H practically shouted “Marzipan! But marzipan has almonds in it!”

I gave her a blank look, but stopped chewing; not knowing what almonds taste like, I had no idea. H looked concerned, but with more than a hint of annoyance; “Go to the bathroom NOW and make yourself be sick.”
I felt fine, but it had to be done. Otherwise it was a possibility of anaphylactic shock, Epipen stick in my thigh and a mandatory trip to the hospital.

I hustled to the only bathroom and leaned over the toilet in the small room. I stuffed my hand in my mouth as far as I could, trying to trigger my gag reflex. I retched and coughed and almost fell over; but nothing, nothing came up. I took a few deep breaths, got on my knees over the bowl and repeated the the procedure; same outcome. On the fourth attempt, I spat up a minuscule bit of something that resembled food. Obviously not the purge I was looking for and I certainly didn’t get all the poison out. But I was done, staggered by this effort. I realized that, unless you’ve drunk a case of beer, it’s really hard to make yourself sick.

I had been in the bathroom for at least five minutes. I slowly opened the door and a mother and her young son were waiting for the toilet. I lurched out, my face bright red, sweating, eyes watering. I looked and felt like Keith Richards after a drug induced bender. The mother and son waiting for the restroom looked at me wide-eyed. As I stumbled out the door she pushed her son behind her to shield him from me.

Helen greeted me with a worried look. “Did it work?” “Yeah.” Which was true; it worked, just not that well. One positive; out of all kinds of nuts, I’m apparently the least allergic to almonds. I had my fingers crossed for the next hour that the tell-tale signs of an allergic reaction didn’t come on.

The rest of the day I had some strange noises and aches coming from my belly, but thankfully, no anaphylactic shock, no Epipen, and no trip to the hospital.


Categories: Americas, Santa Fe, NM - December 2010 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Lucky hats

After 10 years of service and protection during my kayak adventures, I’ve had to finally retire my Lucky White Trash Kayak Hat. LWTKH has guided me on over 25 multi-day kayak adventures on the seas of the NorthWest. Like a forcefield it has shielded me from all hazards; real, imagined and completely unknown. With its help I’ve survived massive swells in Kyuquot Sound, navigated boiling reefs and kept the wolves away at night on the western shores; LWTKH has always had my back.


I truly believed in its supernatural guardian angel-like powers. Maybe an ancient alien race of beings left it behind? Or perhaps it was a leprechaun’s hat? I felt it could manipulate my actions and decisions unbeknownst to me and steer me clear of danger I didn’t even know existed. For example, I would get a feeling that maybe it was time to get off the water and find camp, for no real reason. Then upon landing, a vicious squall would immediately kick up.

(I do have a thing for lucky objects, or more like it, objects I deem as lucky. When we travel I collect lucky charms from different cultures and religions. I have a few or them; perhaps maybe more than a few.)

Hand of Fatima, Morocco

I held onto LWTKH for as long as possible. It was in bad shape, discolored, stained, material falling off, with a funky smell that wouldn’t go away. Its days were clearly numbered.

Grand Canyon

Its last trip was 9 days rafting through the Grand Canyon, which I thought would be a fitting and epic trip to retire it on. I also thought it might be helpful to have my lucky hat on the mighty Colorado; It took a beating and was about to self-destruct but it did keep me safe.

The search for a replacement took some time. It couldn’t be just any hat, it had to have an aura, a lucky glow; I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

Finally, while walking through my neighborhood Goodwill, I could see it from far across the store. A trucker hat with a blue fish on it. Bright, ugly and hipster; it definitely had a glow. I figured this hat was like a beacon; I could be seen for miles away on the water. Plus it was only $4. The new hat was christened: LUHKH; Lucky Ugly Hipster Kayak Hat.

Changing of the guard

Only time will tell if LUHKH is actually lucky. The first trip will be somewhat nerve-wracking, but I have hope in its powers to guide me through perils and keep me safe; warn me of rogue waves, forecast the weather, and teleport me home if things get really bad. Now that would be some hat.

First trip with LUHKH. Successful

Categories: Americas, Deer Group, B.C. - June 2007, Grand Canyon, AZ - July 2017, Sea kayaking | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bomb Cyclone


You always know it’s going to be a bad storm when they name it. Usually, it’s something cute like Amy or Cindy. I knew we were screwed when the storm rolling up the east coast was called The Bomb Cyclone. I had no idea what that was but it couldn’t be good.

Calm before the storm.
Sunset Ptown

We first heard of it when we were in Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod. It was going to hit in two days: the day that we were to fly back to Seattle from Boston. It didn’t take us long to realize that this was the real deal and we quickly changed our flight to the day after the storm.

We were spending the night before the storm in Providence, RI seeing old friends. We could have driven back to Boston early, which would have been the sensible option, but we had been looking forward to this visit.

We rolled into Providence on a beautiful, crisp, sunny day with no hint of the approaching doom. We had a lovely, late night out on the town with our friends Rich and Sheryl, and still no hint of snow in the air. I woke up at 6am and looked out the window. It had only just started snowing, “H, if we go now it might be ok”. She rolled over in bed with a firm “no”. Fine by me! When I got up at 8am, it was snowing sideways with a few inches already on the ground; good thing we stayed put.



By mid-morning, the snow was piled higher, the streets were abandoned and everything was closed and we were getting hungry. We figured the big hotel restaurants might be open. I gave The Biltmore a call and they were open so we bundled up and headed out into the nor’easter. Stomping through snow drifts and shielding our face from the driving ice, we managed to make it the 4 blocks! We peeled off layers of clothing and ordered Bloody Marys from our genial server, Josh.

Bloody Mary’s inside. Plows outside

I think there is something about massive storms that make people drink heavily and this was a big one, so we would have to pace ourselves.

It wasn’t too long before our friend Rich called with a crazy plan: #abadideaforgoodfriends. “The local bar in my neighborhood is open. I’m driving down to pick you up”. It seemed unnecessarily crazy, but we were game if he was!

The valet was shocked when he pulled up and we hopped in. He deftly maneuvered through the streets, busting through snow drifts, running red lights. It didn’t matter, no one else was on the roads.


At his local, the bartender was obviously not as excited as we were to be there. We spent the afternoon drinking and talking of travels and the old days when Rich and Helen ran wild in Seattle. By late afternoon the grumpy bartender had had enough, closed down and kicked us out. The wind was howling and it was still dumping snow.

Everything else was closed so we stopped at Rich’s house for a quick one. He pulled out some old photos of the past that he and H cackled over. He insisted on driving us back, it was now or never as there was over a foot of snow on his street and it was still piling up. We had a little trouble extracting ourselves from the driveway and got stuck. I furiously shoveled around the car as we pushed, and luckily a plow came by and we were free. On the way back, we returned the karma; we were good samaritans and helped a solo female driver whose’ car was hopelessly stuck. With some heavy pushing she was back on the snow covered streets.


As we got back to The Biltmore. Our favorite waiter Josh from earlier in the day greeted us with ‘you want your usual round?!’ he was surprised we were still going strong!

After dinner we walked back to our hotel as the snow was finally subsiding at 10pm.

Bomb Cyclone you ain’t that bad, you couldn’t keep us down.


Categories: Americas, Providence, RI - January 2018 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Can’t win them all

For the second year in a row our beloved Sounders have made the major league soccer finals in against Toronto football club. We went to Toronto last year and the Sounder were lucky to pull off a victory. We have been season ticket holders since 2001 and knew championship games are rare and it may never happen again, we were wrong.

As the Sounders stormed through the playoffs this season we still weren’t planning to go if they made it to the finals this time. After all we went last year. Plus flights, game tickets would be difficult to get and it hard to top the experience of last year. But in the stands in Seattle as the minutes ticked down on the final playoff game, and it became clear that it was going to be a Sounder’s victory, slowly our mindsets started to shift. H started to muse, “we might be able to get flights on air miles and maybe I can get Monday off.” Even so, we had plans that coming weekend and it would still not be easy to get tickets, so we were still leaning against it.

Sounders win. Next stop Championship game in Toronto

The game ended and indeed our Sounders were going to the championship game again! As we cheered, celebrated and jumped around, our good friend with connections to the Sounders came to find us. “I can get you tickets for Toronto!”

We got the red-eye out of Seattle on Friday to Dallas then to Toronto. Not the most direct route but the only option. We landed at Toronto at noon. Train to hotel, check-in, shower, 1:30. Quick lunch and we met our friends by 2:30 for some pre-game ‘Loose Moose’ beers and off for the 4:00pm kickoff!


The Sounders were in trouble from the beginning. Toronto was laying siege on our goal and our keeper had to basically do somersaults to keep the ball from going in the net. We were lucky it was still 0-0 at half time.

Things didn’t change in the second half and a relentless Toronto scored in the 66th minute. Sounders struggled to get the equalizer, but to no avail. Toronto scored again in extra time and when the final whistle blew the local fans went wild. The better team had won on this night. A shame but I don’t get over-emotional with these things, it is only a game after all.


We spent a wonderful few days touring around Toronto seeing the sites and getting some rest. We actually stumbled across the Championship parade through the streets of Toronto with the team riding high on massive trucks. There were some very happy Canucks lining the route, I was glad for them, it was their time. Plus the people of Toronto and the fans of their team were great to us again.


We said that this is the last MLS championship game we will travel to. But there is always next year and so never say never.

Categories: Toronto, ON - December 2017 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The River

Beauty, power
Churning, flowing, imposing
Creator of Grand Canyon.


I was mesmerized by the power and beauty of The Colorado River when I first saw it. The undulating, dancing water, deep in the Canyon it had carved, was hypnotizing. We spent nine days on it and there was no one section that looked the same. The river was always there, the one constant of the trip.

It was our means of locomotion; We floated on it for 142 miles, bouncing down rapids, drifting through tranquil sections; the walls of the canyon always towering over us.

River edge at dawn.

The Colorado was omnipresent; You could always hear it at camp; it was the first things you saw in the morning coming out of the tent; It was cool to the touch. It was always only a short walk from wherever you were in the canyon.

It was our coolant; By 9am it when it was already well over 100 degrees, The Colorado was 50 degrees and we would dump buckets of it over our heads. Before hiking we would fully immerse ourselves in it.

We drank it, we cooked with it; Filtered and purified, we consumed a lot of the Colorado in the crazy desert heat.


We peed in it; It was required we all peed in the river to avoid stinking up the small and limited camping areas. We peed in paintcups overnight in the tent and then emptied them in the river in the morning. We peed off the raft during long days on the river. This was no trip for the shy. By day two, we were peeing within full view of everyone, without a second thought. It was easy for the men to pee off the raft in motion. I won’t go into detail on how the women hung off the raft to pee. Whalen asked during one such complicated maneuver, “Did you imagine you’d have to be peeing off the boat on this trip?” Katie promptly replied “Yes, but I didn’t think I’d be talking to people while doing it!”


The river would look different with every bend; Changed color as the sun traversed the sky. On the last day we woke up at first light to discover the overnight storm had flushed out the tributaries and turned the river a deep, dark brown, like flowing coffee.

For nine days the Colorado was our life blood.

“The river flows not past, but through us, thrilling us, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies.” – John Muir


Categories: Grand Canyon, AZ - July 2017 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Swimming the Grand Canyon

Swimming the Grand Canyon

When Whalen said nonchalantly, “coming up next is one of the rapids you can swim,” I thought, “you can choose to swim in the rapids?” That never even crossed my mind before; I had been doing everything I could to stay in the raft and not swim. Before I could decide if it was sane, Helen responded “I’m in!” So in solidarity, I followed with my own ‘In!” And eventually everyone in the boat volunteered – We were basically all abandoning ship on Whalen!


Luckily, he didn’t take it personally and mentioned it was a good idea early in the trip to voluntarily learn to swim a rapid, a ‘training swim’, just in case you involuntarily got ejected from the boat later in the trip. He gave us some tips on how to breathe in the whitewater; which didn’t totally make sense to me.

Too late! The whole boat jumped in and floated swiftly downriver; a bunch of heads bobbing like corks as we drifted steadily towards the rapid. You don’t really swim, it’s more about treading water and keeping your head high and facing downstream.

I gained speed and hit the first wave head-on, and went straight through the middle of it. I was stunned, gasping for air, flailing my arms. This was totally full-on – I asked myself… Is this supposed to be fun?!

Then I remembered the advice The River Buddha had given us and quickly gulped a big breath before I hit the next wave. This worked much better as I started to get into the rhythm of the water. I tumbled through the rest of the rapid with a big grin on my face; Wait! This IS fun!


Before I knew it, I was at the bottom and was hauled unceremoniously onto a different raft. There were people scattered all over the river, and we worked together to pull some other crew mates on board.

I finally spotted Helen. She had been swept over near the rocks, close to another raft who hadn’t seen her; she was having a harder time. She adeptly kicked off the rock wall bank and latched onto the back of the raft before it pinned her. She clinged on for a ride until they were able to get her in. She had apparently lost a contact lens and she is completely blind without them; so thankfully she was only half-blind!

Now we were still missing one from our raft. We maneuvered across the river and plucked our final crew-member who was trapped in an eddy upstream and finally we were all back on board together, soaked yet exhilarated.

Back on the boat

Whalen mentioned there would be more chances to swim other rapids later in the trip; I’d have to think on that. It didn’t take too long. Despite the fact I had just drunk a gallon of the Colorado River; Obviously, I was in.


Categories: Grand Canyon, AZ - July 2017 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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