Danger paddle

In planning my kayak trip through Clayoquot Sound, there was a stretch I was fretting about. My route included a seven mile stretch of rugged coast that would take three hours of paddling, exposed to the Pacific swell and westerly winds. It was going to be challenging and full of hazards; I nick-named it ‘danger paddle’.

I became obsessed; studying nautical charts for hours, but it didn’t help; it just made me more nervous. I had the chart laid out on the floor. I would hover over it on my hands and knees, drops of sweat formed on my brow as I studied it during the summer heat. There were shoals, submerged rocks, exposed points and lots of shallows. That spelled trouble – boomers: unpredictable waves that rise out of the shallows and are catastrophic if one hits you. It was going to be like paddling through a minefield.

The cons were endless, with most scenarios ending in my capsizing and huge waves mashing me into the rocks.

There was only two pros :

1 If I didn’t do danger paddle, I had a 20 mile detour; A full day and half worth of paddling. That would put a big kink in my schedule.

2 It would be intense, exhilarating, scary. I wanted to do it bad!

The bottom line; I was only attempting it if everything was perfect; both weather forecast and sea conditions. But the only way to know if everything was perfect was to check it out in person.

Helen isn’t a big fan of my solo kayak trips. She was definitely was not happy about this one; Ten days and out of cell phone reception the whole time. For safety reasons, we went through my trip itinerary before I left, like we always do. We mapped out my route on the nautical charts and went through each day and all my notes. Everything was fine until she flips to day five on the notepad. “Why is day five titled ‘danger paddle’?” I hemmed and hawed a little, and muttered, “It’s an exposed area … But it shouldn’t be that bad.” H – “If it’s not that bad why did you call it danger paddle?”
Crap. I just made her more nervous than she already was.

But I was going to be careful, I always am on these trips. All alone, miles from anyone, no cell phone reception. If you’re in trouble, there is hardly anywhere to land. If you can even make it ashore in the massive surf and jagged rocks, you’re on a deserted island.  If it goes bad, you’re on your own.

Early morning launch

Early launch in the morning mist.

Finally, the big day arrives. The Pacific is usually calmer early in the morning with the off-shore wind building throughout the day. So I woke up before dawn and stuck my head out the tent. A perfect day; a little mist but no wind and the ocean was calm. I quickly broke camp and launched.

The swell built as I paddled west out of the bay, but sea conditions were still manageable as I swung well off-shore. The waves passed under me and thunderously broke against the rocks; foaming and chaotic. Soon I could see the first large point that extended a half mile out into the sea; a massive headland with 100 foot cliffs. Large waves exploded off it’s face and whitewater bubbled and churned all around the point. I would have to swing over a mile off-shore to get around, and this was the smallest of four points I would have to pass.

The power of The Pacific was terrifying; I felt tiny in my little kayak bobbing in the powerful swell. The wind had slightly increased, and the waves had less rhythm to them, which was disconcerting. This was the point of no return.

I went back and forth. I would be fine if the conditions didn’t get worse. But what if it did get worse? It’s not easy turning back, but the whole scenario freaked me out; in the end I had a bad feeling, a sixth sense that said “don’t do it”.

So disappointed, I slowly turned around and headed for calmer waters. Instantly my blood pressure dropped, my head de-stressed, my body relaxed. Two hours later, a strong wind kicked up, It was like I won the lottery! I would have been right in the middle of danger paddle; it would have been ugly.

Cruising calmer waters

Cruising calmer waters

I had a big smile on my face as I cruised the long way on perfectly calm channels.

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A lesson human anatomy

A small boat filled with people and a sputtering outboard approached; it was strangely out of place. I was alone camping on a tiny remote beach a few miles from Hot Springs Cove and the small First Nation village of the Hesquiaht. I thought they must be from that village. But as it got closer, they were definitely not native, they were in bathing suits, talking and laughing away. It looked like they had just floated in from Burning Man.

My beach camp on Flores island, BC.

My beach camp on Flores island, BC.

They landed and the captain walked over. He apologized for disturbing my tranquil camp and said they wouldn’t be long. I didn’t mind. We struck up a conversation. They worked at the lone accommodation in the village. We talked about kayaking and the hot spring I was going to the following day. He told me of the secret short cut trail to Hot Springs Cove. “Don’t go right on the trail or you’ll end up at the Tribal Burial Cave; They will not like that.” He had a friendly care-free way about him.

We finished our conversation and as he walked away, I heard one of his female companions shout “I hope you don’t mind a little nudity.” The next thing I know, he was butt-naked, wading out to his boat and half the women were topless. What is going on!?

They laid down some blankets, opened a few beers and frolicked about the beach. I was dumb-struck, but when they started doing cartwheels my jaw hit the sand. I have never seen naked people do cartwheels. It was an interesting lesson in human anatomy. One of those things you can’t un-see.

After about half an hour, they suddenly got dressed, waved good-bye and got back in the boat and putted off, bailing water out as they went. Interesting afternoon; this remote place has been full of unexpected, odd surprises.

PS. I know this is hard to believe. I have a hard time believing it. There is  no photo evidence; I was so tempted to take a picture, but that would have been way too creepy.

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hot Springs Cove

The water from the hot springs poured over the ledge like a waterfall. I sat underneath and let the warm water wash away the grime from four days of paddling. But I was not alone.

This place is a strange contradiction of pristine, rugged coast wilderness and popular, yet hard to get to, busy tourist spot. It took me three days to paddle here from the closest town, Tofino. Tourists can take a two hour high-speed boat ride, or a 30 minute float plane ride; A day trip- Not 3!  For anyone, it’s a commitment just to get to Tofino – it’s not that easy to get to this remote area of West Vancouver Island. I forgot to mention, there is a two mile hike to the hot spring.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

Hot Springs Cove with hot spring pools hidden in the rocky shore.

But it’s worth it- the rugged beauty of this place is breathtaking. The spring starts in the forest and flows into a steaming creek that winds around old growth cedar trees. It then exits the forest and flows over jet-black rocks into a long narrow crevasse, where the water becomes waist deep. Numerous pools of varying sizes and temperatures lead down to the ocean, with the cooler pools closest to the open water. Uniquely stunning; like no place I have seen before.

Hot spring stream through the forest

Hot spring stream through the forest

I had reached the springs early in the morning and it was a shock to find dozens of people from all over the world, after hardly seeing anyone for days. There were people everywhere in all the small spring pools. I was worried about stepping on feet as I maneuvered around the spring.

Spring waterfall

Spring waterfall

When I am on my solo kayak trips, it’s my mission to get as far away from civilization as possible, I hope to see no-one. So when I find a truly remote, unspoiled, wild place filled with people it’s a little disappointing. But when you see the unique beauty of Hot Springs Cove, you understand why so many people make the pilgrimage.

It was all good, after not speaking to anyone all week, It was nice to have a little chat. But before long, I retreated back to the the woods, alone.

Categories: Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment


When I pushed off and the kayak slid into the water I was hoping she wouldn’t sink on the spot. It was overloaded with food and equipment for my ten day trip though Clayoquot Sound.

My kayak is seventeen feet long, with two large bulkheads in the bow and stern. These were fully packed and I had the overflow in the cockpit, but at least I didn’t have to lash anything to the deck.

I estimated I had 80 pounds of equipment stuffed in every nook and cranny of my boat; food for ten plus days, camping and cooking equipment, clothing, safety and paddle equipment. Plus a few luxuries, including some sneaky beers tucked away. One thing that saved me; I didn’t need to bring much water as there were plenty of streams along my route.


First camp

Sunset at first camp

I held my breath as I launched into the cold Pacific. The waterline was high but not dangerous. She handled like a barge, she was running slow and sluggish, went through waves instead of bobbing over them. But the weight distribution was good and she seemed seaworthy enough to make it to the first camp. I swung the bow north and headed off on my adventure. Continue reading

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Back to my late ways


Over the past few years I had got better about getting to the kayak launch site at a reasonable time. This trip, I reverted to my old ways, arriving in the middle of the night before a early launch.

It’s a long trip to Clayoquot sound, BC. with a border crossing and a ferry trip, so lots of opportunity to get delayed. It should take 8 hours if everything went right; If things didn’t go right, it could take hours more. My first problem is getting out of the house. Wrapping up work, packing last minute things, triple-checking I have everything. I don’t hit the road until 1:30pm.

Not far out of town, I’m in stop-and-go traffic caused by a accident, not the best start. That clears up but just half an hour later a fatal accident closes down the interstate. So I take the back roads through the countryside to a small border crossing way off my original route. Finally over the border and into Canada, and it’s taken two hours longer than it should have.

I catch the 8:15pm ferry over to Vancouver Island; it’s a two hour crossing with a three hour drive after that. Whatever; I’m resigned to the fact that I’m way behind schedule. I go up to the top deck and take a seat. It’s a beautiful twilight, with a deep red sunset over the Straight of Georga. At this point I am good, whenever I’m on this ferry it means vacation, plus the food is good and I am starving.

Next up is a long, windy road through an endless, evergreen forest, over the hills to the rugged coast, through the darkness. Finally I arrive, find a parking lot near the beach, pull out my sleeping bag, recline the seat and try to get some sleep. It is 1:30am. and I have to be awake at 6:30am.

Launch, finally

Finally launching, Tofino

Driving late and sleeping in the car is something I’ve done for years. It’s not ideal, but adrenaline makes up for the lack of sleep. I was fine in the morning but would pay for it later in the trip.

It feels like a tradition for me showing up in the middle of the night and sleeping in the car. But it’s a crappy tradition, one I wish I could kick.

Categories: Americas, Clayoquot Sound, BC - August 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment




I moved to Seattle in 1994 when Ken Griffey Jr. was in the prime of his career; I often went to see him and the Mariners play at the KingDome. I watched in amazement at Griffey’s sweet swing, his reckless defense and the Mariner’s historic playoff run in 1995. Whenever I see him or highlights from his old days, it brings me back to my early years in Seattle.

I have always wanted to visit The Baseball Hall of Fame. So when Griffey got voted in this year, in his first year of eligibility and receiving the most votes ever for a player inducted to The Hall, it seemed like the perfect time to make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown, NY.

We flew into NYC and drove through the back roads of upstate New York, through the beautiful Catskills, past picturesque old farming towns to our remote destination. We arrived on Main Street just in time for the parade of Hall of Fame Legends. The normally sleepy town was overflowing with rabid baseball fans watching a strange parade of baseball players in the back of pick-up trucks rolling down the street.

Pedro, Pedro !!

Pedro, Pedro !!

There were baseball fans from around the country and every team was represented. There was no animosity, Yankees and Red Sox fans side by side, chatting and watching the parade. It was a celebration of baseball; we were in Cooperstown and everyone was a winner.




The following morning we laid down a blanket on the field to watch the Induction Ceremony with 50,000 of our fellow fans. The sun was out in full force, it was over 90 degrees and humid. But that was of no concern; we were there!

As they played highlights of The Kid’s career on the big screen, I could remember them all. Goosebumps formed, it was as if I was back in Seattle in twenty years ago. Griffey started his speech and immediately choked up. As tears tears flowed down his face, sweat poured down mine. It was amazing to see the usually care-free Griffey so emotional.



I laid back in the grass and listened to him speak, the intense sun causing me to hallucinate. I drifted back to the days of listening to Dave Niehaus calling the game on the crackling radio in my 1984 Tercel; Playing pool and watching the Mariner’s game at the Comet Tavern. Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, everything came to a pause when Griffey came to bat. Nothing else mattered and he proved anything was possible.

Categories: Americas, Cooperstown - July 2016 | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada Day

Capital building BC

BC Parliament building

We were in Victoria BC for my friend’s surprise birthday party, which happened to be on Canada Day. On July 1 1870, Canada and England made a gentleman’s agreement and parted ways and what we know now as Canada emerged. It wasn’t celebrated at first, but now it is almost as popular with Canadians as the NHL Finals as a Holiday; there were fireworks over the harbor and so the streets were filled with celebrating Canucks.

We passed a local bar I vaguely remembered, Big Bad Johns, and had some time before the party, so we stopped in for a refreshment. The dingy, dark wood-paneled bar had a floor covered with peanut shells, bras hanging from the ceiling signed by their previous owners and bar stools filled with hardened drinkers. Craft cocktails here? Jack and coke.

The three women sitting next to us were getting in the spirit.

Big Bad Johns

An old woman slowly walked through the bar with a white cane, tapping it back and forth in front of her. I didn’t think much of it. Some time later, classic rock came on the jukebox and the blind women wandered by with a shaggy, hobo-chic man. She suddenly grabbed him by the hand and started dancing furiously. Drunken patrons cheered and clapped. Screeching at top volume, she pulled and spun the stumbling man. I wondered where the cane went.

A loud man with long greasy hair was at the bar cutting the sleeves off a bar T-shirt. He then took off his own CBGB shirt and gave it to a random women standing next to him. I (and she) had no clue what was going on there, but an unfortunate thing; he forgot to pull up his pants. One of those things, once you see it, you can’t un-see it.



When it was time to leave for the party, I was reluctant; This was the kind of place where you have no idea what was going to happen next. The night was young and I think the craziness had only just begun; The one thing in common with all the riff-raff in this bar: It was Canada Day and they were ready to party.

Victoria harbor.

Victoria harbor.

Categories: Americas, Victoria BC- July 2016 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Down the river

Irrawaddy river

Irrawaddy river

On our first night night in Myanmar, we were staying in a floating hotel on the Irrawaddy River, just outside of Mandalay. The taxi from the airport dropped us off riverside; It was a half mile wide with fast-flowing brown water. Dilapidated boats of all sizes were tied up to the muddy river bank, many housing families with their drying clothes hanging from boat lines. All the boats were rusted, dreary and listing. All except one, our hotel. The Karaweik Floating Hotel. It looked like a traditional Royal Barge, on acid: Gold, multi-level with white life-size elephant statues and two massive mythical birds on it’s bow, covered in lights. It looked like it just floated in from Vegas.

Hotel. .. Name

Karaweik Floating Hotel.

We walked down the gangplank and into the lobby where a Burmese wedding had just happened. The bride was in a colorful long-flowing dress and fancy, sparkly heeled flip-flops covered in fake gem stones. The men wore dress shirts with longyi, the traditional long dress worn by men. They also wore flip flop without the bling. They were all excitedly running about the lobby and through the hallways.




When we managed to get to the front desk, they asked if we were here for the cruise. Confused, we answered that we were are staying at the hotel. “OK, but you can go on the two hour cruise if you want to. We leave in a hour.”

On board Elephant

On board Elephant

This was news to us, clearly if we had arrived an hour later we would have seen our hotel sail off downriver. There was no mention of this when we had booked.
The rest of our conversation at the front desk was lost in translation. Neither side had any understanding of the other. The bell boy was clearly confused from the start. Now the woman behind the desk kept trying to order us a cab, “you want a taxi now?”.

Conversations went back and forth but somehow we got checked in and got the room key. The room was nice with dark teak walls, with a door opening up onto the deck with a table and chairs overlooking the river. Inside was a table with fruit, two life preservers and a TV with only a few channels. The local channel was an out-of-focus close up of a monk chanting. There was also a K-pop station, Korean MTV. These two channels could not have been any different.

Robes and life perservers

Robes and life perservers

In the evening we went up to the dining room as the nightly puppet show was just finishing up. Two puppeteers stood behind a small screen and manipulated strings as the puppets jerked and flailed about. Local songs played over the outdated, fuzzy sound system. Strange is the only way to describe this spectacle.

Puppet show

Puppet show

The show ended and the two families watching, left. We were the only ones in a room with a dozen large empty tables around us. So we ordered booze to go and the waiter insisted on ceremoniously leading us to our room with the beer and a bowl of fruit on a tray. We sat drinking on the deck and made a plan for the following day while watching the Irrawaddy River flow by.


River side.

After the first night in Myanmar we felt that we were not just in a different country but we were on a different planet.

It was full of surprises and contradictions. The first of many was the floating hotel, it was just inexplicably strange; Twilight Zone plus David Lynch strange. The dirt-colored river was disconcerting. The staff was bizarre. I had nightmares about the puppet show.

We loved it; It was everything we had hoped for Myanmar.

After our first night in Myanmar, we realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore

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


Sunset on the train, myanmar.

Sunset on the train, Myanmar

I always like to indulge in the local brew when I travel. On our last trip I began an appreciation of SE Asian beers; even though they are seldom cold and taste more like a bud than a local craft beer. But they are surprisingly refreshing in the heat and so in every country we visited (six total), I tried every local beer I could get my hands on.


Hanoi beer

In Vietnam there was Biere La Rue and Saigon Beer. In Hanoi there is an area named Beer Corner that sounded right up my alley. So we walked through the maze of narrow streets to get a ‘Fresh’ beer, or two. The area was packed with people and tiny cafes with tables that spilled out onto the sidewalk. We sat down on short plastic stools at a small plastic table and watched the throngs of young Vietnamese parade down the street.

Beer Hanoi

Beer corner,  Hanoi

Myanmar Beer came in 40-ouncer’s and were dirt cheap but always served lukewarm. I brought an ample supply of Myanmar 40’s for our 16 hour train trip. Drank a few warm ones on the slow boat down the Irrawaddy River. Had some delivered to our hotel room in Mandalay. It was over 100 degrees every day; warm Myanmar saved me.

Maybe a few too many Myanmar beers

Maybe a few too many Myanmar beers


Lion beer

Lion beer, Kandy, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka had Lion Beer, my favorite. Light and crisp and with only a few Sri Lankan beers to choose from, Lion it was. Lions are not indigenous to Sri Lanka, but they are the symbolic symbol of the country, a mythical lion adorns their flag. On our last night in SE Asia we had dinner in Galle and they only had Heineken. What, no Lion? I was appalled. But I forced down a few, against my will.


Chang in Bangkok

Back at home now, drinking ice-cold, organic, craft, small batch, farm to table IPAs. They’re nice, but I still have a soft spot for those warm Myanmar 40-ouncers.

On the boat on Halong bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay beer, on the boat, Vietnam

Overnight train to Hanoi

Overnight train to Hanoi


Saigon Beer in Ho Chi Minh City

On the plane.

Chinese beer on the plane to Beijing

Monkey ???

Monkey beer???

Tinssao ice beer. China.

Tsingtao Ice at the Great Wall, China.


dan Nag, Vietnam

Tiger in DaNang, Vietnam


La Rue beer, HoiAn, Vietnam

Categories: SE Asia - March 2016 | Tags: , | 1 Comment




We packed light for this trip. We were going to be away for four weeks, so I had planned to pack six pairs of undies and do laundry, but I couldn’t count and ended up with only five. This turned out to be an issue, especially on our grand tour of Sri Lanka.

It was stupid hot, over 100 degrees, so all clothing, especially undies, had to be washed often; No wearing them inside out for the second day. So I had to wash them in the sink and hang them around the room to dry. I’d dry them on the balcony, on the chairs, in the shower. Half the time it was too humid and they wouldn’t really dry and I would have to stuff them in my pack damp.

In Sri Lanka, Helen, Rachel and I shared a room in basic guest houses, a kind of Sri Lankan B&B. Now Helen is used to my underwear lying all over the place. But poor Rachel had to endure my undies flung all over the room; Walking into the bathroom first thing in the morning and having to negotiate around my underpants.

I think she may now be suffering from PTSD.

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

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