Wednesday, July 31, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #10

Tip #10

Invest in a great paddle.  I don't care if you paddle Greenland style, or Euro. If you like carbon or wood. This is your connection to the water, make it a good one. I like my paddles light, so for me it is carbon, I also don't like bent shaft paddles. I use the Werner Kalliste (carbon/carbon) and I think it is about the best paddle ever made - I would like to try a Werner Camano, I have a very old one, and would love to try it out again. It may be my next paddle. I see too many people who end up spending more than they thought they would on boat/rack/gear and skimp on their paddle. It is like buying a ferrari and putting cheap tires on it. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #9

Tip #9

Leave digital behind.  By digital I mean phone calls, text messages, tweets, web updates, whatever the reason is you keep looking at your phone. And by behind, I don't really mean behind. I mean turned off, in a hard pelican case, in a dry bag. OH! and put the dry bag in one of your hatches. If you need it you have it, but take the opportunity to disconnect. Have some time alone with your own thoughts. View the world around you, notice it changing. Have fun. You can tweet about it when you get home. Also, your cellphone is not a good camera for kayaking. Buy something waterproof so when you need your phone its battery is still charged and the phone isn't a soaking wet phone shaped brick. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

A great month.

I am headed to the beach, to shoot the last bit of video for the next book. There may be some relaxing as well. But I am really excited with the month of July. Without going crazy scrutinizing numbers I will point out the following information.

the number one post in the history of this blog is no longer about going to the bathroom in the woods. In just under a month, this is now the most popular post in the history of this site, and I am super proud. It is also the fastest a post has shot to the top like that, though I do have the good people of reddit to thank.

The growth of that one post has pushed my page view count higher than it has ever been for one month, and is actually three times what it was last July.

July will also have the highest number of posts of any month - in part because of the '21 tips in 21 days' posts.

Also, with the exception of the first month it was available, I sold more copies of Enlightened Kayaking in the month of July than any other time. In part because of the new PDF version, though most of them were the iTunes version (all right, I am actually one short of an all time record month, but as I write this there are still two days left in the month, and I am leaving town tomorrow. If you had planned on buying  copy you could make my month by doing it now.)

So it has been a great month, and I am really looking forward to the fall with the planning of Expedition 2014.

Finally, on August 5th I am starting a 21 day meditation challenge with a couple of friends. If you are interested in joining us, let me know.

Have a great week!

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #8

Tip #8

Know when to deviate from the plan! Yup! Just as important as having a plan and sticking to it, is knowing when the plan is flawed, and it is time to change. The weather didn't do what the weatherman said it would do? What a shock! Time to hug the coast instead of the bold crossing you were planning. What you need to learn is judgement, and judgement comes with experience. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #7

Tip #7

Have a plan and stick to it. Think about your route before getting on the water. Know when the tides are changing. Watch the weather, and plan accordingly. The reason it is important to stick to the plan is so the person you have left a float plan with knows where you will be and when you will be back.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #6

Tip #6

Orient your map, and keep it oriented. This means, first, have a map/chart of where you are paddling, and you have to have a compass. You also have to know how to orient a map, fortunately I have already taught you that. Though I realize the video I made for this is orienting a map standing, and you have to make some changes doing it sitting in a kayak. I'll have to make a new video. Keeping it oriented means that once you understand which way the map should be facing, you have to keep track of the world around you, and find the world around you on the map in front of you. This is the art of navigation. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #5

Tip #5

Let Someone Know. Simple. Do a float plan. Or send an email to a friend. Or a text. In todays hyper connected world there is no reason not to do this. In it's simplest form it can be telling them where you are going and when you will be back, and what to do if you don't check back at the appropriate time. Here is a free download of a more extensive float plan I use on big trips. Choose your contact person wisely. You don't want someone who will forget you are out there!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A tale of 3.5 maps.

In prepping for expedition 2014 - which still doesn't have a name - I started as I always do by ordering a combination of charts and maps. The charts I order from NY Nautical. They are usually pretty good, but I had a few problems this time that I wont go into it. If you are a paddler and heading through New York City you must stop in there and buy a chart. Smitty knows his stuff incredibly well and it is an old world kind of place. So the last of my Charts trickled in over the course of two weeks. I also ordered from REI two trails illustrated charts of Prince William Sound. PWS west is topo map number 761, and east is 762. I already had a copy of 761 but it was pretty old, so I figured I would get a new one. It also had markings from a trip I did there in 2000. However, shortly after I ordered the two maps I realized that at some point I had bought a copy of map 761 - probably in 2008 when I was working for NOLS and paddling PWS. That meant I had three copies of the same map. I figured it was no big deal, I could probably sell or give one to another paddler in the group. But when the newest map arrived and I opened it up, I got a little surprised.

Here are the three maps #761, left to right, oldest to newest. I really love Trails Illustrated maps. They are beautifully made, waterproof, and easy to work with on the deck of a kayak. But this is what surprised me. Here are three pictures of Harriman Fjord. 

Despite my lousy photography you should see that in each successive version of the map there better detail. While these maps are made for hikers, clearly someone at Trails Illustrated knows that they are being used by kayakers, as we went from dots to silhouettes of kayaks to illustrate landing sites. We go from contour lines, to contour lines with some shading, to a lot of shading. We also get a large amount of shading in the latest map, and even a growing number of depth information. Clearly this is a good reason to update your maps! besides the fact that things like declination change, there are also updates to the details on these beautiful maps. Several months ago I also looked at the new trails illustrated online partnership with all trails. So, clearly if newer is better, these online versions must be the best, right? Unfortunately no. First it was hard to navigate to the right place on Because the maps are designed to be printed, I was easily able to make an 8.5 by 11 topo map in PDF form ready for printing. Here it is. 

While this is a great map ready to use - scale and declination on the bottom - it doesn't offer the detail or annotations of the paper maps. I would also have to print roughly 50 to cover the same info on the charts I ordered. So again, I am going to say that this online digital version isn't quite ready for prime time. But this is.

This is a satellite view of the same Harriman Fjord. Since we are going to see Glaciers, this view gives me a perfect view of where they currently - or at least when they picture was taken - lie in relation to the land. This is very useful, and I will undoubtedly print these out for many of our locations. Print them for reference while paddling. 

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #4

Tip #4

Always pack according to the Ten Essentials. Particularly if you are a new paddler. The Ten Essential Systems list should be followed. With all my experience on expeditions I have still been caught on day paddles without a first aid kit when I needed one. I could have easily made the entire 'Tip list' lines from the Ten essentials list, but I will only mention it directly this once. My version of the list for kayaking is here, if you don't like mine the REI list - though not paddling specific - is very good too. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #3

Tip #3

You think you know the forward stroke, keep practicing! I have been paddling seriously for 20 years, and I am still working on my forward stroke. I watch video of myself and scrutinize pictures. I watch other instructors to see how they are teaching it, and looking for how it relates to how I teach it, and how I paddle. Do you really think your forward stroke is perfect? I didn't think so. Keep practicing, and if possible find an instructor to help you.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

21 Kayaking Tips - Tip #2

Tip #2

Dress for the environment. Which doesn't mean, you have to spend a lot of money on gear. My current favorite paddling jacket also happens to be the jacket I use hiking in the rain. I like eVent because it breaths really well, but you can use Gore tex or anything else you like. It also means synthetic base layers when needed. It may also mean A light colored UPF shirt. It means wear what is appropriate, and be prepared for the environment. Adapt accordingly. It also doesn't mean you have to dress for submersion. while I think this is safer, many people can't afford to dress for submersion. So if the water is 50º and you are going paddling - and you should, no one else is out, and the world is beautiful and quiet! - pack dry, warm clothes in a dry bag in case you get wet. Maybe even a stove for a hot drink!

Monday, July 22, 2013

21 kayaking tips in 21 days - TIP #1

Tip #1

Paddle with loose fingers. This is very simple, and most people don't realize it. Your hands should be loose around the paddle. This will keep you from getting blisters, keep you relaxed and fluid. It also forces you to push the paddle. With a tight grip it is much more likely you will pull the paddle back through the water. On each stroke, think about the wind flowing through the open fingers on the hand that is in the air.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Backcountry Spaghetti

Bit of a food theme going on lately....

I was just over at Facebook and came across this photo posted by Mark at Geckopaddler.

As a back country 'foodie' I am not a fan of dehydrating items. I tend to grab a good looking back country cook book excitedly, only to drop it quickly when it mentions dehydrating. Frankly, I don't have the time, or patience to dehydrate. I know a lot of people love it, but it isn't for me. I do however like eating great meals in the back country, and one of my favorites is pasta in a red sauce. So I saw the photo and told Mark he should cook it from scratch - that is a bag of dehydrated spaghetti with meat sauce, if it wasn't clear - I did it on the inside passage, he can do it. So here is the Paddling Otaku back country pasta and red sauce recipe.

You will need:

A stove with a wide burner base like the MSR Whisperlite or simmerlite. A large pot, a small skillet. A knife, a cutting board, a large cooking spoon. A corkscrew. An iPod with a small pair of speakers. The sound track to the movie 'Big Night' or a selection of Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin. I like to listen to the music from a cheap italian restaurant while I am cooking pasta. I also occasionally do a bad Italian accent and threaten to have the local wild life  'taken care of'.

a pound of pasta
a tube of high end tomato paste
an onion - diced
a red pepper - diced
Spices, S&P, Oregano, Basil
Olive oil
A hard sausage - pepperoni, chorizo, have fun. Mark was looking for 'meat sauce' and I think this qualifies, ground beef doesn't last too long in the bow of a kayak.

For the pasta, on long trips I tend to choose something smaller like Penne or Ziti, it holds up well. If you are careful with Spaghetti you can make it work, but it tends to break in storage in a kayak. Add it to a pot of salted water and bring it to a boil. You only have one burner, so once the water is boiling, move the pot to the ground. The pasta will keep cooking - I promise, in the back coutnry we get to break rules - Just before it's done, put it back on the burner and bring it up to temperature again. While it is cooking turn your attention to the skillet.

In the skillet - the back country is the only place I use non-stick, because of ease of clean up - sauté the onion, red pepper and the sausage until the onion is translucent. The sausage will have to be cut pretty small, I like quartering a disk. When hot, it will release some liquid seasoning the pan. When the onion is translucent, break out the tomato paste and add about half a tube to the skillet, then add some water to get the consistency right. Taste it to make sure it is right, you don't want it too watery, nor too thick.

Notice I said tube? This isn't the canned variety of tomato paste, this is the good stuff, like this.

After the consistency is correct, time for seasoning. Only you know how much of this you want. I'm gonna do a couple of cloves of finely diced garlic in addition to the other dried spices. Let that simmer a few minutes. You now have a good red sauce. Why people buy jarred red sauce, when you can make an amazing one at home on your stove top in 15 minutes is beyond me.

Drain your pasta after placing it back on the burner for a minute, Then plate your pasta, and spoon the sauce on top. Here are a couple of things I didn't mention that kick this over the top. A bottle of red wine fits perfectly in the bow, and an italian bread fits perfectly in the stern. Now is the time! Open the wine and serve while your cooking. If your audience is a little 'loose' all the better, they were impressed with red sauce from scratch, wait until they try it! You know what is better than Italian bread with pasta and red sauce? Garlic bread. That's right, we are kicking it up a notch. Slice the bread on a long diagonal, so you get a long slice, open the package of garlic butter that I didn't mention before, because I like to surprise people. Smear one side of the bread with garlic butter and toss it in the skillet for a minute - after wiping it out - you are essentially frying the bread in garlic butter. One other surprise I didn't mention before, A couple of shavings of hard parmigiano reggiano with your micro plane grater on top of the plated food.

What? You don't paddle with a microplane grater? What are you a heathen?

Don't tell me you don't dress for dinner?


Monday, July 15, 2013

Now available on every device

It took me a while to figure out how to do it, but Enlightened Kayaking is now available for every device*.

In order to make this work, I had to make some changes. I can no longer embed the videos in the document, it limits the number of devices the book can be viewed on when I do that. So there are now links that take you to vimeo - some of them password protected, because they aren't on this site, only available in the book - which means to see the videos you need to have web access - though you can download the videos if you want, so they can be viewed off line.

Also, because I can't embed video in it, there is no intro video like there is on the iTunes/iPad version. Sorry.

Because the videos aren't embedded I still think the iPad experience is far superior, so if you have an iPad you should still go that route, and download it from the iTunes store. But if you are running something else, there is now an option to view it.

The link on the right, or from the Paddling Otaku store will take you to paypal, and you will make a purchase online like you have for anything else you have purchased online. I will send you a download link once I get the email from paypal that you have made a purchase. This isn't automated, I actually have to generate the 'one time' download link, and send it to you. Give me a few minutes.

I would also add - and I am stealing a page from Louis CK - There is no DRM on this book. Which means you could give it to who ever you want including posting it for free someplace else. I would just ask you not to. You aren't stealing from a big corporation, you are stealing from a guy who uses book income to do paddling trips. Thanks.

* here is your disclaimer. The PDF is in Acrobat version 4 (which is fairly old) and it should run on just about everything. It has been tested on various platforms and handhelds. But I can't test it on everything. If you have a problem getting it to work on your 'insert tablet or phone name here' I am not going to be able to trouble shoot it simple because I don't have access to that type of device. But I know it will work on any computer that can display a color pdf, which at this point is every computer. Good luck.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A big thing. A medium sized thing. And two things no one cares about.

That was what I promised before I went to Canada. So here goes:

A big thing. I am pleased to announce the Expedition for 2014. Keep in mind I planned the Labrador trip for close to a year without mentioning it on the blog, because my fear was that something would come up that would keep it from occurring, and I didn't want a year of people watching the planning process for nothing to occur. So the fact that I am announcing this trip idea is proof of one thing. I am going, and doing this trip even if I have to do it alone, which I don't think will happen.

Here ya go. Next summer, myself and at least two other people - who I will introduce soon - are going to drive our boats to Alaska. We are going to put in in Whittier and Paddle in Prince William Sound. But PO you are thinking, what is the big deal? You were a NOLS instructor, you have paddle PWS a bunch of times!? Yes, I have. But this time I am doing it with a mission.

After watching the film Chasing Ice, I was curious how the glaciers I am familiar with have changed. So we are going to find Archival photos of at least three PWS glaciers, do our best to find the spot the photos were taken from, and recreate them to see the difference. This is a completely unscientific scientific expedition! And it is going to be a lot of fun. We are going to make a film about the trip as well, of course. In the process I am going to do my best to learn as much about glaciology as possible.

I already have the coolest librarian on the planet to help me find archival photos of glaciers. This is gonna be a blast!

A medium sized thing. A big question I get is "when is your book going to be available on (insert device here)? Here is what is about to happen, In a couple of days I am going to start selling via paypal and this site, a PDF version of the book. I have a couple of people testing it out currently and as soon as I get positive reports on the download process I am going to make it available. Because I wanted it to work on as many platforms as possible I had to make some sacrifices. Instead of the videos being embedded, there is a link you will follow to see the videos - which means you have to be connected to the internet to see them - or you could download them prior to viewing. About a quarter of the videos have never been seen on this website, so they are password protected. You can read it on any device that can open a color PDF file. Currently the price is going to be the same as the iTunes version of the book, mainly because I don't want iPad owners to buy the PDF version because it is a much nicer reading experience in its original form.

Two things no one cares about. Yeah, I didn't really have two things that no one cared about. But here goes. I am almost done with my next project, a mini book that focuses solely on the Forward stroke. This will be available on the iTunes store for iPad. It is much smaller than my first book, just a couple of chapters, but it will be FREE! As much as people enjoy the advanced strokes, they really need the help with their forward stroke. That is about a month out - plus the time it takes for iTunes to approve it.

That is only one thing, but it's all I have.

Monday, July 8, 2013

I hate day hatches

Let me re-phrase that, I don't mind the little hatch in front of the cockpit. It is easy to get to, easy to use, a good idea across the board. When I talk about day hatches I am talking about this:

I am not exaggerating when I say I have had yoga instructors give me a hard time over how flexible I am. I can sit in full lotus on the back deck of my kayak. Dubside was impressed with my flexibility when I met him at the East Coast Kayak festival a few years ago. I am not mentioning this to brag, I am mentioning this to add weight to the next sentence. I can't reach that back day hatch! I can usually get the lid off, and can occasionally get something out of it. But there is no way I can get the cover back on. But you know what? That isn't my biggest problem with the aft day hatch.

My biggest problem is that a rear day hatch almost always adds an additional bulkhead - which does add nice rigidity to the hull - but it cuts the largest storage space in the boat in half. Making it hard to pack something big like food bags or a tent. They also generally have a pretty small hatch cover making it even harder to get things in there. For instance, The photo above is a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro. There is no way to get a normal sized pot in that hatch. You have to fill it with a lot of little stuff. Stuff I would normally pack around big stuff in my main compartment. Which means I am wasting space. Space that boat doesn't have to spare.

Because I was trained by NOLS, gear wise I am a pretty simple paddler. I think if you are going to need something while you are on the water, it should be in the cockpit with you. It helps that I am short, because in front of my feet - and the foot pegs - I can easily fit 3.5 gallons of water and my large expedition first aid kit. In front of that, between my shins, my VHF radio in a case and a 5 liter dry bag with things that I will need to access during the day (sunblock, sunglasses, powerfood, water additives, stuff like that)

Despite my disdain for the rear day hatch - which is on just about every modern touring kayak - I wouldn't NOT buy a kayak because of it, I would just make it a bit more specialized. If I owned a kayak with a rear day hatch I would do one of two things with it. I would create a bag system for food that would make it possible to pack it to the brim. Solely for food, I think it would work well.  My other option is to line it with spray foam insulation to turn it into a cooler - specifically for things like cheese and freshies (fresh vegetables that I normally pack on trips, onions, potatoes, carrots, peppers, cabbage, etc). This would take a problem and turn it into an asset.

Before writing this I did a google search, and found several discussions on kayaking forums that there are people who swear by their rear day hatch. I am glad that they find the feature useful. If however, you are like me, and find the rear day hatch a useless waste of space and valuable resources, then remember that you are not alone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Unfortunately, A change in plans

Shortly after paddling the inside passage I told my wife I was done with expeditions. I was still getting over the flu. I was exhausted. My brain was done. She looked at me and said 'we'll see.' She was right It was a little over six months before I started planning again, and honestly I came up with the idea about a month after I was back from Alaska.

The idea formulated like this:

I didn't want to do as long of a drive, so maybe there was something on the east coast I could do. Looking at a map, the Northern tip of Labrador looks inviting, and it is a brand new Canadian National park. Unfortunately there is no way to get a kayak up to the park. But further south is a little town called Happy valley - goose bay. And there is a ferry that leaves Happy Valley and heads north to Nain, about 400 miles. Perfect. I started the planning in a communication black out. I didn't post where I was planning on going on any social media. I reached out to a handful of paddlers - including my two biggest mentors - for information. I started planning. Charts went up on the wall, a route was decided on, and I worked on it for over a year. It is a stretch of coast that very few people have paddled.

Unfortunately the planning ended last week. An insurmountable hurdle. I am not going to get into the detail that killed the trip here - as it is written about in detail in the book I am working on - But it is a big enough problem that it can't be overcome, unless I were able to do this sort of adventuring full time. (if you are interested in sponsoring me full time, let me know!)

I love the planning aspects of expeditions. I have been doing it since I was 18 and I have gotten quite good at it. Part of it comes from planning trips, but a big part of it comes from working in the film and photography industry. Working in film, you have to think about goals, all the gear required to make the goals happen. The crews to operate the gear. Then you have to get all the gear to and from where ever you are shooting.

In 1995 I worked on this advertisement for a perfume. This was shot in St. Barthelemy in Patrick Demarchelier's swimming pool. St. Barths airport is too small to fly in all the gear needed for the shoot so gear came by boat, while crews came by plane from three continents. I was part of the production team that got all the gear and people where they needed to be, on time, through customs. Then we had to get it all out. I personally carried 30 or so cans of motion picture film on a small plane to Miami where I cleared customs. Film cans can't be opened - except in a dark room - and can't be x-rayed. Think about how much fun it is to get something like that through customs. 

What this work taught me is that just about anything can be accomplished given enough time and money, and that has translated well to expedition planning. 

Unfortunately what killed the Labrador trip wasn't money, it was time. The charts are rolled and in a closet. The trip isn't dead, it is just sleeping, until the right moment arrives, and the time hurdle can be leaped. It took me less than a week to not only come up with a new idea - I vowed to a couple of people that were interested in the Labrador trip that I was - without fail - doing a trip during the summer of 2014 - but to sell the idea to a couple of other paddlers. It isn't as 'epic' as Labrador. People paddle there pretty frequently. But we are going with a mission. A task to perform. 

What are the task, and that mission? You will have to stick around to find out.... When I went to Toronto I promised on Facebook that I had "big news, medium sized news and couple of things no one will really care about." It should just be a couple of days more. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Toronto MEC, and Paddle Toronto.

This past week I had the pleasure of visiting my countries delightful neighbor to the north. This was a very unofficial trip, I brought no paddling gear, not even clothes to paddle in. It was just a week in Toronto. But while I was there, the Otaku in me had to come out. I made an effort to get a feel for the paddling community in Toronto, and I was very impressed.

My first stop was MEC, or The Mountain Equipment Co-op. I was very impressed with the paddling equipment selection in this smallish - compared to REI and other US outdoor retailers - store.

They had more cold weather paddling clothing than I have ever seen in one place, and that includes dry suits. I know a number of people - myself included - who have ordered drysuits online with fingers crossed because you are spending a lot of money on a piece of gear you can't try on. I also was able to try on the Kokatat Ronin Pro pfd which has been in the running as a potential replacement for my aging Astral 300r.

Speaking of Astral, they were nowhere to be found. I was very surprised to see my favorite brand, a brand widely regarded in the US, not to be available. A quick look at the MEC website shows the only PFD's carried are Kokatat and MEC brand. Though they do carry the Astral Brewer shoe. Go figure. 

Another of my favorite brands that is missing from the MEC lineup was Werner. I think paddles was the area that the store - and website - were the most lacking. They had a very small range of kayaking paddles, mostly from the brand Accent, which I haven't heard of or used - though they may be very good! - I did see a lot of canoe paddles and SUP paddles, neither of which is surprising. 

I was very excited to see a great range on kayaks, from simple recreation boats to a good selection of 15 foot and bigger touring kayaks. As you can see in the photos, there are kayaks all over the store. 

If you follow me on facebook, you saw that I got a new throw bag to replace the one that was sacrificed to the bear* gods in Alaska. 

My next stop was to a spot along the Harbour front. Paddle Toronto offers instruction in SUP and Kayak and also offered boat storage. Which is where all these nice photos came from. 

I met a lovely woman who happened to be paddling my boat, she told me that a boat can be stored at the harbour for around $400 a year, which is really quite reasonable. After visiting Paddle Toronto I decided to look into Paddle Canada which is their version of the ACA. But I have to say, from everything I read I liked the Paddle Canada curriculum and system a lot more. It looked like a simple progression up the skills ladder. To me it felt very similar to BCU, which I also prefer to ACA. All in all I was really excited by the paddling community in Toronto. I hope someday to be able to do some paddling up there. 

*I don't think I mentioned it in the version of 'The bear' posted here, but it did get mentioned in the version posted at Lets be The boats were tied to a tree with my throw bag. The tree was in the forest, a few feet from where the bear retreated too. I cut the line, so I didn't have to go in after it. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The best breakfast on the Inside Passage.

This is a story I tell people a lot about the Inside Passage trip, that I realized I have never told here.

Towards the end of the trip, north of Juneau, after most of my bout with the flu was done - so I thought - we were camped by the mouth of Berners Bay. Our original plan for a campsite was perfect, until we found the big - and fresh - bear paw print in the sand. We had a close encounter with a very large brown bear less than a week before, and were a bit skittish at the thought of another late night visit from a curious 1000 pound bear. The problem was this, we pushed our distance that day, this site was the last good option that we knew of. We had plenty of daylight, but the wind was getting worse, and to find a site we needed to head out into the main channel of the Lynn Canal. We felt we had no choice as neither of us would have slept well after seeing the bear print. So we got back into the boats. As we rounded the point the wind and chop got significantly worse, and we started paddling north looking for a beach we could land on. We spotted one relatively quickly that was landable, but very rocky. We took it, and made it work. It was the kind of beach where you unload the boats standing in knee deep water, then carrying your kayak over slippery, barnacled rocks above the high tide line. We found a good flat spot for the tent, made dinner and went to sleep. If you have watched the Paddle North Videos, this is the beach where I point ashore and say 'this way the bears are going to get us' then I point out to the water, 'and this way the water is going to get us!' It wasn't a happy night. It was made worse when we listened to the weather report. It was calling for the same winds the following morning, but we knew we had to get off that lousy beach. So this is what we did:

3 am start, on the water by 5:30. By paddling as the sun was coming up, the winds would be lessened. We could cover our distance to Eldrid rock before it got too late, when the wind would be worse. It worked beautifully, and it was an amazing day. It was the first time that we were awed at the size of the mountains on either side of the Lynn Canal. It was really a beautiful paddling day. We made it passed the Eldrid light house, and found a large, easily landable strip of land. After carrying the boats high on the beach we set up the tent, and the cook tarp, and that was when the magic happened.

Earlier, Sarah and I had realized that we were both impatient paddlers, and we both hated taking the time to cook a big breakfast in the morning. If you cook a meal in the morning it takes a fair amount of time to cook, then eat, the clean up. We would rather be using that time eating miles. Every morning we would get up, and pack our personal stuff, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, and whatever else we had needed the night before. Then, one of us would take down and pack the tent, while the other would make coffee. Many mornings we wouldn't even drink the coffee like civilized paddlers, we would load it into thermos mugs and sip on it all morning. Breakfast would be a handful of nuts, some power food, a clif bar or something, and we would just get going. We took a five minute break every two hours or so, where we would eat more powerfood, or trail mix, or whatever we had thrown in our cockpits with us. Some days it would be a block of cheese and some pepperoni. Other days a Clif crunch bar and some peanut butter. There were definitely good days and bad days.

The morning of the 3 am start had been no different, so by noon, when we got to the beach north of Eldrid light we were hungry. We sat under the tarp going through food bags trying to figure out what to cook, and I found what I would later tell people was the best ration bag find ever. Oreos.

You may be wondering how it could be a surprise to find something in a bag you had packed, but on a trip like this it is completely possible. The food bag had been packed almost two months before. Then I drove 4000 miles by myself. Then I got all my gear on a ferry, and I met Sarah in Ketchikan. Then we  started paddling north. By the time we got to the beach at Eldrid we had been paddling for 16 days. I had a lot on my mind, and had easily forgotten about the oreos. They were amazing, and while I was eating them - and I did eat them all - I formulated a meal plan. I found the pancake mix, and remembered that I had packed in a small bottle of real maple syrup. Sarah remembered that we had Nutella, she was pretty sure pancakes were designed as delivery system for nutella. I would like to think that it was my idea to make hot chocolate while we were prepping the pancakes, but I am sure the final, and greatest idea was Sarah's.

I had packed in whiskey. I have been packing whiskey on trips as long as I can remember. It doesn't need a mixer, you don't need that much of it. It doesn't even have to be cold. It is a good simple drink for the back country. Sarah had chosen to take a different route. She packed in O'malleys. O'malleys is a copy of Baileys irish cream. I just looked for a website for it, and I can't find one. That is how small of a market O'malleys is. In any case, added to hot chocolate it was amazing. After pancakes and hot chocolate with O'malleys I decided it was time for a nap. There is nothing like getting into a warm bag after a big meal, hot chocolate spiked with O'malleys and an oreo appetizer. I was asleep in seconds. Sarah stayed under the tarp reading while I slept. She said later she was sure a bear was going to walk down the beach. We were getting tired. Tired of mile after endless mile. Tired of bears. Tired of a lot of things. But we only had two more days of paddling ahead of us.

Many aspects of that trip I will never forget. Among them, the taste of real maple syrup while gazing at the Lynn canal from a beach we had paddled to. The joy of spending time with a good friend. The peace of mind of a long planned trip flowing almost flawlessly from beginning to end. And of course, oreos.