It might seem at first glance that kayak trips are all about paddling to beautiful places – and they are. Kayaks have carried me to some of the most mind-blowing spectacular vistas I’ve ever seen. Towering peaks, sheers rock faces, wildlife shows…I once paddled into a cleft in a cliff to find a creek mouth gushing water into a tight box canyon. The sheer rock walls and mossy overhanging cedar branches created a cave of sorts, a cool refuge from the heat outside. It was one of the prettiest places I’ve been.
But that’s not really what kayaking is all about. That’s just a bonus. To me, kayak trips are about peeling life down to its simplest form. They are about stripping away superficial stresses, worries, facades, and focusing on what really matters in the wilderness: keeping warm and dry, staying fed, building fire. The list is really quite short, because we as human beings are not as complicated as we like to think.
I can’t begin to list all the stresses that absorb my everyday life. Mortgages, bills obligations, work responsibilities, the list goes on. Questions race through my mind every time I pack my kayak. Did I remember to answer that email? Pay my credit card bill? Somehow though, those stresses get left behind on the dock. Because once I put those first few paddle strokes in, I can’t do a thing about them. What worries I have pertain to basic survival needs: will the wind pick up? Will current impede our journey? Can we set up a tarp quickly enough to stay dry?
Of course we look after people pretty well on Coast Mountain kayak trips. Our equipment is top notch, our guides are skilled, and we have some of the best food you’ll ever see come out of a kayak hatch. But despite all the preparation, we can’t control the wind, the waves, the current, the weather, and it’s a rare trip that doesn’t experience some small amount of adversity.
I think that’s a good thing. Because each struggle, each challenge brings us a little closer to the essence of what it is to be alive.
To me, that’s what kayaking is all about.