Getting out there…


By Al Bergstein. All photos are copyrighted, and require permission to reuse. Thanks.
Bedwell Harbor Evening

A moment of Zen

I just finished a couple of weeks of getting outside again with friends. Getting out there was something I got hooked on early. Boy Scouts and a trip to back of beyond in the Quetico Superior Lake Boundary Waters. Countless books from the library on exploring. I never made the goals I set back then, but in many ways am still living them.

We started by rafting on the Grande Ronde in Eastern Oregon and ended with a sail to Campbell River from Port Townsend including a few stops in Desolation Sound.

It once again reinforces my basic belief that no matter where you go, at their core, most people are good folks, wanting to do the best to protect the wild and the scenic. While there is a resource extraction industry that our current administration wishes to give total run of doing what they want with the wild, there is also a huge industry that makes it’s living on recreation. It can’t be either or, it has to be a middle way, not an ultimatum.

On the Grande Ronde and around it,  a network of businesses supply the river rafting and fly fishing crowds. Even though we left the put-in with at least a dozen other boats, there were still lots of places to camp, and the feeling of being in the wilderness was quite complete. There was very little trace of anyone else having been there before us, though we knew there had been thousands. Good work folks.

grand ronde putin

Grande Ronde put in

Grande Ronde

On Admiralty Inlet, though, we twice had to capture birthday balloons that had left their parties and ended up floating around where wild creatures could eat them or get entangled in them. The folks letting the balloons loose likely never imagined that they were turning them into ocean garbage.  At the same time we were retrieving the lost balloons, a sailboat racing team on their way to Hawaii in a very competitive race lowered their sails and took the time to free a turtle they passed entangled in human ocean debris. In both cases, it was people stopping their forward motion for just a few minutes to do a small thing to save our ever diminishing wild resources. Read to the end of the story on the sea turtle to get the dramatic punchline.

Along the way to Dodd Narrows, we passed orcas breaching and spy hopping. We were drenched in a torrential downpour in Dodd Narrows. We saw a whale (likely Minke) feeding off our beam in the middle of the Strait of Georgia and more orcas crashing and splashing nearer to Powell River. We were tricked by the sea numerous times, thinking we saw something that was a tug boat, no, a lighthouse, no a tug, and in the end, a lighthouse in the middle of 600 feet of water. The top of a mountain sticking out of the middle of the Strait of Georgia.

We had an exhilarating downwind run with a pulsating following sea for hours from Naniamo to Hornby, as fine a day as I’ve ever had under sail. After arriving at Hornby, we helped two young power boaters get their boats safely to the dock, and for our efforts they rewarded us with fresh salmon they caught that afternoon. We played music for some of our neighbors on  the dock, including Debbie Bowles and her husband Marc. Debbie is an outstanding illustrator it turns out. Here’s two of her pieces of work, with her permission.

cr=w 1200,h 750,a cc

cr=w 1200,h 750,a cc

 

All serendipity. Would have never happened unless we put ourselves there, purposely.

Desolation Sound is still there, in all it’s glory. The site of two young paddle-boarders we passed, with guitar on one of their backs and full packs strapped to the boards heading off into the wilderness shows that you don’t need an expensive boat to go do something you’ll never forget.

We sailed through coves with people living on floating shacks, their sailboats tied alongside. Trudged for hours to find a decent meal, just because we wanted a change from the boat food for a night while in harbor.

We trolled the junk stores of Campbell River. After swapping the boat for my car, so my friend’s partner could join him, I stopped by the Campbell River museum and saw an outstanding exhibit of native masks and narratives on their story.  It was the first time I really understood how the masks were used in ceremony and storytelling. The exhibet that describes how the tribes lost 90% of their people to disease and other factors is amazing.

Lastly, as the Black Ball “Coho” crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca on a picture perfect sunset, we were treated to spouting whales in the near distance.

Work is how we get ourselves out there. It’s means not the ends. The wild is what’s left of a world that once dominated us and fed us. Now we increasing think we dominate it, or so some of our so called ‘leaders’ think.  Tell that to our neighbors in Puerto Rico, or any of  dozens of other places around the globe. As the planet heats up and the poles melt we may find we have made a deal with a devil that was not what we bargained for. For thousands of years, here in the Northwest salmon were a free food that sustained humans and wild systems alike. Native nations are right in worshiping the fish.  What more could you ask for than a constant supply of high quality protein swimming by your front porch almost all year?  We have squandered that and are now struggling to save what’s left. There are hard decisions needing to be made. This week, Canada imposed a 200 meter distance to keep boaters away from Orcas with up to a $100K Cdn fine for violators. It’s causing huge backlash and no one really knows if it’s going to help. But it’s only a small symbol of the hard decisions that we as a society will have to make to actually save ourselves, let alone our planet’s current ecosystem.  And if we fail, the planet will heal itself again without us, as it has over hundreds of millions of years. Just float down the Grand Canyon to get a sense of scale and how easily we can find ourselves as fossils in layers in the rock.

We can’t change what’s happening, we can only develop the tools to cope with it. As most of humanity always has. It’s part of what gives me a small amount of hope.

So do it. Get out there. Recharge. And when you come back, get back in the fight. There is more at stake than ever.

Paddleboarders in Desolation Sound

Paddleboarders with guitar and packs head into Desolation Sound.

 

 

 

5 Responses

  1. Ah, I was that paddleboarder with the guitar on my back (a half size Baby Taylor), and indeed that was Peggy’s son with me. That photograph is amazing! Would you be willing to share it with me? What a great memory for our week paddling in beautiful Desolation Sound.

  2. Beautiful post, Al! Nature travel is the best tonic for heart-sick souls!
    Noreen Parks

  3. Hi Al,
    Great post! When did you see the paddleboarders in Desolation Sound? I have a feeling they may have been my son and his friend. They get back tomorrow, so I will check with them. The guitar (actually a uke, if it’s my son) was a givaway! They will love to see this picture, if indeed it is them!
    Thanks,
    Peggy Albers
    peggyalbers@gmail.com

    • Thanks Peggy. The Paddleboarders might have been on Sunday, north of Lund heading to Refuge Cove. They were heading east into the Sound. The guitar might have been a smaller instrument, as the person it was on seemed average height.

      Good catch though!

      Al

  4. Thank you Al

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