Life should be one adventure after another. If not, you’ve lived too long.
Whenever I become too mellow, my heart yearns and yearns for adventure.
You take the high road and I’ll take the high road. Okay you take the low road and I’ll take the high road. Well, if you insist, you take the high road and I’ll take the low road. As long as we take to the road and start moving.
The above quotes represent some of Eric Soares’ thoughts on adventure. Life with him was pretty much non-stop. If we weren’t kayaking or exploring the hinterlands, we were sitting around, martinis in hand, “talking deep philosophy” (his phrase) and planning our next move. I’ve always shared Eric’s wanderlust. Now that he is gone, my heart still yearns for adventure. And as Thomas Mann reminds us, “Space, like time engenders forgetfulness…Time, we say, is Lethe; but change of air is a similar draught, and, if it works less thoroughly, does so more quickly.” (From The Magic Mountain.)
On Monday, June 11, I tied my Tsunami X-15 onto my truck and set off for adventure. One of my goals was to establish myself as a kayaker even though my kayaking partner is gone. In 16 years I don’t think I ever went out on the ocean without Eric. All that has changed. Another goal was to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. First stop, Marna Powell’s place. Marna owns KayakZak’s, an outfitter in Orick, California. When Eric died, she friended me on Facebook. She told me how one time she saw Eric’s slide show and was psyched to discover that she could do the same things in the ocean, i.e. play in rocks and surf, as she did kayaking in rivers. Whitewater is whitewater after all. She offered me a place to stay if I was ever passing through. This offer as well as a phone call from Connie Taylor who lives in Elk south of Orick moved me to get movin’. Here is a brief logbook of my journey.
Logbook, Day 1
Drove Highway 199 to Crescent City. Continued south along the coast to Prairie Creek Redwoods. Stopped to hike Ossagon Trail to beach. Ubiquitous ferns, and ancient redwoods like tall, silent witnesses. Green light filtering through old growth. A bird call that sounded like a ray gun – one long high-pitched note, then silence, and then again at broken intervals. A pair of elk at the beach. Long stretches of gray sand fading away into fog. On the way back, startled a large flock of band-tailed pigeons and kept flushing them, wings clattering in the echoing forest. No people. Atmosphere felt strange, otherworldly. Then down the road to Orick where I met up with Marna at her home. Cool kayak henge at gate. Great conversation as we got to know one another. Martinis, hers with jalapeno-stuffed olives, mine with a Meyer lemon twist. Excellent albacore salad with greens from her garden. Beautiful guest room – lovely quilt made by her mom.
Logbook, Day 2
Off to Trinidad to meet Rebekah Kakuk at the Beachcomber Café, but she didn’t bring her boat. Dang! Water glassy. No wind. Instead of paddling we walked down to the cliff top and sat in the sun and talked. Haven’t seen her much since she and Jim split, and it was good to get together. Drove south to Eureka to meet Jim – lunch with him and Rebekah at Gallagher’s. After some consideration decided (partly on Jim’s advice) to take the coast highway instead of 101 to Elk. Jim recommended McKerricher State Park where I was lucky enough to get a site without a reservation. Great campground. Went for a long walk along the coastal bluffs. Stunningly beautiful rock gardens. Was serenaded by a white-crowned sparrow that sang for me from about 4 feet away, completely unafraid. At night, beautiful stars once the fog rolled back.
Logbook, Day 3
Next morning was sunny, so I repeated my walk of the previous day and took more pics. Checkerspot butterfly allowed me to approach within inches and observe. Like the sparrow, a letter from emptiness. Drove from McKerricher to Elk about an hour away. Stopped at Caspar Beach, a nice protected little cove where I encountered a Liquid Fusion vehicle parked on the roadside. Cate Hawthorne and Jeff Laxier were surfing and I took some pics but did not hail them as I was running late.
Andy and Connie Taylor live on a ridge about 4 miles in from the coast. Beautiful medicinal and kitchen gardens. They are growing shiitake mushrooms on tan oak rounds under the house. Venison tacos for lunch with greens from the garden and chipotle sauce. I hadn’t seen Andy for years, so it was nice to catch up. Eric was right; Connie and I have a lot in common. Even though I’d never met her, we were friends right away. Because she lost her first husband, Storm Sea King Steve Sinclair back when Eric and I were first together, we had a lot to say to each other. Steve and Eric were much alike. For some time I have felt that this place was an important destination on my spiritual map as I journey through the bereavement process. I was right. Hung out alone on the beach in the evening, then dinner of fried eggs (from their own hens) and more venison with beans, avocado and cheese. Yum. The whites of the eggs were nice and fluffy, like a meringue. For cocktails, I made my special martinis.
Logbook, Day 4
Next morning Connie served me home-made kombucha. Had planned to go kayaking, and the previous day we had checked out the inventory at the kayak guide shop that used to belong to Force 10, which Connie sold some time ago. It was great to see all the old, beat-up Tsunami boats and we picked a couple to take out. I wanted to see the cave under the cemetery at Cuffy’s Cove where Eric and the Rangers used to go, but NOAA forecasted 13-foot swells at 9 seconds and 20 – 30 knot winds with 40-knot gusts. We didn’t go. Connie and I spent the morning in the garden. Transformational. Kayaking would have been great, but that morning spent talking and watering the garden was special. Now that I’m home I feel like I was transported to a magical land, sought healing, found it, and was sent back to present myself to the powers that be, ready for duty. On my way back north camped at Patrick’s Point. Lucked out and got a great campsite and was serenaded again, this time by a song sparrow that appeared to consider my site his personal space. Took a long hike along the rim trail. Impressive rock formations, wild ocean and beautiful Sitka spruce and Douglas fir plantations.
Logbook, Day 5
Next morning met Rebekah again in Trinidad about 6 miles away. This time she brought a boat, a little Tsunami X-7 that used to belong to Tsunami Ranger Misha Dynnikov. Had a great time paddling around the sea stacks behind Trinidad Head. Landed on a beach about ¾ of a mile to the south and looked for agate and jasper. Played on the sea stacks and she let me try the X-7, a little play boat which was hella squirrely. Unfortunately, the foot wells were too long for my short legs, and since the boat has no rudder I had to maintain a straight course by hitching my hips hard from side to side as I paddled while wedging with my thighs. It was fun, but the boat is definitely not designed for long paddles. The wind picked up on our way back to the put-in and things got kind of exciting but we made it back feeling like we got a good workout. Made some plans for kayaking together in the future, especially up the Oregon coast. Thinking about doing the Tsunami Retreat in August with Rebekah in a Tsunami Trident. As a parting gift she gave me a Tibetan prayer rug as a seat cover for my truck. Love it! Drove home in brilliant sunshine, surrounded by the scent of roses from two buds Connie had given me to perfume the cab of my truck.
Several very positive things came out of this trip. One, I met Marna Powell and was able to put a face to the name of my new friend in the kayaking community. Also, Marna gave me an idea. She told me that when she first saw Eric’s slide show and wanted to start paddling rock gardens and surf, there was no one in her community to team up with. So she started teaching people to do the things she wanted to do. This gave me the idea of teaching my friend Lissa Roberts to kayak. Lissa lives in Ashland and is a hardcore athlete (backcountry skiing, climbing, backpacking, yoga, etc.) She has expressed an interest in going kayaking with me, and now I am determined to get her into a boat.
Two, I had a really great paddle at Trinidad. I got to reconnect with Rebekah and we agreed to be paddling partners since she no longer has Jim and I no longer have Eric. This could be really good for both of us. Plus I talked to Rebekah about it, and she has a lot of extra equipment and a couple of boats, so together she and I should be able to outfit Lissa quite well. Look out, coast!
Three, I got to see where Andy and Connie Taylor live and finally got to meet Connie after all these years. As I suspected she was a very important person for me to talk to at this time in my life. I am reminded of the cartoons one sees of the person climbing the mountain top to see the old wise man. Except this time the wise one is a woman who makes her own bread and yogurt, a mom who sweeps her floor and pulls weeds in her garden. She too can be a paddling partner. Even though we weren’t able to go out together this trip, there will be other opportunities. I’ll be back.
So my desire to find my kayaking chops and to connect was successful. In fact, when I contacted Liquid Fusion to find out who the surfers were at Caspar Beach, Cate Hawthorne told me to let her know next time I’m down that way. Another connection! Moreover, this was a scouting trip. I learned where Marna, Rebekah, and the Taylors live. I drove down a section of the Pacific coast I haven’t seen in years and located a lot of good kayaking and camping spots. I got on the water only once, but it was somewhere I had never been and we had a really good day. I made plans to come back in the future, and to explore the Oregon coast as well.
Even more important, this trip was a pilgrimage. As I drove along Highway 1, I stopped from time to time to look out at the sea stacks and rock gardens. I knew that Eric had travelled this coastline many times in his kayaking career. I thought about how he must have stood at many of the same places I stood, scouting the coastline, wanting to do more than just stand on the bluffs looking down, wanting to be out on the ocean with the waves and rocks where everything is happening. In fact, I knew that Eric and the Tsunami Rangers had paddled at both McKerricher and Patrick’s Point State Parks and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to stay at those places. And while I too had paddled with Eric in these parts, I was thinking of a more distant time in the mid-80’s when Eric had just met Steve Sinclair and the Tsunami Rangers were just getting started.
Eric wanted to do things no one else had done in the sea kayaking world, so he made connections and formed friendships that supported him in his endeavor. Following his example, now I’m doing the same: making connections, forming friendships, and scouting the waves. Whereas Eric was a stud in his 30’s, I am a 54-year old widow. My friends aren’t young, strong men; they’re middle-aged women suffering the physical consequences of a lifetime of athletic activity. But the principle is the same. I still want to go out and kayak the Tsunami way as best I can at this time of my life with my friends.
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