Note* This page is for those of you looking for a solo paddling experience. In ’05, I did a custom guided trip with a woman who wanted what was essentially a ‘kayak retreat’, or ‘vision quest’. We spent a month on the coast, paddling together roughly half the time, then found a couple of beaches to base from and spend some time a mile or so apart. This is a great idea for those of you who want some solo time, yet don’t want to undertake a solo expedition per se. I will be happy to discuss solo, retreat style or fully guided journeys; whatever style of trip and type of experience it is you’re looking for.

Hi, I’m Robert Lyon and together with my wife, Pamela Maresten, we run lyon expeditions. I’ll tell you a bit about the company, but first a disclaimer: I do not have nerves of steel, and if you think all expeditionaries do, you’re wrong. Mostly what we have is passion. We go to extreme places that draw us like magnets, then behave very, very carefully to survive. As for le, the idea began when I returned home from paddling the outside of Moresby and Graham Islands in the Queen Charlotte Archipelago in ’99. I felt so empowered by the experience that I was inspired to set up a solo paddling program for youth in the San Juan Islands where I live. I got side-tracked developing Origins Expeditions instead.

OE is a non-profit, wilderness access, youth development organization. Ocean paddling on the outer coast of BC, it is. Solo it is not. Then last summer, in the middle of leading an OE kayak expedition around the northern end of Vancouver Island I had an epiphany, or maybe just a confirmation of my original passion to steward the solo kayak odyssey. It was good to share a coastal expedition with other people, and I could have asked for no better

team than the guys I had along with me. I would continue to introduce young people to this extraordinary environment, but still . . . there was a significant differential in the degree of immersion, the level of satisfaction, and ultimately, the level of personal transformation, that typically occurs when paddling solo at the expeditionary level. I would stay with OE, I realized, but I would have to create an opportunity for the original dream.

What le offers then, is training and support of YOUR OWN EXPEDITION down the outside of Vancouver Island, or the Queen Charlottes; we can work together to find the ideal itinerary. Three weeks would be minimum, a month or two even, ideal, and we specialize in the outer coast.

Commune with the Primordial

I will paddle with you that first week or so while you get the hang of things. You will learn fundamental paddling and open water techniques, self rescue, black bear protocol, navigation, weather interpretation, surf landing, tidal and current interpretation, chart reading, emergency PLB use, VHF radio procedures, sailing, fishing techniques, boat packing, camp site evaluation and low impact camping techniques, and a whole lot more. You will learn about outs (safe routes ashore) what they are, how to find them, tracking and evaluating of them in light of changing aesthetic, recreational and practical concerns. An out, for example, when conditions are benign, might be selected for its western facing, high sunset value, while in nastier conditions, a barren shelf of rock may seem like the Marriott.

Staying in a groove on shore is as important as the all important groove we maintain on the water. It is critical to regenerate one’s strength, one’s spirit each night. We provide the most secure, comfortable tent on the planet that will take care of you when the gales roll through, which they will. You’ll be resupplied every few weeks with additional books from your traveling library, energy bars, fuel, food, and fresh Canadian beer. The idea out here is enjoyment.

You can paddle whenever you want and as long as you want each day, although you will quickly discover why the unwritten rule of ocean kayaking is: paddle when possible. They’ll be plenty of shore time due to wind and weather. Personally, I’m as happy messing around on shore as paddling (for a few days at least). If you’re the type of person who lived for snow days as a kid in school, you’ll dig retreating to the sanctuary of your tent with a good book and a cup of hot tea and brandy when a squall turns the ocean white.

If you’re a fly fisherman, you’re in hog heaven here. A single, unweighted fly works well for salmon, and there’s some excellent fishing for black rock fish, greenling, ling cod and many more specie of fish. If you’re not a fisherman, a simple hand line will provide you all the fish dinners you could possibly want. And if by some freak of nature you don’t like seafood, you’ll carry delicious entrees like Alfredo Fettuccine, Spinach Lasagna (my favorite) and Santa Fe Chicken, albeit freeze dried. But if you haven’t tasted freeze dried food in a while you’re in for a surprise.

The first leg of the journey is great for getting feet wet and consists of channels and islands and an increasing outer feel as we approach the cape (Scott or Knox) and begin to feel the living pulse of the ocean. With a stable, water tight boat underneath you and a Kokatat Durasuit on, you’ll quickly adjust to the water. When you’re ready you’ll round the cape on your own and head south. While you travel down the coast an LE staff person will bivouac in the coast range, (in a cozy cabin along the bank of a steelhead river if they’re lucky), and serve as your mobile contact and resupply base. At the end of your journey, they’ll rendezvous with you at take-out, load up the boats and high-tail you to an airport, or your own rig back in the islands.

Not everybody wants the hassle of setting up an expedition. It is a not-so fine line between planning a two week vacation and a month long, international (albeit our friendly neighbor to the north), solo, kayak journey down a rugged wilderness coastline. The logistics are huge, especially the first time around, and paddling is only the tip of the iceberg. Besides the gear, there’s travelling to launch, finding a local contact person, shuttling your rig, and dealing with resupply. Most importantly, of course, are the relevant skills, techniques and methods you’ll need to survive. You’ll receive that with us at the beginning of the expedition and it will quicken all concepts and theory into a reality you can quickly and naturally relate to—sometimes when I see the Zen of it, it seems as simple as sitting on water.

My job is to outfit and coach your expedition. In other words, I provide doable equipment and convey a doable approach. Typically, I will start the planning and preparation process six months to a year ahead of the launch. If you want to write up an account of our journey for a magazine or local paper, I will help you make contacts well ahead of time, finding an interested editor and then working with you to edit and prepare a finished manuscript. If the photographic angle is more your thing and a slide show or publishing images of your expedition on a professional basis is appealing, we will do that. Our intern on the last OE expedition was an aspiring photo journalist. After the Cape Scott Expedition, Cedar published half a dozen of his images (to date) in magazines and catalogs. Any of the expeditions that you might choose to run through us will have a daring index high enough to attract interest from many magazine editors.

As I mentioned, I will paddle with you for the first week or so as we travel out toward the cape. This time will be a workshop, an intensive on ocean kayak trekking. A week might not seem a long enough time before paddling the open ocean, but consider it like this. The ocean is water, like ponds, rivers, creeks and bays; it’s just a bigger pool and behaves accordingly. If you’re a water person, and you should be, it won’t take long before you’re prior water experience translates over. Secondly, and again—surfing, for example—how long does it take to learn how to paddle and remount a surf board or to deal with waves all day, and more importantly, to know when you should be sitting on the beach? Not very.

Think Radical—Act Conservative

The phrase: Think Radical—Act Conservative, occurred to me one day in regard to ocean kayaking and it’s become the motto for ocean kayak trips with OE. ‘Radical’ speaks to the caliber of the dream, to the massive logistics and challenging destination of a journey of a month on the west side of Vancouver or the Queen Charlotte Islands—radical, to be sure. My belief is that if we don’t follow up on a few of our deepest, most heart and soul felt dreams we will polarize with them and they will remain forever unattainable. I believe we make a choice about the level of adventure at which we choose to live life, or it is decided for us. A month long ocean odyssey is a first seminal step, or a major reinstall, to that effect. Make no compromises with the radical part and you’ll thank yourself when you’re through.

‘Conservative’ relates to how radical is pulled off—picking our windows, using as much advance knowledge and foresight as we can gather, using an unswampable boat, knowing where your best outs are at any given moment, dressing for the water, and letting discretion carry the day whenever prudent. There will be enough exciting moments intrinsic to our journey and no need to create more.

Paddling alone on the wilderness coast is a matter of rising to scale, and scale off the west coast of British Columbia is LARGE. Everything around you is at a zenith of expression—the wind, the ocean, the teeming sea life, the rare temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest (densest biomass in the known world). To flourish in such company, to find equilibrium among such powerful agents of the natural world, necessitates a shift in consciousness, in being . . . unless, that is, you always feel like Superman. The idea is to have an intensive, life transforming (or galvanizing, as the case may be) experience, exploring the sea or shore, as you choose. To be alone out here is intense, in both an obvious, dramatic sense, and also in terms of protracted tedium and ennui when progress is lagging. It is highly visceral for the body, yet contemplative and aligning for spirit. There are plenty of glorious moments when we can’t help but shout at the top of our lungs for joy, and plenty of equally despairing moments when the weight of fear and fatigue are nearly too much to bear.

The wilderness coast of BC is a remote, unforgiving, radical environment, where a tent failure is as critical as a boat failure, and, if you listen to most people, not the kind of place a sensible man or woman would venture. Such a there be dragons attitude serves, at the very least, to preserve the sanctity of something very special. If you bring along a mature, resilient, and positive attitude, just about all you’ll need is the right equipment, a good game plan and a straight forward introduction to smart ocean paddling, to achieve the trip of a lifetime.

My wife Pamela and I will spot you here in the islands as we meet to gear up for the trip. Pamela has made even more kayak trips to the west coast than myself, and it was she who turned me on to ocean kayaking the first time. Pamela has great perspective for women and first timers. The islands are an amazing place, the land quiet and healing, the people eccentric and friendly. We’ll put you up here on a sunny 20 acres where you can detox from the mainland while we line out gear and talk kayaking.

Then we'll ferry through the San Juans to Victoria, drive north, launching from Port Hardy, end of road, on the extreme northwest tip of Vancouver Island, or if you’ve opted for the Queen Charlotte Archipelago, we’ll sail north on the Star of the North Woods, through the northwest passage to the Misty Isles, and our launch.

No guarantees, but there should be a whole lot of hot summer sun while you’re out; that’s the idea. Challenge and paradise are the best of bedfellows. This is not paddling the Arctic in slush and cold. A dependable high pressure system develops more often than not, over Vancouver Island in particular, and provides summery days and brisk sailing winds each afternoon. There will not only be enough sun to put a touch bronze to the skin, there should be very few mosquitoes and no Grizzly bear putting a kink in an otherwise easy-going camp life.

Call me if you have any questions about what I require or you require, or just want to know more. Frankly, a decision whether or not to undertake an expedition such as I have described above is a difficult one to make, but I think it will be clearer if we talk about it. I’ll be happy to send along photocopies of articles on expeditions soloing Vancouver, the Charlottes and Southeast Alaska.

Water Marked—Journal of a Naked Fly Fisherman is my second book. It is not only fly fishing, but about a love of water that led inexorably from stream to river to Ocean. The last chapter is the unedited version of a story I did for Fly Rod & Reel about circling Vancouver Island by kayak . . . with fly rods, of course . . . nevertheless it will give you an idea of what it is like on a long solo paddle. The book is available from Amazon, or for an autographed copy give us a call.

E-mail Rob
© 2002 Lyon Expeditions. All Rights Reserved.
Gregg Blomberg Photography—
Web Sites That Work!