You are alone, gliding in a very small boat along the edge of a very big ocean. You have seen no one for nearly a month, except your resupply boat, the occasional tanker and one lone sailboat tacking across the horizon.

You are tan, your muscled forearms streaked with salt, your world reduced to the primordial-fresh air, water, sand and rock.You feel the flames of new life burning within during the day and sleep the sleep of the dead each night.

     

On the water your mind is fresh and focused-paddling the North Pacific Ocean is like dancing with a sleep-walking giant —you must pay close attention and stay out from underfoot! Awareness is everything . . . that, and knowing the ways of giants.

Ashore it is another story. Ravens call tok tok in the fir tops and fly over camp with a swoosh of wings. A fresh, midsummer sun turns your tent to gold as you scuttle out to scoop water for coffee from a nearby stream, while your eyes drift south over the water to a distant smudge of Cape in the distance—the day's objective. You lean back against a driftwood log on a steep pea gravel beach with a steaming cup of coffee and bask in the heat of a newly risen sun. Your mind drifts easily between worlds and your other life seems a very long ways away . . .

Carry Wood, Chop Water

On the west side of the big BC Islands, Vancouver and the Charlotte Archipelago, life is large along the extreme edge of two enormous biosystems. To your right the ocean, 7/8s of the earth’s surface, a mimic for our serumal make-up, and one heck of a cool metaphor for God when you think about it (and you will), and to your left . . . true temperate rainforest.

Paddling the ocean is paddling at source—deep, profound, full of the mystery and allegory of conscious life. And Crusoeing your own little bit of paradise during the mild summer, early autumn months in the Pacific Northwest isn’t bad duty either. Seafood entrees are a specialty each night, grilled over a driftwood fire, while a sea breeze ruffles the tree tops and the tangy sweet scent of cedar imprints your soul. And doing it alone, at least once in your life, is an experience beyond measure.

Solo outings of more than a day or two’s duration are rare in today’s society. When we have a chance to get out on a trip of decent length, it is inevitably with company. lyon expeditions is dedicated to providing you the opportunity to paddle alone through this extraordinary marine environment. Not just paddling, but paddling with objective, an expedition, in other words—touring the entire west coast of Vancouver Island, say, from Cape Scott to the San Juans, or Cape Scott to Tofino, the heart of the wilder coast, or maybe the west side of the Queen Charlottes if you have a particularly wild hair.

   
     
Within our western culture, the personal ‘expedition’ is revered but not supported. There is no place for it really, tied as we are to schooling, careering and raising families. In lieu of the real thing, we are offered a surrogate—a Ford Explorer, Expedition, or Excursion, a Chevy Tracker or Trailblazer—then told to drive it to the river, mountains or coast for a couple of days and be satisfied. What’s missing here is the deep spirit of adventure from sustained immersion in the natural world that traveling in the wild for a month or more can provide.
A legitimate expedition is rare today indeed, and must be intentionally and effortfully sought out to experience. It is far far easier to make those 48 monthly payments and toy with a false sense of bravado.

On the solo expedition we are forced to lead, to analyze, to make decisions, to buoy ourselves up when necessary and to live with the very immediate and direct consequences of our choices and actions. I am convinced of the intrinsic power of such a journey to quicken an individual on a path toward self-discovery.

To come to full terms with our self, we must spend time alone. Basically speaking, there are passive and active methods of achieving this. Passive is the quiet retreat, where we do little or nothing, no small challenge in itself. As for active, it will typically consist of a routine form of alone, like bachhing it for a week while the wife or husband leaves to visit their parents. Then there is performance active, as in leading and problem solving on a solo expedition. The effect is as much about developing effective analytical, and decision making skills, as it is about not seeing anyone for a long time.

What is so remarkable about this, is how it serves as an intensive for our will. Everything revolves around you. No one else is there to share or make decisions but you. The quickening effect from putting yourself in the hot seat like this is extraordinarily empowering.

Maybe for the first time in our life we are leading our own parade— unequivocally— not for a single day either, but long enough to feel right at home in the driver’s seat! We are alone at Point A, our destination 500 miles distant at Point B. Rugged, remote, lonely, dynamic, wilderness coastline lies between. I can guarantee you that by the time you make it home, you will be a different, confident, proud, and capable person.

Adventurous outdoor people are closet expedition leaders. Even if it’s only a party of one. It is a grand and noble dream to go off alone to a lonely seacoast in mid-summer and Crusoe a simple life in a primordial land, with the muffled boom of endless surf and the crackle of a lonely driftwood fire, paddling big sea swell, busting out through breaking surf each morning and riding a wave to shore at the end of the day. You are your own hero, slaying your own dragons, and they are plentiful, as ocean represents an enormous pool of terrifying mythos in our collective unconscious Mind. Catharsis to the emotional body too, is intense. Exhileraton, despair, terror, confidence, pain, joy, anguish sublimity, frustration, ennui, anxiety, and the deep peace of sanctuary when we crawl into our tent to escape a storm—invariably, we will experience each of these and others, to a degree we have never before known. Of course, healing and expansion of self are predicated upon a successful journey, and few environs are as intrinsically challenging as the open coast.

   

The idea is adventure of a magnificently high order, but adventure that involves more strength of character and pure passion for what we are doing, than it does technical and experiential mastery. The open kayak we use is a watertight, unsinkable, self-bailing fuselage. Traits like determination and the ability to face and process our fears are what get us through the tough times. Strength comes naturally within a matter of days after we begin our journey. As for hardship and privation... I’d just as soon not. We can easily carry everything we need to be styling on the beaches for months at a stretch.

As a specie, we have justifiable fear of water, the ocean in particular. It is a foreign, hostile environment. Without elaborate technical equipment, we can not exist but momentarily within it. The best we can do is float upon it; even that is perilous. Clever boat design and sheer vessel size keep us predictably safe on the open ocean, but what about along its edges? The edge of the ocean is paper thin, really, the thinnest of thin skins on an immense liquid fruit. In the micro sense, however, it is a volatile one, and anathema to boats and most living things. To survive, we paddle just off the breaking surf, and scurry like a mouse in and out between curling walls of water, to come ashore or leave the earth and resume our watery journey. From a human perspective, it is a virtual shrine to the energetic. And energy, of course, is all we are.

I have seen the spark in the eyes of hundreds of people when I’m on my own trips, and, intuitively, I know they would love to be in my shoes. le is dedicated to helping make that possible."

I was exchanging emails with Ed Gillet (the guy who kayaked to Hawaii from California) the other day about the concept of assisted solo kayak expeditions, and his take was: “solo kayakers are born, not made”. Largely the truth of the matter, I think, yet a very gray area indeed. In the purest sense sure, just get in one and go; you don’t need company and there’s little to stop you. Granted, most solo kayakers that you hear of or read about were probably self-initiated, but many of them tossed their regular jobs to try and make a career out of their passion. We’re not talking day paddling here, but a month long outing on a remote coastal seashore. To undertake a project of this magnitude and to do it thoroughly and responsibly, not to mention comfortably, requires a major effort of time and money. Yes, there is a certain satisfaction from having figured everything out from scratch, but it is you alone on the outside for the summer that counts. Make no mistake about that. If you’re just too jammed to handle everything yourself but are dying to make it happen, maybe we can help.
Granted, not everyone has the resilience and determination to paddle hundreds of miles of open coast alone, and frankly, if you don’t think you do you shouldn’t be out there. But if drive is your proven strength, along with an intense desire to explore the coolest environment on the face of the planet, you’re a candidate.

*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.

       
 
E-mail Rob
 
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