Perception – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
My sister, Barb (co-author, best friend, and adventure buddy) purchased bought a kayak in Courtenay, BC at Easter. She planned to drive from Calgary to Vancouver Island to bring it home, and invited me to go along. This provided the opportunity for another super kayak adventure. I decided if I could find the type of kayak I wanted to add to my growing fleet of floatables, I would purchase it and take advantage of her vehicle to get it home. This would allow us to sea kayak while there and try paddle several new lakes on the way home. Winter sleet trailed us out of Calgary and spring blossoms met us in Vancouver. We enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony of a downtown condo.
Early morning we were ferry bound and stepped out at Departure Bay in time to lunch with friends. We arrived at Comox Valley Kayaks & Canoes in Courtenay, where Barb checked out her new Perception, a 12 foot Carolina with rudder added. I trialed several other styles, my priorities fast, light and with more cargo space. I wanted touring capacity over performance, as most of my kayaking is done on a long, long lake and I go out for several days at a time. I found a 14.5 foot Expression made by Perception equipped with a skeg rather than a rudder. When trimmed the kayak tracks like a dream. It was fast and light on the water, and had two large cargo holds. The one drawback was the lack of a day hatch. My skirt compensates with a couple of net pockets but I’ve been spoiled by the attachable caddy on my Pongo 120.
Comox Valley Kayaks sits on the estuary of the Courtenay River, so it is easy to trial kayaks from its concrete launch. The staff members we spent time with – Don, Lauren, Gabriella, Erin and Chris all went out of their way, providing every kind of help with patience and smiles. The experience and tips they passed on were invaluable. I highly recommend this business if you are looking to buy or rent. Barb tested her new rudder on the river, while I established I liked the Expression better than the other models I had trialed.
We spent a day paddling out of the estuary into the sea, heading for a point called Goose Spit. We were working against an incoming tide, though at 1:00 pm it had slowed, and also against a light wind. I swear that spit kept moving further away. As we approached we saw the Navy Cadets maneuvering their small sailboats in a shipshape circle. A whistle would sound over the waves and the boats would come about and circle in the opposite direction.
After three hours of paddling Barb touched her hand on the sand of the spit and we turned and headed back, trying to make it to the launch before the shop closed for the evening, as we wanted a lesson in loading with the new roof rack Barb had purchased. Ocean kayaking always provides a special thrill, and we were well satisfied with our day and our purchases.
The next morning we headed for Comox Lake. The weather was perfect, the water like glass. The lake, surrounded by high rock walls, costumed in many shades of moss and trees, provided uncountable scenes of beauty. We paddled down one side, crossed over at a narrower neck and followed back up the other. Driftwood works of art studded the shoreline and the lake was so clear you could see the tracings of downed trees across its bottom. An RCMP gun range, located on the far side of the lake, provided the only negative with sporadic peppering’s of gunfire. We picnicked under a roofed arbor, while looking down on the weathered pilings of an abandoned marina.
Leaving the island the next morning, we took the ferry from Duke Bay to Tsawwassen and aimed for Harrison Hot Springs. We arrived midafternoon and had difficulty finding a place to launch. The Marina attendant was on a power trip and would not allow us to use the main boat launch on the boardwalk. After reconnoitering the town and shoreline we checked into the Ramada Hot Springs Hotel. We headed back to the lakefront to look for a picnic site and found instead a helpful woman who told us there, was a Provincial Park with a boat launch on the east side of the lake. Here we found everything we needed, from a cement ramp to barbecue tables. We started our briquettes and floated our kayaks into the most beautiful of settings. It was five o’clock, with a temperature of plus 25. A determined sun highlighted the emerald trees and sapphire water. As we slathered on sunscreen we felt summer had arrived.
Hills heavy with coniferous greenery embrace Harrison Lake and the small settlement at its end. Rocky islands rise like sirens from its crystal depths, tempting you to paddle to them and stay forever. After a quick supper we were back on the water, unwilling to lose a second on its pristine surface. Geese with their goslings, ranging from downiest new baby to gawky toddler watched on, probably wondering… what was the big deal? They could float on the water anytime they desired. We stayed till the sun lost itself behind a mountain and dusk cooled the air. We took ten minutes off our original loading time, as practice began to pay off.
Reluctantly departing Harrison Hot Springs the next morning, we headed east again. As we passed through Hope and began the long drive up the Coquihalla Highway circumnavigating Shuswap Lake below. It was such a beautiful afternoon, again no wind and the lake looked like blue glass inviting one to touch down. After several false starts we found the Bayside Marina and Grill with a boat launch along the highway. This southwest arm of the lake is surrounded by mountains, most still flaunting snowy caps. It was in this setting of majesty and purity that Barb named her kayak Praise. The shades of blues and purple reflected in the water painted a glorious circular mural. We enjoyed a picnic at the marina and paddled for two and a half hours before loading and hitting the road again. Salmon Arm was just fifteen kilometres ahead. We checked into the Podollan, a family owned hotel that has improved consistently year after year, providing the highest standards in a beautiful garden and pool setting. We enjoyed a delicious five star meal in their dining room and settled in for the night. Our last day of paddling, we woke determined to savour yet another summer day. We launched from the ramp on Marina Drive in Salmon Arm. Again we had blue skies and quiet waters. Our Perceptions slid into water edged either side by protected Grebe nesting sites. Here in lies the story of helping a stranger recover his marooned pontoon boat. See blog Pontoon Rescue. After we crossed the lake, we enjoyed some quiet time on a beach composed of feldspar, quartz and shale – super skipping stones. Once the last tie down was snugged into place we headed for Calgary and the end of this adventure. The journey provided new learning around navigation, loading and unloading, patience and awareness; and on communication (who knew that sisters would still be trying to figure that out after so many years?). We experienced unparalleled beauty and moments of deep thanksgiving. We were tested by small and large obstacles and we triumphed. And we were blessed by having the opportunity and the courage to make this voyage into the unknown.