There has always been a special place in my heart for the GREAT outdoors. As a boy, and as a young man, my father would take us backpacking in Colorado. And of course, growing up in Texas, there was camping in the hill country and every opportunity a guy could dream of to hunt and fish. But it was my brother-in-law (John), who got me interested in kayaking nine years ago. As a wilderness guide he’d become quite adept at handling himself on the water, so one day we decided go in on a tandem boat purchase.
That year, before John left to guide for the summer he took me out to a local lake to coach me on the basics…..looking back on it, I’m pretty sure part of his agenda was to hedge against his sister becoming a young widow. Whatever his motivation, he left assured I at least knew how to swim.
Bolstered by my newfound expertise and being that we live a short drive from well known kayaking waters, I was able to cajole a buddy (who, unlike my 42 minutes of high level instruction…had NONE) into a weekend on the waters of the San Juan Islands. We arrived Anacortes at 4:00 in the afternoon of Day 1 and navigated our way to “Island Outfitters’.
This being the first time either of us had darkened the door of a kayak shop (not even sure I knew kayak shops existed before living in the Pacific NW), we asked the nice lady (Anna) behind the counter if she could recommend a trip/route/path/trail. She pointed us to the maps. In short order, it was evident we were completely unable to make sense of the maps. I’m a “take charge” sort of fellow, so I did what any self respecting man would do…..I grabbed the cheapest one I could find and proudly made my way to the counter with my prize. Anna patiently worked with us….thinking back, it really was quite impressive how non-condescending she was. She was being so gracious, I went ahead and blurted out, “does this map show the campsites on the various islands?”
Anna paused, swallowed hard and kindly stammered, “ummm, well, uhhh, this is actually a FISHING map.” She then came around the counter and escorted us to a map that would work. No harm….our masculinity was wavering a bit, but still intact. Of course, it was greatly challenged by the next two questions/statements…..Anna asked, “Do you have a tide table?”…quickly follow by, “you do know how to read this?” The moment of TRUTH thrust upon us!!! Would we cave in, or MAN-UP? Would we admit we didn’t have a clue, or would we continue our impersonation as seasoned paddlers? With barely a pause…..we looked at each other for a quarter second and in unison without an inkling of shame replied, “Oh yeah”…..and off we went to launch the boat and our new love affair with the open water.
It was 5:45 PM when we departed Anacortes for Cypress Island, going around Guymus because, according to Anna the channel between Cypress and Anacortes was flooding (not that we had any idea what that meant). We made it to Cypress just as it was getting dark and set up camp by head lamp. Proud of our accomplishment, we rewarded ourselves with a meal and bedded down to rest up for the unknown of the next day.