In the dead of wInter a couple years ago, at the end of a slow day in the office, I went out on a limb and dialled the number for Eric Soares of California’s tsunami rangers.
Kayaking was a magic word. all I had to do was introduce myself and my half-baked dream—“just something in the back of my mind,” I downplayed it—to unleash a flood of information and friendly advice from the opposite side of the continent, from a man I’d never met.
eric had just had heart surgery, wasn’t paddling much, and it was like he was passing on all his enthusiasm for exploring the coast to someone who could still go out and do it.
“the hardest section will be the great wide open stretches of beach around the Columbia riv- er where waves pound in at five to six feet most of the time, 12 or 15 or more sometimes. the best part will be the rocky sections, mid-Oregon and northern California. redwood national Park. the Lost Coast. Mendocino. Sonoma. Marin. San Mateo, Big Sur…”
A half-hour conversation was all it took to exponentially increase my knowledge about paddling from Vancouver to Mexico and make my dream start to feel real.
rob walker and Karen holm call this part of the planning process “project-based learning.” In rigorously researching their Chilean Passage expedition, they learned so much about the Patagonian coast that it felt familiar before they left home.
“We went and paddled one of the most remote and tempestuous places on earth for six months, and as crazy as it sounds, it was like we had done it before because we were so well prepared.”
Planning is at least half the journey.
Once you get a trip idea in your head, get on the phone and talk to the people who can help you make it happen. this is how expeditions begin, and the dark days of February are the best time to start.
A few years ago, a phone call to my buddy Dave with the words “let’s go this summer” launched a charmed existence of reading charts, packing food, the happy knowledge that we’d be checking out of civilization come June for 80 days on the B.C. coast.
My phone call to Eric planted the seed of a bigger trip that I may someday do. he knew two men who’d done the trip I proposed—a friend named Andy Taylor, and Ed Gillet. He gave me Andy’s phone number in Mendocino and told me to look up Ed in the San diego phone book. I added two more names to my list of contacts and the snowball started rolling.
Finally, just straightforward and friendly, as if anyone who’s going to paddle his coast is someone he will let into his house, Eric extended an invitation to a complete stranger.
“If you find yourself in half Moon Bay, give me a call. we’ll come pick you up, give you a place to stay, whatever you need.”
Expedition dreams open conversations and open doors. I still haven’t taken the first paddle stroke to Mexico, but in my mind I’m halfway there.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.