Paddling Indian Arm: A Study Break
There is only one good reason to wake up before sunrise on a Saturday and it is to go kayaking. I drag myself out of bed as the alarm drills it’s way into my sleep and get a rush of adrenaline when I see the time; I’m being picked up in twenty minutes. I scramble together the rest of my poorly packed gear, throwing things into open trash bags, and for the thousandth time, I check that my flashlight works. I grab my bags and head to meet the others at the street corner across from my residence. We all throw our gear into the back and head towards Deep Cove.
As we turn the last corner towards the put-in sight, the trees open up and the North Shore Mountains peak out from their early morning cloud cover. We park and throw our gear onto the curb. Our fifteen kayaks are lined up in two neat rows on the grass like pick-up sticks before a game. Everyone wrestlers the “water-proof” hatches open and begins stuffing trash bags full of food, tents, dry (for now) clothes, and sleeping bags. When we are all sufficiently frustrated, and the hatches full and sealed, we gather around Cora, our trip leader, for an overview. We are starting our adventure at Deep Cove, an inlet on the east side of North Vancouver. From here, we will paddle eighteen kilometers north, up Indian Arm, a stretch of ocean nestled between mountains, to our campsite at Granite Falls. Cora introduces those of us on the trip with rescue experience and goes over basic safety. Then we haul the now leaden kayaks to the water and set off.
Homework, midterms, and anxieties are forgotten as the we get into the rhythm of paddling. The group sticks close together at first, motor boats speed by and much of the group is new to sea kayaking. I paddle from tandem kayak to tandem kayak, giving tips on paddle strokes and technique. Most people think kayaking is all about the arms: but a stroke’s power should come from your core muscle as you twist your upper body, leading with the shoulders. Believe it or not, you shouldn’t use your arms at all, they tired much to quickly and with a two days of paddling ahead, everyone needed to conserve energy. The wind is at our backs and we paddle with the tide so in no time we stop at a rocky beach with a sign that says Camp Jubilee on it. We haul the kayaks out of the water and greedily grab our lunches. Everyone is silent as people chow down on sandwiches, enjoy the now motorboat free view of the ocean and mountains, and enjoy as sensation returns to their cramped legs. As we pull our boats back into the water and snap our skirts back over the cockpits, a sea plane roars over head. Normally, it would break the serenity of being in the wild, but somehow it fits. It flies low and weaves it’s way through the narrow valley. Maybe it is because it, too, is a creature of the water, it’s pontoons obvious as it passes over our flotilla of brightly coloured boats. We spent the second half of our day spotting seals and paddling up the east side of Indian Arm. The final stretch of paddling takes us along Croker Island. It’s rocky cliffs rise steeply and level off into a dense forest of evergreens. I slowly maneuver my boat along side, paddling quietly as I approach a pod of seals basking in the last of the day’s sun. Our campsite lies above a rocky beach, the immense Granite Falls thunders behind us. We pull our now less-than-dry gear out of our less-than-waterproof hatches and set up camp. Our little tent city pops up in minutes. A few of us venture back out in our kayaks, heading further up Indian Arm into an estuary. Seals surround our boats and the water is now fresh. Eventually the current and dying light push us back to camp. Everyone pulls out their stoves and we feast, passing around chips, salsa, brownies, and smores. The last light fades behind the mountains and the stars appear, one by one. It is a magnificent display, much of the light pollution blocked by the mountains that hug our campsite. One by one, we head into our tents, crawl into our sleeping bags, and collapse into sleep. I’m woken by the thundering waterfall the next morning. As usual, it is a mad rush to eat your instant oatmeal, take apart your tents, and stuff the gear back into the kayaks. Everyone takes much less care to keep the gear dry as everything is already soaked. The rush pays off as we get on the water on time. We paddle towards the far side of Crocker Island. We scout some cliffs, discussing the possibility of coming back sometime to rock-climb to the top and dive into the water. Eventually the conversation dies down and we paddle in silence, enjoying the quite splashing and meditation that comes with kayaking. We stop at the same beach for lunch and some of the group crosses the channel to check out an abandoned power station. Then we push off for the last time, paddling back towards Vancouver and real life. We round the last corner and the mountains are replaced with buildings, seals by motorboats. The shore is now covered in vacation homes and cars can be heard in the distance. For the firs time all weekend, thoughts of homework, classes, midterms, and responsibilities creep back into our minds. We aren’t quite ready to be adults in the real world once more. Someone starts a water fight and in seconds everyone is making and breaking allegiances, using paddles and bilge pumps to soak each other in sea water. But we can’t avoid the inevitable forever, eventually we beach and have to unpack, throwing our now drenched gear back into truck beds and roof racks. With midterms closing in, a weekend away from UBC is what every student and professor needs. Kayak and camping allows for much needed relaxation, recovery, and reflection before the all-nighters and cram sessions start. Get outside and enjoy beautiful British Columbia, it will help much more than spending the weekend worrying about the piles of work that are about to bury you.