Lost In Wonderlandon January 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm
I set out to solo-kayak Canada’s Inside Passage to Alaska equipped with a compass and a map from an old National Geographic. Three days later, confused by a fog-maze of sea and islands and channels, I concluded I was hopelessly lost in wonderland when I reached my first deadend channel.
Foolish, old-fashioned, or whatever I might be, the way I see things is that any knight who would slay dragons and save maidens and brings along a GPS, satellite telephone or IPerp is hedging his bets. He’s not really pitting himself against the elements, testing himself, if he can call for help when things get tough. What maiden would want to be rescued by so faint-hearted a hero?
Adventure is my business. As a fulltime freelance writer for over 30 years, I have sailed the Caribbean in a 17-foot day sailor, set a world’s transcontinental flight record in an ultralite aircraft, floated the Amazon River, dived for pirate treasure. . . I had rather die while living, on my own terms, than to simply fade away.
Now I was lost in a wild wonderland, a silent, hidden world where the grandeur of the Pacific meets centuries-old rainforest coastline. Snow and ice coated the towering peaks of mountains whose shoulders plunged to the tide line. Sea otters floated on their backs like fat old men in a Miami Beach pool. Harbor seals snorted. A whale rolled. I scanned timber near the mouths of streams, hoping to glimpse a rare white-coated Kermode bear.
I wore a full-body diver’s wetsuit against sea water cold enough to chill exposed flesh. The wetsuit served a secondary mission as a “scare bear.” After a few days of sweating in it, it stunk like the meanest human in the North Country. I hung it with arms and legs spread to block any likely avenue of approach to my tent while I slept. I don’t know whether bears simply ignored it or laughed, but I felt a lot safer in my sleeping bag.
Tides can rise thirty or forty feet. At low tide one evening, I discovered a grassy knoll that appeared safe for camping. Lapping sounds awoke me. I scrambled from my tent to discover the tide had isolated me on my patch of land. Rising water was within a foot of my tent. A seal in the dark snorted at me. Lightning flashed in a bank of dark clouds to the west. A bear rummaged around on the island to which my pinnacle was attached at low tide. When I solo-canoed the Yukon Territory, I threw stones at nosy black bears to scare them away. This guy didn’t appear the timid sort.
I hurriedly packed for a quick departure, water nipping at my feet, dreading being alone on the water in the middle of a black night, and perhaps in a storm. Suddenly, the tide began to recede. With a sigh of relief, I shooed off the seal, ignored the lightning, made truce with the bear and went back to bed.
After all, an old guy needs his sleep.
“. . .After this election, there will be no further elections in which the outcomes are in doubt. We will control voting—or at least the counting of votes. . . It’s our destiny.” From Charles W. Sasser’s latest thriller A Thousand Years of Darkness. Available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and fine book stores nationwide.