As we paddle out of Telegraph Cove on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, the fog descends around us. It softens the shoreline, and obscures all but the closest landmarks. The water is still, mirror calm and misty grey. Except for the quick silver flash of fish jumping around us, we paddle in a small world of soft focus grey.
Even sound is muted. At times the sea is completely silent and all I can hear is the gentle rhythm and splash of our paddles. Occasionally we hear the high call of an eagle, but we can’t see the bird. At one point, we hear the trickle and splash of a waterfall, but even though we’re close to shore, we can’t make out any distinct features of the landscape. When the fog is at its thickest, we stop paddling for a few minutes and just float, listening to the rhythmic whoosh of porpoises as they surface and dive near our kayaks. We can hear how close they are, but we can’t see them. We can’t see very much at all. But with the limited visibility, we notice every sound. We attend to the briny tang of the sea. We note the peaceful perfection of the morning.
My sister and I are paddling from Telegraph Cove to Kaikash Creek. We’ll camp there for a few days and then take day trips from there, hoping to paddle with the orca that frequent Johnstone Strait. I hadn’t anticipated travelling in the fog, but it’s either fog in the morning or winds in the afternoon, so we opt for the fog. We are safe: Del is familiar with the area, having paddled here a number of times, and she has with her marine charts, a weather radio and a GPS. Beyond that, we are hugging the shoreline, and though it means that our journey will take longer, because we’re paddling in and out of every cove and bay along the way, we know that we can pull in to land at any time.
It’s an interesting experience to kayak in the fog. In clear weather, we travel from point to point, always aiming for a landmark in the distance, a place in the future. In the fog, there is only the moment, only the splash of the paddle, the glass calm of the sea, the flash of a jumping fish. Only when I can’t see the surrounding landscape am I truly able to appreciate the beauty of this place.
As afternoon approaches, the fog begins to lift, first revealing the ghostly outline of the next headland, then clearing enough that we can see the trees, still shimmering in the mist. Eventually the sun burns through and we see Kaikash Beach ahead. We paddle in, tired from our journey, but enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. We are ready for a break.
We’ve come here for the orcas, and later that evening, we are rewarded. Del and I are in the middle of a conversation, when she suddenly leaps up and cries, “Whales!” She’s heard the distinctive blow of a whale as it it surfaces. We scan the water and see a pod approaching the point. Within moments, everybody on the beach has gathered to witness these magnificent creatures.
They swim right past the point, surfacing and diving, and surfacing again. As they travel through, I feel a deep sense of awe to be in their presence. It is the moment I’ve been waiting for and it is every bit as magical as I had anticipated. What I don’t know yet is that there are more encounters yet to come.
When have you been most inspired by the natural world?