Zen and the Art of Paddling in the Fog

kayak in fogAs 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.

fog4Even 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.

fog3My 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.

Kaikash PointAs 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.

Whale WatchingWe’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.

Orcas off KaikashThey 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?


About Sally

Poet, seeker, author, mom. Celebrating the beauty and mystery that surrounds us and learning to trust in the journey.
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28 Responses to Zen and the Art of Paddling in the Fog

  1. kingmidget says:

    I think the last couple of days I spent in the Fort Bragg area were as close as I get to being inspired by the natural world. The warm sand, the roar and crash of the waves. Meadows that stretch to the coast. Bluffs, coastal mountains, roadside flowers. It all just brings so much peace to me.

  2. The first vista of Monument Valley, Utah…the one in all the car ads…is breathtaking. We stopped at a Ranger Station…where a woman stood gazing out a widow, tears in her eyes, “It’s just so beautiful.” Just so the clarity and detail in your description.

  3. kp says:

    Sally, what a wonderful adventure…We have gone whate-watching around Robson Byte several times in boats. Each time was thrilling. But to see the Orcas from a kayak where you are right beside them in the water remains a dream for me!! Kim

  4. kp says:

    Sally, what a wonderful adventure…We have gone whale-watching around Robson Byte several times in boats. Each time was thrilling. But to see the Orcas from a kayak where you are right beside them in the water remains a dream for me!! Kim

    • Then you know the area and the rich marine life that abounds in the strait. There was definitely something extra special about being so close to the whales, and about exploring the coastline at such a leisurely pace.

  5. El Guapo says:

    Fantastic! Every weekend should be spent like that.

    Most impressive? Probably a clear sunny new years day when I went surfing early in the morning.
    But really, almost every outdoors trip has at least one moment (which is the point for me).

  6. Oh wow! That is pure magic…with the fog and the whales. Not sure that could be topped as outdoor experiences go! So glad you got to commune with the outdoors…

  7. Seb says:

    That’s some great writing there. have you ever been to Point Reyes? It’s supposed to be the foggiest place in the world. You park your car out there and just get… disconnected… from the world.

  8. words4jp says:

    Two places – The Grand Canyon – especially at night fall and Hawaii.

  9. Heartafire says:

    I love to canoe the Loxahatchee and St. John’s rivers here in Florida. I enjoyed this article very much. Thank you!i

  10. girlseule says:

    Must have been amazing seeing the Orcas. I think I have been most inspired by the natural world in Central Australia, seeing Uluru and The Olgas and by a lot of the beauty of Laos. But there is always something beautiful and inspiring outdoors.

  11. Kavita Joshi says:

    beautifully described the whole sportty activity you did…enjoyed reading this

  12. Gunta says:

    Such an amazing adventure! One you’ll remember for sure!

  13. Hey!

    How are you? Congratulations your entry ‘A is for Adam’ made the book, Mr Wrong. I would love to include it however in order for me to publish it I need you to sign a permission form. Please email me at dingdongitsmrwrong@yahoo.co.uk and I’ll send you one out. All the best and thanks again for contributing! Daniella x

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