Proust Nature Questionnaire – Ardy Sobhani

ARDY SOBHANI is an entrepreneur and business strategist, energized by ideation, iteration, and systems design. After earning an MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts in 2012, Ardy helped launched Oru Kayak via Kickstarter with his two co-founders. The response to the project was incredible, with over 700 backers supporting the folding kayak company. In three years since, Oru Kayak has grown quickly, from a weekend hobby to young and scrappy startup to international brand. all under the guidance of Sobhani, Oru Kayak‘s CEO.

Today the company markets and sells through a wide variety of channels, has a robust and efficient manufacturing and fulfillment process in Southern California, and has developed key partnerships with , and many other major distributors. Looking forward, the company–which has doubled in growth each year since its founding–is poised for rapid expansion, riding a wave of good fortune and a dedication to the aggressive strategies put forth by Ardy and the rest of the executive team. Oru Kayak‘s dream of changing the way people experience the outdoors is closer than many believe.

As a leader, Ardy is motivated by a desire to use human-centered design to make the outdoors more accessible for all. He believes that clever, forward-thinking solutions will soon create game-changing products and services in the outdoor industry, and that Oru Kayak is position well to be a catalyst for this change. Ardy uses design thinking frameworks to inspire innovative thinking, merging design and business to create and deliver value to the customer and faster growth for the company.

3 words to describe Nature?

Freedom

Fresh

Recharge

3 things Nature taught you?

Ecosystem – Everything has a purpose and nothing is wasted.

Flow – the easiest path forward. Nature always finds it.

All the answers we are looking for are in nature, but they are hard to find.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The waters that surround the cities. We need to utilize these natural water parks!

The Beautiful North of Iran ” Shomal”

My favourite tree in the neighbourhood

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Calm and at the same time strong. Always there to take care of you and never let go.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Respect. Our elders with much wisdom

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Never seen a volcano in person but it is very powerful. It’s time for the earth to breathe.

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Another day about to start or end 🙂 Future or the Past. Both are very powerful.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Love it! Louder, please!

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Something is about to go down! We need to listen closely to what the wind is telling us.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I grow up in Tehran, Iran mountains city but lived in California for the most of my life. I love the desert for it vastness and its honesty. I love the ocean as it takes care of us. Mountains for their powerful stand and they are fun to play in. Forest for the oxygen the make. How about mountain forest next to ocean or lake.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10. I need more of it.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Camping in the forest of Iran. I LOVED it!

The Spirit of Juneau

Some places come and go. Some cities spring up only to disappear decades later for one reason or another (think of Bodie, California). History is filled with forgotten colonies and failed urban visions. I am curious though. What factors or variables are necessary to sustain a city and its inhabitants for hundreds of years? For thousands of years? How is a geographical location in the middle of seemingly nowhere able to maintain interest despite its remoteness and existential challenges? It takes more than an abundance of fish to justify settling down. It takes more than strong will and powerful wishes to turn a series of buildings into a lasting and thriving city where souls live and rest. Are there mini gravitational forces that we are unable to see, inexplicable vortexes that attract life and make people stay in the same way such as sweet nectar pulls in thousands of hungry bees?

For several millennia, this location was known to the Tlingit as Dzantik’i Héeni (where the flatfish gather). It sits at the foot Yadaa’at Kale (the beautiful face of the mountain) and is south of Aak’w (little lake). Nearby are Kootznoowoo island (fortress of bear) and Taku river (the flood of the geese).

During the 1791-95 expedition, Captain George Vancouver, along with his crew on the Discovery, were the first recorded Europeans to visit it. A hundred years later in 1880, two prospectors Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, guided by Tlingit Chief Kowee, struck gold at the mouth of Gold Creek. The city was then renamed Juneau.

For thousands of years, people have come from far away and gathered at Dzantik’i Héeni (Juneau). Whether they were drawn by the abundant natural resources, the major fishing and hunting grounds, the promise of gold, perhaps they followed love, were lured by work or simply came to visit, none of those reasons are enough to make one stay and settle. There is something in the land, the waters, and the mountains that draw people in and inspires them to call Juneau home.

I first discovered this Alaskan city in 2013 when visiting with a group of friends. Juneau was our rendezvous point where we boarded the Alaska State Ferry. We kayaked from Sitka to Hoonah, along the Pacific Coast of Chichagof Island and from Hoonah to Tenekee Springs (TV interview and radio interview).  I returned the following year, only this time I kayaked solo from Juneau to Pack Creek and then to the Taku Glacier (radio interview). One of the trip’s highlights was a night paddle on bioluminescent waters, surrounded by orcas and humpback whales. To say it was magical is an understatement.

Ever since that first visit, Juneau has played an integral part in my career and in my personal life. Three of my most popular photos were captured there (see above). Some of my most memorable memories took place on its surrounding waters and deep within its forests. Not only has Juneau become one of my favorite gateways into the wilderness; it is a place where I found a great friend, Ken. Originally from Boston, he moved to Alaska in the 70‘s. Explorer, philanthropist, conservationist and musician, Ken owned Alaska Discovery and founded of Pack Creek Bear Tours.

At the beginning of this year, Juneau resident Captain Tom Kelly from Blue Planet Eco Charter reached out to me with an invitation to join him on a summer sailing cruise. I was now married and the prospect of being able to share with my wife a part of the world that had been so special to me was really exciting. It was the perfect opportunity! While my solo wilderness expeditions are remote and span weeks at a time, this trip had to be slightly different. It needed to be adventurous, but not extreme while encapsulating all the classic highlights that Juneau is known for including the places, the food, the people and activities.

Travel Juneau and I worked together to plan the perfect itinerary: a floatplane to Pack Creek where brown bears can be viewed in their natural habitat, a hike in the Tongas National Forest, a paddle to the Mendenhall Glacier and exploration of the ice cave, whale watching in Auke Bay, a feast of fresh-caught Alaskan King Crab and a weekend excursion to a luxury fishing lodge in Angoon. Our 12-day trip would conclude aboard Captain Tom’s 40’ S/V Seamoore as we sailed around Douglas Island overnighting in Young Bay.

The other goal was to bring my photo project Random Connectedness to Juneau. Through this project I seek to illustrate the random connectivity of the human species. I do this by taking portraits of random people holding a letter of the alphabet. I then combine these portraits into words, phrases or sentences. The letters are red for a reason. According to Chinese mythology, the Gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. It is called the legend of the Red String of Fate. The red letters represent the string.

In addition to photographing the natural beauty of Juneau, I would turn the camera on its people. How best to celebrate this distinctive city that has given me so much other than to honor its citizens who live and breathe it, the ones who radiate the “Spirit of Juneau”.

It was incredible to hear their stories. The vast majority are from the lower 48 states who had come to visit and had never left. Some were born here, had left to pursue advanced eduction or a job, only to find their way back. Juneau was home to each of them. A unexpected discovery was to see so many talented and young entrepreneurs throughout the city. Young adults one would expect to see in major hubs like New York or San Francisco. They were all adamant about their beloved city – it was the best! Let me introduce you to some of them.

Maura Selenak of Almaga Distillery (Above, E in the THE). Originally from Minnesota, she moved to Juneau after falling in love with the dramatic scenery and sense of community. A kindergarten teacher, Maura and her husband founded the craft spirit distillery using a 250-gallon still from Vendome.

Eric Oravsky of Adventure Flow (Above, S in the SPIRIT). Grew up in Montana and was exploring the wilderness with his parents before he could walk. He continued to explore and found photojournalism to raise awareness for the wild places he loves. Keeping active and inspiring others led to him co-founding Adventure Flow.

David McCasland of Deckhand Dave’s (Above, F in the OF). An incredible story of persistence. A young local chef and fisherman, who recently opened a taco truck that serves “to-die-for” panko-crusted salmon sticks and fish tacos. His tartar sauce is a secret recipe and the talk-of-the-town.

Christy Namee Eriksen of Kindred Post (Above, 1st U in JUNEAU). Born in Korea, she grew up in Alaska. Christy is an artist, community activist, educator, and writer whose work is grounded in social justice and community engagement. She is the recipient of the 2013 Mayor’s Award for Artist of the Year, two Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Awards, and the Loft Immersion Fellowship.

Ryan Lindsay of Devil’s Club Brewery (Above, E in the JUNEAU) He began his career working for Bridgeport Brewing Co. in Portland and later found himself commercially brewing for Drifter Brewing Co. in Cape Town, South Africa. During his time with Drifter, his brew was awarded the best light beer in the country of South Africa.

Jessica Hahnlen of Frost and Fur (Above, 2nd U in JUNEAU). Born in Juneau, she lived in Sacramento then moved back with her husband. Her company design and hand-print (she screen-prints her art onto apparel) in Juneau and gives back 3% to local non-profits

Lia Heifetz of Barnacle (Below, O from Love). A lifelong Alaskan, she lives in Juneau with her partner Matt. Together they started Barnacle, turning kelp into tasty snacks, like salsa and pickles. Their mission is to create delicious and healthy foods using Alaskan ingredients to expand the local food economy, build community resiliency and perpetuate stewardship of natural resources.

A whale of a thank you to the FAVORITE BAY LODGE team for an unforgettable weekend!

Thank you Above & Beyond Alaska (ABAK) for a great time at the Mendenhall Glacier.

A HUGE huge thank you to Kara at TRAVEL JUNEAU for her support, Maryann at PEARSON’S POND INN for her incredible hospitality. Special thanks to Adventure Flow, Juneau Whale Tours, Alaska Seaplane, Tracy’s King Crab Shack and Deckhand Dave’s.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Dave Freeman

DAVE FREEMAN have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places, from the Amazon to the Arctic. National Geographic named him and his wife, Amy Freeman, Adventurers of the Year in 2014. Their images, videos, and articles have been published by a wide range of media, from CBC, NBC, and FOX to the Chicago Tribune, National Geographic, Outside, Backpacker, Canoe and Kayak, and Minnesota Public Radio. When Dave and Amy aren’t on expeditions or speaking tours, they guide canoe, kayak and dogsled trips near their home on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. Check their educational company – Wilderness Classroom.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Calming, dynamic, grand

3 things Nature taught you? 

Confidence, humility, happiness

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Lake Superior

Amazon Rainforest

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…? 

Small

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…? 

Alive

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…? 

Young

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…? 

Calm

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

Alert

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?  

It depends on the situation anywhere from excited to terrified.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

Ocean and Forest, but lakes and rivers more than anything.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I remember by first canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness when I was 12. I remember listening to loons calling on calm evenings and catching small mouth bass. It felt like we were in the middle of a vast Wilderness even though we had just scratched the surface.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Davis Smith

DAVIS SMITH is the founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear brand with a humanitarian mission. He is also a member of the eight-person United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. Davis is a serial entrepreneur who previously started Baby.com.br, Brazil’s Startup of the Year in 2012. Davis holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from BYU. Davis is an adventurer who has visited 70 countries. He has floated down the Amazon on a self-made raft, camped in the Sahara Desert, kayaked from Cuba to Florida, and explored North Korea.

3 words to describe Nature?

Raw, Fragile, Inspiring

3 things Nature taught you?

I began spending time in the outdoors before I can remember, but some of my first lessons learned while adventuring with my father are that:

1. Nature needs to be respected because while infinitely beautiful, it will eat you alive.

2. In my lowest moments, nature has lifted me up and inspired me.

3. I’ve always felt that nature has shown me that there is something bigger than myself. Spending time in the outdoors connects me with things that are truly important.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

1. The red rock canyons of Southern Bolivia, where I lived for a number of years as a young adult.

2. Cotopaxi national park in Ecuador, where I spent some of my childhood and early teen years.

3. The Wasatch Mountains that tower above Salt Lake City, where I currently live.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Small and vulnerable.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Safe, overwhelmed with beautiful sounds, smells and sights.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Humbled and melancholy (I grew up in the Andes surrounded by amazing volcanos which I often summited with my father).

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Overwhelming joy. Is there anything that can fill a heart or bring a smile faster?

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

An urge to run and duck for cover!

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Somewhat intimidated, but I love the sound when I’m in a tent.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I’ve spent eight years living in the Caribbean, so I’m obsessed with the ocean. I love kayak touring, diving, snorkeling, spearfishing and camping on the beach. That said, I’ve lived in Utah for a number of years now and have really grown to love the mountains.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is to your well-being?

8. I love the outdoors, but I own an outdoor gear brand and have a small family, both which keep me indoors quite often. I’ve found that surrounded by people I love, I can also get immense joy even when not outdoors.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spending time adventuring with my dad. We once built our own raft and floated down the Amazon river fishing for piranha. We also survived on uninhabited islands in the Caribbean, spearing fish with home-made spears. My brother and I spent hours every day exploring and building forts in the jungle behind our home when we lived in Puerto Rico. My childhood is full of memories in nature. Most incredibly pleasant, but some memories are of times that were terrifying and scary. It was those moments, however, that gave me such a deep respect for nature and taught me to respect it and always be prepared for the worst.

Nature Meditation – ARE YOU A CHEETAH OR A LION?

“… the speed is the problem because it prevents us from reflecting where we want to go and how we want to get there.” Christian Seelos, author of “Innovate and Scale: A Tough Balancing Act”

This animal is pure beauty! It is truly a phenomenal feat of Nature’s engineering. Everything in its body has evolved following one simple logic: how to maximize the intake while minimizing the losses, so that it can deliver the quickest and fastest output. Its large nostrils increase the oxygen flow. Its lungs and heart, size for size 3 1/2 times that of a lion, work together to move and process oxygen more quickly and efficiently. Its bones are light, legs are fine and elongated, chest deep and waist narrow. This creature’s entire anatomy is built around one purpose: powerful bursts of speed. Within 3 seconds, the cheetah can reach 60 mph (96 km/h). Its maximum speed is 75 mph (120 km/h), the fastest for any land animal. Watching this majestic Felinae in action, zooming across the savanna, leaves any witness stunned with admiration. Its delivery of power with such agility is simply magnificent.

But this evolutionary strategy has come at a tremendous cost. For the sake of speed, the cheetah has had to position itself into a survival niche that is extremely fragile, has little room for error and comes with serious side effects. Its hunting strategy, while quite extraordinary, can’t be sustained for very long. With so much energy focus on one prey, there isn’t much room left for plan B. Its compact and undersized muscle mass makes it hard for the cheetah to go after large prey, instead focusing on the smaller ones. When successful in its hunt, the wild cat is so tired that it has to wait up to 30 minutes before eating, putting itself at risk for other more powerful and opportunistic predators. Hunting at such speed also makes collaboration challenging so, consequently, most cheetah hunt alone. Sight is their predominant sense making them diurnal hunters – as scent is not the most efficient of senses at high speed. Finally, with all the energy in one basket, little is left to defend itself, so it is no surprise that the cheetah is the more productive breeder of all the big cats, counting on a high number of cubs to assure at least one survivor. Within the family of Felidae, the cheetah is the most vulnerable species and the least capable of adapting to new environments.

The lion, on the other hand, has opted for a more social and balanced strategy: social structure being at the core of their evolutionary survival. They are not the fastest runners but they can defend themselves. They often hunt alone but will gather in a large group when needed. When they do, their communal hunts are organized and strategic. Their sight, scent and hearing are equally sharp, giving them the advantage at night. Being social, lions are known for their wide range of communication. Not the best at one thing, but great at so many, it is no surprise that the lion is culturally known as the “King of the Jungle.”

The cheetah and lion’s comparison is greatly insightful when we apply it to our modern and post-industrial society. Technology is all about speed, innovating at an exponential pace leaving us in a constant state of catching up. Elevating the individual over the group, we feel isolated. We complain about having no time and convince ourselves we need to go faster, do everything faster and live faster. While the benefits of living such a life are enticing and exciting, we are putting ourselves into a vary narrow survival niche that has little room for error.

This week, let’s meditate on the pace on which we live our lives. Am I, are you, are we a Cheetah? Or a Lion? Do our values protect and nurture a slower, more balanced and social lifestyle? Or a lifestyle of individuality and speed at the expense of everything else?

The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit


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Nature Meditation – GETTING LOST

“ “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau

The irony of the situation is hard to miss. This week’s meditation theme is about “getting lost” and here I am, writing these lines, lost in a world of in-between, in an unwanted place, away from my tribe, struggling to find my bearing. Yesterday, my life was structured and somewhat stable; I had plans, a schedule, confirmed engagements, and I had just celebrated the passing of a major personal milestone. And today, well, all the cards have been thrown up in the air and where they will fall is still unknown. Hours ago, my compass was bearing straight ahead, steady and holding course; now I look at the needle and it is pointing to all directions, going everywhere but the place where I want to go, leaving me in a twilight zone of torment.

How many times have, each one of us, felt this way? How many times have we faced uncertainty, the feeling of powerlessness creeping from the inner depth of our insecurity? In all my years of solo wilderness expeditions and in my personal life, I have always been able to look back at those moments of feeling lost, and, with the acquired wisdom, to see how positively transforming those truly unfortunate events turned out to be; how much I grew personally and spiritually. Despite knowing in my core that it was going to be ok, that I would make it through, I had been there before and that I had all the tools and capacity to find my way again, this chaotic present is still a burden of monumental proportion. And that is ok.

Erika Harris has a wonderful quote: “It is good to feel lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where “Home” is. You know that a place that feels like being found exists. And maybe your current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.

Besides reaffirming our sense of belonging, these forced detours are always filled with treasures, if only we let ourselves be open to being able to see them. I have lost count of the times when I have found the most beautiful places, met the most amazing people, lived the most incredible moments, and discovered my most cherished possessions, more often after finding myself lost and surrendering to the moment, letting the flow of life carry me, and my intuitions guide me.

There is an undeniable sadness and anxiety when faced with uncertainty. Let’s be honest, who really takes complete pleasure in being at a point in time and space that seems to be disconnected from everything? A location that has no name, no clear direction, no obvious way out? Should I go this way? Or that way? What if the solutions are in the opposite direction? Am I making things worse? Am I walking towards a precipice or closer to home? The answers, as distant as they may seem, reside inside of us, inside our “inner fire”, that place made of energy which is connected to everything and everyone. It is that place that feeds our intuition, that whisper which only wants to protect us. My fears and doubts will often be the loudest and quickest to react, urging me to flee and find shelter. But in those moments where my sense of orientation disappears, the bearing to find my way through the heavy fog, the path that will take me back home, the clarity that will illuminate my world once again and lift away that opaque shroud, all appear when I surrender and open myself first. The key is to accept the predicament and understand that I have no power over the past but I do hold the keys to the future.

Meditate on the times in your life where you’ve lost yourself not to the events, but to your fears and doubts. In the future how can you make sure not to give in to these negative feelings? We all get lost from time to time, it is an inevitable part of life. But whether these moments make us grow spiritually, happier, wiser, and richer, is within our control.

The Power of Nature to Nurture, Awaken, Transcend, Uplift Restore, Elevate, the Human Spirit


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Magical Sea Cave

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Part of upcoming story written for SIDETRACKED magazine

After five hours of smooth paddling, a couple of dolphin pod encounters, and several mobula ray breaches, I rounded the north end of the island and started looking for my next campsite. San Marcos, an island in the Gulf of California, off the Baja Peninsula’s Santa Rosalia, has plenty of beaches where I could land. Inexplicably, as I was paddling toward a desirable looking spot, my attention was pulled to the end of a giant rock formation where a tiny beach on the side of it was partially exposed. At first glance, there was no justification for me to explore this beach. It didn’t even look big enough for a camping site, but a little voice inside my head kept whispering that it might be something special. As a longtime solo traveler, I have learned the value of gut feelings, about the importance of listening to the intangible, about believing and accepting the signs when the world speaks to us. So without much mental resistance, I shifted my weight and edged the kayak on its right side, stroked hard with my paddle, and turned left. Little did I know what treasures lay just ahead.

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Gliding around the edge of the rock formation, my first glimpse of the hidden beauty behind it came at the very last moment when the tip of my kayak reached the beach. The back side of the rock revealed itself to be a remnant of a sea cave, a sort of half-shell amphitheater that faced the beach and sheltered a tiny lagoon filled with water that flowed in from the sea through a small porthole in the back of the cave. At the center of the lagoon, where the half-cave’s roof gave way to the sky, was a boulder surrounded by water at high tide. The boulder acted as a focal point, collecting the energy that seemed to bounce from every angle of the cave’s walls. The force was seriously strong in this place. No wonder it had called me, pulling me away from my trajectory. This cave was like a magical giant planet with its own gravity. Perhaps a portal to another world? My stay there would lead me to believe that yes, indeed it was.

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After setting up camp on the beach, I put on my fins, snorkel, and wetsuit, grabbed my spear gun, and went fishing. Stepping into the water, I walked knee-deep into the lagoon toward the porthole. I took a deep breath, dove, swam out into the sea, and entered a world full of fish and wonders. An hour later I was back with my meal, a large smile on my face and a blue mind of enchantment that comes from being in the water. I was at peace after spending so many minutes holding my breath, 20 feet deep, mesmerised by the life swimming around me.

At day’s end, the wind was nowhere to be seen or heard. Everything was quiet; even the birds that had so far chirped without a break. The gulls stood in silence, each balancing on one leg on the rock and on the beach. A deep stillness permeated the air, as if time had slowed down. It was similar to the excited feeling I get before something grand happens, in that precise moment before the show starts, before the curtain rises, when everybody stops and directs their attention to the stage, waiting for the magic to appear. I felt my attention drawn to the middle of the cave, onto that boulder surrounded by water. I walked to a rock near the beach, faced the cave, and sat. Taking a deep breath, I felt my energy spreading outward. Interestingly, it didn’t feel like my energy was escaping, but instead stretching far and connecting with every other molecule that surrounded me—the rocks, the animals, the water, the wind. Closing my eyes I could see the giant web that was being formed. It reminded me of the neural patterns in the brain, the filaments that stretch in all directions, connecting, transmitting, unifying, constantly evolving.

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As if on cue, two things happened at once. The small cave entrance that squeezed between the water and the rock lit up with a burning glow like a mini-sun, radiating with such intensity that for a second I had to cover my eyes. The sunbeam was in perfect alignment with the arched porthole, and the water acted as a giant reflector, focusing the light into one small opening and blasting it to the other side. It was as if I was
witnessing the birth of a star.

The tide had reached a height where even a little ripple, the tiniest of movements on the surface of the water, pushed enough air through the cave’s hollows to create a gurgling sound that felt like an ancient language. The spirit of the cave was talking. This elder of ancient times had awakened and was sharing its wisdom. It was a privilege being here amongst the birds, the rocks, the water, and the wind. But unlike the powerful things that surrounded me, I was only a guest, a passerby, someone whose species has disconnected from the magical thousands of years ago and has since stopped seeing what is now un-seeable.

At this moment, in this place, I was the one who felt primitive, simple, lacking depth and unable to understand the grandeur and connectivity of the universe, of life. Staring at the water, listening to the cave, feeling the silence around and in me, I realised that it was our species that needed saving, not the other way around. My eyes were not seeing a world where humans were the chosen ones and stewards of this planet, but rather that we were the ones who needed to be brought back home, from the darkness, returned to a world of love, compassion, and humility.

The serenity of this place convinced me to extend my stay—certainly not one of my hardest decisions. For another day I fished, read, relaxed, listened, and soaked in the energy that was offered to me. The following morning, after packing and tucking myself into the kayak, I took one last moment to reflect. Dipping my hands in the water and closing my eyes, I thanked the cave and promised to return—but I would bring others so they too can know its marvels.

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S2 = C + P

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The beach was made of this creamy white sand – powdery granules made of crushed shells and limestone eroded over millions of years, moved with the tides, currents and wind, slowly and gradually pushed back against the shore, grain after grain, and now forming the soft cushion I was resting on. This quiet little place located on the westerly side of Isla Espiritu Santo, just outside La Paz in Baja California Sur, was tuck between two long cliffs made of a multitude of volcanic ash layers, a product of the Miocene Era. Just like a pair of blinkers on a horse, these mineral fingers that advanced way far into the water, protecting this tiny oasis, were also preventing me from seeing the vastness of the Gulf of California, restricting my sight of this interior sea to just a sliver of emerald water. But that didn’t really matter since darkness had fallen and now my gaze was looking up, laying on my back, my hands behind my head, my eyes lost in an ocean of stars.

I was contemplating a world that was beyond my comprehension, a reality that was bigger than me, a universe that hold more secrets and treasures than I could fathom, and this reigning serenity was the perfect way to end the day.

The morning started with a gentle breeze, as the sun peeking above the horizon began its ascent into a cloudless blue sky, flooding the air with warmth, fueling invisible particles of oxygen and nitrogen with heat, causing them to move and swirl faster and generating the wind that would later slow my progress. This transition from darkness to light, this dance between the Sun and the Earth was affecting everything – the air, the ocean, the animals, the plants, and myself.

This planetary movement was intricately linked to the complex biological process that was happening in my body as my eyes were opening after longs hours of sleep, a ritual that has been fine tuning itself for thousands and thousands of year. The level of melatonin in my blood was decreasing as the presence of cortisol was going up. It is believed that this event is linked to the hippocampus in preparation of facing stress during the day. My lungs were expanding with more vigor, flooding my blood cells with oxygen, waking my muscles back from their comatose state. The same muscles that would later push against the wind.

Every part of my body was awakening. Slowly, I was becoming more in tuned with my surroundings. My existence on this planet was connected to the Universe. These carbon atoms of which my body is made of were affected by a star millions of miles away, by the gravity of the moon above me and by the unknown forces that controlled the solar system. How is it possible that we believe that Life revolves around us?

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With every paddle stroke, my thoughts, my worries, my wishes, my struggles, my joys and my pains are stripped away, leaving me naked but with clarity and perspective.

After cooking breakfast, sipping yerba mate and packing the gear into the kayak, I walked into the sea pulling the kayak off the beach. With a quick jump, I maneuvered myself into the cockpit and started to paddle. Looking back one last time, I offered my goodbyes to an imaginary host – a customary practice I do every time I arrive and depart a location, paying my respects to a place which doesn’t belong to me, honoring the hospitality I humbly received. In the same manner that I always ask the Ocean permission every time I travel its realm. It is not a religious belief but rather the understanding that my future is in the hands of nature.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau

The clear blue sky had become swamped with hundreds of white smudges, much like the freckles on a summer skin. The peaceful clarity of the morning had left and in its place was some kind of an orchestrated chaos. The pelicans were flying everywhere and diving on bait fish while being harassed by sea gulls that trailed them like leeches. Rays of all different sizes jumped out of the water mysteriously, giving me the impression that the sea had turned into a giant Whack-A-Mole game. Frigate birds high in the sky keeping an eye on passing-by blue-foot boobies, waiting to steal their catch. Turkey vultures gliding effortlessly counting the days for the nearby carcass of a sea lion to reach its perfect decomposition state. Bouncing waves from the cliff with the current running around the island, plus the waves coming from the open sea and the head winds were creating this tempestuous surface that made me feel like I was sitting on a mechanic bull. And that was only what I could see. I am sure that if I poked my head underwater, I would discover another world of madness. All this energy, these whirlwinds of life, this pool of bouncing atoms, was creating heat, moving up and feeding what were now giants puffy monoliths.

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength” Jack Kerouac

The tent was up and the dinner was cooked. Pelicans were still feeding, picking the last of the survivors of what had been earlier in the day a bait ball of probably in the tens of thousands. But the way they flew and dove looked heavy and lazy. Even the sea gulls had giving up pestering them, instead floating on the water or resting on a rock nearby screaming like young spoiled brats – Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! I was reminded for a second of what we must look like after a Thanksgiving dinner, stuffed to the ears and still reaching out across the table grabbing one last piece and managing swallowing it down only with a deep breath. Who said we were different from the animals?

After its daily journey across sky, the sun was about to disappear behind the horizon, painting the sky with deep hues of orange, pink, red, and purple. Had there been no clouds but a perfect empty sky, the sunset would have still been enjoyable but would have lacked panache. It would have been simple, humdrum, kind of stale and monotonous. There wouldn’t have been any deep hues and many colors. There would have been only a general fading of the light accompanied by a possible green flash and some orange leftover at the end. It was all this energy, this chaos, this frenzy of everything this world is made of, that this sunset was feeding on and giving it back to everyone to see in the most spectacular show ever produced. Beauty was literally rising from the depths of madness.

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The wind was barely rolling over the water and the round fluffy silhouettes up above were moving away. The night was taking hold and bringing along with it its posses. Venus, Jupiter, Vega, Arcturus, and Regulas were the first to show up but give another hour and the room would be filled with billions of others. As much as this place was buzzing with noise just hours earlier, now silence was of order.

It seemed to be a necessary ritual that he should prepare himself for sleep by meditating under the solemnity of the night sky… a mysterious transaction between the infinity of the soul and the infinity of the universe.” Victor Hugo

Laying down on that beach, I let the world sink in. I let my thoughts disappear. I let the silence take over. I am staring at this night sky filled with stars and know that, like earlier, looking out and seeing only a sliver of the sea, I am seeing only a tiny fragment of what we call the Universe. There is so much out there. How can we think so much of ourselves in front of such inexplicable beauty and mystery? Why are we so insecure about our evolutionary identity? Why can’t we find comfort in the knowledge and humility that there are things that are bigger than us? Having no meaning in the big scheme of the universe doesn’t mean we have no meaning in life. It just means that ultimately, we matter for a moment, for the ones around us. And that is important. But in the end, the atoms that we borrowed are returned. And the only things left are memories and legacies. Even those, unfortunately for the ones who have past but to the benefit of the ones who will come, will fade away with time.

The cacophony of life is necessary. The buzzing and frenzy of our culture has a creative purpose and we shouldn’t underestimate its value but more importantly, clarity and perspective happen only when silence and solitude are present. In our culture of multi-tasking, every hour filled with endless distractions and finding ourselves relentlessly connected to our technology devices, these alone times are becoming rarer and rarer leaving us with an incapacity to delve and think deeper, stuck in the shallowness found within 140 characters. More than ever, we must find the time to STOP. BREATHE. RELAX & LISTEN.

S2 = C + P (Solitude & Silence = Clarity + Perspective)

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi

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FALL NEWSLETTER

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Happy is he who is awakened by the cool song of the stream, by a real voice of living nature. Each new day has for him the dynamic quality of birth.

Gaston Bachelard, French Philosopher.

ALIVE & STRONGER

My first attempt to kayak a 1,000 miles, from Victoria, on the Island of Vancouver in Canada to San Francisco, was unfortunately put to a stop on Cannon Beach in Oregon at the end of September. The story ALIVE & STRONGER has been featured on the Canoe Kayak Magazinewebsite and will be appearing in the upcoming printed issue. This ocean story is about the power of nature to shape your character; about how being able to STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN can make all the difference in any given moment. It is a story about hope, humility and focusing on the things that really matter in life.

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W.I.L.D. SCHOLARSHIP

It has been just over a month since the end of the first W.I.L.D. fundraising campaign. With 86 funders, enough money was raised to send one under privileged teen to a month long NOLS sea kayaking immersion camp in the summer of 2015, airfare included.

Since then, I have been busy organizing the perks and looking for the lucky teen. Collaborating with ETC (Environmental Traveling Companions), an amazing organization based in San Francisco, that enables people with disabilities and disadvantaged youth to access the wilderness and develop an environmental stewardship, I can proudly say that before the end of the year, I will announce the recipient of the first W.I.L.D. Scholarship.

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NATURE VALLEY

I am extremely proud to announce that December will mark the beginning of my new partnership with NATURE VALLEY. NATURE VALLEY understands the power and reach it has to promote a healthy lifestyle and the value of stepping out into nature to restore our human spirit.

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Their campaign #GetOutThere, their project TrailView and their recent involvement with Erik Weihenmayer is only the beginning of their expanded focus. I am extremely honored to have been invited to be a part of it.

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THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT COLLECTION

I am presently working with an amazing San Francisco-based designer and master calligraphy Nobuhiro Sato to create a beautiful collection of WILD IMAGE products that will include t-shirts, merino hoodies, mugs, greeting cards, tote bags, water bottles and more.

The inspiration for the collection comes from the simplicity of a brush stroke to illustrate the purity and serenity of nature. The collection will soon be available through my online store – built by Coffee and Magic, and various distribution locations across the country. If you want to be notified when the collection will be available, please contact me.

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SALSA CYCLES

One of the beauties of sea kayaking is the pace – fast enough to cover some distance, yet slow enough that you can feel and experience all that this world has to offer. There is something primal and satisfying about feeling the elements, the rain, the wind, the sun. You can smell the fragrances of the ocean, the distinct aroma of a bay, the seaweed, the breath of a whale, the stench of ammonia from a bird colony. There is also something exhilarating about experiencing the vulnerability felt when encountering wild animals that are bigger than you, in a vessel that offers almost no protection.

Biking is kayak’s earthy equivalent – in every way possible. It is a lifestyle and a way of experiencing life. It is the desire to slow down… STOP, BREATHE, RELAX, LISTEN and honor the beauty around us.

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So it is with great pleasure that I am announcing my new partnership with SALSA Cycles. I plan on spending as much time on the water as off and my new Fargo TI is the perfect vehicle to explore the remote roads of North America. Equipped with my THULE gear and photo equipment I will be able to share my experiences with you wherever I go.

As a modern-day explorer, it’s hard to differentiate yourself; Daniel Fox, through his unique lens, has found a powerful way to do just that. His vision is innovative, his passion palpable. It’s exactly these characteristics that speak to (and inspire) his audience, which at Salsa Cycles, we feel is the same as ours—adventure enthusiasts, addicts and ambassadors. His talents, particularly in the photography department, match his lofty ambitions, and we’re excited to see what next peak he can summit!” Justin Julian, Salsa Cycles


PUBLIC SPEAKING

If you find yourself around the Bay Area in December or January, I will be speaking at the REI stores in San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Corte Madera and at the Commonwealth Club of California. Click here to find out the dates.

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MARINE CONSERVATION INSTITUTE

I am truly honored to have been chosen as a Partner for the Global Ocean Refuge Systems, a contributor from the Marine Conservation Institute and for the IUCN. My photos have already been used for various projects like the Institute’s new SEA G20 STATE 2014 report and their campaign awareness cards for GLORES and MPAtlas. My work was also featured at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney this November.

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“Daniel artfully exposes the beauty of the oceans for the rest of us to enjoy and is able to capture all the beauty and splendor of marine animals in their natural environments. We look forward to working with him to help make GLORES visually accessible to people all around the world.”  Caro Dratva, director of development of Marine Conservation Institute.

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1st PRIZE ALASKA MAGAZINE

Every year, Alaska Magazine awards the top photos that capture the spirit of the Frontier State. For this year’s Annual Photo Contest, the magazine has given my Steller sealion photo taken at Middle Pass, Inian Islands, Alaska the 1st prize in the Wildlife Category.

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MEDIA

A quick summary of recent media coverage.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS

With December around the corner, it is amazing that already the year 2014 is about to end. Looking ahead to a promising and exciting 2015, I wish you wonderful and joyous holiday season. Be sure to take the time to STOP, BREATHE, RELAX and LISTEN.

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.The very reason why we exist is to explore, connect, and experience.” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Alive and Stronger

I have a story to share with you.

It is a story about the power of nature to shape your character.

It is a story about how being able to STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN can make all the difference in any given moment.

It is a story about hope, humility and focusing on the things that really matter in life.

After completing my paddle on the coast of Washington State and stopping in Portland to talk with several groups about my W.I.L.D. campaign, it was time to continue my journey to San Francisco.

In the days prior to my departure, I was keeping track of the weather. The forecast now was the same for the week ahead … strong southerly winds would blow 15 to 25 knots, rain would be consistent and the swell from the West would increase as the week went by. The weather system was due to calm down beginning the next weekend.

I had my waypoints marked down and even though I had many challenging paddling days ahead, I was excited to get back on the water. In my head, the song “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger was already playing on repeat.

My departure time from Astoria was set by the tide. I didn’t want to fight the tide coming in and leaving with the ebb tide meant that I would get a double push – the river and the tide. So at noon, slack time, I left the marina.

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The conditions were much different than when I paddled in the Columbia River several days ago. I was now doing 6 knots in speed and to my right there were big breakers stretching for miles. The Columbia Bar was living up to its reputation.

Keeping my distance, I rounded the danger zone and passed the South Jetty. My plan was to tuck in right after. The jetty would offer that protected path I needed to land on the beach. But the swell was coming dead on and pounding my landing spot full force. I had two choices: to go back into the Columbia River against the current, avoiding all the breakers and finding my way to the shore or to keep going.

Seaside was 17 miles away. There was a little spot that offered a possible landing; then after that, about 6 miles from there, around Tillamook Head, was Indian Beach. It was a protected cove that, after looking at the marine and aerial maps, offered a safe stop. In the worst-case scenario, I would most likely be landing in the dark, but with the current conditions, a West swell, the cove would be fairly flat … or so I thought. I decided to go forward and paddle.

It was a hot day. There was not a cloud in the sky. The sea was almost metallic due to the absence of wind. Sooty Shearwaters flew all around me, gliding over the water with ease, the tip of their wings just slightly touching the surface. These birds have truly evolved to become a perfect oceanic flying creature.

It was 7pm when I reached Seaside. The swell was still pounding the shore with massive surf and now my chances of landing before sunset were disappearing. I looked for an opening somewhere – anywhere. I saw one. Not too far, there was a place where the surf seemed to be dying down. After timing the sets, I started paddling in. And then at the last minute, just before reaching the point of no return, three massive waves appeared, breaking just 10 feet ahead of me. I looked at the clouds of white seawater rising up into the sky, the roaring of the waves crashing and suddenly it became clear to me that there was no way my feet would be touching sand this evening. The sun had disappeared over the horizon and in about an hour it would be totally dark.

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My next waypoint, Indian Beach, around the Tillamook Head, was about two hours away. I reached behind and opened my day hatch to get my headlamp out. The thought of spending the night on the water was starting to be a reality. It was the last thing I wanted to do but my chances of finding my way into a sleeping bag were fading.

With still no clouds, the sky was filled with stars. The Milky Way was intense and imposing. A shooting star crossed the sky. And then another. The bioluminescence was showing strong. The kayak left stark glowing white trails on the black surface. My paddle cut through the water and created explosions of glitter. Every time a drop of water fell on the kayak, it scintillated. I wonder for a second if I really wanted to get to shore. If I was to spend the night on the ocean, these were the be the dreamiest, prefect conditions. This could actually turn out to be one incredible night!

I checked my phone and I looked at my location. The cove was only a mile away now. I would be there around 9pm. The weather forecast had predicted 20 knots winds but up until then they seemed nowhere to be found.

As I approached the area and shortly after dreaming of a nice night landing, staying up late doing photography of this magical bioluminescent evening,  I passed the point and found myself battling the expected headwinds.

One more check on the map and my safety zone was supposed to be right ahead. But the only thing I saw and heard were the glowing whitecaps of thunderous surf. How could this be? The swell was coming from the west and the sheltered bay entrance faced south. How was it that the swell was now heading straight into the cove? Aside from this waypoint, there was nothing around for at least 20 miles that could offer relief. I remembered from the map that there was a path into the cove, but it was dark. I couldn’t see anything but the crash of waves. I looked at the map again and oriented myself. There was a series of rocks ahead that should offer protection. So I went for it.

Just a minute into my push, I heard this massive roar behind me and within seconds, I was upside down being pummeled from all directions. Suddenly, my paddle snapped in two. I come back up in time to take a breath before another one came over. I capsized again and this time I couldn’t roll back. The beating and the broken paddle left me no choice but to wet exit.

Lucky to have a break, I managed to get back in, grabbed the spare paddle from my stern, tucked the skirt over the now-filled-with-water cockpit and pushed my way forward as hard as I could. Now more than ever, I knew I would have to spend the night on the water and the under the Milky Way, but by at this point the stars and glowing oceans were the last things on my mind.

Out of the surf zone, I pumped the water out and assessed the situation. I had been paddling for 10 hours, covering about 38 miles. I was tired and my hands hurt. Despite the drysuit, the cold from that unfortunate dip into the Pacific waters was seeping into my body. I had to keep moving. I had to keep my muscles, my body producing energy and heat. I hadn’t had dinner – besides the food I had consumed during the day. I had an emergency ration of jerky and bars but in these conditions I could hardly stop to eat. So I pushed forward. I looked ahead and the irony of the situation hit me. Lights of Cannon Beach were almost within grasp, perhaps no more than half a mile. I pictured the people in their houses, watching television, enjoying a glass a wine, and kissing their children goodnight. And here I was, in a totally different world where my life, my existence was on the verge of being questioned. How could this be? Within such close proximity to be finding such extreme different realities?

I had no choice but to keep paddling. Even if I was barely making progress, the options were simply not there for me. How would I make through the night? I didn’t know and I couldn’t stop to think about it. My only way to survival was to take one minute at a time, find comfort in that minute passed and focus on passing the next.

And then my worst fear happened. I started to shiver.

I know my body. I have always been pretty tolerant of the cold. I grew up in Quebec with winters in the minus 20’s. But the moment that my body shivers, it is only a question of minutes before I start to tremble and loose control of my shaking muscles. The option of spending the night on the ocean was no more viable. There was no way I could stay in this kayak for another 7 hours and not go into hypothermia.

There are risks you can afford if you are with other people. But when alone, the last place you want to find yourself is in a cornered place with no exit, no possible call for help. I did have my SOS button, a cell phone and a VHF as a lifeline but I felt I I hadn’t yet played all my cards.

Looking over to my left, I noticed a campfire on the beach and was surprised to see how close I was to it, perhaps just 40 yards. Despite the light of the houses further away, I was really not that far from land. Still, between the beach and myself was a wall of crashing waves. Between my current predicament and the safety of landing was a world of horrible possibilities, each with the power of turning my situation to the worst. There was no way for these people to see or hear me. And even if they had, there was nothing they could do. For me, there was little I could do but start looking into confronting the surf.

My eyes focused on the silhouette made by the water line, trying to figure out the rhythm of the sets. To be honest there was not much to decipher in the dark. I took a deep breath and relaxed for a second. I closed my eyes and asked the ocean to keep an eye on me. I started paddling toward the surf. A wave crashed. I stopped. I hesitated. I went again. And like a “deja vu”, I heard the roaring mounting behind me, like a giant monster rising from the depths and about to engulf me with one bite. Grasping for the impact I filled my lungs with as much air as I could.

The weight of the Pacific landed on my back with such tremendous force that I felt the kayak breaking in two. It was not like trying to rip a piece of fiberglass apart. The kayak literally snapped in two halves like a dry twig. The ring of the cockpit was broken but my skirt was still around it. I was in the water being ravaged by the surf, tied to the waist with a piece of the kayak on each side of me.

All this time I was thinking I had to get out of there as soon as possible. I didn’t like the idea of finding myself in between two loose 8-feet long pieces of broken fiberglass tubes filled with gear. It wouldn’t take much for them to crush my ribs and cut my waist. I tried to pull on the handle of the skirt but it was not working. I was simply pulling the loose cockpit ring toward me. Still, wiggling it non-stop I finally managed to get it off.

Free from the kayak’s entrails, I swam around it. The kayak was still held together by some rope and some stripes. My last paddle was now gone. Putting myself in-between the in-coming surf and the boat, I started swimming and pushing one of kayak pieces forward. You never want to find yourself with a kayak, or a board, behind you in the surf! There has been too many accidents where people were knocked unconscious by flying objects. Every wave pushed me and the kayak closer to the beach. About 15 minutes later, I felt the sand under my feet.

I got up and grabbed the bow handle in one hand and the stern handle in the other and started pulling the wreck as far up passed the tide line as I could before collapsing. I opened the back hatch, pulled out the bivy and sleeping bag. Slipped out of the drysuit and into my sleeping quarters.

It was midnight. I didn’t care for food or anything else. My hands were bloody with cuts all over. All I wanted was to lay still and warm myself up. I was safe, in one piece and that was the most important thing at that moment.. Nature had reminded me of the fickleness of life and how little control we have over it.

Over the last 5 hours I had experienced sheer beauty, joy, happiness, deception, pain, frustration, and had faced the indifference of a world that was bigger than me. Laying on the sand next to my wrecked kayak, I was not angry nor was I afraid. I was simply grateful to be alive. As I pulled the zipper up leaving blood marks on the fabric, I thanked the ocean for its protection, closed my eyes and went to sleep.

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These experiences, as unfortunate as they may seem, are defining moments in your life. They form your character and change your perception of the world around you forever. My crash happened on Sunday the 21st at midnight, exactly one month to the day after I departed from Victoria. I can’t help but smile at the fact this paddle was for my W.I.L.D. Campaign raising money to send under-privileged youth to a “month” long immersion wilderness camp.

Life is not about avoiding the crashes but rather finding ways to get back up and transform these seemingly negative events into positive, productive experiences.

These are the discovery and leadership lessons nature provides us when we open ourselves to the experience.

Although this 1,000-mile paddle to San Francisco has come to an unexpected, abrupt end, the W.I.L.D. campaign is far from over; my commitment to the campaign is stronger than ever.

More to come on that in the following weeks.

Summer Newsletter

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As I am about to embark on a 2 1/2 month long paddle, I am reminded of a quote sent to me by a friend. In her poem Stanzas, Emily Blonte writes:

“Often rebuked, yet always back returning to those first feelings that were born with me… I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading. It vexes me to choose another guide… The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling. Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.”

I spent the last 3 months exploring the wilderness of Alaska, letting nature be my guide and mentor. Always grounding me to what is essential in life, I experienced profound insights, humility and was welcomed by love everywhere I went.


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Our connection to nature is deeply rooted but if it is not experienced at a young age it is most likely that it will never find an anchor on which it can grown. Wilderness immersion camps are for me one of the most precious ways to ignite the bond we have with the planet.

I believes that immersion in nature is an important part of our development, especially during our early, formative years when it is so critical to discover who we are, develop strong self-esteem, begin to adopt leadership skills, challenge our physical well-being and acquire the capacity to live a balance life in a world dominated by technology.

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W.I.L.D. – Wilderness Immersion for Leadership and Discovery, aims is to give youth, especially under-privileged teens, the opportunity to experience first-hand the positive impact nature can have on their lives. The goal is to motivate them to explore and discover the natural world and understand how experiencing the beauty and challenges inherent in nature can lead to enhancing their self-confidence and developing valuable leadership skills

Our wish is to have their testimonials and experiences reach ​ ​and positively impact other teens and their families and inspire them to Experience the W.I.L.D


1,000-MILE FUNDRAISING PADDLE

For my first W.I.L.D. campaign, I will raise the necessary funds to send a small group of under privileged teens to a 30-day Sea Kayaking camp in Alaska in the summer of 2015. The wilderness immersion camp will be given by the internationally known and extremely well reputed National Outdoors Leadership School (N.O.L.S.).

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Launching in the third week of August, I will paddle from Victoria on Vancouver Island to San Francisco, a journey of 1,000 miles. The 2 1/2 month paddle will be at the core of a Indiegogo campaign. Click here – INREACH tracking & FACEBOOK, to follow this amazing journey!

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Find out more about how you can contribute and the wonderful rewards you can get. These teens will be changed forever, transformed and more deeply connected with the planet. Lets make this happen!

“The most rewarding part of this course was getting out of my element, and experiencing nature at its fullest.” Thomas W. Southeast Alaska NOLS Sea Kayaking Grad

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STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN

Over the course of the next 6 months I will be announcing the launch for my new line of merchandize. Partnering with my sponsors, I will be offering tote bags, merino hoodies, t-shirts, mugs and much more with the mantra STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN on one side and The Power of Nature to Restore the Human Spirit on the other.

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STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN – The Power of Nature to Restore the Human Spirit is the foundation of my narrative and the message behind my work.

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SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL PHOTO GOLD AWARD

August 9th was the opening of the San Francisco International Photo exhibition. My photo LO won one of the GOLD awards. Judged by Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director and Curator, Griffin Museum of Photography, the winning photos are on display at the Gallery Photographica, in San Francisco, 3265 17th Street, near the corner of 17th and Mission Streets, until August 24th.

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ALASKA 2014

It is now my second summer in Alaska. Last year I paddled from Sitka to Hoonah, from Tenekee to Hoonah and hiked around Mendenhall Glacier. This time I decided to return to Juneau and visit the famous brown bears of Pac Creek.

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I then went back to the Mendenhall Glacier but this time kayaking the lake and exploring the icebergs.

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Next stop was the Taku Glacier, up the Taku River. The highlight of this paddle was kayaking at night with the orcas, humpback whales and the plankton blooming. Listen to my radio interview on KTOO, public radio in Juneau.

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Finally, I spent 6 weeks on the island of Kodiak. The first paddle was to the island of Afognak and the second one – a 150-mile paddle down the Pacific coast south of Kodiak. Listen to my radio interview on KMXT Kodiak Public Radio and watch my tv interview on KTUU Alaska channel 4 NBC. Check the KODIAK & JUNEAU PINTEREST for a wonderful photo recap with many bears, minks, glaciers and much more.

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Explorer and Storyteller, Daniel Fox, Believes in the Power of Nature to Restore the Human Spirit – on ABC

On August 7th, while in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow, I was invited to pass by ABC’s studio for a live interview and talk about my work and the photography I did on Antelope Island.

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OUTDOOR RETAILER 2014

Every year I do my best to attend the Outdoor Retailer trade show and reconnect with all my sponsors. This year I had an even bigger reason to attend as my main sponsors Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology had a big wall with my photography and excerpts from my stories. The photos were a great success and comments poured in. From the Press Release:

“…At the Outdoor Retailer trade show next week, we are displaying some of Daniel Fox’s work (see the example in the montage above!) at our booth. It not only serves as a beautiful reminder of why we love to get outside and play, but it just might touch you in ways you wouldn’t have expected. Our goal is to inspire you to explore a world without boundaries and ask you to think about this:  “Isn’t it time you looked at life with a new perspective?…”

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KOKATAT also featured my photography – which appeared in this year’s catalog. Their booth’s front banner had my Owl (top middle), the Morning Reflection (middle center), my photo of professional kayakers Kate Hives (bottom left) and Paul Kuthe (bottom right)

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Voltaic Systems which has been supporting me with solar panels and long lasting batteries had this shot for their full backdrop. What a great presence at this year’s OR!!

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MOUNTAIN KHAKIS

Mountain Khakis has been believing and supporting my work since the beginning. I am honored to be featured in there 2015 catalog! So great being part of such a wonderful team of dedicated people, working relentlessly at delivering the best products. Thank you MK!

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MORE MINUTE OF NATURE

The series now has 24 videos. Watched by thousands, the videos have been the perfect platform to share my insights and the material I find inspirational. Promoting the need to disconnect by being in the moment – even just for 60 seconds, the series is a call for action to find balance in our ever-connected lives.

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MINUTE OF NATURE – CAPE ALITAK
Woody, plant manager at the Alitak Cannery and author of the book “Cape Alitak Petroglyphs: From the Old People” writes about a life changing event as a child while paddling with a whale

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MINUTE OF NATURE – THREE SAINTS HARBOR
The benefits of wilderness immersion, a quote from Casey Lyons at Backpacker Magazine and a myriad of moon jellyfish at Three Saints Harbor, Kodiak Alaska


STAY TUNED & THANK YOU!

I hope to get your support for the W.I.L.D. campaign. Don’t forget to follow the expedition via InReach and Facebook. And most important, find the time in the day to STOP . BREATHE . RELAX . LISTEN. 

W.I.L.D.

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Anyone who I know who enjoys the outdoors or cares for the natural word can recall a time and place in their youth when they found themselves out there in nature and felt that connection, that primal bond that unites us to this planet and to life. For me that connection was so strong that I simply never wanted to let it go. When I was a kid, I just loved to roam the woods, fish the lakes, explore the ponds or climb the trees. It is in these moments that I felt alive. So my best childhood memories are from a great number of summer camps I went to. They were my definition of a candy store. And the things I learned during these magical summers still impact my life today.

I love the work I do and I know that people appreciate it too. But I have always felt that something really important was missing. If these experiences when you are a kid are so important in the development of our appreciation of nature, what was I doing to make sure that they experience the wilderness like I did when I was young? I knew I was not the type the bring children along on my trips but there had to be a way.  A couple of years ago I met Geoff Green and I got to hear from the children themselves how his program Students on Ice had changed their lives. Recently during a paddle, the pieces came together.

I am extremely please to announce the beginning of W.I.L.D. (see press release below) My expeditions and outings will now have for main purpose to raise funds and send underprivileged teens to wildness immersion camps. So to kick off my new venture, I will kayak from Victoria, BC to San Francisco in hope to raise 10K and send 2 teens on a month long sea kayaking NOLS wilderness camp. I plan on starting this 1,000 mile paddle mid-August.

Stay tuned for more news! 

PRESS RELEASE

 

W.I.L.D.

Wilderness Immersion for Leadership & Discovery

“a 1,000-mile paddle on the Pacific Coast to raise funds and send under-privilege teens to a wilderness immersion camp…”

INTRODUCTION

The Power of Nature to Restore the Human Spirit is the belief that forms the foundation of Daniel Fox’s work. Through his personal experiences in the wilderness, his captivating stories and his “Minute of Nature” video series, he shares with us the impact that being with nature, even if only for a minute, can have on our digitally-driven lives. Sometimes philosophical, sometimes challenging us to stop and reflect, his stories, his photography and his videos help us pause and recall our own experiences with nature.

 

BELIEFS

W.I.L.D. (Wilderness Immersion for Leadership & Discoveries), a not-for-profit organization, believes that immersion in nature is an important part of our development, especially during our early, formative years when it is so critical to discover who we are, develop strong self-esteem, begin to adopt leadership skills, challenge our physical well-being and acquire the capacity to live a balance life in a world dominated by technology.

Unfortunately many of todays’ youth are immersed in a totally different reality. Living in front of the computer, the television omnipresent and socially connected via smartphones, they spend little time in nature and rarely disconnect from technology. If their lives exist on the “screen” now, it’s unrealistic to think they will have the desire to connect with the natural world as they mature. Yet, humans have always been connected with nature; 99.9% of our evolution comes from living in natural environments and our psychological underpinning is still entrenched in many ways with nature.

It’s interesting to note that the marketing world has leveraged our attachment to nature for a long time, selling products and services aimed at our “green” subconscious or pricing homes and resorts by the sea, in serene remote areas or in the mountains at higher rates than urban properties – bringing the ultimate luxury – being able to disconnect, relax and de-stress from our hectic lifestyle. We seem to have no problem in valuing nature when we need that rare escape but are not as willing to elevate nature as a more regular part of our lives.*

 

AIM

Knowing the importance of today’s youth in shaping the future, our initial effort is targeted on giving teens, especially under-privileged ones between the ages of 16 and 20, the opportunity to experience first-hand the positive impact nature can have on their lives through wilderness immersion camps. The aim being at helping them wanting to explore and discover the natural world and understand how experiencing the beauty and ultimate challenges, inherent in nature can lead to enhancing their self-confidence and help them develop valuable leadership skills.

Over time, we will be expanding our reach to include college students and business leaders.

 

FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGNS

For our first campaign W.I.L.D. will raise the necessary funds to send a group of teens to a 30-day Sea Kayaking camp** in Alaska in the summer of 2015. The wilderness immersion camp will be given by the internationally known and extremely well reputed National Outdoors Leadership School (N.O.L.S.).

“The most rewarding part of this course was getting out of my element, and experiencing nature at its fullest.” Thomas W. Southeast Alaska NOLS Sea Kayaking Grad

To kick off the campaign, Fox, an avid solo explorer and experienced kayaker who has paddled several hundred miles across all kinds of water will set-off from Victoria, British Columbia and paddle to San Francisco, California along the Pacific Coast. The 1,000-Mile Pacific Coast Paddle will take approximately 2 ½ months to complete.

Throughout his journey, Fox will be stopping along the route, speaking with the media and at events as well as posting his experiences on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.

During his 2½-month expedition, social media and news releases targeted at under-privileged teens and their families will invite them to submit an entry to the competition on why would they want to experience a 30-day sea kayaking wilderness NOLS camp and what they hope to take away from their experience.

To quote Fox:

“No one can possibly understand how impactful and inspiring nature can be until they are actually immersed in it. I want to encourage in these teens an interest in discovering our world, ask them to describe what they think it would be like to step away from their day-to-day world, to feel the beauty and experience the challenges of a non-urban environment. 

We all know the first step in any journey is envisioning it. By having them write about it and describe why they want to be there; having them share what they long for, we have already moved one step closer to bringing nature into their lives. Our goal is to have their testimonials and experiences to reach, and positively impact other teens and their families and inspire them to Experience the W.I.L.D.”     

 

For inquiries contact Daniel Fox daniel@wildimageproject.com

 

ABOUT DANIEL FOX

A Wilderness Systems sponsored sea kayaker, a Kokatat Ambassador, a Deuter Ambassador and a Delorme Ambassador, Fox, a Canadian based in San Francisco, is a storyteller, explorer and photographer. He writes about nature an exploration and shares his experiences with the public through his blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. (http://wildimageproject.com)

ABOUT N.O.L.S.

Since legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt founded the school in 1965, more than 230,000 students have graduated from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the leader in wilderness education. Whether through field-based courses offered in some of the most awe-inspiring locations in the world or classroom-based courses, the school provides transformative educational experiences to students of all ages. Graduates emerge as active leaders with lifelong environmental ethics and outdoor skills. To discover the NOLS experience or to bring a course to your business or organization, call (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.

 

* For additional reference on this topic, you can read more in these books and published articles: Blue Minds by Wallace Nichols, The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, Your Brain on Nature by Alan C. Logan. Effects of Outdoor Education Programs for Children in California by the American Institutes for Research, Campfire Kids: Going Back to Nature with Forest Kindergartens, NOLS Research Wilderness Immersion Benefits. These all highlight the benefits of spending time with nature. More recently, an article in the Outside magazine, Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning explored how Japan is financially investing in making its citizen spend time in the forest.

** Since 1971, NOLS students have been exploring the wilds of Alaska in sea kayaks. Theres no better way to take in Alaska’s dramatic coastline than by gliding on the water. Read more information about the trip and organization here.

 

Wilderness Systems, Minutes of Nature & Bear Encounters

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SPRING NEWSLETTER

What an interesting winter it has been! Unexpected developments demanding reassessment and ultimately turning into profound insights. Needless to say, the last four months have been full of surprises. With Spring around the corner, the foundation is now set to deliver a great deal of content – images, stories and videos. But first lets go over the latest!

WILDERNESS SYSTEMS

I am incredibly happy and proud to announce the sponsorship of WILDERNESS SYSTEMS and ADVENTURE TECHNOLOGY. Winner of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Boat Brand of the Year by Canoe and Kayak Magazine and manufactured in South Carolina, Wilderness Systems’ innovative designs are tuned for performance and quality. Since 1986, they have has pushed the limits of design and innovation by refusing to compromise.

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“Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology products have long provided the tools to access off-the-beaten-path destinations and give people an opportunity to explore their surroundings in a more intimate way,” said Evan Lyendecker, marketing manager for Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology. “The goal of the Wild Image Project is to capture beautiful, remote places for all to experience and then inspire people to connect with their natural world, so it was a natural partnership for us. We are always looking for new ways to expose people to the wild and watery environments we depend on and care about so much, and we believe Daniel’s expedition helps foster that awareness and passion.”

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MINUTE OF NATURE

I have been working on finding a concept of short videos that would support my narrative – THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT. It was during my trip to the Bedwell River that the clarity of what I needed to do came to me.

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Let me explain to you … watch the video below. (click on the image)

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Find out about the intended goal behind the un-edited Minute of Nature – Be in the Moment! (click on the image)

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This idea of sharing with you these moments and inspirational quotes or thoughts is exactly what I have been looking for. The notion of helping you disconnect and leave the modern world behind just for one minute so that your mind can wander away and connect with that part of nature where I was able to “Stop, Breathe, Listen and Relax.” This is exactly what I strive to bring to you.

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VANCOUVER ISLAND

For the last two months, I have been kayaking and exploring the Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Pacific Northwest is always full of adventures and discoveries and the island hasn’t disappointed.

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I started on Vargas Island just outside of Tofino and followed with the Bedwell Sound. Paddling from Victoria, I crossed the Haro Strait and explored the San Juan Island. Then came a long weekend in Telegraph Cove and Hanson Island.

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There was a wolf encounter, two bear encounters, many raccoons, plenty of rain and winds and some great paddling. Check PINTEREST for a recap.

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PATIENCE

In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of the word PATIENCE has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. Once again, my time in nature was responsible for bringing me perspicuity.

“It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started. Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing. The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me – patience needed to be embraced…”  Read the story here

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SISU

Finnish have a word – SISU, which its literal translation is “Having Guts”. But it cannot be translated without understanding its culturally value. It sits at the core of their spirit and has, for hundreds of years, defined who they are and what they strive for.  This story is what happens when you let nature in and experience how it can truly restore the human spirit.

“…Spending a lot of time in nature and on expeditions, your perception of things changes. You stop seeing things in what they could be or could not be. You quickly forget about probabilities, odds and statistics. Your bottom line becomes extremely clear and simple – yes or no, going or not going. I have to eat. I have to find shelter. I have to survive. You might and will debate about what to do or what could be done, but there is only one state of mind – Sisu…”

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SEA KAYAKER

Last July, some friends and I kayaked from Sitka to Hoonah, a 11-day 140 miles journey along Alaska’s coastal wilderness. The story of our adventure, written by Nathaniel Stephens was featured in the magazine Sea Kayaker.

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“…In the morning, as we sipped hot coffee and looked out across the water to the north, two humpback whales breached in unison, launching their massive bodies fully airborne and flopping down in tandem with twin plumes of white spray…”

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Check the photo board on PINTEREST and the video album on VIMEO for a recap of the paddling adventure.

PEEK

I was really happy to be asked by PEEK, a leader in the traveling industry, to contribute to their TASTEMAKERS section. Planning on spending some time on the Big Island of Hawaii? Make sure to read my “PERFECT DAY“.

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MARIN MAGAZINE

“Walking the Wilderness” is a contribution between poet Ushi Patel and I, portraying the beauty of the Marin Headlands located in the Bay Area just across from San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge.

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KOKATAT

Made in the USA, this family-style company has been believing and supporting my work since the beginning. I am honored to be featured in there 2014 catalog! So great being part of such a wonderful team of dedicated people, working relentlessly at delivering the best products.

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THE MIGHTY BUFFALO

My story “The Mighty Buffalo” was featured along with some of my photos in the Bison World, the official publication of the National Bison Association.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I am now leaving the Vancouver Island and heading north. First stop will be ATLIN, then JUNEAU, maybe the Prince Williams Sound and finally KODIAK ISLAND.

In August I will be in Salt Lake City for the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show.

Coming this summer, the announcement for one of my most anticipated projects ever – which will bring my work and impact to whole new level – stay tuned!!

As always, my work wouldn’t possible without the support of my sponsors, a big thank you to all of them! WILDERNESS SYSTEMS, ADVANCE TECHNOLOGY, KOKATAT, SIERRA DESIGNS, DEUTER, MOUNTAIN KHAKIS, DELORME, THULE, SMITH OPTICS, AQUALUNG, SANDISK, DAHLGREN, ICEBREAKER, VOLTAIC SYSTEMS, SEA TO SUMMIT, ROCKY S2V, SPERRY TOP SIDER, SOG, OPTIMUS STOVES, KATADYN

Patience

Breath, Relax, Listen

Breath, Relax, Listen

It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started. Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing. The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me – patience needed to be embraced. In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of this word has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. And once again, my time in nature was responsible for brining me perspicuity.

 In our Western society, the word patience denotes a more negative etymology, finding its root in the latin patientia, from patient– ‘suffering’.  But in Asia, the meaning takes a completely different approach and tries to bring forward the ability to wait and find peace, acceptance and dignity in the unexpected and uncontrollable. In China, the pictograph for patience is composed of two symbols – REN which illustrates the Blade of the Knife and XIN for Heart. The meaning being: “The sword blade is poised, ready to slice. Backed into this corner, we cannot move. When we don’t know which way to turn, or where to go, any movement at all can not only further muddy the water but can also bring disaster: the sword blade severs the heart and all is lost. Thus, the value of patience.” (Nonin Showiness) In Japan, the word is NINTAI which can be translated as an “obligation to take another direction”. GAMAN, “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity” is one of the teachings of Zen Buddhist. 

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A day in the tent

The plan was to leave in the morning – paddling back to Tofino. A combination of misjudgment on my behalf and the missing of an adapter to charge my batteries had left me with no more power for the camera. Being on Vargas island to photograph the wolves, my presence here now was simply leading to nothing – I would rather leave than facing the possibility of being presented with a perfect photo opportunity and having no camera to photograph with.

A wolf had appeared to me on the very first day of my arrival – his prints were on the beach, fresh from the morning. After setting up camp, the lone wolf had ventured around my tent. I am always perplexed on the timing of things. How and why we get to be at a precise place at a precise time, precisely when someone or something else happens to be there. Coincidence? Meant to be? A bit of both? In this case, I had been hiking the beach, collecting mussels for dinner when I decided to get something from the tent. Grabbing what I needed, I stood up zipping the tent flap when I noticed right in front of me the wolf coming out through the trees. He was brown and black, tall, the size of a huge dog. But his pose was not aggressive – more like an intruder trying to sneak his way in – this was not an dangerous predator imposing his rule on a newcomer. Maybe it was because he was alone without his pack – we know how humans act differently when by themselves, alone, as opposed to when they feel protected from being in a group. My guess is that the law of collective courage is no different independently if you are wolf or a human. Anyhow, when he saw me, he retreated and I knew in the back of my mind his next destination – the food cache. I silently followed the ruffles of leaves and hid behind a tree. As predicted I saw him coming around to investigate the metal box where my food was stored. Slightly moving to get a better view, I stepped on a branch and the unfortunate breaking noise scared the wolf away. I was not to see any of him for the next five days.

Now that I wanted the leave the island, the weather was not allowing me. And this is how these last two months came to be summarized into this precise moment – in a tent battered by the rain, realizing that all of this was beyond my control. Like the fog lifting and suddenly revealing the unexpected landscape, I was forced to accept the moment. There was nothing I could do but find peace in the unforeseen. Not just about the fact that I was being held captive on Vargas island, but that I had to accept that all my plans for the beginning of 2014 were totally at the opposite of what had actually happened – sheltered from what I had taken from granted, I was being reminded of the fragility of what I had and the price that I had to pay to keep it.

The rain and wind came to pass and the next day, a heavy fog took over and assumed the role of deciding on my captivity. I was not be allowed departure. Only the next day did a window present itself. With a strong northerly wind, my original idea to circumnavigate the island had to be put aside. Pushing with all my might I departed from the beach, turned the point, beating the wind and finding myself in a favorable position, riding the tide and wind, only having to deal with the exposed Pacific.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me. What I do know, is that from sitting into my kayak riding a wave, a river, or the ocean swell, I have control on how to react to the unexpected. I can not predict or even anticipate the unforeseen but  I can be ready to adapt to whatever is thrown my way and have trust in my capacity to handle the flow. The key is to patiently wait, breath, relax and know when to move.

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Alaska’s Wilderness, Dolphins, Volcano & much more

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FALL NEWSLETTER

I am continually asked to share what I’m working on; my expeditions, my photography and my appearances, so with that in mind I’m introducing the first edition of the Quarterly Wild Image Project Newsletter. The Newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date on not only where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing, but also to let you know about upcoming expeditions, photographic engagements and appearances.

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WELCOME

What a great year it has been so far! It’s now the end of summer and fall is just around the corner. What follows is a snapshot, literally and figuratively speaking, of my work to date.

EXPRESS NATIONALS 27

I was invited to photograph the 2013 Express 27 Nationals, held this year in the San Francisco Bay and hosted by the Richmond Yacht Club. If you’re not familiar with the Express 27, it an ultra-light displacement sloop designed by Carl Schumacher. It was built by Terry Alsberg at Alsberg Brothers Boatworks in Santa Cruz, California from 1981 to 1988.

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My intent with this assignment was to capture the excitement and intensity of the race and the competitive spirit of the racers. The green waters of the bay and the urban background were a challenge for the artistic vision I had so I desaturated the photos, keeping only the reds, yellows and blues. While increasing the highlights and whites allowed me bring focus on the sails and boats.

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Want to see more … go here on Behance or if you are interested in purchasing prints, please contact the Studio – studio – wildimageproject.com

IN SEARCH OF AN ILL FATED LANDING

On July 18th, fellow explorer Nathaniel Stephens and I set off on a kayak expedition along the Pacific coastline of Alaska. This route had always been of interest to us for two reasons: finding the Petroglyph Rocks at Surge Bay believed to be associated with the ill-fated Bering/Chirikov Expedition landing of 1741 and scouting the route for future commercial expeditions.

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We followed the Pacific Coast of the Chichagof Island, starting from Sitka. From there we voyaged our way north to Hoonah, covering 140 miles through Alaska’s pristine waters, following the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness, part of the Tongass National Forest. It is the largest national forest in the United States with most of its area part of the “perhumid rainforest zone, Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Made up primarily of western red cedar, sitka spruce, and western hemlock, the land spreads over thousands of islands and is home to animals that are barely found anywhere else in North America, including a group of brown bears more closely related to polar bears than to other living brown bears. Besides being of great environmental value, the area is extremely rich in cultural history – more than 10,000 years ago, the Tlingit people settled here.

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You can watch my TV interview on KATH-TV and listen to our KTOO Public Radio interviews before and after the expedition.

Want to see more, visit the daily recap on FACEBOOK, photos on PINTEREST and INSTAGRAMvideos on VIMEO and an article in SIDETRACKED magazine.

Our expedition will also be featured in the SEA KAYAKER Nov/Dec issue.

PELE’S BLOOD

I had heard about the Hawaiian islanders spiritual belief in PELE, the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes who, it is believed, lives in the Halema’uma’u crater, at the summit of Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano. Its lava continually flows reshaping the Big Island’s Kalapana southwest landscape. The islanders believe the melted rock is the blood of the Goddess and while this incredible display of earth’s power attracts thousands of tourists every year, for them it is a constant reminder of their origins and how their land came to be. So in June, I journeyed to the Big Island in hope of discovering and experiencing this sacred connection.

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My creative process is always the same; immerse myself into my surroundings, absorb its energy and let its spirit ignite and guide my work. Hiking the treacherous lava field of Puna almost every night, I came to understand and felt the sacredness of the place. TIME is result of this connection. It is a story about our perception of time in relation to what is, in simple terms, the cause responsible for this world we now try hard to protect.

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While most volcano photography focuses on free flows and wide landscapes, I wanted to create an abstract and artistic perspective of Pele’s intensity. These clefts are the result of a constant but slow force. One fracture at a time, earth is moved forward to form new landscapes, erasing the old ones. Invisible by day, their presence and intensity is only revealed at night, cracking the dark world open, like lightning splitting the sky in pieces. By taking the lava out of its environmental context, the beauty and power is revealed without any interference or distraction. You can see the resulting photography by visiting my online portfolio.

The work was featured in DAILY MAILPETAPIXELELEPHANT JOURNALEXPOSURE GUIDETREEHUGGER, & TERRA MAR PROJECT.

Daniel Fox and Pilot Whales

While in Hawaii, I took the occasion to join some friends in Kona and go free diving with dolphins, pilot whales and oceanic whitetip sharks. Take a moment to watch the 3 videos BLUE MORNINGDOLPHIN MOMENT & SUNDAY PAUSE.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

I could never accomplish the work I do without the support and partnership of my sponsors. Each one of them, in their own way, enable me to reach into nature, explore our world and bring it to you visually and through the written word.

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My heartfelt thanks goes out to:
KOKATATWILDERNESS SYSTEMSDEUTERAQUALUNGMOUNTAIN KHAKISSIERRA DESIGNSSANDISKDELORMEVOLTAIC SYSTEMSDAHLGRENSPERRY TOP SIDEROPTIMUSKATADYNADVENTURE TECHNOLOGYKLEAN KANTEEN, AQUAPACSOGG-FORMLEUPOLD & GOLDEN VALLEY

AROUND THE CORNER

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EXPEDITIONS

THE SPIRIT OF KOOTZNOOWOO

On September 9th, I’ll partner up again with Nathaniel Stephens to traverse the Admiralty Island. We will start in Juneau with a crossing of the Gastineau Channel to nearby Douglas Island. We will then face the challenging crossing of Stephens Passage and its notorious rough water. Heading south through Seymour Canal our goal will be Pack Creek, a famous area with one of the highest concentrations of Brown Bears in the world. Following the Cross Admiralty Canoe Route, we will reach the eastern side of Admiralty and make our way toward the Tlingit village of Angoon, the island’s only permanent settlement. We will meet with clan elders and learn about the town’s fascinating history, including an 1882 bombardment by the US Navy after a whaling dispute.

One of our goals is to continue producing the type of educational short videos we broadcast on our last expedition. Being explorers, we have the unique opportunity to bring to the public our in-the-field discoveries. You can watch some of these videos here Sundew FlowersBear SignsLittle Brown BatsChicken of the Woods and Coralroot Orchid.

I also plan to use photography to capture the essence and spirit of the Brown Bear, revered by many and a sacred totem for countless indigenous cultures.

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PHOTOGRAPHY

FALL ON CHANNEL ISLANDS

In October, I plan to set up camp on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Channel Islands, off the California Coast and spend 3 to 4 weeks exploring the archipelago. Kayaking and hiking my way around, my goal will be to connect with the island’s rich cultural past and precious ecosystem. And just like the people of the Churmash Indian tribe did thousands of years ago, I will paddle my way from the mainland to the Channel Islands.

With the help of National Park Service and Nature Conservancy, I will look into what makes these islands so important for Conservation and so adored by the American public. Partly educative and partly artistic, the content created for this trip will for sure not disappoint!

SEASONS AT THE FARALLONES

In partnership with the NOAA Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, I am working a photography/book/exhibition project titled “Seasons at the Farallones”. Although close to mainland, the islands have rarely been photographed – quite exceptional for such a unique environment and its proximity.

The Farallons are a group of islands off the coast of San Francisco, California, just 30 miles (48 km) outside the Golden Gate. Even thought the first European to record the islands was the English privateer Sir Francis Drake, who landed on the islands on 24 July 1579, it was the Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno who first charted them in 1603 and therefore gave them their name “Farallones”, meaning “rocks out of the sea”

Besides being known for its Great White Sharks population, the islands are home to more than 250,000 seabirds, 5 species of seals and sea lions and are visited every year by several whales species, including gray whales, humpbacks, blue whales, and the powerful killer whale.

By staying on the islands for periods of 2 to 3 weeks in Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, the goal will be to accurately capture the distinct seasons of such treacherous and extreme environment and the wildlife it inhabits.

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APPEARANCES

JACKSON HOLE FILM FESTIVAL

Internationally recognized as the premier event of its genre, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, held from September 23 – 27, has invited me to attend and photograph their event. Similar to what I’ve previously created for the Express 27 Nationals and the 2013 Digital Life Design Conference in Munich, my goal is to capture the energy and content of this event so that it can be shared around the world.

If you happen to be there at the same time, please reach out to me so we can meet.

THE WILD IMAGE PROJECT ON FACEBOOK

The online world is in constant change and it is important to have a platform that appropriately communicates the intended message and reaches out to both current and new audiences. So to make it easier for you to follow my photography, expeditions and appearances, I’ve re-launched the Wild Image Project Facebook site. All my FACEBOOK postings and updates can now be found here. From this page, you’ll be able to easily connect with me across all my social media networks, e.g., PinterestTwitterInstagram.
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I’ll be closing down my current Facebook personal page so be sure to take a minute and visit the new page and follow me by clicking LIKE.

PURCHASING PHOTOGRAPHY or SIGNING UP FOR FUTURE EXPEDITIONS

If you are interested in purchasing Wild Image Project photography or signing up for future expeditions contact me via email at daniel – wildimageproject.com.

The spirit of Kootznoowoo, the “Fortress of the Bear”

by Nathaniel Stephens

Last month we explored Baranof and Chichagof Islands and the outer coast of southeast Alaska. Next we will complete our “ABC’s “ with a traverse of Admiralty Island.

The route starts in Juneau with a crossing of the Gastineau Channel to nearby Douglas Island. We will then face the challenging crossing of Stephens Passage and its notorious rough water. Timing will be key to use the strong tidal currents to our advantage through Oliver Inlet and into Seymour Canal.  We’ll take advantage of a railcar system to portage our boats and gear between the two inlets. Heading south through Seymour Canal our goal will be Pack Creek, a famous area for viewing brown bears.  Indeed the island has some of the highest concentrations of brown bear in the world.

The Tlingit name for Admiralty is Kootznoowoo, or “Fortress of the Bear”. In September at Pack Creek we should have ample viewing of bears feeding on spawning salmon. From there we will head for the Cross Admiralty Canoe Route. A spectacular series of bays, lakes and portage trails; the Route was built in the 1930’s by the CCC and offers the intrepid backcountry adventurer a wonderful overview of Alaskan wilderness. The currents are incredibly strong throughout, running up to 10 knots, and the portages are often long and arduous. Whitewater features known as salt chucks occur in many places at certain tidal flows. We will be rewarded for our perseverance with excellent wildlife sightings and fantastic fishing along the way, as we bisect Admiralty Island National Monument.

Once we reach the eastern side of Admiralty we will make our way toward the Tlingit village of Angoon, the island’s only permanent settlement. We will meet with clan elders and learn about the town’s fascinating history, including an 1882 bombardment by the US Navy after a whaling dispute.

Finally, we will load our kayaks on the Alaska Marine Highway for the ferry ride back to Juneau.

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Oh Ferry Ferry please take me where I want to go!

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Alaska is known for its remoteness, glaciers, mountains and wildlife. But it is its amazing Marine Highway System that makes Alaska even more enjoyable.

On my last kayak expedition, we boarded the Fairweather in Juneau and headed to Sitka. With our kayaks nicely tucked in below, we were able to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Our 4 1/2 hour journey seemed more like strolling in a zoo as humpbacks and bald eagles majestically filled the landscape.

The Alaska Marine Highway System services 33 different ports, starting with Bellingham in Washington. From there you can head north to Ketchikan and travel through the Inside Passage and carry on until Dutch Harbor all the way to the end of the Aleutians.

After 11 days of exploring the Pacific Coast of Chichagof Island, coming around the outside of Yakobi , through the Cross Sound and around Point Adolphus, our final destination was Hoonah, where the ferry LeConte was waiting for us.  Once again, our trip back to Juneau didn’t deceive us. The scenery was outstanding, especially at Point Retreat where a couple of whales breached.

Independently of your destination, whether you are traveling by car, bicycle or kayak, the Alaska Marine Highway System is your ticket to experience the 49th State of America, the Last Frontier, Alaska.

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Along the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness

On July 18th, my expedition partner Nathaniel Stephens and myself will undertake an 11-day kayak expedition following the pacific coast of the Chichagof Island. Our journey will start in Juneau where we will take the ferry to Sitka. From there we will voyage our way north to Hoonah. This 140 miles journey through Alaska’s pristine waters will have us follow the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness. We will pass south of the Kruzof Island, around the Yakobi Island, through the South Iniah Passage, South of the Lemesurier Island and finally around the famous Point Adolphus.

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The West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness is part of the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States with most of its area part of the “perhumid rainforest zone, Earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Made up primarily of western red cedar, sitka spruce, and western hemlock, the land spreads over thousands of islands and is home to animals that are barely found anywhere else in North America, including a group of brown bears more closely related to polar bears than to other living brown bears.

Besides being of great environmental value, the area is extremely rich in cultural history – more than 10,000 years ago, the  Tlingit people settled here.

Our expedition will be tracked with the Delorme InReach which can be viewed here. We will try to post updates on Twitter, but most likely all the content – photos, videos and stories, will be published upon our return at the beginning of August.

Make sure to connect via Facebook or Twitter to receive the latest dispatches.

This trip wouldn’t be possible without the important support from

Punta Chivato

Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get!” That scene from Forrest Gump plays in my head as I sit at the point, watching the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez, spouts of blue whales out in the open leaving me with a small feeling of jealousy, wishing I had a way to reach them. Still, I could not ask for more. During a stay at Angel Azul B&B in La Paz, during the kayaking trip with AMG (Alaska Mountain Guides), I met one of the owners of a development in Punta Chivato, a point just north of Bahia Concepcion in the Sea of Cortez. After looking at my book, the gentlemen asked if I would be interested to visit the location and photograph it. They were opening a small hotel and were in need of a bank of images. I was just about to leave sailing with Hayden and had not bought my flight for Argentina. I told the man that I could do it upon my return from the sea. That evening, we shook hands and agreed on the terms. My friend Hayden was about to grace me with his hospitality for the next ten days, I didn’t hesitate one second and invited him to tag along.

The east coast of Baja California is majestic and dramatic. Squeezed between the Sierra de los Gigantes and the Sea, the land is a mix of desert and oasis. The sea brings moisture and the red mountains act like a giant heating system. There is more green in this landscape than you would expect; a forest of thousands of cactuses. Dried riverbeds lined with palm trees, orange trees and mango trees. Somehow, the flora has evolved and succeeded in surviving this extreme environment. It is almost deceptive and for a moment you forget how harsh this arid place can become when the wind dies and the sun toasts the soil like a giant oven.

The hotel faces south, looking into the mouth of the Concepcion bay. About two miles offshore, three small islands hold refuge to a broad range of life forms. One hosts a colony of sea lions, another hosts a colony of terns, and the last one, the biggest of the three, is the domain to an osprey. To the west is a point, made of black twisted striated rock and has an almost lunar aspect. Around the point are a series of beaches offering amazing snorkeling. All around are hordes of brown pelicans and Heermann’s gulls. Several ospreys patrol the waters. On land, finches and orioles fill the air with their melodies. The bushes are homes to lizards and black-tailed jackrabbits with their tall big ears. Elephant trees, Cordon cactuses and numerous others complete the scenery.

The first days were spent driving around to neighboring towns. The wind was blowing strong from the north and the sea was too agitated to go kayaking. We drove to Santa Rosalia, an old French mining town, with the original 100 year-old refinery open as a museum. The hill populated with plantation-like houses, much like the ones found in New Orleans, was a reminder of the origin of the early settlers. Mountains of slag, byproduct of melting copper, still dominate the view. Later in the afternoon, we drove all the way up a mountain on a tiny cobblestone paved road. Both Hayden and I were perplexed by how such labor had been invested for such an unfrequented road. We got the answer much later when we were told that these kinds of roads needed the least maintenance, the water during the hurricane season simply rolling down and leaving the road fairly intact. It was during that drive that we saw a couple of roadrunners. Although I looked for him, the coyote was nowhere to be found!!

The next day we drove to Loreto, down south, and headed for the mountains, our destination was the Mission of San Javier. This mission is one of the most important in Baja and is still visited by thousands of people during the pilgrimages. The backcountry had amazingly several dried up rivers with hundreds of ponds filled with still water. Little forests of palm trees were scattered around, contrasting the red cliffs. Small creeks seemed to flow from nowhere, producing lush greenery along their banks.  Paintings from early natives decorated the walls, their meanings left to our own interpretation, were proof that this place had been a hub of life for centuries.

The rest of our stay was spent kayaking around, snorkeling or exploring the land. We would wake up at sunrise and watch the dolphins play in the bay. Some mornings, they would simply pass by without making much wake. On others, they would be more playful and jump around. Every time we felt so privileged, able to watch this big ball of fire rise above the sea, while the dolphins graced us with their acrobatics.

Pelicans were another subject of our fascination. Masters of gliding, these birds are simply amazing. Barely inches above the water, their wings fully extended, they float on that thin layer of warm air. They form squadrons, sometimes with up to 50 individuals, all lined up. No one will start flapping its wings before the leader does. And when he does, it creates this chain reaction, a mini wave of perfect aerodynamic engineering.

There was a Great Blue Heron stationed in front of the hotel. There was an osprey couple nesting at the top of a navigating tower, up the beach. There was another one down by the boat ramp, their nest up an electricity pole. More than once, on our way to breakfast, one of them would be perched on a big wooden structure, holding a big fish, obviously proving the mastery of his realm. It was stunning to see him one day flying with a yellowtail, about his length in size, tightly gripped between those huge black claws. For this bird to catch such a fast and big fish was just another confirmation of his apex predator status. From time to time, exploring the cliffs, either from above or below, a kingfisher would be quick to fly away, always eluding our sight… and my camera. A group of four ravens, one afternoon, gave us an amazing show. Whether they were courting in the air, or simply playing, they would fly after each other, turn upside down, plunge a hundred feet at full speed and come right back up just a couple of feet off the ground. They would glide their way back up and proceed to do it again, and again. Their prowess leaving us in awe. We would spend hours with our heads down studying the tide-pools, scanning for critters. Those miniature ponds, sheltered from the sea, dug in the rock, hold a surprising wide range of life: tiny transparent shrimps, anemones, soft corals, countless hermit crabs, long zebra worms, tube worms, sea slugs of stunning colors and many kinds of tiny fish animated those mini waterholes.

On our last morning, we witnessed another incredible phenomenon. The day had started like it had the day before; quiet waters and pink sky. But out in the open, a wall of clouds was stretching for miles and was coming toward us fast. It didn’t look like a typical storm. In fact, that line of clouds was perhaps only a hundred yards high, and above it, the sky seemed undisturbed. It was only when our faces were almost in it that we realized what it was. A huge fog system rapidly trapped everything in its way. The world became white and the visibility plummeted down to barely 20 feet. It is fascinating how a world of long distances can be reduced to the size of closet, with no point of references, all within minutes.

Our stay was coming to an end and we felt we had only scratched the surface of all the secrets Punta Chivato has. But like anything in life, the best never reveals itself at once. So it was with happy hearts and smiling faces that Hayden and I drove south, by the sea, through the mountains and back to La Paz where the next day we were flying away.

My time in Baja California has been absolutely incredible. I came down here originally for ten days and now, after a little over a month, I leave with dozens of new friends, amazing photographs and unforgettable new encounters. This part of the world is filled with so much wildlife and stunning geography. No wonder why Cousteau loved it so much and compared the Sea of Cortez to the World’s aquarium. As for me, now sitting in the plane, looking through the window, the land that I have been kayaking, sailing, hiking and driving, now looking more like a map, I smirk and think at life, and how, when you let it guide you, it will take you to places filled with treasures and loving people. Don’t force it, be like the water and go with the flow.

Bahia Magdalena

It is said that their migration is the longest one amongst all mammals. Each year gray whales leave the cold nutritious waters of the Chukchi Sea, above Alaska, and head south to Mexico for breeding. Once called the Devil Fish, because of their resistance when harpooned, the gray whale is a 36 ton baleen mammal, recognizable by a unique set of white scars left by parasites and also by a series of knuckles on their midline, instead of a dorsal fin. One of their favorite destinations is Magdalena Bay, located on the Pacific Coast of Baja California Sur. It was also our rendezvous point with them.

After an amazing time around Isla Espiritu Santo, we loaded the van with our kayaks and gear and drove across the peninsula to Puerto Santo Carlos, one of the major fishing villages on the Bay. After unloading our equipment from the van and loading it again onto the panga, we crossed the channel and set up our first camp on a spectacular sand bar. The bar is part of Isla Magdalena and is what protects the bay from the Pacific. We pitched our tents, walked across the dunes and went for a swim.

The next day, we pushed our kayaks on the mirror like waters of the bay and proceeded towards our first point of interest, the mangroves. Once again, these tress offer amazing protection to a broad range of critters. Several species of herons and egrets were perched on the branches amongst the pelicans, while godwits and whimbrels combed the receding waters for food. We saw dolphins passing by in the channel and on a couple of occasions, whales would spout and disappear, teasing our constantly growing curiosity. In the water, stingrays were a common sight. We set up our second camp site past a Mexican fishing camp and that night, as the sun went down, we sat on the beach with our binoculars and watched dozens of whales spouting and breaching out in the main channel.

The morning held an even more amazing surprise. As the sun rose, a group of at least forty whales were still spouting and breaching. The light was magnificent, reflecting through all these water droplets pushed up in the air through the whales’ blowholes. From our location, it almost looked like the fountain show at the Bellagio in Vegas. The day was certainly going to be a great one!

It didn’t take long to reach our next campsite, tucked in the little rocky bay, just before the Pacific. We were now at the main entrance of the bay, where whales hang out. After setting up our tents and eating lunch, we paddled out around the point and ventured along the high cliffs battered by the Pacific and played in the rock gardens. The force of the Pacific waters was so impressive. On the rocks, the water line would rise up and drop 20 feet, exposing seaweed of amazing colors. The swell would hit the daggered wall and rolled onto itself with great big white breakers. After getting our share of excitement, we decided to paddle back and head towards the middle of the channel and see if we could meet the whales. This short trip would have been impossible if the weather was only slightly bumpy, but for now, it was perfect. Midway through, I looked down in the water and was amazed at what I saw. Thousands and thousands of pelagic red crabs were drifting in the current. Those little shrimp like creatures, are known to be a food source of the blue whale. They congregate in such vast swarms, thick enough that they color the ocean surface red. They also wash ashore and litter the beach by the thousands. Besides tunas, dolphins, rays and pinnipeds feeding on them, birds have been observed to gorge themselves so much that they can’t fly.

Shortly after, a couple of whales were coming on port side. Their blows announcing their presence, they swam towards us and right before our bow, dove and disappeared. They started to play Hide & Seek with us. Showing up in one place long enough for us to try to reach them only to once again disappear. After zigzagging for 20 minutes, we were satisfied and started our way back to camp. The change of tide was coming and we didn’t want to be in the channel when the weather turned.

On the way back, we stopped by a fishing panga and asked if we could buy some fresh calamari. They declined our offer to pay them and handed over a 15-pound piece. Another panga nearby saw the transaction and came over to see if we were interested in buying two fresh yellowtail. Their request for exchange was a pack of oreo cookies! We gladly accepted and kayaked back to camp, gave them the cookies and proceeded to prepare the fish sushi and ceviche style. With only lime juice and cilantro, the ceviche was pure gastronomy.

The next day, we were picked up by panga and spent a couple of hours with the whales. As it turns out, the whales here are less afraid of boats then kayaks. I guess kayaks are too quiet and the whales are not sure what to make of them. Or maybe kayaks are simply not big enough for them to care. Anyhow, it didn’t take long before we were surrounded by at least four whales. Gently bringing their noses within arm’s reach, they floated up like quiet submarines and spouted in our faces. They bumped the boat, waved hello with their flukes and swung their tales on the surface with great force. At some point, the entire boat starting to laugh, looking at me, although I was not sure why. They all pointed their fingers behind me and as I turned around, a giant head slowly sunk back in the water. The whale had sky-hopped right behind me, close enough that if I had turned around, my nose would have touched her, they say! Apparently, her eye was at the same level as mine. It became quite evident that they were having as much fun as we were.

Isla Espiritu Santo

The Mexicans call it the Holy Spirit. Sitting on the beach, my eyes fixed a few miles offshore on a group of humpbacks jumping, their tails and flukes slapping the water, much like a baby would do in a bath, I start to understand the sacred spirit of this location. Cliffs made of thick layers of black lava and volcanic ash surround a series of protected bays with crystal blue water and sandy beaches. Its waters are rich with nutrients and host year round pelagic species – gray whales, humpbacks, whale sharks, dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and many more.

I am here with Alaska Mountain Guides (AMG), an adventure guide service that provides kayaking trips around the world. Our group has just been dropped on Coralito Bay. The plan for the next 5 days is to paddle north, on the east coast of the island, go up and around Isla Partida and back. We will then spend a night in LaPaz, drive across to the Pacific, to Bahia Magdalena and paddle for 2 days to the mouth of the bay, where gray whales are found by the dozen at this time of the year.

As soon as we are settled into our camp, we get our snorkeling gear on and swim to a nearby little coral reef. I am amazed! For someone who scuba dives, I am used to see damaged snorkeling spots, either fished out, or trashed, big fish and big mollusks gone, an unhealthy and unbalanced ecosystem left behind. But this one has a strong coral growth, lots of nudibranchs, big snappers, clams, oysters, many little fish and millions of juveniles. That afternoon, I see three eels and two scorpion fish. Every where I look, I see life thriving, in all shapes and forms. So refreshing! But the most amazing moment of that afternoon was still to come. And it was not something that I saw, but something that I heard. As I took a deep breath and swam down, I heard a long whining sound. A sort of music. It is the humpbacks, singing, miles away in the channel. The sound was exactly what I had seen on Planet Earth when the whales are floating motionless fifty feet deep, their heads down, and producing this long whine. I picture them, perfectly still in the water, as I hold onto a rock to listen to their song. Simply magical!

Back on the beach, changing clothes, we put our hiking boots on and go for an afternoon hike. The place is spectacular. Red volcanic rock all around us, which millions of years ago trapped countless of air bubbles, now exposed by time make the landscape look like the inside of an Aero chocolate bar. A little bit of rain two weeks ago was enough to transform this arid terrain into a green miracle. A few drops of water suffice to bring the plants and trees out of their hibernating mode and sprout bright new leaves. Reaching the top, we are welcomed with another surprise. Down below, in the bay next to ours, a full bird feeding freezing is happening.  Hundreds of birds are going crazy on a shoal of bait fish. Although the scene is happening a few miles from us, the sight is still incredible; countless black silhouettes flying and diving in the water, turning the surface into boiling water. Watching the sunset at the top of a high cliff was nothing short of everything else that day. Sitting just a few feet from cliff, two hundred feet above the sea, we watched a big orange sun disappear behind the mountains. If this day was any indicator for the coming 10 days, we were in for one amazing trip!

Our first destination the following day is the hidden lagoon in the bay south of us. Only accessible at high tide, the place is a little piece of bird paradise. A sense of stillness reigns. Brown pelicans, frigates, black crown heron, great egrets, little blue herons, all are holding refuge in the mangroves – the perfect spot!

As we exit through the shallow narrow passage and start paddling north, a small pod of bottlenose dolphins crosses our path and heads out. Later that day, we come to our second camping site, a secluded alcove, guarded by a group of brown pelicans, keeping a tight watch on the water, looking for their next target. After a nice lunch and putting our tents up, we get back in our kayaks and head across to Isla Ballenas for a quick paddle. Blue foot boobies are flying around, topped way above by a group of magnificent frigates, gliding the warm air.

That evening, after another incredible hike, which revealed, out on the water, a group of rays jumping so high it was hard to believe, I sat on the beach and photographed the brown pelicans in action. The light blue sky behind them was the perfect background. As they flew in circle before twisting and falling like an arrow in the water, their bodies created the most amazing abstract shapes. It was as if a calligraphy master had just decided to write in the sky. Later, during dinner, a ring tailed cat is seen sneaking around our camp, looking for any opportunity.

I wake up at dawn and notice a group of bats still flying around catching the last remnants of nocturnal insects. After breakfast, we pack our gear and paddle out once more. A single male sea lion passes as an eagle ray leaps out of the water, ten feet high before landing with a big splash. During lunch, on a beach, I see something purple floating nearby. I walk in the water, up to my knees and inspect it closely. It is a Portuguese Man O War with two weird little fish swimming in its tentacles, immune to its venom. I approach carefully, keeping an eye on those long blue strings, famous for their painful sting. What I didn’t see was another colorless jelly fish, that manages to hit me right on the knee. I let out a big scream and rushe to the shore. Damn this is painful! Within minutes, my skin turns red and swells. Isis, one of the guide, gives me some white vinegar and tells me to apply it on the wound. The vinegar destroys the proteins from the venom. Needless, to say, even after an hour, the pain is still sharp. As I write these lines, 8 days later, the sting is still visible, a red mark across my knee.

The stingingly jellyfish print on my skin was no concern by the next morning, as we set out for the sea lion colony.  This was surely going to be one of the biggest highlights! Just barely out of the kayak and into the water, I had three pups pulling my fins and playing with me. Two females swam around, passing extremely fast, opening their mouths and releasing a big stream of bubbles while never letting me out of sight, those big giant inquiring black eyes following my every move. It felt like I was playing in the grass with a bunch of dogs. From time to time, a huge male would come by and insure that everything was under control. His massive and intimidating presence was a reminder to all, us and the sea lions pups, that we still needed to behave. It was so amazing! At some point, one leaped and landed on my back, grabbing my shoulder. I turned around, holding his flippers and the two of us proceeded in a series of rolls and twists. I was just a happy kid playing in the water with them. And like any kid, I was called back to reality when after twenty minutes, it was time to climb back into the kayaks and continue our paddle.

I navigated for the rest of the day with a big grin on my face. We went around to the west side of Isla Partida and through the channel. After having lunch in the pass, we paddled a little bit more to our last camping site, just a few hundred yards away from our pick up location for our ride back to LaPaz the next day. That afternoon, we did one last big hike, up through a fantastic Arroyo filled with big boulders. The sight must be absolutely incredible when the entire valley flash floods in this creek. On a rock, bathing under the sun was an eastern collared lizard and flying high, screeching, a red-tail hawk patrolled his domain. As I scroll down back to the camp, I could only marvel at the last 5 days. This place was really sacred and the trip was only halfway done. Tomorrow was the beginning of our second half, this time, on the Pacific side, with the gray whales.

Century Paddle

On August 31st, Rivers in Demand explorer and fellow Wend ambassador Andy Maser and I led a group of kayakers for a week long paddling trip on the Columbia River, from the Willamette Falls to the Pacific. The aim was to scout and investigate what would be needed in preparation for next year’s big event: bringing a large group of Disabled American Veterans on an unforgettable paddling experience. The event would be done in collaboration with Team River Runner, an organization that “gives military veterans and their family members an opportunity to find health, healing, and new challenges through whitewater boating and other paddling sports. The benefits of TRR have as much to do with social support, finding emotional strength and re-creating personal identity as they do with athletic activity.”

The other goal Andy and I had, was to see how we could maximize the use of social media tools to promote the importance of such event. It is one thing to do so at an event, on land. But when you are on the water, in a kayak, it is slightly different. It is common knowledge that connectedness nowadays happens everywhere – political and news events have seen their dynamic turned upside down with social tools such as Twitter. Would it be possible to do the same with an outdoor event and spread social awareness? We wanted to find out!

Real time reportage is coming of age, and to bring this new reality into this short expedition was for us an exercise on how to raise the interactivity both Andy and I seek with our followers and viewers. It is important for us to communicate this sense of adventure that drives us. For this to succeed, we brought with us the necessary communication devices. Andy was carrying a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger, an amazing GPS tracking system with a great online structure that allows people to follow in real time ground progress. Our iPhones, protected by Aquapac waterproof cases, would allow us to post content on Twitter and upload realtime photos, while sitting in our kayaks. Our GPS coordinates were also trackable through iPhone’s Google Maps and my Suunto watch. Granted, for all these devices to work, you need to have cell phone or satellite coverage. But in a world where GSM coverage reaches 3 billion people in more than 212 countries, these new technologies bring a brand new dimension into content consumption. I wonder how Cousteau and Attenborough would have used them in their nature journalism?

The itinerary itself was a testimony to the nature vs. urban reality that our world faces. In our ever expanding number, nature’s necessity is constantly requestioned. To kayak from Portland’s industrial waters (Portland’s port is the largest in Oregon and the number one auto import gateway in the Western U.S) to the Pacific, on the the fourth-largest river in the U.S., the Columbia River, was for us an occasion to see first hand how the two worlds cope with each other. Was the river clean? It was important for us to see how bird and fish wildlife was adapting and living, or struggling in a natural world highly influenced by the industrial landscape.

On our first day, from Willamette Falls, we paddled 27 miles and established camp on Hayden Island. From the massive expensive houses on the river in Milwaukie, under the bridges of downtown Portland, to Swan Island industrial terminals, to under a long dock supported by hundreds and hundreds of cement pillars, our first stretch was straight through human’s industrialized achievement. Yet, in the midst of this urban world, we saw sturgeon breaching, salmon jumping, cormorants, Canadian geese, Pilgrim geese, Great Blue herons, ospreys and several species of ducks. We saw countless people enjoying the river banks and of course we saw a great number of motorized boats – but also many, many non-motorized ones. The Fire Department, in their red jetskis and red speed boats kept zipping up and down the river, keeping a vigilant eye, always ready to rescue, assist, or reprimand misuse of our precious river. Our campsite could have not been more anachronistic. Behind us was a wall of trees, with birds singings. In front of us, across the river, were eight giant cranes, at least 300 feet high, surrounded by a sea of lights, containers and cars. The site, which was lit up all through the night, was a constant reminder of the urban industrialized presence.

On our second day, we encountered a phenomenon that neither Andy nor I had ever seen before. Just before lunch, we came across a group of floating bees. Some of them were dead, but most of them looked like they had just fallen in the water. What started like one bee here and there rapidly turned into a massive number of stranded bees. Hundreds of them, scattered all over the water surface. It felt like we were going through a city that had just been bombarded and devastated. Not sure what to make out of all this, Andy and I started to scoop them out of the water, dropping them on our sprayskirts. At one point, I had more than 20 of them buzzing their wings around my torso, trying to dry themselves. I have been following the strange disappearance bees are going through right now (Colony Collapse Disorder) and honestly, I could not witness this scene without doing something. I am not sure if those 40 something bees we rescued that day from the water survived or will make a difference, but at least we tried. That evening, prior to joining the others at our next campsite on Sandy Island, Andy and I went to Kalama to do some work. After securing our kayaks at the marina, we walked to the little town, dressed in our paddling gear, and our laptops under our arms. Going down the main street – occasionally getting the double look from passerby, not too sure what to make out of us, we stopped at the Public Library, the only place with free wifi in town.

On the third day, Andy went along with another kayaker to see a man on Puget Island, who lives directly across from Bradwood, where a Liquid Gas Terminal has been proposed. The issue has been extremely controversial. Beside the obvious problem of turning wild lands into industrialized ones, the project is filled with red flags. This plan is to facilitate the import of natural gas from around the world and to deliver it to the State of California. Previous attempts in Long Beach and Mexico have been refused and now Oregon would like to give it a go. If such project would go ahead, every house in the neighborhood would lose any value. Waters around the site would rise up considerably, disrupting the local fish life. The ships used to transport the gas are enormous and would require dredging the river even deeper; once again disrupting the fish life; today the majority of the new ships are around 120,000 m³ to 140,000 m³, but there are orders for ships with capacity up to 260,000 m³. Imagine a 1,120 foot long floating leviathan carrying gas, going up and down the Columbia River. Once in place, the plant, being a high risk location for attack, would necessitate high security both on land and on the water, disrupting all local activity. The topic is so controversial that Long Beach and Mexico have refused to have them in their backyard. A similar project is currently in the works in New York, but faces major opposition from the likes of Hillary Clinton and other New York Senators.

But back to the kayak. In the meantime, I had decided to paddle ahead and search for our next campsite. Along with another kayaker, we reached Eagle Cliff and to make sure the rest of the group would know exactly where to find us, I texted Andy our GPS coordinates taken from my watch. With them he was able to locate our position on his iPhone with Google Maps.

The next morning, we woke up at 5am. The full moon was in total display and the idea of paddling under the moon light was too good to resist. The river was like a giant mirror, with not even a ripple. Our kayaks slid on the surface like diamonds cutting glass. As the moon lowered over the horizon, the sun arose behind us. At one point, both sky and water turned into a metallic blue and suddenly, the horizon line disappeared; looking ahead of us, there was no demarcation whatsoever between what was above and what was below the horizon. The current and tide were pushing us downstream and in only three hours, we reached Astoria. We paddled a little bit more to Warrenton and after securing our kayaks at the marina, we walked over to the Serendipity Cafe for a well deserved American breakfast! Coincidentally, on the very same day, the local newspaper, The Daily Astorian, was running a story on myself, Andy and our paddling trip.

Driving back, Andy and I reflected on our original task – to see how we could use social media tools to benefit an outdoor event carrying a social cause. Not only did we feel that we succeeded – Century Paddle was featured on several blogs and in local news sources, and its Facebook page and Twitter hashtag both saw huge traffic – but we also felt that we had discovered a new way of sharing our expeditions. To get people to follow our adventures in the wild in real-time is for us one of the most intimate and efficient ways to spread our message. Someone that sees our videos, our photos, or reads about us, will have a desire for and connection to nature for a limited amount of time. With tools such as Twitter and Facebook, the same person is constantly reminded of the power and treasures of the outdoors. Therefore their desire is sustained. This will certainly become extremely interesting as both of us are preparing to leave in November for Argentina and Brazil.

Accompanying us on this little journey was Don Smith, Executive Director, Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #1 Portland, Sam Drevo, owner and operator of Northwest River Guides and founder of We Love Clean Rivers, Hayden Peters and Ralph Bloemers. You can find more about information online by visiting the Century Paddle Facebook page.

Nomades del Mar

To explore, to investigate, to wander – from the latin explorare, which means “search out”. The subject has been captivating science for decades, with researchers trying to seek its motivations. Why do we explore? Why do we surmount our fears and wander beyond the boundaries of safety? Do we explore by curiosity? By necessity? Is it driven by boredom?  What motivates all of us Explorers to seek adventure in chartered and unchartered territories?  It was discovered that mice with damaged cerebellums exhibit low levels of interest in exploring their surrounding, suggesting that the brain plays an important part in our motivation to explore. Is it then biological? Since 1990, we have come to agree that it is part of our inherent ability to survive. Exploration is now viewed in evolutionary terms, as a combination of motivations, leading to a strategy of survival – locating food, avoiding predators and stimulating learning.

Ever since I was a young boy, I have always been drawn to the unknown. I have always looked at the fence in the backyard as an invitation to seek new experiences. When I was 17, I left home and hitchhiked across Canada. I threw my compass away, and never looked back. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: ”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” After 17 years of traveling, I still live by his words and my desire for exploration is stronger than ever.  As Humans, as Individuals, as Explorers, are we defined by the places we have been, or by the places we are going?

We had been driving for almost 3 hours when we left Ruta 3, the National Road, and took the Provincial Road 30, direction east. Driving south from Puerto Madryn, the landscape was borderline hypnotic. Endless flat plains, or as Darwin described it in 1833: “…the view is generally bounded by the escarpment of another plain, rather higher, but equally level and desolate; and in every direction the horizon is indistinct from the trembling mirage which seems to rise from the heated surface.” The change of scenery was much welcomed, and for the next 70 km, the road sinuously took us closer to our departure point. From the pebble beach in Camarones and for the next 12 days, we were to kayak to Comodoro, a 300 km journey.

Camarones is a village by the ocean rich in history. In 1545, Don Simon de Alcazaba y Sotomayor, a Portuguese sailor under the command of Charles I of Spain, was the first to anchor in the bay. Following the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain had sent Alcazaba to access the new territory. Camarones, which is a word for shrimp in Spanish, was declared part of Provincia de Nueva León. During the heyday of the wool industry, the village was known for the quality of its wool and soon became an important port. Don Mario Tomás Perón, who owned two nearby estancias (ranch), Porvenir and Maciega, would also bring the small location international visibility. His son, Juan, became President of Argentina in 1946. His second wife was Eva, also known as Evita. The estancia Maciega is now restored and is a museum.

Along with Pablo and Sofia from Patagonia Explorers, Sandro and Eloise were joining the expedition. Together, the four of them form the group called Nomades del Mar. Since 2004, they have been paddling with the objective to explore the entire coast of the Chubut Province. This trip will complete their first mission and will set the stage for their next goal – continue to Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. Nomades del Mar is more than a simple name. It stands for a set of values that all four members carry in their paddling and lives. Nomades are known in human history to have the most sustainable lifestyle: following the seasons and being in harmony with Nature. Kayak is for the group, the best way to learn and respect the environment, wildlife and history and to share them with friends. As Pablo said to me: “Nomades del  Mar perfectly sums up our feelings and emotions about Nature and describes best our way of living.”

By 2h45pm, we had finished loading our kayaks with food and equipment. Each of us were carrying 20 liters of water. I had all the dinners onboard my kayak, Pablo and Sandro would carry the lunches plus cooking gear, and Sofia and Eloise had the breakfasts and lunches. We would only need to replenish our water supply once in Bahia Bustamante. The weather forecast was generally good for the next 4 days. After that, we would use the satellite phone to call and get updates. After a quick lunch and a final check, we pushed ourselves on the water and headed to Isla Blanca, our first point of interest. The sky was clear, not one cloud, a light breeze, this was a great way to start our adventure.

In 1880, a steamship called Villarino was commissioned by the Government of Argentina. Her inaugural trip was to bring the remains of General San Martin, liberator of Argentina, whom had taken residence in France, back to be interred in Buenos Aires. After her delivery, she began a career in transporting goods along the coast of Patagonia. On March 16 th 1899, after 19 years of service and 101 trips to the south, Villarino sunk on the reefs of Isla Blanca during a stormy night, it was her 202 nd visit to Camarones. While her wreck lies at the bottom, (though her prop is on display by the beach in Puerto Madryn) the rocky island thrives with life. As we got closer to the reef, Antarctic Skuas began to fly over our heads. Skuas are known for being pretty territorial, flying extremely close to anyone venturing on their turf. With one just a couple of feet over my shoulder, I suddenly remembered the images of Sir David Attenborough, reporting on penguins, Skuas harassing him – although those ones were just investigating. Isla Blanca is populated with various marine bird colonies and Sea Lion colonies. On the rocks, groups of Dolphin Gulls, Rock and Imperial Cormorants, and Oyster-catchers:  Magellanic, Common and Blackish, each owning its little piece of rocky real estate.  In the water, inquisitive eyes with long whiskers popping up and disappearing keeping tab on our whereabouts. After rounding the island, we paddled away, heading to our first night stop. We settled in a little bay, not too far south from Camarones. After dinner, although some of us wanted to sleep outside, we had to forfeit our wish and raise the tents. With 92% humidity and 13 degree celsius, it was going to be a wet night.

I woke up as the light started to fill the sky. Out of my sleeping bag and into my warm jacket, I got out of the tent and marveled at the beauty of how this day was starting. On the horizon, a thick pink line was stretching from north to south. In the bay, on the water, a large group of Crested Ducks looked like japanese Kage-e (shadow pictures from the Edo period) floating on a dark blue metallic liquid. In the sky, the absence of clouds created a giant blue gradient, starting with a hint of red and ending with a deep black. While the others woke up, Pablo put the kettle on the stove, it was time for breakfast with mate.

Mate is for Argentina, what coffee is for France or Italy and tea for England – beside being the national beverage, it is a sacred ritual. You drink it in the morning and in the afternoon. The leaves of Yerba, a species of holly, native to South America, are poured loose in a calabash gourd. Once the leaves have steeped in warm water (it is important that the water is not boiling), the tea is drank with a Bombilla, a metallic straw. According to the Guarani legend, when the Goddesses of the Moon and of Clouds came to Earth, an old man saved them from the attack of a Yaguarete (jaguar). To reward the brave soul, the Goddesses gave the man a new plant from which could be prepared a drink of friendship. Mate was born.

Our second night stop – a little pebble beach nestled between small cliffs, protected from the wind, finally allowed us to enjoy the warmth of the sun and within minutes, everything felt like a hot summer day. We braved the cold water of the Atlantic and all went for a swim. While some could only manage a quick dip, others, myself included, stayed in and took the occasion to gather mussels and lapas. Fresh from the sea, with garlic and butter, followed by Argentinean beef grilled over fire, dinner was exquisite. That night, I stayed late and sat by the fire and watched the flames dance against the rock. For a moment, it all felt like a scene from a John Wayne western. With some imagination, I could hear the coyotes over the hills and the harmonica playing “”Rio Bravo”.

Isla Leones (Lions) was our next destination. Originally named Isla Barela, after its discovery by Don Diego Barela sometime between 1745 and 1746, the island was renamed Leones. Captain Tafor, from the ship “San Sebastian” decided that the name was better suited due to the constant barking from the high number of sea lions found on the island. After the sinking of “Villarino”, it was decided to build lighthouses along the coast to ensure safe navigation. In 1916, the crew of the ARA Mackinlay began construction of the lighthouse. Its light lit for the first time one year later. In 1968, the “faro” was shut down and replaced by the San Gregorio Lighthouse. Located on the main land, consequently much easier to maintain, its light still guides navigators today.

As our kayaks landed on the beach of Caleta (inlet) John Woddal, on the north side of Leones, an armadillo was seen walking through the remains of old machinery used when the island was occupied. On the water, a curious event was taking place. A large group of cormorants was swimming in a tight circle while another large group of Kelp Gulls, surrounding them, was squeaking. It seems that the birds were in a territorial dispute – one wanting to intimidate the other. It almost looked like a choreographed ballet. In fact, I started to laugh at the resemblance to Michael Jackson’s video “Beat It”.

After visiting the “faro”, we got back in our kayaks and paddled around the point, to Bay of the French, located on the south side of the island. The place was simply an eden filled with marine birds and sea lions. In front of me, a giant petrel was preening herself, spreading her huge wings wide open and looking at me with a mean look.  A crested duck closely swam by and puffed his feathers, sending an arch of water droplets over him. In the water two male sea lions in my wake, playing hide and seek. On the shore, snowy sheath-bills, egrets, and gulls and oyster-catchers cracking mussels open.  A colony of penguins going up the beach, their little bodies, in tuxedo costumes, lumbering side to side in unison. Every thirty meters, a steamer duck couple swimming, their heads low, giving them a stealthy look. Chubut Steamer ducks, native to the area and are known for their unique and entertaining way of escaping. This flightless species of waterfowl uses its wings like propellers, producing a lot of noise and making them look like old steamboats. That evening, shortly after going out for a swim, a group of Peal’s dolphins passed in front of our campsite chasing bait fish, trailing a flock of birds hoping to get any leftovers.

Our next stop, and campsite for the day was Isla Valdez. The small island is famous for its rabbits, brought by early European settlers. With the absence of predators, the rabbits now rule the land. The terrain is fairly similar to the one found in Provence, France, home to the culinary delicacy “Lapin de Garrigue”, a rabbit with a particular strong herby taste. We didn’t have anything to go hunting with, but we decided to try our luck anyhow.  Hunter-gatherer was a way of living for millions of years, prior to the practice of agriculture. There is actually a deeper level of connection, understanding, and respect of Nature when you harvest from the wild. You take part in an act that has been practiced daily, by all living creatures on Earth since the dawn of Life.  You understand the value of food. You understand what it takes to get it – lots of patience and great skills. It is not done for sport or fun, but to feed yourself. Rabbits are no easy catch. When facing danger, they will react in two ways. They will run as soon as they see you, in which case a little furry ball with long ears and a white fluffy tail will be seen darting behind rocks. Or they will stay still and hope to be missed. Their fur blends incredibly well with the landscape, and on more than one occasion, I almost stepped on one, before it sprinted with a giant leap inches from my feet and scaring the heck out of me. Our hunt was a big failure. Not only did we not come back with any rabbit, but we did not even got close. Our lack of technique was by far outmatched by their capacity to escape.

Isla Valdez was fascinating in another way. Beside the rabbits, it was the Land of the Small Creatures. At all the other locations we had been, the usual bird of prey was the Caracara, but here, it was the much smaller American Kestrel. Close to our base camp was an ant nest of a size I had never seen in my life. The anthill was at least 50 cm high. While walking the hills, I stumbled on the legendary Tarantula Hawk (black wasp with red wings, up to 5 cm long) carrying a small numbed tarantula into its burrow.  I had seen them on several occasions on the Peninsula Valdez, but witnessing one after successfully catching a spider was a first.  Finally, the next morning, I discovered that a small scorpion had taken refuge under my tent. It was another first for me. I had never seen a live scorpion in the wild.

On the morning of day 8 th, we arrived at Bahia Bustamante. In 1953, Don Lorenzo Soriano was searching the coast to harvest seaweed. The plant was used in the production of hair grooming products. The place was known then as the Bahia Podrida (Rotten Bay). On the pebble beach, tons of seaweed would accumulate after each tide and rot under the sun. This was the perfect place to collect the marine plant using only horses and wagons. Times have changed a lot since the good days of seaweed. Nowadays, the industry has been greatly reduced and the rest industrialized, leaving Matias, Lorenzo’s great-son, to turn the village into an eco tourism destination. The place has an amazing bio-diversity and is surrounded by 25 000 acres of pure Patagonian nature.  You can visit the Petrified Forest, where old tree trunks have transformed into glowing opal rock. Or horseback ride to the nearest estancia and become a rancher for one day, where you will tend to the famous Patagonia Cordero (lamb), known for its great wool, lean meat and unforgettable taste. If you are an avid bird watcher, then the Peninsula Gravina is your destination where you will find 21 breeding colonies of several marine and coastal birds. If you are lucky, you might enjoy the dolphins and orcas that often swim the bay.

The landscape, up until Peninsula Gravignia, was a combination of cliffs, beaches, hills and rocky islands. But passing Cabo Aristizabal, into Bahia Solano in Golfo San Jorge, was like stepping into a new world. It felt different. It looked different. It sounded different. We were now paddling in a big swell, uninterrupted, from the Atlantic, bringing along cold air from the Antarctic. On the shore, endless steep beaches, the waves rolling on the pebbles with loud roars. It felt strange. It felt like another planet. Even the sheep were different. They were black. With a large colony of sea gulls every 200 meters, it was like the same piece of scenery was repeated over and over, for miles and miles. We went from spending our time exploring, to paddling as long as we could to cover as much distance as we could. Constant 20 knots headwind forced me to raised the hood of my Kokatat jacket and put my Tropo mitts on. Stopping for break or lunch, became an adventure in its own. The shore had a 45 degree angle, and to get on, one had to combine speed, timing, and agility. You had to ride the highest wave to land as high as possible, then get out as quick possible and pull your kayak up to safe ground before the crush of the following wave. A situation that would flood the cockpit and send you rolling. To add to the difficulty, the pebbles acted like rollers, and every time a step was made, your feet would slide down one pace before stopping. Getting back in the water was a total different experience. This time, it was play time. You simply sat in your kayak and slid down onto the water. The trick here again, was timing. You had to make sure to land just before the wave retreated. If not, then the nose of your kayak would enter at the bottom of the crest and you would get the full weight of the wave on your torso. And a mouthful of salt water!

Places to stop were few and far in between. For the first time since the beginning of our trip, that evening everyone was tired – physically and mentally. Our campsite was exposed and the wind kept blowing strong from the land, bringing with it shovels of sand. Everything was crunchy, our food, our drinks. Sand was getting everywhere. That night, I buried myself in my sleeping bag, only a tiny hole over my mouth to breathe. The tent was being hammered by the wind. The sand blasting the fabric. I felt like George Clooney on the set of the Perfect Storm. A huge fan set to maximum, a prop guy next to it with a shovel, pouring sand at the Director’s cue – “More sand! More sand!” In the morning, we woke up covered in sand. Each of our tents had failed to stop the invasion of those tiny particles. We looked like dust covered mummies just awoken from an ancient sleep.

The forecast for the day was not good. It would be long and tiring, with not much ground covered, but is was manageable. We had 30 km left to do before arriving at our final destination. Considering the weather, it would take us 2 days. With wind still blowing strong from the land, I pushed my kayak and dug my Lendal paddle in the water. I took the lead, Sofia and Eloise where in the middle, and Pablo and Sandro closed the convoy.  My Kokatat hood up and jacket zipped all the way, only my sunglasses exposed, I was deep in my paddling. After 20 minutes, I looked over my shoulder and saw that Sofia and Eloise had landed their kayak on the beach. I looked ahead and accessed my position. The shore was made of cliffs with small canyons every 200 meters. In each canyon, the wind coming from the mountains was being funneled and unleashed over the water with great force. I had already begun crossing the mouth of one canyon and decided to finish it. I would stop after and wait for the others. I paddled another 15 minutes, and realized that the conditions were worsening quickly and escalating to a dangerous level. I had only covered 500 meters and the wind had pushed me offshore another 300. I would not be able to cross the mouth and decided to head to the beach right away. Gusts of wind were fierce and now I was far enough from the coast that the waves were getting bigger. I tried for about 15 minutes to turn the nose of my kayak into the wind. Every time I got close, a massive gust would bring me back to square one. And every second, every minute, the wind was taking me further away from the shore. I had to act quickly. I had to act before it would be too late. The thought of capsizing was far at the back of my mind. I could not allow myself such an event. Capsizing would mean my failure in handling the conditions and would seriously diminish my chances of coming out of this in one piece. I turned my Tiderace leeward and proceeded to turn. I crunched down, my full body leaning forward and to the left, putting my entire weight against the incoming waves and the constant push of the wind. I kept a firm grip on my paddle as the wind continuously tried to blow it away. Once the turn completed, I dug each stroke deep in the water and battled my way back. I could barely see where I was going. My glasses were crusted in salt. The thing I knew for sure was that I had to keep paddling, at any cost. I could not stop, not even for one second. Now turned, the wind would bring me back to shore. It would take a long time and I would certainly be far from the others, but I would make it. The night before we had passed some fisherman and I knew that if needed, I could ask them to bring me back. I landed 300 meters before where we had started that morning. Pablo was on the beach, jumping, his hands in the air. He was beyond happy. I, honestly, felt a sense of pride. I knew I had come close to something extremely dangerous, but I had mastered it. I had kept my senses and handled my way out safely. Pablo told me that they had called the Coast Guard. That is how bad it was. That afternoon, I walked up the hill and clocked the wind speed with my Brunton, at 95 km/h. I watched the ocean in fury. Gusts were flying over the water with such wrath, they look like white ghosts going to war. The only ones who were enjoying this moment, were the gulls, terns and petrels, who contrary to us, flew the air with such ease – it was amazing watching them.

We didn’t get to reach Comodoro. The weather forecast for the next 2 days was going to be the same and there was no point in risking our safety. And that is fine. Exploring is not only about reaching a destination, but also about experiencing a journey. Some destinations are not meant to be reached on the first time. They command respect by not giving themselves easily. Limits are meant to be pushed. Barriers exist to be broken and new worlds are waiting to be discovered. But an Explorer must know when to stop and humble himself in front of Nature. Exploring challenges our own human nature – it reminds us that nothing is static and nothing is finite. The world is in constant movement. Life is an endless source of exploration.  In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldin flew to the moon carrying the Explorers Club Flag. As they landed on the lunar soil, Armstrong was able to sum up in one small sentence the essence of exploration – “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Rio Chubut

We had been driving for a while when we left the main road behind. From the fairly flat landscape our eyes had become accustomed, we found ourselves slowly going down a twisted dirt road – high walls on each side, perhaps 50 meters high. The road was cutting its way through red rock. The sun lighting up the mineral, the walls seemed to be alive. Thousands of shadow spots changing shape as we progressed down. It almost felt like we were in a kaleidoscope. Suddenly, the light disappeared. A long tunnel, a gateway to another place.  There were no more walls, only a dim light spot ahead of us. The light at the end of the tunnel – sign of a new world awaiting.

As our eyes adjusted to the brightness, we found ourselves at the top of a dam. To our right, a large reservoir. The red mountains trapped between the blue sky and the blue water. To our left, a river and trees. Their green in total contrast with the surrounding. Down there, passed the buildings from the electrical company, was our departing point. For the next 3 days, we were to kayak the waters of Rio Chubut, a river famous for its fly fishing, that starts in Carreras in the Andes and ends 800km further down in Rawson. Its name is derived from the Tehuelche word “chupat”, meaning “transparent”.

As we unloaded the kayaks and prepared our gear, memories of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It flowed back in my mind. I remembered the scene where the old man, tying up a knot on his line to attach a fly, reflects on his life, narrating the important lessons the River had given him.

“When I am alone in the half light of the canyon, all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and my memories, and the sounds of the big Blackfoot River, and the four count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

I remembered the importance of the River in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”. Its significance in the story, symbolizing the key to Freedom. There is no better imagery to epitomize our life journey, than the River. It starts from a point, and ends at another. No matter how wild the river is, no matter how unruly it wants to be, it still has a direction, a purpose, to reach the ocean. It flows blindingly to a place where it will cease to exist. It will merge with something bigger, it will become one with the others.

Young rivers are straight – giving more importance in the destination rather than the journey, often missing much of the world they flow in. Their banks offering no protection, the water rushes down, in a hurry. Old rivers meander, understanding that the journey is more important. They turn right and left, sometimes go back up, they explore and wander. There curves offer refuge to others and soon their banks and waters find themselves bursting with life.

Our first day was marked by massive walls, the River flowing at their feet, unimpressed, simply moving along. Flocks of Black-neck and Coscoroba Swans painfully flying away every time they see us. Graceful in the air and on the water, swans need a lot of energy to lift themselves off to fly. Their webbed feet pushing and keeping their heavy body above the water as their wings flap against the wind.  Red-gartered Coot quickly darting in all directions. Awful flyers, Nature gave them large feet that they use to run on the surface, and they do so with great speed and loud noise – rapid sequences of Flap, flop, flap, flop. On the river banks, horses, sheep, and cattle. If you are lucky and have good eyes, you might spot a hare, his ears up listening to any danger coming his way. In the air, Turkey Vultures scanning the vast land for any careless creatures.

Doing photography on a river is quite different than on the ocean. Everything passes by fairly quickly. Animals leave a soon they see you. The ones who don’t, hide themselves, and if you do find them, it is already too late, the current is taking you away. On the ocean, you usually only need one lens, a long one. No need to change since your main objective is to capture animals. On a river, you constantly keep switching between a short and long lens, wanting to capture both the landscape and the animals.  If you don’t make the right decision at the right time, it is too late.

Around mid day, we stop for a break and decide to go fishing. Rio Chubut is home for Brown and Rainbow trouts, and if you have the right gear, the right spot, the right technique, and the right spirit, you might find yourself with a nice big fish fighting you. I tie a silver spoon with a green stripe and cast my line close to a rock big enough that it creates a nice backwash, a perfect spot. Nothing. But something tells me that there is a big one there, so I keep casting in the same spot. My senses acute, I stare at the water, at the rock, precisely right next to it, where I know one must be. My spoon hits the water right pass the spot and I start to reel. The sun flickers on the spoon and in an instant, a big Brown trout goes for it. I dig my heels in the ground and steady myself. She goes upstream, her powerful body pulling my line with it like a fly on its back. We fight for a while until I sense it is safe enough to bring her to shore. But this is where the trout masters in strategy. She faints her defeat and while I joyfully bring her back, she gathers her strength and prepare herself for the big finally. With no net, I can’t simply whisk her off the water,  I have to hold my rode in one hand, give enough line so that the trout does not get out of the water, and reach with the other hand to grab her. Simpler said than done. I finally see my opponent – oh my! That is a big fish! I go to grab her and she darts up out of the water, twist, and as she touches back the surface, she uses the current and goes down stream. With no resistance, her power is doubled. She jumps again, twist again, and again and again. For a moment, I am afraid I will loose her. Her ferociousness is working. I am getting nervous, and careless. But I got her well hooked. I get my senses back and steady myself again. The fight goes on for a while. I finally manage to grab her. With a solid grip, I walk to the safety of the shore, sit down, and look at my catch. I tell her that I am honored by the fight she gave me. I get up, look at the river and bow. I thank her for her gift. That night, in addition to our dinner of Argentinean beef, we cooked my trout much like how our ancestors, and their ancestors did it – over fire.

Our second day camp is nestled amongst red rock hills. As we pull our kayaks to higher ground, a white horse is standing not far, looking at us. He stands tall and looks magical. Lifting his nose in the air, he turns his head sideways and walks away. Before dinner, we hike to the top of the highest hill and wonder at the sight. The river flows through a landscape of green trees and red hills.  The water reflects the sky and look like a long curvy endless mirror. There is no cloud and the blue sky completes this highly contrasted scenery.

On our third day, we come to a small damn. The bad news is that we have to portage our kayaks. The good news is that right after the small fall are little rapids, perfect for a little play time. While the others try their luck fishing one last time, I paddle my kayak to the bubbly waters. The rapids are not big, but it still offers me a moment of fun and excitement. Shortly before our final destination, we come to a big rock, perfect for a swim.  After tightening the kayaks together, we climb up on a small edge. Pablo is the first one to brave the frigid cold water. After filming the others jumping, it is time for me to go. I hold my waterproof Olympus in front of me, wanting to have footage of the actual splash and leap in the air. My body enters the water and goes in shock. The water is so cold.  Unconsciously I cling my fingers, pressing the stop button on the camera. The lanyard slips away from my hand and the camera goes free. My brain is fighting what to panic about – the cold or the fact that I just lost my camera. My hands frantically wave everywhere. Last I heard, camera sinks and current takes things away. I have perhaps 5 seconds before I loose any hope of catching it. My fingers feel the hard case, but I fail to grab it. I feel the seconds passing by. I feel my chances disappearing. By now, the camera is somewhere around my waist line, sinking rapidly. The current is making things worst. With one last attempt, I go for it. I feel the lanyard between two of my fingers. I squeeze them and pray it will be enough. I bring my hand to my chest and grab the camera for dear life. With the camera secure, I reach for the surface. I swim to the rock, my body still in shock. The look on my face must say a lot, cause everyone is looking at me with fear – What happened?

After warming up, we get back in our kayaks and glide the last hour. At our picking rendez-vous, Sofia has  a nice surprise for us, a cooler with some nice cold beers. I take mine and walk one last time to the river. I sit on my kayak, take a sip and repeat the words of Maclean’s:

“I sat there and forgot and forgot, until what remained was the river that went by and I who watched. On the river the heat mirages danced with each other and then they danced through each other and then they joined hands and danced around each other. Eventually the watcher joined the river, and there was only one of us. I believe it was the river.”

El Rey de las Ballenas

Saturday night, I am watching a documentary called “El Rey de las Ballenas” (The Whale King). It was produced by MC4 Grenoble, a French company, in 1987 and is about Mariano Van Gelderen, a man born in Bahia Blanca in 1945.

He arrived in Puerto Piramides at the beginning of the 70′s and started the first tourist whale watching in 1973, onboard his little boat. The man is bigger than life. In fact, watching him you can’t help but feel that trapped under his skin resides an old whale soul. His physique more agile, more at ease in the water, than on land. He doesn’t hide it either. He often used the forklift from the tracker that pulled his boat out of the water to lift himself out of his boat.

He talks about the whales with passion, with love. His hands gracefully describing their dance, the way they move. He talks to them. He swims with them. He learns from them. And he teaches with them. He became a pioneer on the practice of whale watching, giving conferences all over the world. Most importantly, he taught thousands and thousands of people about the whales and the respect for Nature.

From the beginning of the century, people started to come to the peninsula for 2 reasons: salt and kill seals and sea lions – their fat was used for machinery and in lights. Afraid of venturing on the water, whales were spared. But the carnage led on the land almost drove the sea lions to extinction. They would raid beaches, armed with sticks with nails and crush their skulls. Mariano remembers those days with irony. The peninsula was known to no one when the animals were killed. It is only today, now that we care for them and show their beauty to the world, that the peninsula has become a major destination, sustaining thousands of jobs.

His most precious wish, his dream, is revealed in a touching scene, with his daughter, his voice whispering: “Como te quiero chiquita, como me gustaria que el dia de manana quieras a las ballenas como yo quiero a estos animales y quieras la naturaleza que es tan importante“ (Oh my little child, the love I have for you. I only wish that tomorrow you love the whales as much as I do. To love Nature is so important).

That night, I fell asleep to the sound of whales, thankful to people like Mariano, who spent theirs lives reconnecting our relationship with Nature.

The next morning, I took my kayak and paddled to the sea lion colony. The memories of that evening with them still fresh, I wondered if they would grant me with the same playfulness. I also wanted to be reminded that those days of killing were over.

Beyond the Sunset

The unexpected. The surprise. Time and space coming together to create a moment of bliss.

I had spent the entire day working in front of the computer – editing, uploading, writing. The night before our plans to go watch the sunset on the water had been spoiled by the wind, and by the end of the afternoon, the thought of a late outing seemed dim. I walked back to the office, and there, Pablo announced that a couple wanted to go kayaking and asked if I wanted to come. I was tired and hungry, but the idea of being on the water, to feel the rocking of the waves, to let Nature rejuvenate my depleted energy, my eyes lit up and my head nodded up and down.

I slipped in my kayak and pushed myself off the beach. The sun would set soon and the sky was already turning into a deep shade of blue. The water had this mystic look, a black shiny liquid. Thousands of shadows and reflections on the surface creating a metallic mosaic. A thick orange line on the horizon, separating two worlds – a contrast of realities.  We paddled out, almost with a feeling of never coming back. Each stroke pulling us closer to the unknown. The world around us was alive, changing every second. Cliffs and rocks ahead of us black by the absence of reflective light. Cliffs and rocks behind us burning from the Sun. Deep dark shades enhancing every edges. From the distance, I saw several pointy noses popping out, flippers splashing the water – a group of sea lions. Unable to see under the surface, there whereabouts remained secret. Only revealed to us every time their shiny fur came out, or their heads magically bursting up, like a periscope from a submarine. As we got closer to the colony, their number grew. On the shore, legions of little cubs, intrigued by us, not old enough yet to venture to waters, their curiosity evident with their whiskers up in the air, sniffing at us.

We stayed there. Cradled by the waves. I tried to film underwater, blindly, not knowing whether there was enough light, or even if I was filming anything. We were surrounded and we surrendered. Basking in this magical eden, not a word was said. Almost with regrets, we decided to go back. Looking behind us every few minutes, wondering if that door would ever close. I was in my head, contemplative. My arms moving the paddle without me being aware of it. Nothing could ever be more perfect than this moment. How fortunate was I. How grateful I was. The sea lions stayed with us, swimming along side my kayak for what seemed like eternity. Companions sharing this moment, escorting me out, after being their guest, privileged by their hospitality.

After passing the last bay, I turned once more. I was not prepared for such beauty. Up at the top of the cliff, behind the lighthouse, incandescent clouds, vibrant shades of colors, perfectly cutting the contour of the old building. I tell the others. We turn our kayaks around and face this unbelievable sight. None of us find the will to interrupt this moment.

Against the Wind

We were suppose to leave that evening. The plan was to kayak a couple of hours, pass Puerto Pardelas, and camp before Punta Alt. There, a small cave, up in the mountain, would provide us with a good campsite, and a beautiful scenery. From there, we would paddle for 3 days, hopefully cross the entrance of Golfo Nuevo and make it to Punta Cracker. Perhaps see some dolphins on the way. Although it was a good plan, Lady Nature had something else in her mind.

I am always a bit worried whenever I set out. Will I have something to write about.  Will the pictures be good? Will the videos be ok for editing? Will I have interesting material, or will I come back with nothing? Will I find my theme for the day? For the trip? As it turns out, with some faith and patience, Nature always delivers. It may not be what was expected. It might be something totally different. But there is always a story line, you just have to let it come to you.

Along with Pablo, Diego and myself, Sandro was joining us on this trip. He is Pablo’s long time kayak partner. Together, they have been paddling the waters of the Peninsula for years. Sandro, as I discovered, is the type of paddler that makes kayaking look effortless. Steady, with great technique and years of experience, he cuts through the wind and through the waves like a steamship, never hinting any signs of fatigue or forcing a stroke. One rhythm, tic tac, tic tac, like a metronome. Whether the wind is blowing at 30 miles an hour, or the surface is like a mirror, you won’t notice any difference. Pablo was telling me that he had once paddled for 11 hours straight, never stopping even once for the normal human needs.

The kayaks were packed and ready. We all stood on the beach staring at the sky, then staring at the weather forecast Pablo was holding. The wind was blowing from the north pretty hard and it would do all night long. Out in the middle of the gulf, huge cumulus clouds rose up like a gigantic towers. Although the wind would push us in the right direction, our campsite would be exposed to the fury of what was looking inevitable – a stormy night. The rest of the forecast didn’t look promising either. The wind would change direction the day after, heading south, increasing in the afternoon, reaching 25 miles per hour. This meant that we would paddle pretty much the 3 days with head wind. The chances of crossing to the other side now were close to nothing.  We decided to hold off our departure and leave the next morning. That night, we dined listening to the wind howling and blowing sand from the dunes, hitting the windows like a swarm of bees from a Hitchcock movie. Out on the open, flashes from the lightnings illuminating the clouds giving us a glimpse of what hell could look like.

The morning showed no signs at all of what had taken place the night before. The sky was cloudless and the water smooth like leather. As the tide was rising, we carried our kayaks to the water, pushed ourselves off the beach and paddled out. We knew those conditions were just temporary, but we couldn’t stop ourselves believing perhaps that the forecast was wrong and that the next 3 days would be an easy ride.

When the tide changed, along with it came a new set of rules. The promised wind was delivered. Like adding coal to a train, it gained speed. Soon enough, we were battling 8 foot waves and gusts of 30 knots. Our sunglasses became crusted with salt – all those droplets blown in our face every time our bow hit a wave. Right after Punta Alt, we pulled on the beach and reassessed. We decided to head back. We would camp at that cave and spend the rest of the day hiking. For the next hour, we paddled, gusts of wind pushing us like a stampede. Sometimes, I felt like I was being rushed out by a group of mad security.  With our kayaks secured, and our gear at the cave, we all stared at a sea of white caps and headed for a hike.

Trails of Guanacos, hares and foxes crossing our own, we walked through canyons where walls were made of fossilized shells. Our eyes scanning for historical treasures – a fossil of petrified wood, chipped stones reminiscent of when the natives lived those lands. I felt like walking the corridors of the Museum of Natural History in New York. Behind a dune, hidden by a tall sand bush, the wind had blown away the sand covering the remains of a dead Tehuelche, perhaps 300 or 400 years old. The place was filled with history. Back at our cave, we contemplated the valley in front of us as the sun set and a dimmed rainbow briefly came to life. With our imagination fresh from our discoveries, we were soon looking back in time and saw a tribe a natives crossing the land.

There was no relief the next day. The wind was still blowing strong. Not as hard though. We armed ourselves with patience and paddled our way.

The beach after Punta Alt is long and is a place where many juvenile whale carcasses are found. Bones taken by people, the skin is what is left, even after 6 months. Of all the baby whales born in the golf, ten percent don’t make it. Most of time, they end up here, on this beach, blown by the winds and currents. In the water, a couple of penguins, schools of fish surfing the water and from time to time, a curious wandering sea lion poking his head out would remind us that life still exist.  After a couple of hours, we found this place with some good little surf. There is always time for surf and for sure we took it. For a moment, there was no more wind, no more current, there were just nice little waves to ride.

We stopped at Punta Cormorans. Although we could go for more, there was no good camping site within reaching distance. We settled once more to stop early and go for a hike. But before, with the tide going down, the same fish that we had seen surfing earlier, get often caught trapped in little ponds. Stories go that some people are even able to catch them with their bare hands. With little strategy, we posted ourselves between the open sea – freedom, and the pond – the cage. We looked like bears, sitting atop a fall, waiting for the salmons to jump right into their mouths. Except, in this case, it was more a bunch of tired kayakers with barely any patience left. After unsuccessfully chasing 10 of them and seeing them sprint their way to freedom, we gave up.

The hike this time, had a total different feeling. On the beach, amongst the usual suspects – crab shells, bones of dead birds, fish left overs – hundreds and hundreds of garbage – fish bins used by boats, nets, sandals, plastic bottles, glass bottles, tubes, hats, and the number one garbage found in Nature, the eternal white plastic bag. For a moment, I felt like we were the only survivors on a desolate planet. Those … things, on the beach were what was left from a once flourishing population. Our hike became a search for the most unusual artifact – a boomerang, a plastic red toy truck, glue sticks. On our way back to the camp, we headed for the cliffs, leaving the desolation behind. Away from the reach of water, a sense of wilderness came back, tracks of animals, fresh and old. We found an old Tehuelche settlement, chipped stones, a piece from an old plate used to grind herbs and cereals. Not far, the polished rock used as a crusher.

That evening, as the sun set in an intense gold curtain, a fox passed on the beach, stopping once to look at us. Meeting of strangers in a strange land. At night, tucked in my sleeping back, the sky was impressively beautiful. There were more stars than usual.  It seems like they were everywhere. The Milky Way was bright, a clear white streak crossing a sea of millions and millions of white shining dots. How amazing, that in the course of one day, some many opposites come in conflict with each other – life and death, ugly and beauty, easy and difficult.

Magically, the next morning, the wind changed direction once more. This time, it was blowing from the north, coincidentally the same direction as our way back home. We took a deep breath and went for it.

As if Lady Nature was playing with us, two hours before our arrival, the wind dropped and the surface became smooth again. Exactly the same conditions we had on our departure 3 days earlier. It was hard not to laugh about it as we glided back to shore.

Golfo San Jose

We were at the end of the road. But our journey was only beginning. We got out of the jeep and proceeded to unload the kayaks from the trailer. We were all anxious – like children, the night before christmas, about to open their gifts. The plan for the next 2 days was to kayak west, along the coast of Golfo San Jose.

There is something about setting a campsite. It is like building a house – a little one. You look for the best spot, with the best view, yet protected from the wind. You look to place the kitchen, the bedroom, the dining room. With a little bit of work, you are able to transform what was an inhospitable environment into a warm and cozy place.

Our first dinner was a delight. Sofia cooked ‘bife a la criolla”, a recipe muy kaya-quistica!. We all toasted this moment with wine and shared our most memorable Nature memories. As the sun went down, the stars started to fill the sky. You forget about what a night sky is suppose to look like. Living in cities, blinded by the lights all around you, the night sky is simply a blank black cover. Away for urbanization, the night is alive, millions of stars shining, some more than others. A shooting star prompting a wish. You see the infinity. You are reminded of the “grandeur” of the Universe.

After breakfast and mate (Argentinean tea), we got ourselves ready and paddled out. We passed in front of the place where the Spanish Explorers landed more than 300 years ago. With no wind, the current had drifted them inside the golf. It is only after walking across the land that they realized that this was a peninsula and named the other golf “Golfo Nuevo”. Their faith would be another story. Almost all killed by the natives, only a few survived and walked to the nearest town, able to tell their story.

Our first stop was a place where old whale bones can be found. At the same location, a special kind of green grass that only grows where there is salt water. With no other grass around, you wonder if the death of the whale is responsible for this fertile place where life abounds. After a quick snack, we were back on the water.

After a couple of hours, we passed a point and beyond it was a small sea lion colony. A group of females and juveniles jumped in the water and suddenly we were surrounded by inquisitive big brown eyes. One in particular, distinctive by a patch on his back, surprised us all with his curiosity and friendliness, poking his nose at our paddles and equipment. I am not sure who enjoyed this moment the most, either them or us. That night, we camped and dined remembering this amazing moment.

The next day, we paddled to the Bird Island where penguin, cormoran and heron colonies breed. The place is protected and no one is allowed on the island, giving the birds plenty of safety. It is booming with life. A group of penguins was in the water cleaning their plumage. Others were coming down from the hill. Cormorans, moving their neck, stretched up, to the right, then to the left, all in unison. Seagulls flying high adding their shriek to the cacophony. Our kayaks were followed closely by thousands of small eyes as we drifted just a few feet from the shore.

Leaving a sky filled white and black wings, we paddled toward our pick up location. It was important that we arrive to during high tide. On a low tide, we would have to walk 1km due to the incredibly slow rising beach – certainly not something neither of us wanted!

In the jeep, we were all silent – a bit tired, but also, absorbing those last 48 hours of raw Nature and close wilderness encounters.