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Hill Island, Part One

On the surface, it sounded idyllic: My wife Vivian and I, along with three friends, would be dropped at a small island between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia with five sea kayaks and food and drink for a week. During that week our home would be a modest dwelling on Hill Island, all 122 acres of it - we would be the sole human inhabitants of the island for that week.

The view from our dock

Our friends were Jeanne and a couple, Kent and Kate. (Jeanne’s husband Alan wisely decided the trip was not for him.) Jeanne, Kent, Vivian and I had skied and (river) kayaked together many times when we all lived in Klamath Falls. Since then, Jeanne had moved to Vermont and Kent to Portland (Oregon, not Maine!). Kent had taken up sea kayaking and introduced Kate to it, but the remaining three of us would be novices, counting on Kent’s experience to keep us safe and happy.

I had planned on spending a fair amount of time photographing but realized, shortly after landing on the island, that, in the hurry to transfer gear from our van to the boat, I had forgotten a crucial piece of equipment – my tripod! And, I hadn’t brought the fishing rod that Vivian and I planned on using. At one point during preparations I had proposed that we should just leave it behind, to avoid extra complication, and Vivian had soundly rejected that idea. Had I not also forgotten my tripod, I think she would have suspected me of purposely leaving the fishing rod behind!

I later realized I had also forgotten the oatmeal that Vivian and I planned to eat for breakfast every day. I substituted rice for oatmeal, Vivian ate eggs and bread most mornings. I did the same after several mornings of rice with apple, raisins and walnuts (my usual oatmeal dressing), and found the eggs and bread a welcome relief! Other than that, we ate well for the week.

We quickly learned that 122 acres is not all that big, especially when it is thickly enough vegetated to discourage travel where there is not a trail. There was one trail to the island’s high point, an ascent that took about a half hour, and there were several other shorter trails. One could bushwhack a bit off of a couple of those trails, but an early idea I had of attempting an on-land circumnavigation of the island was pretty quickly scrapped.

But the main thing that we came for was to sea kayak, and that we did. We circumnavigated our island, and ventured to other islands not too far away. Landing spots were limited (lots of rocky shoreline), so we stayed in our boats for fairly extended periods of time. The water around the island is sheltered from the Pacific (we were on the northern end of something I learned was called the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound and waters both north and south of it), so is often fairly calm – perfect for beginners like Vivian, Jeanne and I.

Kent, Kate and Vivian making the crossing to nearby Read Island

My formative years of photographing were spent documenting adventures with friends and family – cross-country skiing, backpacking, rock climbing and mountain biking. At a certain point I quit doing much of that sort of photography, finding that it often got in the way of my own enjoyment of those activities. Photographing outdoor athletes is a challenging endeavor, and I have huge respect for those who do it well. I didn’t carry a camera with me when kayaking on this trip, but I was able to take some photos from shore when not participating. A few of the better ones I’ve included here, and I will add some non-kayaking photos from our stay on the island in a future blog post.

Kate and Kent starting the crossing to the Penn Islands

Was the experience as blissful as it had sounded? Well, Vivian and I enjoyed the exposure to sea kayaking, but weren’t taken by it enough to do more of it in the future. 122 acres is indeed small, especially with limited trails. It rained all day one day, putting a literal and figurative damper on things! But, in the end, no one got voted off the island, and the boat did, in fact, return to retrieve us. In sum, it was one of those experiences that I wouldn’t repeat, but neither would I take it back!

Kent, our fearless leader

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