Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why? Just for the Hell of it!

"You've been in your boat for 15 hours and you've got another 12 hours to go. You just do everything in your power to not think about how much you don't want to be paddling."
"For the first month, I kept thinking to myself, 'Why are we doing this?'"
Graham Henry, 23, Victoria, British Columbia
Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy
"You can see the storms coming. It would be blue skies. Then the wind and rain comes and you're in the middle of this massive, dark, brutal thunder storm.
"And our paddles are carbon fibre, so they're conductive. We're just hoping we don't get hit [by lightning'."
Russell Henry, 21
Anyone living in beautiful British Columbia has access to any number of outdoor adventures. From paddling the Bowron Lakes circuit, to embarking on a week-end of alpine camping. When I was in my 50s, I did both. We clambered up Long Peak, making our way over the Gates of Shangri-la, a rockfall with boulders the size of a vehicle, halfway through the scramble to the mountainside where we pitched our tent on the gentlest slope we could find, vaguely approximating level ground, above a melting glacier, in August, where we got our drinking water.

As for the Bowron Lakes canoe circuit, it took us a week to canoe all the lakes and rivers to complete the circuit. We did that in September, the adventure of driving from Vancouver to Cache Creek and beyond to our Cariboo Mountains destination at the 3,000-foot-above-sea-level area where we had to wear winter jackets against the cold and rain gear over that, because it rained every single day without let-up. I know what it's like to paddle for long, long hours, exhausted and wanting to stop.

But brothers Russell and Graham Henry embarked purposefully for "the hell of it", on a 7,000-kilometre kayaking expedition across the Atlantic. It took them 200 days to paddle from Brazil to Florida. They spoke afterward about "that gnawing sense of dread". I'm familiar with that feeling too, the joy of the unknown adventure ahead mingled with worries about what obstacles you may meet on the way.

Russell and Graham Henry kayaking in the Dominican Republic. (Yanna Cueto)
I can relate to that too, in a minor way, for the day-trips that took us further up the mountain from our camp site, along ridges leading to other summits, finding blue-green lakes high in the mountains and glaciers pink with algae bloom also introduced us to the adrenalin-high adventure of sitting atop a mountain summit admiring the view when, looking up, up and beyond where we sat, where the mountain tops marched on endlessly, we saw a huge black cloud formation headed our way.

We did an absolutely mad scramble back the way we had come, telescoping the area from here to there in record time, managing to dive into our welcoming tent just as the massive storm struck, wind pushing and shoving our tent, rain pelting down all around us for what seemed like hours in the dark, cramped and worrying circumstances of being caught out, vulnerable, and by that time getting fairly hungry.

When the storm finally wore itself out and moved on elsewhere, we saw across from where we sat, on another mountain peak over at the Stein Valley, that someone had succeeded in lighting a fire, and we cheered lustily.

Our adventure was as nothing compared to brothers Russell and Graham, needless to say. They travelled, according to their account, as long as 27 hours between rest stops. Tropical storms and massive waves were what they were forced to contend with. They were on a vast, open and endless ocean, in two specialized, one-man kayaks.

Russell Henry, 23, took this photo from his kayak as he and his brother paddled into a thunderstorm off the coast of the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Russell Henry)

Seven months after they set off from northeastern Brazil, along the South American coast, and kayaking between Caribbean Islands, they landed at Juno Beach, on the southern tip of Florida. This was their bid for "adventure for adventure's sake". Quite the adventure for anyone to boldly contemplate much less to commit to because what they had looked forward to was "being outdoors for the hell of it."

It no doubt helped enormously that their father is a water sports outfitter. Who designed the Kevlar boats his sons depended on throughout their trip. No strangers to kayaks the brothers were confident in their proficiency at handling the small craft. And handle them they did under the most excruciatingly concerning circumstances. Their travels on the high seas took them past twenty countries and territories.

Sending regular email updates to their parents throughout their adventure. They also maintained a daily website. They had a number of sponsors who helped with their adventure in a supporting role with the equipment and provisioning they required. An inheritance they had from their grandmother was an additional expenses lift. They memorialized their grandmother by painting each of their watercraft with her name.

"I might have wanted to kill Russell on more than one occasion, but I couldn't, because I wouldn't have finished the trip", Graham stated jocularly, more in gratitude for having enjoyed the companionship of someone intimate who shared his ambitious idea of the outside and adventurous fun, than the expression of mild irritation that the adventure was finally over.

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