Feature-Women in Paddling: The Epitome of Perfection

June-July 2000

This is an article from WaveLength Magazine, available in print in North America and globally on the web.

by Stephanie McCune

Stephanie paddling at Princess Royal Island on BC's central coast

People say nothing is perfect, but on Princess Royal Island I have found the epitome of perfection.

Every paddler dreams of a far-off land, remote from the hustle and bustle of modern life, a treasure preserved in its natural state. And I know such a place, a personal haven of unforgettable, inspiring beauty.

My paddle dips into the water leaving only a quiet ripple and a gentle wake. My kayak, the vehicle of my exploration, glides along the surface, skimming through the mirror-like reflections of forested peaks and rocky precipices. I'm full of anticipation and excitement knowing that soon I will bask in serenity on the lush meadow of the Cameron Cove estuary.

The hypnotic beat of the blue grouse is audible around me, keeping nature's soothing rhythm. The keeper of this mystical sanctuary, the bald eagle, soars above me flapping its powerful wings. This dominant bird swoops down as if to say, 'Respect this place of beauty, it is my life'.

With a swift stroke I steer my kayak to the granite cliffs that lie as gatekeepers to the cove. Along the rock wall I see a distinct tide line of black lichen, barnacles, green sea lettuce and brown fucus. In their hiding place among the jagged cracks and crevices cling purple ochre starfish, exposed by the ebb of the tide. Below me, hiding in the refuge of the subtidal area, undisturbed by the waves above them, I see a cluster of plumose anemones waving their feathery tentacles, feeding, as I paddle toward the estuary ahead.

When my kayak slides to a stop on the mud bottom, I hop out, electrified by the prospects of exploration. The mud swallows my toes and creates slurping noises between my sandals and my bare feet as I walk toward the grassy meadow of the estuary. Around me lies an abundance of butter clams, common littleneck clams and large horse clams.

I absorb the beauty of the tall surrounding peaks and the medley of trees welcoming my presence. This temperate rainforest is home to mountain and western hemlock, red and yellow cedar, shore pine, sitka spruce, amabilis fir, red alder, pacific crab apple and more, creating a fantastic contrast of vibrant and rich greens.

At the meadow I crouch down so that I may get a closer view of the floral fantasy. Summer is in the air and with it, fragrant wildflowers dance, perfuming the air. The sweet smell of the purple fairyslipper, white bog orchid and field mint, entice me further into the rich bounty of the land.

I venture on to the thick surrounding forest. Delighted by the sight of succulent berries practically dripping off the oval-leaved blueberry bushes and red and black huckleberry bushes, I quicken my step. The sweet berries burst in my mouth and satisfy my thirst with their juices. Beyond me lies a dense magical land of mossy forest floor with a thick green canopy and lush plumed ferns. I yearn to venture forward and be swallowed by the extraordinary forest but I am conscious of time and realize I must leave.

As I head back to the beach I see my kayak gently bobbing in the shallow water, danced around by the rapidly flooding tide. I begin to run through the knee-deep grass of the lush meadow, feeling the light caress on my legs as I sprint to retrieve my kayak. With luck I manage to grab hold of the boat before it has drifted away.

Afloat again, the rhythm of my stroke quickly resumes. I am once again one with the vehicle of my passion. I turn my craft around to get one more look at perfection. With a longing already gnawing at my heart, I promise myelf that soon I will return. Then with a strong push and pull I turn again and paddle off.

Stephanie McCune is a sea kayaking guide and naturalist living in Nanaimo, BC. ©