Kayaks were lowered off the Yakima roof racks and paddles, life jackets and spray skirts dug out of the Blacktop Pro 21 cargo box. The van's interior served as a changing room as we suited up.
After a thorough safety orientation on the beach, we slid into our Dagger Specter 14 single and Perception Carolina II 17.5 tandem kayaks and paddled south along the island's rocky shoreline, past the lavish waterfront homes of the rich and famous and the historic Lime Kiln lighthouse. Along the way, our small group stopped for marine biology lessons from Martine, which included a Ewell Gibbons moment as she invited us to taste fresh-plucked bull kelp leaves.
Appetizers out of the way, we stopped for lunch on the sheltered beach at Deadman's Bay. As we ate, Martine explained more about the history and marine life of Haro Straight and passed around the photo-filled charts that researchers use to help identify individual members of the three local orca pods by the distinctive shapes of their dorsal fins and markings.
Despite paddling through some of the pods' favorite fishing grounds, those photos turned out to be the closest we'd come to the big toothy beasts. All was not lost, however, as our full day of paddling was rewarded with the kind of spectacular sunset that we seem to see only when we're on the road.
From the northwest corner of Washington, it was a straight shot down Interstate 5 into the heart of Northern California's Bigfoot country and a rendezvous with mountain-bike and fly-fishing guide Tim Harris.
It may not have the same reputation for world-class mountain biking as southeastern Utah, but the wild and wooly area of northern California between Redding and Eureka is filled with miles of intermediate to advanced mountain-biking trails. The possibility of an encounter with the legendary Bigfoot (the area boasts one of the highest numbers of recorded Sasquatch sightings in the U.S.) only added to the fun.