Guard Island Expedition: Written by Lavonne ‘V’ Brown

September 2, 2014

Seeing red and I don't mean anger.


I mean the front of our Kayak as we paddle across the Tongass Narrows  from Guard Island back to the place of departure, Knudson Cove. A place with ROYGBIV exposed across the top of the trees and below the mountain tops. Red, the color of the day, and my favorite, has caught my attention and led my eyes higher to discover a flat tree line rainbow; a first. I scan around and the world is beautiful.  The day started off Ketchikan rainy in a two-man tent stuffed to the edge with an air mattress that took it's fill the evening before via foot pump. We woke up, then gave up, and went back to sleep, believing our kayak adventure to be foregone as we weren't prepared for weather. I especially wasn't prepared to spend another day cruising in the rain. The Pacifico started looking awfully delicious and in the next moments, breakfast became cookies, marshmallows, and beer.  Then the bathroom became inevitable and I exited the tent to see Mother Nature had answered my week-long plea and blue skies popped out to welcoming eyes. After two cups of coffee with Rayn's liqueur, we took over the boat ramp and hauled in the 17' red sea kayak. My passion for life returning with the flame and warmth of the sun...The promise of adventure...And a day with one of my favorite people. 



He hopped in, grabbed his special coffee and as I prepared to untie the dock lines, my mental checklist reminded me we needed paddles! Oops. 


Finally, we were off dreaming of an uninhabited, forbidden island complete with a lighthouse. Completely unsure of the distance. Not giving a damn about the "wrong" tide and the current to be fought. Or the guy we just pissed off by backing down the boat ramp with a kayak! I ain't trying to carry a 100lb kayak if I don't have to, sir. 


We paddled and drank in the much needed sun and conversation. No motors. No escape. A two-man kayak to follow the two-man tent lead to a beautiful revival of a companionship. Seasonal summertime life often leads to too much work, distraction, bar time, and new friends and we forget to get to know our old ones and ourselves better.  


After the initial excitement of paddling passed, our paddles became a bit more rhythmic and stroked the water. With time, all went with more ease. Paddles went deeper and strokes were stronger. The sun kissed my skin. The water dropped off the paddles forming a ripple effect in the surface. Conversation slowly changed too...from work and the friend group to deeper issues. Paddling forward to a new island became the catalyst for discovering not only where we were in life but where we were going. 


Salmon jumped all around us and Guard Island was looming in the distance. I say looming because it seemed so close but so far. The beer and the coffee could wait no longer and peeing over the side of a kayak could no longer be avoided. For the first time, I was envious of the back seat! Ever tried to pee off a kayak?? Me either! So, carefully I stood and dropped my pants. He leaned right and I squatted left. Amongst the humorous appeal to him of such a ridiculous maneuver,  I awkwardly relieved what had become an unbearable need to go with periodic yelps of "Stop moving!". It was a never ending pee that made the incoming tide a bit higher and warmer. 


Successfully completed, we carried on to the island. As we approached, the white three tier lighthouse poked her head out of evergreens and wildflowers. Bull kelp bulbs peeked and bobbed out of the sea.  Two bald eagles chattered away and flew over head landing on the tiny connecting island. The rocks became smoother, polished by the years of tide washing over them. The sea green water turned crystal clear allowing a view of a rock strewn bottom. Looking up, I saw it: the forbidden island. Boulders smooth with time shot straight up into a color scheme of green skeg, purple wildflowers, and evergreen trees before culminating into a concrete wall. Beyond the wall, stood the contrast of white complete with a solar powered beacon. Whoo hoo! 


We beached the kayak, securing it to a rock with the bow line, grabbed the last of the Mexican beer, wasabi cheddar, Ritz and chocolate, and climbed on up. 


Ladder by ladder, we awkwardly climbed with full hands to the top ignoring the "No Trespassing" signs. The eagles became part of the view. The world was surrounding us as we became the center of a 360 degree panoramic. I traveled back to a different season in my life. One where I made love atop a radio transmission tower on a mountain only to return to the current moment; feeling blessed and reminded how lucky we are to have the opportunity to be in such places!


We began snacking and I looked around. Salmon jumping, eagles chattering, a seal head bobbing about, beauty as far as the eye could see, and one of my best friends. I thought to myself, all seasonals should get a summer bestie or companion and go explore. A boat passed by...closer than necessary... I'm sure it had nothing to do with us lying out topless on the top of a Guard Island's lighthouse. 


Cruising back we bucked the current. We fought the sugar and beer crash. We called to eagles. Called to the lucky ones with houses on the coast enjoying the sun. Wait, maybe we are the lucky ones with sheer freedom. 


The rainbow made it's appearance. I smiled at life. What a day.


Written by Lavonne ‘V’ Brown




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