We followed Trevor Clark on a summers worth of paddling adventures – living in a van, boating and taking pictures.This is the last update in this series of stories about Trevor Clarke’s beginnings as an adventure photographer. Keep watching the C & K website for future stories and great photography from Trevor.
Another tough one. When we left off, I had just finished blasting through Colorado and some of the Classics in California and was on my way up to British Columbia. I had visions of what I might encounter, but really no idea what I was in for.
After a stop in Seattle to visit and reconnect with some old friends, I rolled on up to the Canadian border with a big grin on my face. The border patrol agent was a bit less excited about me entering Canada and grilled me with some pretty ridiculous questions that apparently, are serious business and should not be laughed at. He also didn’t like it when I couldn’t answer his question about where exactly I planned on going, or how long I would stay. It all got straightened out after some small talk revealed that he had already encountered the van full of paddlers that I was planning to meet up with. (I later found out he had wasted 2 hours searching their van.)
“That’s great news, they are already here!” I exclaimed, feeling very relieved about knowing they were at least in Canada.
Realizing what he had done, the border patrol agent became very agitated and visibly upset with himself. He had given me helpful information and in a way, he lost the upper hand. He was so uncomfortable with the thought that he looked like he was going to bust right out of his mustache and aviator sunglasses. Defeated, he finally told me to be on my way. No search, no background check, nothing. I was in Canada.
The sun was low and I was cruising through open fields with the scent of the Pacific Ocean in the air. I took a route straight through the heart of Vancouver and managed to get lost for about an hour, but I didn’t care. It was beautiful. My accidental detour took me to a residential road along the rocky coast at sunset. I say I got lost, but I’m pretty sure my internal GPS was leading me where I needed to go. Once on my way, I ended up in Horseshoe Bay, where I spent the night waiting for a ferry to take me on to the Sunshine Coast and Egmont, home of the Skookumchuck wave.
The next week was amazing. We woke up to lazy mornings and relaxing afternoons with productive evenings of shooting and paddling in perfect weather and beautiful light. It was like a vacation from what others already consider a vacation.
For those that do not know about it, the Skookumchuck wave is a product of tidal changes rushing into the Sechelt Inlet. Just about every month, the tides move enough water in and out of the inlet that it creates a large and perfectly smooth standing wave that sticks around for about a week. During exceptionally high tides, 200 billion gallons of water can flow through the narrows connecting Sechelt and Jervis Inlets. It is a really incredible phenomenon.
And being that life, our lives, are dictated by water, we could only go out and surf it and shoot it when the tides were right.
Of course the tides came and went, and Skook slowly disappeared, so we decided to head to Squamish and Whistler for some creeking. The next week was spent in search of some steep drops and photogenic creeks, but unfortunately, the water was a bit low. Some of the local Whistler runs were flowing, and I found myself taking a break and getting a turn in my kayak. It was dark, cold and drizzly, but very nice to be back in my boat and on a river.
I was psyched to be there and though we weren’t shooting, I thought we might get a chance if we hung around long enough, but of course, the group had to go, and I needed to get back to Seattle.
Back in Seattle, I met up with and worked for my college roommate who does mobile marketing tours. I made a few extra bucks and got to catch up with an old friend. It was definitely an unforeseen bonus.
After that, I got on a plane and flew to Atlanta to surprise my Mom for her Birthday. She had no clue I was coming, or that my older brother would be flying in two days later for the same reason.
Stepping off the plane in Hotlanta and finding my Dad grinning at the baggage claim was great. He was glad to see me, and we caught up while we waited for my luggage, but the intentions of his smile came out in our ensuing conversation about how to engineer my grand entry.
“I’m thinking we should get a big box,” he said.
“I’ll do it!” I said, knowing what he was hinting at.
Driving home, we stopped at a shipping store, bought the biggest box available and even talked the manager into printing a fake UPS label for us. After a few white lies about our whereabouts, my Dad and I hid his car, ran up our driveway, put me in the box and rang the doorbell. My Mom came to the door and, seeing the package was from me and thinking I was sending home more junk for them to store, almost started talking some trash. Then she started to open it and I jumped out, camera in hand. I almost gave her a heart attack, but it was completely worth it.
I hung around the house with family and friends for the next week, but like always, I had to go.
Back in Seattle, I spent a few days organizing and figuring out my plans, then went right back to British Columbia and met up with some different paddlers looking to get on some creeks between Squamish and Whistler. As luck would have it though, this time there was too much water. It had been raining a lot, and really didn’t stop the entire time I was there. I’m all about shooting in tough conditions, but most of what I wanted to shoot was just too dark.
So there I was, sitting in the rain in a Wal-Mart parking lot (only legal free camping around), waiting and hoping the weather would lighten up. It was one of those situations that makes you question and wonder what heck you are doing and why you are doing it. It is a punishment that can never feel deserved. It would have been easy to leave and at least be around some friends in Seattle, but the thought of missing a possible shooting opportunity after all of that haunted my every decision. So I waited it out, bored and alone.
I was feeling pretty low, and it was apparent, so my Dad sent me a text message of encouragement telling me, “It’s about now that the boat starts leaking… Bailing is good exercise though.” He was right.
Conditions never really improved and my last possible day of shooting in the area came and went. Feeling like I had just wasted precious time, effort, money and mental stability, I turned on the radio and started driving.
With my second stay in British Columbia over, I sprinted across the country, stopping to see friends in Seattle and Chicago. It turns out friends and distance from my previous situation were exactly what I needed. And like every place and every situation I have encountered this summer and in my life, it is behind me. All I can do is keep driving forward.
This is the last update in this series of stories about my beginnings as an adventure photographer, but believe me, it is not over. If I thought I was hungry for this career, this job and this life before, then now I am simply starving. I have learned a lot over the past few months, thousands of miles and countless encounters with self-doubt, but what gives me the most comfort, drive and ambition is that I know I still want to do this.
I hope you all have enjoyed this glimpse into my life, and I encourage anyone who has a dream to go after it. It will not be easy, but in my opinion, not much worth having really is. And when all else fails, bailing is still good exercise.