When we woke up on Sunday morning, we were greeted with another wet day, with more in the forecast. We had missed our bedtime dose of ibuprofen and our hands were swollen and clumsy. We were approximately halfway through the time for the race but had only achieved around one-third of the mileage. And we were poised to leave the extreme familiarity of the South Sound and venture into areas we knew better from charts than we did in person. Our GPS unit, to help us find our way to potential landing sites, had taken on water earlier in the week and wasn’t working. We still had our paper charts and our back up navigation on our phones. But that meant our phones would be pulling double-duty as back-up communication and back-up navigation.
And… we were in Tacoma. We were just about a mile away from a boat launch that would make it simple for our recovery team to pick us up. Simple, like drive 20 minutes through town.
Paddling backwards through the Narrows the day before had been an interesting change, but fighting through the flood around Point Defiance had taken a lot of energy. We had originally intended to paddle as far as we could with our two weeks. But we knew at this point that as far as we could would take us somewhere into the unknown North Sound… possibly somewhere difficult for our recovery team to get to us.
With all of those factors combined, stopping where we were seemed like the right call. After a couple of days of sleeping in our own bed and resting our tired bodies, it was easy to second-guess our decision. We could still be out there, achieving hard things; it’s always easy to armchair quarterback. Ultimately, we made peace with our decision. You have to trust the folks that are in the field. Even if that is your own past self.
We’ve started our list of improvements for next time – what adjustments do we want to make to our gear and our process? What additional research on the North Sound do we want to dive into? Which training paddles will set us up for greater success next time?
In 2018, Travis had suggested that we simply paddle the kayaks back to Tacoma after SEVENTY48. On reflection, that is what we did this year. Back to Tacoma, the long way – by way of Olympia.