The best story I can tell about a kayaking trip is the one about our trip to Horne Lake. For those of you who have never been there, I can advise you that the gravel road from the Island Highway was actually pretty good for the first several miles. The last mile to the campground, however, was awful. And the final half-mile of road to Horne Lake Provincial Park was truly dreadful, with deep ruts and potholes full of rainwater.
So it was a relief to set up our two tents and get out my Advanced Elements inflatable. My daughter got out her photography equipment, and my husband unloaded the newspaper, a book, and a pound of red licorice. We booked a tour in the Horne Lake Caves for the next morning. I paddled on Horne Lake that afternoon with great pleasure, going around the point from the campground.
It was a good day for paddling. I sent several OK messages with my SPOT device. I looked up at the great cliff above the lake, with bent layers of rock in big streaks. I checked out Little Qualicum River, where it was choked with fallen trees. Later in the day, the wind picked up a little, as could be expected. There was a long fetch along the biggest part of the lake. But I only had to work across the wind for part of the way back, and when I got back around the point the wind blew me along and back to the beach where I had launched.
Dinner was more than just red licorice. The best thing about camping on a kayaking trip is that you can bring a lot of tasty, nutritious, heavy food. We ate till we were stuffed, then put the rest of the food back in the car so that raccoons wouldn’t come looking for it. We were all tired, and got into our sleeping bags early that evening.
We’d only been asleep for an hour when we learned the second best thing about camping on a kayaking trip – you can bring your camping gear in your kayak and camp out far away from other people. But we didn’t do that this time: I was paddling out and back each day from the campground. We learned the worst thing about camping – it’s when there are unwanted neighbours. These neighbours had been no problem all afternoon and evening. But at eleven o’clock that night, in a nearby campsite, someone’s car alarm went off. Beep, went the horn. Beep. Beep.
We lay in our sleeping bags, waiting for the owner to turn off the alarm. After a while, my husband whispered, “Who the hell sets their car alarm on a camping trip?”
Beep. Beep. “Someone who doesn’t want the raccoons to break in and steal their food?” I suggested, after several beeps. “Or someone who put something valuable in the car? Like our daughter put her camera equipment in the car.”
“I locked the car,” he said. “What good is a car alarm going to do?”
Beep. Beep. “Must have everybody in the campground awake,” I guessed. “Ooo, somebody’s going to be unpopular.”
“Why the hell haven’t they turned off the alarm?” he whispered.
Beep. Beep. “They’re taking a long time to turn that alarm off,” I said. “Maybe they can’t find the keys.”
“Don’t need keys,” he said. “Give me your pocket knife and a rock.”
Beep. Beep. “Sh. You can’t just break into someone’s car and cut the wires,” I said. Beep. Beep. “Not yet, anyway.” Beep. Beep. “Maybe in a while.” Beep. Beep. “We’d do it together, and talk so the neighbours know we’re not stealing the car.”
“All the neighbours are certainly awake,” he agreed. Beep. Beep.
“Maybe the car owner is in Qualicum Beach, having a beer,” I suggested. “Drove there with a friend.” Beep. Beep. “Won’t be back till later.”
“He’d better be in town, having a beer,” whispered my husband. “If he’s sitting in his campsite listening to this racket, I’d kill him.”
Beep. Beep. “I think you’d have a dozen witnesses to swear that he was hit by a meteor.” Beep. Beep.
“And I’d have help throwing the body into the river,” he whispered. Beep. Beep. Somehow the idea of stuffing the car’s owner into one of the caves never got suggested aloud. Doing such a nasty thing to the perfectly nice caves seemed really wrong.
“Of course, you and the angry mob might run into a handyman with a toolbox and a cooler head, older and wiser, coming to cut the car’s wires,” I pointed out. Beep. Beep.
“A guy like that, he’d know what was going on,” my husband said. Beep. Beep. “He’d figure it out at a glance.” Beep. Beep. “He’d say, You’re gonna want to make it look like an accident.”
“He’d say, I've got a broken kayak paddle you can put with him. But no, they'll never believe the guy was kayaking in those clothes. I’ll go get a fishing rod and some tackle and meet you lot by the river canyon.” Beep. Beep.
“You know, I can hear you,” our daughter said from inside her own little tent next to ours. “Don’t say any more. I need some deniability. How am I supposed to be a plausible alibi for you?” Beep. Beep.
At that point we heard the sound of an ancient Datsun hatchback approaching, making its way along the potholed road. The evening chorus now went: Beep. Rrmmm. Sploosh! Beep. RrRmMmm. Sploosh! Beep. The car eventually came to a halt at a nearby campsite. We could clearly hear three big goons get out of the car, like clowns at a circus. They bumbled around for a few minutes, dropping things and running into each other, before managing to turn off the car alarm.
Blessed silence returned. Well, nearly silence. There was plenty of drunken shushing and giggling for a while. But we were already asleep.
Next morning, I was up and carrying my kayak to the water first thing. On the way, I could see a campsite with an ancient Datsun hatchback parked next to an SUV with three kayaks on the roof, and the hood up, and wires trailing from the engine.