Liz Fleming: crayon-coloured kayaks symbolized adventure


Growing up on the St. Lawrence River, gave Liz Fleming the opportunity to dip the paddle into the river on many occasions. “My dad and I would silently slip the kayaks into the marshes and weeds to sneak up on the wildlife. We’d see the herons and the crayfish without them being scared away. It was a spectacular experience,” says the writer still based in Ontario. “So, when the guides on this west coast adventure asked if I’d had experience paddling, I confidently said, YES!”

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That’s when the Coleman stove and extra pots and pans for the four-day trip landed in the bottom of Liz’s kayak. The extra weight in the kayak combined with an inexperienced paddler in the front made for a challenging first day on the water but Liz chalks it up to character-building.

As a travel writer who has explored Canada from coast to coast, and cluttered her passport with stamps from Argentina to Uruguay, Liz is always up for a challenge.

Zen: Have you paddled the west coast before?

Liz: No, that was the first time and it was a wonderful way to really see the west coast and the islands. That first day was a bit tough due to the headwind but pulling into the shore after all that effort really made me know I wasn’t just seeing the coast – I was experiencing it.

Zen: From the photos, it looks like it was a pretty wet day. How did you keep your camera dry?

Liz: I have lots of cameras but occasions like this, I take my favourite little Sony DSC HX30. It fits in a pocket and takes excellent photos. To make sure I don’t lose it when I’m in a kayak, I keep it on a standard camera neck strap. And if its not around my neck, it’s in a dry bag in the kayak.

Zen:  I love the shot we used as the cover photo on the original story ( Why was that shot important to you?

Liz: The boats were always lining up on the beach like that and I loved how they looked like crayons in a box. They symbolized our day, what we did and what adventures were coming.

Zen: If you had to pick between a kayak and a canoe, which would it be.

Liz: Definitely the kayak. I love the balance of paddling, the manoeuvrability and the silence of a kayak. I guess it also brings back great memories of those days with my dad. We spent hours in our kayaks.

Zen: What made the trip special for you?

Liz: I spent many summers running a kids camp and maybe got a little tired of the camping scene. So when I took this on, I was a bit unenthusiastic with the tenting. But I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. The equipment we had was great so being on the ground was fine. Which turned out to be a confidence builder. Because of that trip, I didn’t hesitate when asked if I wanted to go camping in the high arctic and camp on the ice.

The guides really made the trip wonderful for everyone. They figured out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and helped everyone have a great time.

And, every night, we’d sit around the campfire and talk, and talk. It was wonderful to be a part of a collection of people who didn’t know each other prior to the trip but we paddled away as friends.

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