Islands. They conjure images of serenity and endless beaches. Isolation. Cut off from the worries of day to day life one can find peace, relaxation, escape. On a truly isolated island one escapes even Internet and cell connections. You can be alone with your thoughts, your loved ones, or loved one. Alone.
No wonder so many writers have marooned their characters on an island. Mystery writers have joked for years about how difficult cell phones have made our lives. Any sensible potential victim with a cell phone will call the police when faced with a threat. Writers say "Kill your darlings;" to that I add, "kill the cell phones."
I just returned, not too much worse for wear than a sunburn and some sore muscles, from the spectacular Channel Islands National Park off the coast of California. The centerpiece of the trip was a sea kayaking adventure to explore caves in the Santa Cruz Marine Reserve that are only accessible from the ocean.
|One of the large sea caves|
As the ferry crew cast off from the pier in Ventura, my writers mind started cataloging the many dangers of a voyage to an island twenty-two nautical miles from the mainland. An island with a thinly staffed parks service and no cell reception.
Well, I survived the deadliest threat - camping. My husband jokes that my idea of camping is a hotel without room service. All I can say is he knows me well and thank God for the cushy mat my sister-in-law gave me.
The Channel Islands are known for the aforementioned sea caves and the island fox. The foxes are small and diabolically cute as they nonchalantly trot through your campsite looking for cookie crumbs. Not sure how they could be worked into a mystery plot - perhaps some kind of genetically modified rabies could be introduced?
The sea caves, however, were a different story and my mind raced as I flailed into a wetsuit for our kayak trip to the sea caves. Our guide, Dave, was wonderfully informative and safety minded. If only he knew what was going through my mind when he led my group to the sea lion rookery (abandon victim among bad tempered animals?) and the sea cave known as Boom Box (no one could hear an abandoned kayaker shout for help over the reverberating sound caused by the crash of waves in the dark, narrow barnacle covered walls. Did I mention the barnacles were razor sharp?)
One sea cave was plot perfect. Dave promised a narrow labyrinth ending in a little beach. We paddled into the cave one at a time following the bright beam of Dave's headlamp into the dank pitch dark. Our kayak slid through twisting, head ducking passageways too narrow for us to use a regular paddle stroke.
Dave cheerfully warned us that if we fell in we'd have to swim out in the pitch dark, somehow avoiding the razor encrusted walls, like a dead serious game of Operation.
As I wondered if my daughters knew where to find my will, we paddled into a chamber not much bigger or higher than grandma's kitchen. As Dave had promised, there was a rocky beach at the end, and a seal was sleeping on it.
All the barnacles were forgotten in that delightful moment. In the spotlight of Dave's headlamp we watched the seal wake up and look at us looking at him. He (the seal) was unimpressed. We headed back, negotiating a spin in the space an inch or two wider than our kayak. Dave did the same and got a bit hung up, but managed to get us all out safely so the next kayak could pay a visit to the sleepy seal.
That night, as the foxes sniffed around our tent and I drifted off to sleep, I thought how enriching travel can be, especially for a writer seeking an unusual, cell phone free setting.
Have you been inspired by your travels?