Stephen Grace

Life on the Edge: The West Coast Trail

To prepare for the West Coast Trail on Canada’s Vancouver Island, find a ladder, preferably a wobbly one with a few rungs of questionable stability. Load your backpack and put it on. Then, climb up and down the ladder dozens of times while someone sprays you with a hose. What is the point of following a trail like the WCT …

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Mercy of Giants

A humpback whale surfaced a hundred feet away, so close that whirlpools and waves rocked my paddleboard. For several days, I had hoped for a close encounter with a whale. While kneeling on my board and clutching its sides to keep from capsizing, I felt something I hadn’t expected: fear. The humpback surfaced and blew three times, lifted its flukes …

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Fever at the Ocean’s Edge

After three years of avoiding COVID, it finally caught me. I got a Paxlovid prescription and went backpacking on the Olympic coast to battle the COVID demons at the ocean’s edge. Was it my fevered brain, or was the shoreline at Cedar Creek with its wave-sculpted sea stacks surreal? Did I actually see multiple orca pods hunting on two different days, …

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The Immersion

Near the High Divide of Olympic National Park, I entered the sapphire waters of Hoh Lake and snorkeled with thousands of pollywogs. These tadpoles were all squiggling in the same direction: clockwise. I matched my swimming pace to their movement, and together we traveled through the shallows along the shore. Being part of this mass migration was as thrilling as …

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