Marcus Paladino Photography


Wild Goose Chase

Three friends decide to try their luck up the coast in search of a mysterious barrelling river mouth. With the help of a backroad map, Google Earth screenshots, and a borrowed zodiac, Malcolm Daly, Michael Darling, and Marcus Paladino embark on a wild goose chase.


All times have been estimated and all location names have been removed.

6:00am – The drive begins and I already regret not calling shotgun.

12:05pm – We’re starting to forget what life is like outside of the truck.

12:32pm – We’ve reached the start of the logging road and are on our way to the boat launch.

1:36pm – Our supposed boat launch turns out to be a 50 yard hill into the bushes.

1:45pm – Google Earth shows a calm watercourse. But what we see before us is a bloated river whose banks have been overwhelmed by heavy rains and Class 6 Rapids. Completely impossible to navigate, especially for our borrowed 15hp Johnson outboard (that motor was borrowed from a different friend than the boat and never ran again after this trip).

2:10pm – Plan B is determined: our backroad map claims we can drive within a few kilometres of another known break, even shows a trail to hike there.

3:16pm – Dead end. Turns out this part of the logging road has been deactivated and the coast is at least 7 kilometres from here.

3:29pm – Malcolm says, “We can hike that.”

3:42pm – We all have 115L dry bags and both hands full – so much for packing light. We start hiking.

4:03pm – Straps on two of our dry bags break.

4:18pm – The logging road is getting thinner.

4:31pm – The road has now become a trail.

4:45pm – The trail has led us to another dead end, we’re now standing in the middle of the forest.

5:02pm – We can hear the river flowing. Assume that we could find the river and follow it to the coast.

5:09pm – Determined not to lose ourselves in the dense bush, I stay close to our dead end point to be sure we are able to find our way back.

5:22pm – After calling out Michael’s name to see if they’re still within ear shot. No reply.

5:35pm – The boys emerge from the woods and claim they couldn’t find the river.

5:40pm – We start hiking back and come up with Plan C: camp on the logging road tonight, and tomorrow morning take the boat down a different river to a different break. This time it’s a “guarantee” because Malcolm’s friend did it last week.

6:45pm – The sun is starting to set, but we’ve made it back to the truck. We try to get a fire going, but every piece of wood is soaked to the bone, even with the assistance of a chainsaw.

7:55pm – Our fire will not burn unless constantly fanned. We take turns cooking food and worshipping the flames.

8:05pm – The rain starts to fall. A light drizzle.

8:10pm – Torrential downpour.

8:11pm – Scramble to set our tents up.

8:20pm – Tents are set up, but the rain has stopped. So has our fire.

8:25pm – Michael says, “Maybe we should just go to bed.”

12:00am – Wake up to the sound of wolves howling.

3:00am – Wake up to the extremely loud sound of our tents being continuously pelted, hail?

7:31am – Discover that it was in fact hail, and it’s completely covered the road.

7:50am – Coffee is made and the coldest sleep of our lives is discussed. The night’s events consumes all conversation.

8:30am – The torrential downpour starts again and we scramble to take down the brief tent city.

9:03am – Back in the truck, our journey to Plan C begins.

9:30am – Malcolm pulls over to tighten the straps on the boat, it’s looking rather loose in the rearview mirror.

9:32am – The zodiac is starting to lack air, hence the movement.

9:35am – A discovery is made - the zodiac has worn through in two places at the transom, due to the many kilometres of logging roads travelled.

9:36am – Malcolm walks off into the forest to yell and throw things. We watch silently.

9:40am – Malcolm regains his composure. He apologizes for his outburst.

9:54am – Michael comes up with Plan D: follow our backroad map to a secret slab. No one knows where it is exactly, but Michael figures it should be in this general direction. We’re out of other options so decide to give it try.

11:05am – Hit a dead end due to the road being washed out. But there’s other vehicles here along with a trail.

11:16am – The sound of the ocean trickles into our eardrums and shouts of excitement stumble out of our throats.

11:30am – With a stroke of luck, we found the slab… but great luck remains cruelly elusive. This side of the coast is howling onshore.

12:32pm – Back at the truck, we listen to the storm forecast on the radio. Wind continues to blow onshore for the rest of the day and tomorrow.

12:40pm – No one can think of a Plan E. Decide to make lunch and coffee, then go home to real comfort and familiarity.

12:43pm – The hails starts again and follows us home.

by Marcus Paladino