A few weeks ago a friend and I headed out for a visit with the mystical creatures we believe to inhabit China Beach. Creatures we refer to as Ewaks, stolen from Star Wars because of their curious resemblance to these postulatory forest dwellers. As we make our way through the low lying mists of the ancient forest, the landscape pushes towards the beach and the distant surf beckons like a ready lover. The trail seems temporary in the cascading Canadian jungle like the wake of an offshore ship fading, dissolving to the infinite. Massive cedar and hemlock trees explode out of the ground in every direction; each capable of absorbing as much as one ton of water per day and moving it vertically one hundred feet from its roots to canopy. Looking around at the hundreds of giants in my gaze I drown in the idea of the sheer amount of water and energy that is flowing through this system. Emerging from the forest a thick blanket is removed and my eyelids peel back as trees give way to giants of another kind. Top-heavy liquid waves crash and hurl stones and mangled driftwood. We skip along the relatively small buffer zone of stones, eyes fixed on our wobbly path, hypnotized within the rhythms of a world between two.
Victim to absent-mindedness, I have forgotten my wetsuit. Having no interest in re-living the grueling hike back to the car and missing out on even one of these fantastic waves I jump into the piercing January waters in not but my knickers. We surf well into night, the darkness allowing the creatures of my imagination to surface: orcas circle us warding off giant squid feeding frenzies and straggling great whites wait to taste revenge. Hairs rise on my neck as I feel the stares of the monkey men squatters, believed to dwell in this mystical forest. They watch from their huts dug deep into the coastal foliages of salal and sea grasses waiting for night to fully swallow before they begin their nocturnal mischief. They can pick their smelly baboon bums for all I care, I fear not, for only a true B.C. boy dare attempt to swim the shallows in boxers in the dead of winter. Unfortunately a few hours is all it takes before I’m near hypothermic. A small crumbler lifts me and I ride it into shore. I grab my penis to make sure its still there. The sorry bastard lives.
The Ewoks have left their village unattended. It hasn’t been empty long. They must have retreated further into the jungle sensing the weekend arrival of visitors and tourists—shy little guys. Their driftwood shelters and other ritualistic structures including some form of dry surf ramp are all ours. Allowing for a moment of reflexion, I take a seat on a beach log and watch the ocean. A freighter passes, or maybe it’s a trawler. It’s low engines cut when they pass our headlamps. Its presence is stealth like a Haida slave ship making its long journey back north to the Gwaii or a Canadian submarine patrolling for pirate smuggling ships. It’s too wet to make a fire so we wander around the village in darkness, set up our tents and head to bed.
A fowl reeking stench of rot has been carried on a breeze and fills my nostrils. The smell is surprisingly familiar a cross between dutch-ovens and rotting meat. I’ve been awake for a few minutes listening. Something is walking in the village, something big. For the first time it occurs to me the Ewoks have vacated the village for another reason, another intruder. A heavy breathing close to my head replaces my own and my tent begins to shake violently. It’s funny the security one feels in a tent, after all its just a thin layer of fabric. Yet its familiar and that thin membrane keeps you from having to see what beast, mythical or real, stalks you in the night. No matter what happens, in the morning if you didn’t see what it was you can write it off to dreams, exaggeration or whatever you want and keep your sanity. Maybe that’s why I didn’t start screaming or bolt for the parking lot and instead just lay there, still as a stone. That is until two massive forearms creeped underneath my body and began to lift me without curling… like a fork lift.
When I was twelve I was playing in the wash at pipeline. The beach was closed that day due to the pounding 22 ft surf. I remember the wave was enormous and even though the wash was less than ankle deep it flipped me on my back and sucked me kicking and screaming towards the hulking beast. My heart beat at the same speed of the rushing water and I watched the wave grow taller and taller as if a vacuum for my fear. The rushing sound was deafening and chaotic until that final moment. The moment when the wave could hold no more water and my heart no more fear. The moment when I was closest, looking up at the supernatural wall of water. The moment before it all came crashing down—a cross between “here we go!” and “I am so f****d”. Floundering in what was one part foam one part sand and one part water there was no fight in my resistance.
There are some forces that are larger than the fight we have. Don’t get me wrong, I struggled but it was no fight. The poles snapped and the tent collapsed around me as all was lifted from the ground and slung in one light heave behind its back. I swam in the sagging tent as branches broke beneath its enormous steps. I could tell we were traveling at incredible speeds. Listening to the monster breath I could tell my weight was no hindrance to this creature at all. I have no recollection of the events that followed, but when I awoke the next morning, a shiver rain down my spine as I crawled out of my collapsed tent a hundred or so feet from where I remember setting it up. I am not claiming that the strange occurrence was the doings of “Big Foot” but Im not ruling it out. Whatever or whoever the culprit was that evening possessed a power and aroma unfamiliar to anything I have ever experienced. My mind remains open with regards to the existence of such a being.