10970 Karmin McKay: Chasing the Adrenaline Rush (PTSD Series Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is Part One in an on-going series on dealing with PTSD. For Part Two please see here. For the Introduction to the series please see here.

High risk is high adrenaline. Jason Statham

High adrenaline is fun when you are not caught or hurt.  Karmin McKay

The higher your adrenaline rush reaches, the more risk that you will take to get another one the same or better. Karmin McKay

And the cycle repeats itself. But now getting caught or hurt does not matter. It is expected to happen one day.

The first time I blew something up I was 11. I can still see the event the same as I can see the first trout rush out to eat the worm on my hook. I was 3. I drove an APC while in the militia in 1971. That was my biggest rush ever. I came to RMC to be an APC driver. I wanted that adrenaline rush again.

1969. I inserted a firecracker inside a spent .303 cartridge. It sailed off into the air. Having studied the German V1 rocket in WW2, I then built a launching ramp for my .303 rocket and it launched directly where it was aimed. The most I fired at the same time was three. The Taliban used the same technique in Afghanistan to attack our base in Kandahar. Set it and forget it and they would fire when triggered. I discovered (much to the dismay of those that angered me) that I could delay the launch with extra fuses so that I could escape before the cartridge went through their window.

1971. I came home from my militia weeklong exercise in Petawawa to find out that I was one day AWOL from arriving in Kapuskasing Ontario as a Junior Forest Ranger. It was an awesome summer. We made $5 a day with free room and board. We planted trees, built docks, saw the Northern lights almost every night, chased bears and moose and had weekends off to fish and canoe. We built a portage around Missinaibi Falls so canoeists would not kill themselves going around it.  The falls were very high and powerful. Shooting them was not possible if you wanted to survive. We were flown into the camp via float plane and float helicopter. There were about 15 of us. Every day was an adventure. I did not want to go home.

“The Missinaibi is a Canadian Heritage River, designated for its significant Indigenous, fur trade and logging cultural heritage, outstanding ecological and geological natural heritage, and wilderness recreation. It is in the heart of the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, the world’s largest wildlife preserve. It offers unparalleled fishing opportunities for Lake trout, Walleye, Northern Pike.” See https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/missinaibi  It would provide an awesome place for OCdt adventure training IMHO.

The unparalleled fishing opportunities for walleye was my downfall. I crept down a trail to a tall cliff. I managed to get along the river and barely made it along the cliff shuffling sideways along a narrow ledge for about 50 feet until I found a location where I could cast. The water was crystal clear, and I was not far from the waterfall. I was probably the first person for many years if ever to fish there. I had built a foot long lure from three of them joined together and cast it between two large rocks. The rock closest to the waterfalls moved and jumped three feet out of the river as it charged down the river. It was easily more than 10 pounds, a dream fish for me now, not then. It was huge and I lost it. I tried again and again and caught another large one but not as big. I proudly took it back to the camp, and was preparing to clean it to cook for dinner when our guide, boss and avid fisherman arrived and lost his mind. After his tantrum was over, he disappeared. The next day, half of us were told to pack out stuff and we were fired out of the camp and picked up by the airplane. No helicopter ride this time. We were grilled to the ninth degree by the Chief Ranger and the city guys came up with a response that perhaps the guide had bush fever. We were not getting much joy with that argument when my idea lightbulb went off. Every one of us that had a fishing rod got fired. The ones remaining did not fish. I shutter to think what would have happened had I caught the huge one. The ranger accepted that argument and we were good to go again. I was almost RTU’d (home) for catching a fish. As a 17-year-old, my adrenaline pumped a lot that summer. A buddy and I scared a bull moose while we were canoeing. It chased us until we threw the canoe over a beaver dam and were in deeper water. I have never paddled a canoe as fast or well in my life. I think I threw the canoe over the dam with one hand.

1972. I was walking home from militia duties in North York with a buddy in uniform and we were water bombed by people in an apartment building. The people in the apartment below the water bombers were sitting watching and bent over laughing. He who laughs last laughs best. My other buddies and I returned that weekend with a sling shot and fired a ball bearing at the plate glass window of the water bombers. I was distressed to see that the window had a very small hole over it that was covered in tape. Plan B. We returned the next weekend. On the way, one of the guys found a hammer. The slingshot was shot on an angle and the entire window shattered while the hammer went through the other window. Unlike Thor’s hammer, it did not return.

1972. Being arrested in Toronto My buddies and I decided to go winter camping, hunting and shooting during the Christmas break in my last year of high school. We were living on CFB Downsview (Toronto) and some lived on the base and others beside it. Teenagers from the city now in the woods, alcohol, guns and weird loud scary noises at night do not mix. The noises became louder over time, changed in direction, and soon were below us in the cabin. We each drank another beer as we made plans. The noises grew louder, and we drank another beer as we loaded guns and checked flashlights. I had brought an old Winchester lever action which is in all the black and white cowboy movies. Those that did not bring a firearm were armed with a flashlight. We rehearsed our SWAT team under the house clearing techniques while we finished another beer. By now we had the courage to confront the beasts under the cabin. The loud grinding, grunting noise continued as we stealthy crept down the stairs and as the leader yelled now the lights went on, triggers were squeezed and the wild dangerous animals were not there. The noise was suddenly behind us and we spun around to shoot the invisible threat again.  The noises were the river ice freezing, cracking and breaking.

We returned home a few days later to lots of snow. The weapons and the clothing of a friend that lived on the base had been left at mine. Another friend and I placed some of it on a toboggan and I carried his shotgun in the crook of my right armchuk. We walked down a sidewalk along a major street in North York. We were on the sidewalk with a strip mall on either side of us, (Keele and Sheppard intersection) 100 yards from the MP shack, when I heard a car come to a sudden stop, a door open and as I looked in that direction, I looked down the barrel of the pistol that was pointed directly at my 110 pounds of mass. Toronto had had several bank robberies while we were away. We were between two banks and the Toronto policeman was now going to be a hero capturing these two bank robbers. We were released a few hours later.  I learned never to walk around in public with weapons. That rule did not apply in Germany.  If this was my approach to life, what was I going to be like at RMC which was my path to be paid to chase adventure? I had to go to school to join the Army.

1972. At RMC, I fed my adrenaline need by starting to freefall parachute and scuba dive in rook camp. Shooting my rifles almost every day also helped. Boxing also contributed. I experienced all of these in the first two months at RMC. Skylarks and breaking into the dining hall added to my need for the thrill of risk and self medication of adrenaline in the last half of first year. I embraced mountain climbing in second year and added the football team in third year. I taught boxing for three years. I finally shot tanks at the end of third year and that pushed my adrenaline to a new high.

There have been hidden agendas within the lines of many of the other articles. The aim of this article is to review how I tried to safely manage my requirements for adrenaline rushes both in and out of the military. I understand this now but did not then.  I know that there are some reading this note that are or were in the same boat with me. That’s why some of us were recruited.  I hope that I may help you avoid some of the pitfalls I discovered on my journey.  Many of the other articles were written in support of this one. I did not understand that my first drug of choice was adrenaline until I was finishing my 6-week rehab course for alcohol in 2016. I then understood why I had done many of the things that I did.

I lived to shoot tanks. And I did it a lot. I loved annual refresher time. Shooting and blowing things up. Just driving around in a tank was a rush most of the time. The technology for much of my work was fascinating to me as well.

There were lots of activities to introduce me to higher levels of adrenaline throughout my career and many of them have been described in earlier articles. I did not manage to start 3 courses that I wanted for another source of adrenaline. As an armour officer, I had already been accepted for the ships diving officer course at DCIEM in CFB Toronto. Once qualified I would be required to act as a diving Guinea pig for tests in DCIEM.  Prior to starting the diving course, I realized I needed a Training Standards course and a few others like it in order to write the first standards for the 6 Cadet courses being run during the summer at CFB Borden. I was like an UNMO for the cadet camp. I had very little authority but a great deal of responsibility if things went wrong. I was the only Regular Force Officer at the camp which means full time employment working on improving that Cadet Camp.  I was also slated to attend the US Army Ranger course if I passed the Jump Course. I was injured on the para course and missed the Ranger course.  CFB Montreal also needed more EOD qualified staff, and I was going on that course until I knew I was going to the UK. Somehow, I managed to be on tanks at some point, work with them or be in Germany every year but 3 in my career. One of those was my second year at RMC and the second was my first complete year at CFB Toronto. I was in El Salvador for most of my time in 1992. I am still able to work with running Leopard tanks in my retirement.

During the same time, I also became a canoe instructor, assistant wind surfing instructor, and an instructor of scuba instructors. I moved into adventurous underwater photography and video. The first time I scuba dived with sharks I was out of the water so fast that you would have thought that I had JATO assist rockets strapped to my back. The shark was 3 feet long, a mere baby shark.  Within a week, I remained in the water until I counted more than 15 of all lengths. I took pictures of a hammerhead shark swimming around the bubbles of a diver looking at coral. He never saw the shark. I was taking photos and wanted to know where they all were. I played chicken with a full-sized bull shark (man eater) on my last shark dive. I knew that it would move for me and it did. I was third in D class in the Canadian Windsurfing Championship. There were only 3 in the class.

1985. I had one incident with a shark that did cause my heart to pump purple panther piss and my time to slow down to the Matrix movie combat speed. I was suspended about 20 feet deep watching a very large barracuda about 20 feet from me. Someone near me released some food in the water and a school of yellowtail snapper ascended from 80 feet deep towards me to eat it. I saw a silver flash and heard the crunch as the barracuda caught one. That caused the sharks to explode into a feeding frenzy. The slow tail wagging puppy dog of a shark near me turned into a speeding Doberman as it sped down to the reef after the fish. It failed, completed a u turn and charged directly at me from below. I was suspended in the water, not moving whatsoever. I crossed my fins to protect my junk and took a picture of the shark charging at me with fins on either side of it. Once again, I can replay that few seconds like it is a movie. I suppose an adrenaline spike of rare incidents increases one’s memory of the incident. My psychologist will read this and later tell me that I am doing some fancy medical term process. I call it a pants pooping moment.

I also saved the life of a diver on the same cliff later that week. He had been head butted by a large fish twice, almost knocked him out and had had his regulator knocked out of his mouth and mask off his face. I had seen the fish and was above the diver taking pictures of the fish when it attacked him in 80 feet of water. He panicked, started crawling up coral along the bottom which sliced his hands to ribbons.  Most would have panicked as well. He swam for the surface holding his breathe directly at me. I released my camera equipment and grabbed him as he went by. I fought with him to keep him down until I punched him as hard as I could in the stomach. He released a large bubble of air which prevented an air embolism and I released him. I then dove down to get my camera and found the fish with the diver’s snorkel in his mouth. It was bright pink and I guess that the fish thought it was food. There is an inch of the 12-inch snorkel out the middle of its mouth in the picture. Do not use fishing lures as diving equipment. The fish had descended deeper (120 feet) and had I had a speargun would have had him for dinner. It kept the snorkel.

I hooked my first marlin in 1981. My chase for a Grander (1000 pounds) started that day. I lost a 1200 + pound marlin in 2013 and landed my grander in 2014.  I have landed all species of billfish and tuna but one. I have caught fish on 5 continents. That’s why I need to go to Australia. My fishing equipment has a nick name “Harley Davidson”. That’s what it is worth. Using the correct tools for the task works on civie street not just the military. My boat crew and captain caught the grander with me. I could not have done it without them. We also needed the right equipment, reels with 1000 yards of 120-pound test line. At times I may have had 25 yards left on the reel before I started reeling line back onto the reel. I now design and build custom marlin lures in my fishing office. What has marlin fishing got to do with adrenaline rushes? Other than pushing my body harder and much longer than the rook obstacle course, it has included 2 moments with more excitement than this Youtube video. I had a marlin bill stop an inch from my chest as the fish jumped over the side of boat (much smaller than a whaler) directly at me. I saw it coming as it launched itself at me on the third jump and all 3 were in a beeline at me. I had another jump out of the water and try to slash me and I was 2 m above the water. I saw it look at me and knew it was coming after me. I had seen that look in El Salvador. Just as some people are just mean, so are some animals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx4xeBV9-rM 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeX-vwS5NcU

Marlin fishing became my chosen path to test myself and I call it a safe adrenaline rush. Tuna have almost had me crying from pain and exhaustion. And I paid good money to push and punish myself to the limits. That’s what adrenaline junkies do I now realize. Some race cars, others sky dive or climb mountains. I selected marlin fishing as my major with a minor in other activities.

I had more adrenaline rushes than I ever wanted while working at NDHQ; involvement in 5 conflicts and dodging a General in Ottawa. Firing laser damage weapons and working with high tech magic equipment as a job was not work but pure enjoyment. Working with our Defence scientists was also exciting. Almost getting killed several times those last 3 years kept the adrenaline machine working overtime.

1991. The fall before I submitted my military resignation, I saw an advertisement in the want ads. A man in Manitoba was putting together a team to look for gold in South America. My job would be to dive in waters flowing into the Caribbean Sea and use a giant vacuum hose to suck up gold on the river bottom. I remained interested until I realized that his key interest was in chasing women in the jungle and not my safety or finding gold. I still have the want ad. It helps remind me to take all employment opportunities with a grain of salt.

Within 2 weeks of leaving the jungle in El Salvador in 1992, I was now retired working in Atlanta. How in the world was I going to survive the adrenaline withdrawal from the high in El Salvador?

I had a job that took me to five continents in four years (including El Salvador multiple times). I had a potential near life ending incidents (NLEI) several times in Israel. I was shooting almost every week and working with weapons simulators. One of my best friends was a retired USA Army ranger and we got into mischief together to the point that his wife forbid us from going to Walmart together. He had told her that we had been in a boat sinking in the middle of the Gulfstream between Florida and The Bahamas. That was true but he was not supposed to tell her. When we were not sinking there were boats everywhere. When we knew that we were sinking we didn’t even see a bird. I fixed the problem and then saw a big school of dolphin fish. I made everyone fish. We went back to Miami after we caught our limit of 40.  I was also doing extensive adventure scuba diving, deep sea fishing and travelling to interesting countries enough that the DEA put a sting together against me. (Another article “Who Stung Who?” and it was just like the movies).

I have been deep sea fishing in rowboats out of sight of the island. Cruise ships have deviated around my 20-foot-long rowboat out to sea. I know how long I can use a 10 hp engine with 5 gallons of gas. As always, we ran out of gas just when we needed it the most. Just as we had to navigate the 3m high waves to land on a beach.  I have been towed around the Pacific Ocean by a large fish in a dug-out canoe. It was patched with flattened coke cans. When we went forward, he bailed. When we went in reverse, I bailed. My largest marlin took me more than 5 and a half hours to land (16.5 feet long). There is a fishing story about me and my buddy in two different fishing books published in Hawaii. I was almost killed by an angry marlin twice as well. That’s what I have been doing for fun.

1997. I went on a 2-week adventure tourism trip to Indonesia. We visited Komodo Island to see the dragons in the wild. About 100 of us were corralled in the people cage while the dragons watched us. I was soon bored watching the dragons watching us and asked the guide if I could leave the people cage and he said yes. I brought a 20 year old friend with me. I got my picture taken with a 3 m long dragon 3 m behind me. We then left the cage viewing area to see other dragons and the next time the people in the cage saw us, we were chasing a dragon up a gulley beside the cage.  We then left and hid beside the trail on the way back to the boat. We really scared our friends when we burst from the jungle near them. They thought Komodo dragons yelled like humans.

1998. One of my buddies chartered a 65 foot live aboard sailboat that took 20 scuba divers around islands in the Bahamas. For a small fee, I got to scuba, feed sharks, deep sea fish, party on deserted islands and drink all the beer I wanted. I wanted a bonfire one night and convinced 2 others to go with me to start the fire on a beach and get a party rolling. We soon had a nice fire going. (HINT, palm trees sluff off bark like a birch tree. It burns like gasoline, even in the rain). He was dragging a deadwood tree up the beach and tripped. His throat hit a jagged edge of a branch and he was impaled on it. He lay there on the sand doing a funky chicken dance. My first aid training kicked in. I completed his examination. He could still breathe, and I was leery about taking him off the branch in case it had nicked an artery.  Somehow, I managed to keep pressure on the wound, keep him on the branch and maintain my cool. I sent the dinghy back for a first aid kit and to tell the boat captain to call the Coast Guard. Then the monsoon started, and others arrived from the boat to assist. I handed the medical procedures over to the boat crew. I then kept the fire going so that we could see, held up a ground sheet to protect him from the rain and started drinking rum punch like water.

The Coast Guard helicopter arrived and eventually landed about 300 years away. The professionals bundled up my buddy, put him on a stretcher and I helped carry him to the helicopter. By now he was having trouble breathing as his throat had swollen almost shut. The Coast Guard SAR tech beside me had been drinking beer with me at a party Friday night in Miami. We met our injured friend in Miami, and he went with us to Key West. He just missed the carotid artery but had injured his throat so bad that he would have probably suffocated had the Coast Guard not arrived. The islands were deserted. The local birds were not afraid of people. We could bend over and pick them up in our hands. That was a different adrenaline rush.  This occurred a year after my first trip on this boat and my DEA sting on Bimini (another article).

2010. I lived in Calgary 10 km from the 1988 Olympic Bobsled (also skeleton and luge) track. My 8 Year son started luge and I became a luge official. I then became the Director of Officials for Alberta Luge and a race Technical Director. I officiated World Cups and had Calgary won the 2026 Winter Olympics would have also worked the Olympics. I also officiated World Cup Bobsled and Skeleton. Bobsled was an adrenaline rush, skeleton pure fun, and luge terrifying. Same track different equipment and body positions. If China loses the winter Olympics in 2022, and they come to Canada, I will be on the luge track somewhere working. Finding Canadian qualified luge officials of this certification is as rare as finding a recruit in an obstacle course that does not want to drink a beer when it is over.

2017. I started designing jewellery and ended up becoming an ammolite miner. I mine, manufacture and market my own ammolite gem and fossils. I build ammolite art. I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was 8 and now I am. I am currently writing a book about ammolite mining. The work with ammolite has also improved my health. All time spent with ammolite is exhilarating. We talk about the energy of the ammolite cliffs. It empowers us. I feel no pain, am totally focussed and living the life even if in real bad weather. The minute we say, that’s it for the day, the pain begins again. Of course, I have had very interesting moments and was taking a video when the cliff that I was on started to slide into the river. The live video will be on YouTube.

1997. I was asked to describe my perfect adrenaline day. Not my best moments but 24 hours. My buddy and I were deep sea fishing off Komodo island on a small luxury cruise liner and caught an outrigger canoe with two men in it. They were showing off to the tourists and turned behind the liner to be snagged. We towed them for miles before they got the marlin lure out of their outrigger. I then chased Komodo dragons while all the others but one watched from the people cage. We then hid on the path back to the boat to jump out and scare our friends as they thought we were Komodo dragons. I then went scuba diving and as I was thinking the only thing that could be better is if I saw a manta ray. I looked below to see one ten feet below me and off I went chasing it. That was followed by a great meal listening to a really bad band trying to sing English pop songs. I then had a great sleep.

Others were telling me to stop and do this stuff when I retired. I might hurt myself. I couldn’t to anything like this now. Too tired too easy and a son going into university. I will be 68 with an 18 year old son. He is my new adventure. I had just bought a fully loaded SUV to haul my new fishing boat, the first of my intended charter fleet. I had accumulated the rods and reels needed to out fit 3 boats as a start. I had selected my other boat captains and we had agreed to the terms and conditions of the fleet. They would have received a 100% raise than they currently made, profit sharing and some benefits. Then the miracle child arrived. I am still waiting for my fishing boat.

My biggest adrenaline rush

1987. I have been told that I had an interesting life. Which of the many different things I referenced was my best adrenaline rush? If I could repeat one event, which would I pick? None that I described in any other article. I spent several nights scuba diving with a scientist discovering new species of underwater fireflies (bioluminescent ostracods) at the marine biology lab in Jamaica. That meant diving without lights inside coral reefs for the 30 minutes between dusk and the rise of a full moon.

Each species flashed its mating signal in a different pattern. They always flashed along the sand channel between two coral walls and over the sand between them. Light patterns that I remember included: spiral up and to the right, spiral up and to the left, straight lines up, flashes in ever larger circles going up. Diagonal lines down left to right, and others. There would be about 2 inches between the flashes. Each new consecutive flash would be less than a second long and a total length around a metre to 2 metres for a few of them. The light flashes were the most fascinating series of street lights that I have ever seen.

There were so many different individual patterns that it became difficult to identify new ones. And when seen, to get there in time to capture the emitters. I needed to be further away to identify a new pattern. So, we were not only chasing these underwater fireflies but as fast as we could swim as well. That added to the risk factor. At one point I saw an 8 to 10 foot silhouette glide over my head. I hoped it was a tarpon and not a shark.

We looked for different light shows and swooped a very fine mesh net through the pattern of light dots to capture the ostracods which the Dr. later examined. We never captured a single female ostracod. The boys were strutting their stuff to try to attract a mate. We could not capture one female interested enough to venture close to them. It is the same for many species I expect. The boys quit dancing as the moon appeared. They needed to recharge their batteries for the dance the next night.  We discovered 7 new species from Discovery Bay to Montego Bay.

There is no man-made light show that can come close to matching those ostracods. I was weightless gliding in silence amongst a million stars that flashed by me in every direction. Just like in Star Trek when the spaceship is moving fast through the stars. Now make all the stars start to move in different patterns while you are moving. In total silence as you glide because you are holding your breathe.  I could not wait to repeat the process the following nights.

I was also diving with other scientists during the day to assist them (up to 5 dives a day). By the time we finished our night dive chasing fireflies, we were exhausted. The other marine biologists always had dinner made for us. We would do the same for them after their night dives. Dinner always started with fresh guacamole made from the huge avocado tree on the front lawn. If I was lucky, they bought me some jerk chicken or lobster cooked by the locals along the road.

That was a four-day long adrenaline rush. I thought seriously of becoming a marine biologist. I saw life long learners that loved their work and were all very thin. Eventually a Phd and then a stiff competition for very few world wide jobs.  I liked eating to much by then to become a starving student. The best part is that I know when and where to go to see the ostracods again.

I have been a long time (37 years) member of an international drinking club (more than 2000 local groups) with a running problem called Hash House Harriers. I have attended events in Daytona during Bike Week, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Singapore, Trinidad, Panama, Bahamas, Europe and all over the USA and Canada. As a visitor while working, a simple call or email and a local runner became your Uber to the run. Local diplomats to the unemployed may attend. All in attendance can take a joke, like to sing rugby songs, drink beer and run. Several in most clubs are also adrenaline junkies as well.  I used to run often with US special forces soldiers on leave. We had a big event in Texas at a resort which was half nudist camp while the other half was for witches. We fit in well. A good live band entertained us that night under the stars while the comet Kohoutek blazed overhead. Cost was $50 for the food, campsite and all the beer you could drink.

The hare marks a trail with flour, or chalk or something else in a swamp. The runners try to follow it to find hidden caches of beer or in my case on a live trail, the hare (runner). Your adrenaline gets pumping when 100 people are trying to catch you and you only have a 30 second head start and they can still see you when the thirty seconds is over.  I got away. I used lessons taught by Sun Tzu and recce training in the army to outwit and overcome them. A key to my success was to run them into an abandoned 50 M long chicken coup that had thick briars in the windows. I used coveralls, a helmet and gloves to go through the briars, the others did not. My goal on many runs was to ensure that all had bleeding legs from running though thorn patches during the trail. Water crossings were mandatory as well surprises. My partner and I filled a drum full of water and attached a rope to it. The rope went down a steep cliff which turned to mud once the first person to pull on the rope caused the water to flood the slope.  A weekend with the SF guys could provide special one-of-a-kind entertainments. Most have a nick name and I have friends all over the world with this group. Many know my nickname but not my real name. I used the hash to unwind and misbehave with like minded adrenaline chasers like myself. https://www.gotothehash.net/ . 4000 people, many like me may attend the world hash. You get the idea.

1997. A friend of mine’s daughter was murdered. I was planning to talk to my motorcycle buddies that I played pool with most days about some special gifts for him in prison. He was released on bail. I decided to leave on a trip before I got into real trouble with Canadian law enforcement. I was speeding down the 401 driving to Kingston from Montreal in my sports car in a blizzard. I was using a radar detector and it went off. I made the mistake of hitting the brakes and the flashing lights of the OPP car about 800 m behind me lit up. I left the detector on my dash. The police officer approached and asked for my licence and insurance. I spoke to him in my best Georgia accent as he looked at my Georgia documentation. Long story short, I was told not to use my detector again in Canada, not to speed and have a good day. He assumed that I had just crossed the border and I really had not seen any signs stating detectors were illegal. It really was snowing hard. I told him that I thought the signs were in mph not km, a small white lie. Perception is reality.

I had to quit skiing and kayaking because I was hurting my back too much too often. I can carry 100 pounds in my arms but get hurt picking a raspberry. Other adrenaline seeking activities that I now no longer complete include washing dishes, shoveling snow and cutting the grass. Those exhilarating experiences are completed by others.

June 2015.  Outward Bound Sea Kayaking. Sea Kayaking in the Bay of Fundy in dense pea soup fog with boats nearby will tend to get one’s adrenaline pumping if this is the first time one has experienced it. I asked everyone if they were afraid of sharks, and several admitted it. I told them to be extra careful putting their hands in the water. I explained that seagulls can’t see in the fog and therefore land on the water until they can see to safely fly. They agreed. I then continued that shark can see that it is pea soup fog and know that now is the time to eat seagulls. Most of them had been in combat in Afghanistan and were now terrified. Just as we were to pass the mouth of the Grand Manan harbour, the ferry came out of it about 75 m in front of us. The others forgot that many of us had radar reflectors and that the ferry could see us. We waited calmly until the ferry passed and the leader said go. Sharks who cares? Some would have won an Olympic medal in sprint kayak.

We had the best weather for the first days, a monsoon for 2 days and then nice weather the last two days. Midway through the monsoon, we could not safely kayak any further and a decision was made to camp in a location that the guides had never used before.  Conditions were 25-35 kph wind, constant rain that might become freezing and cold. The tide was changing and the current moving faster than we could paddle. Dusk was in an hour. We were wet, tired, hungry and very outward bound. We landed beside a long thin finger of land that resembled the prairie rather than New Brunswick. There was a white toilet on the end of the land. It flushed when the tide rose above it. That’s what I thought of their campsite.  I also used it much to the distaste of some of my peers. One does not pass up a luxury when rough camping in bad conditions.

The guides began organizing the camp site in the grass and I walked away. I was asked where I was going and I said to look for a campsite. I was told that we were camping in the prairie grass and I yelled not me as I disappeared. I found a small road with a swamp on either side. My recce proved that I can pick a campsite. I finally convinced the chief guide to at least consider my option. We ended up camping on the trail for about 50 meters in length of tents. Inside a dense spruce forest (= dry wood which we picked like apples from a tree without leaving the road), elevated above the water and rain puddles, out of the wind and soon warm. I instructed a field engineer to remove the grass from the road in one piece large enough for a cooking fire and then dig the hole. Once we were done, we would replace the dirt and grass and the farmer would not know. He was not happy that he had to dig a hole while I walked away. I soon came back with a BBQ grill and large bricks that I had scrouged from the landowners cottage. We now had a team cook site. Soon we were singing like boy scouts. I disobeyed an order again, delivered a better solution which was accepted and saved the trip. During my brief to the group leader, he asked me why we did not camp at an area he liked on the way to mine. It was closer to the beach. Other than still being in the open, it was also growing swamp plants. This guy was awesome with kayaks and knew nothing about rough camping and land. Just because they are the expert in one area, don’t let them bamboozle you into bad decisions that they are making when you know it is not only wrong but dangerous. The bonding that occurred that night remains today with this group. This really was adventure training. Not exactly the kind I wanted but get ready for the curve balls of life. I returned the scourged material and the engineer filled the hole. It was the best but worst camping experience all in one night.

I came close to dying on the trip as well. I once again learned that my body will tolerate some abuse beyond its limitations for a short time. I ignore it at my own risk. I did and my body taught me a lesson I will never forget. The sun was shining, the birds were flying, and the group was pushing to finish early on a great beachfront camp site. The leader asked if anyone needed a break to stretch etc from the days paddling and as no one else said yes, I made the decision to suck it up and not say yes. My back was sore and a 10 minute stretch would really help me.  We paddled on and my pain grew. We got close to the campsite and the leaders led the way to the beach to secure their campsite and the others chased them. I became the rear guard and was soon a few hundred meters behind them. My back started to spasm and I was in agony. From previous experience I knew that soon I would pass out. I paddled, battled the pain, started to cry and as I could not talk, was screaming in pain. I was 100 m away in the fast, bone cold sideways racing current. I paddled and fought to not pass out. I think someone saw or heard me when I was 50 m from the beach. By now I was a raging screaming battling animal. I made it to shore, was helped out of the kayak (I could not move, I was a mass of cramped muscle), and I lay on the gravel with all the others staring at me. 5 minutes later I was setting up my campsite. The threat of imminent danger allowed my body to continue until I hit the beach. My body then totally cramped and I could not move. My adrenaline, endorphins and all those other good chemicals ending in” ine “ that the body makes kept me going. I was never afraid, I was mad, angry and fighting the world to reach shore.  Never ever give up. Your body can and will do anything it will to survive. Once the act or danger is over, the body shuts down to recover. You have seen the pictures of soldiers with the 1000-yard stare. That is where they were when that picture was taken.

My back pain in NDHQ had caused me to pass out and I remember waking up between the walls of a row of cubicles. No one saw me. I told no one. That was a good way to lose operational postings. I would have passed out from the pain in a house much sooner instead of not passing out kayaking. I would have been upside down, unconscious and maybe ejected from the kayak maybe not, soon out of sight of the others and forgotten for how long? Wikipedia says that the water temp in June would be around 8-10 C. It also says that survival time in that water is 1 to 3 hours while one will become exhausted or unconscious in 30-60 minutes. I was already exhausted when I would have passed out. If I did not drown (I usually float and had a life jacket on,) I had up to three hours to be found in the water as I was too far from shore to swim in the current which would have swept me by the small island.

Had I died the root cause of my death would have been my pride.  I did not want to delay the rest and would not waste 10 minutes. Of course, others would have wanted a break and I followed my assumed peer pressure which I usually do not. I am the opposite now ammolite mining. I brief my partner on my current limitations and what I expect that I can do and will not do. The day I expose him to risk because of myself, is the day I stop.

I was later the safety kayak on a scout canoe trip. Once again, I watched as all the other leaders took off when we were about a km from the end and all the other canoes chased them but two. Both capsized and had I not stayed behind as tail end Charlie, issues would have arisen. It took us an hour to get all the canoes, scouts and drifting material collected and to the end. No one thought to wonder what happened or to look for us. The war in El Salvador had 5 minutes left to go until midnight. Two soldiers were fooling around with a grenade, the war was over, and they killed themselves. If you have counted the deaths and potential for death in these stories, many have occurred when the adventure was over or almost over. People relax, the end is near, and they race to the conclusion leaving others behind or without supervision. Beware of the end of a major activity. People get careless, overconfident and get needlessly hurt. I have seen it too many times.

Other interesting moments not mentioned in any of the articles before include watching John Glenn ride the Space Shuttle and watching a secret US military satellite (they said billions in investment) blow up beside me at night while I was driving down Hwy 90 in Florida. It was the biggest fireworks I will ever see. I can still see both of these events. I was in a blizzard and tsunami in Hawaii, the fire in Oakland in 1991, a 6.5 earthquake in Costa Rica, floods in Acapulco and hurricanes in Mexico while on vacation. I have been in Las Vegas and Orlando with frozen ground.  Stay away from where I vacation. If you want to pay me to ruin someone else’s vacation, I am available for hire. I also won the baby in the cake at Mardi Gras and all the prizes in a day long fishing derby (I was the only one to catch a fish and at least it was big).  I have seen a UFO. I was the King of a Castle in Germany for 4 days (fulfilling a bucket list item I made when I was 7) and had never failed an exam or course until I arrived at RMC. I know many that rowed that boat with me in my class. Just a few short years ago, I was the Scouts Canada Troop Leader of the largest scout troop in Canada; 42 youth and 17 leaders. We won a quality award and I know we helped change the life of many scouts. I wear my scout medal with pride.

Future Goals: Covid stopped my whale shark skin dive and sailfish trip at Isla Mujeres in 2021. I am booked for 2022. I will continue to work with ammolite for the rest of my life. Some of my work should be for sale in the RMC kit shop before this article is published. I will continue to mentor and assist disabled veterans. I will continue to write.  I will continue to design and build marlin lures and art. I will catch a world record fish on a lure I built. I will win $70 million in Lotto Max and pay for the new RMC museum.  I will remain sober and married.  I will continue to catch big fish, often.  I will teach my grandchildren to catch bigger fish than their father. That should provide enough adrenaline to keep me happy and safe. I may freefall again when I am 100, or fly across something in a jet pack to claim the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest dumb ass to try it.

If the topic of the impact of adrenaline and soldiers interests you, I suggest that you watch the documentary called Restrepo. The soldiers were shot at so much that they started going crazy when they did not have their daily firefights. They lived for that first shot and the fight. They didn’t care about getting hurt, they wanted the adrenaline rush. It is such a good film that even the civies like it. The book is also good reading.

Adrenaline Humour. 2014. I had just completed a week of the Outward Bound mountain hiking program for Veterans in Banff. I was a scout troop leader as well. The troop was climbing to the Burgess Shale that weekend ie, starting in 2 hours. My climb was to be 12 hours. No problem, I was fit and excited for the hike. Myself, 4 other leaders, 15 Scouts and 2 Parks Canada Rangers left as a group. I was in the front at the start, middle in the middle and the convoy sweeper by ¾ of the way up. One of the guides dropped back to accompany me. It turned out although tall, he was a 14 year old Park volunteer and baby sitting me. So much for being fit. I made it and the hike down was a piece of cake. The Burgess shale has 500 million year old fossils.

While on an Outward-bound hike, I saw the tracks and very recent work of a female grizzly bear and cubs. It had been digging up the tunnel of an Albertan ground hog called a marmot. Our professional guide had no idea what this bear sign was. I told the group on the way down because I did not want them messing their pants for the next 2 hours. We were climbing higher than the bears. They were certainly bear aware on the way down. Just because someone says that they are an expert does not mean that they are. The guide had no idea how to use bear spray either and had never used one. She was an expert on how to properly destroy used toilet paper on the side of a mountain. Our guides were forbidden to guide us in BC. Some of the veterans on the course had never been to BC. We could drive to the BC border from a hike location in 10 minutes. They refused until I told them to drive to the border and stay in Alberta. We as a group less them, would walk the 20 feet into BC so that those first timers in BC could get their picture taken with the sign. Welcome to those in civie street that have no gray zone and do not understand their own regulations.

I could continue to tell stories but enough said already. If you similar to myself in this aspect, I hope that you can stay safe in your pursuit of adrenaline happiness. Both in and out of the military. TDV