It all started about 15 years ago, on a guide training paddle out around Cape Flattery. There were about a dozen of us paddling from Hobuck Beach to Neah Bay, just a day trip, and we'd stopped for lunch at the little pocket beach right at the corner of the cape. Most of us had brought some kind of food to share ... somebody cooked some pasta, there were cookies, things like that. I had a foil envelope of smoked salmon and some cream cheese and as we were passing it around, someone said, "Now, if we only had a fine red wine to go with this, it would be perfect."
That's when the light came on.
I had been to this same beach about a month before this, on a solo trip where I'd spent the night right at that same spot. Before I left the next morning, I had stashed a bottle of wine up the hill a ways, at the base of a giant fir, with the notion that I would come back someday to enjoy it. Trouble was, I had kind of forgotten about it.
Until that moment.
I scrambled up behind the rocks and through the underbrush to the base of the tree. The bottle was still there (of course.) I came back down to the group, a big, stupid grin on my face, and soaked up the happy noises and vague praises from my paddling companions. We passed the bottle around, enjoyed every drop, and that day a tradition began.
In the years that followed, I hid about forty bottles of wine in a variety of places all over western Washington and parts of British Columbia. In hollow trees, under rocks, at the base of stumps and behind boulders. Because the first bottle had been a Jacob's Creek wine, that became the brand of choice (although I did branch out a bit later in the process.) I was able to go back on subsequent trips and do the same trick, pull out a bottle of Merlot or a fine Cab, at the most opportune times, from their hiding places on Strawberry Island, Sucia and the southern tip of Marrowstone Island.
Some of them were found by other lucky souls, but there are still about 20 of them out there. Hard to say what shape they're in now, but I have yet to open one that has gone bad. (I've always stored them with the cork down, in a place that wouldn't be likely to go through temperature extremes, and it has paid off.) I am feeling the need to go a-hunting soon; it has been a while since I've sampled my stock.
There's something about putting a dirty, vintage bottle on the table, with the label hanging off in some places, gone in others, then pulling the cork and pouring a glass all around. With the sun setting over Rosario Strait or the wide Pacific and a vial of red wine in your hand, the world is indeed all it should be, if only for a moment.