So Long Old Friend

It was recently announced that Wholesale Sports will be shutting its doors. I feel it is important that I pay my respects. 

When I was a kid, it was always exciting to come to the city because it meant we might go to wholesale sports. I can still remember the layout of that old store and how I would drool over the airguns. When the new location opened, I couldn’t believe how spacious it was. When I finally moved to the city for university I, of course, applied. I told the manager I was willing and able to work in any department. I was hired on in the camping section with the understanding that I would train and fill in for other departments when they needed it.

It was at that camping kiosk that I read my first Capstick book. That turned into a lifelong addiction to books on African hunting and exploration. It was from that old used rack that I bought my first deer rifle. I paid $450 for a used Ruger M77 in .243, I’ve still got the sale papers for it buried away in my safe. It was also that job that financed by trip to New Zealand and Fiji. When I got back from Fiji I had $0 in my account but I walked into the store and was given a job, at the gun counter this time. It was all those conversations with hunters over the years that made me decide to take up bear hunting. It was those Capstick books that convinced me to write about it, and it was a coworker who told me to send my story into Alberta Outdoorsmen. It ended up being my first published story. When I finished university I moved on to a job on an oil rig. It paid well but was short lived, I was laid off and Wholesale saved me again, this time with a job in their warehouse. That job helped keep Erin and me afloat until our wedding and trip to South America.

My first deer rifle

I don’t know what their reason for the shutdown was but I would speculate they placed the blame on outside competitors and overall market down turn in the face of Canada’s current recession. I also have some strong held beliefs that some things could have been done much better, but that is simply a byproduct of working on the ground floor of a company for nearly a decade… You get to see behind the curtain from time to time.

Wholesale has announced that their last day of business will be December 28, 2017 until then there will be a continuous clearance sale. So when we go to cash in on the sales and pick the flesh from the bones of the dead.. lets try to remember that this old relic of the past was once a hub of education for young hunters. It also helped more than one person become who they are today… for better or for worse.


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Jasper’s Big Weekend

Erin and I had a pretty crazy weekend, it appeared we were double booked, plus we wanted to go hiking. Naturally, there was no compromise. First, we took our young Jasper to the Vermillion fair where we learned that he doesnt mind crowds, but has a real problem with heavy draft horses… I think its the bells that make him go so crazy. I also came to the realization the a fairway is dog heaven.. its covered in food and interesting smells.

After the fair we went to the farm where he just ran and ran to his heart’s content. The following day we went on a four hour drive to meet up with some friends to go camping. Again, Jasper was in his own version of heaven, the campsite was full of dogs and people willing to feed him.

The following day we drove another three hours to the town of Jasper. I giggled most of the way at the thought of taking Jasper to Jasper. We arrived late in the day and scrambled to find a campsite, as we pulled in there was a big no vacancy sign. I decided to go ask if they knew about the other camp grounds.. it turns out that sign was lying and they had a site we could take. We took it, set up camp, and made dinner.. smokies, cooked on the camp stove, with caramelized onions… because I’m fancy. The three of us cuddled up in our tent and froze all night. Erin was cold from the air mattress bringing the cold up from the ground and I was cold because Jasper stole my blankets. The things we do for our pets.

keeping an eye on the camp site

must be his rock

Jasper dog park

In the morning I made my super secret homemade pancakes and some homemade bacon I got from my step-dad at the farm. It was exactly what I needed. In fact, I was so set on that breakfast that I made a trip into town the night before to round up some maple syrup, we took Jasper to the dog park at the same time, it was quite nice. After overfilling ourselves on breakfast, we broke down camp and headed to the trail head. We decided to do Whistlers, its a hike that takes us up to the gondola which we can then ride down and hike along the road back to our car. Its also one of the few pet friendly hikes in the park. The higher alpine ones they are worried about dogs harassing the caribou.

Breakfast of champions

The start of the trail was heavily treed and consisted mainly of switchbacks. Jasper loved it, so much to smell. As we approached the treeline we had to cross a few rock slides. The trail was very well marked and not too treacherous but from Jasper’s low vantage point it was quite daunting. So Erin carried him, which allowed me to snap the best picture I have ever taken.

hiking up the switch backs

Best Picture I’ve taken yet

Always climb the rocks

Erin Taking a picture

The fires in BC reduced visibility

Just lookin good on the trail

All along the hike we crossed paths with people who had to stop and pet him and ask his name. All were excited about his name. We also crossed paths with a few marmots, Jasper was not a fan but luckily we kept him on his leash so he wouldn’t harass the wildlife and they were inclined to keep their distance. We reached the gondola and decided to go a little farther up the trail. Im out of shape so my legs were killing me from the 7km uphill, Jasper was still pulling me up the hill. Along the route we met a friendly stranger who stopped to pet Jasper and poured some water from his bottle into his hand so the dog could have a drink. It was a very kind gesture.

one of the many animals Jasper didnt care for

We reached the first summit and I had decided I was tired enough, we still had a gondola ride down. We headed back to the gondola and purchased tickets for the ride down.. and an “I heart Jasper” sticker for my water bottle, I couldn’t resist. While in line we started talking to the kind stranger who had given Jasper some water, he had a family with him and they all had English accents. We crammed in the gondola like sardines and made the 15 minute ride down. We still had to walk from the parking lot to our trail-head, about a 5km walk along the road. As I readjusted the gear in my pack and dug out my sweater, the English family took one more chance to pet Jasper before heading to their vehicle.

Erin and Jasper

Taking in the view

Some Cool Dudes

Erin and I were walking back along the road to our car when a camper pulled up beside us and yelled “hey Jasper, want a ride?” Erin and I shrugged and said “sure” so we hopped in with the English family and chatted while they drove us. It turns out the gentleman who shared his water was from Vancouver and everyone else was visiting from England. My guess was they were his aunt, uncle, and cousins, but that’s purely a guess. I asked him to drop us off at the turnoff about a mile from our car as the road was really rough and there was no sense subjecting that nice family and their rented camper to those kinds of roads. We hopped out and thanked them for the ride. They waved and were on their way to explore more of our country. I got the impression they’ll fit right in.

After we reached our car we headed for home and I finally made a point of stopping and walking around in that nice shallow water just off the road outside of town. For years I had been driving passed and saying “eh, next time”.

Walking on the beach

he just never looks at the camera

 

P.S. Sorry mom, I got into a vehicle with strangers. But don’t worry, I had a terrier to protect me. 


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Little Shovel Pass

Despite all the time I’ve spent outside, I, for some damn fool reason, have never gotten around to actually going it alone. A few weeks ago I went to Jasper by myself and stayed in the huge public camp ground. This weekend, I decided to up it a bit and try a solo back country hike.

Early in the week I called the booking office and asked what they had available for the weekend, I was told that all they had left was a campsite at “Little Shovel” it is one of the first stops for people doing the famous Skyline trail. As I only had one night, my plan was to simply hike into the campsite, then in the morning hike to the pass, take in the views, and hike out the way I came in.

Saturday morning I drove to Jasper, and was thoroughly annoyed when I hit a heavy traffic jam at the entry gates to Jasper. It is understandable that there would be a line, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that I was trying to escape the city, and its traffic, only to be stuck in traffic at the park. Finally I got into the park and checked in at the park office and headed to the trail head. It was a lengthy, but scenic, drive passed Maligne lake. I parked my car, loaded my gear on my back and hit the trail. This would be my first run with my new backpack, a Tenzing TZ 6000, which I have purchased with the crazy idea of someday doing a back country hunt…….. someday… someday.

I immediately noticed that I am too tall and too thin for it.. I did some tinkering and found that if I maxed out the waist belt it finally snugged up enough to be useful, after a few hundred yards of walking I found that the pack settled into a more comfortable position. That said, it still wasn’t as comfortable as my regular pack, and old kelty that has more miles than most cars… so maybe its not a fair comparison, at this point my body may have broken into the pack and not the other way around.

A Little Extra Strapping

A Little Extra Strapping

Anyway, lets continue. I noticed on the drive in that some of the landscape was recovering from a fire a few years ago. Much to my delight, so was the trail. It was neat to see all the old burnt trees standing stoically while the green grasses and shrubs displayed their vibrant green around them. All along the trail I noticed there was nearly an infestation level of squirrels, they were cute, but it also made me think about hunting some. I have always wondered what they taste like, they are popular table fare in the USA so they cant be that bad right? The trial was initially well packed, wide, and on a gentle grade. As the miles went on the trail steepened and turned to switchbacks. It was still clearly marked and well worn, the Skyline trail is one of Jasper’s most popular so that’s not surprising. All along the trail I munched on energy bites and dried apples and bananas. I prefer to walk and snack instead of stop for lunch, I find it easier on my stomach to eat small amounts over a long period instead of gorging myself, which I can easily do as I have extremely limited self control.

Beginning Of The Trail

Beginning Of The Trail

Along the way I passed a few small lakes and ponds, most showing a beautiful turquoise colour and filled with dead fall. They looked exactly what you imagine a pristine alpine lake looks like. I was the second of 8 parties to reach the campsite so I certainly had my pick of where to set up camp. I looked at the remaining sites and chose the high ground, for no particular reason beyond it was level and I remember being told, in my childhood, that high ground was an advantage for some reason. I set up my tent and then went to the eating area and had a boiled egg and some orange bell pepper that I had chopped the night before. I then went and laid in my tent for a few hours.

Alpine Pond

Alpine Pond

Bridge on The Trail

Bridge on The Trail

Selfie on The Bridge

Selfie on The Bridge

Campsite Number 5

Campsite Number 5

My Bedside Table, Good Reading Is Important

My Bedside Table, Good Reading Is Important

Dinner With a View

Dinner With a View

I was half asleep when like a thundering herd, a family with a small army of children came roaring into the campground. As best I could tell, the three young boys were having a yelling competition, if so, they had all certainly brought their “A” game. No doubt they were professionals. I decided I best go use the “bathroom” before I lost the daylight. For those of you unfamiliar, a back country bathroom is essentially a toiled seat on a large drum with some wood that goes about half way up your back for privacy. It is nice to be out in the open and take in nature while doing what nature compels you to do, however, there is always mosquitoes to… hurry the affair along. At any rate, I needed to use the facilities. I grabbed my toilet paper and wandered toward the toilet. Along the way I stopped and chatted with the parents of the amateur choir. Unfortunately, while I was chatting, one of the kids ran up to the table and grabbed their toilet paper and ran off. Knowing that privacy was limited, I decided to wait around at the eating area for the kids to come back before heading to the facilities. To my understanding, based on what I had heard, the kids decided that the mosquito infested toiled was better used as a drum set/ sound stage. I got so tired of waiting I decided to go back to my tent and wait for the noise to get closer before attempting to use the washroom. After about an hour of spirited yelling and kicking of the facilities, they finally decided they were hungry and I climbed out of my tent and finally got my chance.

Throne

Throne

I went to bed and began to read my book, again, hampered by the noise outside. Eventually the parent intervened, I guess eleven pm is the curfew for yelling in a campsite these days. I am glad that parents are trying to get their kids into hiking and the outdoors, dont get me wrong, but people hike 10 km into the wilderness to get away from people and noise, or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, that all seemed like nice people despite being a little rambunctious for my mood. As dark descended, sleep did not come easy, even in the quiet of night. I tossed and turned most of the night, in the early hours of the morning there was some gusts of wind and a bit of rain, but nothing exciting.

The next morning I had another boiled egg, this time it was called breakfast. I then hit the trail to see Little Shovel pass, long before anyone else in the campsite got out of bed. I stuffed some more dried fruit in my pocket along with my bear spray and a bottle of water. It took just over an hour to reach the beautiful alpine meadow and another half hour to reach the end of it, and the sign declaring it the pass I was looking for. I then spun on my heels and headed back to the camp ground. I quickly broke my camp and headed back toward the trail head.

Just a Few Miles of This

Just a Few Miles of This

A Patch of Flowers I found in a Little Dip

A Patch of Flowers I found in a Little Dip

Proof!

Proof!

Along the way I passed a few muddy patches with what looked like either moose or elk tracks. I could tell they were fresh because there where still wet track on the dry parts of the trail. When I came to a nice wide bend with a lake below I was sure I had lost the tracks I had been lazily following, I stopped to dig a granola bar out of my pack. Below me in the lake I heard water splashing. I thought at first it might be a person, this left me in a strange dilemma. If it was a person, it would be creepy to sneak down silently and watch them, if it was wildlife, announcing my presence might scare it off. Luckily my question was answered when I heard a deep grunt, at this point I was sure it was a moose. I stayed quiet and leaned left and right trying to get a good view through the trees when I suddenly heard more splashing. Slowly a swimming cow moose, making her way across the small lake, came into view. I was watching intently when two hikers rounded to bend ahead of me. I waved, made a shushing motion and pointed at my eyes and then to the moose. They were as enthralled as I was. After a few short minutes the moose was across and the hikers and I crossed paths we exchanged a polite “good morning” and a “good eye” and we were on our respective ways. Unfortunately it was simply too far away to get a good picture, sorry. Someday Ill invest in a good camera.

I made it to the parking lot, loaded my now heavy backpack into my little car, changed into clean clothes and began the long drive back home. I had set out to do what I wanted, do a solo hike. I just hope that next time its a little more solo. I also hope that that family keeps hiking, and never gets dissuaded by grumps like me.


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Jasper and The Sulphur Skyline

 

“It is not, he muttered, the hasty ascent up the thorn tree when you are being chased by a rhino that hurts so much. It is that long trip down.” – Robert Ruark on hunting rhinos

 

I woke up on Sunday morning and just felt like going camping. I have been knocking around the idea of doing more solo back country camping, and ideally some back country hunting too. The problem, is that I have never really camped alone, so I decided the best way was to ease myself into it. The plan was simply to go camping, at a campsite, and see how it goes. I loaded up some food, grabbed my gear, and hit the road. It rained intermittently but quite torrentially the entire drive there. I was undoubtedly considering turning back, but I had already committed to this idea and figured I had best follow through, even if it meant camping in the rain. As I paid my entrance fee to the park, the sky began to clear. The weather was beautiful the remainder of the evening. I checking into a small camp site, waved at my neighbour and set up my tent and sleeping mat. I then loaded some wood into my car and hauled it to the site and set to making a fire. It was not pretty. Surprisingly, I am terrible at making fire. Typically when I go camping, I get Erin to make the fire for us. After I expended about a half box of matches I had a nice fire roaring. I reheated some chicken breasts over the fire and enjoyed them with some iced tea and a bell pepper. I then spent the remainder of the evening relaxing and reading a book. It was everything I wanted it to be.

It Took Some Time But I Did Make Fire

It Took Some Time But I Did Make Fire

Supper

Supper

Sitting by that fire and slowly turning the pages, daydreaming about the days of old time adventure, I had an interesting realization. I have always wanted to be an adventurer and a hunter, but my dreams were crushed when I got so sick I had to come home. While reading my book “The African Adventurers” By Peter Hathaway Capstick, I noticed that many great adventurers had horrible bouts of illness. Frederic Courteney Selous was once so sick he had to trade his gear to locals to get them to carry him to a mission… I sympathize. They all also fought danger, including being ambushed by tribes of cannibals, more than one of them was held at gunpoint… been there. They almost all left with money and came home nearly bankrupt… currently there. They all also did their best to write about their adventures after the fact… please tell your friends about my website. The point I am trying to make,is that the overly romanticized lifestyle I want never has been, and never will be, easy. With today’s technology and globalization, the only thing that has gotten easier is giving up and going home. Which in hind sight is something that I can add to a seemingly growing list of regrets.

After the light was gone, I put the book away,  let the fire burn down and sat alone with my thoughts, then went to bed. The night passed without any excitement. I had trouble sleeping, attributed mostly to me not quite being able to get comfortable in my sleeping bag. The next morning the sky was threatening to rain. I had some apples and peanut butter for breakfast before packing up my camp. I had to laugh, in my haste I did not think to bring any plates so I used the small tourism pamphlet that I was given at the gate. It reminded me of an old bachelor my dad told me about. Apparently he had a sears catalog nailed down to his dining table and would use it as a plate so when he was done eating he could just rip the page off and throw it in the garbage instead of having dishes to wash. It was smart, in a way, and only worked with the sears catalog because they had the glossy pages that wouldn’t get soggy from food sitting on them.

Bachelor Plate

Bachelor Plate

After I tore down my camp I hit the road and headed to the Miette Hot Springs. On the way from jasper to the hot springs I made a few roadside stops that I had been meaning to make for years. Just those little pull outs that you always say “ah next time, I’m in a rush today” it was neat to see some of the roadside monuments to brave individuals traversing the wilderness in pursuit of gold. I also got to see some beautiful views a short walk off the highway, hidden behind a hill.

A 30 Second Walk From The Highway

A 30 Second Walk From The Highway

Once I got to the hot springs, I loaded up my day pack and began hiking the Sulphur Skyline trail. It was listed as 4 or 5 hour round trip hike, and quite strenuous as it is a steep climb. The trail started as a wide asphalt walkway, which then turned into a rocky trail and eventually just a walking path through the trees.

The Early Part of The Trail

The Early Part of The Trail

I wandered through the switchbacks keeping my pace up as best I could and found I was overtaking a lot of fellow hikers. I made a point of saying hello to everyone. There was a hard push to the summit just passed the treeline. It was a bit of a scramble on the bald mountain but I made it to the top, took a few pictures and enjoyed two boiled eggs and some iced tea for lunch. I then turned back and headed back down the trail.

View From The Treeline

View From The Treeline

Summit Selfie

Summit Selfie

Along the way I started picking up speed to the point where I was outright running at times. I stopped a few times and said hello to some of the hikers I had passed on the way up. I would like to think I was just being friendly but I worry I was kind of rubbing it in their faces how fast I was. When I reached the trailhead, I checked my watch and saw that I had done the entire hike in about an hour and forty five minutes. I guess my almost daily exercise is paying off, but I was definitely tired. I learned that treadmills have got nothing on mountain trails. After the hike, I grabbed my shorts and soaked in the hot springs for a few minutes and then started the long drive home.

A Panoramic From The Summit

A Panoramic From The Summit


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Adrian Goes Outside

I had originally wanted to go to jasper and try a solo back country hike, but I couldn’t find any information online about available hikes. I called the tourism center and explained that I couldn’t find anything online, I was then berated by a man with a french accent for daring to talk down about the jasper website. I checked the site and it was essentially useless, except for the advertisements for Banff, which reminded me I have a friend in nearby Calgary that would likely appreciate a good hike. I texted Adrian, and sure enough, he was on board for a day hike on Sunday, we decided Canmore would be more fun, and closer. 

Saturday evening I drove straight from work and got to Adrian’s house, in Calgary, quite late. It was the first time I had seen him since my wedding and the first time we have really hung out in a few years. He gave me the tour of his house and we played some video games, it turns out I am still terrible at them. We then packed it in for the night as we knew an early morning was on the way. Adrian’s two cats, Asher and Bowser, seemed insistent on making sure I didn’t sleep.

The next morning we headed for Canmore. The night before we had looked into a few trails and that morning we went to the tourism center to find out about conditions and recommendations. The people at this center were far more helpful than the ones manning the phones at Jasper. We decided on Buller Pass it was the right length and difficulty, the drive there was scenic too.

We arrived at the trail head, parked and crossed the road to begin. The trail started as dense forest, a few bridges, and a slight incline.

It's Important To Start Hikes In High Spirits

It’s Important To Start Hikes In High Spirits

As we came toward the end of the dense forest and into the thinner alpine forests we stopped by a creek so I could take a picture for a young family. Just thought I should throw in how nice of a guy I am. We then came across one of the trails offerings, a small but scenic waterfall. The constant water flowing had carved a small pool in the bottom, not big enough to swim in, nor would we want to in the only 10°c weather.

No Diving

Going Strong

Going Strong

After the falls, the trails switchbacks grew steeper and the views grew better. The trail seemed to hover right at the tree line for a long time until it broke into a small meadow with a few meandering streams crisscrossing it. From there it was bare rock and snow all the way to the top.

At The Treeline

At The Treeline

At The Treeline

At The Treeline

Above The Treeline

Above The Treeline

As we approached the summit, the wind started to pick up, the temp dropped, the hills got steeper, and the skies started to get dark. When we got to the top the wind was cold and strong but the view was amazing. We took a bunch of photos as well as did our fare share of hooping and hollering.

Victory! Note The Clouds Moving In

Victory! Note The Clouds Moving In

View Of Ribbon Lake

View Of Ribbon Lake

Always Add To The Inukshuk, That Rock Came From The Trailhead

Always Add To The Inukshuk, That Rock Came From The Trailhead

High Wind and High Altitude Selfie

High Wind and High Altitude Selfie

We then turned back down the trail. Heading out is always faster but we knew we had to hurry, the weather could turn on us any second. It wasn’t long before we were stung hard by hail and a strong headwind. On one of the snow patches, I started laughing at Adrian for slipping and falling on his rear, karma got the best of me and I was immediately given a seat as well, it seemed a reasonable time to take another picture of our adventure.

We Crossed Several Slick Snow Patches

We Crossed Several Slick Snow Patches

When You Both Land On Your Backsides, The Best Thing To Do Is Laugh

When You Both Land On Your Backsides, The Best Thing To Do Is Laugh

Eventually we reached the treeline which helped to shelter from the wind, the weather was starting to improve too. We decided to stop at the little creek and have some lunch. It turns out in our falls we had crushed our lunches, Adrian’s cup-of-noodles was crushed rendering it and his heavy thermos of hot water useless. Nothing hurts more than packing a heavy item you cant use. He at his raw noodles and I was still able to enjoy my crushed up boiled egg, they’re pretty hard to destroy beyond edibility.

Lunch Break

Lunch Break

We eventually reached the trailhead and rejoiced at the sight of Adrian’s truck. On the ride home we discussed how he will likely now spend all of his money on hiking gear and that we are for sure doing this sort of thing more often. It was Adrian’s first “real hike” and we both learned a few things. He learned the value of light weight gear, and that Styrofoam cups aren’t a good idea. I learned that… um… what did I learn?? Oh, I got it! I learned the most important lesson of all: Hikes are better with friends.

 

This was my first major attempt at anything remotely adventurous since I’ve been home. I’m confident saying I can still hike like a madman. Its comforting to know I can still do some things. 


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Patagonia

The cold morning air wrapped around me like an unwelcome blanket, just the slightest of breezes slashed across my exposed neck. I know it was my my fatigue that made me feel so cold, but that knowledge didn’t provide an overwhelming amount of comfort. The wind in Patagonia is well known, and for good reason. The wind in the middle of a city rivals only that of the wind on a Canadian mountain summit. The difference being the wind in Canada feels like it belongs there, in Patagonia it feels like an entity with bad intentions. My stomach felt like something was trying to escape and I barely had the physical or mental strength to stand. The taxi pulled up two houses away, Erin waved and he pulled up to us. I hugged Erin and she gave me a kiss. It was dark, but I knew she was crying; my tears not far behind either. She quickly let go said an abrupt goodbye, spun on her heels and quickly walked back to the small guest house we had been renting. She spared me a long goodbye, and deep in my heart I thanked her for it. I climbed into the taxi and headed for my five a.m. flight. My South American Adventure was over, all that was left was a forty hour nightmare of airplanes and lay overs. I pitied and envied Erin, she had a lot of adventure left ahead of her but she had the misfortune of having to do it alone. 

Erin and I flew into the town of Ushuaia, Argentina on Saturday morning. I was a bit taken aback by the airport. It was a small single runway affair, with large timber beams that made it resemble a cozy mountain lodge. Our hostel was only a few kilometers away from the airport so we decided to walk. The decision was influenced by the fact that the walk was along the seaside, which offered us a beautiful view of both the sea and the surrounding mountains.

The View From The Airport

The View From The Airport

We got to the hostel, got settled into our dorms, and walked into town to get some groceries. The next day we did a hike up to a glacier. It was at the far north end of town and the first portion of the path was along a (closed for the season) ski hill. I still can’t help but day dream about catching a flight to Patagonia in the middle of august to go snowboarding.

The Hills Only Chair Lift

The Hill’s Only Chair Lift

Our trail quickly went passed the top of the chair lift and went from a wide gravel road to a narrow packed pathway. It took us through some amazing mountain scenery, over a few bridges, and eventually to a glacier… The first snow I had seen in a very long time. We stopped, had eggs, bananas, and croissants for lunch and then found our way back down to the trail head. All said and done it was only about a two or three hour hike, but it offered views usually associated with an all day hike.

A Few Small River Crossings

A Few Small River Crossings

Erin On The Trail

Erin On The Trail

I Found This Funny... Because We Are In The Southern Hemisphere

I Found This Funny… Because We Are In The Southern Hemisphere

Made It To The Glacier

Made It To The Glacier

The next day we really felt like challenging ourselves. We went to the nearby Tierra Del Fuego National Park to do the hardest trail listed: Cerro Guanaco. I am told the name translates to “Alpaca Hill”. A shuttle picked us up at our hostel, drove down every street in town to pick up other hikers, then headed to the park. The bus stopped at the gate so we could pay our entry fee then the driver was kind enough to drop us all off at which ever trailhead we asked for. We were told that our chosen hike was four or more hours each way and warned not to begin it any later than noon as the last shuttle back to town was at 7pm. We started our hike a little after 11am so we decided we best hustle a little, lest we have to spend the night in the Patagonian wilderness unprepared. It would make for a good story but it only gets to about 12 degrees Celsius during the day and I have a hard time imagining night time being anything other than cold.

The first part of the hike was steep uphill through a densely wooded forest filled with thick trunked trees. I also noticed that a lot of the trees had large burls on them, which I found very interesting. I later learned that burls are the result of stress, damage, or illness in trees. So its possible that some sort of disease went through the forest at some time. The dense trees started to thin out and then we found ourselves at the edge of the strangest patch of trees I have ever come across. Our path led through a patch of the most twisted and tangled tree I had ever seen. I couldn’t understand it the trees grew in any direction and, apparently, often changed their minds about what that direction should be. I spotted one that had grown in an almost perfect four foot loop. It looked like a haunted forest in a Disney movie.

The Haunted Forest

The Haunted Forest

After the haunted forest was a mud hole. We cautiously walked along the edge, trying not to lose a shoe until we reached a gravel creek bed to walk along. Our trail then led us across a seemingly open field. The field, however, was soft wet ground and required care and caution to navigate, for fear of the soft ground sinking into the water. I accidentally learned that the water was about the depth of an ankle.

Across the field was the final portion of our hike. A very steep trail etched into the crumbly shale on the mountain side. This would lead us to the summit of the mountain and reward us with beautiful views of the park, the town, and the ocean. Going up the final section Erin and I passed a group of people playing in a patch of snow on the mountainside, on the way back we would overhear that they had never seen snow before.

Surprisingly, we managed to reach the summit in just over two hours. It turns out we had hustled needlessly. We took a bunch of pictures and made our way back down, enjoying the scenery just as much the second time through. All said and done our hike took us just over four hours total.

Patagonia

Erin And I At The Summit

Perfect Patagonian Panoramic Picture

Perfect Patagonian Panoramic Picture

Its Always Fun To Strike A Pose

Its Always Fun To Strike A Pose

The Hike Back Down

The Hike Back Down

On our third and final full day at Ushuaia it was far too windy and rainy to do anything of note. We just relaxed and planned our trip to Chile. The next morning, bright and early, we jumped on a bus at traveled eleven hours to Punta Arenas, Chile. It was nice to see the Patagonian country side through those big windows. We spent a few days in Punta Arenas and then I caught a plane home, and Erin took a bus to her next adventure, a nine day hike around Torres Del Paine. Hopefully I can get her to write it up for us all to enjoy.

By this time, many of you are likely wondering why I came home early, and why Erin didn’t. Well, the truth is, I am sick. I have had IBS for many years now. While travelling it got worse. A lot worse. I was stressed and not eating much; in fact I lost about 50 lbs in five months. I often found myself staying in the hostel, sick, while Erin would go do activities alone, or waste the day in the hostel. I was essentially paying big money to hang out in cheap bunk beds with a stomach ache. So we talked about it and decided it would be best if I came home and got control of my diet and stress and tried some new treatments. Erin wasn’t sure if she should keep traveling without me or come home with me, so I put my foot down. I told her to stay and travel. She is a more experienced traveler that me and she is no stranger to solo travel. Furthermore if she did come home with me there isn’t much she can do to help me recover, and it would mean ending the trip of a lifetime very early. 


Posted in Hiking, Travelwith 2 comments.

Three Days at The Edge of The Amazon and My Sanity

The Amazon might be one of the last blank spaces on the map. Its jungle so dense it can swallow entire cities and there are still, supposedly, uncontacted civilizations. That idea amazes me, that there are people living in the jungle like they have been for thousands of years that have no idea that the outside world exists. Makes me wonder if we are missing anything. Despite delusions of being a writer, I am aware that I am no explorer, but Erin and I decided to go to the town of Mocoa, which is referred to as “The Gateway To The Amazon.” From there…things got a little strange. If I am not mistaken, Mocoa is one of the last towns in Colombia that has easy access to the amazon jungle. Any deeper into the Amazon and its boats, plains, and muddy roads. Mocoa is located in a region that used to be quite dangerous due to rebel activity, but they are currently in peace talks so we didn’t think security would be an issue.

The journey to Mocoa was done in a very full, very smelly mini-van down a winding road that nearly made me lose my lunch. Erin and I checked into our hostel located on the side of the road a few kilometres out of town. We caught a “camioneta” truck into town for some lunch, and then walked back to relax at the hostel for a few hours. After dinner, we started to watch a movie with a British couple. It was a low budget Nicolas Cage film, and it was thoroughly awful. I cannot even describe how awful. So we gave up on the film. We left the common area and walked down the stone path to our four bed dorm that we shared with a  French couple. We were laying in our beds reading for about ten minutes when we heard an alarm go off in the distance. We didn’t think much of it, in Colombia there are always car alarms and building alarms and false alarms going off. This alarm wasn’t stopping though, it had been a few minutes and it was still roaring. We pulled back the curtains and looked outside and all of the sudden the hostel staff came running past our building screaming in terror. All I could think was, “Here we go again.”

I jumped off the top bunk and told the French couple to shut off the lamp and I dead bolted the door. I quickly got dressed. In my mind I was thinking, “If I’m going to get shot, kidnapped, or in some kind of fight, I want to be fully clothed.”

We then took to hiding our valuables as fast and as quietly as possible. Phones went under mattresses, and computers went behind shower curtains. Erin went into the bathroom at the back of our little cabin, and the french couple huddled together on the creaky bunk bed beside the window, which didn’t strike me as a good place to hide, but I didn’t feel like correcting them.

I knelt behind the big steel door and pulled my metal pen out of my pocket. My logic was, the steel door is a barrier, if they get through it, they mean business, and I have to become the second barrier. I wasn’t sure if it was robbers looking for money, in which case its smarter to cooperate, or possibly rebels looking to kill people to upset peace talks or kidnap someone for ransom. Granted the last two are unlikely, but still ran through my mind.

After a few tense minutes, we thought we heard the police outside, we cautiously peered through the curtains and confirmed. The French man and I went to see what happened and instructed the girls to lock to door behind us, just in case it wasn’t all over.

It turns out that shortly after Erin and I left for our room, two gunmen came into the common area and took wallets and phones from the British couple and a computer from the reception. Had Erin and I still been sitting with them, we would have lost 2 phones, and iPad, and a computer to the thieves. We just missed being hit by a second armed robbery because we couldn’t tolerate another minute of the Nicolas Cage film. Maybe I should write him a thank you letter?

The next day, over breakfast, the British couple informed us they were checking out and moving to a hotel in town, closer to the police station I assume. That day Erin and I did a hike to a waterfall called “Fin Del Mundo” or “end of the world”. It was a muddy, hot and humid hike over big roots and slippery logs. There were several swimming holes and a cafe placed under an outcropping on a cliff. It was amazing to see. The hike ended abruptly when the trail dead ended at a waterfall that was eighty meters tall.

Swimming Hole

Swimming Hole

Erin And Me

Erin And Me

About The Size Of My Entire Hand

About The Size Of My Entire Hand

As Close As I Would Get To The Edge

As Close As I Would Get To The Edge

Erin On The Edge

Erin On The Edge

That night, a few hostel guests decided to partake in an Amazonian ayahuasca ceremony. Its a drug commonly used by shaman in the amazon to help take people to the spirit world. It is supposedly famous for helping people find enlightenment and have epiphanies. I know some people who have tried it and all speak highly of it. That said, one of the side effects is vomiting, which from what I understand, is seen as a sigh of cleansing and your body purging stress and tension. Ayahuasca does have a few instances of people being killed by it, and on rare occasion, killing while on it. For me, no thanks.

That night,I lied awake in by bed beside the window, listening to ten people vomiting in unison. A chorus of people vomiting is a hard thing to hear without joining them. I didn’t get sick, but I didn’t sleep much either. Between armed gunmen and drug use, I was starting to wonder if I was in Apocalypse Now. A few more days in the jungle and I might have had to adopt a dog or start surfing.

I was not looking forward to the next morning. We were set to take a bus to the town of Pasto. The road we were taking is colloquially known as “The Trampoline of Death“. I can’t make this stuff up. It called that because it has wild altitude changes along a narrow winding mountain road. It is the most dangerous road in Colombia. A friend of mine who had taken the trip a few days earlier posted pictures of a bus that had gotten hung up on a guard rail along the road, which did not decrease my sense of foreboding.

Erin and I arrived at the ticket window and bartered the seller down to a price we were happy with. When the driver looked at our tickets he was pretty upset and told us we had to pay more. We refused, and told him this was the price we agreed upon, and the deal was already done. No worries, he sat us at the back where it was the bumpiest. I guess his plan was to take that money out of my spine. In the three back seats was myself by the window, Erin in the middle, and an absolutely unconscious young man who smelled like a night of hard drinking leaning on Erin. She shoved him off, and he slumped back over. She grabbed his head and repositioned him and he never batted a lash.

After a few good bumps and hairpin turns he fell on her again. She devised a plan, she leaned over him and leaned his seat way back and hers way forward so he couldn’t fall on her shoulder again. I was glad he didn’t wake up for that, there might have been some explaining to do. The rest of the trip wasn’t too bad, a few nerve racking passes on a road about 1.5 cars wide. Towards the end of our trip the big van stopped hard and Erin’s seat neighbour neighbour slid straight out of his seat like it was a water slide. With a bang he landed on his back on the floor, and just kept sleeping. I was likely a nice shade of red trying to hold in my hysterical laughter. The whole van was laughing with me though.

After we checked into our hostel in Pasto, we went to the grocery store to grab food for breakfast. On the way back we passed a square with some live music and a lot of people dancing and all around enjoying themselves. We walked up to the back of the crowd and enjoyed some music. We then noticed two older men in front of us, one was drinking beer from a tall can and the other had clearly already had his share. He was short man with white pants, a white shirt, a fedora, a lime green jacket, and matching lime green shoes. The well dressed man was dancing up a storm, and I knew exactly what was coming. He spotted the two tall gringos and felt the need to do his civic duty and give us some dance lessons. He was friendly, polite, and didn’t speak a word of english, and man, could he dance.

I did my best to mimic his moves, and he was supportive but I just wasn’t getting it. He then showed Erin and they did some spins and had a grand time. Her dancing is much better than mine. We decided to leave before I got too jealous of such a good dancer spending time with my wife. As we left he shook our hands, smiled and waved. Then his friend came and shook our hands and handed Erin a warm, tall, beer can from his pocket, and wished us Felíz Navidad. It was a local Colombian brand, and hey, free beer is free beer I say. We went to our hostel and went to bed, we had to cross the border to Ecuador the next day and I was hoping our excitement would give us a day off.


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Volcanoes, Flat Tires, and Rain

Erin and I decided to do a highly recommended hike up to the Purace Volcanoe. We left our hostel in Popayan and caught a two hour bus to the park entrance. As soon as we got off the bus, a friendly fellow traveler, with a german accent, asked if Erin and I would like to join him and his three friends, and split the cost of a guide up the volcano. I said “sure” before I could see the look on Erin’s face that suggested we didn’t want a guide. He did prove useful in finding the park though, it turns out the bus actually dropped us off at a turnout and we had to walk through some farmland and various gates to get to the entry.

At the park entrance we paid an entry fee and began following the guide up the trail. The german man was very chatty and a little strange, in a good way. He struck me as a bit of a goofy fun loving kind of guy. He wore a black hoodie, baggy multi coloured pants, and what appeared to be worn out combat boots. He also had with him a satchel that, as best I could tell, contained only his phone, camera, and a blue tooth speaker so he could play music from his phone, which was actually quite enjoyable. The four people we were hiking with, and Erin, were all wearing jackets and scarves and couldn’t believe I wasn’t cold in just my button up flannel shirt. It wasn’t cold, but it was windy and luckily all my clothes seemed to be pretty good at blocking wind. As the hike progressed it was clear that Erin and I were a little faster than the rest of the group and began to pull ahead. Usually we would hike ahead, stop for a break and our german friend would catch up and say hello.

Approaching The Volcano

Approaching The Volcano

My Attempt At Artistic Photography

My Attempt At Artistic Photography

As we got higher and higher it began to get a little chilly and very windy. I pulled my gloves out of my backpack and clipped them to a belt loop via a carabiner, I didn’t need my gloves yet but I figured it wouldn’t be too long before I did. I also clipped my hat to the carabiner and pulled the buff from my neck and spun it into a toque for extra warmth. As we started walking again the german guy caught up and asked if I was cold. To which I replied “not really”, he then pointed at my gloves and asked “Can I borrow?” not wanting to be rude, I handed them over. He was clearly cold as he had wrapped his head with a scarf and pulled his hood up already. I told him I needed them back once the trail got steep because I tend to crawl on all fours due to my fear of heights.

Erin Navigating Some Cattle

Erin Navigating Some Cattle

Volcano

Working Our Way Up

Surrounding Land

Surrounding Landscape

After another hour or so, the trail started to get steep and he quickly handed the gloves back and thanked me. I was glad to have them back, I was getting chilly and my hands were getting weak… I even had to roll down my sleeves. Finally we could see the top of the volcano, we were on a peak beside it. We had to walk down a little valley then up a series of switchbacks to make it to the summit. Unfortunately, just as soon as we saw the top of the volcano, clouds rolled in and covered it. Erin and I climbed into the clouds and the wind howled. Finally, after I nearly gave up from exhaustion, we made it to the summit… and we couldn’t see a thing. The clouds were so thick that we could only see a few meters and the wind was so strong we had to lean into it. It was an amazing experience but the view was non existent. I was also a little proud of myself as we were the first people to reach to summit that day.

Switchbacks To The Top

Switchbacks To The Top

Almost At The Top

Almost At The Top

View At The Top

View At The Top

View At The Top

View At The Top

We headed down and passed the german and his group and informed him they were only a few hundred meters from the finale. They were very glad to hear it. On the way down we also passed a lot of people who got a later start and a few that seemed to be having a really hard time with the cold. It made me sad to see such small kids having such a hard time, but in hind sight it was impressive they made it that far.

View From The Top

View From The Top

On Our Way Down, Passing People Going Up

On Our Way Down, Passing People Going Up

The Way Way Back

The Way Way Back

Eventually we made it back to where the bus dropped us off, there was a nice dutch couple who had been waiting for an hour already. I guess the 2:30 bus didn’t make it, a common occurrence in Colombia. We stood around for another two hours or so, and a few other people joined us in waiting on the side of the road. Finally a collectivo arrived. For those who don’t know, a collectivo is a pick-up truck with two bench seats in the back, facing each other and a canvas top covering it. There is also always a rack on top of the canvas for luggage. They run much like a bus just with less capacity. This collectivo had room for about 2.5 people. The dutch couple climbed in first, then Erin squeezed in beside the dutch girl and I handed her the backpack. The truck then started to drive away. I didn’t have a lot of time to think so I just jumped on the bumper and grabbed the luggage rack. I have a fear about splitting up when travelling and Erin was carrying the money, so it would have been a long walk home. In a panic, the dutch girl got Erin to sit on her lap and I sat where Erin was and left my legs hanging out over the tail gate.

Watching The World Go By

Watching The World Go By At 40 km/h

A few bumpy and uncomfortable miles down the road the truck stopped. I peered around the side and saw that we had a flat tire. I was actually really happy about that, it gave us a chance to get out and stretch, they replaced the tire with a spare and then we got back in with a better plan. The dutchman and I sat on the benches with our legs out the back and Erin sat in the middle on the spare tire with her legs out the back as well. The dutch girl got a crammed, but safer, seat behind her boyfriend. It was a far more comfortable arrangement.

Legs Off The Back

Legs Off The Back

Having A Great Time

Having A Great Time

Unfortunately as we got closer to town, it started raining.. Hard. We dropped the canvas cover down to protect us from the rain but the trade off was that we got covered in dust. It wasn’t so bad, and we had a lot of fun. We made it to town and shared a taxi back to the hostel where a hot shower was a welcome thing. Post shower, the only thing on my mind was food, lucky for us only a few blocks from the hostel was an Italian restaurant that served the best steak I have had since getting to South America.


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Geraldine Lakes

To my knowledge, my future Canada Days are booked indefinitely, for Erin’s family’s reunions. To be fair, Erin’s August long weekends are also booked, forever, as my family get together. But this year, something strange happened, Erin’s family skipped the reunion, and I was now stuck with a stat holiday on a Wednesday. It was obvious that I only had one choice, book the Thursday and Friday off as well, and run as far away from the city as I could Maybe bring Erin with me. I have recently uploaded a video with some of the footage of the hike, here’s the link.

On Tuesday, Erin and I both came straight home from work and packed all of our camping gear and went to bed. After a sleepless insomnia kind of night, we got out of bed at 4:30 am. Erin started driving and I started sleeping. By about 9 am we were in Jasper, just in time for the visitors center to open so we could get fishing licenses and a back country permit.

We went in to the center and were helped by a very friendly older gentleman. We  told him our intent was to hike Geraldine Lakes and do some fishing. Immediately he warned us of the dangers of the hike, as did our guide book. The hike consists of several steep patches of climbing up boulders and rubble and if it is a wet season the rocks can become very slippery. The hike is not recommended for beginners. We heard this from multiple workers at the info center, books, and websites. I was glad they were looking out for hikers, but it was starting to sound like a broken record. We assured everyone that we were experience hikers and that we had sturdy boots and hiking poles – both of these items are worth their weight in gold when hiking. While there, I asked about the fishing in the lakes along the trail. The man helping us drew a blank, as evidenced by his deep-in-though stare into the distance, and said, “I’m not sure”.

He began asking his coworkers if anyone knew anything about the fishing in the multiple lakes along the trail. No one seemed to have a clue. Suddenly, an idea struck the man helping us! He wandered into the back and returned with a dusty old coiled binder that consisted of weathered pages that had clearly been photocopied long before I was born. Based on the font, the original had been typed before my parents were born. It was a book with maps of most of the lakes in the park as well as lists of which lakes had been stocked with what fish. He then explained that in the 1930s the tourist information center used to have a fish hatchery in the basement, and park workers would take the fish to stock the lakes. The Geraldine Lakes, it turns out, had been stocked with brook and cutthroat trout in the mid 1930s. No restocking or reports since then… I bought the licence and packed my fishing gear anyway.

We drove to the trail head, I was pretty excited when we turned off the main highway. I was led to believe that it would be a bit of a tricky “off-road trail”. I guess the guide book throws that term around pretty loosely. We finally reached the trail head and parked beside a lovely little hatchback that the owner had accidentally left the window down on. Erin and I changed into our hiking gear, put on some sunscreen, grabbed our hiking poles, and hit the trail. The first portion of the trail ran along the edge of the first lake and was relatively flat and treed in. Eventually we came out of the trees at the bottom of an old rock slide with a waterfall running alongside it. A quick scan of the area and the cairns at the top made it clear, it was time to climb. We slowly made our way up the first rock slide. Once at the top we wandered through some more trees. Eventually, the landscape opened up and we were standing on the edge of a small rocky valley, almost completely devoid of any vegetation. There was, however, a hoary marmot sunning himself on a rock and it clearly did not care that we were there. We opted to keep our distance anyway. We crossed the rocky valley which also took us across the stream that connects all of the Geraldine lakes. As we walked along a large pond that the stream created, I saw a lot of small fish rising and feeding. I was ecstatic to see this, any fisherman gets excited when he sees fish rising. More importantly, this meant that this pond that was part of the Geraldine lakes chain, but was too small to actually be a lake, had supported a trout population since the 1930s. This meant that the lake at our campsite would most likely also contain fish, and hopefully they were as hungry as these fish. I didn’t want to risk running out of daylight, and I was worried that the trail might get a lot harder. So we decided to keep hiking and fish the second Geraldine lake by our campsite, once we got set up.

First Geraldine Lake

First Geraldine Lake

Catching Some Rays

Catching Some Rays

The Pond Full of Hungry Fish

The Pond Full of Hungry Fish

We walked a narrow path around the pond which turned into a treed trail that followed the stream, It was around this time that the trail turned back into hopping boulders. On one stretch that consisted of apple sized gravel, Erin spotted a very large spider… and it had an egg sack on it. Naturally my first instinct was to kill it, preferably with fire. I then realized it could probably hold its own against me in hand to hand combat. Instead of getting violent, Erin and I just snapped a few photos and walked away. I did look over my shoulder a few times to make sure it wasn’t following us.

NNNOOOOOPPPPEEE

NNNOOOOOPPPPEEE

The forest we were walking through slowly turned to shrubs. We could now see the second waterfall, and our next climb. We decided to stop at a nice clearing by the stream and have a snack before attempting the climb, I would need the energy. For lunch we had Erin’s world famous boiled eggs. It was exactly what I was craving that day, which is lucky because it was the only lunch option anyway.

We Stopped Beside This Stream For Lunch

We Stopped Beside This Stream For Lunch

We came up to the waterfall and looked at the trail. It looked bad. To me, it looked almost straight up and covered in loose shale with patches of icy snow. Erin wasn’t even phased, but I was terrified. I hate heights, so I just started climbing. It soon became clear that I had been too short sighted, and accidentally ended up on a more difficult track. I slowly, and carefully, climbed across the incline back onto the trail and resumed climbing. Eventually I got almost to the top, then Erin pointed out that I had gone too far and had to climb down a bit and cross a patch of snow to get back on the trail. In my delirious and terrified state, I decided against climbing down and then across. Instead I would just shimmy my way in a straight line to the trail where Erin was now standing, and spectating. As soon as I changed directions I knocked a rock the size of a soccer ball loose. As I watched it tumble down the hill picking up speed and bouncing higher and higher off the ground I started to question my decision making skills. I had a seat and slowly slid my way across a patch of icy sun melted snow and inched my way toward Erin. I made it, but believe me there was no shortage of swearing.

Time To Climb

Time To Climb

Skidding Back Over, Eventually I'll Put My Camera Footage On Youtube

Skidding Back Over, Eventually I’ll Put My Camera Footage On Youtube

View From The Top

View From The Top

Just A Little More Bouldering To Get To The Top

Just A Little More Bouldering To Get To The Top

Finally we were there: Second Geraldine Lake. Now we just had to walk around it. It’s about 1 km of boulder hopping. Careful stepping and use of poles for support is both slow and exhausting. Interestingly, along the edge of the lake was a tin canoe that was chained and locked to a tree. My belief is that someone had flown it in, I simply cant imagine it being portaged in. The fact that someone had gone through the bother of bringing in a canoe gave me more faith that there were fish in this lake.

The Second Geraldine Lake

The Second Geraldine Lake

We finally hopped, braced, and crawled our way to the campsite. We set up our tent and hung our food up so the bears couldn’t get it. I then assembled my fly rod and headed for the shoreline, Erin decided to come along and keep me company while I fished. I quickly learned that the water was too cold to stand in, so I found a nice rock along the shore to stand on. I threw my first casts… and they were disastrous. It appears that over the winter, I had forgotten how to cast a fly rod. After an hour or two my casts were starting to get a little better.

At This Point I Was Just Practicing My Casting

At This Point I Was Just Practicing My Casting

A Nice Photo Erin Got

A Nice Photo Erin Got

I could see fish swimming in the lake, all about 3 inches long, but I couldn’t seem to get anyone interested in my hook. After some unsuccessful fishing, and a loss of patience on my part, we headed back to have some dinner. We ate some dehydrated meals I had previously made for a hunting trip that didn’t work out. While eating dinner we had a nice chat with two other hikers who had arrived while we were fishing. After dinner we decided we were tired enough for bed, so that was we did.

Just A River Running Through Our Kitchen

Just A River Running Through Our Kitchen

I Don't Like To Share Food With The Wildlife

I Don’t Like To Share Food With The Wildlife

It's My Blog, I'll Post Pictures Of Myself... Erin Says I'm Handsome..

It’s My Blog, I’ll Post Pictures Of Myself… Erin Says I’m Handsome..

The evening was a little cold, especially for Erin. She was so cocooned in her sleeping bag I wondered if I would wake up next to a butterfly. When morning came Erin thawed out fast. It was a little funny for me to see her struggle to emerge from her sleeping bag. I eventually drug myself out of bed and we had some oatmeal for breakfast. We then tore down camp and started heading out, I decided not to bother trying to fish the lake again there didn’t appear to be any action on it anyway. We worked our way across the boulder field we had crossed the day before and started working our way down the steep slope at the waterfall. Erin put my action camera on her head and told me to cross first. With a lot of shaky weight on my hiking poles, I finally made it across the patch of snow only to have Erin start throwing snowballs at me… at least shes got a sense of humor I guess. As I continued my cautious walk down, I heard a lot of shale move above me. I quickly turned to see Erin sitting on the side of the hill. My first though was that she started to slip so she sat down. I asked

“Is the camera still running?”

“Is that seriously your first question?”

“Well…. would you like me to throw snowballs at you? It helped me.”

“I’m not OK!”

“Oh crap, what happened?!”

She then explained that she lost her footing, and her knee twisted and took the brunt of the slid. Injured legs are bad, but they’re really bad on a hike, and they’re really really bad at the top of the first of two steep cliffs on a trail made of awkward sized boulders. She sat a moment, collected herself, and assessed how injured she was. Luckily, Erin is a lot tougher than the likes of you or me and she was able to stand up and keep moving. We made our way to the bottom of the hill and to the pond. I decided to stop and try some fishing, since the fish had been so active the day before. As I put my fishing rod together, we noticed another marmot had taken an interest in the trail mix Erin was snacking on. It kept disappearing into the rocks and re appearing a few feet closer. At its closest, it was probably only about six feet from Erin, at which point she noticed how big the claws on a marmot are and quickly stood up. The marmot, upon realizing Erin’s size, did a very impressive 180 and scrambled away, struggling to get traction on the smooth boulders.

Back Down By The Waterfall

Back Down By The Waterfall

Bigger Claws Than I Expected

Bigger Claws Than I Expected

"Get My Good Side"

“Get My Good Side”

It's Cute So It Gets Lots Of Pictures

It’s Cute So It Gets Lots Of Pictures

With the wildlife excitement behind us, I began fishing. All the while keeping an eye out for our friends return. I cast over and over and had multiple fish interested. I even had some biting my hook, but they were too small to actually be hooked.

Fishing The Pond

Fishing The Pond

Another Angle Of The Pond

Another Angle Of The Pond

Waterfall Between The Second Lake And The Pond

Waterfall Between The Second Lake And The Pond

Eventually we decided that we should probably move on and see if we could find a campsite near town for the night. We wandered down the last cliff and made our way to the trailhead.

Bonus Pic: We Found A Boulder Hanging Out Over The Last Waterfall

Bonus Pic: We Found A Boulder Hanging Out Over The Last Waterfall

At the end of the hike I was quite impressed with myself and my ability to jump along the boulders and my slowly growing ability to deal with heights. I was also glad to see that there were, in fact, fish in the lakes. Even if I didn’t have the skills to catch them.

We then headed to town to look for a campsite. Unfortunately every site was booked and the best we were offered was just a spot in an open field. I suggested we just do the 4 hour drive home and sleep in our own bed. Erin said she wanted to camp another night and that we should just go to a campsite near Hinton. So we compromised and went to a campsite near Hinton. It was nice, but expensive and there were a lot of kids running around making noise right beside our campsite. It was nice to have s’mores though, and after a back country hike sleeping on an air mattress, and using a real toilet is a real step up.

AT $45 a night they've got some sense of humor... or gall.

AT $45 a night they’ve got some sense of humor… or gall.

The next day Erin and I drove home, had showers, picked up her brother and drove north to meet her parents at Calling Lake. We spent the weekend relaxing on the beach and it was great.

 

 


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An Okanagan Wedding and A Yoho Camping Trip

I was cordially invited to be Erin’s plus one at her cousins wedding in Kelowna. Me, not being a fan of work, opted to take an entire week off. Erin did the same so her and I could make the most of our trip. We arrived in Kelowna on Thursday, around dinner time, after making the drive from Edmonton all at once. We enjoyed dinner with Erin’s parents, who had arrived earlier that week. We then promptly went to bed.

The next day, the wedding was scheduled for 4 pm, so in the morning we hiked up Knox Mountain. We got thoroughly lost on the way to the mountain and ended up parking in a nearby suburb and hiking to, then up the mountain. The way up served as a pleasant reminder that I was out of shape. Once at the top we met a nice couple who was kind enough to take our picture for us.

I Crossed Tongariro Without Issue, Now I Struggle Against Knox Mountain.

I Crossed Tongariro Without Issue, Now I Struggle Against Knox Mountain.

 

After Knox Mountain, I was invited to accompany Erin and her family to a few local wineries for tastings. I came along but didn’t taste much, due to my strong disliking of wine. I did however take the opportunity to grab a few bottles of wine for various family members. Come hunting season I may need the brownie points.

Eventually the time came for the wedding. It was an outdoor venue at the golf course, the bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, and the ceremony was excellent. Then while the wedding party took photos, I somehow found myself at the bar, drinking gin and tonics for the first time since the Yasawas with the singing Aussies. The dinner was delicious, the speeches were heartfelt, the MC made Erin and I, as well as many others, play some silly games as part of the entertainment. I continued to drink gin and tonics as though there was a competition, and I was going for a landslide victory. Eventually the night wound down and the wedding ended and we all shuffled out, content with the events of the evening.

Not My Usual Attire, Especially On This Blog

Not My Usual Attire, Especially On This Blog

We had originally intended to drive to Yoho national park the day after the wedding. We decided, possibly due in part to the bar at the wedding, that we didn’t feel up to making the five hour drive to go camping that day. So we book another night in another hotel and Erin went with her family to a few more wineries. While Erin was doing more tours, I decided to go check out the local museums. As luck would have it. The two museums I wanted to see, The Okanagan Heritage Museum and The Okanagan Military Museum, shared a parking lot. I was impressed by both and highly recommend them. After all that Erin and I spend a little time on the beach and then joined most of the wedding party and family for a small barbecue that evening.

The next day we made the lengthy drive to Yoho. Due to several stops to grab supplies, and some time slowing construction zones, we arrived at our trail head late in the day. We also made a point of stopping at a place called “The Log Barn.” On the way to Kelowna we kept seeing bizarre billboards for the place and when we drove passed we saw a big main building, a few small ones and a lot of strange statues that didn’t appear to have a main theme… So we still had no idea what it was, so we figured we’d better stop in on the way back. After going there and looking around I’m still not entirely sure how to describe it, it is a takeout restaurant/candy shop/gift shop/Mennonite butcher shop/petting zoo/tourist attraction IS the simplest way to put it. Not making sense? OK heres some pictures.

Entrance

Entrance

Still No Theme.

Still No Theme

Found My Retirement Home.

Found My Retirement Home.

The Goats Also Worked A Pulley System To Get Feed Above The Parking Lot.

The Goats Also Worked A Pulley System To Get Feed Above The Parking Lot.

After thoroughly inspecting the establishment and not making much sense of it, we grabbed some food and headed to Yoho. Our plan was pretty simple,  drive to Yoho and hike to our first camp site at Yoho lake, about 4 km in on the first day. The second day make the 11 km hike along the scenic Iceline trail to Little Yoho for our second night. Then on the third and final day make the 10 km hike back to the truck and drive home to Edmonton.

We arrived at the trail head at about 5 PM and packed last minute on the tailgate of my truck. I was rather grumpy at the time because I hate being in a rush, especially for something like back country camping when its getting this close to winter. Luckily Erin’s sunny disposition got us through and onto the trail. The hike was 4 km of what felt like straight up, I sweated and wheezed my way to the top, all the while wondering if maybe a ladder would have been an improvement to the uphill character of the trail. Eventually we made it to the top and set up camp and were able to cook and eat a can of stew just as daytime hid behind the mountains. That night Erin and I slept inside our sleeping bags with a survival rating of -6 Celsius. Keep in mind those ratings are survival ratings and NOT comfort ratings… also they’re usually theoretical. Erin had a sleeping bag liner to help, and had fashioned her buff into a toque for extra warmth, and I had packed a fleece blanket. It hit nearly zero that night and I am prone to tossing and turning, the fleece blanket quickly fell off and I froze. Despite going to bed in fresh dry clothes and being cold all night, when I woke up in the morning I still felt damp and a little miserable, but that’s part of the fun of camping. I got dressed, we made some oatmeal for breakfast, then we packed up and headed out.

Erin Grabbed This Excellent Photo While I Got My Beauty Sleep.

Erin Grabbed This Excellent Photo While I Got My Beauty Sleep.

In the morning mist and shade of the trees, the hike was initially a bit chilly. We gained elevation quite quickly and pretty early in our hike we found ourselves just above the treeline.

Early In The Day, At The Treeline.

Early In The Day, At The Treeline.

As the hike progressed we gained even more elevation and found ourselves walking along the rocky slopes with little to no vegetation in the area. The hike was very scenic, we took a lot of breaks for beef jerky and trail mix, and bumped into a surprising amount of hikers considering the time of year.

Just Above The Treeline And Exhausted.

Just Above The Treeline And Exhausted.

Well Above The Treeline.

Well Above The Treeline.

I Made Good Use Of The Various Glacial Streams Intersecting The Trail.

We Made Good Use Of The Various Glacial Streams Intersecting The Trail.

The trail was long and scenic, it occasionally jutted out to a higher vantage point, most of which I declined to climb due to my crippling fear of heights. Eventually our trail dipped back below the treeline and along the various switchbacks that lead us to a bridge across a wide, shallow, fast moving, gravel bottomed stream near the Alpine Club’s cabin which was only a few hundred yards from our campsite.

Always Bring A Map.

Always Bring A Map.

We found the campsite and I was happy to see we were the only campers there. We set up the tent and made our bed then went off to cook some rice and chicken. I cooked mine first and discovered that the camp stove runs too hot and burns the rice on the bottom of the pot while still leaving the rest of the rice crunchy in the middle. I started to choke it down while Erin cooked hers, she opted to add too much water and make it more of a soup to prevent the burning, she claims it was actually pretty good. I guess looks can be deceiving.  After dinner we sat on the river bank and enjoyed a chocolate bar we smuggled into the food bag. The weather looked like it was about to rain so we retired to the tent to chat and play games on Erin’s phone. Just before dark I decided I better go to the food bags and grab a quick granola bar for a snack before bed. I tucked my pajama pants into my socks, so as not to get mud on them, put my boots on and stepped out of the tent, I wasn’t going far so I didn’t bother to put on my glasses. Ill bet I looked good sweat pants tucked into my socks and squinting at everything, good thing we were alone. While I was Grabbing some snack action out of the food bag I saw a blurry looking man walk into the common area of the campsite, so I shouted a hello to him. He then froze on the spot, looked at me, said nothing, then walked away into the bush… If you’re ever back country camping and want to creep out other campers, just do exactly what that guy did. It was so strange I was wondering if my eyes were just so bad that I imagined a person there. After my snack I went back to the tent and grabbed my glasses before heading to the outhouse. On my way too and from the bathroom I looked around and didn’t see any other tents set up… It was the strangest thing, where did that guy come from… or go?

That night Erin traded me the sleeping bag liner for the fleece blanket, and we both fashioned our buffs into toques. It didn’t get quite as cold the second night and I slept substantially better. Unfortunately when we awoke in the morning it was raining quite steadily. We packed up camp in the rain, Erin dawned her rain gear, and we fashioned me some rain gear out of garbage bags because I have been continually neglecting to buy some. We decided to skip breakfast and eat snacks and granola bars on the trail.

Erin's Boring Rain Gear.

Erin’s Boring Rain Gear.

My Awesome Custom Rain Gear.

My Awesome Custom Rain Gear, Its Called Fashion. Look It Up.

We made the soggy hike out, all the while I was day dreaming about gin and tonics. The 10 Km hike was mostly downhill and not too rocky so we were able to hike it in just under two hours. We made it back to the truck to discover that in our rush I had left a soft sided cooler in the box of my truck. Some birds were kind enough to empty it for me, but it was up to Erin and I to pick up all the garbage they had spread out.  We unloaded our bags into the truck and headed out. We hit the first fast food joint we could find, and on the drive back we stopped at the tourist office and bought a map for the area I plan on hunting in a few weeks… But Ill tell you all about that later.

Eventually we made it home, unpacked our gear and dried out tent out in the garage. I have decided that maybe I should buy some rain gear… maybe.


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