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Week Eight: Home

July 12th, 2015

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We’re back. We pulled into Peterborough, Ontario late one night last week, ending the journey by reversing into the same parking place in which we had loaded up the van one and a half months ago. There was an overwhelming rush of emotion – a strange concoction that never quite revealed what it was, but felt like a bittersweet mixture of relief, accomplishment, emptiness and slight anti-climax. We think they all stemmed from the fact that we never thought we’d actually do it. There were too many variables, too many ways in which something could go wrong. In the end, it all went fine. The things that went wrong had solutions better than the original plan

We last left you on our way to the Grand Canyon. We made it there as planned and cooked ourselves a simple meal whilst watching the shifting light of the sunset slowly leave the canyon floor and then its walls. We returned to Page, Arizona that night but not before seeing the moonrise opposite the setting sun above the eastern side of the canyon. Beautiful symmetry.

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As the sun set in the west, the moon rose in the east. Photo by Sam

 

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The setting sun burns up the walls of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Sam

            The next morning we drove into Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park. Robbie, our archaeologist had suggested this stop and we are thankful to him for it. Mesa Verde was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. The park is home to some of the world’s best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites. It was almost as fun to explore the area and listen to the ranger-led talks, as it was to just watch Robbie walk around smiling. Absolutely in his element and so happy about it, his good mood was entirely infectious. We spent two days at Mesa Verde, a stay that unexpectedly became one of our favorites of the entire trip.

Mesa Verde National Park | Image provided by: http://www.listofwonders.com/mesa-verde-national-park

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Robbie, a happy archaeologist. Photo by Sam

 We left Mesa Verde to begin a journey that was ultimately the last homeward leg of the journey. Almost. First, we had one last stop to make – we had been talking about white water rafting for the longest time and our last chance to do that was before we left Colorado. We got out on the Lower Animas River after a period of extended rainfall. The water level had fallen enough for tours to restart just earlier that day. The rapids were insanely fast compared to how we’d imagined they might be and the water still rose to frightening heights at times. We made it though, thanks to the help of an awesome guide, who despite leading us through the most turbulent sections of water, managed to keep us all safely aboard. It was crazy good fun, a great last activity to do together before we got back into prairie country.

 

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A break in the rainclouds, Colorado. Photo by Sam

 

We zoomed across Nebraska and Iowa to reach Chicago the next evening. It was here that we would be saying goodbye to Dian. She was flying back to Europe ahead of us to take up a great opportunity to work at a Dutch festival that had suddenly presented itself.

 

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Having a quick (long) splash in Lake Michigan the day before Dian’s flight home. Photo by Sam

 

Saying goodbye hurt. It signaled the end of the road trip and the six weeks of fellowship that the five of us had shared. The journey back to Peterborough that followed was not the same, it was something different – it served no purpose other than getting us home.

 

Final tally

The final tally. In a straight line around the equator that’s almost halfway around the world.

 

We’ve all gone out separate ways now. Robbie home to Scotland for summer, Lara to Indonesia for a research project, Sam to Indiana to visit friends and Ciaran to Washington D.C. to meet up with friends for another month’s worth of North American travels. After so much time together you begin to expect one another’s company forever. Now that we’re all apart it’s comforting to think that the journey we shared and unforgettable experiences that came with it will bind us together strongly enough that ten, twenty or fifty years down the line when we’re all grey and old, we can do it all again.

Of course, we plan the next trip to be much sooner than that – hopefully you can all join us when that time comes. Thanks for reading, and thank you to Osprey for the fantastic gear!

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Norway Skibuskineering

July 2nd, 2015

 

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Known as the birthplace of skiing, Norway has probably been the subject of most backcountry skiers’ dreams. It has always been on my radar after watching the Norwegians dominate the Olympic Cross Country Ski events over the years, not to mention the stories of endless daylight and sweet terrain.

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There’s only one problem Norway creates for  skiers…it just happens to be one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. Be warned my fellow skiers: Norway is the 5th richest country in world, as is visible in the sculpture-laden streets of all the towns we visited. Here are some examples of what things cost in Norway as opposed to Canada:

  • Laguna Burger, no fries: $30 CAD. California patio with beach views not included.
  • Corona beer: $25
  • Gasoline, per/litre: $2.25
  • Last minute car rental: $199 per day

Having a lifetime of practice in ski bohemia, I knew we could stretch a budget. But Norway’s prices and our lack of preparation before this trip made for quite an uphill battle. Luckily we don’t mind ‘earning’ our turns, and our Norwegian Ski-Bus-Skineering mission began.

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We started in Oslo, but the classic fjord skiing was waaaaay up in the Lyngen Alps in the North. Following a quick Facebook check, I noticed that our friend Adam U. was in Norway and he diverted us to the much closer Jotunheimen zone and we hopped on the first bus out. This was all good in concept, but after we fell asleep the bus kept on driving right past our desired mountain pass in the night. Good thing camping is allowed anywhere in Norway, so we camped on the grass in Årdalstangen, a quaint little town that reminded me of  Terrace, BC.

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In Ski-Bus-Skineering if you don’t plan efficiently you can lose use huge amounts of time, forcing you to spend down time at bus stations (which tend harbour some sketchy characters). Eventually, we did reach snow.

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Once on snow and skinning uphill it felt good to be in our natural environment. The variable weather felt like a familiar mellow BC coastal ski tour. Of course in any new area it’s always good to respect the weather — I was feeling confident we’d get up to the peak when BOOM — whiteout, and the classic “stay-or-go” debate began. Fortunately it did clear after 5 minutes and we tagged Turboka peak.

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The weather tease proved to be a good warning sign for later in the trip — the next day was a full storm-raining through the tent, indicating that it was time to move on.
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Since we were in Scandinavia with funky weather, the trip wouldn’t be complete without a detour to Sweden, then a short stop to the bustling bike city of Copenhagen, Denmark — the #1 bike friendly country in the world! We stretched out the legs and took those rental bikes for a rip.
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Riding bikes in Copenhagen was such a cool experience and a definite highlight of the trip. Everyone rides bikes in Denmark, whether they’re a 4 year-old or 80 your-old…or the whole family. North America could really learn a thing or two, especially people who live in cities. The amazing benefits of bikes — they’re cheap, a healthy alternative to driving, good for the environment and you always feel better after your ride your bike.
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With more Ski-Bus-Skineering calling, we jumped back to Oslo and then to the other side of the Jotunheimen park, home of Galdhøpiggen, the highest peak in Norway.

24 hours to left to burn meant GO: Oslo to Lom by bus, hitchhiking with a German plumber to Spiterstulen, set up camp. At 7:30pm, climb…then turn around 500 feet from the summit thanks to another whiteout.

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Bag some birthday turns off Norway’s ‘almost’ high mark, hitchhike ride from Norwegian carpenter, 40 minutes later bus to Lom, and 20 minutes later bus to Oslo. A dialed skibuskineering connection. #journeyisthereward.
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Our first trip to Norway was a rewarding tease and we’ll have to come back. The Northern meccas of the Lyngen Alps and Svalbard are there waiting for us, as long as we stick enough Kroners in our pockets. Until then, local missions to BC’s Waddington Range sound right up our alley: Cheap, big terrain, and guaranteed adventure. Onto the next adventure…
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Story: Andy Traslin
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About Osprey Athlete Andy Traslin

“I like to push myself to the maximum in the mountains to see what I can do physically to my abilities. My parents got me into skiing and the mountains at a young age. I progressed to ski racing, to front country, then I started finding powder stashes I had to keep going further and further to see what was around the next corner.

In addition to having worked eight years as a ski patroller, I have been racing in the pro/elite category for several seasons as a mountain biker. Racing enables me to go further and faster in the mountains in pursuit of steep skiing and speed traverses.  Other activities I like: free ride mountain biking, road riding, bouldering, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice hockey, tennis, trailrunning . I like to go see live bands in small venues. I’ve been following the Vancouver Canucks for many years in their quest for the Stanley Cup.”

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Road Trip Week Seven: Canyons

June 25th, 2015

As a wise man once said, you can’t always get what you want. Our intention had been to take the car through Death Valley at night on our way back east but we ran into some unaccounted-for difficulties and at around 2am, on the advice of one the few locals still awake and driving around, we turned back for the main highway. Without air conditioning and only a half tank of gas until the next attended gas station (our European cards weren’t accepted at the self-serve stations) he strongly recommended that we drove around rather than through. “It’s called Death Valley for a reason folks!”

 

Sunrise on the road — The view that greeted us at around 5am on the morning of our night drive. Photo by Sam.

 

The next day we made it a priority to find a garage to charge the AC system a little. This done, and now, for the first time in weeks feeling deliciously cool and *not* sticky, we drove on towards Zion National Park, arriving in the evening. Our track record for early starts over the trip has been pretty terrible but we made it out before 6am the next morning. We were walking up Angel’s Landing – a tall, narrow rock formation and one of Zion’s more popular attractions. After a long slog up the trail’s switchbacks we made it onto the ridge. Sunlight was just starting to spill into the valley and the temperature began steadily rising. The final part of the walk takes you along some fairly steep rock sections that are chained to help people along. There were a few points with some pretty intense exposure (think: two foot-wide ridge with roughly 1000 foot drops on both sides). The summit widens out and gave gorgeous panoramic views up and down the valley. The red cliffs dominate the view but also visible is the subtle green of trees filling the valley floor but also speckling up the cliffs.

 

Sam at Angels Landing, taking a quick break on switchback #231 with his Osprey Talon. Photo by Ciaran.

We would have loved to spend more time in Zion but at this point in the trip we’ve started, sadly, to become aware of a certain degree of time limitation. We’ve laid out a plan for how we’re spending out last days and that required driving on further west. We stopped in Page, AZ, where we stayed at what turned out to be one of our favourite campgrounds. The nights were so warm there that we pitched our tents without the rain covers and could watch the stars through the mesh ceiling as we lay and fell asleep. Before that though, we drove to the famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River for that evening’s breath-taking sunset. We think that the frequency with which a person is able to sit and just watch a sunset or sunrise is a viable method for measuring quality of life. By this measure, our quality of life has been at its absolute peak these past few weeks.

 

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Quality of life: 10/10. Photo by Sam.

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The swirling sandstone of Lower Antelope Canyon. Photo by Sam.

The next morning we went to Lower Antelope Canyon, a beautiful example of a slot canyon. Read more…

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Road Trip Week Six: East

June 18th, 2015

Highway 1 runs along the very western edge of the North American continent. We were driving north to south, with the Pacific a constant companion to the west. After only seeing it for the first time when we reached Tofino, it had already started to feel like an old friend. We last left you as we were entering the Big Sur region. That’s where we’ll pick up.

That morning we had said goodbye to two friends who we had studied on exchange with us at Trent University. Their time in North America was coming to an end and it was difficult to see them go. Their departure marked us as the last exchange students from Trent travelling around the United States.

 

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McWay Falls: One of countless beautiful stops travelling through Big Sur

We took the driving easy. Big Sur was great at accommodating that. There are limitless opportunities for forays down the steep cliffs to explore the shoreline or equally up the steep slopes away from the ocean to try and find views inland. We passed the famous McWay Falls near to which we came across two unfortunate travellers who had been unlucky enough to lock their keys inside their hire car. We gave them a ride to the nearest town. Steve and Beverley – if you’re reading this, we still all intend to take you up on the offer of a place to stay if we ever visit Boston.

 

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We didn’t even know how to begin trying to photograph this giant. The General Sherman Tree.

Leaving the Big Sur region we reached another milestone in the journey. We turned east. We lost sight of the Pacific and wouldn’t see it again for the rest of the trip. Although east was a homewards direction it didn’t feel like we were nearing the end of things. Our next destination was Sequoia National Forest.

From the offset we’ve had a tendency to arrive late regardless of when we set off in the morning. Sequoia was no different and we drove the last portion of the steep uphill switchbacks in darkness after watching yet another killer sunset.

The next morning we woke up early to have some time with General Sherman alone. General Sherman is the world’s largest tree by volume. A giant sequoia, its massive bulk sets it apart from a grove already full of giants. You cannot see its top from the base, you cannot hear the voice of someone talking loudly at the opposite side of its trunk, and you cannot fail to be amazed by just how absolutely enormous it is.

 

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Daily routine: Packing. Unpacking. We’re getting pretty good at it now.

We walked for the rest of the day, from Moro Rock along a trail that lead to the beginning of the High Sierra Trail and from there back through the sequoia groves to somewhere absolutely not where we started, or where we’d left our car. A slight misjudgment on our part. The sun had set and our car was parked about four hours walk away. Feeling a little tired (and perhaps a little lazy) we decided to head back to camp, eat the food we had left and take a free park shuttle bus up in the morning. At camp we ran into a Scottish/Slovenia couple. They advised us that leaving our car out there all night was leaving it at serious risk of bear break in. They very kindly drove us up to where it was parked and we were able to retrieve it that night.

Good deeds come around very quickly on the road, it seems. Read more…

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Road Trip Week Five: Yosemite

June 10th, 2015

Canada had become a safe and familiar place for us over the year we had been studying at Trent. We were about to leave all of that behind and cross the US border into Washington. After some initial confusion from not realizing that speed limits were now in miles per hour rather than kilometers – so people weren’t actually travelling almost twice the allowed speed all the time – we found that much of what we saw felt like it could fit into a Canadian landscape.

We didn’t have a route south planned out – for a couple days we just drove as far as we could towards Yosemite, our first US destination. Unfortunately that meant driving straight past a lot of places that we could have spent weeks exploring but we had the second date of the trip to keep as a week later we had arranged to meet friends in San Francisco.

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Ciaran has a go from Ansel Adams’ famous position. Photo by Lara

We arrived in Yosemite Valley in darkness late at night and pitched our tents at the North Pines campground. We woke up as the sun entered the valley the next morning. Yosemite was a place that we had all seen pictures of before, we knew the names of the domes, some of the famous climbs, and we felt like we had a slight grasp of what Yosemite was. Actually we had no idea. That first morning, was spent in a state of incredulous awe, staring up at the enormous granite rockfaces that surrounded us in the valley on almost every side. Far more eloquent writers than us have written about the valley and it’s tempting to quote Muir or Adams but instead we would urge people: just go. We had all read the words and seen the pictures but neither went any way towards really preparing us for what we saw that morning.

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A peaceful photograph that belies the sheer force of the waterfall. Photo by Lara

Read more…

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Road Trip Week Four: Pacific

June 3rd, 2015
Exploring a rocky part of the Tofino coastline near our campsite

Exploring a rocky part of the Tofino coastline near our campsite

Slight delay in getting this blog uploaded as we’ve been away from an internet connection for the past while. We last left you with us about to set off north along the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. Another incredible road to add to the lengthening list of incredible roads we’ve driven. We spent a night in Jasper, spoiled ourselves on a big diner breakfast the next morning and set off west.

A day later, on the steep road down into Whistler we had our first car trouble. Sam’s inexperience with driving (before setting off on the trip he’d only driven once since passing his driving test, on flat rural roads in Iceland) was largely to blame for the four smoking, seized brakes that greeted us at the bottom of the mountain descent – we didn’t know that the T&C’s ‘L’ gear was meant to be used when descending steep slopes and so drove the 3-ton fully loaded minivan down the mountain solely on the breaks. Oops. We started joking about the fact that we at least made it to the other side of the country but to be honest, we all thought it would be the end of our beautiful trip. The car was towed to the nearest garage in Whistler – a place on the edge of town called Barney’s. There, we sullenly unpacked our gear to spend the night in a nearby campsite contemplating our options. Happily in the end, the mechanics simply needed to flush out our boiled brake fluid and top it off again. We were on the road towards Vancouver Island again the next morning, having found the name of our car, Barney.

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Our home in Tofino and our Atmos Anti-Gravity™ pack

That evening we had our very first view of the Pacific Ocean. As we drove north along the road to Tofino we had glimpses of it through the trees but it took until we arrived at our campground to get a proper view. Every night of the journey so far we’ve been following the setting sun west. At Tofino we ran barefoot down a sandy beach towards the ocean. In front of us the sun approached the horizon and we felt a quiet contentment knowing that we’d reached a huge milestone in our journey. We had driven across Canada, as far west as we could possibly go.

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Our view on the evening we arrived in Tofino, Vancouver Island

We slept that night within earshot of the waves rolling onto shore and woke the next morning to the same sound. After months of cold Canadian winter, Tofino became our little paradise. Sun, sea sand – it was perfect. We could stay there forever – all these feelings, just from our first morning in the campsite.

Read more…

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Road Trip Week Three: The Rockies

May 20th, 2015
Robbie, Ciaran, Dian, Lara watching the sunset in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Robbie, Ciaran, Dian, Lara watching the sunset in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wow! The few days that have passed since we last wrote have been intense! We arrived at Dinosaur Provincial Park on the evening of our last post.  The park appears suddenly and in stark contrast to the pleasant, but remarkably unspectacular surrounding pastureland. As we crested the low hill from which the first view into the park valley is revealed, the sun was close to setting; we had maybe an hour of light left. Sense told us to pitch camp and start cooking in daylight but our gut had us running out and climbing the tallest hill that we could find with a view to the west.

Ciaran and Lara coming down from the hill after sunset.

Ciaran and Lara coming down from the hill after sunset.

After two days of prairies and almost 20 hours driving it felt so good to be out of the car. We ran around jumping, shrieking and laughing as the sun lit the surrounding prehistoric clay and rock mounds in a golden orange. We stayed out long after the sun had set and the orange and reds had cooled to blue and purple before finally making our way down to pitch camp and cook in the dark, energized by what we had just experienced. Read more…

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Four Days Out.

May 12th, 2015
Group at Kakabeka Falls lookout

Kakabeka Falls lookout

The empty spring fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are proving to be less-than entertaining so this one’s coming to you from the road. We’re four days out of Peterborough, Ontario and just about to cross the Alberta border.

Traveling long distances by car is something that you acclimatize to quickly, we’ve found. Who sits where is already well-established. The Town & Country has a “two, two, two” seat arrangement. Sam and Lara, our drivers, take turns in the two front seats. Ciaran and Dian are settled nicely in the middle. They are the car’s providers of snacks and drinks, having a cardboard box full of each under their seats. We removed one of the seats in the rear to make room for all of our gear and Robbie is tucked very cozily in the (little) remaining space back there.

Perhaps not unexpectedly for people that know us, we set off incredibly behind schedule on the first day and underestimated the time it would take to cover the 700km from Peterborough to Sault Ste. Marie. As a result, we arrived there at around 1:30am and checked into the first 24hr motel we saw.

Lara at Kakabeka Falls

Lara at Kakabeka Falls

Day two saw us start to get into the swing of things with a slightly earlier departure time of 10am, still leaving time for everyone to shower and have a leisurely breakfast in the morning. Within half an hour the first shrieks of European excitement were erupting in the car. We’d driven past a moose. Half an hour later, we saw the first bear; a young black bear, loping along the tree line that disappeared almost as soon as we’d seen it. Adrenaline levels definitely spiked.

We don’t have an adequate way of describing our reaction to Sam having to brake to avoid a second black bear as it crossed the highway in front of us but we lost it. Completely. The fact that situations like that even exist is so foreign to us, the idea that we’d ever experience one ourselves – well, we’ve not got our heads around that yet. Read more…

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Road trip. Two months. Five friends.

May 5th, 2015

Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.

Left to right: Sam, Ciaran, Robbie, Dian, Lara

Left to right: Sam, Ciaran, Robbie, Dian, Lara

Introductions. We are Ciaran, Dian, Lara, Robbie and Sam – we’ve spent the year on exchange at Trent University but now exams are finished, school’s out and summer’s nearly here; time for a change of scene. You’ll get to know us along the way but for now:

Ciaran, 20, from England studies history – his most recent big adventure was climbing Africa’s highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Dian, 21 from the Netherlands studies psychology and is our most seasoned road-tripper – having driven all over Europe in what’s possibly the world’s tiniest two door hatchback.

Lara, 20, from Germany studies environmental sciences, we’re all convinced that if she’d been growing up in the 60’s she would have made a great hippie.

Robbie, 21, from Scotland studies archaeology and spent his childhood scrambling up the Munros of northwest Scotland.

Sam, 21, from Scotland studies astrophysics and spent last summer hitchhiking and walking around Iceland. Very rarely spotted not carrying at least one camera.

It did all fit, eventually!

It did all fit, eventually!

Read more…

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Earn Your Turns: 101 Months in a Row

March 1st, 2015

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From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.

The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.

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Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!

In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: Read more…

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