Wheelies Rule. Period.
Is it the coolness/radness factor? For sure.
Fun and thrilling? Yep.
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.
As the sun set in the west, the moon rose in the east. Photo by Sam
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
10 Questions with Osprey Athlete Joe Schwartz
1. What place inspires you? Why does it inspire you?
The mountains. They’re a source of endless inspiration, respect and learning. They’re where I’ve spent some of the best times of my life with the people that matter, and I look forward to many more years exploring in the hills.
2. What one item do you always have in your pack?
3. Who do you most admire?
Anybody who is driven, passionate, and carving out their own path in life.
4. What is your favorite food?
5. Which Osprey pack are you using right now? What is your favorite feature about your pack?
I ski with the Kode 32, which is the most thought out and convenient ski pack I’ve ever used. I mountain bike with the Zealot 15, a very well-designed pack perfect for all rides, from backyard epics to full-on days of enduro racing.
6. Do you have a favorite quote? What is it?
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” –Henry David Thoreau
7. What’s the number one place you’d love to visit next?
Japan. Either for the plentiful powder, great cuisine, nice people, or the rumoured epic singletrack.
8. What is your favorite nonprofit organization?
9. Is there an adventure, trip, or journey you’ve taken that you’d say was “life changing?” What was it and how did it change your life or outlook?
Probably a mountain bike trip I did to Bolivia several years ago. It was an amazing trip from a bike perspective: we rode unreal trails in beautiful settings. I was most affected by the locals though: so much poverty in this country, and such hard living circumstances, yet so many happy people.
10. If you could give any advice to yourself at 10 years old, what would you say?
“Keep doing what you’re doing! Make sure to spend time with those that matter. And don’t fall on your head so much.”
About Joe Schwartz:
What I do keeps me young, it keeps me engaged and happy. I really truly find myself in the mountains, and I know it’s a place that will always remain special to me. I’m a connoisseur of good times.
Follow Joe’s adventures:
As many of you may have noticed, SW Colorado has been unseasonably wet for the past couple of months. And I’m not talking a nice and gentle Seattle-like drizzle. I mean full on thunder-hail, monsoon, wrath of the gods type of weather. Needless to say, I’ve been chased from the mountains as lightning ripped through savage clouds with my tail between my legs more than a few times this season.
It’s not like I’m not checking the weather reports before heading out on assignment. In fact, I’ve been studying over weather forecasts like it was my job. Well, because it kinda is I suppose. But at the end of the day, you just can’t predict mountain weather. So if they’re calling for 60% chance of thunderstorms, that’s a 40% chance to catch some amazingly dynamic light.
That’s exactly what Ben Clark, Sam Feuerborn and I were facing when we went out to shoot a video of the Osprey Packs Anti-Gravity™ series in the Telluride backcountry last week. As soon as we rolled into town, we found ourselves at the local dive bar, waiting for a glimmer of sunshine to pierce the gray curtain. Hunkered down by the plate glass window of The Buck, we watched our day’s plans wash down Main Street in the daily deluge.
‘Yet, another shutdown brought to you by Mother Nature’, I thought. Feeling obligated to be at least somewhat productive, I suggested that we head up to Imogene Pass and scout a little. We loaded up the truck, put it in four-wheel drive and headed up hill.
It did not take me long to discover that Imogene was not a path for the faint of heart. Imagine a very technical and frighteningly narrow road strewn with melon-sized boulders which occasionally fall from the crumbling San Juan cliff side. On your right is an unguarded 1500 foot drop to oblivion. On your left, cascading waterfalls crashing over your hood. White-knuckled, but grinning ear to ear, we continued on. And so did the rain.
At nearly 11,000 feet, we rolled into the ghost town of Tomboy. And within moments, the storm that had shrouded us in defeat began a hasty retreat. We all looked at one another, shrugged our shoulders and without a word, donned our gear.
We knew our window would be a brief one, so we focused on the task at hand and knocked out six scenes in less than an hour. When the rain clouds rushed back in, we charged back to the truck, loaded the gear and reveled on the fact on how lucky we were to have that window.
Closing the tailgate and about to head home, the clouds decided to part for us one last time. As they did, we found ourselves wrapped in the some of the most incredibly beautiful, golden light we had ever seen. Diving headfirst into the truck, Sam soon emerged with an Atmos AG pack. I grabbed my MKIII, locked on a 70-200mm lens and we sprinted up to an overlook, racing the light with every step. When we reached the top, we had just enough time to snap this frame before the magic was gone forever.
Right place, right people, right time.
Here’s the first video featuring our award-winning, innovative 2015 Anti-Gravity series:
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My name is Dan Holz, and I have the good fortune of being the staff photographer for Osprey Packs. Photography has been a passion of mine since grade school and I’ve used it as a vehicle to take me everywhere from my backyard in Colorado to the lush jungles of Borneo and the glaciated landscapes of Patagonia. People often ask if I have a ‘specialty.’ It’s kind of a tough question, because while I specialize in active lifestyle and mountain sport photography, I find myself chasing the magic light more than anything else. If the face of a Nepali farmer is suddenly cast in the beautiful shadow of contrast, I become a portrait photographer in that moment. Or if a setting sun embraces a rice paddy outside of Chiang Mai, for an instant I’m a landscape photographer. As a photographer, I am always exploring self-expression and pushing the limits of what I – and my camera – can do. It’s a passion, it’s a job, it’s a lifestyle all wrapped up in a single package. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Hydration packs have come a long way since 1988, the year that a young EMT named Michael Eidson invented the CamelBak by stuffing a pilfered IV bag into a tube sock and safety-pinning it to his back during a century ride. But while hydration packs are ubiquitous today, anyone who has ever attempted a a multi-day mountain bike trip can attest to their main shortcoming: most of them are too damn small. You can’t, however, say that about Osprey’s Escapist 32, which boasts a load range of 15 to 30 pounds.
The Escapist 32 is designed with mountain bikers in mind and if bikepacking isn’t your thing, it also makes for a great day hiking pack…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Andy Traslin, bicycle, Bike, cross country skiing, Denmark, earn your turns, Mike Traslin, mountaineering, norway, Oslo, Osprey athlete, ski tour, skiing, skinning, Traslin Brothers
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!”
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.
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.
The next morning we went to Lower Antelope Canyon, a beautiful example of a slot canyon. (more…)
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.
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.
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.
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. (more…)
10 Questions with Osprey Athlete Sven Brunso
1. What place inspires you?
The Alps are the place that brings me inspiration. The magnitude of the mountains, nearly limitless access, the ski culture and food make for an unbeatable experience. Every time I visit the Alps I fall in love with skiing all over again.
2. What one item do you always have in your pack?
Hot Egyptian Licorice Tea in a thermal bottle. Nothing is better than some hot tea in the mountains. Sipping some sweet and spicy tea soaking while up the mountains is a pretty incredible combo.
3. Who do you most admire?
Early mountaineers that made historic ascents with rudimentary gear. The early mountaineers were extremist as they did amazing things with little fanfare or potential reward.
4. What is your favorite food?
Kaiserschmarrn. An Austrian dessert made with pancakes, rum, raisins, powdered sugar and plum sauce. It’s so good that sometimes I will eat it twice a day while skiing in Austria.
5. Which Osprey pack are you using right now? What is your favorite feature about your pack?
I love the Kode series. On really big days in the backcountry I use the Kode 42 ABS pack. I can take a puffy, extra gloves, a big bottle of tea, all my avalanche gear and my skins. On regular days I will take the Kode 22 as it has plenty of room for everything I need and it feels like I am skiing without a pack. I love that both the Kode 22 and 42 have a great spot to stow my helmet on top of the pack.
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.
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.