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!
Expedition Denali is history in the making, another first for the books and a step in the direction of changing the world we live in. This National Outdoor Leadership School expedition will take nine mountaineers to the top of Mount McKinley this June, making them the first all-African-American group to summit Denali. Of course, reaching the top of North America’s largest peak is not the ultimate endeavor; Expedition Denali’s most significant objective is to inspire people of all colors to experience the outdoors. This statement from Expedition Denali’s Kickstarter Campaign gets to the root of the ascent:
By 2019, it is estimated that minority children will become the majority in the U.S. These kids will become the leaders of this country and the world, and a staggering majority of them don’t feel the outdoors is a place for them.
In an effort to connect as many people as possible and inspire diversity in the outdoors, a documentary film will be made telling the story of the summit. Here’s just part of what the film itself will capture, from Kickstarter:
This group of climbers will do more than climb a mountain. At an elevation of 20,320 feet, extreme altitude and harsh weather aren’t the only barriers Expedition Denali is determined to break through. On the 100th anniversary of the first Denali summit, Expedition Denali is a symbolic step forward, encouraging people of color—and particularly African American youth—to participate in and become inspired by the vastness and beauty of nature.
The good news is that Expedition Denali, with support from The North Face, REI, and the Foundation for Youth Investment, has actually exceeded its Kickstarter Campaign Pledge, thanks to donations from people all over the world. Of course, we can all help by spreading the word about what an amazing, inspiring and world-changing expedition this is. Be sure to follow Expedition Denali on Facebook for updates, news and information and to share the updates that inspire you.
Every year, Vertfest returns to Alpental, Washington as the biggest Freeride and Mountain Mettle Festival in North America. What’s more, this year Vertfest will celebrate with festivities at two locations, adding Vertfest January 19th at Mt. Bachelor near Bend, Oregon! As stated on the site, “This new venue will host a challenging course, backcountry/sidecountry oriented clinics, demos and loads of fun. Come join us at Mt. Bachelor for the first ‘series’ race in the Vertfest Series. Elite racers will earn points towards the series point total.”
The 7th Annual Vertfest in Alpental will be hosted February 16th and 17th, and will kick off on the 16th with the Monika Johnson Memorial Rally, to be followed by an awards ceremony and a raffle boasting skis, packs and gear galore. The event will also host live music from Head Like A Kite and Daydream Vacation, featuring Asya of NYC based Smooshand. On the final day of Vertfest, special guest Jessica Baker of Ski Divas and Neil Provo, professional splitboarder from Salt Lake City will be there to show their skills in clinics.
Want to experience all of the glory that Vertfest promises to be? Get your tickets here, ASAP!