High Sea Hitchhiking

I guess this post is a long time coming. I lost my domain name, because I forgot to renew it. Don’t worry though we got it back! So here it is.

Just before Christmas in 2011 my friend Mitch approached me.  He had a sailboat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  He said that he had sailed the coastline of Mexico a lot and wanted to sail his boat to Hawaii, so he could check out the islands there. I love the idea of doing the things the old explorers did. I jumped at the opportunity to sail across the ocean.

Marina Vallarta

As we left Mexico, it was an awesome feeling to be carried by the sails.  We slowly watched as land disappeared into the horizon. We each took a turn at the helm.

Puerto Vallarta
Sailing Away

Towards the end of the first day the sea sickness started to kick in.  It was alright though. As we sailed we were greeted by dolphins swimming in front of the boat.  We even saw a whale in the distance.  

Humpback Whale

The next morning was an eerie feeling, as there was now sign of land anywhere.  The ocean was calm and there was no wind.  I’m not sure how many days past after that.  At one point I was sleeping and we were in some pretty rough water, when a case of chunky soup on the shelf above broke and the all cans landed right on my head.  This was the beginning of the end for me.

Besides dented cans of soup, we were having other problems with the boat.  We decided it would be best to head for the small Volcanic island of San Benedicto.  There we could have shelter from the waves and re-evaluate our plan.

San Benedicto
Pacific Sunset

There were a few scuba diving tour boats that came to the Island.  Apparently it’s a world class diving sight.  Lots of sharks, manta rays, and other wildlife.  We could see the manta rays from the surface.

I still wasn’t feeling well.  The sea sickness never really left.  I wonder now if I had a concussion from my head injury.  I felt like I needed to turn back.  Mitch and Brad, his brother, were determined to carry on.  I asked one of the scuba tour boats if I could catch a ride with them back to Mexico.  Unfortunately, they were planning on visiting The Island of Socorro, a Mexican military base was there and they didn’t want anybody on board that was not on the manifest of the ship.  I guess they have a problem with human smuggling in this part of the world.

San Benedicto Sunrise

I asked another boat, but they said they were full and didn’t have space for me. Meanwhile, we were making preparations and were about to set sail that night.  I convinced  Mitch and Brad to stay the night and to leave first thing in the morning.  This way we would be well rested.

In the morning we arose to find the first tour boat had returned.  They reported that they ran into bad weather and they had to turn back.  Scuba diving wouldn’t be possible near Socorro.  I asked again if I would be able to come back with them.  The captain said ok and I boarded their boat.

My Ride
Sailing Away

The scuba tour boat made one more stop at Roca Portida Island and then headed back to Cabo San Lucas.

Roca Partida

You can read what happened to Mitch and Brad here

Atlin B.C.

Atlin

Atlin is so far my favourite small town. 175km south of Whitehorse down a rough gravel road Atlin is a bit of a challenge to get to, but well worth the trip. The people are super friendly. I was thinking maybe it was because they never see any new faces, but regardless they are awesome.

In 1899 Atlin became one of the off shoots of the Klondike Gold Rush and there are still Gold mining operations present. By the turn of the century about 5000 people had flocked to the area. Now there are around 400 people living there. This seems to be the story of many communities in the north west of Canada.

Atlin

Atlin Lake is the largest natural lake in B.C. In the Tlingit language Áa Tlein means “big body of water”. The lake is the source for the Yukon River via the short Atlin River into Tagish Lake.

Teresa Island

Teresa Island
One old guy in town claimed that Teresa Island was the tallest island in fresh water. I haven’t been able to confirm this fact, but you can take my word for it that it’s pretty darn big. It looks pretty cool too, I hope to take a boat to it one day and attempt to summit the peak.

IMG_1935
My car after travelling down the Atlin Road

Chilkoot Trail

Chilkoot trailhead

The Chilkoot Trail is a 53km hike that starts in Dyea Alaska and ends at Bennett Lake in Northern BC. Between those points are many camps. Finnegan’s Point, (km 7.7) Canyon City, (km 12.1) Pleasant Camp, (km 12.1) Sheep Camp, (km 20.3) Happy Camp, (km 33.0) Deep Lake, (km 37.0) Lindeman City, (km 41.8) Bare Loon Lake, (km 46.7) Bennett (km 53.1)

Chilkoot Trail
The sign reads: “Private Land next 1.4 miles Please stay on the trial” Do you really have a choice?

canyon city

Cooking Shack at Canyon City

As a fairly experienced back packer I found this trail relatively easy. If this were your first backpacking trip it would be a challenge but definitely possible. It is a good idea to be prepared for the weather. Anything can happen, especially lots of rain!

chilkoot waterfall

I did the trail over 4 nights and camped in Canyon City, Sheep Camp, Happy Camp, and Bare Loon Lake. Along the route there are many informational signs explaining the historical significance of each area. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like in 1898 with thousands of people in the area all seeking to strike it rich in the gold fields of the Yukon.

Golden Staircase
The Golden Staircase

The Golden Staircase that leads up to the Chilkoot Pass (km 26.6) is definitely the highlight of the hike. I was very lucky to have good weather for this section of the hike. I was amazed by how much the landscape changed from one side of the pass to the other.

view of canada from chilkoot pass

View of Canada from the Chilkoot Pass

view of alaska from chilkoot pass
View of Alaska from the Chilkoot Pass

Chilkoot Trail

Bare Loon Lake
Bare Loon Lake

bennett lake train station

Bennett Lake Train Station. Civilization at last!

white pass and yukon route train

WP & YR Train

I found it very interesting learning about the history and the stories of the gold rush that made this trail famous.

2 O’Clock Ridge Win!

I always have an adventure on May long weekend. Last year I attempted The Whitehorse Pass in Jasper with a few friends. We started hiking at night and it started snowing like crazy. By 3 in the morning we decided to stop trudging through 2 feet of snow and we set up camp. We didn’t even make it the 7 km in to our first campsite, Utopia Creek.

It seems that every year on May long weekend mother nature has something up her sleeve for me and I never know what it might be. It usually pours rain, snows, hails, is freezing cold or all of the above. I’m totally cool with that because that is what makes great stories!

This year was different. Of course a group of us went to the mountains and other than a little bit of rain, we had nice weather the entire time. It was almost unnerving.

The first day we decided to make an attempt on Two O’Clock Ridge.

mossy rocks

Rocky Mountains

Two O’clock Ridge near Abraham Lake has been taunting me ever since Matt and I attempted it in the winter. I thought at least I could beat it in the summer. The trail was fairly simple to follow and my little hiking book for the area says “keep to the right and climb, climb, climb.” The hike is 9.0km to the top and during those 9km you gain 1150m in elevation. That’s over a kilometer of up!

mountain
Jesse being awesome!

blue skies

rocky mountains
Tyler, Monica, Jesse

Tyler content at the top

rocky mountains
Tyler, Kim, Monica and Jesse enjoying lunch on top of Two O’Clock Ridge

rocky mountains
The whole group at the top Dylan, Tyler, Kim, Monica, Jesse

rocky mountains
The view from the top

international sign of coolness
International Sign of Coolness!

We were able to see some big horn sheep along the way and the scenery was absolutely amazing. A butterfly landed on my my leg and thinking it was a horsefly I promptly swatted it. Oops! It was a challenging hike but in no way impossible. After 5 hours of steady climbing we made it all the way to the top of the ridge. The views and the break at the top were great. The journey down only took a mere 2 hours. It makes a difference which direction you go, I choose up!

Elk Island National Park

My friend Anna and I went out and took some night shots in Elk Island National Park. It was actually an adventure. We saw several Bison, (yes there are bison outside of Yellowstone) and a Great Horned Owl. Sadly we weren’t able to eternalize their presence on our photography devices. But we did get a few good shots of the stars and trees. It’s a work in progress. I’m sure we will get better with time.

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Super Intense Climbing Kids! (S.I.C.K.)

If you know me then you’ll know that I love to climb. I’ve been climbing steadily for the past three years and as I’ve said many times I really believe it’s what keeps me sane during the long Canadian winter. Not only is it a good thing to do to ponder and meditate about life. I’ve also found it to be a great social experience as well. I have met many cool people through climbing and it’s a great activity to do with friends.

Five of my good friends and I met up at the local climbing gym and we had an absolute blast!

Just click the pictures for the slideshow.
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Memoirs of the West Coast Trail


“God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.”

- J. M. Barrie

As I sit wishing the Canadian winter wasn’t quite as cold, my mind wanders back about six years to when I hiked the West Coast Trail with my two best friends.

It started as a road trip to the island. When I told my Mom about it, she suggested hiking the West Coast Trail. I presented the idea to Chris, who readily agreed. We looked around for some more people to accompany us, and found a willing candidate in my friend David. Before I knew it we were packing up Chris’ Chevy Sprint for the trip over the mountains. With the three of us and all of our gear, the car had a bit of a hard time getting over the Coquihalla Highway, but we eventually made it to Vancouver Island.

The week that followed was filled with fatigue, blisters and sweat, but was also incredibly rewarding. Here are just a few of the pictures I took:


West Coast Trail Mist

The first day was filled with rain/mist/fog which brought images of Dagobah to mind.

West Coast Trail

As the trail was initially built to rescue shipwrecked sailors, there was all kinds of abandoned machinery along the way, like this dilapidated donkey engine.

West Coast Trail Cable Car

A number of river crossings had to be made via cable car.

West Coast Trail Shore

Just a piece of the awesome scenery.

West Coast Trail Boardwalk

There were a lot of boardwalks to help us across some of the bogs.
Unfortunately the moss made some of them pretty slippery.

West Coast Trail Ladder

And then there were the ladders like this one.
My legs sure felt like spaghetti after climbing one of these.

West Coast Trail Logan Creek

A view of the ocean from the outlet of Logan Creek.

West Coast Trail Suspension Bridge

West Coast Trail Suspension Bridge

The suspension bridge was definitely a highlight.

West Coast Trail Beach

That’s Dave on the left and Chris on the right.

West Coast Trail Mud

Sometimes the mud on the trail got really deep.

West Coast Trail Rock Formation

A neat rock formation.

West Coast Trail Dock

We missed the last ferry crossing at Nitinat Narrows and had to camp on the dock.
It was nice to have a flat sleeping surface.

West Coast Trail View

Some of the views were spectacular, like this one.

West Coast Trail Tsusiat Point

This is Tsusiat Point, one of the most iconic rock formations of the trail.

West Coast Trail Tsusiat Falls

Not too far away we ran into Tsusiat Falls, another photographers favorite.

West Coast Trail Dusk

Sometimes we had to push into the dusk to make our camping spot.
This picture was definitely one of my favorites.

West Coast Trail Climbing Ladder

Here’s Dave climbing one of the seemingly infinite ladders.

West Coast Trail Ranger Cabin

And Chris at the Ranger Station on the North End.


It’s been refreshing to reminisce on my adventure of six years past, even if it’s -30C (-22F) outside right now. So now it’s your turn. What memories keep you warm in the dead of winter? Let us know in the comments!

Siffleur Falls & Mount Stelfox

Being defeated by the mountains at the beginning of the month has really been bugging me. It’s not too often that I have to turn back before I am able to accomplish my goal. Actually that’s a lie, I just don’t like having unfinished business. I really wanted to make another attempt at the 2 o’clock ridge. Unfortunately Matt was unable to go, so I decided to put that one on hold and attempt another hike.

I went out with my good friends Jesse and David. It was really good because I haven’t been out with either one of them for a long time. On the first day we hiked up to Siffleur Falls. I have done this hike several times, but the sheer beauty of the falls and canyon keeps me coming back. Also I have only been there in the summer and I wanted to see the falls frozen.

siffleur river

Siffleur River

The Falls didn’t disappoint. I tried to capture them with my camera but it was impossible. The water was running behind the ice and you could see the ice change shades. That was cool.

siffleur falls

Siffleur Falls

ice bubbles

Ice Bubbles on the Siffleur River

That night Jesse and I decided to stay in Nordegg. David drove home. The following morning I really had a burning desire to stand on top of a mountain. Jesse and I decided to attempt an accent on Mount Stelfox.

mount stelfox

Mount Stelfox

We strapped on our snowshoes and commenced the attack. The day started out with light cloud cover and it was snowing. From time to time you could see patches of blue sky. We figured that the sun should burn off the clouds and we should have a great day for hiking. I was right about the great day of hiking.

We started hiking around the base so we could get to the backside of the mountain where we could start our steep climb to the top. We were able to do that without too much difficulty trudging through 2 – 3 feet of snow. We finally started our climb.

snowshoeing

We were below the tree line for much of the hike, which was good for us because the trees weren’t that thick. Generally speaking you can walk where the trees grow. Eventually the trees started to thin out and we came to some pretty interesting obstacles where I honestly didn’t think we would make it up. Every time we met one of them we were able to figure out a way over or around. There were several ridges with no place to go. At several points we ended up taking off our snowshoes just so we could climb up.

winter mountain view

slope

Once we were above the tree line the wind was incredibly strong and it chilled us to the bone. This gave us even more motivation to get to the top just so we could get back to the car.

On the top of Stelfox

Victory at the Top of Mount Stelfox

Continuing our uphill accent we made it to the top. What a feeling! The view wasn’t too great as we were up in the clouds by this point but it didn’t matter. Jesse and I had conquered this mountain in the middle of winter, battling wind, snow and rock!

view from the top of mount stelfox

View From the Top

top of mount stelfox

Some Info on Mount Stelfox
Mount Stelfox reaches an elevation of 2635m at its highest point. The mountain was named after the poet Henry Stelfox (1883 – 1974) He was born in England and later settled in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.

Mount Stelfox is located along Highway 11 to the north of the Cline River and across from the Icefields heli-tours heliport.