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Armchair adventuring: best books and films for the sick, longing adventurer

Sometimes I keep telling myself, I need to take a rest day… and then I put that thought away, because Grouse Mountain, or the mountains in Squamish want to play.

The nice thing is that I can’t out-trick my body, so eventually it just tells me what I need to do, and overrides all plans and ambitions with a sick day. (Or four.) Sick days are annoying, until you just give in and become an armchair adventurer. Just let other people take you on adventures… while you stay in and drink delicious tea! Sure, it’s not the same as real life. But I love how a great adventure book can bring me along with the characters and introduce amazing places, and it’s like I develop this special bond with the places we travel in the book, even though I didn’t physically attend. I love how, when I do go to these places in the physical world, I feel like I already had an experience there, a special connection to the place.

Here are some great adventure books and movies I’ve enjoyed on sick days in the past couple of years:

Books

I’ve just started this book and it makes me so excited to get back outside. While it does drift into some long-ish tangents about particular runs, there’s some great inspiration between the stories. For example, Kilian addresses what winning is all about, and the mental state he uses to push his mind and body to achieve a dream. Reading it all makes me reflect on my own experiences, and wonder if I’ve ever really pushed myself to my limit?

Major learning: the mind is the gatekeeper of our dreams, and the difference between performing within expectations, and into a whole new realm of possibility. Also, Energy Cake sounds delicious.

This is a book about the massive 2003 avalanche in the Selkirk range of BC, which resulted in 7 fatalities. The author Ken was the Assistant Guide on the trip, and this book is his story about the decisions that led to the avalanche, and his life afterward. I really, really enjoyed the chapters about the avalanche, as the story was fascinating, and I learned quite a bit about decision-making and snow safety from his story. I found myself less attached about three-quarters through the book when the narrative switches to tell the struggles he faced in his personal life following the avalanche, and I almost found this part to be more painful to read than the avalanche portion of the book. I would definitely recommend the book for its first half if you’re interested in skiing and avalanche safety.

Major learning: social dynamics can be deadlier than any avalanche.

I picked this one up from a shop in Zion National Park a couple years ago, and I really enjoyed it. In the book you get to join Brendan as he moves into his station wagon after a breakup, and meanders across the most scenic wild places in ‘Merica– as he ponders life’s big questions. This book was a fun read because I’ve been, or plan to go to most of the places Brendan describes, and his stories really bring those places to life. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a good dirtbag dream story.

Major learning: if you move into your car and dirtgbag around the US, you may not solve all your problems, but you should definitely write about it.

Though this is not an adventure book per se, it really is from an entrepreneur standpoint. In this book, Phil Knight, Founder of Nike, describes the crazy journey he took to start and build Nike to where it is today. If you love your running shoes and you’re interested in entrepreneurship like me, this book will have you all-consumed for the next little while. Throw in interesting stories with idols like Steve Prefontaine & Michael Jordan, and you can’t go wrong.

Major learning: entrepreneurship involves more endurance than the most extreme endurance sport.

 

Films

This is my favourite adventure film. The film is about a group of three climbers who dream to climb The Shark’s Fin route of Meru in Northern India, a peak that’s eluded climbers as one of the toughest in the world.

“The layout of the 21,000-foot mountain’s perversely stacked obstacles makes it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. Hauling over 200 pounds of gear up 4,000-feet of technical, snowy, mixed ice and rock climbing is actually the simple part of this endeavor. After crossing that gauntlet you reach the Shark’s Fin itself: 1,500 feet of smooth, nearly featureless granite. There are few pre-existing fissures, cracks or footwalls. It is simply a straight sheet of overhanging rock.” (Source: Meru Film)

Expect the amazing scenery and intensity of a typical mountaineering film, plus incredible characters and a great storyline.

Major learning: Jimmy, Conrad and Renan are my idols…

This movie is such a spin from a typical hard-core adventure film. It’s adorable. Set in New Zealand, it’s a tale about a trouble-causing adoption kid, and an unlikely adventure with his new foster uncle in the NZ backcountry. The film is heart-warming and humorous, and loaded with beautiful imagery of the NZ countryside. Watch it if you’re in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

Major learning: #1 Fat kids are funny. #2 NZ is beautiful. #3 Trails create great friendships.

I devoured this book in 2012 and still hadn’t watched the movie until last year. What a classic. I was really impressed with how closely the movie followed my vision from the book. Plus it’s got an amazing soundtrack, and beautiful imagery of all those places you’ve been and loved, or plan to go: Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, California Redwood forests, a shady downtown LA scene, Fairbanks… I loved having read the book first for this one, because it made the story seem less sad, having already gone through the emotions during the book.

Major learning: don’t go into the wild alone unless you know the place really well. Don’t ever feel too cocky to bring a map. And, perhaps, bring extra rice?

I rented this movie two weeks ago and watched it in segments during study breaks. Based on Into Thin Air, I thought for sure the movie would be amazing. (Although, I haven’t read the book.) I spent the entire movie on an emotional spectrum wavering between immense excitement to see what would happen next, and huge frustration at the climbers and their decisions. By the end of the movie, I was frustrated at the climbers and their whole reason for being. And, for that matter, Everest climbers in general…

Major learning: #1 don’t climb Everest. #2 respect turn around times. #3 beware of summit fever. #4 if you MUST choose to die on a mountain, at least do it while talking to your significant other on sat phone.

I loved the book, and quite disliked the movie. I found the book to be a fun roller coaster to read, with some short dramatic and depressing parts, but overall a lighthearted and funny book. On the other hand, the movie seemed to focus more on the dark/depressing/serious elements and so the movie had a much darker, more serious tone. Still some great imagery of the iconic PCT, so I find the movie worthwhile just for that. If you’re choosing, I would choose the book over the movie.

Major learning: turn to the PCT if ever undergoing life crisis / breakup / encounter with hard drugs. Or perhaps there is something more broad here… a grand adventure can soothe the soul?

Those are just a few that have given me entertainment and inspiration during healing. What about you? What are your favourite adventure movies?

Alicia reading.

squamish_jules_skiing

Hey there, Squamish!

It’s now one month since our move from downtown Vancouver to downtown Squamish. Here are my first impressions after month one!

Squamish & Friendships

On first glance, it seemed like we were moving farther away from most of our friends. Maybe we would see them less? Yet so far, I have only found the opposite! In the first week after moving, we had three separate visits from friends, which is almost equal to the amount of visitors we had the entire time we lived in False Creek. Being situated at the gateway to the Sea to Sky mountains, this place is right on the way for friends coming on their journey to or from adventures, and it doesn’t hurt that we’re located right near Mag’s, the giant-portions Mexican hole in the wall. I didn’t really see friends much during the weekdays in Vancouver anyway, so the frequency of visits with friends hasn’t changed. Locally, people are so friendly and welcoming, and my small town conversations have been everything I hoped for. We discuss brown sugar at the grocery store, share news of bear encounters, and enjoy random conversations on snowy trails. Everyone here seems to have a love for ski touring, climbing, and playing outside– it’s a special place where people have come for their love of mountains.

Nancy comes for a mid-week sleepover / run to work!

Nancy comes for a mid-week sleepover / run to work!

 

Running to Elfin Lake with Drew and Dave!

Running to Red Heather Hut with Drew and Dave!

Sea to Sky Commuting

Living in Squamish and working in Vancouver is not everyone’s idea of a good time. But for me, it’s a small price I’m willing to pay. I love my home, and I really like my work, and the commute between just allows me this awesome combination where I can have both a small-town lifestyle, and an exciting start-up job in the city where I am learning lots. The key for me is that I joyride with my boyfriend three times a week, and I take the Squamish-Vancouver Connector twice a week. On the shuttle days, I can sit back and read or sleep, and there is this great energy in the bus. It feels like we’re a bunch of kids on our way to a field trip!  I’ve also met some incredible people on the Connector shuttle. On driving days, I add fun outdoor exercise to make the commuting worthwhile. On the way into work, Julien drops me off on the beach in West Van, and I run the seaside into work. On the way home I play in the mountains, guiding snowshoe running up at Grouse Drop-In Nights, or Nordic Skiing with Julien at Cypress. Although those days are long, they are lived to the maximum in every moment, fully appreciating the sea to city to sky.

 

My commute. Running at sunrise from Dundarave -> Downtown.

My commute. Running at sunrise from Dundarave -> Downtown.

 

Lions Gate Bridge -- my favourite! Looking back at Ambleside & Grouse in the background.

Lions Gate Bridge — my favourite! Waving back at Ambleside, Crown & Grouse mountains in the background.

Squamish Trails

I probably don’t have to tell you that the trails here– running, biking, skiing– are amazing. With the abundance of activities around, I feel so much balance. For once I am swayed slightly from running and more likely to go ski touring, snowshoeing, or nordic skiing. I feel so healthy and inspired from the variety at my doorstep. It was worth the wait!

Skiing down from Paul Ridge area in Squamish.

Julien skiing down from Paul Ridge area in Squamish.

 

Out the back door in the Squamish Estuary.

Out the back door in the Squamish Estuary.

Post-Adventure Food Discoveries

So there is more than the Howe Sound Brewpub and The WaterShed? In our first month, we’ve discovered a few favourites beyond the breweries that typically lure us: Essence of India, (amazing rich Indian, great for eating in or takeout) Bisla Indian right down our street, (more homestyle / less rich style of Indian, great for take-out) Mag’s, (amazing gigantic Mexican and beers!) and hearty homemade soup and sandwiches at Squamish Seniors’ Activity Centre (halleluja, all ages can go!)… Oh, and the best hot chocolates to be found are over at The Ledge Community Coffee House, where you can also gaze at art in their lovely two-storey space. Curling up and eating in by the fire is also super fun here, especially after a long day outside.

Only Downsides!

So far, there are only a couple of downsides with living here. First, the train. The train running through downtown Squamish is wonderful and enchanting while we’re awake. But at 2am, it’s not our favourite stimulus. As a heavy sleeper, I’m lucky to sleep peacefully through the whistles, but I know that not everyone in my house is so lucky! Any ideas, Squamish friends?!

The other terror is my hair after it’s been soaked with a nice hard water shower. The minerals cling to the strands, forming tufts on a daily basis. The only solution is to braid my hair like I’m Katniss Everdeen or something. Oh, and gross vinegar hair treatments!! I may just resort to hair vacations to friends’ showers in Vancouver once a week but any advice would be great! :p

Yes, I look more and more like Disney’s Brave every day with the hard water, but for me this is a small cost to a new adventure, and living in a place that makes me super happy.

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The Tantalus, being hard to get as usual, so close but so far (across the river).

Alicia in Portugal

2016 World Trail Championships in Portugal: Still Smiling, Still Foolish

On my first step, I fell in love with Porto. Jet-lagged, disoriented, it didn’t matter. Porto totally seduced me at any time of day. This was totally unexpected, as I had just come initially as a stopping point to run the race.

When we were introduced to Peneda Geres National Park on Wednesday before the race, it did not disappoint. On the northern Portuguese border with Spain, this park is full of ancient forts and ruins, tiny little villages, and lush green valleys capped with rocky granite formations. The running was a delight and full of surprises at each corner.

For the few days leading up to the race, we stayed in this area called Bom Jesus do Monte that was literally a sanctuary. Local Portuguese and tourist pilgrims hike up to Bom Jesus to visit the churches and the beautiful Baroque steps (which Julien uses to Strava-race) above Braga. I was lucky to hang out in this sanctuary with the 2016 Canadian team: Cassie Smith, Mallory Richard, Beverley Anderson-Abbs, David Jeker, Darren Seaman, Sebastien Roulier, & Roy Kok.

Last year I ran at the World Trail Championships in Annecy, and I became so nervous that it crippled me. This year, my plan going into this race was to just be confident, and pretend I was running an adventure run with Tara. I removed all stress, expectation and doubt and in their void came fun. Actually, pure joy! The first 55km of the race were pure joy, running through this beautiful park with inspiring runners from all over the world.

Of course, ultras are full of challenges. My big challenge came at kilometer 55, when the heat finally got to me and just roasted me alive. The race was 10 degrees hotter than expected, and a white girl without heat training does not thrive in an oven. (Always heat train!) It sounds strange that 55km could seem breezy and then suddenly, every step forward can take all of your might. But that’s what happened. Fortunately, quitting was not an option for me on this day, so I made tiny little goals. My goal was to get to the next water station 5km away. And when that seemed too far, my goal was to get to the next stream where I could cool off for 5 minutes. When the stream wasn’t appearing like an oasis, the goal became: get to the next trickle of water where I can dunk my hat. Eventually, I came out the other end of this suffering and finished the last 75-85km with a sense of happiness, gratitude and pure joy. Yes, 190th place and in the dark, but still, full of joy.

Beautiful Northern Portugal

Another amazing photo by Nadine Marie.

Thank you to everyone who made this experience possible for me. The wonderful people in Portugal, my team, our crew, and my sponsor RunGo. Until next time, Portugal! Keep it unbelievable…

Link to race results

Link to event Facebook page

Tara on Western States Trail

Blonde Moments in the Endurance Capital of the World

On Friday, Tara and I jumped on a plane to Sacramento with a goal of making it to Auburn, California… a town which introduces itself as Endurance Capital of The World. We were going to run Ann Trason’s Overlook Endurance Runs, which is now in its third year, on the Western States Trail.

Although I managed to run Ann’s 15km race without any big screw-ups, (this time I used RunGo during the race to stay on course!) most of the trip, I felt like a walking liability. Here are a few (painful) lessons from this trip!

1: Please, please never forget your driver’s license! 
This one was the most painful. We had an Expedia car rental that was pre-paid, and unfortunately the booking was under my name– then I forgot my driver’s license. You would think, that you could go to the front desk of the car rental place and just ask them to put the car in your friend’s name, who is right here next to you, with all the proper licenses you forgot. Unfortunately what ensues is you get caught in a dark, dark, black gulf of service, an uncertain area where both Expedia and car rental company seem to have no control and no “access” to change your itinerary. 60-90 minutes on hold and various conversations with Expedia may occur. You will eat all of your trip chocolate right out of the gate and maybe cry aloud in pain/frustration before you just opt to pay again. Fuck it.

Just. Bring. The driver’s license!!

Flying Over Seattle

2: Nexus does not = passport!
I’m not sure why, but the night before my trip I put my passport down on my bag, and then consciously removed it and put it away in the cabinet on the morning of the flight. All I need is Nexus for ID! I thought. Although not as painful a mistake as #1 above, airline and customs people don’t love to deal with creative formats of ID and it just amounts to adding 10-15 minutes at each airport you visit. Vancouver, Seattle, Sacramento, and then the return flights… not to mention your poor friend standing next to you! Packing ultra-light was misguided.

3: Not all dish soaps are equal! 
I felt very useless as a guest in Ann’s home, with cooking skills that were inferior to the lovely Italian guests, and general unawareness of my surroundings. At some point I realized that I could help out by jumping in and doing the dishes. (Which isn’t actually that helpful, considering it involves a dishwasher!) Anyway, I found some sort of organic soap under the sink, and pre-loaded it into the dishwasher for Tara and I to complete our task. Inevitably I went for a run with Ann’s dogs and came back later, walking upon a scene of Ann and Tara, cupping large handfuls of frothed soap from the dishwasher and transferring them into the sink. I had used the hand-washing soap instead of the dishwasher soap!! Thankfully by the time I came back from my run, both were laughing at my stupidity. We dumped some balsamic vinegar in the dishwasher and I vowed to not touch anything in the house, or on this trip, again. So much for being helpful!

Ann's Dogs

Outside of the general life skills, I think the running went well. Tara came 2nd in the 50km off of very little training, and I had a really nice run in the 15km, where I got to run with a new friend, Paolo. My favourite part was watching so many people finish the 50km all afternoon long, some people hand in hand with a friend or loved one, some laughing, some crying for joy, and all the while, drinking some delicious beer from my reusable collapsible cup.

Thanks to Auburn– for the never-ending trails, and to Ann for the endless inspiration. I feel so lucky to take part and meet the kindest people in California at Overlook every year.

Full results ~ on ultrasignup.

The American River!

The American River!

Photo credit: Mike Rose.

My Arm Flew Into a Rock: hitchhiking from the Spearhead Traverse

The day was young, and there had not been nearly enough coffee.

At 7am Mike, Nate and I were galloping shuffling through Whistler Village, with our eye to completing the Spearhead Traverse, a hugely popular ski route.

Except, we didn’t have skis, and we weren’t planning on getting any. On this September day, we were planning to generally follow the idea of the popular ski traverse, but as a run & hike alternative. Skirting below the glaciers and above the trees, we thought we could do it in about 40-50K, one adventure day.

The goal is to get over to that ridge across the valley, through the path of least resistance. Photo credit: Mike Rose.

The goal is to get over to that ridge across the valley, through the path of least resistance. Photo credit: Mike Rose.

It was all Mike’s idea. With a summer off completing any big 100 mile run and months spent cooped-up in injury, he was jumping at the bit to run as many big Sea to Sky routes as he could before snowfall. He had just pioneered this other great run, Elfin Lake to Garibaldi Lake, and he was on a mission to complete as many grand Sea to Sky traverses as he could. Part of what made it exciting is that you just don’t find trip reports of people doing these traverses as a run. Mike’s adventures were entirely new, exciting, and full of unknowns.

Just the start of the adventure.

Just the start of the adventure, reaching the hut at Russet Lake.

I had just suffered from a cold from running one too many laps around Buntzen Lake, but I seemed fine enough to join the party. So at 4am when the alarm sounded, I jumped out of bed immediately, ready for the fun.

Loaded down with tons of gear, we slowly ran the first part of the route, the standard trail up to Russet Lake near the top of Whistler Mountain. From there we could roughly see where we wanted to go, the ridges of the Spearhead Traverse, which lead all the way to Blackcomb Mountain, across the valley. It seemed so close yet so far, all at once.

And now... how to get there? Photo credit: Mike Rose

And now… how to get way up over there, just under the glacier?
Photo credit: Mike Rose.

Passing Russet Lake, our first task was to find a nice line across to the Blackcomb side, skirting under Overlord Glacier. As actual legit skiers, Mike and Nate are naturals at picking out lines in the alpine, and they looked ahead at the slope, determining which ways we could ascend. I stared ahead and sort of followed, thankful that these guys have much more of a knack for the alpine.

Our first obstacle was a little steep rocky slope. Maybe 45 degrees, for about 100 feet. Falling here wouldn’t be life-threatening, but you could get a few good scrapes or maybe hit your head if you descended awkwardly. I immediately entered Gramma mode, which led me to crab-walk down a small gully formation in the rock, only after spending a good two minutes frozen, holding up the whole group with my ass facing down the slope. (!!) Finally I got into a good crab-walk down the gully, and things were looking up. I got 50 feet down, and yelled up to Nate that he could start descending.

The rocks of wrath. As usual, they picture always looks so benign, how could anything bad happen here? Photo credit: Mike Rose.

The rocks of wrath. As usual, they picture always looks so benign, how could anything bad happen here?
Photo credit: Mike Rose.

Then, a rock came flying down the gully where I was perched, about the size of two grapefruits. It was my worst nightmare. Of all the places the rock could travel on this huge slope, it was coming– right for my head. I had no time to think, react, or change my position. The next second, the rock rocketed forward and hit me good in the upper arm, and immediately I was in shock. Perched on the slope, suddenly lightheaded and my right arm totally numb, I felt helpless and useless. I wanted to get off the slope, but I couldn’t move. I think I let out some kind of audible surrender.

Somehow I slid my ass down the mountain and started mowing my chocolate croissant to regain the upper-hand over my body’s physiological upset. By now, Nate was talking good sense into me, suggesting that him and I could turn around right about now. I knew Mike was going to continue one way or another, and I wanted nothing more than for him to complete the adventure. Still feeling lightheaded, I started to weigh the options. Don’t be a wimp, I thought to myself. Some curious thoughts floated around my head. Maybe, finishing this adventure is a kind of dividing line between being tough or not… maybe this moment will define me… But thankfully, Nate’s voice countered those stupid thoughts.

Mike ran and got me some glacier ice for my arm, which gave me a good ten minutes to decide whether to carry on, or turn back. I couldn’t lift my right arm, but that didn’t matter to me. (Runners don’t need arms! I thought.) More concerning was that I still felt a bit lightheaded from the shock, and I was already in sub-optimal condition to begin with, recovering from being sick. Now I was a bit of a liability. And there was so much uncertainty about what lay ahead. Looking forward, we didn’t know what was on the other side of the ridge in front of us.

Suddenly it felt dumb to continue, with so much uncertainty about the challenges ahead, coupled with a whole list of known ailments. And suddenly, I realized this could become a hitchhiking adventure!

Choose Your Own Adventure: find your favourite line around the glacier! Photo credit: Mike Rose.

Choose Your Own Adventure: find your favourite line around the glacier! This is a shot looking back at the base of MacBeth from where Mike carried on solo. Photo credit: Mike Rose.

I absolutely love hitchhiking, I’d say, equally to the amount I love running. And so, with a fresh opportunity to hitchhike and with Nate as a poor sucker of a friend to come along, I decided the remained of the day would best be spent as an urban, gas-fuelled, stranger-filled adventure.

The second our thumbs flipped up, we were scooped up on the side of the Sea to Sky Highway. Our hero was Ramon, a Mexican entrepreneur/father from Mexico City, who had moved to Canada to help his family escape sketchiness in Mexico City. For the entire drive to Vancouver, we were treated to the inspiring story of how Ramon moved his family to Canada, how he had suffered from fraud with his first venture here; a restaurant he purchased which he had to bankrupt, and how he was not even acknowledging any setbacks, now a Locksmith to support his family and planning a second Mexican market and deli. We told him about running and biking on trails, and we were the first people he had met who do long distances. At the end of the car-ride, he said we somehow had inspired him, that he was going to start running in North Vancouver. In that moment, I didn’t care about the Spearhead Traverse. Connecting with Ramon, and hearing about what constitutes a great tamale, was so much cooler.

And what about Mike? Of course, Mike completed the route. Going most of the way solo, it took him about 10.5 hours including the first aid picnic, and he didn’t have to cross any glaciers, or anything sketchy.

Mountain or urban, it doesn’t matter. The Sea to Sky brings nothing but great adventures and inspiration, even on a day when things go south.

Up high. Photo credit: Mike Rose.

Up high.
Photo credit: Mike Rose.

Wednesday Night Social at the Fernie Arts Station!

Adventures in Fernie: how I fell in love with a remote mountain town

My mom first moved to the BC Kootenays to teach about five years ago, when I was only interested in running on roads, and the mountains just meant pretty views. I recall a visit where I ran the shoulder along the highway between Sparwood and Fernie as my fun long run. Or, a day where we roadtripped to Banff, and I ran along the Banff highway as my long run!!!! Fernie is famous for skiing, and of course I wasn’t into that, either. On my first visit in winter, I completed a 3-hour pool run at the Sparwood pool. Yes. The mountains were staring me in the face, but I had nothing to say to them.

I loved the tarmac.

I loved the tarmac.

How time changes!

Thankfully, my love for mountains has grown and evolved dramatically during this time that my mom has lived in this wonderful place. Somehow, I was reacquainted with skiing, and I fell for Fernie’s snow, just like so many others. I loved the fact that a “busy day” in Fernie was like a slow day in Whistler. I fell for the look of the antique streets lined with snow, and at some point the combination of old-fashioned brick buildings filled with high-tech ski touring setups made my mouth water. One year my mom bought me a lesson to learn skate skiing, and this became a big, self-respecting step forward from my good ol’ long pool run routine.

Snow!!

Snow!!

At some point I started trail running. I found the most amazing mountain biking trails, which provided endless fun. I discovered the amazing flowy trails of Fernie Provincial Park, and fell in love with the cushy singletrack, lined by tall meadows. I stared up at the interesting granite mountains surrounding the valley, Hosmer and Ghostrider and others, and envisioned future scrambles with friends. I couldn’t wait to come back and spend more time exploring.

Late in the day during the Trail to Ale challenge. This is just above town on the way down from Hyperventilation!

Late in the day, this is just above town.

Then this past visit, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. First there was the Fernie Brewing Trail to Ale Challenge, a fun adventure that challenged me to run an unplanned 50k, linking together three trail systems in order to earn a free beer (and handmade medal!). Then I discovered that you can run up a beautiful rolling trail to grab a snack or beer at Island Lake Lodge, before heading out on some amazing, well-marked alpine trails from the lodge, then running back down. (!!) Between those two runs, I found a nice and easy riverside run right from town, and saw the sun set on the Lizard Range. I was in heaven.

A shot from the Mount Baldy loop at Island Lake lodge. I saw not a single person on this beautiful 10km loop in the alpine.

A shot from the Mount Baldy loop at Island Lake lodge. I saw not a single person on this beautiful 10km loop in the alpine.

 

A shot from the FBC Trail to Ale Challenge. These awesome little trail signs were made for each of the goals along the way, and we had to snap a pic with our time for evidence!

A shot from the FBC Trail to Ale Challenge. These awesome little trail signs were made for each of the goals along the way, and we had to snap a pic with our time for evidence!

 

A part of the Old Stumpy/Elk River run, just a few kilometers from town.

A part of the Old Stumpy/Elk River run, just a few kilometers from town.

Just as I thought, Fernie, screw off. You’re a remote small town, and I can’t fall in love with you… I need to go back home to Vancouver. — a lively band started playing in the town center, in a beautifully repurposed train station that now serves as the Fernie Arts Station. Local beer and wine flowing, a cafe owner tells us it’s Wednesday Night Social. I look around at all the happy people dancing, all ages intermixed together, old men and women with hardcore mountain bikes, and I felt so at home.

Wednesday Night Social at the Fernie Arts Station!

Wednesday Night Social at the Fernie Arts Station!

I tried my best to avoid falling in love with this town, but it’s like Fernie was beckoning me. A quaint book shop displayed a selection of entrepreneurship and creativity books, exactly the kind I like… Cute little restaurants sat with gardened patios, with the perfect ratio of sunlight to shade… Everyone was biking, everywhere, so happily. Cafes, yoga and breweries seemed to outnumber any other kinds of stores… And when I sat down for coffee, articles in Fernie Fix magazine seemed to be written just for me. Even the garbage cans were beautiful, with local artwork decorating them!

Fernie is one of those places that has something special going on. But beware… if you go, you may just find that you have to keep coming back… 😉

Another from the Mount Baldy Loop

Another from the Mount Baldy Loop… remote mountains forever!

If you’re heading there, grab a trail map from the helpful folks at GearHub, ($10) and check out the awesome local trail running group by Abi & friends, called Stag Leap. In the summer, be sure to grab some bear spray and a bear bell for further fun times. For a nice, easy 10k trail & river route from town, you can follow this route I made on RunGo.

Till’ next time!

Whistler, I love you!

Solo Camping for the Momma’s Girl

This week I was randomly gifted with a week off, which meant that I needed to quickly come up with a fun, adventure-packed vacation plan, something I could do solo because everyone I know had work commitments. I thought about heading to the Chilcotins, to Stein Valley or down to Mount Rainier, but I hesitated. I pictured myself being alone in a bivvy sack, and attempting long-ish solo remote runs near Grizzlies, and it just seemed really dumb. Suddenly, Whistler was the obvious choice. It’s beautiful, so much fun, and it’s busy enough everywhere that you can visit these amazing backcountry places, but still feel the security of seeing other people from time to time, even on a weekday. (Plus there’s cell phone reception all over!)

I decided to pull out all the stops with safety while I was at it. Here’s how I made my mom super happy with my adventure choice, and you can, too!

  1. I bought a SPOT device from MEC
    The SPOT seems great for tracking whereabouts, so far! Because of the awesome battery life, I kept it on and with me at all times when I was camping or running. Ask me for the link if you want to track me!

    Alicia's SPOT

  2. I brought multiple maps
    I love maps, and having a paper map of the area is a must. Even in summer and our mild climate, my phone got too cold and died (with battery 3/4 full!) at 7am in the campsite. I typically use a map AND RunGo, it’s nice having both.
  3. I camped in the easiest backcountry spot– Cheakamus Lake!
    My camp spot was only a 4km hike in, so it was super close, if I did need help for some reason (or a beer). That lake is one of the most beautiful, quiet places and in my opinion, you can’t get a better place in terms of reward-to-effort ratio. (Good to know, there was even a bit of cell reception in there!)

    Camping at Cheakamus Lake!

  4. On my solo runs I stuck to classic backcountry trails, all routes that are well-defined and that I’ve done before at least once. It’s hard to go wrong with running 1,300m up to the alpine on the Singing Pass, or running shoulder to shoulder with Black Tusk from the Helm Creek trailhead. I also brought every piece of emergency gear I own– spare jacket, light, maps, SPOT device, cell phone, emergency kit, and lots of food. It’s peace of mind, and if I don’t need it, I may be able to help someone else.

    Running Along Panorama Ridge

  5. Obviously, I told people where I was going, and whenever I changed my mind I phoned to let my emergency contact know of my change in plans.

So that’s my little summary of how to do a fun solo camping trip, and maximizing all the peace, quiet and adventure, while minimizing complaints & general anxieties from mom.