Canoe Indian Arm, Bike to Squamish… & Back

Did you know that Vancouver has fjords?

Indian Arm is a glacial fjord that’s right here in our backyard, a sanctuary of water between two steep-sided mountain ranges, North Vancouver and Belcarra. The body of water stretches about 20k north, toward a rugged wilderness area near mountain heaven– Squamish and Whistler.

amazing fjord!

amazing fjord!

I was always drawn to this area, both the fjord itself, and the wild area at the end of the fjord. Back in winter, I heard tales of an old logging road from the top of the Indian Arm that could lead to Squamish, and that further stoked my imagination. Come February, while “training” for a 100k, I was already onto that. In one very special day, Kerry, Tara and I managed to run that ~35 kilometer Stawamus Fire Service Road out and then back as a 65-70 kilometer snowy fun run, starting from Squamish to greet the marshes at the top of the Indian Arm, and then back.

it was snowy fun!

it was snowy and we saw no one!

That trip was thoroughly satisfying, but there’s always another level or layer. Because I’m an explorer at heart, I couldn’t help but think, What about canoeing up the whole Indian Arm, (~20k) and then hitting that road to Squamish, (~35k) and then coming back and canoeing all the way back?  I had canoed up maybe 1/4 of the Arm before, and now I had run the road both ways, so it seemed practical and within reason.

For whatever reason, months went by and no plans were made. Maybe it was the fact that there were so many logistics. How to carry canoe on my shit car? Where to leave canoe before the road? Then on Monday, I started going crazy about having an adventure on the weekend. And then, I remembered this dream! Nothing was going to deter me, even a slight achilles tendonitis, I would just turn the whole running into mountain biking.

I roped Julien into the plan from the get-go, he needed very little convincing. Both new, keener mountain bikers and semi-injured runners, we figured that we would canoe up the Arm with bikes on top, and then stash the canoe, and ride our way up to Squamish. We even added a nice little camp party with friends in Squamish after the journey out, and then we’d make the return journey to retrieve our canoe the next day, Sunday. We were quite cocky, telling the friends that we’d see them at camp around noon after starting at 7am. (!!!) A few details were left, like how to transport a canoe without racks, and how to put bikes inside, and how it would feel to paddle 20k. And, for me, how to ride a mountain bike. But these are just details! We even made a map for the way out using RunGo App (the start-up where I work) so we would find the bike trail and get to our friends’ campsite, knowing it would navigate us through any turns by voice.

Saturday morning looked like this.

Makes my car look more valuable.

Makes my car look more valuable. Foam blocks and straps are my new favourite accessories!

As these things go, we didn’t actually get going until 10:05am. Not 7am.

We hit the water in our canoes, and surprisingly, sailing was smooth with the bikes inside. It took us about 4 hours on our way out, at a leisurely pace but with great tides in our favour. (I think Julien actually looked up the tide charts…)

Canoe and Biking

After the paddle up, we stashed the canoe at the north end of the Arm, excited to give our crazy mountain bikes a whirl. At this point, we figured it would be a quick bike ride, maybe 3 hours. I didn’t remember any hills when we ran it. And it sure wasn’t technical, it was a road… We would be flying on bikes!

And then, I realize that I forget all the details about these journeys. Like, look at this terrain.

The Stawamus Fire Service Road

Thing is, the experience on a bike, is night and day from the experience on a run, and I had no idea yet. The road was super rocky, which made the peddling up a good way to learn how to bike. Oh ya, and speaking of, how did I forget all that elevation?!

We quickly realized that the forgotten climbs, and the rocky road was actually pretty technical biking, and our expected timing on the bike skyrocketed. We arrived to camp at 7pm, after some pretty decent climbs and rocky riding. Highlights included learning how to mountain bike, getting an electrical charge by accident, and seeing Julien bail on his bike a lot.


The way back was even more epic.

It seems we can’t get an earlier start than 10am, I blame it on Zephyr Café this time. Off we go, and oh sure, this way will take way less time, because we’re doing more downhill, and we’re more used to the terrain now. Being endurance/exercise-aholics though, somehow we end up climbing 7 vertical kilometers, on our mountain bikes, up the wrong roads. We actually made it up higher than the top of the Chief on one of those climbs up the Sea to Sky gondola road, before realizing how dumb we were. That’s fine, just more calories needed!

Arriving in Squamish

Arriving in Squamish

We ended up making the journey back on our bikes in good timing, once we finished our accidental few hours’ elevation assault. Almost as a reward for making this journey, we made a friend on a yacht which was silently docked in the Indian Arm. We were so lucky to meet Roxy, who befriended us and welcomed us aboard, like the crazy kids we are. While wondering why we didn’t just drink and smoke instead, Roxy fed us this amazing cheese, fig, and date platter, and some delicious white wine, so we could focus before our big canoe trip back.

The canoe finish was almost enchanted… we canoed right up to Deep Cove in flat, still waters as sun set, through the dusk and as the stars began to emerge above us, lighting our way into Deep Cove.

Indian Arm!

Comment here if you’re interested to make this journey and want to use the maps we used on RunGo app, or if you want to ask Julien about how to not fall on bikes!


One Year Ago: Drinking Horse Milk in Mongolia

On this same day last year, I was almost missing my flight on our way to run and galavant across Mongolia, with my crazy pals Tara and Laurel.

alicia in mongolia

Adventuring with your most inspiring allies in a totally weird, awesome place is the best way to stay creatively inspired, reflect on what we’re doing here with our lives, and maybe even realize what horse milk tastes like. While I sipped horse milk from a young family in Mongolia last summer, I came to terms with the compromises that a nomadic life would really entail, and suddenly appreciated what I had back home– a relatively easy office life, tons of vegetables, travel with friends whenever I wanted– a kind of freedom which I did not realize, until transplanted.

tara and laurel in mongolia
This weekend is summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Why not get out for an adventure you’ll remember , even in your own backyard?


FEAT Canada 2014 Adventure Talks: Our Videos Online

As you can tell, I’ve had a few beer this week, so I’m updating my blog. That’s right, two postings, back to back!

Now, time to share something that was super exciting in winter, which I totally forgot to share way back when. I was really lucky to participate as a speaker in FEAT Canada 2014, which is a TED talks style event with an active adventurer spin, produced by Squamish entrepreneur/adventurer Sean Verret. Speaking at FEAT was a goal that made me super excited, and scared to the point of increased nail-biting. For one, the format is daunting. Each speaker is challenged to tell a story in 7 minutes, through exactly 21 slides of images, with 20 seconds each. No more, or less, so no room for bullshitting. Add to that, I was presenting beside some of my adventure idols, including being introduced by the legendary Kevin Vallely. Eeeee! I was buzzing without caffeine that afternoon.

But! I was the luckiest person to have an entourage of 30 friends and family in the audience to support me, so I felt like I was just talking to my peoples. When half the theatre vacated with me to the pub after the talk, it was so clear: I am totally spoiled by the amazing people I get to have around me! You guys, my friends and family, inspired the talk and the entire lifestyle I lead. (And these same people, I have to thank for taking me out all night and getting me drinking quite proficiently after the talk, before my 50k race the next morning. Thanks for that!)

If you missed FEAT this year, here is the full evening line-up of all the amazing, wonderful speakers that night! And if you want comedy, here’s my talk, which I can never watch myself!

Go do something that makes you scared!

alicia speaking at feat

New Race Food: Chinese Bakery Items

So, I’m running my first hundo in August, and I have no clue what I will be trying to eat while I run.

For everything up to 100K, my strategy has evolved to the beautiful act of downing as many gels as I can while I run. Surprisingly, I tend to like it: being sticky in gu reminds me of being a child, and brings back nostalgic memories of playing on the floor, and getting all sticky. Also, eating is mechanically easily, so I can focus on how fun the trail is, and not how difficult it is to consume the calories I desperately need. (I’ve tried to copy Angel’s classy style, and eat an artisan West Seattle Bakery Nouveau chocolate croissant during running. But sadly, that just doesn’t go down easily for me.)

But 100 miles?! Can I actually eat all the calories I need for that, just from gels?! I’m leaning towards doubting that. I ate something like 25 gels in Gorge Falls 100k, and that was only 12 hours of moving. I feel like this is something I won’t get right on my first kick at the can. But at the same time, there’s not too much room for error in a 100, from what I can tell. Inefficient eating could kill me and my tutu!

So. I get random ideas. What could go down easily, would be fun to eat, high in calories, and not high in fiber? And the idea comes to me, during my walking lunch break to the amazing T&T Supermarket!

What about Chinese bakery items?

mmmm! what is that?!

mmmm! what is that?!

Look through the bakery glass in that photo, and tell me you’re not curious about how those items might help you rock your next 100 miler?! You’ve got sticky rice creations with red bean, Chinese deep fried donut, bbq pork & pineapple bun… and it’s all starchy, simple carbs, so maybe could be good fuel?!

Has anyone ever experimented with Chinese bakery items in a long ultra before? I’d love to hear about your experiences! And if not, I will give it a whirl, and report back after my next Chinese bakery fuelled adventure!

Peace out. Time for Hot Zumba cross-training!