Life off the Trail

As I said in an earlier post, “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on? When in your heart, you know there is no going back. There are some adventures that have gone too deep, that have taken hold…” Life off the trail isn’t easy. I have gone from hiking 50 km a day to sitting in an office as radio dispatch for Last Frontier Heliskiing in Stewart, BC.

We do get to go heliskiing though and it's pretty awesome.

A definite perk is we get to go heli-skiing  and it’s pretty darn awesome.

Letting off Chinese lanterns at Last Frontier.

Letting off Chinese lanterns at Last Frontier.

A nearby hot spring that we reached via heli. No bushwacking need - Whaaaaaaaaat?!

A nearby hot spring that we reached via heli. No bushwacking needed – Whaaaaaaaaat?!

Enjoying a dip! Life is quite different. Funnily enough, Jake and myself work for the same company, except at different lodges. For the first time in nine month, we’re not sharing a tent or patch of ground for sleeping. I get a whole bedroom to myself.

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Not only do I have more room, but no more hairy sheets! Thank God!

No longer do I shiver in frosty sleeping bags, wearing every single piece of fabric possible to stay slightly above frozen.

No more sleeping on snow! Yay!

No more sleeping on snow! Yay!

No more eating from a char-coal blacken pot. I can shower. Even more than once a week or two (which seems silly, but we live in a bathing obsessed society so I wash more than I would like). And we have wonderful wonderful meals, 3 times a day.

A Barbeque Chicken Drumstick, with corn puree, and an apple cucumber slaw. It's no Pringles, but it'll do.

A Barbeque Chicken Drumstick, with corn puree, and an apple cucumber slaw. It’s no Pringles, but it’ll do.

Beef Wellington, with crab asparagus salad and a red wine demi glacé. It's just slightly better hamburger helper (minus the hamburger).

Beef Wellington, with crab asparagus salad and a red wine demi glacé. It’s just slightly better hamburger helper (minus the hamburger).

Strawberry cheesecake with a hazelnut crust. Who needs Twinkies!

Strawberry cheesecake with a hazelnut crust. Who needs Twinkies!

It's a far cry from poptarts fried in butter.

It’s a far cry from the poptarts fried in butter in the past.

People always ask if I miss the trail, which of course I do. I miss the adventure and simplicity. Life was a routine – walk, sleep, eat. However, everyday was different. We went from mountain to mountain, valley to valley, desert to desert, buffet to buffet. Everyday was a story. Now, everything is complicated. I have a schedule, whereas before we were in charge of ourselves. If we were late packing up camp, it didn’t matter. We only walked longer into the night. Now if I have a problem, I have to solve it. And there is always many different ways to do so. Before if we had a problem,  we would just keep walking. Walking solved everything. Lost and map-less? Just keep walking. Hungry and out of food? Just keep walking. Cold and hankering for a buffet? Just keep walking…You could always walk your way out of trouble. You cannot do that in an office.

Summit of Font Mountain. It's a bit nicer than the office. Just a smidge.

Summit of Font Mountain. It’s a bit nicer than the office. Just a smidge.

Although A DoorStep Adventure is over for myself and Jake, it’s affect on us is not.  I still have some trail mentality:

1.Distance means nothing. Having someone tell me it’s “within walking distance”, only means that there isn’t an ocean between here and there. Does that mean it’s a block away? Or should I start preparing food drops and sawing the end of my toothbrush off to save weight? In the past, I always liked buying local produce, but now when I see a red pepper from Mexico, it’s local – as it’s within walking distance.

2. I always finish everything on my plate. No matter what. I struggle not licking my dinner plate everyday as I don’t think the hoity toity heli-skiing guests would approve. What a waste!

3. Whenever given the chance, always eat bacon. If you ever find yourself walking across a country, you’ll remember all the times in your life when you didn’t and you will regret it (I still regret not eating more at my sisters wedding 15 years ago). Dearly!

4. I talk to myself. Loudly. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t just squirrels and cows listening any more. People are judging…

5. I savour talking to people. Like the quote from Into the Wild, “True happiness is meant to be shared”. 5. I struggle not being able to go to the bathroom everywhere. Toilets are just so inconvenient.

6. I miss binge eating…

Glorious Spam! There aren't many instances in life where you can walk to a gas station and buy a can of spam, bucket of ice cream, chips, chocolate bars, pineapple (to keep up the

Glorious Spam! There aren’t many instances in life where you can walk to a gas station and buy a can of spam, bucket of ice cream, chips, chocolate bars, pineapple (to keep up the “pretence” of being healthy), pop, and a bag of sour patch kids. Gobble them all down and still hike another 20 km. Ahhh those were the days…

Although this adventure is over, there will still be plenty to come. One of particular interest would be following the Divide North from Jasper to the Alaska Highway. Maybe one day… Until next time – Happy Adventuring Everyone!

This is what happens when you lose a bet on the trail.

This is what happens when you lose a bet on the trail.

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Grinny’s Land of Enchantment

I suppose one more post like this – for old time sake.
Grinny’s Land of Enchantment
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The land where horses fly…
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And bulls rage.
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And cowboys are thin and lanky.
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 The lions are colourful .
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 The hitch hiking hard.
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And ranch bosses  mean and cranky. 
Everything is spiky in the Land of Enchantment  since they hardly get any rain (Grinny had prickles in his bottom for days. See below).
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And where Grinny first sees Road Runner giving him the eye  as he flashes by on the side of the  train .
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It was on the border, around the camp fire, that Grinny comes up with his plan.
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He’ll wait on the road, for days if he must, to show Road Runner who’s the real man.
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Three days Grinny waits in the middle of the road, but his adversary never appears. 
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So by consensus Grinny is awarded the race to the thunderous Mexican cheers.
The Mayor of Columbus ( pistol stuck in his boot), an official  of very high station,
Presents Grinny with the  Deformed Carrot Award . . . in keeping with the  situation!
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I Don’t Think a Simple Thank You Will Suffice

When Jake and I left Jasper we told few people. Why? We were afraid we wouldn’t make it past the traffic lights at the end of town…What if we broke our ankles on Day 6? What if Jake and I fought on Day 12 and refused to speak again to each other? What if we just didn’t like it? What if…? We had never done anything like this before and so we had no idea what would happen. And if no-one had any expectations, it wouldn’t matter if we only made it to the traffic lights. We could just sneak back into town and none would be the wiser.

The further South we went, the more and more people became interested in our adventure. It always amazed me how many people cared and wanted to hear our stories. We have received many kind comments/emails and received a massive amount of support. THANK YOU EVERYONE! Here are some people we would like to specially mention:

David Harrap (Dad), Nancy Taylor (Mum), Mike Alleyne (Dad), Janet Gulbransen, Rebecca Conti (Sister), The Alpine Club of Canada, Marilynn Gulbransen, Steph and Pete Robinson, The Waxers, Allie Strel, Mike Mcmillan,  the employees at Anderson Dorn & Rader Ltd, Elizabeth Harrap, Jill Seaton, Doreen Lennie, Debbie Goodridge Quinn, Nicole Caron, Rick and Sarah Strel, Greg Van Tighem, Dr. Mark Mahler at Jasper Dental Clinic, The Dorks (Park/Dolan Family), Jasper Elementary School, Carmen and Jeff Alleyne (Nanny and Granddad), The Monettes, and Jim Alary.

Also, for those interested here are some links to our adventure in the media. Gulp!
http://globalnews.ca/video/1752892/former-ubc-students-hike-5500km-to-mexico/

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/BC/ID/2645632749/ (8:30 minute marker)

http://www.vancouversun.com/touch/story.html?id=10691584

http://www.thejasperlocal.com/and-they-would-walk-5000-km.html

http://www.thejasperlocal.com/the-world-at-their-feet.html

http://www.fitzhugh.ca/jasperites-conquer-the-great-divide/

And the Boy Returns

Yesterday we went to a barbers shop (after waiting in line for over 3 hours. Dear goodness! Better be the best haircut we’ve ever got!). We entered as men and left as boys. After the haircut it began to sink in that the trip was over. No longer will people come up to us in the street and ask what adventure we’re on. No longer will I have kids come up and tell me how much they love the beard. No longer will we stand out. We’re just Average Joes. Even though I was ready to stop walking, it’s always sad when you realize a significant part of your life is over. Nevertheless that also means another chapter begins (and if that chapter involves a cruise with never-ending-buffets, you know it will be AWESOME!). image Before the chop. While we waited, people kept asking the barber, why he was allowing bums into his store…oh dear (I mean would bums have Osprey backpacks?! Come on!). I won’t miss people thinking your homeless (even though we don’t have a home, we’re not homeless! At least in a “conventional” sense). image image image image Mothers lock up your daughters, Jacob is coming to town. image

Oh Hello Moustache…image Liam is under there somewhere…I think. image Ahhhhh! The horror! Look away – it’s not done yet!image

It’s a close shave!

image The men are gone, and all that’s left are these whimpy boys. I bet they couldn’t even walk 10 miles! image Boy-Face Liam with a “winning” shave. Was it worth waiting 3 hours for? Darn right it was! image Jake with a ‘sporty’ moustache. He was the loser of the 252 day crib bet, so he has to have this fung-Imean delightful moustache for 252 days. Although we are clean shaven and “respectable” looking,  soon afterwards, we had a bum walk up and offer to share his food with us. So maybe we still look like adventurers? Score!

Finally – The Land of Far Beyond!

In the last hours of the last month of the last year, two figures limped across the Mexican border into Puerto Palomas. It has been an awesome adventure, the likes of which Jake and Liam probably won’t see again. To think that the trip is over is unthinkable.  To think that this is Mexico is absurd.  To think that we walked 5400 kilometers over 252 days to get here is outrageous. We have no idea how life off the trail will be. As Frodo said (more or less), “How does one pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you realize there is no going back. There are some adventures that go too deep that have taken hold.” I guess we will just have to see what happens. Thanks everyone for all the well wishes and the support! It’s amazing how many people have been interested in our story and have sent us kind words! I hope you all find adventures of your own – whatever they may be!

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Nearing the end. It’s hard to imagine that 8 months of walking is coming to a close…

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1/2 mile! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!

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The Mexican border guards. We did it. We are here. So surreal. The guards all took selfies with us. Neato!

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Celebrating in the hotel room. We bought the best champagne Walmart had (which was 10 bucks) to celebrate! The only thing open was a gas station. So our celebratory meal was a can of tuna…not quite what we dreamed of for 8 months…Oh well. At least we had the bubbly!

Getting to the Land of Far Beyond

Here are the pictures from our last couple weeks in New Mexico.  Enjoy!

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I think the picture speaks for itself. However, soon after we came across a hiker. The first since the middle of Colorado. He was lost, disorientated, and in a tee-shirt, with temperatures plunging to -15. We took him to the trail head, where a search party had assembled to look for him. Worst part was, he was a fire fighter. If this is how our emergency responders are…it doesn’t bode well.

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Walking in a sun-burnt country.

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A typical view in central New Mexico. Beautiful country, eh.

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A broken windmill. The landscape is littered with them. They once supplied the area with water, for cattle, but the water table has dropped too much and many are no longer in use. Making it all the more merry for hikers. Who needs water anyway’s…gulp!

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The Travelers Toaster House in Pie Town. Unfortunately we arrived when all the places in town, which sold pie were closed for the season. I still haven’t gotten over it…

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The Zuni Lava Field.

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Walking across a lava field. The only time on the trip we walked on fire!

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Doing “the arch” in front of an arch.

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400 miles?! Um, excuse me? That’s only 3000 off for some. *no big deal*image

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Look who joined again! Liam’s dad just couldn’t get enough of ADoorStepAdventure the first couple times, so he joined for a third.  Apparently he has been training by hiking up and down Bear Hill with dictionaries in his backpack.

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An alligator tree. Here’s a fun fact – makes excellent excellent firewood. Perfect for a cup of tea and roasting Pop-Tarts.

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In the last eight months, you failed to mention you owned a grocery store Jacob…What else are you keeping from me?!

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The Gila Cave dwellings.

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Franz the German hiker joins again!

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A cave drawing with Liam’s dad.

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Mexico should be in sight…somewhere between the Land and the Sky. Get the mojitos ready!

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A new cactus. Vicious!

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Hitching blue into Silver City. Hope there is a buffet open! Woot Woot!

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Christmas dinner in Silver City. We shopped hungry and grossly over bought. Hence the 4 cakes and pies.

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You failed to mention that you were kinda a big deal Allie Strel…

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Some wonderful Trail Angles. We stayed a night with them in Mimbres. It was a wonderful change from snow and cold. They made us pancakes and sold us wool. I could have moved into their spare bedroom and stuffed Mexico! But that just didn’t seem right…so we marched on.

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The fire lookout on top of Hillsborro Peak. We slept the night in a near-by cabin. Hardly any rats!

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Mexico! Dead ahead!

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The further south we go, the more vicious the vegetation becomes. Everything seems to have the soul purpose of tearing flesh from the bones. All is covered in prickles and pain. Be wary leaving the trail, if you’d rather not get prickles up your trousers.

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Fences are everywhere. Unfortunately they are always barbed, which aren’t the most hiker friendly. Ah well – matches the vegetation!

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3 miles from the border of Mexico, we met Dick and his Wife. Dick has hiked the CDT and GDT over a couple years. He was the first we’ve met that had. Neato!

Two Hundred Rivers to Cross

Well 205 to be exact. Last week we went through the Gila wilderness in Southern New Mexico. The route follows the Gila River and crosses it over and over and over again. I’m sure it’s refreshing in the summer when it goes above 30 degrees. However, it was frightfully cold in December. I could have snapped my ankle and I wouldn’t notice.

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The beginning of the 200 crossings.

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The canyon was breathtaking! So much wow!

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Neat, eh?

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The frost between crossings. It got to -15 degrees at night. Brrrr!

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I did whatever it took to avoid that liquid nitrogen!

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Here comes the sun. De de do da

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We are in flash flood country. Exciting!

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The Mines of Moria? Perhaps?

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Some greenery. Finally!

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And in our coldest hour we found a hotspring. Thank goodness! We got to melt the frost on our runners! Yay! It was absolutely tremendous!

The Joys of a Backpack

After awhile you become quite attached to your backpack. Like a turtle and his shell, it becomes your home and a dear ol’friend. During this trip, we have had many different sizes of backpacks. When we left Jasper, our bags were 100 pounds. Some days they went down to 20 (not often enough though). The following is the story of our backpack.

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For our food drops during the ski section, we attached a sled to our backpacks making manuevering around little more difficult...

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We even had to ford creeks with the blasted sled!

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We have to go how far with this ball and chain? Can't we just fly instead? No? Sigh.

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Trying to get up on Day 2.

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Still trying...

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Third time the charm!

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Being large and in charge, made things difficult. ..However, you never have to worry about someone stealing your backpack, I mean who would steal 100 pounds? Even if they did it might actually be reliving. And when you're the same size as a bear, no need to fret about them as well

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Are we there yet?

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Bit by bit the backpack got smaller. I think we are at 70 pounds here! Yay!

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Nothing like desert walking with snow shoes.

Days of Thinking

Most days are spent hiking from dark to dark. We don’t usually have much time for anything else other than walking.  Except thinking – we may even have too much for that. Somedays my mind drifts to the following short article written by a fellow mountain man – Rick Collier. He was one of the most accomplished Canadian mountaineers and climbed all the mountains along the Great Divide from the USA border to Saskatchewan Crossing in Canada. In total he climbed over 1350 summits. He was killed in climbing accident near Jasper two ago at the age of 71. Like Rick, I also struggle with organized sports, preferring to slog and bushwack my way up a mountain slope or survival ski down a glacier. I seem to enjoy suffering or at least always find myself seeking it out.

Early on I realized that tennis, baseball, or any sport requiring the careful management of a spheroid was beyond my capabilities; indeed, most activities demanding agility and coordination were best left for more competent others.  However, I was exceptional at something quite different — suffering.  Give me sweating, gut-it-out, muscle-aching recreations and I excelled – long-distance running, cycle touring, multi-day ski trips, mountain climbing.  By age twenty I understood that this was not merely some S&M neurosis:  bushwhacking through a remote valley or hauling my carcass up the rubble and cliffs of yet another unremarkable summit was transfiguring; I was clawing myself out of the boxes that imprison us all – education, job, debt, responsibility, others’ expectations – I could breathe and smell and taste exquisitely, and, for a time, “see into the life of things.”

That passion has embraced me now for fifty years, inspiring me through untold kilometers of running, cycling, hiking, and skiing and up more than 1200 peaks.  I still lack the finesse to lead 5.12 rock or dry-tool my way to a detached icicle; more important now are the hoary marmots, the golden glacier lilies, the rolling, intricate alplands, the tangled crags, the brilliant snowfields, and the eagle soaring in the azure skies.

What luck it is that I still have “world enough and time” for new adventures and new explorations – for the secret valley and the curious grizzly, for the unnamed lake and the hidden couloir, and for the many still unclimbed mountains of the Rockies. – written by Rick Collier

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Bush whacking along the Wood River (BC) in May. It was thick, steep, and really slow going. At the end of the day, I had a whole pine tree down my snow pants.