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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My Healthiest Unhealthy Year

I think there is a notion that fit people may sustain themselves on carrots and lemon juice. While that may be for some, I can assure you for many it isn’t. In fact, it has been on the CDT that I have met the worst chain smokers. People that hike 50-60 km a day, smoking every 15 minutes. One guy, probably only a few years older than us, had a discolored mustache from smoke. When he ran out of cigarettes,  he tore up his map and smoked that with whatever tobacco remained. Thru hikers zoom by, chewing tobacco and smoking at the same time.  Carrots and lemon juice eh? We would probably try to stuff it into a cigarette.

The other day I realized I hadn’t had any fruits/veg for weeks. In fact, the only greenery I’m getting at the moment is whatever comes on a burger. You see, when the going gets tough, the tough don’t eat salad. Instead, you drench everything in ranch dressing. Eat the butter packets on the table while you wait for your deep fried meal. Chug the condiments and sip the coffee cream. Fill the Nalgene bottles with Mountain Dew. Maybe even add sugar packets.

We are in the best shape we have ever been. We can do 60 km in a day, with a full backpack, up and over mountains and passes. No worries. Then repeat. However, we are surviving on cookie-dough pop tarts, chips, and candy. As already mentioned, the only greenery we are eating is green number four food dye.  I don’t even remember what strawberries taste like. Sadly, I don’t even care. If it’s not deep fried and smothered in butter and ranch – I’m not interested.

DSC02578The burger at the Crossing in Wisdom, Montana. One of the best restaurants on the trail thus far! I could have moved in.

DSC02536God Bless America. All this food for under 20 dollars. See any vegetables? I sure don’t.

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

We emerged from the woods to rolling sage brush. In the distance, we could see a single track, desolate road. There were no cars. Our knees ached and we were low on water. We didn’t want to hike the extra 13 miles down a hot dusty road to the highway to resupply. We were going to get a ride, no matter what. Even if we had to lay down on the road to stop the come-every-three-hour-car.

We finally reached Lemhi Pass a little after noon and sat in the middle of the road. Waiting. After an hour or so, a cloud of dust appeared. A car! Better yet – a truck!

The truck stopped and the window rolled down. I started the speech, “We’re hiking the divide and we were wondering if we could get…get…getttt…” I stammered. I had noticed that their hands, up to the elbows, were covered in blood. Uh oh. We had been warned about crazies. Quick! Mutter something about the weather and make a run for it Liam! I’m sure the knees still have some life in them! However, my stomach growled. In the end, the stomach always wins. And so, I pushed on, ” a ride into town.” My hand quivered near the bear spray.

“Well,  we are a bit full”. The men pointed to the bed of the truck. It was then that I noticed something large and hairy laying on top a pile of wood. A black bear. Now it made sense! These weren’t psycho killers that preyed on defenseless bearded skinny hikers from Canada. They were hunters!

“But you can get in the back with the bear.” There are some rides you never forget and this was one of them. We sat in the back on a pile of wood with a bear between us. Watching beautiful country roll past. All we needed was a beer.

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We thought once we got to the highway the remaining 20 miles to Salmon, Idaho would be easy. We were wrong. So utterly wrong. Four hours passed. We wanted to throw our hiking sticks at passing traffic. To make matters worse, the owner of the gas station we were hitching from kept coming outside and telling us we couldn’t stay there (it’s not like we wanted to!). We planned to call it quits at 6 PM and camp in the ditch with the roadside trash.

At 5:50 PM, a car stopped. They were going to Salmon in a hour after cowboy church. They invited us to join, saying there would be drinks and food. I don’t even think we let him finish talking before we piled into the car. And so in a whirlwind of ten minutes we went from the side of the highway to singing hymns and drinking lemonade with peach cobbler (after putting on a few layers to hide the I-haven’t -washed-for-a-week-smell of shame). Tray (our saviour) introduced us to the congregation and we even had 2 ladies come up and offer us rides back to Lemhi Pass the next day. What luck! We even stayed for the night at the church in Salmon. It just goes to show: In the end, everything will be alright. And if it isn’t alright, it isn’t yet the end. Thank you so much everyone!

DSC02622Apparently Cowboy Churches are becoming more popular.

DSC02624Our night’s accommodation in Salmon.

Our Finest Hour

The day we left the Blaeberry River and headed up to Mistaya Lodge we had no idea it would be so wet. Before the bridge over the Blaeberry we fell into Cairns Creek. Our ski boots were soaked. After the bridge it started to rain. And it didn’t stop. When we reached snow again, Liam’s skins just had had enough – they fell off. So he tumbled, slid, and back rolled all the way down the steep slope into a tree well. With nothing else to do, Liam packed them into his backpack. When putting on his skis again, he fell through the snow, was thrown off balance, and tumbled, slid, and back rolled all the way down the steep slope into a tree well. He stayed there for a few moments. Upside down. Watching Jake plod up the slope…he hadn’t even noticed.

The trail to Mistaya got wetter and wetter. We passed through BC forest – long trees, with few branches. They would be terrible to make a fire from…

On the final head wall the snow got sticky and the mist rolled in. It continued to rain. We almost didn’t go to the lodge. What would have been the point? No-one would be there and it would be all locked up. Nevertheless we wondered what it looked like, so we went. And Thank Goodness we did.

This is what awaited us:

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We were cold and extremely wet. A sauna was beyond what we imagined. At best, we imagined we would have gotten an unlocked outhouse. We thought maybe it was a joke…but we looked for the building anyways…

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And we found it and fired that puppy up. It. Was. Amazing. Thank You Mistaya! You restored our Souls.