Sailing Days

We have been wandering around Vancouver Island for two weeks now and it is hard not to look back on the days we sailed here. Ten years ago John and I spent a year and a half sailing around the Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound on a 26-foot sailboat (and living on).

We were, and still are, impetuous. Reckless.

That’s how we ended up in Victoria, BC in early June, purchasing a sailboat when our plans had been to spend the month backpacking in Kluane National Park. Instead of wandering mountains we quite suddenly were the proud owners of a 1975 Contessa 26.

It was an enormous learning curve. Living and adventuring in the Yukon we are at ease in the backcountry hiking, paddling, skiing. We are confident and capable there.

But sailing?

It was difficult to see beyond the basic fact that I’m terrified of the water and John can’t swim.

Oh, and yes, we didn’t really know how to sail. Continue reading “Sailing Days”

In Between The Rains We Played In Atlin

Heat waves and periods of intense rain sums up the month of July. Having the summer off means we can decide when and where to go, depending on where the nicest weather lies. We had plans to spend a couple of weeks exploring Mount Edziza but wildfires in Northern BC forced us to look elsewhere.

At the beginning of the month we returned to Atlin Lake, spending a week paddling and hiking a provincial park does not get enough attention considering how beautiful it is and how fun the paddling is – if you remember to choose your weather. Wolves, grizzlies and mountain goats can be spotted, islands with baby gulls and arctic terns and protective adults occupy all the rocky islands. And of course there are mountains like Cathedral and Llewellyn Glacier to admire. Even though we spent nearly two weeks last summer paddling here we were just as enthralled and enchanted with this place this time around. We explored new bays, new inlets, met a black wolf, camped beside a bee’s nest.

Blue Skies Near The Skagway Summit

When the weather forecast calls for only four days of sunshine for the next two weeks, you have to take advantage of it. We went into the mountains to wander, frolic and skip about aimlessly.

Upon reaching the alpine, there were so many options. Do we go east towards the rutting Dall sheep? Or wander due north to the cliffs above Lake Bennett where the mountain goats like to hang? We could also go northwest to the glacier beneath a craggy mountain. We instead chose to follow the caribou tracks west past a half frozen lake to a pass where we two peaks to scramble called to us.

The glacier tumbling into a tiny alpine lake is certainly not the most jaw-dropping glacier around but we were the only human souls here in the heather, rocks and mountains. We mingled instead with the sheep, goats, grizzly, wolf and caribou and arctic ground squirrels.

Topo maps would have been useful but they take away the spontaneity, surprise and sense of exploration. It’s not about being the first person to do some thing, it’s about going outside to play, to experience the wonders of nature. Simplicity.

Summer Recap

14 weeks of playing outside. There was way too much rain but we played as much as we could. We canceled a pretty big canoe trip as a result of many things getting in the way. Life is rarely predictable. Instead, we wandered the southern bit of the Yukon and a corner of northern BC, hiking, paddling. Somehow, even when we agreed to have an easy day of hiking we ended up far off trail and scrambling on mountain goat paths above canyons. The mountains are addictive. Once you start wandering, it’s hard to stop. We napped in alpine meadows. Read a lot of books on gloomy rainy days. Met a couple of grizzlies, a few black bears. It was a summer of aimless wandering, something we have perfected in twenty years of foregoing the pursuit of careers and material possessions.

Autumn is upon us and winter will soon follow so we return to work.

Below is a compilation of some of our summer highlights. Social media, however is great at making people’s lives look “epic” when the truth is we all have our bullshit struggles. Sure I’ve been fortunate to spend the summer playing in beautiful places but there are days when it is hard to see beauty in anything, difficult to find optimism in the blackness in my head. There are days when it is challenging to crawl out from the crushing weight of depression to hike, even though I know that once I’m up in the alpine, where the heather blooms and grizzlies roam and glaciers shimmer, I will be in my happy place. But hiking up a mountain to reach the alpine is easier than hiking out of a depression. This summer I had a few of those difficult days but, as always, the mountains never disappointed to recharge the soul.

The mountains surrounding our home were our focus in the spring. Only a ten minute drive from home we had three different mountain ranges to wander. And for the summer we wandered between Kluane National Park and Reserve, Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park and Atlin Provincial Park and the mountain ranges in between.

Atlin Lake Provincial Park

I won’t say much about Atlin Lake other than it’s worth the effort to get there and go paddling. There is infinite beauty and peace to be discovered, plus there’s a warm spring to slip into after a week or so of paddling, to soothe tired muscles.

We spent eight days paddling the provincial park and were fortunate to enjoy eight days of sunshine and calm waters. We met mountain goats, moose, a family of river otters, nesting gulls, curious mell gulls, scoters, ospreys, devil’s club, waterfalls. A shrinking glacier. The list goes on.

Llewellyn Glacier

Wokkpash Trail, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Part 2

The BC Parks trail description recommends beginning the Wokkpash Trail along the Old Churchill Mine Road. It’s lost on me now why we chose to begin from the MacDonald Valley and end our trip hiking the 17 kilometres of the Old Churchill Mine Road but that’s what we did. I don’t think it really matters since hiking the MacDonald Valley with full packs isn’t that challenging, there is little elevation gain and the trail is well-trodden. Continue reading “Wokkpash Trail, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Part 2”

Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Part 1

Stone Mountain Provincial Park, like Muncho Lake, is too often overlooked by travellers focused on points north or south along the Alaska Highway which I think is absurd. Mountain ridges, alpine lakes and wilderness adventure is so accessible here. It is just as stellar here as anything you’ll find in the Yukon or Alaska. I don’t think I’ve traveled the highway in the last ten years without making sure I have at least two days to hike here. Hiking the same trails year after year hasn’t bored me yet either. And there is nothing but experience stopping anyone from wandering off the trails to explore side canyons or scramble up the peaks and ridges. The options are endless.

Baba Canyon is perhaps my favourite day hike here. There is a trail but often it’s just about hopping along the creek boulders from one side of the creek to the other. Cascades with clear blue pools beckon hikers for a swim, weather and temperature permitting. The further you go the more impressive the canyon, the creek and the more beautiful the mountains, mountains ideal for scrambling.

Flower Springs Trail is easy (if you’re a hiker) but worth the time, placing hikers quickly in the alpine where woodland caribou roam. If time permits, explore beyond the lake and the trail’s ends. Two valleys extend beyond, both worth hiking into, to see what there is to be found. The energy expended will not disappoint.

And for those wanting mountaintop views, there is a trail leading up Mount St. Paul. For those who do not necessarily need a trail, there are many more mountain peaks easily accessible for scrambling. The hardest part will be choosing which peak to aim for.

Muncho Lake Provincial Park

Travellers of the Alaska Highway don’t often slate enough time to explore Muncho Lake. They may camp for the evening, stop to photograph the stone sheep or caribou often spotted along the highway but there are so many canyons and mountain peaks easily accessible from the highway. And because people underestimate the potential for adventure, you are almost guaranteed solitude. Even the provincial website fails to capture the magic of Muncho Lake. The hikes are varied, from short jaunts to multi-day, choose-your-own adventure types. Then there’s the paddling and the fishing or simply sitting on the shores of Muncho Lake and watching how light and shade can change the mood of the landscape.

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