Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Murphy's law

It looks like I may have waited a bit long with long-distance hiking. C injured his knee in spring and after months of gradual improvement it's now got worse again.
So we're putting the Arizona Trail on hold - the knee might heal over the next months, but due to weather hiking the trail in winter isn't really an option. We're hoping to do at least a couple of sections though, assuming elderly joints will cooperate enough for that.
But hey, there are worse things in life! We're making the best of it and are currently enjoying the record-breaking snowfall in Canmore, Alberta, after hiking up to Wilcox Pass in Jasper National Park.
Canmore is a nice place to wait out a snowstorm! They have an awesome library, swimming pool and climbing wall complex, perfect to wait for the sun to reappear - which it did:
Here's to hoping we can leave the snow behind!


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Taking a detour

Life is full of detours. There’s one I didn’t take one eighteen years ago: I had applied for a piece of crown land to build myself a house, and my plan B, in case the application was denied, was to hike the Pacific Crest Trail – a 4,240 km (2,650 miles) long hiking trail that stretches from the US-Mexico border all the way to Canada. I got the land and shelved the PCT for later in life, but my life choices then saw me adopt more dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and move further out into the bush with my boyfriend away from roads and human neighbours. 

My PCT hiking guides (actual books because 18 years ago an app was just a typo) have accompanied me all that time, catching my eye again and again on the bookshelf as we added on to our cabin, grew a garden, figured out a livelihood and my dogs grew old and passed away.

As responsibilities dwindled (no more cats, chickens and ducks, only one dog left now) I began to pull those books out again. Every map calls out a promise, these ones also sound a challenge. Which begs the question: how do I keep challenging myself and continue to grow as a person, tucked away since 2005 in a wilderness cabin? 10 months of being a foster mom to orphaned black bears at Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter was one experience I knew I needed, one that still follows me into my dreams at night, one that has forever changed my feelings towards bears because I came to know black bears so closely. 

Getting to know a long, long stretch of landscape closely seems to be another experience I need since the appeal of a thruhike hasn’t paled at all over the course of 18 years. I wonder how that experience will unfold. Since our dog is already 11 years old and will have to carry his own food, we’re not tackling the PCT but will try our luck with the Arizona Trail, by comparison a short cruise: it’s only 1,300km (800 miles) long, but not as overrun as the PCT has become. 

There’s one advantage of having waited for 18 years to attempt a thruhike. Gear has become incredibly light compared to those good old days of clunky leather boots and towering backpacks. Going lighter is much easier on the body (now 18 years older). We’ll see how we do, but this is my gear that works out to a pack weight of just over 6kg (13lbs) without food or water:

Backpack: OspreyExos 48  - without the removable lid around 900g/2lbs
Foamie: Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol - short version: 290g/10oz
Sleeping bag: Marmot Women's Phase 20 - regular size 820g/29oz
Tent: TarptentRainshadow - my share of the tent and footprint weight: 800g/28oz
Stove: MSRPocket Rocket - my share of the stove, pot, cartridge, cutlery: 500g/18oz
Total weight of backpack, foamie, sleeping bag & my share of the tent and kitchen: 3.3kg/7.3lbs

Clothes (much of it homemade):
Coolmax fleece pants 235g/8oz
Merrell hiking pants 284g/10oz
rain pants 140g/5oz
rain jacket 160g/5.6oz
fleece hoodie 380g/13.5oz
down jacket "Quechua" by Decathlon 355g/12.5oz
fleece vest 142g/5oz
Odlo thermal shirt 162g/6oz
tank top 60g/2oz
underwear 150g/5oz
socks @ 24g/pair = 72g/2.5oz
fleece hat 39g/2oz
scarf 24g/1oz
fleece mittens 39g/2oz
moccassins 220g/8oz
Total clothes 2.3kg/5lbs

Shoes: Dynafit Feline Vertical Pro 250g/9oz

Assorted other stuff (toothpaste, toilet paper, sunscreen, camera, water filter) about 1kg/35oz 

My homemade clothing - still debating whether I bring the green hiking pants and the skirt:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Big Salmon River

Well, we left the potatoes and carrots to fend for themselves, turned on the electric fence and set off for a canoe trip on the Big Salmon River. I pretty much could have worn my toasty outfit motorboat for the first week on the river as well because it was that cold:

So here's my confession: while I'm an experienced flatwater kayaker, whitewater strikes fear in my heart. Especially when sitting in a canoe instead of a kayak, and even more especially with our nervous ninny of a dog in the canoe. I have had no whitewater experience before this trip, and the most difficult section of the Big Salmon (a class II river) happens to be right at the beginning - a logjam that somebody had cut an opening through with a chainsaw, making for a keyhole chute flanked by pointy branches. We got stuck for interminable seconds on a submerged log, zigzagged our way past the sprinkling of more pointy branches (all the while shouting at the dog to lie down), and I was almost ready to quit. But after repeated assurances by my boyfriend that this was the worst part, I got back into the boat. And - he was right!

The rest was more like this:

The landscape was different every day, and so was the always translucent river, serving up riffles and waves over boulders, sandbanks, almost stagnant sleepy stretches and parts where you can see the water actually flows downhill.

As the weather warmed, out came the horseflies in numbers that not only drove our dog wild, but us as well. We ended up sweating many an afternoon away in the tent, out of reach of the flies.

A more pleasant sight was this lynx, stalking a couple of birds along shore:

Even though our dog was thoroughly fed up with canoeing by the time we reached the Yukon River and hanging half his body over the gunwale every 30 seconds, we managed to make it to Carmacks without getting wet.

We got home just in time to save the potatoes and carrots from shrivelling up and are now gearing up for winter: it's almost moose hunting time.
And, having landed a book deal with a large German publisher, I have a novel to write! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Snow carvings

Wind-carved waves, dunes, canyons and mountain ranges on the snowy lake:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

You know it's been cold

… when -27°C (-20°F) feels so balmy that you have to open not only your jacket, but your hoodie as well, and take off your mittens because it’s just too hot.
Four months of solitude, and yeah, I do look a bit ... wild

January is always a quiet month out here, the animals settled into their mid-winter range which doesn’t seem to include us. It’s also been nice and cold for a change. I invariably look forward to cold snaps where every little task feels like a major achievement: chopping the day’s firewood supply while fingers and toes turn something very much like frozen wood, chopping the thick ice that encroaches into the waterhole from the sides and threatens to constrict the diameter to less than water bucket size, going for a walk without re-freezing my toe, frost-bitten a few winters ago.

And just as invariably, after four days or so I begin to grumble at the same things I looked forward to. Waking up to 5°C (40°F) inside the cabin is losing its charm. Goes to show how moods are silly things and have just about nothing to do with outside influences, and all the more with how we deal with situations.

Writing is a fun way out of cabin fever, a little trip into a fantasy world entirely my own, and I’ve been spending pleasant weeks kicking words around inside my head.
There has been precious little to blog about, so I didn’t, but here are some images to make up for the lack of posts: 
December walk
Ice pushed up into a pressure ridge, imitating plate tectonics

My water hole and its attendant sun dial

Haven't been using my studio to avoid having to heat two buildings

I can never get enough of the incredible variants of winter light

Morning yellow is one of my favourite colours