Adventure and Photography Blog
Wed, 11 Apr 2018 16:00:52 +0000There are 64 Hours in a Weekend
One fun activity I can suggest you try is to have a look at a map and figure out how far you can travel from where you live on your first weekend night and see what sort of adventure awaits you at the end of that road. Look at roads in all directions leaving your home, or as i like to call it “base camp”. Maybe this will open up a new door for you, something you didn’t think about exploring before. Don’t underestimate how much fun you can have in a couple days, a little road trip can be worth it. After all ever notice how time feels different once you break routine? How everything feels so amazing when your cell phone does not work and you are inhaling deep breaths of rain forest, mountains or ocean? I am also willing to bet your most memorable times were when you tried something new.Late night arrival at Mt. Cain
Let’s talk about the hours in weekend and what you can get up to in that time frame. There approximately 64 hours in a weekend, even better if it happens to be a long weekend 88 whole hours. So even if you travel eight hours to get to your starting destination on Friday night you still have at least 56 hours to work with. I mean what were you going to do Friday night anyways? Why not get a jump start on the weekend?View from Black Peak, Northern Cascades
One tip I can suggest to you to make the most of your hours is to have everything packed and ready to go Thursday night. The amount of time it takes to plan and pack can be considerable, be sure to have everything organized including food, clothing, and gear. The trick is to be on the road the second you depart your place of employment.
So where will those hours take you? Take me for instance, I live on Vancouver Island in Victoria, British Columbia, this has its advantages and challenges. On one side I live on an Island full of beautiful wilderness, Mountains and undeveloped coastline. It also keeps the crowds of the would be explorers from the mainland at bay (sorry Vancouver). I only need to drive about 40 minutes from home to exit cell reception. If you live in Victoria you can have a coastal retreat only about an hour and a half from home if you want it. In the winter I frequent the mountains in the North for ski trips, leaving the office Friday after work destined for Mt. Cain.Camping at Black Peak in the Northern Cascades
On the flip side living on an Island is the challenging aspect. Since there is a ferry between here and the mainland sometimes a good portion of my weekend travel is being at the mercy of a BC Ferries schedule. That said, on one occasion I’ve found myself deep in the Northern Cascades National Park located in Washington. It’s also easier than people think to travel to the Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton areas thanks to the Nanaimo ferry. Some of my weekend adventures have left me catching the first morning ferry on Monday back to Vancouver Island showing up for work without ever going home first.
I would love to hear what your weekend getaway involves.
Tue, 27 Feb 2018 17:00:18 +0000Truck Canopy Camping Survival Tips
Adding a truck canopy to my truck has been a game changer in terms of having a base camp, especially for winter ski trips. I wanted something stealthy, low maintenance and wouldn’t create any storage issues for me, this was the way to go. For tips on building up your own canopy space check out my post on How to build your own canopy camper.
Surviving in a small space certainly has its challenges and here are some of the the things I do to ensure my living quarters stay cozy, clean and comfortable.
I get asked “How do you stay warm?” more often than anything so I will start here. Having a warm sleeping pad and sleeping bag is probably stating the obvious. In addition to this I have a small portable propane heater. For me this is a must, I can crank the heat, and read a book while laying on top of my sleeping bag. Also there is nothing better than heating things up in the morning when you wake up in a freezing truck.
While I am using the propane heater I crack a window and I never sleep with the thing running. I generally run the heater on a low setting and this gives me about 3 hours of heat from a 1lb propane bottle. There are adapters if you are inclined to set your heater up to a 20lb propane tank. For me the little green cylinders cost about $6.00/day when it is chilly and the heat is worth every penny. They can also be refilled with the purchase of an adapter.
Also while the heater is running I lay out my damp clothing I need to dry out for the next day. I plan to install a line to be able to hang clothing while I am relaxing in the evening.Staying warm with a Mr. Buddy Portable Propane heater
Organization is key
Organize your stuff into various small containers as such:
- Food – a cooler for the perishables and a small plastic container for the dry goods
- Kitchen (Stove, pot, pan, utensils)
- Tools – Misc things you might need – multi tool, duct tape, extra light, scissors
- Clothing should be organized – soft mid and base layers in one bag, rigid cold and possibly wet other layers in another bag.
- I like using plastic containers that are opaque or clear so it is easy to see what is inside.
Be a neat freak about keeping everything organized, everything has its place. It’s amazing how annoying and easy it is to misplace things in a small space.
On another note, be sure to keep any food or anything that has an odour sealed up in a plastic container, including matches. Talking from experience here I had a mouse chew threw my ski touring bag to have a delicious energy bar feast.
Keeping your space clean and dry
Re-usable dish rags, paper towels and a quick dry towel are your new best friends. Trust me on this, snow and water will drip into your home when the canopy is open or melt off your boots or gear. With only a little effort you can keep you and all your gear dry.
You need to brighten up your accommodations. I chose string lights that I can run off a USB cord plugged into a small battery pack. Works fantastic, I charge the battery off my truck battery during the day. The lights last a few hours on a small portable battery, consider getting a second battery as backup.
I can’t sit straight up in my setup whilst on top of my sleeping platform. This presents its challenges when the weather outside is unfavorable and I am cabin bound for the night. One thing I noticed is I simply got used to it and gradually learned the best movements. The best advice I can give though is to take your time doing everything, chances are you are in your cocoon because it’s cold and dark out. Simply take your time doing everything and don’t sweat it. Whether it is getting dressed or preparing food or prepping your sleeping bag, accept that it takes a little extra time and acknowledge you have this time.
Once I am settled in I love stretching out on my sleeping pad with snacks and a book!
If you have any of your own tips and tricks for surviving a small space I would love to hear!
Sun, 25 Feb 2018 16:15:36 +0000Do it Yourself Truck Canopy Camper
There came a point where I needed a better system for a base camp than cramming myself into the back seat of my pickup or roughing it in a tent beside the truck having snow and wetness work its way into everything. One of the key’s to kicking off any trip is to get a good nights rest and I needed a cozy nest for this. I also employ a few techniques to make surviving a small space comfortable, see my post on; Truck camping survival tips.
One thing to note here is I do not have a shop or fancy tools. I kept this setup really simple staying as classy as I could. Anybody can do this. You can do this.
My reasons for choosing a canopy setup were numerous including:
- Stealth Mode; in many cases I don’t want it to be so obvious I am using my truck as shelter. I am a Mountain Ninja.
- I didn’t have the space for an RV nor did I want to spend the money on an RV.
- This setup is incredibly practical and easy to maintain.
- It is custom to built to meet my needs.
I spent hours scanning the internet for ideas about how build out my canopy camper and in the end I really just went for it and came up with something that worked for me. So here is my build and my recommendations for this type of setup;
If you are lucky you can find a used Canopy for a decent discount. This didn’t seem to be working out in my favour so I bought a brand new Leer Canopy. I highly recommend going for a new canopy, this is going to be your home on wheels after all. I have two recommendations when picking out the canopy:
- Make sure it is insulated with an interior Headliner. This will help to keep moisture down, hold a little bit of warmth, and having spent some time under the canopy I believe it reduces noise.
- Get the tallest canopy you can. I didn’t have budget for this in my project, it’s not a deal breaker. Just remember extra headroom would be a luxury.
Tools and Materials Required to do this project:
- Skill Saw
- Paint Brush
- Tape Measure
- Hand Saw
- Hand Block Sander – Fine
- 3/4″ Plywood – I chose a good quality Maple, for my project 3 sheets were required
- 2×2″ I went through about 8 of them
- Screws; lots and lots of them
- 3/4″ Corner Brace – 20x
- 2″ Corner Braces – 24x
Step One – Polyurethane
Coat all of the wood you will be using will a good outdoor Polyurethane base. Trust me on this, do not skip this step.
This will protect your setup from damaging moisture. Also you are going to be able to keep your base camp supper clean since you will be able to easily wipe surfaces.
Step Two – The Frame
Create frames for each side of your truck bed, as in the photo below. Keeping in mind either side will be a small storage space and the middle of your truck bed space will be drawers. How high you build the frame is up to you, every millimeter you go higher is less space for your head but more for storage and vice versa. My whole platform setup with plywood on top is about 12″ high. Your main goal here is to build the frames high enough to cover the wheel wells and consider the depth of the storage you wold like.
Next cut 4x lengths of 2×2 to span across the center. Evenly space the middle pieces and use the 2″ corner brackets to secure the lengths of wood in place. You will want to use 3x braces in the center pieces to create a slot for the wood to rest, this will secure it in one place. Use 2x Braces on the end pieces to create a partial slot to help keep them in place. The photo below only shows the bottom brace in place, you will want to place them on the sides as well.
A quick note on why I didn’t just screw the whole frame in place. I designed this setup to be easy to remove if needed. Easy to take out in case i need to use my truck for something else, easy to clean and easy to maintain as needed.
Step Three – Platform
For my main platform I used the full width of a 4′ sheet of plywood. The only cut required was to trim the length of the 8′ sheet of plywood down to 5’11 to fit the 6′ box.
Having a nice wide heavy sheet forces the frame to sturdy up and creates a solid base.
Next I cut two pieces on either side to fit snuggly beside the main platform. Having two pieces allows for easy access to the storage pocket created below.
Step Four – Drawers
I made the easiest, most practical drawers possible, and they work great. It is easy to caught up in the idea that you need some sort of sliding track for your storage drawers. To me all this would do is create more moving parts that could break and jam the drawers. The whole idea here is to keep things simple and functional.
So Basically I made two boxy drawers the full length of the truck. They are screwed together along the edges and further secured by 3/4″ corner braces. The drawers easily slide in an out from the bed of the truck.
And that’s it. I’ve been using this setup for one year now, long road trips, mountain base camp, surf trips, climbing and skiing. It’s fantastic.
Fri, 23 Feb 2018 17:00:11 +0000Let Nature Be Your Guide
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from trying to plan trips is to be incredibly patient and to be flexible with nature. I’ve learned to plan around the conditions rather than what I think I want to do. It’s important not to be stubborn about this because remember there will be other times when the conditions are just right.
Sometimes this is easy, like on a regular weekend. I generally don’t solidify any weekend plans until later in the week, Thursday or even Friday. I obsessively check snow reports, wave reports and weather reports. Will I climb? Ski? Surf? Backpack and take photos? Or maybe it’s a good weekend to rest up? When I make plans with others weeks or months in advance I am prepared to cancel if conditions don’t line up instead of forcing the situation. Trips are time and money, so why not go when you are sure to have a decent time?
Sometimes it’s a little more tricky..
Last year a friend and I traveled to Fernie BC to kick off a road trip to Interior British Columbia for a ski trip. Our plan was to do ski touring trips in the Interior over the course of a week. We had booked the time off from work a month in advance and had not anticipated the warm conditions that were about to rain down on us. The mountains were looking really sparse for the white fluffy snow we were hoping for. For months on social medial we looked at amazing powdery mountains so you can imagine our expectations were a little high for this trip.
We had a great closing day at the resort and discussed what to do. Together we decided to head across the British Columbia boarder into Alberta. We ended up making our way to Bow Hut in Banff National park where we ski toured on glaciers and were able to summit St. Nicholas Peak and Mount Olive. After we were done with skiing we made the decision to stop in Penticton on the way back for climbing. Canada is amazing isn’t it? Ski touring one day, climbing rock bluffs the next. Before we left Alberta The Northern Lights lit up the sky in Jasper to let me know we were on the right path. Since Interior BC had let winter go and resumed being a hot desert, conditions were prime. This trip is a memorable experience for me, and nothing what I expected.
I know sometimes it’s difficult to alter plans, where ever possible though it’s important to keep a few options in mind and be happy about where nature wants to lead you. Giving up, canceling and going home is sure to really spoil your fun. Be flexible. Be spontaneous. Bring extra gear with you just in case you need it. Keep an open mind and don’t be discouraged if your original plans get foiled. Accept your situation, follow your intuition, see what else you can do that might be amazing.
Love what nature has in store for you.Watching the Northern Lights in Jasper, Alberta
Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:00:25 +0000How to Pee when it is storming outside
I woke up from a nice deep sleep in the middle of the night, cozy in my sleeping bag, cocooned in my truck canopy camper. My bladder of course feeling like it was about to burst letting me know with a piercing pain. I knew there would be no rest until the issue would be dealt with. Normally I would grumble a bit crawl out of my warm sleeping bag and brave the outdoors under-dressed for the occasion of course. This instance was different though, it was the storm of the year with a forecast of 100cm of snow coming and wind howling. It was snowmageddon.
Leaving my accommodations would have surely meant stepping into deep snow and being pelted by a storm that was in full motion. This is where the challenge of trying to live in the back of your truck comes into effect. Think think think, what can I do here.Example of Freezer Bag use for liquids
Think think think. I don’t even have a jar in this bunk. Aha! I do have a Zip-lock freezer bag though!
This was the solution, a wide flexible opening with a couple liters worth of storage. No worries about trying to balance aim into the small opening of a bottle. Also very disposalable. It worked perfect. Going forward I will be making sure I have a couple of these bags handy. One bag did the trick for me, if you are in a tent and worried about the bag freezing and cracking, you could double up the bags just in case.
The bag can be emptied into an appropriate place, away from water, not on rocks in the alpine (I read somewhere goats will lick the salt damaging lichens). And yes the bag can be re-used for the rest of your adventure.The storm that inspired not leaving my shelter when nature called.
Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:00:10 +0000Backpacking Food; What kind of treats are you packing?
When I first started doing overnight and multi-day trips I was really focused on lightweight dried food. I always had a selection of those bagged back packer meals ready to go. And for a while this really worked for me. I enjoyed them, they were high calorie and lightweight, they are still a “go-to” and I have my favourites. At some point however I realized I was virtually a pack mule and could handle a little extra food weight. Is there any better time to have some cheat foods after you’ve burned a couple thousand calories dragging a 50lb pack up a mountain? The answear is no, there isn’t. Have you ever noticed how much better food taste after burning a zillion calories? I don’t know about you but when I finish some epic day of sweating it out I have a Godzilla sized appetite at the end. So why not embrace that!Pizza at Wedgemount Lake, Garibaldi Park, BC
I’ve carried everything from Pizza to Cupcakes and Whiskey to Wine into the wilderness. Probably my favourite meal is breakfast, I love waking up in the morning to the fresh smell of coffee, veggie bacon or pancakes being cooked up, paired with a side of avocado, bagels with peanut butter, and BC Smoked Salmon this is a breakfast buffet I crave. All whilst at my basecamp staring out over a glacial lake at the base of a mountain or while breathing in the fresh scent of rain forest gazing out onto the Pacific Ocean. Yes Please!
Here is a pro-tip. I find many people do not get as creative with their food choices. Bring enough to share with your comrade as a surprise. I love surprising people I care about. Handing them a fresh pizza after you battled out a day will have you both grinning ear to ear.
So here are some of my favourite treats I often bring along for multi day treks;
- Full sized personal homemade pizzas, (enough for me and a friend)
- Veggie Wraps with avocados, hummus, peppers, spinach, etc.
- Pizza Buns
- Pre-cooked rice in a bag
- Pre-cooked Indian food in a bag
- Veggie Sausages
- Smoked Salmon – This is a staple for me
- Pancake Mix
- Maple Syrup
- Cup Cakes
- Cans of Cider
- Peanut Butter
- Veggie Bacon
- Peanut Butter
- Annie’s pasta
- Coffee – must have coffee
- Coconut Cream – for coffee
What is in your pack?Breakfast at Mt. Colonel Foster, Strathcona Park, Vancouver Island
Sun, 18 Feb 2018 20:06:14 +0000Solo Adventures are not always so Solo.
Growing up I had always dreamed of doing overnight treks in remote wilderness. For as long as I can remember I have been driven to explore the natural world. I made a promise to myself I would not put my life on hold waiting around for the right time and adventure partners to show up. I would make my own opportunities for adventure.
In the beginning I had to step outside my comfort zone a bit. Being alone in a wilderness situation sounded like serious business and to some friends and family it seems nutty to adventure alone. If you are prepared, feel ready and are confident to be on your own you should.
One of the first extended multi-day treks I completed on my own was the West Coast Trail. I had this idea in my head that I would have a week of solitude to escape to nature and tune out human interaction for a while. While this was still a factor on my trip, I was met by quite a different experience. At this stage in my early adventuring I had to overcome my fear of doing this on my own. Flash forward almost ten years later and I wouldn’t think twice about this as the West Coast Trail as a solo trek as this is now a casual walk in the park to me. It was this first experience however that allowed me to take that first step and grow.
(Photo: Day one on the West Coast Trail at Campers Bay)
The West Coast Trail allows for a certain number of hikers to leave from either trail head each day. So technically it’s kind of impossible to actually be truly alone, especially since you will be aiming for the desirable designated camp sites along the way.
From the moment I arrived at the first campsite on Campers Bay to crossing Nit-Nat narrows to eating a veggie burger at Chez Monique’s I met lovely and interesting people the entire way. As a solo female backpacker other trekkers approached me readily to enquire about my brave solo trek. They were ready to adopt me into their groups and were constantly trying to feed me for some reason. So was I actual alone? Not exactly.
In the city we pass each other by like other humans don’t even exist. Outside of cell service and in the forest we suddenly have this openness and willingness to connect to one another. As an introvert who has a hard time connecting to begin with, this is actually the best feeling. When I am in in my element and happiest outdoors I draw on so much positive energy from human interaction and I love it.
Had I been with a pack of hikers this would have been a totally different experience. I would have been more invested with my group and maybe not have talked to or met as many new people. This particular trip is one of the most memorable times and a landmark in my life.
(Photo: Fresh Caught Crab Lunch at Nit Nat Narrows)
There are some adventures where multiple people for really essential for safety reasons. Asses the risks of your adventure and make an informed decision as to if the adventure is suitable to go on your own. If there as an adventure you don’t have a buddy for or just want the experience of solo travel, go for it! Don’t let any negative thoughts about being lonely or fear hold you back. Focus on the positive and you can do it!
(Photo: Somewhere along the west coast trail)
Mon, 27 Mar 2017 04:47:11 +0000Cream Lake – Strathcona Provincial Park
Distance: 10km (one way)
Elevation Gain: 900m
Time: 5-7 hours (one way)
Date: August, 2016
Specific Gear: Bug Spray, Crampons/ Ice Axe
Take HWY 28 from Campbell River towards Gold River. When you reach Buttle lake do not cross the bridge and instead follow the road going south along the East side of the lake for 40km. After you cross the Thelwood Creek bridge at the far end of the lake, turn left onto Jim Mitchell Lake Road. Follow this dirt road for 7km to the trailhead. The road is relatively well maintained, however the gravel is quite large, four wheel drive is recommended.
The first portion of this trail consist of consistent switch backs through forest leading up to Bedwell Lake, it is very well maintained and easy to follow. The trail to the Bedwell Lake Campground is 6km with 500m of elevation gain.
Bedwell Lake is a beautiful subalpine like with numerous tent platforms privately positioned amongst the trees. I imagine arriving early to this location would secure a good spot. You can choose to set up camp here and carry on with a lighter load or you can continue on to Cream Lake to choose a backcountry spot at the lake. If your destination is Cream Lake I recommend keeping the heavy pack on your back and carrying on to Cream Lake. It’s completely worth the effort.
On this particular trip I arrived at Bedwell Lake quite late and it was becoming dark, I had no choice but to setup camp here. Arriving so late in the day, I managed only to find a clear spot along a path for the night. Outside of the provided tent platforms it was a bit difficult to find a decent tent spot.
From Bedwell Lake to Cream Lake the trail is still very obvious, though it is more of a track than a well maintained trail. From Bedwell Lake to Cream lake there is another 400m of elevation gain and 4km of hiking. It can be completed in 2-3 hours even with a heavy backpack.
I was lucky enough to arrive at Cream Lake on a hot sunny August day. There was only one other campsite when I arrived. I setup camp right by the lake and took pleasure and having a very cold dip before having lunch.
The lake sits at the base of Mt. Septimus, and at this time of year the only remaining snow was the Septimus Glacier on the North face. On this trip a pair of crampons came in handy to be able to easily scramble up to the shoulder of Mount Septimus in the late afternoon. I can estimate it must have taken only 30-40 minutes to scramble up to the shoulder of the mountain.
The views from the top were absolutely stunning. On a clear day there are views of Nine Peaks, Big Interior and Love Lake.
On this trip I had one misfortune, and this was Mosquitoes. I’ve been living on this island for nearly a decade and this is the first time I have encountered a problem. This mosquitoes were just as dense in the trees as they were at the highest point in the Alpine. The only way I could really fend them off was to put on all my gortex, including pulling up the hood. I could hear them bouncing off my jacket. I also lost count at over 3oo hundred bites when I got home. If it’s the summer time, throw a bottle of repellent in your pack.
View of Cream Lake from Septimus.
Sun, 19 Mar 2017 06:02:22 +0000Forbidden Plateau Ski Area to Mt. Becher Summit
Location: Comox-Strathcona, Vancouver Island
Distance: 12 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 600
Recommended Time: 1 Day
Month Completed: March
From Highway 19 turn right at the lights onto Piercy Road. After a few hundred meters take another right onto Forbidden Plateau Road, follow this road for a few Kilometers until ends in the parking lot of the old Forbidden Ski Area.
About the Trail
The Forbidden Plateau Ski area is an abandoned ski area, it’s been closed since 1999. The final demise was the collapse of the lodge roof under the weight of heavy snow. It’s surprising and a even bit spooky to see the ancient ski lifts with chairs still strung up in the above after being closed for nearly two decades.
Today the ski area offers incredible backcountry opportunities to skiers, snowboarders and Snowshoers alike. The trail is of moderate difficulty and there really are endless possibilities for ski runs.
On the particular day I chose to do this with a few friends, I followed the trail on a Backcountry Ski setup while my friends hiked in snowshoes. The trail to the summit of Mt. Becher is a moderate hike with periods of gentle elevation gains, followed by traversing trail. On a clear day the view from the top offers views of the Comox area, Mt Albert Edward and the Mount Washington ski resort.
Ski Touring Possibilities
It was a bluebird day with a very fresh coat of powder. My only regret on this day is that it was indeed a day trip. With a good weather forecast insight it would be fantastic to plan to setup a base camp near the summit of Mt. Becher. From the summit of Mount Becher a trip could be made across Paradise Meadows to the Mt. Washington Ski Resort.
Most of the terrain in this area is quite simple, making it a good choice on big snow days. While the trail to the summit generally follows safe terrain, going off piste should always be done with proper avalanche training, gear and Avalanche bulletins should be reviewed.
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:33:52 +0000From Sea to Sky – Vancouver Island to Whistler – Redefining my “Backyard”
It’s 3:45am and my alarm is telling me to get up. I want to turn it off and go back to sleep, it’s Saturday on a long weekend, I could be resting. I can hardly get out of bed for 7am to be to work, how could I possibly be getting out of bed now. But a spark inside me tells me life is short and there is a whole world to experience.
Without hesitation I am on my feet, hitting start on the coffee maker and having a quick wake up shower. The night previous I laid out my clothes for the morning and packed all the gear I needed to survive the weekend. I tossed everything into the truck and I am on the road before 4:30am; it’s late summer and first light has not broken. The streets and highway is nearly void of traffic. I sip on my morning coffee as I head in darkness for the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal.
I live in Victoria BC, and I can say the Island has so much to offer in terms of outdoor adventure and exploration. It may take me a lifetime to fully explore all the areas of Vancouver Island I am yet to see. With this said, one thing I want to share with Islanders is we really do also have easy access Whistler and Squamish. In fact it takes about the same amount of time to get to Whistler from Victoria as it would to travel to Tofino. The Squamish/Whistler and Pemberton area is like a whole other Island of adventure. With towering mountains, refreshing alpine and gorgeous glaciers, adventures in this area are a must. If you are splitting gas and the ferry with friends or family this really is an affordable retreat.
I get to the Nanaimo Ferry terminal, at the same time as everyone else, pulling directly onto the ferry within moments. Every Islander knows this is the best case scenario, no ferry wait time. I curl into the back seat of the truck to a nap over to the mainland.
I am on my way to Garibaldi Provincial Park, to hike into Paradise Meadows and Garibaldi Lake then onto Black Tusk an Panorama Ridge. This travel itinerary puts me at the trail head well before noon. I was rewarded with Alpine Meadows, glacier views and a couple nights retreat into wilderness.
I wanted to share this morning trip story with you because sometimes I think we overlook what is actually our “backyard”. Have a look at the map, no matter where you live, really investigate what is available to you for a weekend trip. You might be surprised what you will find and what new places this will lead you too. For me it was getting on the first ferry of the day, for you it might be a float plane or a doable road trip, maybe a boarder crossing. There is a whole world out there, get out and try something new.