Yosemite and the Rugged Coast

This week’s post is brought to you by Emma :-)

Cold wintery Yosemite

A lot has happened in the last week as we’ve cruised through California and into Oregon. We arrived in the incredible Yosemite National Park, full of waterfalls and amazing rock formations. Wanting to avoid the big crowds and expensive campsites, we opted for a backcountry hike up the snow creek trail. The beautiful views of half dome and incredible waterfalls were slightly dampened by the downpour and thunderstorm we experienced a couple kilometres into the hike. After a few hours of hiking and 1km of elevation gain later, the rain turned to snow and we arrived in a winter wonderland, shivering our way through dinner and making our way into sleeping bags by 7pm. The next day cleared up and we saw and heard incredible avalanches on the other side of the valley the whole hike down. 


Soggy and tired, we made our way to San Francisco and had a great time wandering around the city experiencing some of the best Mexican food we’d ever had. Shoutout to Rachel and James who let us refresh at their place and partake in a few spicy games of “Bonanza” (look up this great card game!). 

Just north of San Fran, we stumbled upon the secretive community of Bolinas, a place where the locals have taken down all signs pointing to the town to keep this beauty gem on the down low. I pulled out the surfboard for the first time and that evening caught some live music at the local bar filled with people and free roaming dogs. 

Power

We continued up the coast and enjoyed windy roads through incredible forests, and beautiful rugged coastline. Northern California is home to the Redwoods, some of the tallest trees in the world. We spent two days exploring various parks dedicated to preserving these incredible giants. Although it wall still raining, we went on some incredible hikes, one ending at the ocean with some of biggest waves we’d ever seen. Continuing north, I had a morning surf in Port Orford, then stopped for the world famous hotdogs of Langlois.


We’re already in Smith Rock, but we’re going to save those sweet details for the next post… Stay tuned!

Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, and Sequoia National Park

Top Babe with a big rack. (We climbed one of the walls on the left)

Wow, what an awesome last few weeks!  After the insanity of Vegas, we were excited to start exploring the legendary Red Rock Canyon.  While the climbs we did were amazing (culminating with a gorgeous 200m route deep in a desert valley), we couldn’t help but be put off by the sheer quantity of people clamouring to hike or climb in the park.  By 9:30 on a Sunday morning, the whole park closed down because the park had reached capacity.  Climbing nearby, we witnessed long lines in front of climbing routes and climbers huffing and puffing around who was going next.  For us, climbing is supposed to be a serene and peaceful experience with nature, not a Disneyland crazy town.

Some Canadian climbers on the uber classic “Sail Away”


Four days of hiking and climbing later, we drove on to another climbing mecca, Joshua Tree.  The vibe here could not have been more different.  While there seemed to be more climbers here than in Red Rocks, nobody was in anybody’s way and the sheer quantity of routes available meant that you were almost always climbing far from anyone else.  The beautiful white granitic boulders of Joshua Tree have a long and rich trad climbing tradition and it was a humbling experience to get to experience the rock here (I even had a full-on tearful break down halfway up a 5.6 chimney).  I loved it!


By this point, we had been climbing quite a bit and my finger tips and nerves were shot.  Thankfully, I was able to give my body a break for the next 5 days.  We drove up to LA for a quick visit to Venice Beach (the greatest people watching ever), got washed up at some hot springs and cruised onward to Sequoia National Park.  From the desert heat, it was quite a shock to end up in 2-3 meters of snow surrounded by some of the biggest trees on earth.

We’re now doing some internetting to get on top of things back home and our next stop will be…. Yosemite!!!!!!!

Hello from Las Vegas!

Master chef Dobzz cooking up a hot lunch

Master chef Dobzz cooking up a hot lunch

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This week’s blog post comes to you from Emma! Two weeks living in the van and we’re getting into a good routine, figuring out how to best keep things organized and comfortable. I’ve especially liked the challenge of making delicious, healthy, and varied meals with a limited kitchen and no refrigeration. So far we’ve made fried noodles, pasta, stir fry, soup, gnocchi, apple crisp, breakfast burritos, ramen, and quesadillas. No temperature control in the van means only being able to buy a few perishables at a time, and always having a plan for using them up quickly. We also haven’t been eating meat except for the occasional salami treat at lunch.

After leaving the amazing Blanding visitor centre, we made our way on an incredible drive through Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, stopping at the viewpoints and some short hikes along the way. It had been about day ten of nothing but a few attempts of splashing a bit of water on ourselves, when a very kind stranger we had been talking to offered up his hotel for us to take a shower. Feeling fresh, we made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park in sub zero and whiteout conditions. We decided to escape the elements for the afternoon and hung out at a hotel pool. Because of all the snow, we were very limited in what was open at Bryce, so we did a short hike to check out some incredible hoodoos, then moved on to Zion National Park. 

The Hoodos in Bryce Canyon

Bears Ears National Monument

The insanity of Angel’s Landing…. Wayyyyy too many people.

It’s amazing what a bit of elevation can do- going from a metre of snow to t-shirt weather in just a few hours! Zion was somewhat of a “Disney World” of national parks. People everywhere, difficult to find parking, but also incredible sights. We were itching to do a climb here, but the delicate sandstone needed more time to dry. Instead we went for the infamous Angels Landing hike. Like everything else in the park it was busy, but also very beautiful. Dozens of paved switchbacks lead you to a ridge with some scary exposure. The hike itself was not difficult, but the sheer drop offs on either side really spooked me.


Next was St George- the city know for it’s retirees and excellent climbing. Here, we were finally blessed with warm temperatures and dry weather fit for climbing. The type of rock here was so varied- from smooth sandstone pockets, to sharp crimpy holds, to even sharper cheese grater from hell rock. We also spent a day at Snow Canyon State Park and did the Island in the Sky Traverse. Lots of low fifth class scrambling, with a few 5.6 moves and some rappelling on the way down. Over the three mile adventure, we had a bit of a difficult time route finding, especially the belay stations which were painted to match the colour of the rock. 


With cut up hands, blisters, and sore bodies, we ventured to vegas for a rest day. What a strange place. Just walking around the strip was excitement enough for these two bush kids. Of course we went to an all you can eat/drink buffet and made ourselves feel incredibly ill. Now we have $10 left so we’re off to the hotel’s casino… And then Red Rocks for some more climbing!

PS Olivier here.  You’ll be please to know that we won 5$ at the blackjack table on our first hand, and promptly cashed out.  Vegas: 0, Olivier + Emma: 5$.

Update from the grand USA roadtrip

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Helllooooo world!  I’m writing you from the small, quaint little town of Blanding Utah.  It’s raining and we’re taking a few hours to hang out at the visitor’s centre to make some breakfast, drink coffee, and do some internetting.

Me, Emma, and Vanie (a 1997 Japanese Toyota Townace mini van) are on a big, 7 week road trip exploring the western US.  Nine days in, the trip has been a mind blowing experience discovering the crazy, weird, and beautiful wilderness of Utah’s desert.

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We started in Squamish, and beelined down to Utah over two and half days.  Our first few sleeps in the van were cooollllddd with lows of -10ºC.  We couldn’t believe how winter’y it was around Snoqualmie pass.  As the snow thinned out and eventually disappeared around eastern Oregon, we thought the temperature would start going up (it’s the desert right?), but nope, it was still cold as hell.

We made it to Moab in the dark and set up camp just outside of town.  We woke up the next day to a surreal land of cacti, massive sandstone towers, arches, and really interesting looking desert terrain.  What surprised us the most however was the emptiness and vastness of the land.  The land just goes and goes and goes as far as the eye can see without a hint of human activity.  It was sooooo cool!!!!

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Over the next week, we explored Arches and Cayonlands national parks and drove down to Indian Creek to try our hand at the legendary creek crack climbing.  We also climbed our first desert tower!!!!!!

We’re now on our way to Bryce and Zion Canyon, making our way towards St George for more exploration and climbing!  Stay tuned next week for another road trip update :-).

PS We’re pooping in bags!  Human waste doesn’t decompose in the desert, so we’re carrying big old bags of post-coffee poop :-D 

The Coastal Trail Collective is now officially launched!!!!

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I’m so excited, stoked, and proud to be a part of the officially launch of the Coastal Trail Collective. I’ve been working since December to develop our website, and today’s the day we went live! The CTC’s website will be the place to go to learn more about logging, get Walbran Valley trail updates, and find Walbran related maps and resources. We also want this platform to be the first step towards being more inclusive.  We want to bring you on one of our trail building trips and we hope this website will get your stoke on!!!!

Check it out!!

Upcoming Jazz Show this weekend (Victoria)

Quick show announcement,

I’ll be playing with my Dad this upcoming Sunday in Victoria at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria. It’s part of the church’s jazz vesper series. We were supposed to play last weekend, but unfortunately had to cancelled the show because of the snow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen again ;-).

I’m pretty damn excited for this gig. My Dad’s written most of the music and the band’s sounding really good! It’s going to feature Rob Cheramy on guitar, Bruce Meikle on bass, and Gord Clements (aka Dad) on saxophone and bass clarinet.

Hope to see you there!

Tickets by donations

Music starts at 7pm

Buzzing with Projects

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One of our big goals has always been to have a trail that goes through all of the planned cutblocks in the Walbran Valley.  While the current trail network showcases some of the best of our ancient forests, most people don’t realize that it’s almost all protected from logging.  None of the proposed cutblocks go near the trails and the trees are for the most part well within the protected parts of the special management zone.

We believe that the current trails don’t give the public an accurate sense of what will be cut, and also helps the logging companies argue that their activities won’t affect our beloved Walbran.  We’ve always wanted to have a trail that went through all the planned cutblocks so that people could see the actual flagging taped boundaries, and witness with their own eyes which trees are marked for harvest.

This past fall, our project got underway with bang!  After extensive exploratory bushwacking, a tiny grove of behemoth cedars was discovered nestled between 3 cutblocks.  The grove was on par with any of the other groves in the valley and had arguably more giants per square acre than anywhere else.  We explored the hillside looking for good trail lines and found even more giant cedars and doug firs all over the place.

After a few weeks of exploring and building, our new trail is almost ready for unveiling.  A long, challenging loop trail that will get the stoked up for big tree lovers and hikers alike.  The trail will go through some of the most striking features of this forest, while dipping in and out of the flagging boundaries.  You’ll be amazed and saddened by the size of these trees, and by the sight of the flagging tape.  The trail will also have a special extension to THE best view of the valley.  High up on a rocky outcrop, the trail overlooks the walbran, Anderson lake, the falls, and the pacific!!!!

The trail isn’t done yet, but stay tuned.  It will be ready for the spring :-).

New Trail in the Walbran

A few weeks ago, Will and I headed off to the Walbran to do a little bit of exploring, and ended up cutting a pretty sweet trail to a recently discovered grove of massive cedars. 

The trail isn’t quite finished so I won’t give away too much, but I will say this; the trail goes by over a dozen cedars over 12m in circumference, a couple giant doug fir trees (super rare in the Walbran), and a mega tree over 17m in circumference.    Sadly, almost all these trees are well within the proposed cutblocks on the hillside and could be cut down at any point….  Stay tuned for more info & trail maps,.

We headed to the valley late in the afternoon and by the time we got to the FSR, it was pretty dark outside. As we drove up a hill about 40mins behind Cowichan Lake, the sky lit up with a dim orange glow and a pretty dramatic scene unveiled itself. Across the valley, the whole hillside was on fire. You hear the crackle of these gigantic fires, see the huge flames shoot up in slow swirls, and hear the sound of a city block worth of wood being burnt to the ground. Since the weather had cooled off, logging companies were starting to burn slash piles. It’s a forest fire prevention strategy done after a harvesting operation to try to curtail the debris left behind drying out and catching fire in the summer. Doing controlled burns in the wet fall/winter seasons removes the fuel sources and helps return some nutrients to the soil. I gotta say though, seeing this massive fire without any supervision was a little disconcerting. Two years ago, some of these burns got out of control and resulted in multiple hectares of forest being burnt down.

Ontario Road Trip

Last August, me and Emma went on a sweet cross-canadian road trip from the West Coast to the Ottawa Valley. With Vanie, a 1998 Toyoto TownAce van stuffed with climbing and paddling gear, we cruised through winding mountain roads, flat prairie plains, and beautiful ontario shield landscapes.

Highlights:

  • I tried whitewater paddling for the first time. Experienced a new level of fear….

  • Got to climb some awesome sport and trad routes in Nelson, Thunder Bay (sandbag capital of the world) and in the Ottawa area.

  • Explored Algonquin Park. Found zero moose :-(

  • We saw some freaking butterflies hatch over breakfast!!!

About that last comment; Emma’s dad had placed monarch butterfly chrysalis all over his house, and every day over breakfast we got to see a few of them hatch, dry out, and fly away!!!!