I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking here…
Sunset on the Four Mile Trail:
Top of Mist Trail to the base of Half Dome:
Panorama Point Trail (Top of Mist Trail to Glacier Point):
Leaving the snowy and overcast Crater Lake behind I drove 560 km south to Mellow Mountain Hostel in South Lake Tahoe looking forward to a good meal, shower and proper bed, the shower in particular. Driving the most direct route took me over a few lightly travelled and, considering the time of year, rather snowy mountain passes.
There was the promise of blue skies as I drove down the Nevada side of the Carson mountain range surrounding the lake, however when I arrived in South Lake Tahoe it was overcast and there were even a few snow flakes floating down to greet me but the wonderful hospitality of the Mellow Mountain Hostel staff made up for the cool weather.
I stayed at MMH for two nights, taking time to hang out with the staff and other occupants of the hostel, go for a ride on the road bike up and over the mountains and back again and enjoy the views from the lower slopes of East Peak, under the main gondola line of Heavenly Resort. The guests were a mixture of those settling in for the coming summer, those doing the Pacific Crest Trail (including one, Breeze, who had done the equivalent East Coast trail the previous year) and some passing through (like me). And the staff were a collection from all over the world brought together by the desire to work somewhere that is also a useful base from which to start exploring from.
Huge thanks to Phil and Stella, a couple of the staff at MMH who made my stay memorable and to Breeze who gave me some great suggestions for what to see in Yosemite. If you are passing through South Lake Tahoe and are looking for good, cheap accommodation, I couldn’t recommend MMH high enough.
Crater Lake National Park is located in south-western Oregon and was formed in order to protect an ancient caldera (collapsed volcano cone) that has, over time, been filled with snow melt and rain. The most stunning feature of the lake is the colour and clarity of the water in the lake (it holds the record for the clearest water in the world).
When I visited what amazed me wasn’t the colour of the water, beautiful as it was when the sun shone, it was the amount of snow still on the ground in the National Park. Up around the crater there was snow drifts up to 4 m high and down at the camp site the snow was piled up to 3 m high beside the road (see current vs. historic averages in the weather report). Needless to say the park was basically closed with no walking paths cleared and the only open roads being those from the entry to the crater rim then around to the hotel in one direction, and 2 km to a viewing area in the other. Despite the snowy conditions and more snow falling while I was there, I had a good time exploring up a hill beyond the hotel and then further along the closed road past the lookout.
Driving south from Mt St Helens I crossed the Columbia River (the river that the Kicking Horse flows into and where my GoPro probably resides somewhere :p) at White Salmon and drove south into Oregon along the OR-35 and continuing along US-26. This strip of highway takes you up from the Columbia Valley through the wooded hills of Mt Hood National Forest past the Mt Hood ski resort (currently closed but still with seemingly great coverage) to the arid plains and valleys east of the mountains.
After a fall on the mountain bike in the Capitol State Forest in Washington I was sporting a grazed elbow and knee. Keen on preventing further damage to these parts I called into Bend, OR and a couple of the bike shops there looking for some protective equipment. Well I found what I was looking for and more…
It was late afternoon when I arrived so I’d already decided to spend the night in the area and after asking a shop owner I was promptly told that Bend has some of the best MB trails in the West. Keen to check these out (and the free camping just beyond the trail head) I headed over and found some very different, but extremely fun terrain. That first night I rode a short 10km loop that had almost no vertical on paths that were little more than compressed dust, finishing up at Phil’s Trailhead there was a van from the local brewery handing out a cold one to anyone old enough which was much appreciated by all.
Over the following two days I rode a total of just under 100 km over ~8.5 hrs going northwest into the high(er) country following the Tumalo Creek on the first day
and southwest along the Deschutes River on the second day.
In between I went for a drive along the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway out to Mt Bachelor and the ski field there (also closed but, again, still with fantastic coverage) and for a couple of walks around town.
Wandering around town I found a consignment store with the arm protection I had in mind along with a very unused pair of road biking shoes that fit just right (as opposed to my current mismatched sized pair), a tasty coffee shop, a series of artificial rapids used by the locals to practise their standing wave surfing (both in kayaks and on surfboards, btw the water is glacial/snow melt and probably ~5°C) and a town full of craft brewery’s including a very tasty cider brewery with a delicious and almost too drinkable pineapple and mango seasonal brew.
Tumalo River (Mrazek – Farewell – Skyline – Lower Whoop – Phil’s)
Deschutes River Trail (that black stuff is an old lava field)
Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway
(it was raining in the mountains but clear over town)
From around the town of Bend, OR
If it wasn’t obvious I really enjoyed this town and will definitely try to return but at this point of my trip I really had to get moving so late in the afternoon of the third day I packed up and continued driving further south with the weather having taken a decidedly cooler turn…
If you are travelling south through Washington, it would be highly recommended to stop in at Mt St Helens.
In 2010, when I was in the area I came in from the north side of the mountain with my good friend Kirk and observed the destruction wrought by the eruption of 1980. This time I planned to access the south side of the mountain, away from the main blast zone and mountain bike up the eastern edge along a path known as Ape Canyon/Plains of Abraham. Unfortunately for me, last winter was one of the snowiest in years, and as a result Mt St Helens is largely covered in snow and many of the roads and trails above 1000 m within the national volcanic monument and adjacent national forest are closed due to snow.
Trying a different tack, I attempted a different access trail through June Lake but this too was snow covered and unrideable beyond the lake.
So instead I dropped into the easy access tourist sites at Trail of Two Forests and Ape Cave. Trail of Two Forests is a boardwalk across an old lava flow with ancient tree castings and crawl holes formed by logs buried by the lava where the current forest has grown up around and through the old lava.
Nearby Ape Cave is actually a lava tube, named for the original guiding group who took people through the cave, it is a 3 km hike from entry to exit, over rocks and ancient lava flows.
For my final stop in the are, after spending the night in another random parking spot (this time because the campsites closed their gates at 9 pm and I pulled in at 9:15 pm), I pulled into McClellan Overlook for breakfast and some amazing views of the south side of Mt St Helens.
After stopping in at West Bragg Creek for some mountain biking and Golden to raft the Kicking Horse River, the next stop of my trip was Wells Gray Provincial Park. This BC provincial park is located approximately 1 1/2 hrs north of Kamloops, and is accessed from the south through the town of Clearwater.
This is quite a popular park in season with plentiful waterfalls, fishing and water sport options in the many glacier fed rivers and lakes located within the park boundaries. Out of season there is cross-country skiing, ski touring and frozen waterfall viewing.
Of the two nights in the park, I spent one in the Trophy Mountain parking area, along with a German couple, with great views of the surrounding peaks and the next in a random parking lot with the least number of mozzies I could (cause I couldn’t justify shelling out $20 for a spot to park, access to a toilet and swarms of mozzies when I could get that for free).
I spent my days hiking to the alpine meadows and the rumoured wildflowers up there and to a couple of the waterfalls within the park. Unfortunately the attempt to reach the meadows with the German couple was unsuccessful due to the amount of snow on the ground and the temperatures which made it sloppy and very difficult to walk on however the waterfall hikes made up for it with some incredible views. Oh, and I saw a bear (from the car thankfully) and the mosquito’s were bad enough to drive you insane.
I’ve left Calgary.
Packed up my life into either boxes or my car.
Cleared out my apartment and handed the keys back.
And hit the open road…
First stop was West Bragg Creek where I got to ride with a mate on his first outing on single track in >20 years (cause he’s paraplegic and its taken him that long to design a bike suitable to ride around the trails)
That was my first night in the car.
Then on to Golden where I rafted a very fast and full Kicking Horse River with Glacier Rafting Company. This is also where my GoPro was claimed by the river as a memento of my visit.
Third was Wells Gray provincial park via the Dutchman Dairy, Roderick Haig-Brown and Adam’s Lake provincial parks.
Then across the border into the US of A to Seattle where I am now writing this.
Where to next is an adventure that I’m taking day by day
In July every year Calgary hosts a celebration of everything Cowboy. There are Chuckwagon races, rodeo, a stage show, houses, cows, sheep, a First Nations demonstration, fair rides, lots of food (both typical of a fair and unique to the country scene) and plenty of booze.
This year the weather also contributed with it raining significantly most days at least for part of the day and some times for most of it which made choosing a good day of great importance. I ended up going twice; once in the evening after work to watch the Chuckwagon races and the stage show and again on the second last day (a Saturday) to watch the rodeo.
On both occasions, being without a car, I rode my bike the 12km or so to the grounds from my place in the SW. On the first day, while the day was dry and I stayed dry sitting in the open to watch the wagons and stage show, when it all finished I had to ride home at midnight through heavy rain. Needless to say I arrived back saturated and filthy. On the second day, while the rain featured quite heavily during the event, which made my choice of a covered seat very good, I was able to time my movements so that I didn’t get wet from the sky (getting wet from the ground is a different story, I arrived with a very wet rear).
The Chuckwagon races are a great spectacle, the idea is simple; four horses are hitched to a 4 wheeled wagon which first navigate a figure 8 and then speed around a oval track to the finish. And there are four of these wagons racing at the same time.
And then there is the rodeo which is also great to watch. As it was my first rodeo, I had no idea what to expect but ended up enjoying every minute of it. The men and women (and kids) who were involved showed both skill and determination to achieve the goal of their chosen event. The following videos show a bull ride and the kids wild pony chase.
Outside of the main arena its like a typical carnival with plenty of food and no shortage of games and rides. Most of the food was either deep fried or laden with fat but there were some Stampede specials such as pork or beef ribs, turkey drumsticks and BBQ corn.
In case you couldn’t tell I had a great time and would thoroughly recommend the experience for anyone who enjoys Western Cowboy Culture or just wants to see Calgary when it lets its hair down and parties.
Winter is over and my time in Golden is coming quickly to an end. Sunday April 17 was the last day Kicking Horse Mountain Resort opened for skiing/boarding this season and, being my birthday, I had to get up there for the last time (making it a total of 61 days comprised of 222 lift rides for the winter). As a bonus I captured what was arguably the most epic footage I captured during the season as everyone was trying to send it big. To all those who have made this winter so memorable; who started as acquaintances and ended up as friends, who challenged my riding, took me exploring, dining, drinking, both locals and visitors alike, I thank you and look forward to keeping in touch.While I’m talking about endings, last night I worked my last shift at Red Tomato Pies cooking pizza, which has been one of the best parts of my time in Golden. Since February working at RTP has been providing the funding required for me to stay after my savings ran out and since the earliest I started was 2:45pm, I still had plenty of time to play before work. As for the dozen or so men and women (many 10 or so years my junior) bursting at the seams with life I worked with, I will miss them greatly, they made the nights, especially the borings ones when no one was buying, not just bearable but enjoyable.
So what comes next?
Well from the time I left, 5 months ago, up until the end of February, it was to be 5 weeks of travel first to the east coast, then back to the west and finally a flight back to Sydney, returning to my job at Central Coast Cancer Centre in mid June. However those plans were put on hold during the first week of March when I applied for a position at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, Alberta. It was a long shot but I thought I might be in with a chance of at least getting an interview as it was a temporary position. Short story is I got an interview and two weeks later I was offered (and accepted) a 12 month full time contract at Tom Baker Cancer Centre starting on Monday 25th April (best part was I took the phone call in between runs at KHMR whilst enjoying a great day skiing with friends).
To some it might seem rather foolish to leave a permanent position at a fantastic workplace in a beautiful area for a 12 month position where there is no expectation of extension. However that doesn’t take into account that it has been one of my goals since very early in my training to work as a Medical Physicist in Canada nor how much I enjoy snowboarding (and as of this season, skiing) nor how much I’m looking forward to getting on a mountain bike and exploring during summer. Which is why, for me, this position is a dream come true, one I thought was impossible. Another, older, dream that I didn’t expect to see fulfilled was being able to spend a winter in Canada yet, incredibly, this year I’ll see both come to pass.
And then, after the 12 months is up?
Well I’ll take it as it comes but you can be sure if I have my way it’ll involve extensive travelling around Canada from the West coast to the East, from the boarder hopefully up into the Arctic during the summer. Perhaps followed by another winter dedicated to following the snow instead of sticking it out at one resort all season. But in reality only God knows and from what the last 18 months have taught me, that could be anywhere.
PS. For those wondering, I’ll be returning to Australia for a couple of weeks from June 10th. I hope to be able to catch up with both the Sydney and Gosford crews while I’m around and hopefully celebrate my 30th birthday with you all.
Someone reminded me that’s it has been a while since I last gave an updated on what I’ve been up to so I thought I’d jump on and do just that.
Since my last post at the beginning of January I’ve:
– Started working as a cook at Red Tomato Pies, the local pizza shop,
– Met and spent time with some great people (both local and visiting),
– Spent 3 days cross country skiing; twice at dawn mountain near Golden and once along the Kicking Horse River near Field,
– Achieved >40 days total skiing/snowboarding for the season (>150 lift rides).
By the way, all things remaining as they are, I’ll be back in Australia mid June.