Douglas Provincial Park, Saskatchewan – Dogs and Dunes

With another weekend to adventure, we decided to head to Douglas Provincial Park, which is about an hour and a half outside of Saskatoon. The day was perfectly sunny, and I was looking forward to walking through some sand. We packed up the dogs, some snacks and plenty of water, and made the drive to the trail head.

The full loop of the trail is about 7kms, but allow for some extra time to walk out into the sand dunes. While they may be the ‘main attraction’, the entire trail is diverse and beautiful. You’ll walk past plenty of birch trees, wildflowers, and cacti.

May 24, 2020

When we reached the dunes, the familiar prairie landscape faded away. Although there was no water in sight, it felt like we had moved to a tropical destination. If you plan on exploring quite a bit, it’s a good idea to drop a pin on your GPS or phone maps so that you don’t get lost in the sea of sand.

Belly rubs in the shade

At this stage we were also feeling the heat. Luckily the sand was warm, but not hot, and we found a nice shaded area to sit and have a drink.

After a nice cool down we walked through the dunes some more with our three happy dogs. They must have been getting the same ‘tropical vacation’ feeling as I was.

Douglas Provincial Park May 24, 2020

Tired dogs in tow, we ventured back to the car through swarms of mosquitos. We ended up bringing quite a few mosquito bites, about three ticks, and a sunburn (for me) back to the car with us. In spite of the pests, the trail was beautifully maintained with unique prairie flora along the way.

May 24, 2020

After arriving at the car, the dogs were eager for a swim. We drove back to the town of Elbow and stopped at Lake Diefenbaker so everyone could cool off.

May 24, 2020

That evening we had our first campfire of the season with some classic campfire food, hot dogs and s’mores. My hot dog nearly ended up with the dogs. It was a perfect first summer night of the season with excellent company.

Happy hiking!

May Long in the Dirt

Just one week after our walk in the snow storm, the weather was finally looking warmer for the May long weekend. The past two years my long weekends have been spent hiking to Grey Owls cabin in Prince Albert National Park, but with the parks closed for now we had to change it up.

Spending more time in the city gave us the perfect opportunity to try out one of the disc golf courses in Saskatoon a few weeks ago, and we have gone quite a few times since. A set of disks is around $40-$60 and the course is free to use, making it the perfect activity for a warm evening in the city.

Fun for any skill level, I enjoyed the game even though I haven’t exactly mastered how to throw a frisbee very far… or very straight.

On Saturday we went to some off-road vehicle trails north of the city. I was nervous about driving my own quad but quickly realized that the fun outweighed the fear. We packed some watermelon, and not nearly enough water, and enjoyed the +25 celcius day.

Eventually, we made it back to the city as the sun was setting, covered in dust and dried mud, but happy as could be. I had planned on getting quite a bit of yard work done the next day, but failed to take into account just how exhausting it is to drive an ATV.

I ended up spending the following day cleaning up a bit, but mostly napping on the couch. Finally the next morning I was eager to get my planters filled with new flowers.

It was the perfect weekend of wonderful company, new adventures, and a little gardening.

Happy exploring!

Walking a Half Marathon Through the City of Saskatoon

Last week we finally decided to cancel our West Coast Trail reservations. We were booked for June 5th and it seems unlikely that it will be open for out of province residents at that time if it evens opens at all. To distract ourselves from the disappointment of missing out on our hike, we wanted to plan adventures closer to home to fill in the hiking gap.

With Covid-19 restrictions beginning to lift , but still present in many of the parks and day used areas around the city, we decided to keep our adventure close to home. And as the weather would have it, we hardly crossed paths with any other people on our 21 kilometre adventure through the city.

May 9, 2020

We began at the edge of the Riverside Country Club and walked through the Furdale dog park to the Meewasin trail. What we didn’t expect, was to be walking through a snowstorm on May 9th. But my friend Lindsay often reminds me that there is no such thing as bad weather, as long as you are dressed appropriately, so we set out in the snow!

May 9, 2020

Fortunately I packed a two pairs of gloves, a rain coat, and pants, because we were in for about 3 and a half hours of wind and wet snow. Under the fresh layer of snow was also a healthy layer of mud, and we slipped and slid around for the first few kilometres.

May 9, 2020

It was easier going once we made it to the road, and even easier once we were on the Meewasin trail. From there we left the usual trail scenery for the city life. It is definitely a strange feeling to be walking past buildings and bridges in hiking boots with a backpack on.

May 9, 2020

We battled the cold and wind most of the way, I expected to shed clothing layers as the walk went on but instead found myself wishing I had packed more. In spite of the cold, we had a great group of girls and laughed and made the best of it. The trail was rather quiet due to the weather, but I still managed to slip and fall in front of one of the few people we passed along the way, giving my friend behind me a good laugh.

Quick warm up break.
Snack breaks!

Eventually, the snow stopped and the wind settled down, making the last 5-6 kilometres a treat. we made it to the Meewasin Park parking lot about 5 hours after we set out on our journey. Success!

We were cold and tired, but still had such a wonderful day. Now we need to start planning the next adventure, maybe a full walking marathon next time!

Happy adventuring!

Bringing Piper Home

In 2018, I worked in Canmore as a dog sled tour guide. While it was tough work, I loved the job and spending my days with 150+ huskies. I loved all of the dogs, and got to know each and every one of them, but one pup in particular stole my heart.

Piper was one of the smaller dogs in the kennel. On a team, she ran with a grin on her face and her tongue flapping in the wind, often with her head turned around looking at the driver. While she loved the other dogs, she was quite nervous about new people. Shy dogs wore blue bandanas so guests would know to give them space.

Piper and Leroy, winter 2018

I got to know Piper as the season went on, and found myself stopping to snuggle her for a few moments longer whenever I had the chance, and remembering which box of the truck she was in so I could walk her back to her dog house every day. Soon I was bringing her in to the cabin for sleepovers every Saturday night when it was my turn to spend the night at the kennel.

Winter 2018

I was sad to say goodbye at the end of my season, but never forgot about my sweet little friend. I mentioned many times to family and friends over the next two years about how I would love to adopt her one day when she was old enough to retire. And finally the opportunity arose.

With the concern of Covid 19. I made a careful trip to Alberta to pick up my girl. I packed all of my drinks and food for the trip, and managed to make the almost 15 hour day of driving without setting foot inside a building. My only stop was at the same ‘Pay at the Pump’ gas station in Drumheller on the way there and the way back.

Piper snoozed in my passenger seat the whole way home, and happily curled up beside me on my bed when we finally arrived back home. The next day we set out for our first Saskatoon walk.

Piper was nervous of her new surroundings, but with a little patience and love from my boyfriend and I, she made it the whole loop. Looking back at this day now three weeks later I am amazed at the progress she has made.

Every day she gets more comfortable with the retired life, and I am so happy to be able to give her a cozy couch to sleep on, plenty of treats, and lots of walks. I am excited to share our hiking adventures whenever we are able to get back on to the trails.

Social Iso-lake-tion at Jackfish Lake

After a few weeks of social distancing, many craft projects, and probably a little too much baking (banana bread, yum), my boyfriend and I decided to pack up and head to my parent’s cabin for the weekend for a little change of scenery. My family wasn’t planning on being there, so it was the perfect opportunity to get out of the house while still distancing.

With some of the walking trails and bridges closed off in Saskatoon because of the virus, it was nice to get out of the city and walk somewhere without worrying about crossing paths with other people. We packed headlamps and flashlights to enjoy a walk on the lake in the dark, with a cozy fire and movie night afterwards.

Cochin lighthouse, April 4 2020

The next morning we decided to tackle the stairs at the Cochin lighthouse. This also happened to be an extra cold morning, and we were greeted by snow and wind at the top. I packed us a ‘summit’ beer for our trouble and we enjoyed the snowy view from the top.

Later in the afternoon, after eating plenty of snacks, we decided to venture out onto the lake, this time in the daylight. We followed the nicely plowed path that led to a cleared area on the ice which would have been filled with ice fishing shacks a few weeks ago.

Jackfish Lake, April 4 2020 – Can you see the dog?

June happily investigated the snow surrounding the remnants of the village, and treated herself to a piece of frozen fish. She was still excitedly searching when we turned around to walk back, but eventually gave up her quest for more frozen treats and followed us back to the cabin.

April 4, 2020

We enjoyed another movie night and fire, and then packed up the next morning to return to the city. A little lake break is exactly what I needed.

Stay safe everyone!

5 Adventurous People to Follow on Instagram While You’re Staying Indoors

As I find myself with more and more couch time this week, I have also been spending a lot of time scrolling through social media and living vicariously through other peoples adventures. Instead of being disappointed that I can’t get out and travel right now, I’m trying to build a collection of ideas for the future and appreciate all of the amazing content that others are posting.

Here are a few of the awesome people that I follow on Instagram.

Homemade Wanderlust (Dixie) – Thru Hiker

Jessica or “Dixie” is a triple crown thru-hiker who has completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. She shares funny and informative posts about the realities of hiking as well as gear reviews. Her YouTube channel is a must see for anyone who is planning for a multi-day or thru hike.

Rachel Pohl – Artist

A talented artist and avid adventurer, Rachel posts her beautiful artwork and Pinterest-worthy snapshots of her life. She often shares short journal entries and inspirational messages in her photo descriptions.

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Recently I was invited on a ski trip of a lifetime and I gleefully accepted. ⋒ For a multitude of reasons I’ve since had to back out, but it got me thinking about my motivation for saying yes. ⋒ I told myself it would be a fun time, a good career move- but it was also chance to remind myself and others that I am still a ski mountaineer, someone who’s not afraid of a proper adventure. ⋒ You see, most of us are trying to prove something- even when we don’t realize it. Prove a point, prove that we’re competent or interesting or pretty or successful. Prove that we’re worthy of love and attention and admiration. Prove that we’re good enough. ⋒ But the truth is you don’t have to prove anything. You are worthy just as you are. Everyone has a story and it doesn’t have to be epic or adventurous or glamorous to be a good one. You don’t have to do what sounds cool. Make up your own definition of what *cool* is and go with that- because what’s cool is rocking your own look and believing in what you’re doing, even if nobody else gets it just yet. And honor the chapter you’re in now, even if it differs from who you once were. ⋒ “Rainier Wanderlove” prints are up on my site, link is in bio. Enjoy free shipping (USA only) with the code LOVE2020 on RACHELPOHLART.com through Sunday! Orders placed by the 9th should make it to you by Valentines Day (contiguous USA)! ⋒ I’ll be sharing details images of this painting tomorrow!! #valentinesday2020 #rachepohlart #rainier #wanderlove #mountainart

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Icelandic Explorer – Photographer

Gunnar Freyr quit his corporate job, and now takes breathtaking photos of Icelandic wildlife and landscapes. His photos seem almost surreal with dramatic lighting and and unique perspectives.

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Winter attitude. #iceland

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Alex Txikon – Mountaineer

Alex is a badass mountaineer who shares climbing and travel photos. He has documented his most recent attempt to summit Everest in the winter and shares his experiences in multiple languages in the comments.

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Animo ta lasaitasuna egoera honen aurrean,monotemaz aldatuteko, atzokoa Diego Martinezen aargazkia ikusi ta gero, ez nauen galdu nahi aukerea Alvaro Sanzen argazki hau berriz be erakusteko, neuri asko gustetan jata.Eskerrik asko Alvaro ta Diegori ta baita ere Olympuseri. Mucho animo, calma y cautela en estos duros momentos.Si ayer publicamos la foto de Diego Martinez, no queria perder la oportunidad de volver a mostrar esta hermosa fotografia de Alvaro Sanz, ¿Que os parece? Gracias Alvaro y Diego que sois unos kraks y como no a Olympus por darnos la oportunidad de inmortalizar esos momentos unicos. Animo! And keep calm and be careful in these difficult moments. As yesterday we published a photo by Diego Martinez, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to show this beautiful photograph by Alvaro Sanz, do you like it? Thanks to the amazing Alvaro and Diego and obviously thanks to Olympus for giving us the opportunity to capture those unique moments Animo! E calma ed attenzione in questi momenti difficili. Se ieri abbiamo pubblicato la foto di Diego Martinez, oggi non voglio perdere l'opportunità di mostrarvi questa bellissima foto di Alvaro Sanz, che ve ne pare? Grazie ai fenomenali Alvaro e Diego e ovviamente grazie a Olympus per darci l'opportunità di immortalare questi momenti unici. 📸@dealvarosanz Partners: @trangoworldofficial @garmin_iberia @ferrino_official @seatosummitiberia @esolympus @borealoutdoor @deporteseurosport @scott_espana @bmsupermecados @palaciosalimentacion @amiab.es @evileye.eyewear @drone_by_drone @guaramascun @padeltoki @petzl_official @energizer @aware_project @ami_bloque @esteller_comparte @joluvisport www.outwareexpedition.com

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Pat Hoffman – Photographer

Incredible photographer and all around great guy. Pat shares the best of Banff and Jasper National Parks while living life to the fullest.

There is a quote I’ve seen a few times that says to not use social media less, but instead to use it more intentionally. Follow the people who inspire you to be creative and get out and do the things that you want to do.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment to let me know who I else should check out while I’m camped out on my couch for the next few weeks!

Diesel Ran Out of Gas – Carrying an 80lb Dog Down a Mountain

Living in the mountains in Alberta is what grew my interest in hiking, and as any new thing you learn, mistakes are bound to happen. I had started with a few smaller hikes around the Columbia Icefield, and my friend Jared mentioned that we try a more difficult hike when I visited Canmore.

One sunny, hot weekend, I was in Canmore for a few days and Jared suggested we hike EEOR (East End of Rundle). I was eager to do something, and I had never tried hiking up a mountain before, so I was game. As we packed up our bags to leave the apartment, Jared’s roommate mentioned that we should bring his dog Diesel along with us, to which we shrugged and agreed. We packed the dog up with us in the vehicle and drove about fifteen minutes to the trail head and set off on our journey. EEOR is not quite as well travelled as the mountain beside it, Ha Ling, and the trail wasn’t quite as obvious. We weaved our way up through the rocks and trees, the dog happily bounding ahead of us. The heat and exhaustion were beginning to get to me and I stopped a few times to sit in the shade and drink some water. I was so tired that I considered turning around, but with words of encouragement from my friend and a happier than hell dog running ahead of us we continued on.

As we got above the tree line there were almost no opportunities for shade, and I was really feeling the heat. In hindsight, I could have packed far better than I did, maybe a hat and much more water, but at that time I had no idea. The day was beautiful. We didn’t see another soul on the trail, but we heard some voices further up the mountain, so we weren’t quite alone. After making our way up to a lookout point we took some awesome pictures, then decided to turn around. This is when everything started to go downhill.

Diesel was still excited and leading the pack, but I noticed a spot of blood on one of the rocks he ran over. I immediately stopped him and inspected his feet. The EEOR hike is noted on the AllTrails App to be safe for dogs, so I hadn’t thought much about him coming along. However, mixing the grit of the mountain rock with soft paws that didn’t get walked very often, proved to be a disaster. His sensitive paw pads were worn raw. Horrified, because I felt terrible that we had allowed him to get hurt, and also that we were still 3/4 of the way up the mountain, I dug through my first aid kid to find some bandages.

After trying unsuccessfully to wrap his feet without him promptly biting the bandages off, we decided our only option was to try to convince him to walk slowly down the mountain. We cheered and coaxed him on, but at this point the pain had set in and he was becoming unwilling to walk. At this point I also stopped taking photos because I was panicking about what we would do. Jared finally decided that our best bet would be to carry him down. I took the bags, and he began to fireman-carry and 80 lb dog down a treacherous mountain. We made it about 3/4 of the way down when Jared couldn’t fight the exhaustion any more.

We sat down with the sun beginning to set, and pondered our options. We tried calling friends with the bit of cell service we had on our phones, but to no avail. Do we leave the dog and come back with more help in the dark? We worried he would likely wander and become even more lost, and we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him behind. Do we spend the night on the mountain, ill-prepared with no more than a spare granola bar and some sunscreen on our packs? Also, not a great idea. We sat feeling hopeless and drained.

Then, as if on cue, we heard rustling and talking through the trees. I suddenly remembered the voices we had heard on the mountain earlier. Two men on the tail-end of their hike emerged from the trees and greeted us with an Aussie hello. We explained our situation to them and they enthusiastically agreed to help us carry the dog the rest of the way down the mountain.

We thanked them profusely the rest of the way down the trail. “No worries, any day you get to hang out with a dog is a great day” they laughed back.

Eventually we made it back to the car, exhausted and grateful. We returned back to the house and I carefully cleaned the pup’s feet after calling a veterinarian for advice. He was healed and happy within the week.

I use this adventure as a reminder to pack smart, be prepared, and be thankful for other people I meet on the trail. There is always something to be learned!

Chihuahuas on the Trail

Looking after smaller dogs in Canadian winter conditions means that you have to put a little more thought in to bringing them outdoors with you. Little paws and ears get cold fast, so it’s important that they’re dressed warmly and they get opportunities for a break from the snow. Dog booties are also a good idea, although I didn’t have any with me, so I was just careful about checking toes and carrying them every once in a while.

With just under a week of dog sitting remaining and a busy weekend ahead, we had to get out for some fresh air and exercise. I put on my winter coat, the dogs got their matching sweaters, and we picked up my friend Lindsay for a walk at Finlayson Island in Battleford. Even though it was snowing, we lucked out with a fairly warm -6° celsius day.

March 7, 2020

Our path was sheltered by the trees and a fair bit of the wind was blocked. Lily was eager to run the whole time, while Mina preferred to stay in my warm jacket. Instead of packing weights in a bag for West Coast Trail training this year I think I need to keep carrying two chihuahuas around every day, what a workout.

Two days later, we returned to the same spot to navigate all of the snow that had fallen. The little dogs had a blast, but our walk was short-lived as it’s tricky for them to run through so much snow being under 10lbs. We did a quick loop, and I ended up getting the best workout of all by carrying the dogs back to the car through the deep snow. Seriously, the Chihuahua workout is real.

March 9, 2020

After braving the winter weather, we decided to do what little dogs do best and enjoy a nice cozy evening in. I’m glad that we all got a chance to enjoy the snow, no matter how small.

Happy adventuring!

Getting Off the Pavement Without Leaving the City

Given the choice, I always prefer a dirt trail to a sidewalk, but it isn’t always convenient to pack up and drive out of the city in search of a good trail. Fortunately, there are adventures to be had within city limits. Saskatoon has beautiful paved paths along the riverside, and if you look even closer you’ll see that there are often dirt trails hidden in the trees below. These trails are most frequently used by mountain bikers, but they also make for a great walk though the trees that feels disconnected from busy city life.

I am dog sitting a very small pup for two weeks, but still wanted to try my best to get outside and enjoy the sun. The river trails in Saskatoon are close to home, and short enough to be small dog friendly (although it was more of a ‘carry’ than a walk because little Chihuahua feet get cold fast). We parked at the train bridge and made our way across, then found a quiet path closer to the river.

Train bridge, Saskatoon SK (Feb 26, 2020)

I rarely come across other people on these trails, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye and an ear out for oncoming bikers. If your shoes lack grip, it might be a good idea to get some spikes or YakTrax to prevent slipping as it is quite icy in some areas. Also, even though you’re in the city, let someone know where you will be walking and when you plan on getting back to your vehicle. We didn’t see any other people, and Mina even got a minute or two to run before she was chilled and ready to be snuggled up in my jacket again.

The river trails in Saskatoon are also the perfect place to start training with a heavier pack and get used to uneven terrain without planning a trip out of the city. Last year, my friend Lindsay and I did a morning of West Coast Trail prep, hiking from bridge to bridge through the trees, and even along the rocks and sand on the river’s edge. In the summertime, you can even stop mid-hike and treat yourself to an ice cream or a beer on broadway (hell yeah!), or snack on the Saskatoon berries that grow along the river banks.

Sometimes you don’t have to leave the city to get away for a while. There are adventures to be had everywhere, often even closer than you think!

4 Hiking Mistakes We All Make

Making mistakes is all a part of the adventure. It’s how we learn, improve, and end up with funny stories to tell our friends. While trial and error is a big part of adventuring, maybe this list can save your feet a few blisters.

1. Improper Foot Care

After my first overnight hike I swore that I was going to burn my boots if I ever made it back to the parked vehicle. I tried to save some money and bought an inexpensive pair online, but I ended up shelling out three times as much for a good solid pair of boots that I love.

Foot care is one of the most important things to get the hang of if you want to truly enjoy your adventures. It is not worth it to ‘tough it out’ with uncomfortable shoes and blisters. Here are some ways to keep your feet feeling great.

  • Try on many different styles and brands of hiking footwear before you decide on a pair, make sure that you don’t feel discomfort or pressure that could cause blisters
  • Stop as soon as you feel rubbing or discomfort and put second skin or tape over the area
  • For multi-day trips, make sure you have a few pairs of socks and let them dry out completely between wears
  • Take your boots off when you stop for longer breaks
  • Tape your feet beforehand if you know you have blister prone spots
January 4, 2020 Pike Lake

2. Over-Packing

Everyone wants to be prepared for anything in the outdoors. When packing I always find myself throwing in plenty of last minute additions, and while some of them may be useful, they are also adding weight. Thru-hikers often do ‘shakedowns’ along their journey to cut out unnecessary weight, and while you may not feel like ditching your deodorant just yet, there may be other things that you can leave at home.

If you are going on an overnight trip, you maybe don’t need as many ‘just in case’ items. If you check the weather beforehand, you my be able to leave some layers behind (and use that saved space for candy bars). I have noticed that I tend to over pack first aid supplies. The problem with these giants kits of bandages and supplies is that I don’t know how to use most of it, which isn’t helpful on the trail. I saved myself a fair bit of weight by making a custom first aid kit filled with stuff that I know.

It is good to be prepared, but think critically about what you really need, you may save your back some stress. Try making notes of which items you used often and which were left untouched after each trip.

Pretty full pack here. 😛

3. Not Doing Enough Research

I once led myself and two friends the wrong way up a mountain because it seemed like the right way to me. I could have saved myself a few hours of time, and some less than enthused friends if I had simply looked up the hike online beforehand and read that the best way to access the peak was on the other side. Fortunately, most websites or apps (like AllTrails) will tell you the best route to take, and you can usually even download the trail maps to use out of cell service range.

Comparing this experience to my week on the West Coast Trail, which I had meticulously planned down to the kilometer, I know for sure that good research can make your trip. With a full trail plan, I was way more confident with decision making and time management. I could tell my hiking partners what to expect down to each kilometre.

Save yourself the stress and look at reviews or guides online from past hikers, there is often important information like washed out bridges and trail closures.

July 22, 2019

4. Forgetting That You’re Supposed to Have Fun

Your feet are sore, pack weighing down on your shoulders, trekking through wind and rain, you hope that your stove will light and the water you filtered from the lake is safe. You stop and wonder why you even put yourself in to this situation to begin with.

A negative mind set is one of the first obstacles you may have to overcome, and also one of the hardest. It isn’t easy to go from a warm, comfortable home to a small tent and rehydrated meals, or even to leave the safety of your couch to trek up a mountainside in a day. It is, however, important to try your very best to stay in a positive headspace. Here are a few ways I keep positive…

  • Remember that you are doing this for fun, it is okay to turn around, to take a break, or do whatever you need to make it a positive experience.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for the worst (i.e. what if it rains the whole time?), if the worst happens then you’ll be ready, if not, yay!
  • Stop and enjoy. Take lots of pictures, stop and write in a journal, sit and listen to music, this time is for you.
  • Bring good company, positivity is contagious.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. Pack a beer for the summit, bring delicious snacks, go out for a nice dinner. Congratulations, you’ve earned it!

When we are doing something difficult or new, my friend Lindsay always reminds us, “Your body is made to do hard things.” You may be tired and sore, but wow will you ever be happy when you climb that mountain. Thanks hiking buddy, I love that.

Stutfield Glacier