This past week, I have been busy studying for a work-related course. It usually seems that these courses align with the warmest weather that week, so I found myself staring enviously out the window as my boyfriend enjoyed a cold drink on the patio.
Luckily, some friends had been wanting to plan a winter camping night for a few weeks and we had set our date to that Saturday evening. It feels like a bit of a cheat to say ‘winter camping’ when it only got down to -1 to -3 degrees that night, but it was still technically winter!
After I packed up my study books for the day, and after enjoying a quick celebratory beer, I packed up my gear. We decided to spend the night at a nearby provincial park, which just by my luck is only minutes away from my house. My sister arrived and we made our way over to the other side of the lake.
Our friends had already been out for the day enjoying the hiking trails, so we arrived to a crackling fire and smokies on the grill.
With the luxury of being close to a vehicle and also close to home, my sister and I set up our tent and stuffed it silly with blankets. Not to mention that I had brought two of my dogs along with me who have proven to be excellent tent heaters in the past.
As the sun set we chatted around the campfire. The dogs barked at the nearby coyotes, and just about anything else they thought might be too close to our camp.
Much to our delight, the northern lights appeared above the lake. I have seen them plenty of times in my life, but I had never seen them dance as beautifully as they did that night. We were in awe as the green and orange lights trickled across the sky. I tried to snap a photo but of course the cellphone pictures never do justice.
Eventually I had to tuck away into the tent and get an early night in before I was due back in my Zoom class at 9am the next morning. I snuggled up with the dogs and had no problem warming up. My sister, on the other hand, came to the tent about and hour later and ended up sleeping with dog paws pressed into her back instead of the furry space heaters she was hoping for.
We woke up fairly early the next more to pack up and get home in time for my class, but it was an excellent night outside. I often write off the winter season entirely for camping, but I definitely need to give colder temperatures a try next time!
It was great to have a quick getaway from studying, and our first tenting night of the year! Getting all of my gear out has only gotten me more excited for the adventures to come this summer.
A few months ago, my boyfriend and I bought our first home together. We decided to trade city life to move out to a small resort village in Saskatchewan and have been enjoying the lifestyle to the fullest ever since.
Moving right before Christmas might be hectic any other year, but with the Covid-19 restrictions in place we weren’t allowed to go and visit with family. While it was a strange and quiet holiday, we had a lot of time to unpack and set up our new home. With just our luck, the strictest restrictions our province has implemented so far went in to place right before our moving day. So, without the ability to offer pizza and beer in exchange for some help, we ended up moving almost everything just the two of us. But it was well worth it to spend that first night in our cozy new home.
Before moving, I lived on one of the busiest streets in one of the busiest cities in Saskatchewan. While I liked my little house, sirens and traffic were regular background noise for me, and my fingers were always crossed that I would walk out to my car in the morning and none of my windows would be smashed. Now, city life absolutely has its perks. I love trying new restaurants, checking out the local vintage shops, and taking the dogs to the riverside dog parks, but I think that living in a small community is my favorite place to be. Now, I wake up to a quiet house where I can leave the blinds open to let the sun stream in. The dogs watch deer from the windows, and race across the frozen lake in search of any scraps left behind by whoever is out ice fishing. We are also close to a Provincial Park, and there’s a perfect skating rink right by our house.
With the extreme cold we have has in the last week, paired with a lot of snow early on in the season, the deer moved in to our little village. While I love living somewhere where I can see a deer from my front window, the dogs have taken it as a personal challenge to chase them at every opportunity. I have been working on my core strength on walks lately, holding back my two coyotes while the deer lay in neighboring yards without a care in the world. A few times we have made the mistake of trusting June off leash, and ended up chasing after a dog in hot pursuit of some deer that are certainly faster than her. These chases end up with us huffing and puffing to the house to find June already sitting in the front yard guiltily.
While June likes the thrill of the chase, Piper finds her joy in sneaking frozen deer poop or fish remnants off of the ground as we walk along. She loves zooming around on the lake, sometimes forgetting that the ice below her feet is in fact quite slippery. The lake that we live by is also host to hundreds of ice fishing shacks in the winter months, and there are always plenty of people out making the most of the cold days, even after a bout of strong winds toppled over and damaged many of them a few weeks ago.
I took the dogs to the nearby park to check out the cross country ski trails the other day and was glad I hadn’t decided to try them out blindly on my skis with two dogs. They look like a blast, but definitely a little more advanced than where my skijoring skill set currently is. Instead, we enjoyed a walk and a little break from all of our deer friends. Lake life is certainly the life for us.
With all of the fun we have been having this winter, I am so excited to see what summer has in store for us!
For me, hitting the trails is usually done on my own two feet, or maybe on a pair of skis if we have enough snow. My boyfriend, on the other hand, prefers to explore the trails on his dirt bike, and he invited me along for a weekend of off-roading at the Brule Lake Sand Dunes just out of Hinton, Alberta with some of his friends. I was nervous, but excited to join in for a new adventure.
Now, my ATV driving experience is minimal, having gone with him once before and then a handful of other times throughout my life, but I hoped that if I took it slow I would be just fine. The guys loaded up all of the units on the trailer and we set out on the around 8 hour drive to Hinton. I was lucky to be able to borrow an ATV from one of his family members to use for the weekend.
After a long day of driving, we arrived at the Big Bear Cabin at Entrance Ranch, which is an awesome cabin with a full kitchen, bathroom, and enough room for about 9 people to sleep. We enjoyed a warm fire and then headed off to bed early.
The next morning we made a delicious breakfast and then piled into the trucks to head to our destination. I was still feeling excited, but now even more nervous because we had been warned the night before that the trail in was quite treacherous.
As it turned out, the trail was exactly as they had warned us. We arrived and unloaded, then set off in to the trees to get down to the sand dunes. I found myself going down a steep, narrow hill, with a large rut in the centre where water must have drained at some point. With my lack of experience, and the sketchy terrain, my tire caught the rut and flipped the quad over on to its side. I fell off the other direction, and knew immediately that I was fine, but watched in horror as the machine I was borrowing toppled over.
Fortunately, my boyfriends brother was driving behind me on his quad and he hopped off quickly to make sure I was okay. I was so thankful that he was there, even though my fear was quickly replaced with embarrassment as he had watched the whole thing unfold. Together, we flipped my quad back upright and nothing was damaged. Except for my confidence of course, which was shattered for the rest of the day.
We eventually made it out of the trees and down to the waters edge where I breathed a sigh of relief. The rest of the crew enjoyed the hills and trails and I tried to stay on the flatter sections as much as I could.
There were plenty of other people out enjoying the dunes, from families out for a cruise, to very experienced riders making the steep uphill’s and winding trails look effortless. I was in awe at the control and skill that the riders had.
As the day went on, my confidence built up a little, but I was still nervous at every steep section. It was frustrating, but I just didn’t have enough experience driving an ATV to feel comfortable. I instead chose the flatter paths, and enjoyed the other parts of the sand dunes. It was still a breathtaking place to be with mountains peeking through the cloudy day.
We stopped for breaks along the waters edge both days to have some lunch and warm up by a cozy fire. At the end of the day we found a different path out to the trucks that took a little longer but was much easier to navigate, I was so relieved.
The second day we came back in on a less treacherous path, and with some encouragement from the others, I rode in just fine. One of the people in our group let me drive his side by side for a few hours while he took the quad for a spin. It was like a switch was flipped for me, from feeling nervous and unsure at every hill to suddenly being way more comfortable and enjoying a bit of a challenge. The steering and stability of a side by side, plus the familiar car-like set up were a world of difference.
I was so thankful for that last few hours of driving to end off the weekend on a high note. I may have left feeling a little discouraged otherwise, but now I am looking forward to giving it another try one day.
We stopped to enjoy some views, and eventually made our way back to the trucks, ending off our weekend at the Brule Lake Sand Dunes. I was happy to have a weekend of new experiences with a great group of people.
Even though it can be tough, and sometimes things don’t go as planned, there are so many things in my life that I am thankful that I did despite being scared to do so. Getting out of your comfort zone (safely) is such a great way to build confidence for the future, and also to understand that you are capable of so much more than you even think.
I remember taking a scuba diving course in cold lake with very poor visibility. The instructor told us that it was a great place to learn how to dive, because if you can manage the cold and low visibility, then any other dive trip after will seem like a breeze. His comment has stuck with me for years, and I try to remember it whenever I am frustrated with learning something new. It might be a good idea to learn in less than ideal conditions, or put yourself out of your comfort zone, in order to give yourself a solid foundation of knowledge. Then, you will have those skills at your finger tips in the future whenever you may need them.
What outdoor activity made you nervous the first time you tried it?
As the leaves are beginning to turn, and the mornings are getting darker, I am starting to think about how I can make this winter one to remember, even though it seems likely that we will still be practicing social distancing. Pushing myself to get outside despite the cold makes me appreciate the season a whole lot more, and also catch some of that elusive daylight. This will also be my first cold season with my dog Piper, who I adopted back in April, and I am looking forward to making her first winter as a retired sled dog a great one.
Here are three things I want to give a try this winter!
Skijoring With Piper
For the last two snowy seasons, cross-country skiing has been my favorite way to get outside in the cold. Now that I have Piper, I think that skiing could be the perfect activity for us to do together. As a retired sled dog, she is extremely familiar with wearing a harness and running on trails, so I’m hoping it will be an easy transition for her.
Even in their retirement, sled dogs require plenty of exercise, and Piper still loves to run. I need to purchase a pulling harness, a hip belt, and a tug line to get us started. Piper is not much of a puller (based on my experience with her on a dog sled), but she loves going running so I’m hoping that this can be a great way for us to get some exercise this winter.
(Finally) Learning How to Snowboard
This is something that I have been saying since I was 16, but I really truly do want to figure out how to snowboard without getting scared and stopping, or falling every few minutes. It is so frustrating to try over and over again to feel like I haven’t made a stitch of progress, but I’m also not quite ready to admit defeat.
I may even consider switching to downhill skis instead of a board if I continue to have no luck. I am thankful for my kind and patient boyfriend and friends who continue to convince me to go back and give it another try. And if all else fails there’s always a chalet nearby to sit by a warm fire and enjoy a caesar, right?
Camping is one of my favorite things to do throughout the warmer seasons, and I would love to get out and experience the winter even more. About four years ago I spent an overnight in a Quinzhee with my Recreation and Tourism program and it was such a unique experience.
A Quinzhee is created by building up a large pile of snow, letting it harden up, and then hollowing out the center to create a space to sleep. As soon as we get enough snow on the ground, my sister and I will be out there trying to craft the perfect snow shelter. We will need to trade in our ultra light backpacking gear for some heavier cold weather sleeping bags, but sleeping in a snow shelter can be very warm if it is set up right! There are so many amazing places in Saskatchewan that I want to revisit in the winter, and camping is a great way to do it.
On the West Coast Trail, I heard a story from another hiker around a fire one night about a man who did the entire week long hike with only a big jar of peanut butter and a spoon for his meals. While that certainly is one way to build a meal plan for a trip, there are plenty of other options to make sure that you still have food you like to eat for as many days as you need.
Each hiker is different, some people prefer to pack granola bars for lunch everyday day, while others need that delicious hot meal to get them to the next campsite. No matter your hiking and eating style, there is a food preparation method for you. Here are the different ways you can pack your meals next time you head out on an adventure.
1. Fresh Food
Best suited for a day hike or overnight trip.
For a day trip there no need to go out of your way to prepare hiker specific, nutrient dense meals. Usually I’ll just throw an apple, a granola bar, and a sandwich in my bag and head out the door. I don’t worry about carrying weight as much if its a day pack because there likely isn’t enough room in my smaller pack to fill it over weight anyways. For a quick adventure, I like to try and eat nutritious meals the day before, but I don’t have to focus so much on getting enough calories while I’m hiking like I would have to for a multi day trip.
This is also my favorite time to bring something special, or plan a picnic. The best adventure snack I have made was preparing brie grilled cheese sandwiches on french bread beforehand and wrapping them in tin foil. Then when we sat down for lunch, we cooked them over a campfire. Bring a packet of jam for dipping!
Other meal ideas I’ve seen on the trail are bento boxes, hiker charcuterie boards, or thermoses of soup and chili. One determined couple even filled a spare water bladder with red wine for an overnight trip.
PROS: Fresh, delicious, less prep beforehand, familiar foods, you can carry the good stuff like cheese, meats, and fruit if you want to.
CONS: Fresh food tends to weigh more and have some extra bulk, there is also the possibility of it spoiling if you are out for a long day in hot weather, or freezing if its a winter day (frozen Cliff bars are like rocks).
2. Non Perishable/No Heat Required
A great option if you want quick meals that will not go bad on overnights or multi-day trips.
Sometimes, you don’t want the fuss or weight of fresh food, but you also don’t want to bother packing a camp stove. For some overnights, especially on warmer summer days when we knew we wouldn’t want tea or hot chocolate, we would pack non perishable snacks and meals. This can include crackers, beef jerky, trail mix, and dried fruit. I am a ‘treat yo self’ kind of hiker, and usually like to include chocolate bars for good measure.
Some perishable items can be brought along for a few days without worry. Common foods that I’ve seen multi-day hikers pack are tortillas, peanut butter, hard cheeses, and cured meats. You can also buy electrolyte tables and powdered drink packets for an energy boost.
The best perk to meals that don’t have to be heated is that you can eat on the go. You don’t have to take the time to set up your stove and boil water, you could even snack while you’re hiking. Keep trail mix in an accessible pocket so you can snack when you stop. I passed a woman on the West Coast Trail who insisted that her favorite way to enjoy her morning coffee was while hiking.
PROS: Easy to prepare, no heating required, you can eat on the go, will stay good for multiple days.
CONS: Could be heavy depending on what you pack (ex, canned tuna), you don’t get the satisfaction of a hot meal, and there are more limited options for fruit and veggies.
3. Heated With Camp Stove/Over a Fire
A good option for an overnight or multi-day trip.
Something about cooking food over a campfire makes it taste so much better. If you know you’ll be going somewhere where fires are permitted, you could consider packing some campfire friendly meals, much like the brie grilled cheese I mentioned earlier. I like to make food ahead that doesn’t necessarily need to be heated, like sandwiches, and wrap them in tin foil so that if I have the opportunity to toast them over a fire I can.
While delicious, campfires can also be a little less reliable depending on restrictions or weather, so many hikers opt to bring a camp stove along. This opens up your food options greatly. Easy meals cook with a camp stove are macaroni and cheese, rice or quinoa, and oatmeal. There are even frying pan attachments that I think would be perfect for those dehydrated hash browns you can buy at Costco.
Keep in mind that cooking directly in your pot will take some extra work while you are out on the trail. You can buy biodegradable camp soap at most outdoor stores that will make cleaning up much easier. And you should take in to account that if anything needs to simmer to cook you may need to bring extra fuel for your stove. Lastly, you’ll need to hang your stove with the rest of your food items far away from your tent if there are no bear lockers at your camp. Check with your local parks or outdoor enthusiasts for the proper methods or regulations in your area.
PROS: Delicious hot meals, easy to plan and pack, often non-perishable items
CONS: Extra cleaning required, may use up more fuel if your food items need to simmer, smell of cooking food could be more of a bear attractant, you will have to hang your stove, not all camp sites allow fires and fire bans may be in effect.
4. Freezer Bag/Dehydrated Pre-Made
Great option for multi-day trips and thru hiking.
This is my preferred food preparation method for hiking. You can buy pre-made dehydrated backpacking meals, or choose to do the dehydrating part yourself. If you are pressed for time, the pre-made meals might be a good option for you. The only downside is that they can be pricey, but I definitely recommend trying a few out to see what you like. Some thru-hikers choose to buy these meals in bulk to save some money and some preparation time.
To prepare, all you need to do is boil water, then pour it into your freezer bag and let it sit for 10-15 minutes until the water is reabsorbed into your meal. I put my bag in an insulated mug with a lid on it to hold in the heat.
My dehydrator cost about $65 and I have found it to work perfectly with the few recipes I have tried so far. My sister and I dehydrated chilli, quinoa burrito bowls, and pasta for our last multi day trip. This is also a great method for cooking oatmeal in the morning. There are hundreds of wonderful recipes you can find online to make meals that you will enjoy.
PROS: Lightweight, can be more cost effective per meal if you make them yourself, minimizes fuel usage.
CONS: Requires planning and prep beforehand, you must own or borrow a dehydrator, store bought meals can be expensive, you may end up carrying more garbage out.
5. Cold Soaking
Good option for multi-day trips and thru hiking.
Cold soaking is a method commonly used by ultra light backpackers or thru-hikers who don’t want to worry about carrying a camp stove, or don’t want to sit and wait for water to boil. Water is added to a meal, typically a few hours before it is intended to be eaten, so that it can reabsorb in time for the next meal. This works well for food that reabsorbs relatively easily such as oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, or stovetop stuffing mix, but you can find many other recipes online.
This method is not for everyone. Something that I have realized on overnight adventures is how important the temperature of water is for it to feel satisfying to me. In the mountains where we filtered from glacier fed streams, getting cold water was no problem, and it was refreshing. In the middle of Saskatchewan in the summer, however, you filter warm water from a warm lake and drink it as you hike on a sunny day. I think that this is why my first stop after finishing a trail is often to the nearest gas station for a Slurpee. I would be disappointed to have a cold meal after a chilly day of hiking.
PROS: No camp stove or fuel canisters required, minimal food prep on trail, a time saver.
CONS: No satisfaction of a hot meal, limited to foods that rehydrate well.
It is a strange feeling in this day and age to not be connected to world around you. As someone who keeps their phone no farther than an arms length away at all times, it is a huge adjustment to be completely disconnected, but also an incredibly freeing experience. Education is your power when you want to feel and be safe during your outdoor adventures. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself and hike with confidence.
First Aid Training
Give yourself the tools to problem solve efficiently and confidently. It’s a wonderful idea to have First Aid Training in every day life, and incredible to have in the outdoors. Standard First Aid is great, and you can even expand your knowledge with Wilderness First Aid as there could be hazards in the outdoors that you may not see in day to day life.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with your first aid kid. I carried a first aid kit for years without ever opening it, and if I was ever faced with an emergency situation, I likely wouldn’t have known what was in it. Practice splinting and bandaging so you can help yourself and others in case of an accident. You’ll feel more confident and better equipped to adventure out of cell service range.
2. Build a Solid Trip Plan
I have mentioned before that the West Coast Trail felt like a breeze because I had researched it down to the kilometre so we would have no trouble with navigation or tide tables. I have also been on the flip side and found myself taking many wrong turns or not knowing what to expect due to lack of research. There is information available everywhere now, especially on Apps such as AllTrails, to learn exactly what you need to know about your adventure. If you know what you’re in for, you’ll know how to pack and be mentally prepared for your journey. It’s also important to create a trip plan and share it with someone who will know when to expect your return.
Write or type out your plan and send it to someone who will look out for your arrival and ensure that you have made it back safely. Let them know where you will be going, how long you expect to be there, and what to do if they do not hear back from you by the chosen time.
3. Research the Area and Local Wildlife
A question that I see often on hiking groups is concern about wildlife encounters. Whether it’s bears in the forest or rattlesnakes in the desert, there is always the potential for running into wildlife. Instead of hoping an encounter doesn’t happen, prepare yourself for what to do if one does. Research different species you’ll find in the area, what their behavior is, and what to do if you happen across them on the trail. Carry bear spray, wear closed toed shoes and long pants, or whatever else is recommended in the area and you might feel a little better about the rustling in the bushes.
It’s also a great idea to read up on current trail conditions and reviews from other hikers. You’ll often find out little bits of information that make your hike safer and more enjoyable, such as which direction to travel first, what to avoid, and which beautiful spots you must see. It’s good to know beforehand if the trail is under a lot of snow, if a bridge has been washed out, or if there has been a lot of wildlife active in the area.
4. Know Your Gear
You know what is ridiculous? The fact that I have had a compass in my pack since 2017 with not a clue how to use it. Fortunately I have been able to work on my skills, but it makes me wonder what else I throw in my bag because a hiking book told me to, and not because I actually know how to use it. In Search and Rescue training, the instructors are constantly reminding us to try out our gear before we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with it with no idea how to properly set it up or make the most out of it.
Confidence in your gear and your pack means that you know which tools you have at your disposal in case of emergency. Try setting up your tent in your backyard for a night, cook dinner on your camp stove, or do some compass and navigation work in local parks. Make note of which gear you use often and what my sit in your pack untouched so you know what you want keep and what can be left behind.
5. Invest in a Satellite Messenger
I have hiked through areas of no cell service plenty of times without much worry. It can be either scary or nice to be fully cut off from contact from the outside world. That being said, if something was to go wrong, it’s comforting to know that you can still contact emergency services or loved ones if you needed to. I recently purchased a Garmin InReach and have just started bringing it on adventures with me. While the price may seem a bit steep, it could be an invaluable tool in an emergency, and may be a good idea if it is within your budget.
There are many different devices to choose from, from simpler emergency beacons all of the way to two way messengers with GPS and tracking capabilities. Research which device would be best for you, for me I wanted to two way messaging option to be able to send my family ‘I’m okay’ messages. I was also able to find a device second hand but in great condition on a buy and sell website and save myself a few hundred dollars.
More Quick Tips to Adventure Safely
Clap, shout, or sing as you make your way along the trail so that you don’t surprise wildlife
Ensure that you are drinking enough water and stopping for breaks. (Powdered Gatorade or electrolyte tablets are a great addition)
A Search and Rescue trainer of mine always says ‘two is one, and one is none’ in terms of gear. Think to yourself about what you would do if you were suddenly without a core piece of your gear and consider carrying a backup.
Brainstorm what multiple purposes a single item may have. For example, the mirror on your compass could also be used as a signalling device,or maybe even a fire starter.
Adapt your First Aid Kit to your adventure style, if you are often travelling in a group you may consider adding enough to care for multiple people or different medical conditions.
Is my list missing anything? What makes you feel safer in the back country?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!