Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Trespassing Prey – Part 2

 An adoring fan (I kid) inadvertently encouraged me to put up more of this story I wrote a number of years ago. You can find the introduction here, if you’re so inclined. In the interest of avoiding a 12-post series, this section is lengthy. It’s also from a less succinct period of my life. I seek forgiveness.

As always, the first kilometre was tough, finding a rhythm and warming our muscles up to the idea of a good deal of work ahead.  We breathed the air in deeply, enjoyed the scent, shared our excitement, and thought about cougars.  For a while, we used a good deal of energy avoiding baby frogs that were making the journey from their nesting place to their new marshy home. They lightly hopped across the trail.  We enjoyed their energetic movements and cracked up about being easily distracted, lacking diligence in our attention to potential cougars.

After a brief break at the three-kilometre mark, we hiked on.  Here, the real work began, the climb became much steeper, which I hate, and covered with small fallen trees, which drove us crazy.  Every fallen tree required a strategy.  Most were a metre or more off of the trail – too high for either of us to straddle, very difficult to go under with a full backpack. We were further delayed because we had to stand around and complain before and after, again and again.  Luckily, a cougar did not choose such an opportune time – with one of us caught under a tree – to come sniffing.

Along the way, we fantasized semi-seriously that if a cougar were to attack us we could slay it with ease using the knife provided by Beth’s dad.Beth would keep the head as a trophy.  In a stroke of serendipity, the cougar would be female and lactating, to ensure that I could have some milk afterwards, for my stomach. Especially in the absence of my stomach medication – yes, that’s right, in my late night stupor the stomach pills had not made it into the backpack. Sigh.  This tidy cougar-hunting scenario amused us for quite some time as we hiked, satisfied with our plans.

After another 5km or so consisting of fallen trees, steep terrain, the inconvenient realization that I’d also forgotten my cell phone and our ride wouldn’t know when to pick us up, the trail levelled off and we came to a clearing with a cabin, thus concluding the lower portion of the hike.  We intended to drop off our wares, do the second leg of the trail and come back down to the cabin to sleep.  Our plans were foiled somewhat. The cabin itself did not have hospitality written on it – anywhere.  It was dank and dark, and seemed to host many visiting/nesting/pillaging creatures. Our tent was far more appealing and we set up camp in a nearby clearing.

But first, we had to find the trail to the peak of Mt. Cartier, which would apparently make the arduous hike entirely worth it.  Everyone had told us that after the cabin, the trail continues, but try as we might, we found nothing. We could go no further without a severe fight with some devil’s club.  After a number of attempts, we despairingly gave up on reaching the peak and glimpsing the fantastic view of the entire valley. No cabin, no peak, no view.

We didn’t pout for long before we quickly set to work making our home.  The sun shone, I started building a fire, and Beth, wielding the cougar knife, began preparing our tent site.  Each of us was quite happy to do our work. We pitched our tent, enjoyed the view and our dinner in the sun and chatted about nothing particular. Though it was most certainly on my mind, we still had not talked about the date. We were holding a stubbornness contest and neither of us wanted to be the first to bring it up.

After dinner I took it upon myself to figure out how to get our food and toiletries up a tree so that no bear would make us into a grocery store.  I threw everything in a garbage bag, tied a rope around it and looked fruitlessly for THE TREE.  Very few of the trees had unobstructed branches that I could manage to get the rope around. But oh how I tried. People always made this sound so easy when giving “bear aware” instructions, how hard could it be?  Very, apparently.

Eventually I picked a target, setting my sights on a branch approximately 5 metres above my head.  I wished myself luck, cocked my arm back, and threw the rope as hard as I could.  In a moment lacking triumph of any kind, the rope peaked a metre below the branch and fell limply to the ground at my feet.  Not to be deterred, I tried again, with a similar result.  I had no more success the third time.  Or the fourth.  I quickly became frustrated; my patience for my own failures is quite limited. I had no hope in hell of getting that garbage bag up to somewhere that a bear could not reach.  The fallen trees that we had been cursing along the hike now seemed very appealing – at least I could stand on one.

So I settled for an even lower branch, perhaps two metres above my head.  Pathetic.  I threw the rope, angry at my failure, hit the branch and almost knocked myself in the head with the rope as it came back down.  We were sure to be robbed tonight.  But refusing to sink further into patheticness, I threw the rope again and thankfully (for my self esteem), it came down on the other side of the branch.  So I pulled the rope, heaving the garbage bag mightily into the air before relishing in my heroic moment. I had Amazon woman strength.  Proud, I lowered my gaze from the glorious branch and looked straight ahead.  Sigh.  My heart sank.  The bottom of the garbage bag hung directly in front of my eyes.  Any heroism left in my feeble body was swiftly deflated.  How lame!  A two-month-old squirrel could have used the bag as a piñata.  I might as well have left a stick beside it to make things easy.  Alas, I assumed that this was better than having the bag in our tent and gave up, shamed and perplexed.

Exhausted and fearful of getting attacked (by mosquitoes as much as by cougars) we crawled into our tent to start one of those classic too early to sleep sleepover-type discussions. Beth’s mind, like mine, is over-active at night and we both struggled to find even a fitful rest.  I had silly dreams about dates and frogs and cougars and woke up every ten minutes changing positions. Every time Beth’s foot kicked the corner of the tent, the opposite corner, at my head, would pucker and scare me, waking me up frightened and sleepily alert. Beth got even less sleep than I did, disturbed by my kicks and tossing and turning at every sound and silence.

In the morning, we woke to a warm tent.  The daylight brought with it, as it always seems to, a sense of relief and safety.  We were alive.  Not even our toes had been gnawed off, and though uncomfortable and tired, we woke in good spirits, pleased with our adventure. This air of reassurance unfortunately was soon challenged by my physical condition.  The warm tent, the excitement, the lack of my usual milk remedy and stomach medication was starting to take its toll.  In search of some soothing protein, I found and delved into some peanuts.  I’m not sure where the peanuts came from because the food was supposed to be hung, but they were there and I ate them desperately.

Regardless, I was soon rushing to unzip the tent – the date’s tent, conveniently.  I mostly managed to direct the pathetic contents of my stomach away from the tent but to my horror was not completely successful. Is it a bad omen to throw up on the tent of the person you went out with 36 hours previous? Between “moments” I managed to get dressed and go sit by the fire pit to spare Beth any more of my scent.  I did my best to feel better, eating and throwing up alternately, while she packed up our entire camp without complaint.

… Stay tuned for trespassing, paranoia AND police.


November 21, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | , , , , | 4 Comments

California Part 2: Yosemite

Unfortunately, we reached Yosemite at the point in our adventures where trip burnout was sinking its teeth into my smelly flesh. My cranky-meter was going off a fair bit and I wasn’t as able to fully appreciate the famous Yosemite National Park. What might I have appreciated more on another day in another time?

  • The two and a half hours of campsite searching. Despite all warnings, planning and good intentions, these hours were spent hot, hungry, smoky and desperate with a car making loud weed-wacker noises through several otherwise idyllic and quiet campgrounds. There may also have been chasing cars and a general sense of frenzy.
  • The hilarity of the gas station inside the national park being mounds cheaper than the gas station just outside the gates – the one we used. (Only in America do National Parks have gas stations, multiple gas stations.)
  • The dry and dusty two mile Mariposa Grove trail through a variety of magnificient and huge Giant Sequoias. This was beautiful and I actually enjoyed it immensely considering I was a slave to the last shuttle of the day (bad planning on my part). There was little time to take photos and actually enjoy the trees. We brought no water, the trail was darn steep and I literally ran most of the way back down. I may have used expletives most of the way up.
  • A good old fashioned full day hike. I was just too burnt out to take the time to enjoy a good hike. It’s sad.
  • The family that poached/shared our campsite while we were away all day. We had heard stories of people sharing campsites in desparation, but were a little surprised to learn that we’d driven past our campsite in the dark because an entire surprise family of 5 was bustling around the fire blocking the view of our tent. I was very sympathetic until they pretended they couldn’t understand us and were doing us a favour by letting us stay. Things warmed up after that and I realized I was just really tired. Eventually, we were offered blankets after realizing the parents were keeping their kids warm with towels.  They left in the middle of the night.

What would I probably never appreciate?

  • The acrid smell of forest fire and consequent smoke all through the famous Yosemite Valley
    • I get that the forests have to regenerate and all, but that doesn’t mean I have to love wheezing it in.
  • The mounds of people. Yosemite is just too darn close to thriving metropolitan areas. It’s no Yellowstone, which was still busy, but not like this. Note to self: go again, go often, but don’t go in August.
  • The couple that was every so grateful that at least we were from a neighbouring country and spoke English unlike all those real foreigners who surrounded us. Actually, this was the only anti-tourist/foreigner comment we got the whole trip so I was pretty impressed.

I will, however, always appreciate the couple who saw us driving around looking desperate and waved us into their site. After giving us an interpretive tour of the site’s many bonuses: next to the outhouse, has its own stream, far from people, visiting bear, tent in morning shade, picnic table in morning sun (they were like campsite realtors); this lovely couple recommended some of the top to-dos and merrily got into their Prius and drove into the afternoon sun.

Gremlins are withholding my captions (grr). Choose your own adventure:

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October 3, 2011 Posted by | Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , , | 6 Comments

Featuring Montana

For no good reason at all, other than maybe being extremely indulgent and thinking that anyone cares, I’ve decided to do a brief highlight reel of each state I spent any amount of time in during the recent U.S. excursion.

First stop: Montana. No offence Idaho and Washington, but given that I only stopped to use the facilities, you don’t seem worthy of a post, unless it was about rating washrooms around the world a la George Castanza. If you’re actually curious about the route through Montana, this was it approximately. This is not the efficient way to get to Yellowstone when leaving Glacier National Park at 1pm, if you’re curious.

It was around the Montana border that I started to realize that those crickets that were following us throughout the trip were morphing into weedwackers and were in fact engine sounds. The sound persists. One day I’ll care to find out what it is and then not do anything about it some more.

What I saw of Montana was pretty stunning. I had been hearing this recently but was eager to see it with my own eyes. I’m partial to the mountains of southeast BC, Rockies and otherwise, so Glacier National Park did not disappoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time there. I will have to return to do the Iceberg Lake hike, and others, and spend more time talking to people. What I’m saying is that I have very little to say about Montana.

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September 7, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Photography, Travel and intrigue | , | 3 Comments


…a 5000km whirlwind tour in the U.S. of A to be followed by a 10 day intensive field course on BC’s central coast. Stay tuned for pictures and adventures from Wyoming, Utah, and the Great Bear Rainforest…

Because nothing says life like trying to accomplish everything in August.

p.s. All my plants have brown spots on them.

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Minor American Roadtrip, Self-reflection | 5 Comments

Vindication for Foot Sufferers Everywhere – or maybe just me

I blogged some time ago about my treacherous feet. I followed that up with a blog about the impact of my treacherous feet on physical activity goals, particularly hiking. Between the hiking trauma and finding myself newly added to a health plan I decided that it was high time I seek out custom orthotics, sexy vixens that they are, or at least learn whether orthotics would in fact be helpful.

I am one of those sick people that needs constant affirmation she is not a total wiener; anything that helps to explain away my lack of athleticism, for example, is welcome. The fact that I have come to believe that I cannot hike for two days just because my feet hurt, has not exactly sat well with me. What if I just had a low tolerance for pain and other people would not equate what I felt with banging bone against rocks with every step?

So I ventured forth, explaining my various gripes to the orthotic dude. I got emotional (nice one) relating the “culminating incident” of the hike. Then he watched me walk and looked at the culprits, my poor, deformed feet. Much to my surprise, he stated that orthotics would probably do a lot for my pain (inward gasp). He said that my small feet (I knew it, the jerks) and overly flexible (i.e. weak) ankles were forcing my mid foot to do all the work. Further, because of some bone structure that I won’t attempt to explain, but also related to the smallness, my toes have to work really hard to touch the ground, particularly #5 which unfortunately almost never reaches its goal (I knew I could blame something on that damn rogue toe). He could see why I would experience severe pain (thank GOODNESS I’m not just a wimp – insert ass-backwards ego stroke here).

The hope: my orthotics should substantially reduce my endurance activity foot pain and keep my toes in check (thus also reducing blisters and itchiness).

Getting used to them has been a bit of a process. It no longer feels like I am walking on a football. I have managed a couple of longer walks in them. Now I just have to try some more sustained activity and maybe even some running and see how I do. Fingers crossed for a multi-day hike next year. What’s that? One thing at a time? Fine. But don’t expect me not to think bigger. 🙂

A sidenote: it may not be a good idea to read an orthotics diagnosis sheet out of context. Mine had some language that I didn’t understand and when I googled it (I should know better), I was bombarded with frightening images of clubfoot at its most advanced (you’ve been warned). I spent a couple of hours thinking the guy forgot to tell me I have clubfoot before reasoning that I  more likely had the mildly understated version of things that if much more pronounced might be called clubfoot.

November 28, 2010 Posted by | Brackets, Childhood Complaints, Hiking | , | 3 Comments

Trespassing Prey – a teaser

I wrote this story years ago, and thought it would be fun to post its intro.

My first and only [not anymore] overnight hiking trip was a collection of mishaps to be sure. Never have I felt so unprepared nor so much like entertainment for an unsympathetic but laughing supreme being.  I went with my close friend, Beth.  We didn’t run out of food or water, we didn’t encounter any real wildlife – besides some small frogs and mosquitoes, but we did get ever-so-barely lost. In time we learned that a little lost could go a long way towards trouble.

We’d been researching the hike, Mt. Cartier, just south of Revelstoke, for a number of days. Hikers assured us that we wouldn’t have a problem following the trail. This didn’t end up being entirely true, but the messenger wasn’t the problem, we were.

Beth packed the tent, the food and camping equipment.  I was to bring my cell phone (to call our ride home) and my stomach medication (so that I didn’t get sick). While packing up at Beth’s house, her dad bustled around nervously, shouting out concerns as he went.  One such comment, “It’s a bad year for cougars,” started things off on tense footing. I can’t remember the conversation exactly but it went more or less as one would expect. To her father’s mentioning cougars Beth replied, “We know,” still patient enough to keep most of the annoyance out of her voice.

-“Yeah, well what are you going to do?” he shouted with a voice full of stress, like frying bacon popping incessantly, as he went into the basement.

-“We’ll be fine, dad” Beth warned.

-He jogged back up anxious and agitated, “Take this; you need this.”

-Beth backed away, as a person is likely to do when presented with a weapon, “A knife? What will we do with this?”  Then she looked at her father’s face, where tension was visibly billowing out. “Okay dad.”

-“Keep it outside your bag so you can get to it,” he said in an authoritative tone.

-“We’ll slay that cougar in a minute flat,” I replied, trying feebly to lighten the mood.

-Unimpressed her dad eyed me seriously, “Rose, you be careful.”

-Repentant, I nod, “Okay, we will be. Don’t worry.”

-He walked around for a moment as if caged, a cougar himself, “The cougars are supposed to be bad now – I don’t know if you two should go on your own.”

-“DAAAAD!  You wouldn’t care if your son was going with one of his friends.”

-“Be-eth.  You always do what you want.  Just be careful.”

In all this, we managed to get ready, and get more paranoid about cougars.  I said goodbye to Beth and left on a first date – a story of its own. I got home late and was too excited to sleep much. In the morning, I woke up tired but very excited. I had my breakfast and was out the door to meet Beth. My friend Katie, the only person that I know willing to get up and give us a ride at 8am on a Saturday morning without incentive, picked us up.  The quick drive out there was full of chatter.

On arrival at the trailhead we bid Katie goodbye, put our names and the date on a whiteboard in case that cougar got the better of us, and set off.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Doing it the hard way, Hiking, Wild Animals, Writing | | 1 Comment

Juan de Fuca Hates me (and other tales of pity)

It is with somewhat heavy heart (excessive dramatization) that I write about my long-anticipated (by me) Juan de Fuca trail hike with my husband, the oft-hypothetial but this time real, Kevin.

The Juan de Fuca trail (JDF) is a 47-kilometre hiking trail that runs parallel, and sometimes on, the coastline on the south west corner of Vancouver Island. It offers old growth forests, beaches, bears – you get the idea. I’m going to summarize my heroic rise and fall on the trail day by day – lucky you.

Day 1

This barely counts as a day since it only involves a 2k hike. We drove to China Beach after work on Wednesday evening. We brought nothing of value since break-ins are frequent. It’s at times like this that I especially appreciate our ’97 civic, Forest, which lacks fancy stereo equipment or valuable parts that I would worry over. Anyway, Kev paid park fees while I set to taping my feet. That’s right, my horrid feet feature prominently in this tale of joy, crankiness, and intrigue.

Bad omen? I think so.

Knowing that I have sensitive skin and blister easily, and heeding warnings from many that the best way to enjoy a hike is to prevent blisters, I carefully duct-taped the more sensitive areas on my feet. I thought I did a bang up job. We hiked the two kilometres in to Mystic Beach enjoying some warm-up forest time. The duct tape burned, but it’s sticky, crazy tape, so I figured that was normal and kept on trucking. We arrived at Mystic Beach happy and excited. I slept in duct tape, thinking I would do more harm than good taking it off. You can begin to see how errors compound.

See: Happy and excited

The next morning - very mystical

Day 2
We woke up relatively early, ate, packed up and started off for Bear Beach (creative, no?) after adding some additional duct tape to my ankles. The hike was beautiful (mossy and sluggy) as well as uneventful. The tape was still giving me burning pain but no apparent blisters so I thought things were going well. Despite all this, after the seven kilometres to Bear Beach at 11:30 I announced we would be packing it in for the day and not going the additional 11k to the next campsite. There was much lounging and swinging to be enjoyed.


Duct tape removed, feet breathing

Despite all this happy good timing, my feet were starting to give me some trepidation. Blisters had formed at the edges of the duct tape, from pinching or rubbing I suppose, as well as between various strips. The heels were doing relatively well but the ankle areas had gotten fairly blistery. I decided to start again tomorrow on a different plan. In the meantime good times were had, few people were seen and the weather co-operated wonderfully.

Day 3

Kevin was responsible for packing up camp and preparing breakfast while I spent half an hour on “health care”. Thus the princess tour begins. Kev packed most all of the weight (insert sigh of the ego) while I applied polysporin, then bandages, then cushions, then medical tape. We started off quite firm in our resolve for this up and down portion of the trail to Chin Beach. Kev spotted seals, we discussed potential bear encounters and world domination. All was normal.

Inclines and green things

Approaching Chin Beach

By the time we arrived at Chin Beach a new pain had overtaken any existing blisters. My feet were absolutely ALIVE with anger. A total of 19k had put them into an absolute tizzy. I sat while Kev selected a campsite but after a break was able to set up the tent and prove myself otherwise useful. Chin was incredibly beautiful, reminding me of a cold Thailand. We watched the tide come in, the sun set, and a pod (group, clan, pack?) of porpoises do porpoisy things.

On a dark and footy note (detect a pattern, perhaps?) my feet were not looking good. The cushions I had attached would not come off so I couldn’t re-treat blisters with polysporin. I had also run out of bandages that would fit tidily over blisters without forcing me to stick them to other blisters. I should have soaked my feet in the ocean, which would have allowed me to get the cushions off and provide my feet with some salty comfort for our last night on the beach. Instead, I gave up and left those cushions on for the rest of the trip. On the up side, other areas where I’d used the medical tape preventatively held up nicely.

Day 4

I think it’s safe to say that my darkest hour occurred on day 4. We woke a little late for a 13k day along the most difficult portion of the trip but set off fairly quickly after breakfast and another health care session. The trail was beautiful, with excellent ocean views as we neared Sombrio Beach, a popular surfing and camping beach. This is also the most difficult portion of the trail however and my feet had become incredibly angry again after a mere 2k. The last couple of kilometres into Sombrio were pure torture and I could not enjoy the views of Kevin’s favourite (sick bastard) portions.

View from crazy suspension bridge

Nearing a breaking point but this was a fun little bit in hindsight

By Sombrio Beach my feet were begging for anger management. We ate lunch and contemplated whether we should leave the trail. The pain had me on the verge of tears much of the day. Stubborness won out by a small margin. What surprised me is that, maybe because of adrenaline or other distractions, the blisters alone would not have stopped me from completing the trip. The soreness of my soles, on the other hand, almost did.

But we forged ahead after lunch into a muddier but otherwise less challenging section. It was on this portion of the trail, last year, that Kev had a run in with a rather aggressive bear and her cub that sent him back to Sombrio for the night. Armed with the knowledge that she was still around we sang and yelled whatever came to mind for the 4k to our campsite at Kuitche Creek. Themes from Cheers and the Love Boat made an appearance as did Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, and Arcade Fire.

The last kilometre was ugly. Crawling may well have been faster. When we reached the campsite I was so sore it took all my energy not to cry. I felt like a huge turd. Kev found a site, brought me to it then set up the tent as quickly as he could while I sobbed taking off my boots. It was not a proud moment. I crawled into the tent and cried some more, first for the pain, then at my own lameness (a never-ending cycle, that one). I may even have been in shock, I was shaking with cold and felt a little confused. Eventually, I calmed down and was able to set up our bedding and walk to the outhouse. We ate dinner by the water and I began to feel somewhat human, though deeply embarassed. Needless to say, the camera didn’t make it out much.

Day 5

We slept well, though wondering if bears were trying to get at our cached food. It turns out a small rodent made it in instead, chewing through our sleeping bag cover and getting at a bag of nuts and some bagels. This really cracked me up though Kev was less impressed, since a couple of his preferred food items were targeted.

My health care regime on this last morning included a dose of painkillers, in the hopes that it would stave off the foot pain for the remaining 14K to Botanical Beach. By this point, I’d given up on the skin and left most of what was on there as it was, with some minor modifications.

We packed up the tent in the rain (yay, heavy). Lucky for Kevin, who had basically taken on the role of sherpa and was packing nearly everything by this point. Early in the day we spotted a bear on the beach below us (or rather Kev did) – a definite highlight. We were grateful that the only bear we saw was afar though it refused to pose for proper body pictures.

It acted a little confused when I alerted it of our presence.

The rain died off early and we enjoyed both scenic forest and ocean views. The ache began at about the 5k mark and while manageable for about another 5k, the last 4 to Botanical Beach were pretty ugly. I was feeling defeated and the pain was compounding my disappointment. At some point in the previous 12 or so hours I had realized that my hopes of doing the West Coast Trail next year were likely unrealistic. My body hatred and self-pity had settled in, despite a keen awareness that I am very privileged to have what I do. We eventually finished, but with little fanfare. Our camera battery had died (my fault) and so we didn’t get either  a triumphant or cranky photo of our finish. We were still 2.5K from the shuttle bus in Port Renfrew and at the pace I was walking we wouldn’t make it. My first ever attempts to thumb a ride were jilted though Kevin eventually flagged down a guy who was very nice to drive us the few minutes we needed. Our driver’s son engaged me in conversation and lightened my spirits some. We then waited for the bus and chatted with a couple of women about to start the trail. They offered beer.

In my state of emotional decrepitude insult was added to injury on that shuttle bus ride back to China Beach. The winding road and bouncing bus took its toll. Within ten minutes I was asking the two women for a bag. My situation was precarious. The bag that they had had a knot in it. The bag made it open onto  my lap about 10 seconds before I needed to use it. Already in a state of extreme self-pity I threw up on a bus with 12 strangers. I then gripped the bag with all my might and hoped to make it to the parking lot without incident, which I managed.

We arrived to an unlocked car and a note that said Forest had been broken into. Thankfully nothing was missing or broken. Since we’d been gone 4 nights, an incident was almost guaranteed. I was pleased that we didn’t have to drive home with a broken window or something worse. We made it home after one more upchuck, my ego relatively bruised, and a bitter-sweet sense of our hike. I was finally able to take off all bandaging in the shower and see that one set of blisters had reached infection-like status.

I do not regret having gone and am certainly glad I did, but remain disturbed that I couldn’t help out more and even more so, that trips past two days may be beyond my reach. Accepting my body has never been a strength of mine. It’s slowly taking on new meaning. Now I’ve been given a limit. I’m not sure about the next painful step: acceptance.

After a day of healing and some cleaning

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Bad TV References, Brackets, Hiking, Irritated, Wild Animals | , | 11 Comments