Beautiful British Columbia (and Washington State)!

Some shots from a recent road trip from Edmonton, Alberta through to BC and WA (and back):

Salt Spring has a vibrant artist community – and many of their pieces are out for public enjoyment.

Salt Spring Air seemed to have a thriving business: saw three of their Beavers take off in quick succession while enjoying an ice cream cone one afternoon.

After a night camping by the ocean at Ruckle Provincial Park, we enjoyed driving from winery to bakery to cheese shop. Above is the rear view of the Salt Spring Winery where we ate our lunch while sipping a glass of their lovely Pinot Noir (and got a bottle of their Blackberry Port to go!).

After a couple of days in Victoria staying at the English Inn while visiting with family, we boarded a ferry in Sidney bound for Anacortes, WA. We had to stop for a bit to let a pod of orcas go by!
We found this sign in Burlington, WA right next to a church in a building that looks like Noah’s Arc. Religulous? I think so.

From there we drove east to North Cascades National Park, stopping for a permit at the park office. Then we did the 30 min hike through temperate rainforest to Thunder camp site.

In the middle of mountains and under the canopy of trees, darkness fell fast. I got a fire going and whittled a marshmallow stick while Doug got dinner made and rigged up the backpack so that we could string it up the tree when we went to bed. It is bear country, after all!

Our dessert that night was an amazing slice of home-made blackberry pie!

The Luxury and the Misery

After Doug suffered through two gruelling weeks of being out at various rigs (we figured he slept at home 3 nights out of 14), I whisked him off on a trip to Jackson Hole in northwestern Wyoming and Teton Valley in eastern Idaho.

On Friday the 7th we headed up to Pinedale with a friend of ours, Andria, and her two dogs, Belle and Chase. It was a beautiful, sunny day and perfect for the day hike we had planned in the gorgeous Wind River Mountains (a range within the Rockies). After trying to figure out which trailhead to start from, we ended up on the Pole Creek Trail that leaves from Elkhart Park in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It’s a popular trail with day-trippers like us and backcountry campers, so we weren’t worried about bears, just about slipping in the poop left behind by the numerous Llamas being used as pack animals for campers.

After a couple of hours we stopped for lunch at this picturesque overlook. Andria was kind enough to share her gourmet lunch fixings like pine nut hummus, wasa crackers, and peaches. I had a generous hunk of white chocolate/lemon/mint bread from the farmer’s market that I contributed and we feasted like kings. Then we headed back to the trailhead where Andria embarked on her two hour drive back home with a Llama poo-covered dog (why do dogs enjoy rolling in excrement?) and Doug and I booted it north to the swanky mountain town of Jackson, where our B&B; awaited us.

Jackson is an incredibly expensive place to live and play, and July-August is peak season. Doug and I don’t mind paying a little extra for a special experience, but in a place like Jackson the Best Western costs you $230/night and the nicer places can run $400-$500/night. Luckily I’ve got some experience hunting up deals and found us the most amazing place to stay at a 40% discount because we squeezed into a one-night spot between reservations. I had high expectations for The Bentwood Inn after poring over the website and it did not disappoint.


We arrived at 5pm pretty grubby after our hike, but the co-manager, Peter, welcomed us warmly and gave us a quick tour of the Great Room (above), the breakfast area (home-baked chocolate chip cookies available 24/7), and showed us to our lovely room (below) complete with Scandinavian Inglenook bed, jetted tub, private balcony, and gas fireplace. After we cleaned up, we enjoyed their nightly wine (imported from the Republic of Georgia) and cheese (and fruit, and crackers…) in the Great Room while chatting with the other guests.

After some discussion about dinner options, we decided to go to the Snake River Brewing Co. in Jackson, which I’d heard had some great microbrews. It was packed full of outdoorsy-people but it didn’t take long for them to find us a table. By then we’d already grabbed a Zonker Stout (Doug) and a Hoback Hefeweizen (me). Then we had to decide what food would complement our ales. Doug picked a unique pizza: bbq sauce, grilled peaches, italian sausage, and goat cheese. Once he was able to shift his “pizza paradigm” he enjoyed it quite a bit. I had their award-winning buffalo chili and a chunk of corn bread. Delicious!

I could see Doug starting to come back to life after his exhausting stint in the field. After a 10-hour sleep in the cozy room and an incredible three-course breakfast replete with what I have dubbed Beavertail Coffeecake and a sundried tomato and goat cheese omelet, we were ready to head out into the wilderness and rough it for a couple of days.

First we had to decide where we were going. The original plan was to go to the Alaska Basin on the western edge of Grand Teton National Park for a one-nighter and then to Yellowstone National Park for a two nighter at the end of our trip, but I had glimpsed in the local newspaper that Yellowstone was in the midst of its busiest season in decades: 900,000 people in July alone. There was also major road construction going on that was causing long delays. We both agreed that we did not feel like dealing with those hassles during our relaxing getaway.
So we changed things up. We drove the mountain pass through to the Teton Valley – formerly known as Pierre’s Hole – on the Idaho side. Then we went north of Driggs along a one-lane dirt road into the Targhee-Caribou National Forest where we parked and embarked on what we hoped to be our first successful overnight backpacking trip to Green Lake.
The hike started well enough. We knew there was a good chance of rain and that it was going to be chilly in this alpine region, but we felt we were prepared. Lugging our bags up the steady incline was challenging, but we were well-rested, well-fed and in good spirits. We enjoyed the views, the beautiful alpine meadows, and chatted amiably with the sparse groups of folks we encountered.
Then the drizzle started. No problem, we though, just a scotch mist. Then it started coming down harder, turning the dirt path into a muddy stream and coating the wildflowers so that brushing up against them soaked our pants nearly up to our waists. Then the rain turned to freezing rain, then to hail, then to wet snow. By the time our three-hour, 2000-ft climb ended at Green Lake, I was so cold, wet and tired that I didn’t even bother to rock-hop across a stream: I just waded through it. My boots were soaked anyways!
We set up camp as quickly as possible in the cold rain, struggling because our fingers were numb. Then we ditched our wet clothes under the rainfly, towelled off as best we could and piled on whatever dry clothes we had before bundling into our sleeping bags. It was about 3pm but Doug passed out for two hours. I was too cold to sleep so tried my best to distract myself with M&Ms; and a book I’d brought along, Jenny of the Tetons.
It was an appropriate book, set in the 1870s in the Teton Mountains. And I felt silly about putting myself through potential hypothermia and privation on purpose when Jenny, Beaver Dick Leigh and their family had to deal with it for survival. In any event, I finished the book by the time Doug had woken up and the rain had abated. It was time to venture forth to make a fire and dinner but our boots were still soaked so Doug fashioned himself some ziplock booties and I wrapped my dry socks as best I could with tied-up garbage bag pieces and we gingerly put the boots back on.
Then we went in search of dry wood (quite the feat) to make a fire in an attempt to dry our clothes. The next step was to try and light it, but while our matches were waterproof the boxes (and strike pads) were not. After finally striking them successfully, then the toilet paper did not want to catch. In desperation, I started ripping non-essential pages from Jenny of the Tetons, which lit beautifully. I figured a Shoshone woman and a pioneer woman would both encourage the action. The fire didn’t manage to dry our clothes despite our best efforts, but its warmth and cheeriness dispelled some of our gloom. As did our freeze-dried Louisiana Red Beans and Rice with lots of hot sauce.
It started raining again during the night, water pooling on the rain fly and dripping into the tent. It was perhaps the coldest night I’ve ever spent, and the next morning we awoke to hail around the tent and a light coating of snow on the ridge above Green Lake. We broke camp as quickly as possible, scarfing a granola bar for breakfast. We knew that as soon as we got dressed and got out we would need to start moving to stay warm. I put on as many top layers as possible: t-shirt, hoodie, fleece, rain jacket. Our only dry bottoms were shorts, though, which in the end we decided might be better in the sodden meadows anyway.

We power-marched it back to the Element, fantasizing aloud about dry shoes, clothes, and the warm bed we’d be sleeping in that night at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, but all the while trying not to kill ourselves in the muddy mess that had been the trail.

After catching our breath in Ellie, enjoying the feel of warmth and eating a lunch of jalapeno-cheddar bread, buffalo sausage, and chocolate pudding, we left the woods.
But the adventure was only half over…

Colorado, When Can I See You Again?

On Monday, July 13th, Doug had to go to Denver for two days of oral exams to move from the training/apprenticeship stage of his job to full-fledged Field Engineer status. The company would have paid for his flights, but we got the go-ahead to drive there instead (only 5 hours) and so set off around noon from Green River, WY on the I-80 eastbound and then headed south at Laramie for the more scenic drive down to Denver through Fort Collins.

The company had us (and the other candidates) set up in the downtown Sheraton, smack dab on the 16th Street Mall, an open-air pedestrian mall that stretches for over a mile. We were on the 16th floor (lucky number?) with this incredible view of the downtown core and the Rockies beyond. Our first day in town, Doug had a full day of interviews so after we had breakfast at the Delectable Egg I went for some much-needed pampering at the Body Massage Wellness Spa a few blocks from the hotel, then grabbed some lunch at Cook’s Fresh Market, a gourmet deli/grocery store, before heading out to my hair appointment (more pampering!) at Shear Productions. Then I walked the 16th Street Mall from one end to another, stopping in at some of the stores for some air conditioning and big city fashion.
Doug had told me he was to have dinner with the company people, so I took myself to Earl’s upstairs patio for mojitos, food, and people watching. Soon afterwards, though, Doug called me to let me know his group were headed my way, so I saved tables and got to meet some of the other folks.
The next morning Doug had his final round of chats and a wrap-up session, so I decided to hit the streets while it was still cool for some exploring. Right around the corner from the hotel are most of Denver’s museums, art galleries, and civic buildings. They weren’t open yet, though, so I didn’t make it inside but I fully plan to check out the Colorado History Museum, Denver Public Library, the Molly Brown House Museum, and the haunted Brown Palace Hotel on my next trip to Denver.
I did make it to one museum, though, the Black American West Museum, about a 30-minute walk from the hotel. It’s off the beaten tourist track in the Five Points neighbourhood, often called the “Harlem of the West” because of its proliferation of jazz clubs in the 1920s-1940s where Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington played before integrated audiences. Now it’s got a more hispanic flavour, but the museum is a testament to the neighbourhood’s, Denver’s and the West’s Black past. It’s housed in the former residence of Dr. Justina Ford and gives a great overview not only of Denver’s first Black doctor, but also Buffalo Soldiers, Black cowboys and settlers in the West, and the utopian Black colony of Dearfield, Colorado. This is an area of history not often taught and my knowledge is sorely lacking. My visit was very enjoyable and I picked up a copy of Charlene Porter’s historic novel, Boldfaced Lies, about race relations, the KKK, and identity in Colorado which I can’t wait to read.
That afternoon Doug slept while I enjoyed the roof-top pool and then we headed out for dinner at Ling & Louie’s, where the spring rolls are divine and they serve up cool twists on classic cocktails like the Ginger Cooler (sake, ginger beer, lemon and lime and crushed mint). After walking off our considerable dinner by heading over to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in trendy LoDo (Lower Downtown), we went for dessert at The Cheesecake Factory where they have 20+ different kinds of cheesecake on the menu. Yum!!
The next morning, our final foodie stop was for breakfast at Sam’s No. 3 restaurant, which has been around since the 1920s. If you’re ever in Denver, you need to stop here: their early-bird (before 10am) specials are around $4 and you will get enough food to last you to lunch and beyond! Then we packed our stuff into the Mini and got on the I-70 west for a four-hour drive through the Rocky Mountains past all those ritzy ski areas of Golden, Vail, and Aspen and into the wine and fruit-growing region of The Palisades, just east of Grand Junction. There we bought a couple of the juiciest peaches ever from a road-side vendor, and sampled wines at the Grand River winery.
By this time, it was 5 p.m. and the car’s thermometer said it was 38 degrees celsius. The original plan was to go to the Colorado National Monument and hike into a primitive camping spot. We were melting standing still, though, so there was no way we were going to load up our packs and head to a lower elevation with higher temps. So we decided to wing it and jumped back in the car, headed north toward Rangely and agreed that when the temperature dropped under 30 degrees we’d start looking for a place to camp (it’s mostly public lands up the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway).
This happened around 6:30pm at Douglas Pass, where the elevation was about 8,000 feet. After climbing a gravel road switchback, we stopped the Mini by a clearing where we startled a mule deer. We walked 10-minutes down to the spot and set up camp right over where the deer had been bedded down.

The view from our tent – and no bugs either!
Colorado is known for its microbrews (not just Coors anymore!) and so we picked up a mixed case of Denver-based Great Divide beers in Grand Junction, which just happened to still be cold when we set up camp. Nothing goes better with freeze-dried curry than a good beer!
Friday morning, after sleeping under a blanket of stars (well, a lot of tossing and turning for me. Were there bears here? I couldn’t remember!) we continued north to Irish Canyon – named for the three Irishmen who robbed a saloon and stopped at this location to consume part of the take – for a little hike. We didn’t go for long, though, as it was high noon and the sun was beating down on us!

Doug, doing his best Spiderman impersonation in Irish Canyon, decided to climb up a sheer rockface and hide from me. As every hiker knows, though, it’s always harder to get down than it is to get up. Don’t worry, I guided him to safety….
After Irish Canyon we drove to Browns Park, a nearby wildlife refuge along the Green River near the borders of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. It also has a one-vehicle swing bridge which Doug thought was pretty cool (and so had to drive over).
Then we headed home through Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, with a quick stop in Manila, Utah for sandwich fixings and an ice cream treat. Now Doug’s back at work for the next two weeks and I’m settling into a post-book/new project schedule. But Colorado, you and I will definitely meet again….

Adobe Town

Yesterday morning, Doug and I and Riker headed out in Ellie for Adobe Town, an amazing geological formation in the Red Desert about a two-hour drive south-east from our house. Armed with GPS maps, our camping gear, and about 5 gallons of water the plan once we exited the I-80 was to take the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roads and then take the jeep track as far as we could along Skull Creek Rim.

In our research, we had read that any rain could turn the roads into impassible quagmires. May and early June were among the wettest on record here and even though it’s been mostly sunny the past few weeks, we have had some wicked afternoon thunderstorms. This meant there were some puddles and some mud. For the most part I managed to keep us going, but partway up the jeep track we got stuck and Doug had to do some pushing. He got us out, though, and we parked in a nearby dry spot and decided to start our hike a little earlier than expected.


Strapping on our 20-lb packs (complete with tent, canister stove, sleeping bags and pads, water and food) we headed out over the sage brush grassland, wondering if Adobe Town actually existed or if we were already lost. You see, it’s an ancient river basin, so when you’re driving or hiking along the high plateau you can’t see it until you’re almost upon it.


I came upon this skull-shaped rock when we took a break about an hour into our hike. Maybe it’s why the area is called Skull Creek Rim?

Below is a greater short-horned lizard that gave away its position when Doug walked over it. Adobe Town is a proposed wilderness area in Wyoming and one of the reasons for this is its abundance of wildlife. We saw wild horses, pronghorn antelope, and heard a multitude of songbirds (that quickly went quiet when a large bird of prey circled overhead). Apparently there are lots of other species hiding out there as well but were smart enough to hide from the scorching sun.

Not so for us. Our original plan had us stopping for a couple of hours at midday in a shady spot or in the tent, but we were swarmed by great hordes of biting midges every time the wind died down. So there was no rest for us or we would succumb to madness. After hiking about 6 km we were at the half-way mark to our proposed camp site at East Fork Point. With rain clouds threatening to the southwest and no relief from the midges in sight, we decided to call the trip and head back to our vehicle.
This 13-km (8 mile) power march from 10:30am to 3:30 p.m. (i.e. hottest and sunniest part of the day) was exhausting and we were disappointed at our second bug-infested trip in what is supposed to be one of the least buggy States in the union. If we had known we wouldn’t be overnighting it, we also could have drastically reduced the amount of weight we carried on our hike.

Doug made it back out through the mud but these cows threatened to block our way (there are still a couple of active ranches in the area but oil and natural gas companies are rapidly encroaching). By dinnertime we were back home, sunburned, sore, and midge-bitten but still confident that someday we will combine a hike and camping trip in one!
p.s. Doug and I subscribe to Backpacker magazine and they did a great feature last September on Adobe Town. Click here for the article.
© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.