All posts by Amanda

Exploring The Triangle

Roaming Wild in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

Frank and I recently returned from a four day backpacking trip in Tatshenshini-Alsek provincial park located in ‘The Triangle’ of BC. It was much needed after a long hiatus from the tent, as is this trip report after a even longer break from writing. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, but more that each idea grows out of control and then needs further contemplation. When I began with public writing I found trip reports the easiest thing to complete, and used them for practice so to speak. In a effort to overcome ‘writers block’ I will share with you a story of our recent adventure, and details of our preparations for Franks longest backpacking trip to date. Then perhaps I can get on with the topics that truly matter to me.

Frank soaking in the evening sun during a beautiful August day in the mountains
Frank soaking in the evening sun during a beautiful August day in the mountains

August is generally a great time to spend in the mountains; creeks are lower, ground is drier, bugs have dissipated, days are still relatively long, and nights not too cool. It had been more than a year since our last trip, so we started with a easy overnight to a quiet little lake in Yukon’s Kluane region. I loaded my pack with way more weight than needed for a singe night including a delicious van-made burrito, and my heavy wool knit sweater. This was Frank first time overnighting with his new Granite Gear pack (we had done some test hikes previously) so I spent some extra time to made sure it was fitting properly and loaded well.

Frank and his new pack during our trial run before heading into Tatshenshini-Alsek Park
Frank and his new pack during our trial run before heading into Tatshenshini-Alsek Park

After a super successful trial run Frank and I were full of energy and confidence to make a longer trip. Both being the wild types who prefer to wander without the regulations, leashes and infrastructure of developed parks we headed south into the isolated NW corner of British Columbia refereed to as ‘The Triangle’. Growing up in BC I was always curious about this mysterious place that didn’t seem to have anything there. It was a place I had never heard of anyone visiting. Aside from a couple cabins, one ranch, the Pleasant Camp customs station and the road that runs through it linking Haines, Alaska and Haine’s Junction, Yukon there doesn’t seem to be anything other than pure wilderness. Perfect.

Wide open spaces, mountains, rivers, glaciers and interesting flora are all you'll find in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park. And perhaps peace of mind.
Wide open spaces, mountains, rivers, glaciers and interesting flora (and animals) are all you’ll find in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park. And perhaps peace of mind.

Before we could begin I made one last stop at Million Dollar Falls, just north of the BC border, to take advantage of a day use picnic table for staging our adventure. Not only did I have to pack for our trip but I also had to prepare my van to be left sitting in the sun, and that meant feasting on perishable items (mostly vegetables), turning the last of my hazcap berries into jam, and making sure my van was clean and tidy in case we came back in a emergency situation. The park has no infrastructure aside from one outhouse at the start of a old mining road which is used to access Samuel Glacier, the most popular attraction. There is no phone service, fees (rafting is an exception), hiking trails, rangers, and is so isolated you can’t even pick up a single am radio station. This park combined with it’s neighbouring parks Kluane National Park in the Yukon Territory and Glacier Bay & Wrangell-St.Elias Parks and Prerserves in Alaska comprise the world largest protected landmass. Designated as a UNESCO world haritage site the park itself covers 9580 square kilometer, and is jointly managed by BC Parks and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations who’s traditional territory the park is located on. Together they keep the outhouse stocked, and monitor wildlife ect, but seem to completely leave visitors alone. I like this. I like being able to visit places that are protected and pristine without the heartache and hassle of what a place turns into when it becomes populated. Seeing beautiful, wild places become developed and gentrified for the masses to consume and profit of parks all under the guise of conservation is something that really sets me off, but that’s a topic for another post. I hope that never happens to this place, so please if you visit think and act accordingly.

Soaking in the wonderful Samuel Glacier on a warm and sunny afternoon
Soaking in the wonderful Samuel Glacier on a warm and sunny afternoon

When it comes to spending time outside and in the backcountry I do things a little different than is generally advised, partly due to the fact that I basically live outside already (usually away from society), and because I like the personal responsibility of my own way. Before you become alarmed remember I am NOT advising you to do things my way, only sharing a different perspective. I have a strong mentality of “you get yourself into it, you get yourself out” and that means I live as if help cant be called, search & rescue doesn’t exist, and no one will notice for a long time if I am gone longer than planned which are all pretty much true in this case. Those closest to me knew I was going to be hiking and camping in the ‘Haines Junction area’ which covers an area more than 300km North to South, but I do not leave a safety plan, I had no plan when I set out. I prefer the freedom of travel over the pseudo-security of people far away. I didn’t research other people trips, and I never carry a GPS. Instead I studied maps, in this case a 1:250,000 topo with 500ft contour intervals (not detailed….) which I put to memory and left behind. I intended to create my own scenic route and for that I would be relying on my route finding skills, patience, endurance, positive attitude, and mental fortitude to take it as it comes or back out. I wanted to explore, to have a real adventure, to take responsibility for my own life, and that of my canine companion. Most of all I wanted to be fully and completely immersed in my environment, to allow it to show me the way.

Staging for Frank and mine first backpacking trip longer than a night includes laying out gear, cleaning van, making jam, studying maps, and mental preparation.
When backpacking and vanilla collide. Staging for Frank and mine first backpacking trip longer than a night includes laying out gear, cleaning van, making jam, studying maps, and mental preparation.

Having recently quit coffee I decided against taking a camp stove for the first time ever which would save weight, space, and reduce bear attracting odours. Instead I packed ample food for Frank for 4 days/3 nights, and light rations for myself opting to rely on foraging for the rest. If needed Franks food could be stretched another day or two without being unhealthy, and I had packed a natural hunger suppressant. Most of the time I spend in the backcountry is done without other humans, so I have created a custom survival kit based on my experiences with the most important item being my wilderness first responder training. Aside from food and a survival kit I brought just the basics: a single person tent, sleeping bag, air mat, water filter, warm camp clothes, rain coat, journal, camera (with 3 lenses), and a well weighted and sturdy tripod. Frank carried his own food, bowl, team peanut butter, and my Lifestraw for easy access. I hike in the same boots I have enjoyed for 8 years, and always carry a SOG knife with fire starting supplies in the sheath on a long cord (even when sleeping).

No stove food for 3 nights/4 days for myself. The breakfast mix is: chia, hemp seed, buckwheat, dried wild cranberries, dried currants (soak in water 10min and eat). I supplemented my diet with wild berries, flowers and leaves as I hiked. In the end I still have over half the breakfast mix and nuts left over. Frank carried the peanut butter which we shared.
No stove food for 3 nights/4 days for myself. The breakfast mix is: chia, hemp seed, buckwheat, dried wild cranberries, dried currants (soak in water 10min and eat). I supplemented my diet with wild berries, flowers and leaves as I hiked. In the end I still have over half the breakfast mix and nuts left over. Frank carried the peanut butter which we shared.
Franks pack contents for 3 nights/4days. We since purchased dry bags because his food got a bit wet crossing creeks and a small microfiber towel to dry off with before coming in the tent. He carried my lifestraw so it was easy to access. As he ate his food I filled the space with light items of my own to keep his pack from jostling. He also carried out all the garbage we found which included a pair of sunglasses, small bungee, and 3 beer cans.
Franks pack contents for 3 nights/4days. We since purchased dry bags because his food got a bit wet crossing creeks and a small microfiber towel to dry off with before coming in the tent. He carried my lifestraw so it was easy to access. As he ate his food I filled the space with light items of my own to keep his pack from jostling. He also carried out all the garbage we found which included a pair of sunglasses, small bungee, and 3 beer cans.

 

 

 

Our trip began by hiking out to Samuel glacier, the first 6km or so are along an old mining road, after which you can see the glacier several more kms away and make your own way to a camping location of your choice crossing creeks on the way. Having been the year before this part of the trip was not new to me, and I able to choose smarter terrain making the approach feel much easier and drier this time. Somehow I ended up at the exact same spot as last year and decided it must therefore have the best overall panoramic view in the vicinity, exactly what I was going for. Water can be found springing forth from the hillside in trickles which I could easily located at a distance based on the nearby vegetation changes. Arriving early in the afternoon gave me most of the day to relax in the sun, stretch, study the terrain for the day ahead, and ponder the bigger questions in life. One of my favourite amenities of my new traditional camp spot is a stone for resting your back against, perfectly angled to enjoy the sunset. I got the feeling I wasn’t the only who had sat against that stone watching the world turn. A special place indeed; Frank and I were the only ones around for kilometers.

Playing with Frank at the end of our first day. I think he was happy to be back
Playing with Frank at the end of our first day. I think he was happy to be back

Over the night clouds rolled in neither threatening rain nor reducing ground visibility, instead bringing a welcome coolness with them. After a leisurely morning and at the sight of incoming weekenders we packed up and started on our way. I was particularity drawn to the enchanted vibe of Klehini Mountain to the South and headed towards it, but first some backtracking in order to safely cross a swift creek and avoid navigating the loose canyon walls the separated our first camp with the way ahead. Without a set destination, and not planning to travel more than a few kilometres that day I enjoyed a nice slow pace nibbling on berries and flowers. Once again early afternoon came as I found a wonderful perch with nearby water to spend the rest of the day soaking in space and time. I marvelled at the effects gravity and water had on the landscape and pondered what was down the valley and beyond. Without a stove food was simple, taking virtually no time, allowing me to write and draw. This time I couldn’t help but think just maybe I was the only person to ever spend a night at this very location. The sound of the river flowing into the distance was a calming change from the previous nights roar from glacier off-flow. As the colours of sunset faded a small fox came to investigate me while Frank was off ‘securing the perimeter’. In the night it came for another visit, this time Frank nearly went through the tent wall before I grabbed his scruff and opened the door. I heard them rip circles around the area before the fox outwitted and outmanoeuvred Frank, as they always do. As a Australian cattle dog rescue it is in his blood to ‘protect’ from wild animals, and to stop him from doing so is not worth the struggle, especially when I know he cannot catch the fox. I wish I could teach him fox are friends even if they are coming to steal food, but I will have to wait for times without Frank around to observe them more closely.

Enjoying low-bush blueberries with a view
Enjoying low-bush blueberries with a view

Being at a higher elevation than the first night meant we woke up in the clouds, but by late morning I was back to enjoying blueberries with a view. From here I decided to head up and over the flank of mineral mountain rather than continue south along the west side. Having had no previous sight of what lay ahead I was surprised at how broad and undulating the terrain was. The topo map I studies had left plenty to mystery and I found navigation be a rewarding choose your own adventure with treasures to be found around each corner. Among my favourite were colourful foregrounds for glaciated mountains, patches of coltsfoot, deposits of gypsum displaying radiating fibrous crystallization and surprise tarns. As I descended the east side towards Mineral lakes I stopped to enjoy a snack with good vantage point and ended up making camp. There was a cool, crisp stream running from the snow pack and I enjoyed the view of being high. It no longer made sense to camp at Mineral Lakes as I had imagined I might do. Being alone without a schedule made this easy to do, a freedom I rather enjoy. There are many perks to being alone in the wild including the solitude to process one own thoughts, face lingering fears, and most importantly live moment to moment on instinct and intuition. The freedom to be animal is rarely found in the company of others, and the ability to be animal is what will save your life push come to shove. As I watched shadows creep across the mountains to the east I noted the locations that have the last of the evening sun shining on them. This information will come in handy for future trips when I want to enjoy nice views with sunsets from high up locations.

Camp above Mineral Lakes
Camp above Mineral Lakes

While my choice of camp spots the third night was pleasing to the eyes it was also horrible windy. The sound of the tent fly violently flapping kept me awake for hours, until one moment the wind died and instantly I was asleep. If I am camping in a place where encounters with people are rare it’s nice to keep the fly off, but moisture the second night and wind the third had me putting it on before bed. I noticed that both Frank and myself are comforted by the false sense of security it provided despite limiting our ability to sense danger. If he sleeps better, I sleep better, even if it means danger can creep a little closer. Regardless I was not concerned for bears, even with my food at the tent.

King of the Castle! Frank enjoys a break from the sun and winds in our trust MSR Hubba, the perfect tent for a gal and her dog.
King of the Castle! Frank enjoys a break from the sun and winds in our trusted MSR Hubba, the perfect tent for a gal and her dog.

Once again we spent the morning watching clouds lift from the mountain peaks before taking off. It is not that we were unable to travel, but had the time it was not necessary. The trip had not been physically demanding so I choose to take the long way back to the van by descending to the lakes in the opposite direction, passing between them with a easy creek crossing, heading up and over the hill beyond them, and then winding through the flats past smaller lakes while enjoying blueberries. Sitting on a moraine overlooking a tarn I could see a RV parked on the the side of the road in the distance. “Those poor fools…”, I thought to myself, “…they spend their whole lives working so that they can retire and spend it driving around gazing into distant lands their bodies can no longer take them to”. At least they had stopped to take it in, most people just cruised through on their way from one destination to the next, then again maybe there were just watching satellite TV. Whatever the case I’m choosing to live each moment as they arise with the faith it will all work out.

Time in the wild is all about connection for me, not about achievements.
Time in the wild is all about connection for me, not about achievements. 

 

I don’t know how far I walked or how long it took me because I don’t wear a watch, use a GPS or any other type of tracking device. That isn’t important to me; I didn’t go into the wild with a set of objectives or athletic goals. I went to BE, not to do. The area I hoped to explore took less time than I imagined it would and felt like less time than it was; the perfect amount of time to do anything in my opinion. In the end I spent more time sitting and taking it all in more than anything else, as I am prone to doing. Nature provides a lot to take in, most of it beyond what the eyes can see. Each bend and fold in the land, every waterway, rock, and plant on every scale imaginable can teach you something about the past, present, and future; about the passage of time and flow of life. There is only one thing guaranteed in life; you are going to die. I know this to be true. Everything beyond that is something unknown you get to create or create a response to. I know there will always be change, and something new to discover so I’m going to spend as much time as possible in the wild world learning it’s secrets and observing it change.

 

 


 

For more photos from this trip and many others please follow along on my Facebook and Instagram pages

A special thank you to SOG and Wild & Roaming for your support.

For tips and inspiration to rewild check out We Are Wildness who you can also find on Facebook and Instagram

Home Is Where You Park It

By now I’m used to being asked the same questions over and over again regarding my vanlife. Don’t you get cold? How do you shower? What do you do without wifi? The list goes on and on, but the one that I always have the hardest time answering is: Where do you park at night? In my head I want to respond ‘I park wherever I damn well please’, but of course I do not. Being asked this question makes me wonder many things about WHY I am being asked. Do they want to come visit me? Are they concerned for my safety? Do they want to learn in case one day they choose vanlife as well? Or, do people seriously think finding a place to park is difficult??

Where do you park at night?

 

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Home under the stars with a candle lantern, picnic table, and campfire. That’s what I call luxury.

Simply put the answer is ‘everywhere’, but this is not generally found to be an acceptable answer for the inquiring individual. I understand how finding places for park for a night could be a struggle in a metropolitan area, especially if you wish to enjoy your night. Here in Squamish, BC though it’s easy to drive 5 kilometers and feel worlds away from town. I’m not sure all van dwellers feel the same way, but for me a big part of why I live in a van is to be closer to nature. This desire to be in the wild leads me to spend my time living and travelling in less populated areas virtually negating all the issues a city-parking counterpart would face. There are many places I have parked for only a night, and may more I park at so frequently they have nicknames. When a spot gets a name such as Cut Block, Up Top, Riverside, and Fern it has become home and has proven itself as a great location.

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Home up the Squamish Valley usually means tarps and garbage collection.

 

I tend to keep the exact location of all the favourite spots close to the heart. While I try to always be as helpful as possible to other vanlifers I believe the best spots are those you find yourself. Summer can bet pretty busy here with people living in vans and it’s nice to know that some spots won’t likely be found by tourists.

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Cozy inside on a rainy day enjoy a ‘scenic’ location, not a good spot for a night.

 

With so many different locations available to call home for the night it can be a little overwhelming to make a decision at times, but I love the freedom and spontaneity. More important than where I park is WHY I park where I do. As a dog owner one of my first priorities is choosing a location where Frank can run freely while minimizing the risk of him bothering people or being run over. While it’s easy to get away with parking in residential neighbourhoods as long as you vary your location, it’s not a good choice with a dog. Residential areas are also lit which I do not like either. I enjoy really dark locations, especially those far from people, and no I am not scared of bears. If the sky is clear I will often choose locations to cater to photography and star gazing. If the moon if bright I will choose spots to catch it lighting up mountains, and when the moon is new I search for the darkest skies with neat silhouettes to watch the stars roll by. When I want to sleep in I choose a spot with shade all morning, and when I work early I park as close as possible. If I feel like having a campfire I have places with great views and virtually endless dry wood. Sometimes I don’t want to be bothered, so I go where my phone has no service and no one would find me. A heavy rain will almost always send me to the same location where I have my tarp system dialed, and a single day off will send me to another.

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Another regular night with Frank by the fire, and stars above.

 

It is true that when you live in a van home is where you park it, but not everywhere you park feels equally homelike. Regular locations will always feel more like home, while anywhere with passing traffic and lights will feel less homey. It’s always enjoyable to park in the yards of family, although I will never say yes to spending the night inside. Finding sweet new views and locations feels a lot like camping, and camping feels a lot like home after living in a tent for months. The most at home I will ever feel is nestled in a tight valley with a river running past. Shielded from the world outside I drift into my own until all that exists in the universe is my tiny home of roughly 4’’x7’’. I fall asleep breaking apart the different sounds in the rivers roar, and enjoy the clearest dreams.

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Exploring new roads, new lands, and new homes for the night. Always an adventure.

 

Being the type of person that craves the new I find great satisfaction in the hunt. I am always testing new places to park, and discovering what works and what doesn’t. I don’t have much inside space, but my back yard is endless.

Variety is the spice of life, and the key to vanliving success.

Squamish Adventure Style

"You don't need someone one to tell you about a cool place, or do research on the internet to find adventure. All you need to do is go out and explore, that's the point anyways."

I’ve always been the adventurous and curious type. As a young girl I was picking up any creature I could get my hands on and studying it for awhile. I collected Newts during mating season not quite understanding accidentally creating a bucket full of amphibian orgy. Growing into my teenage years my adventurous side was expressed through fashion. In retrospect this was often regrettable and I feel sorry for my parents at the time. Given my colorful nature my attire is certainly on the hippy side of things, but its at least extremely practical and durable.

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Backroads are always enjoyable on the eyes and are always changing

Now that I’ve grown into a very independent and resourceful giant kid I spend most of my time making adventures solo. Sometimes I enjoy climbing mountains, visiting new bouldering areas or hiking, but my favorite adventures are always my explore missions. Explore missions are what happens when I go into an area of wilderness and take any trail that catches my eye as I cruise by just to see what might be there. I follow my heart, up logging roads, through natural clearings, along rivers and through the bush. You don’t need someone one to tell you about a cool place, or do research on the internet to find adventure. All you need to do is go out and explore, that’s the point anyways. Don’t worry, adventure will find you. Stop when you see flagging or anything that looks like a trail, follow a riverbed or bushwhack up a hill to see if it leads to a view. Follow the light if it might lead to a great photo, or search for that perfect night sky or sunset silhouette. Go outside and make the unknown know, satisfy your curiosity and learn the hard way.

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Roadside glacier views

Sometimes you will find great views along the main road.

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I always love finding new views of this craggy peak

Other times you will find them up side branches, or across cut blocks.

Wild strawberry blossoms
Wild strawberry blossoms

Very often you will discover places to forage for delicious berries later on.

My favourite character in a grou of totem poles  I found
My favourite character in a group of totem poles I found

Occasionally you will find signs of a wilderness culture, a cabin in the woods, or savlageable items.

A nice cascade I discovered by bushwhacking up a stream I saw from the road
A nice cascade I discovered by bushwhacking up a stream I saw from the road

Wherever you go explore you are sure to see new sights, discover areas to explore more, and make memories. Whatever your adventure style make sure to do it safety. Leave a safety plan with someone that can follow through, be self rescue prepared and always trust your intuition.Remember to always pack out some extra trash leaving the wild more serene, and avoid trampling sensitive habitats such as wetlands and alpine terrain.

Adventure safe. Adventure with style.

 

The Circus is Coming.

Hans Jacks Baby TAPA
My new friend Hans who just moved to Squamish from Columbia via Quebec. He was given my name by a friend I made at the circus last year, and as it turns out we both represent Organic Climbing and get along great. Here he makes Jack’s Baby V5 look super easy, well for him it is.

Recently I decided to make the leap into summer and put my extra blanket into storage. As I did this I picked up my Organic Climbing Briefcase pad, which makes a perfect seat in dry weather, and my classic red metal toolbox. I was headed down to the beach to meet Ashley author of the blog Barefoot & Homeless so that the dogs could play while we did some ‘home improvements’.  For all the years I have known her, the van she calls home has been on the verge of collapse. Through all the ups and downs of vanlife she bop’s along with a smile on her face taking life as it comes with a unwavering faith in the goodness of karma. Perhaps my decision to ditch my winter warmth was inspired by her arrival. The rock is drying faster these days, and already fellow van dwellers have begun to arrive in Squamish.  My nighttime parking habits are changing in response to the lengthening days and warmer mornings.  Squamish has not only the regular four season, but also another two, wet and climbing. A feeling in the air tells me climbing season is nigh and that means….. The circus is coming.

Van smiles TAPA
At home at The Chief about to enjoy some bouldering before the crowds arrive. I’m pretty happy about my van modification and cute crash pad family. After breaking my hand this will be my first time trying some easy bouldering, if that exists.

As Frank and Freedom, our trusty canine companions ran wild I dismantled the interior body panels on Kiki’s hatchback door. I decided to take Ashley’s lead and rig my door allowing me to open it from the inside. More importantly it would allow me when I wake up too warm open the hatch from bed letting a relatively cool breeze along with the sound of birds to come rushing in.  I had after all decided I wanted a blast of nature in bed every morning and I was going to make it happen.  What good is a dream if you don’t make it a reality anyways? I am after all currently in the business of making all my dreams come true; that’s how I came to live in a van to begin with.  As I worked on worked on the current dream I chatted with some guys parked next to me who teased I would break the whole door. I could tell they didn’t quite ‘get’ the need to undergo such modifications, and for a moment I doubted my ability to get the job done.  I analyzed the door latching mechanism then attached a piece of cordalette on a pivot point, thread it through the panel in the right combinations of directions and announced it was testing time. I closed the hatch, crawled into bed and gave the cord a pull. It opened! I jumped out stoked, and reminded again never to doubt myself. I reassembled the door satisfied the coming climbing season was going to be one dream come true more awesome.

Superfly busy TAPA
Hans throwing down on the classic traverse Baba Hari Daas V7 while Francois warms up on Superfly Slab V0. The afterwork crowd has been active before the circus arrives.

That night Megan, Ashley and I gathered at The Chief campground to greet the changing season. Our three vans in a row, we sat on the grassy knoll talking of climbing and adventures, laughing and throwing objects for the pups. Friends and travelling strangers joined us while people played on the slacklines, and organized gear at their vehicles. We met a super inspiring (at least to me) couple of buskers from Quebec who filled the lot with the sound of banjos. We shared with them our desert and learned about the world of train hopping. Another couple came to sit with us while Megan and I cooked. They were full of questions and fresh enthusiasm. They had travelled from Ontario and would soon head south to California to climb at all the destinations such as Yosemite, Bishop, and Joshua Tree. It was refreshing to be meeting climbers from afar again, and to be sharing in this great community.

Dam Star Trails TAPA
I’ve been exploring deeper down the backroads and enjoy starry nights alone. I’m stockpiling solitude and scouting new camp spots for the busy season.

As I laid down to sleep with Megan parked on one side of me and Ashley on the other I was almost giddy at the season to come. Soon these social nights would become a daily occurrence, except with even more people from even further away. There will be potluck dinners appearing out of thin air with friends made in the boulders earlier that day. Soon the circus will return to its full glory and my face will hurt from the enjoyment of it. I have already begun to prepare for another sleepless summer of climbing, friends, mountains and fun, but I have much more to do especially mentally. As much as I do enjoy making new friends, and the company of others I really, really need my alone time. This winter I spent a record amount of time alone or with a select few individuals and I have experienced a great growth in my happiness levels. So, for now I will savour my alone time, prepare for summer mountain escapes, and transition my diet for the seasons.

 

Protein yum with beans, tuna, green onion, cilantro and help seeds. Also lime, oil and salt.
Protein yum with beans, tuna, green onion, cilantro and help seeds. Also lime, oil and salt.

One of my favourite meals to eat this time of year and throughout the summer is this filling and protein packed salad. The base ingredients store well for backcountry and van use, and the final dish can be used for many meals. Try as mini lettuce wraps for lunch at the crag, or with rice in a burrito for dinner. I like to make enough to last 3 days, so that I can spent less time cooking and still eat clean while the circus is in town.

 The Recipe

Start by soaking your desire amount of beans for approx. 24 hours (this varies for bean type but can be found online easily). I like to use black beans and red kidney beans.

Cook beans being careful to take them off the heat before they become soft, and allow to cool.

Mix in canned tuna or other delicious meat product as desired

Add diced onions and cilantro to taste.

Squeeze and entire lime into the mix and get that pulp also.

Plenty of Olive Oil

Don’t forget the salt.

Mix and enjoy.

Other things I enjoy adding (but not necessarily at the same time) include: Braggs Soy seasoning, Avocado, Cucumber, and Hemp Seeds.

Why soak beans?

Soaking dried beans instead of using canned beans is not only better for you but also for mother earth. Dried beans require less energy to ship and process, require no added ingredients, and store almost indefinitely. The process of soaking and cooking you beans will bring you closer to your food, and help facilitate a simpler, more connected life. They can also be used to make impromptu maracas for fiestas, and who doesn’t love that?

Mamquam night TAPA
I finished writing this post while this photo was taking. Some nights I watch the stars go by and others I cook or write. The mountain here is one of my favourites to gaze at.

As I finish writing this I am parked deep in the backroads at 1am on a dark and clear night, alone under the stars. My camera is busy capturing a timelapse while I devour a $1 samosa from Bisla Sweets, as it is the cheapest place to get full on a climbers budget. I am looking forward to the circus more than ever, so if you plan to be part of it please say hello, and tell me about yourself. I’ll be the loud, boisterous one yelling ‘FRANK’ with all the advice from where to park, to sweet peaks and tasty treats.

 

May you be so lucky as to live in Squamish or find your way here one day.

Finding Home Deep in the Squamish Valley

 

Cascades along Raffuse Creek near Squamish, BC

While driving back into town after spending the day scouting a trailhead and shooting some long exposures of cascades I decided that it was time I headed back up the Squamish valley. I hadn’t visited since October, and was missing the quiet nights provided from being far from the busy minds of civilisation. You see, I’m really into dreaming, like as a hobby. This means I enjoy my nights best as far from people as possible so that their thoughts are less likely to interfere with my own energy fields. I have also found that the confluence of rivers have nice, clean energy. But that’s a topic for another post.

My camp the morning after initial preparations

Arriving by night to my camp nearly 30km past the end of pavement, and even further from phone service I skillfully nestled the 2wd minivan I call home into a level position amongst spindly trees of fir and hemlock. My side door, which I consider the front door to my home, was positioned in front of a large fire pit with trees perfectly positioned for my routine tarp set up. As a matter of fact I was quite proud with my choice of camp sites and off-roading skills; even wishing a just little bit that I had someone else to appreciate it, but alas I was alone as usual. It was dry at camp, but had been raining to the south and I know well enough to always expect rain in a sopped in valley. Being someone who adores always outdoing my own camp setups I quickly threw on my headlamp and got to work. I started with my tarp as per usual, first the two points that attach to the van, then to the trees which really were perfectly positioned. My tarp was well hung, but in a heavy rain would pool, and that wasn’t good enough for me.  It needed a peak pole so I scouted out a nice 12’’ dead fir and kicked it down. The bottom 6’’ section was used to peak my tarp providing myself ample headroom while the top section of the tree was dismantled for firewood. This quickly lead to me dismantling two more dead trees of a similar size and stacking them in piles organized by size in preparation for the next nights fire. It wasn’t enough wood for a fire, but it was enough to get a fire going and dry more wood if it rained.

Verdant rec site landscape

Satisfied with my camp preparations I engaged Frank in an hour of fetch before we cozied up in bed to enjoy reading ‘One Man’s Wilderness’ by candle lantern.  To live as close as I do with nature on a year round basis requires an active mind and body. One must observe the weather closely and be ready to jump into action. Preparation is essential for comfort and safety, and I wanted to guarantee a pleasant ‘day at home’ for Good Friday regardless of what the weather might bring. There were many more chores I wished to accomplish but it was time to enjoy the dark wilderness with only the rivers roar to influence my dreams.

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My most handsome adventure pal #squawesomefrank

It was the second night on my new bed foam, and I was as far away as one could dream. I down sized my bed from 6’’ of soft foam to 2’’ of higher density in order to help with hip pains and to simulate a more natural surface such as a bed of moss. Frank and I enjoyed a long morning of snoozing, cuddling, and the occasional pitter-patter of drizzle. Eventually noon rolled around and our chores could wait no longer.

Hammock Coffee = LOVE
Hammock Coffee = LOVE

Before anything else could happen in the day Frank and I needed to take a walk throughout the area to take note of firewood, bottles and garbage so we could plan our day during breakfast. It didn’t take us long to map out a foraging route and we were back to camp cleaning out the fire pit before breakfast. I removed a burnt camp chair, tent poles and duct tape choosing to pile the glass in what would be the hottest part of the fire that night.  While I waited for water from the river to boil I hung my new hammock, and before long I was enjoy some coffee in it. Reading ‘One Man’s Wilderness’ the night before made me crave hotcakes something fierce so I set out to create my own recipe. Being rather skilled at cooking myself I don’t use recipes or measure, instead just free styling everything. For those that prefer some guidance, here are some notes so that you too can enjoy delicious ‘Banana Apple Hotcakes’ in the wilderness or at home.  They were extremely delicious, naturally sweet, and protein rich.

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Most delicious Banana Apple Hotcakes, gluten free if you’re into that.
Recipe for one person: 1) Mash ripe banana and beat in 2 eggs 2) Mix in a dash of salt and ~3/4 cup buckwheat or other flour or until thick. 3) ‘Water down’ with apple sauce until pancake consistency. 4) Add vanilla, cinnamon or other goodness to taste. I added hemp hearts for more protein 5) Cook & Enjoy!
Free water here in the PNW
Free water here in the PNW

Over the next couple hours Frank and I wandered through the rec site and surrounding forests foraging and photographing. I found interesting moss, mushrooms and other subjects on which to focus my macro lens while we filled our bags with ‘treasure’. It took a couple trips but we found an ample amount of dry, cut firewood that had been left behind by several previous campers. I take great effort to always gather my wood by finding scraps left behind or harvesting dead and downed trees. The effort helps to reduce fire hazard levels and ensures live trees are left to make oxygen for all to enjoy. We also found a lightweight axe which I will clean up, a garbage bag full of empties which equals money, and a grocery bag full of garbage. There is still plenty more to be cleaned up, but every piece removed from the backcountry counts.

Some shots from my time ‘foraging’ 
select images for large view.
Frank in a hammock, need I say more
Frank in a hammock, need I say more

As we arrived home after our foraging mission the rain that had been mostly holding out let loose on us. For two hours it rained, the sound on the tarp threatened to send me for a nap but I barely managed to resist. Instead I kept Frank entertained with more fetch while I read, tidied, and slipped deep into daydreams of hot summer days climbing with sexy men.  I could have stayed under my tarp for many more hours, but the rain let up and I decided to try my hand at slacklining. The ground was uneven and rocky, so I choose the clearest path and set to work rigging the line. Unfortunately due to my broken hand I was not able to tighten the line enough it wouldn’t bottom out. Instead I put a bit of work into my chonga (a type of sit start for highlining) before deciding my environment and hand made for a sketchy situation. I didn’t mind though, the hammock was already hanging and I had at least tried. Once more the rain started up again, and we were back under the tarp for fetch and coffee. Frank and I don’t mind rain, we were having a great time and as the days light was drawing to a close so was the wetness.

The day ended exactly as I had hoped, with a dry night to enjoy a big fire to myself. Earlier in the day I had attempted to cut some kindling, but quickly learned that practising axemanship with a broken hand leads to blood. It didn’t matter though because as always I had gathered the right amounts of all the right sizes of wood in order to get my fire going flawlessly on the first try. Within an hour my little pile of twigs had turned into a mound of burning wood and my potato was happily baking away. Campfires are a great way to pass hours deep in though and add some variety to a one burner diet. My baked potato was mashed into a bowl of split pea soup along with a can of tuna creating a poor man’s chowder-esque dish which I thoroughly enjoyed fireside.

With a full belly my thoughts drifted back to the theme of the day, giving back. I wondered what our backcountry and recreation sites would look like if everyone who enjoyed days at the crag and bagging peaks pitched in the way I do. I imagined the example that could be set it all outdoor enthusiasts took time to undo the careless actions of others. Every piece of garbage that is picked up undoes a carless action. Within an hour a hundred careless actions can be undone and suddenly an impact is being made, by one single person! It’s so easy as ‘outdoorsy types’ to feel above those that litter, and to instead carry on conquering the challenge we have laid out for the day instead of slowing down to give back.  Living in a van I treat all wilderness as my own home, and so I clean up for my own satisfaction and for those that will come later. There will be more garbage, but I will continue to set aside time to give back and in doing so hopefully inspire others. Already my vanliving BFF has adopted this behavior putting all the money made from bottles into her chai fund. We all have ways we enjoy treating ourselves, and imagine how wonderful those treats are when they’re funded by good deeds.  So when people ask if I get bored all by myself in the van all the time the answer is no. When I’m not at the dog ranch, sending a project, or bagging a peak I’m probably taking it really easy and enjoying giving back. One of the greatest joys of a solo life is being able to enjoy it how I like; very often I choose to spend days like this instead of being ‘extreme’.

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Good Friday family chillin

Never pass up a moment to make a positive contribution, every action adds up.

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A very old Old Milwaukee, I wonder if they will still give me 10 cents for the return…

You DO make a difference.