My “gap year” as it’s called has sadly come to an end – 360 days away and once again I’m back home. For both good and bad.
It’s strange being back for sure, in one way it’s great seeing family and friends again but it’s also so much more boring. After being home for two weeks I’ve enjoyed relaxing in a way that’s not possible when you’re on the road, and I love watching the cricket again.
The last three weeks of my trip I spent with Mum who flew halfway across the world to see me. It really was such a perfect way to conclude my time away. I am thrilled that I got to act as tour guide and show her around the Canadian Rockies for two weeks and then another few days in Hawaii.
I certainly got her straight into adventurous trips…we jumped in a freezing cold lake, crawled into a cave, climbed a couple of mountains, rowed a boat, and did lots of hikes – even encountering a couple of moose.
It’s fantastic that we both share a strong appreciation of nature and she got to discover how beautiful mountains actually can be.
Mum climbed her first mountain, a solid eight hour day
As Hawaii is directly over the flight path home we thought why not stop over for a few days. So we did. We attempted Hawaii’s most famous hike – the Kalalau Trail which is on the north side of the island of Kauai. It follows the rugged Na Pali coastline which made for hard work going up and down, and through slippery mud.
We made it to the first camp after 5 hours which was 10km down the trail – sunset put an end to any plans of pushing on to the beach, another 6km away. Mum was happy about that!
Following that hike we didn’t have much time for anything other than a quick swim in the crystal clear Hawaiian waters and before we knew it we were flying home.
Now that my big trip is over my posts will become a little more sporadic. Whenever there’s an adventurous trip though, you know it will be told on here. My next big trip in mind is cycling the length of New Zealand, Mahalo!
This trip was just awesome! Great people, great scenery, and so many laughs. We had “paradise to ourselves” for two straight days. Top three trip of summer for sure along with Berg Lake and Mt Temple.
It sounds like everything went as planned right? Don’t be fooled though, it didn’t start out as well as it finished. There were problems. Like waking up…
A big night out for birthday celebrations the night before didn’t help our cause. We could forget “let’s be paddling by 10am”. Just pretend that was never said – we only began paddling at 12:20pm. We didn’t know if we were going to make it! We still had 22 long kilometres ahead of us to get to Coronet campground.
The first couple of hours didn’t get much better either even though our spirits were sky high. We had our first break only a few hundred metres from the start, we were battling into a headwind, and at our first change over break Joel discovered his only jacket was dripping wet. Of course he left his other jacket at home and only had packed a sleeping bag and some food into his huge backpack.
Despite the less than perfect situation we were all as happy as kids in a candy store. Joking about how crazy we were going on a canoe trip while it’s snowing and daily highs of just 5 to 7 degrees. We wanted to check where we were on the map but of course we didn’t know where the map was (when I got home I found it in my pocket).
We knew we had to do two things though. Keep paddling and most importantly keep this canoe the right way up. Capsizing here is no joke. So we did our best to keep near the shoreline out of the way of the tour boats’ wake. Jackie was the expert on this front, us Aussies need serious practice at keeping a canoe straight!
Thankfully the headwind disappeared after the first break and paddling became a soothing and relaxing motion. The sun even came out for a while and everything was just perfect. The mountains were beckoning in the distance, and the blue waters extended as far as the eye could see.
There were a few moments where it looked like the lake just ended, even though we knew it didn’t. It reminded me of how your eyes play tricks with your mind when climbing a mountain. It looks like the summit is just ahead until you get there and find it was just a false one.
Because of the “ahem” map issue, we only found out where we were when we stumbled upon Spirit Island. Somehow we completely missed our bail out option of Fishermans Bay campground, but it was all good. We were going to make it!
We knew the world famous Spirit Island was 15km in so with another two hours of paddling to go we had time to burn baby. A break on the island was in order.
On a side note the reason Spirit Island is famous is because an amateur photographer entered the image into a photo contest, and won first prize, upon which the photo was enlarged to billboard size and displayed in Grand Central Station, New York for a number of years.
Another interesting note is that the island is only an actual “island” for a few weeks of the year when the glacial waters melt and fill the lake. The rest of the time it’s still connected to the land, as you can see above.
From Spirit Island to the end of the lake the mountains loomed all around us. It was a sight to behold and Joel and I both agreed that these landscapes rival the Berg Lake region for sheer dramatic scenery.
We made camp just before dark and enjoyed a fire and warm pasta, which never ceases to do the trick after a long day. Once again, there was no one else around and upon signing the book we proposed the idea “will we be the last ones to camp here in 2013?” Joel volunteered to come back next year to confirm or deny our hopeful suspicions…
The next day we unfortunately had to leave this place and head for home. The weather was cloudier, colder, and snowier today, but not to worry. The “Earlybirds” as we ironically called ourselves can handle any deadline.
Needless to say we got underway later than planned and pulled away at 11am. This time only 2 hours behind schedule – we’re improving!
A few hours of paddling and the weather took a bit of turn. The waves picked up beyond what’s comfortable in a canoe, which lets face it isn’t much, so we pulled ashore and waited it out. Jackie amazingly found comfort sleeping on a tree trunk! We really connected with nature on this trip that’s for sure.
Strangely after this point the waters were almost as flat as a pancake. Brilliant paddling even if the temperature plummeted from a balmy 5 degrees down to a biting 2.8 degrees. Then it started snowing even more. All layers of clothing on!
With one last break and the end in sight we jumped in the canoe for the last time. Within an hour and a half we were back at the dock. Mission complete. Against all odds we had made it.
For all of us it was our first canoe trip. 44km in 15 hours of paddling in less than perfect conditions.
What a brilliant trip team. Thanks for the memories. And remember even if everyone says “you know there’s snow at Maligne Lake don’t you?” it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it!
So here I am in “outdoorsy” Jasper in the north of the Canadian Rockies. Before getting here I’d read all about how Jasper is “wildlife central” but nevertheless it still surprised me to see a herd of elk roaming the main street when I arrived. They sometimes come into town at night to use humans as protection from wolves, smart!
The drive up from Lake Louise sure was brilliant; it’s called the Icefields Parkway and is one of the most scenic drives in the world. 230km of snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers. I’ve posted some pictures into Canada Snaps!
It’s been almost a week and todays the first day that I haven’t been out and about either skiing or walking on water – well ice to be exact but water sounds better right?
Maligne Canyon icewalk is one of Jasper’s main attractions and it sure was a fun and slippery experience. These huge frozen waterfalls were majestic and our group even got to wriggle into a cave – as Andy from Australia rightly pointed out “we’ve now been in the Rockies too”.
Then there was skiing…again. Last time I had skied was four long years ago so I had to recall all the muscle memory I could when I went skiing at Marmot Basin with Andy – bit of a stretch? No way!
Surprising myself even, I was back on some black runs by lunch – albeit not with the style or flair of some…
One of the most memorable days in Jasper so far would have to be giving cross country skiing a go for the first time. No doubt it’s a tough sport. Think of it as a cross between speed walking, sliding on timber floors wearing socks and skiing. It’s all about the glideeeeee.
I just so happened to go with two Canadians who had been cross country skiing for nearly ten years so they were fast. They said I did really well so gotta be happy with that. Boy I was happy to get back to the car though, 19km and 5 hours later. We saw plenty of wolf and cougar tracks but no sightings of the wily beasts – maybe not a bad thing?
Something I didn’t know beforehand (but realised straight away) was how dark the skies are here. In fact the dark skies have been officially recognised and Jasper National Park is the largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. Great for star gazing but northern lights are still quite rare here. Come on northern lights!