The next day we would be starting out on the Alaska Highway!!! Whoop Whoop!!
Rochelle & Will
After leaving the Emond's we grabbed a few groceries and topped off the gas tank before heading north past a gigantic beaver. After a photo with the beaver we turned west at Dawson Creek towards Powder King. Emotions were running high as there hadn't been any new snow and after being so spoilt for pow in southern BC we weren't really sure how keen we were to ski icy conditions like we had done at Revelstoke. We arrived at dusk and it was mighty cold outside, we hummed and harred in the Dodge for a while about what to do before deciding to go inside and see what the deal was with the hostel and bar. It turned out that the bar was about to close and that the hostel was pricy even just to sleep in the car but use the hostel facilities. We decided to sleep in the car and use our own facilities by heating up some curry in the car park. This meant our accommodation was now free!
In the morning there was almost no one else in the car park and the glistening freshly groomed empty trails lured us in. We attempted to make a cool little film of me getting out of bed all ready to go with my ski boots and helmet already on. The idea was I'd ‘wake up’ then get out and clip my skis on and ski off. It worked in theory but I'd forgotten to do my pants up and you can see that they are undone and hear Will crack up when we both realise.
After our movie making and breakfast we forked out $58 each for the day passes and headed up the chairlift. At the top we took in the view then raced down the main run. With no line we were back at the top again in no time. After several runs we had even managed to find a few pockets of powder and filmed a few runs. We then hit the T-bar for a few shorter runs before stopping off for lunch.
Over lunch I had this great idea to film me taking off then throwing my tatty old pink bra into a pine tree that was filled with bras thrown by others as they passed it on the chairlift. Will agreed to film me but it was almost a disaster as it looked like I'd timed it wrong and the bra would fall to the ground. But at the last moment it landed on a branch and stuck in place! I was stoked that's one way to get rid of an old bra! Bra throwing over, we did a few more runs and they called last lift just as the groomed trails and slight slopes were starting to get boring. But overall we had had an awesome day and were very glad we had decided to ski.
That evening I drove us back to Dawson Creek. As the sun was setting I saw a large animal run across the road about 200m in front of us it freaked me out a bit as our headlights weren’t exactly the best so I opted to drive slower. We could not afford to hit anything like a moose. This combined with the rutted road and our terrible suspension meant the Dodge was lurching all over the place. So when a SUV caught up to me I slowed down even more to let it pass but to my surprise it didn’t pass so I thought I had better speed up again and drive closer to the speed limit. As soon as I didn’t this the SUV lit up with blue and red flashing lights and of course pulled me over sighting erratic driving! I was worried because we didn’t have any insurance but the cops were lovely and said they couldn’t understand our Chilean registration but that it seemed all in order and after checking our licences they just wanted to hear all about our trip. It was a big relief but quite strange, all they did was ask me if I had been drinking to which I said no and explained about the animal I saw. In New Zealand I would have for sure been breath tested to confirm that.
Finally back in Dawson Creek we went for a swim and shower at the Rec Centre and then found some dinner. I had a pulled pork Subway sandwich for while Will had his all-time favourite from Pizza Hutt being Hawaiian pizza. We camped at the local Walmart that evening and other than me finding out that Will had ordered $700 worth of gun accessories and a the arguing that ensued we had a quiet night.
The next day we would be starting out on the Alaska Highway!!! Whoop Whoop!!
Rochelle & Will
Banff was everything you'd expect of a world famous tourist town, full of people, a little pricey but jaw droppingly beautiful. We experienced this in its full glory on our first evening in Banff as the sun set throwing orange hues across the Vermilion Lakes and mountains behind them. The deal with Banff is that its such a beautiful spot that everyone wants to live there but its in a National Park so they can’t just keep expanding the village. In order to live in Banff you must be working there or own a business or be the family of someone who does. This means accommodation of any sort is expensive even the campgrounds, so we opted to hide in plain sight by sleeping in the Dodge parked on a residential street. We asked about camping up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs but they said security comes every night to kick out any free campers. The pools were nice though and we went to them several times during our stay in Banff mainly for a shower after a quick soak. They had this strange heated tunnel thing that you walked down from the changing rooms that leads right into the pool so you don't have to get cold at all.
The following day we set out to do one of the many hikes on offer around Banff. We had found the hike the day before when we stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom but we didn't dare camp there judging by the huge no over-night parking signs all over the place. The 7.5km hike to Lake Bourgeau sounded nice and I didn't bother hiring any snow shoes as no new snow had fallen and the trail appeared hard packed by others. This turned out to be a big mistake as about 3km in the hard packed trail abruptly stopped and changed to deep fluffy snow. There were a few avalanche paths that had crashed through so maybe others had decided to turn back early but we continued. Will simply put on his snow shoes and carried on, meanwhile I fell up to my thighs every few steps and was puffing hard to keep up.
It was with much perseverance (I don’t say that lightly!) and a little ingenuity that we kept going well into the afternoon. In the end I fashioned my own ‘snow shoe’ by putting on both mine and then Wills crampons at right angles to each other to give be some more surface area. This helped a bit but the going was still tough. On one avalanche path we crossed Scout went bounding away and Will discovered he had found a large Rams head. Will wanted it for the front of the Dodge but I wasn't having it so he had to settle for photos. At 4pm we finally made it to what appeared to be the top; but where Lake Bourgeau actually was we will never know as we couldn't find it. We could have been standing on it and not noticed because it was frozen and snow covered just like everything else. Being close to physically spent it was time to trudge back down before it started getting dark.
The following day after taking a shower at the hot pools we hit all the tourist spots. First up was Cave and Basin; a historical thermal spring that Native Americans first discovered 10 thousand years ago as a natural cavern. In 1914 the spring was used to fill a commercial pool and bath facilities before being closed in 1994 and turned into a National Historical Site. That afternoon we checked out the Fairmont Hotel which first opened in 1888 but has since undergone many reconstructions to bring it to its current state. The place oozes exuberant old time luxury and would be fit for a king, needless to say we felt a little out of place with our duct taped jackets and my gumboots. They allow visitors though and they even had a tour that sounded like it would have been worth going to only we had other plans already. The recent lack of Dodge break downs meant we had enough left in the budget for a real dinner out and we chose the the Grizzly House Restaurant. Advertised as a having a traditional Swiss fondue we couldn't resist and both ordered the three course fondue meals. I went for beef and chicken while Will was having bison, elk and wild pork. We started with bread dipped in a warm cheesy garlic sauce before the meats came out to cook in the piping hot oil or on a heated stone. Unfortunately by the time we got to the chocolate fondue we were both feeling pretty bad about how much this was costing and how hungry we still felt. Imagine how much food we could have brought from the supermarket we were both thinking as we paid the bill and of course the tip. Then after brushing our teeth in the restaurant car park it was back to our favourite residential parking spot for the night.
On Friday the 14th of March we visited the popular Johnstone Canyon; being so popular we set out early with Scout, a packed lunch and our crampons. We planed to hike beyond the canyon and onto the famed Ink Pots making the hike 5.8km in total. The first part through Johnstone Canyon was loads of fun as long as you held onto the handrails to prevent slipping over on the compacted icy snowy surface that also included some narrow steel board walks inside the canyon. The board walks with their rather large drops didn't appeal much to Scout who we had to encourage along as he wined loudly. Both the lower and upper falls were frozen solid but we watched some ice climbers making their way up the frozen mass of the larger Upper Falls. Later we reached the Ink Pots and were glad to find that they weren't completely frozen over so we could enjoy the different colours of the small lakes over lunch before making our way back to the Dodge. I was quite amazed that you were allowed dogs on this walk but we still got in trouble from a tour leader on the way down for having Scout off the lead. How we were meant to have him on the lead with the slippery conditions is anyones guess.
That afternoon we left the National Park and drove over to the nearby town of Canmore. We had planned to go to the huge indoor climbing wall there but then we discovered Canmore is also home to the Canmore Nordic Centre. The Canmore Nordic Centre held part of the 1988 Winter Olympics so we decided what better place to try nordic skiing. We had never done it before so that afternoon we got the low down and booked into a lesson for the following morning. Again we camped in a residential street and then drove back up to the Nordic Centre after a quick breakfast at the dog park so Scout could have a big run around.
It was super exciting getting all the gear and wondering if we would actually be able to stand up and move on these tiny skinny skis. I was just glad the boots were comfortable. The lesson involved a few falls and like any good lesson a few exercises that made you feel ridiculous. You know what I mean? When everyone else is speeding past and your going along the flat with one ski on and doing some squatting thing while trying desperately to keep balanced. After the lesson we cruised along the main 11km green trail and really started to get the hang of it. We had also just discovered the slow motion movie function on the iPhone so we were playing around with that trying to get some good shots. Then we started to get a little over confident and got up some speed on a down hill section, Will lost his balance and tumbled over. On the verge of control myself I did my best to avoid him but in the end I crashed into him and we both ended up in a snowy heap with poles and skies everywhere! Unhurt we went back to the Dodge for a late lunch and to let Scout out for a bit. We were both feeling a bit tired but it was so much fun and we didn't know when or if we’d ever do it again so we hit the trails again, this time the 6km easy loop. We made it about half way before decided we were too stuffed to keep going so turned back with time for a shower at the day lodge on our way out.
That evening we were stoked to be going to a screening of some films from the Banff Film Festival back in Banff. Before the screening we blew the budget on what was easily the most expensive Dominos pizza in the world using the justification that we would have enough left overs for lunch the next day. They did taste amazing and it had been ages since I’d had a real Dominos BBQ chicken and bacon pizza mmmmm. We then left the pizzas on the dash in the boxes and went into the theatre.
The films we saw were all awesome, though we had actually seen part of ‘Cold Warriors’ about the Bison and Wolves at Wood Buffalo National Park already. If my memory serves right we saw it on TV at the Motel 6 in Vegas while we were getting ready to go out. We found the film ‘The Sensei’, with Daniel Woods and Yuji Hirayam about rock climbing in Borneo really funny and the New Zealand based ‘Notbad’ mountain biking film really showed off our New Zealand landscape as well as what you can do with a serious slow motion camera. There were many other honourable mentions but our favourite film and the supreme winner was ‘North of the Sun’. A tale of two young Norwegian guys who built themselves a cabin from rubbish on a remote beach in Norway then spent a year surfing and collecting rubbish in the endless darkness of the Arctic winter.
Will and I were felling elated after seeing all of the amazing films and more motivated to make one of our own. We were just discussing some ideas when we opened the car doors to find Scout had eaten every single ounce of pizza that we had left in the boxes on the dash and yet somehow the empty boxes will still sitting just how we’d left them! So what did we do, we filmed it haha. Still not sure if we have enough footage for a film but time will tell. Will having left more of his pizza for lunch than I had was devastated while Scout seemed very content! Shot Scout. After taking a few night photos of the Fairmont Hotel we discreetly pulled back into our regular overnight camping spot.
The next morning we woke up to find it had snowed a few inches and all the roads were considered hazardous. We took this in our stride as we left Banff and headed north along first the Bow Valley Parkway then the Icefields Parkway. In Fact it was really fun without much other traffic and stunning blue skies. We made the most of it by driving the Dodge through some deep snow and taking a few more slow motion clips of the snow flying everywhere. We stopped and attempted to look at a few of the recommend attractions but most things were closed or cut off by snow. By lunch time we had made it to Lake Louise, however there was no lake as it was frozen and covered in snow just like everything else and we didn't have any lunch thanks to Scout. A bit sad about everything we went for a walk around and relaxed in the warm hotel for a while; basically it was just nice to sit somewhere that we could stretch out for a bit. And with the hoards of other tourists around many of whom were getting stuck in the car park as well as the news of a double avalanche fatality right in Lake Louise we didn't feel like doing much else so returned to the Dodge. As we sat in the Dodge we listened to all of the conspiracy theories about what had happened to the missing Malaysian Airlines 777 with 239 people on board and ate our lacklustre salami sandwiches. We didn't know what had happened to the plane but we did know it was time to look for a camp spot. The village was far to small for residential camping so we bulldozed through the snow up a hill to an unploughed car park at the back of the hotel. Will put the pedal down and attempted to turn around and he somewhat managed a sideways slide but got stuck halfway round. It was fine though, and out of the way so we resigned to digging ourselves out in the morning.
Again in snowed another three inches overnight so we had to do plenty of digging to get ourselves out in the morning, which we again filmed. We then dropped by the village afterwards to buy a well deserved breakfast from a bakery. As we walked back to the Dodge we noticed a parks ranger pull someone over and give them a grilling about something. We were lucky not to have been kicked out during the night and decided to get a move on. After a while we pulled over to look at one vast frozen lake and left Scout off leash for a bit. We start taking some selfies before we realised Scout was way out on the lake hopping through the snow like a giant ginger rabbit. This is when the same park ranger from the village car park drives past and stops… Eyes like an eagle he wasn't happy about Scout being off the lead so we had to kiss ass for the next twenty minutes and act like we really wanted a photo with him to get him off our backs. It worked though.
We then drove past a frozen ‘Weeping Wall’ before arriving at the closed Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre. Across the road we could see the Athabasca Glacier in the distance so drove over for a look. With only one set of snow shoes there was no way we were walking to the face so we made some noodles while watching a pair of climbers skinning their way towards us. It turned out the climbers were two hard-core Norwegian guys who had brought an old Chevy camper and spent the last few months skiing and climbing their way around Canada. We had a look inside their camper and were envious of the massive amount of space they had inside it. We even found out that Harold and Emil knew the guys from the ‘North of the Sun’ film that we had just seen. They looked like they could do with a rest though after four days on the glacier in terrible conditions; Emil had even fallen into a crevasse and totally smashed up his helmet so we left them to it after swapping emails.
As we continued further north along the Ice Fields Parkway the snow covered road changed to clear road and before long we were in Jasper. The first thing we did in Jasper was go to the Recreation Centre for a soak in the hot tub and a shower. We then went to a pub for dinner and ordered cheap burgers and green coloured beers, it was St Patricks day after all.
We wanted to see Jasper and what it had to offer but our motivation wasn't there, we were missing home and wanting some home comforts. Lucky we would be getting those soon with Brad and Julie in Grande Prairie. Instead of touristing around Jasper we spent the day in the Library sorting out some of our thousands of photos, stopping only to walk to the bakery for lunch. That evening we went out to a frozen lake looking for a better camp spot and so Scout could have some time outside. We found a spot and cooked instant mash potatoes with gravy and baked beans. It was a bit eerie in the trees and Will spent plenty of time scanning the pitch darkness with the spotlight. But after all the police we had seen around town we decided not to risk getting caught out there and went back and camped on a side street innocently blending in with the residents cars.
On Wednesday the 19th of March we went for a wander down the icy paths of Maligne Canyon just outside of Jasper. It was similar to Johnstone Canyon though so we left after a short time and started making our way to Grande Prairie. On the way we saw a few Dal Sheep then stopped in the town of Hinton to buy some groceries for Brad and Julie’s. At the Walmart we were surprised to see signs that read “Over night parking is welcome” good on the Walmart for making the most of their location night next to the National Park and pity we didn't need a place to camp. Here we come Brad, Julie and the Emond family.
Rochelle & Will
Day 1 (Tuesday, 25th of Feb)
Left Merritt, made our way through Kelowna on the shores of beautiful Lake Okanogan then onto Big White ski resort. Arrived at dusk and had a look around, seemed like a cool spot and it even had a man-made ice climbing wall to accompany the skate rink and tubing park. Later we met a kiwi guy from Waipa named Tu who offered to have us stay at his place, we decided to take him up on his offer however he didn’t finish work until 9pm so we grabbed dinner at the local ski bum pub called Snowshoe Sam’s. We both had the chicken parmigiana special then played a few rounds of Pool (I won both games, just saying). Back at Tu’s place we had a few beers then crashed on a mattress in the lounge. Scout wasn't allowed inside and it was going to be -15 degrees celsius overnight so we cracked a heat pad for him and made him two hot water bottles as well giving him a few blankets to snuggle into. We were a little concerned about him throughout the night.
Day 2 (Wednesday, 26th of Feb) - Skied Big White
Left Tu’s early, then went and made breakfast in the car park while Scout had a run around / thaw out. We had a hell of a time getting our ski boots on as the plastic had gotten so cold overnight it had become solid and inflexible. Twenty minutes later with our boots finally on we left Scout in the Dodge and caught the yellow gondola up to the base of the ski hill. The place was clearly set up for families but we still had a great day. We both recall the awesome rolling almost luge like hills within the slopes that had you getting air almost every time without really trying to. I was however having trouble again with my second set of ski boots they were killing my feet leaving them numb and sore. I would have to do something about that before skiing again.
Tu had offered for us to stay once more but we were too tired to socialise so had dinner back at the pub; this time 50 cent wings! We ordered twenty and some fries, then a played a few more games of pool to kill time (Will was getting better I needed more practise damit). In need of a shower we asked at the hostel and the girl said no problem just go and use them for free! Ace. Then we parked in the back corner of the parking lot next to some other RV’s and settled in for the chilly night at about 8pm.
Day 3 (Thursday, 27th Feb)
Left Big White after breakfast and made our way to Rossland the home of Red Mountain ski hill. On the way we stopped for lunch by a river, I can’t remember what we had to eat but when we tried to give Scout his left over breakfast he berried it under the snow; good one Scout! Later we arrived at Rossland and went supermarket shopping. Then I tried to rectify my uncomfortable boots by buying some Superfeet innersoles, I had my fingers crossed that they would do the trick this uncomfortable boot business was getting old. That evening we found a hidden spot behind some huge snow banks to park for the night up at Red Mountain. Cooking dinner was a difficult process in the cold and the three dish meal I had planned didn't help. The steak ended up basically raw and our hands frozen. Doing the dishes was just as bad as the water was freezing onto the plates before we could dry them.
Day 4 (Friday, 28th Feb)
Too tired from skiing at Big White to ski like we had planned on this day we decided to go snow shoeing instead. I hired some modern snow shoes from the ski hill while Will had his traditional ones he'd brought in Colorado. Not wanting to do some lame prefabricated trail with all the other tourists we headed up the highway in search of some safe back country. It needed to be safe from avalanches as the snow pack was incredibly unstable and we were hearing daily about people getting caught in avalanches with over seven deaths all ready in the season. We didn't have avalanche beacons and didn’t want to add to the statistics. We found a spot where a group of skinners were just starting out known as Nancy Green Summit but really just an old nicely pitched forestry block. We loaded up with ham and cheese sandwiches, muesli bars and hot chocolate for lunch as well as some extra clothes. This was our first time going on a proper snow shoe hike and Scout was coming along too. We tried to do the right thing and kept off the freshly made skinning tracks but the going was slow and even with our snow shoes we both fell through the snow up to our wastes several times. It was super fun though other than the fact that we were wishing we had skis with skins instead of snow shoes so we could enjoy the ride back down. We made it to a high lookout point after lunch then lunged our way back down with Will slipping a few times in his old school snow shoes unlike mine that had inbuilt crampons.
That evening we decided to try and make it up the snow covered forestry road to camp the night and do a spot of skiing in the morning. We only just made it up the hill with the chains on but we had the place to ourselves. It was absolutely freezing cooking dinner even with our full winter kit on. To eat we climbed in the back with our boots on and the heater roaring. With the usual beanie’s, hoods, gloves, thick socks and thermal clothes we slept warm inside the Dodge as did Scout in his t-shirt and camo vest combo.
Day 5 (Saturday, 1st Mar) - Skied forestry block near Rossland
Toothpaste frozen, dishwashing liquid frozen, cooking oil semi frozen, milk almost frozen and huge 23L water tank almost solid. It was cold! Even now I still think that these were some of the coldest days we experienced on the whole trip. The blue sky was gone replaced by low grey clouds and snow flurries. We put on almost everything we had and got ready to ski down the hill. There wasn't much of a slope but the 3m of untouched powder between the young trees made it more than worth it. Scout had trouble keeping pace and snow kept balling up between his webbed toes causing him to stop and chew at them. Walking back up the road with our blood pumping we started stripping off the layers! For the next two runs we left Scout and a bunch of clothing behind in the Dodge and had a wicked time. By 3pm we were done and headed back down to Rossland then over to Trail (name of the town) for a soak in the hot tub of the recreation centre. Rec centres with their hot tubs, sauna's, steam rooms and showers all for around $6 each were truly a god send. That night we slept at the Walmart in town.
Day 6 (Sunday, 2nd Mar)
Being a weekend we didn't want to ski Red Mountain, though it didn't look that busy. Instead we spent the day doing laundry and mucking around town. The laundromat in Rossland was the probably the nicest one we had been into and offered a quiet warm place with a bathroom to escape the constant snow fall. In the afternoon Will replaced the broken flasher in the Dodge so our indicators worked again, just mildly important for others to know where we were going aye. Then we slept the night back at our favourite hidden spot up on Red Mountain. We had an early night ready for skiing and had the ski boots on the dash ready to warm up with the heater in the morning.
Day 7 (Monday, 3rd Mar) - Skied Red Mountain
Coldest skiing day of my life, serious cold going up on the slow second chair fingers like chunks of ice, googles totally frozen over couldn't see anything, layer of ice formed over our jackets and pants. Will wanted to do a steep black run through the trees first up, I wasn't happy. We had words and decided to ski apart... Will had a great day and so did I after a warm up in the cafe I met theses two old codgers on the chairlift. Turns out they were veteran ski patrollers and Reno even had a run named after him. They showed me all the secret pow spots that weren't too steep and skied at my kind of pace. I didn’t even have any problems with my boots! We met up with Will right at the end of the day and did a few runs. We both agree that this was one of our favourite ski fields where else do you get powder like that and 360 degree all mountain terrain.
Day 8 (Tuesday, 4th Mar)
No idea what we did that morning but photos tell me we left Red Mountain at 3pm. That afternoon we drove north to the town of Nelson home to Whitewater ski hill. Snow was coming down and we heard on the radio that we had made it through just before the road was closed after a parked petrol tanker trailer started sliding down the highway. We were again exhausted after skiing the day before so decided that the next day would be a rest day too. As dusk fell we were on the look out for a place to park for the night, ideally one where Scout could be outside without us having to worry about traffic or people. I had this bright idea after our success with snowmobile club cabins back in Oregon to try that again so I looked up the local club. The GPS seemed to find the road and away we went. The road narrowed but was freshly plowed so we continued until we reached the crest of the hill and two other parked cars that didn't look at all like their owners belonged to a snowmobile club. I went down the other side of the hill to investigate meanwhile a young women pulled up behind Will still in the Dodge and explained that we are in her driveway. What? "It's easiest if you just go down to the house" Jessica explained. We followed her down and learnt that her father Jim is actually an ex kiwi though he wasn't home. We explained our story and over the phone Jim suggested we park back down the hill at the entrance to an old train bridge. We took his advice and found the spot a few minutes later, it even fit the bill so Scout could run free. As we were cooking dinner we received a message from the O’Conner's who had found our kiwi-panam facebook page and they ended up inviting us over for dinner one night.
Day 9 (Wednesday, 5th Mar)
Woke up to rain in the morning so stayed in bed most of the day and wondered weather it would be raining or snowing up at the ski hill. Later that afternoon we made a trip into town. I grabbed a few things from Walmart while Will took part of the dash off in order to repair our 12v socket which had recently stopped working. We needed it to work so we could charge the iPhone and iPad which we used as the speed odometer and GPS. That evening we had tickets to a mountain film festival put on my some students. It was an epic show and reinspired us to make a movie about our journey. After the films were over we drove up to Whitewater to camp while huge chunky wet snow (but not rain!) fell around us.
Day 10 (Thursday, 6th Mar) - Skied Whitewater
Woke up to the sound of a groomer going past, fresh snow still falling as we were getting ready. Lost Scout for a while and discovered he was having fun in the lift line 300m away. We chucked him in the Dodge and hit the slopes. Snow was wet and thick unlike anything I’ve skied in before it was exhausting to turn in and I felt frustrated going down the steep Glory Ridge runs. Will meanwhile was having a wicked time and filmed a few runs on the gopro. After lunch back at the Dodge we hit the more mellow slopes off the Silver King chair with plenty of fresh lines through the trees to be had. I was still not loving my skis and made Will swap with me. After a biding adjustment I was on Wills much fatter skis and had a few sweet runs before they called last lift. Will thought it was all in my head though and found my skis “just fine”… gurrr. That avo we went to the Nelson rec centre for a hot tub and shower so we looked presentable for dinner at the O’Conner house. It was lovely to meet the family and reminisce about New Zealand over some good food and wine. Scout was also enjoying having some outside play time with their three dogs. As the evening was winding down Jim and his wife Veronica offered to put us up for the night to which we gratefully accepted.
Day 11 (Friday, 7th Mar)
Everyone was up and gone early while we slept in and then enjoyed a lazy day catching up on some blogging and talking to our parents on Skype. That afternoon we went snow shoeing with Jessica, her baby daughter and Jessica's friend Emma up the hill on the back of their property. It was a good little work out to keep our mussels from seizing up after skiing. We stayed with the O’Conner family again that night and made Apple crumble for desert.
Day 12 (Saturday, 8th Mar)
Waved good bye to the O’Conners who had loaded us up with yum food to take with us and hit the road agin. Veronica had recommended the Ainsworth Hot Springs but as we approached them after only an hour of driving we decided to push on and see what other hot springs we could find. A Google search told us about two free natural springs off highway 31 just before the Upper Arrow Lake ferry crossing. The first one was a two mile walk from the road and the other was eight miles down a 4x4 road. Always on the look out for an adventure we chose the more difficult option and found the entrance easy enough. It looked like the trail had mainly been used by snowmobilers but we gave it a go in the Dodge with the chains on. Less than 2m in we knew driving in the Dodge was a no go and with the snow coming down we decided we weren’t really prepared to hike down there and spend the night. Instead we went to check out the other springs back down the road. Being a Saturday avo the trail head was packed with cars and snow was blowing around the grey sky. We talked to some chicks just putting on their skins and heading for the pools in all their top of the line back country gear but they said the trail was well packed and you could probably walk there. We decided to retreat to the empty turnout at the other trail head for the night and try the hot springs in the morning before the crowds.
Day 13 (Sunday, 9th Mar)
With our swimmers underneath our ski gear we set out to the St Leon hot springs with Scout. The weather had come out clear and we found the springs easily enough after only falling through the snow pack a few times. It wasn't quite what we had expected though there was one group camping in hammocks about 2 meters from the pool who had left all their stuff including beer bottles lying around. The pool itself wasn't super warm and it was a bit of a ramshackle place with plastic pipes and all sorts of different ropes holding everything in place. We spent about half an hour there before heading back up the trail. Just as we were breaking over the crest of the hill Will spotted a female moose and her calf. It was the first time we had seen a moose so I whipped out the iPhone for a photo while Will and Scout watched. Soon enough Scout ran towards them and the moose and calf bolted into the trees down the bank. Back at the Dodge we had radish sandwiches for lunch while admiring some enviable snowmobiles that had just arrived on the back of a pick up. Lunch over we hit the road and caught the free ferry across Upper Arrow Lake. The smooth lake reflected the surrounding mountains as we cruised across the water and chatted to some fellow Powder Highway road trippers. That evening we arrived in Revelstoke home to the ski resort of the same name. We wanted to go to the recommended pizza restaurant called The Village Idiot but it was packed out with a 45 minute wait for a table so we drove around and eventually agreed we on taco truck. It wasn't as good or as cheap as the California taco trucks we had had and the guy wasn't even Mexican he was a long haired ginger! After dinner we drove to the ski hill and camped with a few other RV's for the night. We both weren't sure how keen we were on skiing as the conditions looked icy but we would see...
Day 14 (Monday, 10th Mar) - Skied Revelstoke
Shitty icy conditions on the slopes, as well as both having super sore feet made us wonder why we had bothered. We went all the way to the bottom when I decided to hire different boots but when we got there I decided to toughen up and make do. We went back up for a few more runs and I was just getting into it when Will decided he'd had enough of the ice and went back to the Dodge. I had a few more turns down the only decent run then met Will back at the truck. The run all the way to the bottom was painfully long, slow and icy and now we had done it twice! I had the keys so Will was splayed out on the bonnet with half his gear off eating a muesli bar, I let Scout out then took a photo of my ski bum fiancé. We attempted to cook noodles for lunch but the cooker hadn't been working very well and was taking ages to heat anything so after our crappy ski day and half cooked lunch we hit the Revelstoke rec centre hot tub and showers before moving on.
That afternoon we drove through Rodgers Pass a place we had originally wanted to do some more back country skiing but with the avalanche danger and the icy conditions we passed though without stopping to reach the town of Golden. For dinner we ordered the cheapest things on the menu at a BBQ grill with two cokes because we know they refill them for free so we didn't have to spend more on more drinks. We’re cheap like that. We then camped the night at a truck stop on the edge of town. Kicking Horse ski resort was just up the road but our ski budget and our energy had been spent. Our Powder Highway experience had come to an end and despite some variable conditions and equipment we had thoroughly enjoyed it. Our hard New Zealand snow would never be the same again…
Day 15 (Tuesday, 11th Mar)
Went to a dingy old laundromat in Golden and while waiting for the washing we pulled the cooker to bits to figure out what was going on. Good old You-Tube told us what it was likely to be and how to fix it. It took about twenty goes using various techniques to finally pull out the inner cleaning wire that the You-Tube guy pulled with ease but after a good clean and a filter change we put it all back together on the bonnet. Our one and only way to cook food was back in action with vengeance!
Next stop Banff National Park
Rochelle & Will
Remember my aunty Karen who's place we stayed at in both Bolivia and Nicaragua? Well she's married to Lorne a Canadian who generously offered to put out the word that we would be coming to his old home town of Merritt, BC. This was met with many warm welcoming emails and in the end it worked out that we would stay with Lorne’s brother Ron and his lovely wife Shelly. This was perfect for us as Ron the oldest of Lorne’s four brothers ran the family contracting business to which our replacement 4x4 linkage had been sent. First thing the next morning Will was up early and headed into the workshop with Ron and his son Adam. A few hours later, after a bit of grunting and lots of dust in his eyes from laying underneath the dirty Dodge in the workshop, I received a txt message from Will telling me that he had had success and we were now back in 4x4 action!
That evening Adam had invited us to a party in nearby Kamloops that he and his partner Rebecca were going to. It sounded good to us so Will ducked down to the workshop to pick up Adam and then after showers and dinner we would all head over to Kamloops in the Dodge. This was when I got another message from Will.… As he was backing out of the car park at the workshop the Dodge came to an abrupt stop. They boys got out and confirmed they hadn’t hit or run over anything and thats when they realised that both front wheels were pointing outwards in opposite directions. Not Good! They discovered that the right tie rod had failed and there would be no more driving until this was replaced. At the parts store just before closing they found a new tie rod but there was no time to replace it that evening and besides it was a chilly -8 outside.
Adam and Will came home with Ron and while we were happy to stay in Merritt it was decided that we would take one of Ron’s work trucks to Kamloops for the party. Poor Ron was stressing out with things happening at work and us to worry about all while packing to leave with Shelly for Hawaii the very next day. Later that evening we all cruised over to Kamloops and had a really good night at the party especially after discovering Adam was a dab hand on the guitar as were a few of the other guys so we all had a big singalong jam session.
On Saturday the 15th of February we left Adam and Rebecca at their home in Kamloops and drove back to Merritt to fix the dodgy Dodge. Luckily it had happened at the workshop; in fact it really couldn’t have been more convenient if we’d planned it, what with all the tools we would need right there! We had the Dodge fixed up in no time then returned to Ron and Shelly’s empty home. It was nice to just relax for the afternoon inside their nice warm house.
The following day was all action as we packed the Dodge for our ski trip up to Sun Peaks Ski Resort. We would be staying in a ski in ski out condo with our ‘mature friends’ Brad and Julie (that we first met back in Guatemala) and their family. The only thing was we couldn't bring Scout so we had arranged for him to stay with Lorne’s neice Katie and her husband Dave. They had two other dogs and a good back yard for him to roam and chase mice in. With Scout settled in and the car packed we hit the road. Did I mention that Ron had GIVEN yes given me a practically brand new set of skis that Shelly no longer used as Ron had accidentally brought her a new pair two years in a row. I was stoked and Will also picked up some good condition ski boots from kijiji so we were all set. We arrived in Sun Peaks that evening and it gave us warm fuzssies all over to see our friends Brad and Julie again. We had been emailing back and forwards for what seemed like months since our first meeting in Antigua. They told us not to bring any food and maybe we should have listened as the place was packed with enough food to last the whole winter. Ok maybe not quite that much there were after all about twelve people staying each night. It was great to meet all Brad and Julie’s children and other family. We heard later that their children were a little shocked to discover that their parents friends were actually the same age as them. Hence why we now refer to them as our ‘mature’ friends! This night was also the first night that we ever tried pulled pork made but their son Jordan and his wife Allison it was absolutely delicious and will be the reason we buy a crock pot when we get home. We’ve craved it constantly from then on.
On Monday the 17th we woke up early to light snow floating down in grey skies. We gobbled down some brekie, hashed together some sammies and chucked on our ski gear before hitting the slopes. Will and I did a few warm up runs on the Morrissey Express then the rest of the crew joined us for a few more. Not Julie though she was fed up with skiing from the day before. We suggested this may have something to do with her 30? year old rear entry ski boots. But who was I to judge my skiing wasn't going very well either and my feet were killing me. Maybe it had something to do with the $35 pair of boots I had brought… dam it.
I’m not exactly sure of the order of the next few events but these are the ones I remember:
On Friday morning despite Brad dangling ski passes in our faces we left Sun Peaks figuring we better go and get Scout. Besides we would see the Emond’s again soon enough at their home in Grande Prairie. On the way back to Merritt we quickly stopped in at a consignment store in Kamloops and I traded my ski boots for some different ones. I thought they couldn't get much worse than the current ones but a week later I would discover they were just as bad if not worse and someone had even cut half the inner plastic out to make them more flexible. Finally back in Merritt we picked up Scout from Dave and Katie’s place and heard about all the fun times he’d been having from Dave. Afterwards we returned to Shelly and Ron’s still empty house for a quite night in.
The following day we woke to a different landscape changed by a blanket of snow, Scout thought it was great fun but taking the Dodge out on my own to the supermarket proved a bit harrowing. I was braking but I certainly wasn't stopping! I had to use the horn to let everyone else at the intersection know I was coming through and this is with 4x4….
Adam and Rebecca with their daughter Freya came over for dinner that evening and together we had Salmon and salad. Turns out Adam was a pretty good cook as well. Over dinner Adam explained that Ron would be coming back from Hawaii a week early due to things going on at the business. He would be flying in the next morning and they asked if we could we pick him up from Kamloops airport. Will had done his fair share of chores while I relaxed so I offered to go to get Ron alone.
Leaving sleeping beauty behind the next morning I put Ron’s Chevy Silverado into four wheel drive and made the snowy 40 minute trip to pick him up. We then returned straight away so Ron could head into work. Will and I were hopping to go snowmobiling with Lorne’s son Duncan in the next few days but he managed to break his sled while we were in Sun Peaks. So with that idea no more we decided it was time to get moving and save Ron one more thing to worry about. Thank-you for having us Ron and Shelly and the Emond family!
Rochelle & Will
Everyone we talked to had been telling us not to bother with Whistler, "it was a bad year", there was "no snow" they said. But the more we thought about it the more we knew we couldn't miss at least seeing the famous destination; besides we had a few people we knew living there. We contacted an old work mate of mine who said we were welcome to stay. Then luck struck again when Erica an old flatmate from NZ but working winters at Whistler said she had two free day passes for us! We were stoked not only were we going to be going to Whistler but now we could justify skiing! All we needed was some fresh snow...
The rain we experienced driving out of Vancouver soon answered our prayers by turing into heavy snow as we approached Whistler, things were looking good! Due to the weather we were stopped at a police check and had our tires inspected; we didn't have full winter tyres but our all terrains have an M and S on them for mud and snow and we had chains so they let us through. The thing was, the 4x4 still hadn't been fixed and without it our grip was marginal. We had to learn to keep up the momentum on the up hills and then put it in a low gear on the down hills. We made it to Whistler without incident and felt relieved when we saw a few other vehicles sliding to a stop at intersections.
We felt bad for not taking Scout for a proper walk in Vancouver, so I had looked up a walk to do when we arrived. I found one where you can follow a trail to an old 1957 train car derailment wreckage that had since been turned into a mountain bike park and the cars covered in street art. Given the snow storm that was blowing we didn't take the camera so don't have any photos but it was a pretty cool place. We did however wish we had taken our crampons; just underneath the snow was a thick layer of solid ice and we both had a few butt and or wrist crunching slips. Not really what we needed for skiing the next day.
That evening we picked up our hire skis and after paying for them we immediately started wondering if it would be cheaper to buy our own given that we would be going to a few other ski fields. This one hire was $90 alone. Afterwards we made our way over to my old work mates house. We just made it to the house Lana shared with her fiancé Lance after the second attempt to get up the hill to their road. The snow was still coming down thick when we went to bed and we felt like kids on Christmas Eve.
We wanted first lift in the morning so we got up early and left Scout behind with Lance who had kindly offered to look after him for the day. Lance even took "him Nordic skiing with him. Over 20cm of powder had fallen overnight!Needless to say we had a ripper day skiing all over Whistler before taking the epic cable car over to Blackcomb for a few more afternoon runs. The fresh powder was tracked out pretty quickly by the inevitable crowds but we still loved every minute of it.
Erica is a busy chick with her high level ski instructing by day and baby sitting in the evening but we managed to meet up with her and her boyfriend Richard for a few drinks that evening. Just as we were about to meet them Will received an email from his parents saying that an old school friend of his was also in Whistler with his family. Will quickly messaged him on Facebook and it worked out perfectly as Ty came down to the bar too. The bar was called El Furniture Warehouse and Erica had picked it perfectly as it was the cheapest eat in town at only $5 for everything on the menu. The food was tasty to boot as well and we had such a fun casual night it was almost like we were back home. Erica tried to tempt us into skiing one more day by offering us two half price ticket vouchers, Mother Nature was also tempting us as the snow continued to come down. But reminding ourselves of what the cost would be just for ski hire we resisted.
The next morning while every other person in Whistler was on the slopes Will and I worked out what all this ski hiring was going to cost vs buying our own second hand gear. Basically if we kept a cap on our spending it would work out about the same to buy our own gear and if we were tempted into to doing any more days skiing then planned it would soon end up cheaper. Straight way we were on Craig's List and kijiji (Canada's own version) looking for gear. Not surprisingly no one was available for us to look at their gear until the evening so we hung around and looked in a few shops that made us wish we had a few grand spare for brand new gear. Dreams a free. Evening came soon enough and after not quite making it in the Dodge up a steep snowy hill Will got out and walked up to check out some Atomic Pimp twin tip skis. They ended up being perfect for him and the guy accepted Will's low offer, so that was it we were now both buying a ski set up. Soon after I tried on some Solomon boots that seemed to fit ok and were only $35. After our gear bargaining we met up with Lana and Lance in town for dinner back at El Furniture. It was tasty yet again. A walk around the 2010 olympic displays succeeded dinner then we returned to Lana and Lances for our final night in Whistler.
We said good bye in the morning and headed north out town via highway 99 in the snow on route to my uncles brothers place in Merritt. We were taking it slow due to the snow so when a big pick up came up behind us we pulled over to let it pass as we had done for other traffic. This time though the tyres just caught the edge of the bitumen and went off the shoulder into the soft deep snow. We went from doing 50mph to 0 in about two seconds but luckily no damage was done we were just a bit stuck half sideways in a ditch. Even with 4x4 which we didn’t have we couldn’t drive out, but a passing railway maintenance pick up stopped to pull us out. Our trusty green tow strop proved itself again and we were back on the road only moments later. Never a dull moment around here.
Rochelle & Will
After several perspiration inducing questions at the border we had arrived in Vancouver, Canada. On our first night while at the CRAFT Beer Market bar catching up with an old school friend I went to the loo only to discover the Dodge was gone from where we’d parked it. An inspection outside revealed we had actually inadvertently parked in a no parking zone at the end of a long line of parking and that the sign saying as much was bent around the other way. My friend Carter got the number of the tow company and gave them a call for us. Luckily they didn't say anything about Scout who was inside the Dodge and we came away pretty scot free one hour and $90 later. There was a $50 city council parking fine but of course we wouldn't be paying that.
After spending the night at Carter and his girlfriends place we had received word that we were welcome to stay with Aleksey and Darwin at Dawin’s parents house. Aleksey and Darwin were fellow overlanders we had first met driving their Peugeot van back in Peru… now they were back home busy looking for jobs. It turned out Darwin's Mum Ipin and step dad Peter had two self contained apartments on the first level of their house. Aleksey and Darwin were in one and to our delight we were given the other one as they were in between tenants!
That evening we went out with Aleksey and Darwin to a Thai restaurant. They sat on the bed in the back of the Dodge on the way there and attempted to explain the cities large amount of one way roads and enlighten us on the reason passengers were getting out of cars at light controlled intersections and pushing the pedestrian crossing button. This is the only way to get the lights to change they said and we even had to do it ourselves a few times which seemed absurd in such a modern city.
The next morning while Darwin was preparing for a job interview and babysitting Scout, Aleksey, Will and I woke up early and set out in the Dodge for Mt Harvey near the town of Squamish. We met Aleksey’s friend Adrian on the way and convoyed to the trail head. The temperature was -6 degrees celsius but it was calm and clear. The boys set a strong pace and we made it to the 1715m summit in a respectable 6 hours. We sat down for lunch and took in the incredible views that stretched as far as the eye could see. Picturesque ocean inlets on one side and snowy mountains on the other, the vista paid for the steepness of the climb. Will and I took our crampons off a little early on the decent and both had a couple of slips with one resulting in me cracking the lens hood on Wills precious camera… opps. This is while Aleksey and Adrian cruised down the icy patches in their hire crampons that didn’t matter how blunt they ended up.
The next day after a restful morning the four of us gorged ourselves on all-you-can-eat Sushi it was amazing. Probably the most Sushi I have ever eaten in my life so we definitely didn’t need dinner that evening when we went out to see the Vancouver Giants play the Calgary Hitmen (Ice Hockey). Unfortunately for our first ever hockey experience the Giants played miserably and conceded goals even when the Hitmen had a man down. We still had a fun night though watching the pushing and shoving as well as the crazy interval shows.
On Saturday the 8th of February Aleksey and Darwin had a huge day planned for us in town. We started off with a walk around the 2010 Olympic village, followed by a few beers at the Granville Island brewery where we met this kinda crazy lady who was telling what we would need up in Alaska. A chainsaw and a gun were high on her list hummm. We then grabbed some lunch inside the bustling Granville Island market place, a little pricy but very worth it. Afterwards we crossed the Burrard St bridge and meandered along the beachfront until we turned back towards town. We were treated to a beautiful cityscape as the sun slowly sank behind the glass faced skyscrapers. Will trailed along behind with the camera but did manage to get a few cool shots of all the sea planes lined up along the docks.
The next day it was time to hit the road again and Vancouver also decided to send us off by turning on the taps. So after braving the downpours while trying to pack the car we said some hasty goodbyes and despite wanting to stay curled up on the sofa made for the snowy hills of Whistler.
Rochelle & Will