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
It was in the negatives outside when we arrived at the lovely warm house of Brad and Julie’s in Grande Prairie, Alberta. They had a room all set up for us and welcomed Will, Scout and I to stay for a few days. This was the first time in a long time that we had seen the same people three times on our trip and it was great to have that level of familiarity with them already. Even if Julie was still teasing me about my distaste for curling. We settled in over a hearty lunch of our favourite pulled pork and coleslaw on fresh buns and discussed some of the things we hoped to do in Grande Prairie. Julie already had a bit of an itinerary for us starting the next day so there was no time like the present to give the Dodge interior a much needed clean.
We put on some warm clothes and pulled everything out of the Dodge, it defiantly needed it there were dog biscuits, dog hair, food crumbs, mud, ice and road grit all through the car. Will vacuumed while I attempted to wipe it out with hot water that was rapidly going cold. I was also on a new found film everything mission so I was filming Will doing the cleaning as well as everything else. We then organised all the food and rearranged a few things before putting it all back in. We were just complaining to Brad about how uncomfortable our mattress had been getting when he busts out this memory foam and says we can have it! It was a bit small to fully replace the current mattress so we just doubled it up by putting it underneath the old one. We would now be super close to hitting the shelf with our hips but at least our other hip and shoulder could rest in soft heavenly comfort. Back inside we put on a few loads of washing and gave our waterproof jackets and pants a rinse in the bath. Then hung them in the garage to dry. Funny right, it was about -7 degrees celsius in the garage so they just froze solid, better to hang them in the heated basement we decided. Will also asked Julie if she had a heater that we could put in the Dodge for a few hours to help dry it out a bit, she didn’t have one but within minutes she had organised to borrow one from a friend! Ideal. That evening we were treated to some famous Alberta steaks seared on the outside grill with salad and other tasty delights. If you recall the last time we tried to cook steak was on the cooker in the aluminium pan and they were basically raw so this was a huge improvement. You can’t beat a good steak!
The next morning we were up early because Julie had organised for us to go Natural Luging!!!! We would be joining a bunch of high school kids in a Natural Luge lesson for the morning. We weren’t really sure what to expect as Brad and Julie told us all about a famous local named Jonny Luge and drew us a map to the Night Hawk ski hill (http://gonitehawk.com) then waved us on our way. Jonny Luge was awesome and proved he knew his stuff as he glided down the gentle slope in total control. The ski hill manager that Julie had contacted even organised one of their New Zealand ski instructors to join us so there was, quote “someone who could understand us” haha. But it was a great fun family atmosphere all round.
We took a few runs to get the hang of stopping then a few more to get the hang of turning, but really I couldn’t believe they were letting us go down the same slope as the kids on the snowboard lessons, I came pretty close to hitting a few of them. I was still struggling with the turning when Jonny took us over to the beginner luge track through the trees. We all had a run down and it was loads of fun I couldn’t wait to try it again after lunch and get my turning down packed.
For lunch we joined the kids in the cafe for a burger before getting back out there by ourselves. We had one awesome fast and in control run then another in which I had to dive off in order to avoid colliding with a tree. After a few more runs the learner track was getting lame and the full track wasn’t in a usable condition so they let us go down the actual ski run. It was the most exhilarating thing we had done in ages we were both absolutely flying and then giggling like loonies at the bottom full of adrenalin. We both had really good control of the luges too, though thankfully there weren’t many other people around. At the bottom the lifties all knew who we were, everyone seemed to know us as 'The New Zealanders’. It was like we were famous thanks to Julie putting out the word! But to our devastation the lifties explained that they were about to close the lift. We pleaded with them for one more run, we even said we would walk back up. They debated the idea over their walkie talkies until it was decided they would let us do one more run and we would come back up on the back of a snowmobile, perfect! So we zoomed down the empty slopes again feeling like we were breaking the sound barrier with the GoPro on on Wills helmet. Then returned one at a time on the back of the snowmobile. It was only later back at the Dodge we realised the GoPro wasn’t on video mode and had instead been taking photos. That made us a little sad but we were excited to drive back to Brad and Julie’s and tell them all about our awesome day! The day was topped of by the fact that we had put a curry on in the slow cooker that morning and it had been slowly cooking away all day with no effort. When dinner time came around we cooked some rice, made up some mango lassis and browned up some nan bread on the hotplate of the grill before tucking into our feast. There was heaps of food so luckily Sean Julie’s nephew was there to share as well.
On Saturday morning we woke to smells of crisping bacon, french toast, fresh fruit and cheese mmmmmmmmmm. Brad and Julie were having a brunch with their friends and we were luckily invited to join in their meal. If they kept feeding us like this we would never leave we warned them as we blobbed out on the couch afterwards. While relaxing we did a few jobs like booking in Scout with the pet exporter and I started writing another blog. That afternoon as our tummies returned to their normal size we went down to the pool where Emily, Brad and Julie’s daughter works to have a go on the FlowRider. One of those giant wave simulators that you can surf or body board on. We were excited to have a go as well as a little nervous as some of the brunch guests said they would come and watch as well. However as we arrived a sign was being put up saying the pools were getting evacuated as a pipe had burst. We snuck inside anyway and watched a few people have a go on the FlowRider before being told we had to leave. Instead we returned back to the house to blob some more; it was a nice afternoon.
On Sunday I continued to blob/blog while Will filled out some paper work and made some phone calls about Scouts export. He needed a printer for the paper work and Julie was onto it quick smart and got it printed for him in town. Julie was so good to us every time we needed something as well as getting all of these goodies out for us for lunch each day.
Later that afternoon we went out with Brad to buy our fishing licences and some bait and what not, because we were going ice fishing the next day! I think Will was just as interested in using the auger to drill the hole in the ice and use the quad bike as he was the actual fishing but I was excited and certain that I was going to catch something! Getting the licences was a bit of a hassle because of a new system and us being from overseas but we got it sorted eventually and found everything else we needed. Determined Brad must of had about ten different types of bait in the end and Will was more than happy to look around yet another outdoors store.
That evening after what I’m sure was a lovely dinner even though I don’t remember what it was, we were watching TV in the lounge when Brad decided to put on an old DVD called Alone in the Wilderness. It turned out to be amazing footage of Dick Proenneke as he builds himself a long cabin on the shore of Twin Lakes, Alaska. The clips are narrated through readings from his diary throughout the film. It’s old time footage from an old time man but everything he dose is meticulous. He even builds his own wooden hinges for his door and ends up living in the cabin for over thirty years. Will and I were utterly captivated and wanted to know more. We Googled him and found out that Dick had since passed away but there was a book and another DVD available that we would have to get one day! Brad did his best to top the first DVD by putting on another classic called '50 outdoor skills everyone needs to know to survive’ and despite making us watch for 20 minutes to see the guy accidentally mix a bug into his quinoa porridge we failed to see any point in watching it further, the female host was terrible. Emily thought it was all quite funny but sorry Brad I think we liked the first one better.
On Monday the 24th the alarm woke us up nice an early to a chilly but clear -10 degree day. We wrapped up warm then armed with three full thermoses and some sandwiches we began packing Brads pick up. Actually I should say the men packed while I filmed them. The boys organised and tied down the quad bike, a sled, the fishing lines, the bait, the chairs and our ice auger.
We arrived at Swan Lake 40 minutes later and the boys attempted to get the quad bike started but the cold weather meant it wasn’t quite cranking over. So we clipped the sled onto Scout instead and had him drag it to a spot near the lake shore. Next we needed the fishing holes drilled with the auger. The boys fafed around with it and eventually got it started despite the cold. Then Brad was away drilling holes. He drilled them in a row about 6m apart leading towards the middle of the lake. We baited up the hooks of the Tip Ups (little wooden things Brad had brought but apparently weren’t the ones he’d wanted) with colourful imitation bait. Everything looked set for us to start catching fish but not a lot happened not even a bite so Brad left to try and get the quad bike started and when he returned with it running Will decided to take it for a spin. Meanwhile Brad and I sat there for the next hour possibly getting a bite or too but nothing more. We sipped our hot drinks then started to wonder where Will was he didn’t give the impression that we would be gone for so long…. Another thirty minutes later Will still wasn’t back and I was starting to wonder if he was stuck somewhere or something. I decided to go for a walk to see where the tracks lead but they lead off the end of the lake and I didn’t want to disappear to far and have Brad worrying about me as well so I returned. Back at the fishing spot Brad and I mulled over what to do while eating our sandwiches and changing our untouched baits.
With still no sign of Will Brad gave me some binoculars and a knife and I set out to follow the tracks further. I felt like Bear Grylls and after following the tyre tracks a further ten minutes past the far lake edge I spotted a golden dot jumping around in the binoculars. The golden dot was Scout and eventually I came across Will with the quad bike stuck in some soft deep snow. Surprise surprise… He looked pretty happy to see me after already trying several different times to dig himself out. He had even attached the winch to a buried log and tried to winch out but every time he got it going it would again crack through the top layer into the soft sand like snow underneath. With my help the plan was to dig it out again then for Will to push the rear while I accelerated then jumped on at the last moment so we would hopefully have enough momentum to prevent breaking through the crust again. It worked (just) and I sped away to a more firm spot. Will picked up his gear and rewound the winch before I accelerated again and he ran beside me then jumped on as I got it going. Scout ran behind us as we sped along hoping the speed would prevent us getting stuck again. As we came into view of Brad Scout had fallen behind and Brad thought that we had lost Scout. But no all was well other than the lack of fish! Note to self, if Will doesn't come back when you expect him too take a shovel he's probably stuck...
We tried drilling a few more holes in a new spot while Will ate his lunch but still had no luck so we decided to go to another lake named Surgent Lake. We saw some locals fishing about 1km away and a few of them had driven their pick ups (utes) onto the ice but Brads huge dually was to big to go on the late winter ice. Instead Brad and Will went on the quad while I sat in the plastic sled with the auger and felt every little bump in the ice through my butt as we went along. Some guys told us a spot to try so we drilled a few more holes and set up once again. I took the quad for a spin and Scout found an old deer leg to play with to help the time pass. It had warmed up during the day to a level where we could comfortably sit and fish but now it was starting to get cold again and we'd had not a single bite so we called it quits and returned to the truck. Will had a bit of trouble getting the quad onto the tray and needed a few goes at it before getting it right. In the warmth of the pickup we looked at the time and couldn't believe it was 6pm, we had been out all day and were defiantly looking forward to dinner even if it wasn’t fish. So yes to recap we had spent all day fishing and not caught one single fish…. Dinner that evening was a warming hearty ham and lentil soup luckily made as a backup by Julie just incase.
The next day we just chilled out at the house and finished off a few more rudimentary jobs. Brad and Julie had other plans for dinner so Julie being the awesome mother hen that she is roused us up a lasagne from the freezer and put it in the oven. If that wasn’t good enough already she then made up an amazing broccoli salad and some garlic bread. How lucky were we! We completed our day by watching what turned out to be possibly the worlds worst movie called ’The Grey’ about a group of oil rig workers who’s plane crashes in Alaska and then they’re attacked and followed by some very fake wolves on steroids as they attempt to walk out. For a Liam Neeson movie this really disappoints.
On Wednesday the 26th of March we packed up the Dodge ready to leave. It was really sad saying good bye to the Emond family after they had been so welcoming to us. We can only hope that some of them come and visit us in New Zealand one day so that we can show them the same hospitality. We seriously hope they do heck we even drew Emily this map of NZ with all the must see and do’s on it as she was planning to come to NZ in the near future. Maybe visit once we have settled in a bit though and have a place of our own ok.
Just as we were leaving and Will was setting up for a final photo together Julie produced a bag full of easter goodies that we weren’t to open until easter on the 20th of April. This was on top of loading us up with a heap of frozen pulled pork and curry. The only way our time there could have gotten any better was if Will and I or Brad and Julie or Sean had won it big on the lottery ticket we had each brought the day before. That didn’t happen but we had an unforgettable time all the same. We just hope we can be as giving to others as you were to us. Thank-you.
See you again one day B&J.
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