Mae Hong Son Motorcycle Loop

The easy life in Chiang Mai is hard to leave, but after 6 days in and around the city we figured it was time to strike out and see the countryside, and a motorcycle seemed like the best way to do it. With some self-awareness and assertiveness the roads and traffic are reasonably easy to navigate in Thailand, especially when bikes and scooters flow like pebbles around boulders to the front of the line at a traffic light, assuring a safe start in front of the larger vehicles on the road. Our steed of choice for the trip was a 200cc Honda Phantom, a popular bike styled after the more muscular cruiser bikes of America. A decent bike, it was no problem for getting around the flat city streets, although we did find it to be slightly overloaded and underpowered for the remainder of the trip. But if time is on your side, who cares?

They claim there are 762 curves over the 140km distance from Chaing Mai to Pai, which sounds like a dream on 2 wheels unless those 762 curves are under construction. The road from Dong Palan (where you leave the main road) and Pai was an absolute disaster. Without warning two lanes turn to one, huge potholes appeared, gravel was everywhere, construction occurred without traffic control…you name it and we rode around, or through it. Stopping half way we questioned our sanity and judgment, but kept quiet any suggestion of terminating the trip. Three hours later we pulled into Pai, a small town in the middle of a broad lush green valley with a lazy river snaking its way through town and a large white Buddha statue sitting on the mountain side, presiding over it all. After the ride we’d just been through, it was a very peaceful place to pull into. We found a little guesthouse along the river and sat down to relax with a well earned drink. Pai has become a very popular destination with the backpacker crowd as of recent, and many of those who found it have never left. The town has a developed a very hippy feeling to it, unfortunately it’s a bit of a western one.

We both weren’t ready to get back on the motorbike given the previous day’s experience, so we decided to hang around town and explore. The area around Pai is dotted with farms, rural guesthouses and best of all, waterfalls. We rode the Phantom out to a popular waterfall where the cascading water has smoothed out the rocks, creating a great natural set of waterslides. The cool crisp water was a refreshing break as we splashed with the locals and visitors alike, soaking up the afternoon sun, playing and relaxing all afternoon. 

The next day, relaxed and refreshed, we hit the road. Thankfully we had made it through the majority of construction on the road, and the rest of the trip would see us alone on beautiful smooth blacktop. After some time on the road we stopped to explore a series of caves which have been carved into the limestone mountains, many of them popular tourist destinations, while others lie hidden, yet to be found. The largest and most accessible cave in the region is called Nam Lod, where a river has carved a path straight through the side of the mountain, leaving kilometres of caverns to be explored. A local guide (manditory) and a bamboo raft are the best way to explore this large cave, and for $18 you can spend several hours being guided both on foot and by boat. The main chamber of the cave is an impressive 100 feet high and features numerous stalactites and stalagmites, as well as hundreds of swallows and bats swooping and shrieking their way about the darkness, high above you. The third cavern we were shown by our guide was both fascinating and eerie; the remains of several teak coffins have been discovered and left on display for visitors, thought to be carved by the Lawa tribespeople some two thousand years ago.

After leaving the cave complex we headed south, paralleling the mountain range that makes up the Thai – Burmese border. Two very scenic hours later we reached our destination for the night and the namesake of our loop, Mae Hong Son. A tranquil village centred around a large lake, our guesthouse overlooked a temple and the evening market which surrounded the calm waters. We relaxed in the shade and then headed out for an authentic Thai dining experience, collecting dishes to try by pointing and laughing with the various food cart operators as the rural/tourist language gap was too large to bridge. Bellies full, we fell soundly asleep in the quiet peace of rural Thailand.

Continuing south the following day we bombed down rural roads, flying through shady forests and past endless green rice paddies. There are two different options to complete the loop to Chiang Mai once you leave Mae Hong Son; the longer route continues south until Mae Sarieng before heading east, while the shorter but less travelled route takes you east through Mae Chaem and over Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon. As is our nature, we chose the latter route

Up and down, up and down would be the theme for the days of travel through small farming villages and past fields of banana, rice and corn. Our third day was an amazing one on the bike where we felt entirely alone in the world, only passing the occasional overloaded pickup truck delivering produce to market. After we passed the small village of Mae Na Chon, we stumbled into the Hot Coffee guesthouse, a great little spot which offers quiet private bungalows beside the river. it was only 2pm, but the temptation of a cool swim in the river and a cold beer on the deck was all we need to stop for the night. Our night at Hot Coffee will go down as the most comfortable so far in Thailand; you couldn’t ask for better accommodations or a more welcoming host. As it turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought so, and found ourselves confronted with familiar faces from the downhill mountain bike race we had been at only days before. A father/son duo from the US who now live in Hong Kong were completing the same loop as us only on dirt bikes and the backroads, but after some navigational difficulties with the other members of their group and a flat tire, they found themselves at Hot Coffee for the night. We laughed to think how small this big world truly is, and spent the evening with their group swapping road stories and tales.

Friday morning marked out our last day on the road, and return to the Chiang Mai. Just a easy trip over the highest peak in the land, and hey, we’d be drinking beer by the moat in no time. The day started out cool, and while the bike struggled a bit with the altitude, it was nothing more than we had made it suffer through for the past four days. At the top, we joined the locals in donning our jackets, where 16 degree felt practically chilly after several weeks of much warmer weather. The ride down the other side was a breeze; the road widened out as we rejoined traffic on the freeway and the throttle was opened up, the familiar heat of the valley surrounding us yet again. About 50km out of Chaing Mai we stopped for a cold drink in the shade and a stretch of our legs, the end of our journey in sight.

Now I’ve previously failed to mention in the story so far the issues with the Phantom, our trusty steed that it turned out wasn’t actually all that trusty. We quickly discovered that she refused to start everyday once it got hot; I refused to take issue with it though as there was usually a hill or stretch of road around, and I could pull a fast one on her and get her going every time in second gear, circling back around to pick up Alison after the bike had stubbornly roared to life. So when we mounted the bike for the final ride into town, we were not surprised when it failed to turnover. A push start was initiated with negative results. More push starts were attempted with the same results. The Phantom unfortunately, had appeared to have given up the ghost. We tried and tried to get it going, but to no avail. Our final attempts were made in exasperation in the parking lot of a service station, where a group of employees soon gathered to help us in our quest, pushing me around the parking lot in a futile attempt at motorcycle resuscitation. Now even the Thais were sweating, and Alison and I were a hot mess, our situation beginning to look bad. I rolled the bike into the shade, and we contemplated what to do. While we were cooling down the Thais continued to try and help solve our problem. Soon, some rudimentary tools were located, and every man present to the situation had gathered around, offering advice, already contemplating which piece of the bike to pull apart first. With the group gathered around, the spark plug was checked, the oil was checked, and a few people even scoped out the gas tank situation. All of this still left the phantom spiritless. After a phone call to the rental shop and some use of Google translate, it was settled that we’d take the bike down the road to the local repair shop. After the spark plugs, the oil, and gas were again checked, further discussion with our rental shop decided a truck would take the bike and ourselves to town, where we would be relieved of the beast and their mechanics would be left to solve the riddle of her demise.

As we sat in a shady corner of the shop on some old car seats it became apparent that the truck that would take us to town was currently beside us on the hoist, a Songthaew, which was being frantically repaired before our eyes. A couple hours passed, and after returning from a successful test drive we and the disabled bike were loaded into the freshly repaired truck, heading for town. There are many forms of transport in Thailand, and the Songthaew is one of the many brilliant options of a modern-day vehicle converted for local transportation needs. With two bench seats in the back and a cover for shade, these colourful little trucks rip around town, delivering riders and their loads to and from destinations with enthusiastic efficiency.  

The breeze felt good as we rolled towards town and the driver (and shop mechanic) seemed happy to make an extra buck off of our delivery, in the truck we couldn’t be quite sure was his, or just a customer of his shop’s which he was moonlighting for our purpose. Suddenly the truck slowed, and as it sputtered to a halt on the side of the highway, it became apparent that their quick fix in the shop might not have done the trick. We were now 0 for 2 on transporation. With the hood up, our driver worked to figure and fix. Not surprisingly a crowd gathered, and soon tools were brought out, and everyone went to work. This time however, the result of the communal effort was a success; with a puff of black smoke our truck rumbled to life, and we were off again. We flew into town, and were greeted by a crowd at Mr. Mechanic, our rental agency who through all of this mess had done everything they could to get us back to town at no expense of our own. They were indeed very helpful and apologetic, and after some laughs and reassurance that we weren’t mad, we retired back to the old town of Chiang Mai to sit and laugh over the day, passports and cold beer back in hand.

Our plan for now is to spend the remainder of the weekend relaxing in Chiang Mai, and catch the bus to Laos on Monday. once we arrive in Laos we will take the slow boat down the Mekong river to Luang Prabang, and from there, who knows!  

Until then

Byron and Alison
Tips for Mae Hong Son Loop by bike:

Rent from Mr Mechanic or a shop with insurance. Although our bike did break down, their response and help was excellent and didn’t cost us extra. They were great to deal with

Get the map ‘The Mae Hong Son Loop’ by Golden Triangle Rider, it’s very helpful and detailed for the journey..

Tour around the towns for guesthouses and shop around for best price; most towns have a lot of options and the prices vary for basically the same thing. 

In Pai we stayed at Golden Hut, in Mae Hong Son we stayed at Johnny guesthouse and outside Mae Na Chon Hot Coffee guesthouse. I recommend all of these places as they are all clean, comfortable and quiet.

Fuel is plentiful along the trip.

The road between Dong Palan and Pai is awful, but when construction is complete it will be an amazing journey. 

There is a cool guest house beside the Nam Lod cave called Cave House, we didn’t stay there because of timing but I would recommend it rather than staying two nights in Pai.















Chiang Mai

Stepping off the train from Bangkok we were greeted by a cool breeze and a lone pickup truck set to take us and our fellow travellers into town. Surrounded by mountains, Chaing Mai is considered the capitial of northern Thailand, a green landscape of forested mountain peaks and lush farms set in the valley bottom below. In the  heart of Chaing Mai is the old city, a collection of temples and guesthouses spread throughout a web of narrow streets filled with cafes and markets. The sleepy old city is separated from the frantic modern Chaing Mai by a moat, built over 700 years ago to protect its residents against invading Burmese. We booked ourselves into one of the many liittle guesthouses tucked within the old city walls, excited to spend the next few days exploring the city and its surrounding area.   By that evening, we had discovered that one of the old city’s best kept secrets; the Talat Pratu Chaing Mai; a large open air food market where vendors spread along the roaside against the moat and you can  eat to your heart’s content.  We couldn’t think of a better place to eat and drink with new friends, and spent the next few nights doing just that. The only thing better than the warm hospitality of the Thai people is their food, and after a week of eating our way north we decided it was time for a work out. 

             You can do anything you want in Chaing Mai to get your heart rate up, but hiking and mountain biking seem to be the most popular and heavily advertised at all but a few of the tour operator stands you walk by. After sussing out our options we figured we would try something new, and signed up for an afternoon of  Muay Thai lessons. Our estemed trainer Kru Pong stood at best 5’6″,  and picked us up in his hello kitty adorned car.  We were quickly reminded however that looks can be decieving.  Soon after we arrived at the gym and  unloaded the 10 gallons of water Kru brought for us, we got to work. The session started with a full body tiger balm rub down and questions from the trainer for Alison inquiring when she was going to produce a child he could train to fight. After these early pleasantries, Kru proceeded to punish us in the afternoon heat. Although his english was limited, he seemed to have a mastery of numbers above 10, which he frequently used when giving orders of excercises we were to do to for warm up.  He always claimed it was the last set, but it never was. The three hour session was beyond hard for both of us but very rewarding, and by the end of the session Kru wanted Alison to stay for a month so he could turn her into a fighter. 

           After a day of recovery from our training session with Kru, we wandered the town in search of our next adventure.  Curious to see what the local mountain biking scene was like, we popped into Trailhead Tours, one of Chian Mai’s newest bike shops.  There we met Nui, one of Trailhead’s proficient guides and an active participant in the local race scene.   Although we declined a tour, Nui invited us to join him that Sunday to watch one of the national races happening just outside of town.  Due to a broken collarbone which he had aquired only a few days prior he wouldn’t be competing, but he was eager to watch others he knew and happy to have us along for the ride. 

The lush green mountains surrounding Chaing Mai are all protected by some form of park or reserve designation, providing the perfect trail building environment for local riders. The Thailand Gravity series is part of a circuit of downhill races in northwest Thailand which attracts riders from across the country  and as far away as Austrialia and New Zealand. We arrived early enough that Alison and I were able to hike the course while watching riders take advantage of last minute practice runs. The course was everything you’d want; some steep technical terrain, followed by some fast flow leading into the big air for the crowd at the finish. After sweating in the jungle heat slogging to the top of the course we decided the large jump was the best spot to watch, and joined the crowd to cheer on the riders and they (mostly sucessfully) aired it out to everyone’s delight and cheers.  After the race the crowd moved to the finish area to enjoy a cold beer and a riding skills display put on by some of the riders. I found it exciting to be around so many people who loved their sport and their community, the energy was contagious and won’t soon be forgotten.  Alison and I decided then and there that Chiang Mai was definitely going on the list of places to return in the future, but next time with bikes in tow.





Tuk Tuks and Trains

We landed in Bangkok Saturday morning around 11am. Having managed to convince our bodies to sleep in an only mildly reclined position for 9 hours on the plane over from Los Angeles, we were both determined to make the best of the day and fight off any jet lag until later that evening. After making our way to the end of the skytrain line we jumped aboard a tuk-tuk, the equivalent of a gas-powered rickshaw so colourfully decorated you would think it had just come from the disco.

Unfortunately, there are moments when you look as fresh off the boat as you truly are. After quite a few city blocks I attracted the keen eyes of a motorcycle-mounted pair of purse thieves who clearly saw the weight of my burden and decided to relieve me of some of it. One close pass from behind and a snatch from my chest and they were off into oncoming traffic. Good-bye $15 Bently purse….
After tears, a bout of fuming silence, many choice curse words and some time to cool off, we confirmed that there was nothing I couldn’t live without that was in that cheap little sucker of a purse, and that the most the thieves got away with were my debit, visa and nexus cards, hand sanitizer and lotion, and a pair of ear buds I was rather attached to. So if you happen to be in Bangkok reading this and you run into a set of Thai men on a motorcycle with suspiciously clean, soft hands, punch them for me would you? While the city redeemed itself in the following days, there is nothing more violating or infuriating than having something stolen from you, and it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth having only just arrived in the country. On the bright side though, I got to go purse shopping that night.  

After changing out of the clothes we had been occupying for far too long we headed off into the streets, hungry for some food and beers in the streets of Bangkok. Our hotel was situated in the Banglamphu district, not far from Khao San road where backpackers and vendors crowd the streets and you can find everything from pad-thai to knock-off designer purses and the latest trend in Thai tourist tshirts. We wandered for hours, making our way eventually to a little hole-in-the-wall soup joint that seemed quite popular with the locals. As with everything we ate over the next few days, it did not dissapoint. From red curry to meat-on-a-stick to padthai, we tried whatever we could find. We made it until about 9 o’clock that night, then promptly crashed, excited to do it all over again the next day.

The next day we made for the Chatuchak weekend market, an open-air market that boasts to be the largest in the world (250,000 people and counting attend each weekend). From puppies to vintage clothing to art, you can bet you’ll find it at the weekend market.

For hours we wandered, in awe of everything you could buy. Byron noted that a traveller really didn’t need to pack a bag when heading for Bangkok. One just has to be sure to arrive on the weekend and head straight for the market; within a few hours you’ll have everything you could possibly need.

From the market we made our way back into the heart of the city and headed to Wat Pho, one of the city’s many temples which showcases and displays the Buddha idol. Wat Pho itself houses the longest reclining Buddha, which measures at a stunning 50m long and 15 meters high. Although not well versed in the Buddhist religion, I have always enjoyed the idol and couldn’t help but feel a warm and peaceful glow standing in admiration of this massive form. With intricately decorated and adorned stupas lining the grounds as well (commemorating the first four Chakri kings), it is easy to understand why architecture is held as one of the highest forms of art in the country.

From the temple we made our way over to Bangkok’s Chinatown in search of further stimulus for our culture-hungry minds (and possibly a bite to eat while we were at it). Whether it was a special occasion or a nightly occurrence we never found out, but as we entered the streets we were greeted with fireworks and a parade, complete with dancing dragons and crashing symbols. We sat down to dinner at one of the many crowded street food vendor gatherings, and were soon sweating profusely as our dinner was cooked in a pile of searing flames only meters from our table. Again, the food did not disappoint, and we ended the night with happy bellies and full minds at all the city had shown us.

Knowing we would be leaving the city the next day, the following morning we made way for the train station to purchase our tickets, and then on to the Tropical Disease hospital, where on the good advice of our Canadian doctor we skipped getting the Japanese Encephalitis shot until we made it here, where the vaccine was a tenth of the price of what we would have paid back home. Two sore arms later, we were back out on the streets, taking in our last day of sights in the city.

And now, four days later, we have made our way north on the train, heading for Chiang Mai where the mountains, temples and elephants (!!!) await us. After we have our fill of the region we’ll head east into Laos and Cambodia, and who knows where from there. We’re only just getting started! 

xo Alison & Byron

The Coles Notes:

Here’s to those of you who may be heading to, or are currently in Bangkok

1. Try and take tuk-tuks with netting or webbing on the side to protect your stuff from theives. Be diligent; It’s a big city and a small bag or purse can be ripped right off your chest if you’re not careful and it’s got cheap straps

2. Bring an unlocked cell phone from home. You can pick up a cheap sim card right at the airport (ours was 30days, talk and text, 4G of data for $20CAD)

3. Negotiate or confirm price of transportation before you go

4. Go to the Chatuchak weekend market if you can; you won’t be dissapointed

5. Eat street meat at the busy stalls, and try as much as you’re brave enough to

6. Banglamphu has the cheapest beers we could find (60baht for a tall Chang); anywhere along the river had the most expensive (130baht for a small Chang)

7. Head to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases for a cheap ($25 CAD) Japanese Encephalitis shot if you need it

8. Dried sardines are not that good. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

9. Buy tickets at the train station (at least one day in advance) for any trips; don’t buy them from an agent or side-street shop

10. The A/C cabs on the train can be ridiculously cold; get ready to wear all of your warm clothes on the trip.

Baja Bound

We left the north with dog in tow, heading south for the first time all summer with visions of beaches, palm trees and tropical waters in our heads.  Partly as an excuse to travel to one of our favorite places, and partly because it was a place to park the Delica and swap our dog-sitter for a new one (thank you parents, you’re awesome!), we made Castillo de Arena our destination and jumping point for our soon-to-be travels overseas.

Because we had done this drive twice, we wanted to take a new route and stop and see some family along the way.  Leaving Calgary and Canada after a great time home with family, we headed south through Waterton National Park and the adjacent Glacier National Park across the US border where clear skies afforded us spectacular views of this stunning cross-border park system.  On good family and friend advice we made way for the ‘Highway to the Sun’, a spectacular 85km (53 mile) road that traverses the entirety of Glacier National Park from east to west, allowing visitors to experience the spectacular mountain vistas and wildlife without even leaving their vehicle. (This seems to be a theme in American National Parks.  I can only hope this fosters a greater appreciation for parks nation-wide.)  We were blown away by the scenery, and while not as plentiful as Denali, we had some great wildlife viewing moments that showcased the wilderness that resides in the parks, and why it is so important that we protect them across all borders.

After a couple of cool morning in Montana we looked for a place on the map that would take us off the beaten track; so enter Burgdorf Hot Springs. Tucked up in the hills of Idaho, we were hopeful that the warm waters would pacify the cooler air surrounding us that evening at 7000 feet.  Unfortunately, fires burning in the area delayed us from climbing the northern pass to the springs that evening, and by the time we made our way up into the hills they were closed and we had to make due with a warm dinner instead.  As we soon would discover, dry hot conditions would become the theme of the trip down the eastern California, where fires plagued the hillsides and water levels have been dropping for several years. Docks that once graced lakeshores now sit meters above the water, mocking the boats who only now can dream of docking on their planks.

After leaving Glacier, we made our way south along the mountains as far as we could until turning inland to cross over Idaho for Bend, Oregon, where one of Byron’s cousin’s has recently relocated and we were excited to visit.  Bend (or Bend’Or, as the locals call it) did not disappoint. This is a town where most locals pride themselves in the number of outdoor activities they participate in, and the number of breweries that have sprung up to support their drinking habits after said activities have been accomplished.  Sean, our host (you rock Sean, thanks again for your amazing hospitality!), showed us the best of all sides of Bend.  Not only did we get a chance to check out the local dirt in both their biking and hiking trails, but we spent many nights checking out the local bevvies and entertainment the town has to offer as well.  Byron and I both said it; if there was one place in America we could move to immediately, it would be Bend(‘Or).

Finally though after stealing Sean away from his work commitments for several days, it was time for us to continue our journey south.  From Bend we made our way down through Crater Lake National Park (nothing has ever looked so blue), heading for the towering granite peaks of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is a behemoth and mecca for climbers and hikers alike.  As one of the United States’ oldest national parks (established in 1890), its towering granite faces have held climbers and hikers in a trance for decades, beckoning them to ascend its lofty peaks.  Byron and I spent two nights and one day in the park, climbing to the top of the Park’s namesake falls, which, unfortunately, were running dry by this time so late in the season (this surprisingly isn’t a drought factor, the falls usually dry up in the fall due to the limit of the lake which feeds it the majority of the year).  Although the hike offered none of the treasons the climbers experience when ascending its peaks,  the view from the top was spectacular, betraying dizzying heights as you stood leaning over the fence perched on the edge of the peak, wondering just how grounded the support cables were strung into the ground.

From the towering heights we continued to make our way south into the forests of Sequoia National Forest, where equally immense trees awaited our arrival.  Byron and I were both left mesmerized by these trees; what started out as a three hour trek one afternoon ended after 500 meters and too many photos to count; we laughed in the mutual understanding that neither of us was going to make it very far down any trail that day, or any to come; the trees were just too magnificent and overwhelming to allow us to pass with only a short glance.  Each one deserved at least several minutes of awe and admiration for the years it has withstood history, and the conquest of humanity itself.  The oldest tree in the world stands in this park, and it outdates the birth of Christ himself. When one starts to think of everything these trees have withstood, and stood by, you can’t help but stand by and be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it all.  A timespan like that holds no relevance in the human mind.

Once we managed to pull ourselves away from the timber giants, we quickly made tracks for the Mexicali border crossing, eager to feel the sand beneath our toes and hot Baja sun on our faces.  Since we have done the drive a few times and there are a finite number of roads to traverse, we made haste for Dad and Mom’s place, only spending a few nights to enjoying the solitude of Baja southern California before arriving in the casa we so dearly call one of our homes.  Travelling south in the Delica was a treat though; not only were we able to sleep with the back hatch open to let in the warm salty air at night, we could keep our sandy dog outside long into the evening hours to ensure she had ridden herself free of as much sand as possible before joining us in the cab.  The drive down is always warm, fun and exciting in the senses that one feels at home when returning to a place well known.  The Baja holds a magic where it is always the same and yet the subtle negotiations with the land and people are forever changing, challenging, and fun. Nothing is as it was before.  It is a land of love.  And with an open heart and mind, you can always make it out for the better.

And so here we sit, on the last day before our departure, ready for the next phase of our adventure.  With our bellies and our hearts filled, we are ready for the long trek that will take us overseas to Bangkok, and then on to lands unknown.  Unfortunately our original plans to head to Kathmandu were thwarted by political instability and jet fuel shortage, so working with the benefit of time and agenda flexibility we will head where the winds will take us.  First stop is South East Asia, and then possibly India after that.  But who knows!  Here’s to luck, love, and a little bit of adventure.  We’ll see you overseas!

Xo Alison and Byron


Glacier National Park; elk bugling in the morning and spectacular mountain vistas all day!


Beautiful morning mist on the lake




The wooden bridge that would lead us to beautiful Idaho mountain scenery! We were definitely a little nervous crossing it…


Winter enjoying the sights of ‘dog town USA’ (aka Bend’or)


We equally enjoyed the sights (and dirt!) or Bend!



Hiking with our awesome host Sean in the mountains behind Bend.


Crater Lake National Park (the blue-est of all blues)


From the top; the Yosemite Valley at its finest.



That’s a mighty long ways down.


Just for perspective. See him? Remember, the guy’s 6″5″.


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Winter also seemed to enjoy the bounties of the forest…





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Southern California, USA



We made it! After months of pants in the north, I could finally bust out the shorts.



All that sand. She never seems to get rid of it until she’s back in the van……       DSC_0480 




And then the green appeared! After a few months of summer rain the countryside resembled Hawaii more than Baja…

Bikes, Ice and Bears

If only the summer could last just a little bit longer, I think we could stay in the North forever.  Unfortunately, after a month and a half on the road exploring the wild, the weather began to turn and the cool nights prompted us to start looking south again. After leaving spectacular Kluane National Park we headed south for Haines, our last sojourn into Alaska for the time being.   Although the cooler weather kept my arms tucked securely under the duvet at night, it also brought the bounty of migrating salmon, and with them, those that feast on their return.  For hours we sat upon the river banks surrounding town and watched as bears themselves watched the waters, combing the shores for that which will help sustain them throughout the winter as they hide from the cold dark days in their dens.  Absolutely fascinating, beautiful and brilliant beings, the bears we saw on the latter half of our trip illustrate the power nature holds and the strength of survival in a climate so variable and harsh.

After a few days exploring the area on our own, we met up with some old friends for a night of socializing and tasty home-cooked food.  Seeing family and friends, old and new, has been a highlight of the trip up North; one of the biggest banes of limited holiday time when you are working is trying to find a balance between spending your hard earned vacation days on yourself, and also fitting in visits with everyone in your immediate (and sometimes extended) family too. Without this deadline, the conflict for us has been erased; not only have we been able to commit a healthy amount of time to ourselves, but also to spending as much time as we can with those we love along the way.

Departing Haines by boat, we left our wilderness trekking and travels behind and began to make the journey south.  Itching to get back on our bikes, we made way for Carcross, a small town southwest of Whitehorse, where the Carcross/Tagish First Nations youth have developed an amazing network of mountain biking trails.  Although the weather wasn’t in our favor we persevered (there’s a great little coffee shop in the main square where you can warm up after a particularly cold and wet run), riding the trails with namesakes such as ‘Wolverine (in the woods), ‘Grizzly (charging steep lines), ‘Goat’ (technical rock lines) and AK-DNR (think Pseudo Tsuga for those of you who have ridden Squamish) for three awesome days.

From Carcross we headed south into our home province via the Cassiar Highway, a beautiful and much lesser-traveled route through Northern BC that parallels the boundary of the coastal and interior mountain ranges with (thankfully) much less road construction and potholes than it’s sister highway to the east.  After making a side trip to visit the spectacular Salmon Glacier west of Stewart (omit the note about better roads here) we continued on to Terrace, the first stop on what would become a week of amazing riding in the region.

Terrace has a few different spots to hit the trails, and the type of terrain you find varies greatly.  Copper Mountain was the talk of the town though, and much to our delight it lived up to expectations (Trailforks said STEEP and they meant it; think Cypress Mountain for those of you that ride the North Shore).  We spent the afternoon with adrenaline coursing through our veins as we rode the mountain and brought home a few bruises to boot.

After saying goodbye to Terrace we headed for the coast to visit some dear friends in Prince Rupert who not only gave us use of their cabin while staying in Terrace, but allowed us another night under a dry roof along with a hot shower, good food, and a few glasses of craft beer from the local brewery.  Seeing and meeting those along the way who also love to travel and explore the world brings a smile to my heart, as it only feeds our addiction and enthusiasm and makes me excited for all of the adventures that still await us.

From the coast we headed back inland to Smithers, a beautiful little alpine town surrounded by high mountain peaks, world-class fishing rivers, and a few more mountain biking trails to boot.  Fortunately for Byron (but unfortunately for me) a stomach bug kept me from riding that day, so he took advantage of my offer to shuttle while he checked out the local dirt.  Huckin ‘Eh turned out to be the day’s favorite, so while I curled up to play countless rounds of Angry Bird (yes, it still exists), Byron coated himself with mud and grit, claiming it to be one of the best trails of the trip thus far (a statement he still stands by too).

Whether it’s just local rivalry between competing trail builders or town councils I don’t know, but as i’m sure its becoming obvious, you don’t have to go far in the region to find more mountain biking trails than you can ride in a day, maybe even a week.  From Smithers we made the quick trip to Burns Lake, the second to last of our stops on our southwards journey home.  With a beautiful little rec site and lake awaiting you at the base of Boer Mountain, bikers can shuttle or pedal up the mountain and do endless laps throughout the day.  Those that enjoy a little more speed and structures can check out the likes of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ (fast, steep and flowy) and ‘Water Lew’ (an impressive amount of woodwork), while those looking for a longer cross country ride can spend the day out on Razorback, although be warned, I think there was more up than down.  After two days the rain found out where we had moved to, and we decided it was time for a hot shower and some rest.  Heading into Prince George was almost a shock to the system after our time up North, where one is more likely to see more moose than traffic lights on your daily commute. Nevertheless we quickly adjusted, and spent the evening enjoying a bounty of craft beer and delicious food from The Copper Pig, a great little BBQ joint in town that I highly recommend for anyone passing through.

Will full bellies and clean clothes we set off on the last few days of our Northern road trip, with the frequency of familiar places and faces quickly replacing the nights of solitude and days in the wild we had become so accustomed to. Not wanting to miss one last opportunity to ride, we made a stop in Williams Lake, where the trails rivaled any of those found in it’s neighbouring towns of the north.  Let me just summarize it this way: if you’ve always wanted to ride a suspension bridge on your bike, I highly recommend making the trip.  Like surfing a wave on the ocean, there’s something quite unique about the ground underneath you moving as you move, swinging under your weight and rolling tires as you traverse the boards strung high up over a gulch.  If that doesn’t suit your fancy though you can always hang back and practice your wall rides and moves on the teeter-totter, the latter of which I was much more comfortable on.  There’s something about being perpendicular to the ground on my bike which I haven’t quite mastered yet.

With that one last stop we came full circle and have now landed back in Vancouver for some rest, laundry, and family time.  In a few days we’ll make our way east to pick up Winter (video requests of our reunion have been stated), then we’ll start the drive south to the Baja.  From there we are planning to fly overseas (Kathmandu is the rumoured destination at this point!) and our adventures will continue.  We look forward to seeing as many of you as we can along the way, and continuing to share our adventures as we go.

Until then,

xo, Alison and Byron

A sow and her two cubs comb the tidal shores of Haines, AK, in search of salmon and other seafood snacks

A sow and her two cubs comb the tidal shores of Haines, AK, in search of salmon and other seafood snacks


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Mother bear patiently watches for dinner…

While the cubs goof off and brawl on the shore behind..



An eagle watches the river mouth for dinner at Lakelse Lake, BC

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Back to BC, and free rec-site camping.


The bears and eagles weren’t the only successful ones..

Salmon Glacier, BC.


Clouds hang out over the Salmon Glacier, BC.

Glacier lines. Salmon Glacier, BC.

Stewart, BC.

Stewart, BC.

Stopping to admire the historic totem work in Gitanyow, BC.

Bear Glacier, BC.

Black bear sow and cub, Stewart, BC.

Totem poles and clan totem paintings, Carcross, Yukon.


Jump, this way. -->

Jump, this way. –>

Air time (Carcross, Yukon).

Navigating the end of the rock slabs on 'Grizzly' in Carcross, Yukon.

Navigating the end of the rock slabs on ‘Grizzly’ in Carcross, Yukon.

Bridge to rock to bridge to rock to bridge - and done! 'Goat', Carcross, Yukon.

Bridge to rock to bridge to rock to bridge – and done! ‘Goat’, Carcross, Yukon.


The forest starts to show its fall colours in Burns Lake.

Playing on the trails above Bohr Mountain in Burns Lake, BC

Byron tackles the woodwork on Snakes and Ladders in William’s Lake, BC.

Icefields and Grizzly Tracks

Together with neighbouring Tatshenshini-Alsek, Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias Parks, Kluane National Park bursts with vast rivers of glacial ice, towering peaks that scrape the sky and a spectacular array of biodiversity.  Home to the world’s largest non-polar icefield and Canada’s highest peak, the four parks make up the largest internationally protected area on earth, and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006.

After waiting out the passing rain, Byron and I struck out into Kluane National Park on Thursday morning, ready to stretch our legs and explore all that we could access on our own two feet.  Similar to the surrounding parks and the west coast of the north, Kluane National Park is interrupted by only a few hiking trails, while the rest is left to the rivers and creatures that call this remote region home.  After assessing the options, we chose a course which would take us 22.5 km up the Slims River to Canada Creek, where a small campsite stood as a launching site for hikers to explore the surrounding peaks and offered a glimpse into the glacial world reaching far beyond.

Not ones to let a week of car time slow our pace on the trail, we packed our bags and set out for camp.  Although the warden with whom we registered mentioned there were several other large groups in the backcountry already, we silently hoped they might already be making the return trip and we would have the place to ourselves.

After eight hours of sand, marsh and trail (and quite a few fresh grizzly tracks), we pulled into camp with tender shoulders and aching feet.  We set up our tent and then collapsed to watch the sun set over the toe of the Kaskawulsh glacier with some dinner and wine (the bags may have been heavy and the trail long, but there was no way we were leaving the wine behind!) and to our excitement, a campsite all to ourselves.  Observation Mountain, our destination for the next day, loomed up to the South.  As I looked over its North face, I commented to Byron, ‘you know, I don’t think it would be too hard to hike it from this side’, tracing a makeshift route up its ridgelines with my finger.  He laughed, ‘yeah, we’ll see…’ he said, examining the map that showed the clearly marked route up the south.  Our tired feet and legs begged us for rest from the day’s journey so we soon relented, hoping the ground squirrels and chipmunks would be the only things passing by in the night.

The next morning we set off up the drainage towards the base of the mountain, contemplating our options.  After re-examining my route suggestion from the previous evening, we decided to make an adventure of it, and set off up the sheep trails and ridges that would (hopefully) take us to the top from the north.  If successful, we could always return via the marked trail down the south slopes.

If you were to ask the average person the grade of a slope, almost all of them would underestimate it.  Unfortunately, Byron and I fall into this category 99% of the time, even when we should know better.  What from below looks moderate quite quickly turns out to be steep, and what you think should only take an hour takes two.  Scrambling and huffing up the side of the mountain, I’m sure the sheep could only look at us and laugh.  Fortunately our route held true, and as our designated turn-around time hit we reached the top and found ourselves looking down on the most breath-taking views of flowing glacial rivers and towering peaks which stretch on into eternity.  Blessed with a few more hours of daylight we extended our stay at the top and simply sat, watching the motionless world of snow and ice creep its way forward down the valley.

After conquering Observation Mountain and the arrival of several groups of newcomers to the campsite, we packed up the following day, much to the protest of our shoulders and feet. Our window of good weather was quickly closing, and we decided it was time to make way for the coast again.  Our last stop in Alaska, tomorrow we’ll cross the border and head for Haines, where the salty air, some old friends and a grocery store beckon us.  After that we’ll be chasing the summer sun back south, making stops of course for a little more biking, hiking, and fishing along the way.

Let the adventure continue….






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Talkeetna and the Kenai

After leaving the true wilderness of Denali park we took the advice of some locals and decided to check out Talkeetna, a small climbing town located on the south side of the Alaska range at the confluence of the Susitna, Chulitna and Talkeetna Rivers. Talkeetna is an eclectic collection of businesses and people that you can only find at the end of the road in Alaska;  filled with those that sustain themselves on the bustle of summer tourism and the early spring arrival of climbers setting out for Mt. Denali or Mt. Foraker.   Although the climbers had long since departed (climbing season is usually May-June),  there were still plenty of the locals left and we happily stayed up much past our usual bedtime to enjoy the local music scene and drink beer with them in the little local bar where drinks are served in mason jars and local wildlife adorns the walls.

Heading south from Talkeetna we chose the road less traveled and made the climb over Hatcher Pass, a narrow dirt road that wanders into the alpine of the south Talkeetna Mountains.  Fingers crossed for some great wildlife sightings, the purr of the diesel seemingly drove them off again, and we were left with only a distant shot of  a cow moose and her calf hiding out in some small spruce trees far off in the distance from the road.  Although Hatcher Pass was originally built as an access road for the many mines in the area, those mines are now abandoned, and all that is left is the relics of twisted steel and iron doting the mountain sides.  These days the bulk of the pass is only open in the summer for hikers and sightseers, and the southeastern 20 miles is maintained in the winter to allow access for backcountry skiing.

We rolled out of Hatcher Pass through Palmer and onto Anchorage. Anchorage was a bit of a culture shock as we hadn’t seen a traffic light in 3 weeks, let alone city traffic. Needless to say we stocked up on the essentials for van life and quickly headed out of town south toward the Kenai Peninsula. We arrived in the Kenai at the right time, as all of the rivers and creeks were jammed with returning salmon, a spectacle of Mother Nature that really has no equal.  We spent the evening and the following morning catching (and releasing) Dolly Varden trout, a fish which takes advantage of it’s returning salmon brethren by feasting on the very eggs they traveled so far to lay. The Portage Valley in which we chose to camp features several prominent glaciers, and we took advantage of their easy access by climbing to the base of one of it’s most famous ones, the Byron Glacier.  After a few hours tromp from the parking lot we found ourselves shivering in broad daylight under the hot sun as blasts of frozen air whipped around us, emanating from the river of water cascading through the ice cave we had found hidden in it’s side.

With the Alaskan afternoon sun blazing over us we headed toward Seward, where fishing and summer cruise ship arrivals sustain the locals of this small sea-side town. It had been awhile since we had seen the ocean, and with glorious weather before us we decided a water-taxi to one of it’s nearby islands would be the best way for us to spend the next couple of nights. We settled on Fox Island State Park, which was at the outer limits of the inlet and our water taxi budget. The next morning, with the sun high overhead and the beach to ourselves, we spent the day working on our tans and trying to land some on the salmon which continuously taunted us as they jumped just a few feet from shore. With impeccable timing, Alison hooked up with a perfect pink salmon just before dinner.  Although our fishing gear was purchased for Arctic Grayling and Trout (and much of it had already been donated to the sea due to large fish and inexperience),  Alison vowed to bring this one in.  With patience and energy she brought the fish in close, where our hungry eyes marveled at it’s beauty, and perfect dinner-time size. Unfortunately the fish seemed to catch on to our motives at this point, and took off like a sliver streak leaving us with only the sound of the line flying off the reel.  And boy did it run.  At one point, we both started to worry that it was about to hit the end of our supply of 6lb test line, and that would be the end of our dinner as we knew it. Finally though, the fish slowed, allowing Alison to take back some ground and slowly work the fish back to shore. This time there would be no running away, as I quickly waded into the chilly north pacific and tackled our dinner onto the beach. We cleaned it right there on the beach (much to the seagulls’ delight) and proudly walked back to the campsite to prepare what will go down as one of the finest meals we have ever enjoyed together. With full bellies, we build a huge beach fire and watched the sunset and the end of our good weather roll in.













The Tall One, and the Tall One’s Wife

How could we top Tombstone?  Leaving the Yukon last week, it was hard to imagine what we might find in Alaska that could rival the spires and scenery we crossed paths with in our previous wilderness adventure.  Crossing over between the Yukon and Alaska via the Top of the World Highway, we made our way into America’s northernmost state with high expectations of what the state might bring.

It was immediately apparent that just like its southern neighbours, Alaska continues the trend and indeed provides scenery that rivals any of which you may find in British Columbia or the Yukon.  Most of its population has quite happily removed itself from present-day life, and can be found scattered across the vast wilderness that makes up Alaska.  Gold prospecting is still a prevalent life for many in those certain regions, and providing for one’s self through hunting and harvesting is not a recently developed habit of the hipster era, it is a way of life.  While the few major hub cities that dot the state’s landscape may showcase residents in suits and ties during the week, these same residents can be caught fishing the seasonal salmon run on their lunch hour just a few blocks down from the office in the heart of downtown.  Essentially, Alaskans mean business.

So where to first?  The last of our known must-sees, Denali National Park boasts wildlife for days and scenery to boot.  At 20,320ft, Denali (or Deenaalee as it is called by local Athabaskans, roughly translating to ‘The Tall One‘) is North America’s highest peak.  To its side lies Deenaalee-Be’ot (The Tall One’s Wife), or Mount Foraker, at 17,402ft.  Knowing this, it only seemed fitting that we spend some time in the company of these two great peaks.

Let me preclude our park trip by saying this; American National Parks are a bit of a culture shock even to a Canadian who has just a few short weeks ago left the buzz of Banff and Jasper National Parks.  The Americans know how to take a natural attraction, and organize and commercialize the hell out of it.  There is nothing more soul-sucking that leaving the remote wilderness and entering a visitor center for a large National Park.  The tour busses, the RV’s, the motorhomes…..the people. (And that’s not to mean the American people, it’s just the sheer number of people in general).  It can leave one a little daunted and skeptical that any type of wilderness experience may occur on the other side of the park boundary when you are gathered with so large a group of seemingly inept individuals completely content with being herded around like cattle.  Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone fresh off the tour bus?  I dare you.  They could give the walkers on the ‘The Walking Dead’ a run for their money.

Now that I’ve had my chance to rant, however, let me tell you that Denali is 100% my top recommendation of parks to hit up in Alaska. (I know it’s the only one we’ve been to so far, but I don’t see it moving far down on the list even after then next few weeks).  The daunting thing about Denali is that for a short time, you do become one of the cattle.  You have to register to camp (last-minute trip planners beware), and private vehicles are not allowed onto the one road leading into the park.  You must make a reservation to get on one of the operated busses that run into the park (either one that includes a ranger, or a simple hiker/camper bus), and if you are camping in the backcountry you must go through a tutorial video, register with the park service and adhere strictly to their bear policy.

Unless you are one of the aforementioned Alaskans that lives out in the bush and has done so for the past 50 years, I can almost guarantee that you will see more wildlife in Denali National Park than you have seen in your entire life. Hands down. At last count, we stopped counting the number of Caribou we had seen (and groaned whenever the bus actually stopped, again, for another one), moose, countless Dall sheep, over a dozen Ptarmigan, and over ten Brown bears (it was hard to tell which ones were repeats from the day before).  This included a Sow and her two little cubs, which were inevitably, the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

In essence, becoming part of the tourist herd has its perks.  In an effort to keep the park wild, the limitation of vehicle traffic and the control of the travelers to and from the park has allowed Denali’s wild to flourish.  It becomes old news to see another Caribou or Ptarmigan, because they’re everywhere.  And as one bus driver that we had commented, ‘If you don’t see the animal, then it just means you’re not looking hard enough.  Because I can guarantee that there’s a moose, bear, caribou or sheep out there, it’s just a matter of timing and good eyesight.’

And Denali has a great little secret for those that manage to weather the entrance gate storm; once you’re on the bus and in the park, you’re free to go wherever you want.  Because the thing about the American’s National Park mentality is this; Parks are public property, and as such they have no reason or authority to tell you when or where you cannot go.  As a Canadian, who grew up with designated trails and the mentality that you must stick to them, this was overwhelmingly exciting beyond belief.  Jump off the bus wherever your heart fancies, and climb whatever peak suits your eye?  No problem.  Hope you’ve got whatever you need to do it, and have fun.

And so off we would get, and away the bus would go….

It truly made me look at parks in a whole new manner.  Because for the first time, we weren’t looking for the trail.  We were just looking for a trail, or sometimes, no trail at all until we, or something else, had made it for us.  We were free to roam like any other creature of the park, wherever we wanted.

And so we did.  For three nights, we camped at Igloo Creek (only 7 tent sites, but they’re almost always open to book with only one day’s notice.), and each day, we either hiked from our camp site or caught a passing bus until we saw a peak that looked appealing and jumped off to go climb it.  If you’re simply doing day hikes while staying at a designated camp site within the park, you don’t need to register as a backcountry traveler or sit through any VHS-era tutorial, and merely need some basic backcountry smarts about being prepared and traveling in bear country.  Having equally terrible singing voices and some good whistles (thanks John!), Byron and I managed to ensure the bears maintained a two valley gap between us and them at all times.

To top the trip off, which was already going to be hard to do, on day three the skies cleared and we saw what only 30% of visitors to the park get to see; Denali itself.

A recent geological survey found that Denali’s current recorded height of 20,320ft measures the mountain 82ft higher than it actually is. Although once corrected it will be moved from 109th to 110th on the list of the world’s tallest peaks, Denali is a beast to be reckoned with.  It simply dwarfs all other mountains which dress its flanks, and stands to challenge those who seek its lofty summit.  In 2015, 1089 climbers had registered to ascend Denali, and only 601 successfully reached the summit.

We left Denali four days after we first stepped across its park boundaries with hearts and minds brimming with gratitude and happiness. The uninhibited manner in which one is free to wander and explore this great park left us both with a great appreciation for everything it can offer you if you choose to seek it.  With Deenaalee and Deenaalee-Be’ot presiding over us as we did, we couldn’t help but feel right at home.

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Ferry leaving Dawson City taking us across the Yukon River and on to Alaska.


Cairbou along the top of the world highway

















Dall Sheep







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There and Back Again….a Tombstone Story

From Whitehorse we set out in the rain with our packs full and high hopes for better weather.  Although our last night had been spent soaking in the warmth of the Takhini Hotsprings, the rain only dampened our hopes of hiking in better weather as we left the warm waters and headed for Tombstone Territorial Park, located off of the Dempster Highway 100km southeast of Dawson City.

The Dempster Highway is a force to be reckoned with on its own; as Canada’s first all-weather road to cross the Arctic Circle, it runs 671km from the Klondike Highway into the Northwest Territories, eventually connecting to Inuvik at the terminal of the Mackenzie River where it meets the Arctic Ocean.  No traveler crosses onto this dirt highway and makes it to the end without the use of several spares, a few quarts of windshield washer fluid, a clear picture next to the Arctic Circle marker at kilometer 409 (or thereabouts), and high hopes of tundra scenery and wildlife.  Although we embarked with only the latter of the four aforementioned items, our faith was in the Delica that she would get us to km 70 in one piece with blessings of dry weather as we embarked on our four day trek into the Yukon alpine tundra.

Called the ‘Ragged Mountain Land’ by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in tribe whose traditional territory the park encompasses, Tombstone Territorial Park is one of spectacular black granite peaks and open alpine wilderness formed thousands of years ago; it leaves you truly in awe of what time and geology can do to the surface of the earth.

The weather held out as we reached our destination and checked in at the only visitor center present the entire length of the highway.  As a way of keeping account of all backcountry travelers, those which are overnighting at any of the three designated camp sites in the park must check in and confirm their entry to the trails, as well they must confirm their possession of bear spray and ‘bear barrels’, canisters which hold the entirety of a hiker’s delectable smelling food, snacks and bathroom goodies so that they may pass unnoticed from the sensitive noses of those larger carnivores one wishes to avoid in the later hours of the evening.  On Saturday morning we headed off to Grizzly Lake, our first stop on our 3 night, 4 day trek into Tombstone.  While the sun kept us company for most of the day, smoke from a nearby forest fire moved into the valley and blocked our view of the lake for most of the hike.  Unfazed, we persisted to the base of Monolith Mountain and Grizzly Lake where our first night’s camp site awaited us.

A large kudos must be given to the staff of the Yukon Parks system; while they limit the number of backpackers that can stay at each of the three designated sites each night (you are allowed to camp anywhere in the park, albeit without the amenities soon to be mentioned), those three sites are equipped with raised tent pads, a reasonably covered cook shelter, bear bin lockers and outhouses.  As Byron and I arrived at Grizzly Lake, we quickly gained appreciation for the cook shelter too; no sooner had we arrived and set up our tent than the nightly thundershower rolled in and gave us a taste of what we would be in for the next three nights.

There is nothing more spectacular than a wicked lightning and thunderstorm; I have always been a lover of wild weather, and watching the lighting blaze and hearing the thunder crack overhead mere seconds later gave me equal chills and excitement as we stood huddled in the cook tent with the rest of the camp occupants, fully well knowing my attitude would probably be less of wonder and glee and more of misery if I had still been on the trail when the evening storm hit us full on.

After our first night at Grizzly Lake we loaded our sore shoulders with our worldly possessions for the next few days and headed off to Talus Lake, the third and farthest lake in the circuit of three in the designated sites.  We headed off in hopes of a site to ourselves after conferring with several other hikers that we were most likely to be the only ones there that evening.  Many kilometers and even more sore feet later, we arrived, and our hopes were confirmed; we were the only ones who had made the full trek that day and we had Talus Lake, and the striking figure of Tombstone Mountain reigning over the landscape in the distance was all to ourselves.

We arrived early enough in the evening to enjoy the last few sips of Tequila we had packed into our little flask and dream of a warm dry night in our little tent.  A quick look at the horizon surrounding our site quickly put these dreams to bed however; the evening thunderstorm was rolling in, and we quickly decided that although our chosen site was the most picturesque of the lot, it was also the highest point in the surrounding landscape. After relocating to a lower point on the lake shore, we ran for the cook shelter to heat up that evening’s dinner, and watched from our little shelter as the tent withstood the squall that dropped into the valley like a bomb, bringing driving winds, lighting and thunder. The domestic quickly falls dwarf to the wild.

That evening’s storm only turned out to be an opening act for what we were in for that night; as if the Chili Peppers had only just been an opening act for KISS, Byron and I awoke to a storm that night that made you feel like you were in the drums of the thunder gods themselves.  Never in my life have I heard such noise; it echoed off of the walls of granite around us and bounced up and down the valley; each call in the distance brought close in the response by the clouds directly overhead.  It paddled back and forth for what seemed like eternity before trailing off down the valley in search of its next warm blooded victim to keep from a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we woke to peaceful skies but a low cloud ceiling, dashing our hopes of doing some scrambles in the surrounding mountains.  Succumbing to the weather, we packed our (soggy) bags and headed back towards Divide Lake, the second lake in the chain of three which we had continued past on day two in order to reach Talus Lake.  The weather broke as we ventured to camp however, allowing us time to dry our things out and head off for an afternoon hike around the lake, where we happily enjoyed scrambling among the rocks for once without the full weight of our packs on our backs.

Day four saw us packing our bags for the final trek out; the night had passed uneventfully with only a few small sprinkles of rain, and now we had to ready our legs and minds for the 19km hike up and over the pass back to Grizzly Lake and then from there back to the car, dropping the 800m of elevation we had worked so hard to gain three days earlier.

Stymied in our search for sights of a critter larger than the curious marmots that frequently crossed our path, seven hours later we retraced our footsteps back through Tombstone to the Delica, which sat just as we left her four days earlier.  Although we sit in the comfort of a hotel room tonight (treat!), that first night back in the Delica couldn’t rival the best night in a five star hotel anywhere in the globe.  There is nothing comparable to your own bed, pillow, and the comfort of a roof over your head, be it Delica roof or an actual house.  And for now, for this journey, after four spectacular days in Tombstone, we’re pretty happy to have our Delica roof back and continue on this journey in the van we call home.