Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Whaleback Treck a.k.a The 'Cooler' Treck, Yoho National Park

I got recommended this treck from a hitchhiker I picked up. I found it more beautiful than the more popular Jasper and Banff National Parks. The park contains some of the highest peaks in Canada, it has 28 peaks over 3000m.

This is our final camp spot. We originally intended to camp at the site by the parking area, so we brought loads of gear and loaded it onto a handy cart provided by Parks Canada. When we got to the first site it felt too safe and not proper wilderness, so we decided to head to the next camp spot about 4km away. We originally intended to take the cart to the next spot, after 100m we got told by a friendly set of hikers it would be impossible, so we re-hashed our plans. As we were unloading the cart with all essentials and ready to take the cart back to the car park, a set of annoying hikers started giving us shit. Even though I told them we were changing plans they carried on rabbiting on, the most annoying 'perfect' people ever! Because we were initially intending to stay at this easily accessible site we went equipped with luxury items, most had to be left, but some remained, like our steaks and beers. The food was a little smelly, so we decided to keep it in the cooler and not transfer to our packs due to beers. So off we head with this massive cooler on our treck. We finally ended up at a camp spot

The camp spot was amazing, it was by an awesome little stream, the night was cloudless and you could see the stars and galaxies. Tried to stay up late drinking beer but then we got spooked by noises in the forest so headed to the tent. Pretty spooky when you can't see shit, I kept having visions of a beer bounding out of the darkness!

OK.....the cooler was a big pain, on the first section where the track was wide it was fairly easy because we could carry one handle each. Then when the track got steep and narrow it had to be carried solo. I tried to carry it on my back but it was too heavy and I felt like a mule. The treck wasn't the longest I have done but definitely the hardest just because of the damn cooler!

This is twin falls, we hiked to the top of it along a switchback trail, the elevation gain was approximately to the base of the falls is approximately 300m from the parking lot.

Lunch spot at the top of twin falls.

This was just by twin falls, from here we thought we had no more climbing but had about another 70m elevation to get past.

This is the absolute highest spot on the Whaleback Trail, an elevation of 2633m, the elevation gain from the base of twin falls was 350m. This photograph doesn't do the views justice. It was amazing, you could see nearly 360 degrees and too many mountains to count. There were no people from twin falls to the top of Whaleback mountain, which is weird as it was the best section.

The infamous cooler.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Helicopter Tour

Awesome!!!! Got a free 1 hour helicopter tour, one of the perks of my current job. Went and flew around the rocky mountains and over the icefield near where I work. We also landed for about 30minutes and did a small hike while our paying passengers got to eat a picnic.

Glacier flowing from the icefield.

The icefield.

Amys Birthday - Yoho National Park - Iceline Treck

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A Weird but Humbling Thing Happened The Other Week

A weird thing happened today. I was working on the hotel front desk, taking a hotel enquiry over the phone, when I saw in the distance Wim and Petra approaching the hotel front desk. I met Wim and Petra on a rafting trip in Nepal. They are an awesome couple from Holland, they have been cycling round the world for a while now, their blog is linked on my page. I was on the phone, but started laughing and shaking a little bit, it was such a weird emotion to see them again, totally different to when I saw friends and family back home. I always knew I would see people back home again, like you take them for granted. It was also the unexpected. Wims sense of humour was still there, was very humbling.

The story gets even more coincidental. I was telling my work mates back at camp about seeing them both and Emilie told me Mathew met a dutch couple just like I described in Japan. So after chatting to Mathew, we realised that they were the same people, he went up to a nearby campsite to see them.

They have travelled the world and have also decided that Canada may be the country for them to be! They are getting a job in Calgary driving trucks, no better place to do it really. I wish them all the luck in that and maybe I will see them again. They also talked about going travelling again once they obtain residency, it's hard to stop, too much fun and experience to be had.

Wim and Petra - 3rd and 4th Left

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bunac Work Canada - Summary of My Jobs

I thought I would do a quick summary of my jobs and time in Canada. For a country that would take 3 full days of car travel to cross, It would only take 8 hours to drive from my current job to my first location in Fernie. My jobs have been localised to the East Kootney region, B.C. and Jasper National Park, AB. This may seem like I haven't really explored Canada much, which is true, but I have been in one of the most beautiful parts. I have also avoided large towns, which has focused my stay here on nature and outdoor activities. I have lived all my life in towns, so for me, living in remote places has been a new and fun experience.

Fernie, East Kootneys, B.C., Population: 6,200, November 2007 - April 2008
Beautiful small town, worked as a ticket checker at the local ski hill and got a free ski pass. I also sold my soul and worked at Subway!

Skookumchuck,East Kootneys, B.C., Population: 66, April 2008 - July 2008
Tree planting on a small farm, got free board in the form of a caravan. Beautiful remote place.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Population; Staff: 120, Campers etc: 150, August 2008 - October 2008
Got a job working in a National Park on a hotel front desk, my choice of home keeps getting more remote. We have staff accommodation and food provided, so very easy to save money, spend most of my time hiking and camping, absolutely love it. Get other perks, like free tourist tours in Jasper and Banff. Got a free 1 hour helicopter ride the other day, with a 30 minute hike to a waterfall. And people ask me why I would chose to live and work here rather than being an engineer in a city. Nothing is better than mountains!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Animals I have seen in Canada

I thought I would make a list of the animals I have seen in Canada, most of them when living in Skookumchuck:

5 black bears (2 in the wild, 3 at side of the road), 2 moose (one walked 1m from me), 2 owls, 2 beaver, coyote, elk (tonnes!), mountain goat, bighorn sheep, skunk, hoary marmot, turkey vulture (a vulture that looks like a turkey!), woodpecker (massive!), eagles, mule deer, white tailed dear, pine martin, porcupine, ground squirrel, chipmunk, maybe a bobcat (saw a weird creature at night, that moved funny, looked like a large cat and had big reflective cat like eyes).

Thursday, 4 September 2008

My 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

My wheels to get around Canada. The only famous fact I could find about Oldsmobiles, is Jackson Pollock died in one. There was a mouse living in my boot(trunk) for a while, didn't really want to kill him, so let him stay. He seems to have left now, I think I played my music too loud. The engine coolant also leaks into the car, I have set up a funnel and container to collect the drips. I tried to fix it by disconnecting the the heater core, but then massive amounts of steam poured through the air vents which turned the car into a mobile sauna, so I reconnected that and my days as a DIY mechanic were over!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Two Big Black Bear Encounters - Fortress Lake, Hamber National Park, B.C. / Jasper National Park, AB

Fortress Lake Treck. Location: Jasper National Park/Hamber National Park. Distance: 26km (16 miles) one way to the Lake, 52km (32 miles) covered over two days. Total other treckers seen on route: 5 on the way, 3 on the way back and 2 at the camp spot.

I decide to do this treck alone as no one else had the days off work for a 2 day hike. I take my fishing rod and camping gear and head off into the forest along a defined trail. I walk my first 6km with a old guy who is walking to the first lake, then I head on alone. For the rest of the treck I see only 3 people until I finally set up camp with Richard and Craig. There are many signs of bears along the trail; dung, berries, bear tracks. This does spook me a bit as there is always that rare chance of an attack, I am prepared with bear spray (mase) and I have a good knowledge on avoiding bear contact (which I stupidly ignore). Cougars (mountain tigers) especially scare me, they say if you hike in the Rockies often, a cougar has observed you, they also say that if you do get to see a cougar your time is up!

The trail mainly stays within the forest, but does occasionally open up so you can see the beautiful mountains all around the trail. The treck is flat but the distance I have to cover is tough with my backpack.

To get to the lake, you must ford a cold river, with the water level coming to just below your knees. I get to the first camp site at Fortress Lake, but no one is there, but I can see across the way someone is camped on a beach with a fire and tepee. I don't fancy camping alone, so I head to the other camp spot.

This is looking from the first camp spot. You can just see the tepee at the right. This photograph doesn't justify the beauty of the location, my camera died after this shot. The view from my camp spot was far more striking, you could see the mountain that looks like a fortress. Hopefully Richard and Craig will send me on some pictures.

I meet Richard who is very friendly and has a neat camp set up, they have a 6 man tepee tent with a heater inside running on wood, a huge chimney expels the smoke out of the top of tepee. The views from this camp spot are the best I have seen in Canada, in a country that is hard to beat for views. There are varied mountains, with a beautiful lake in the foreground, the mountains have a covering of snow at the top and two glaciers are also visible. (My camera is broken at this point, so I get no snaps at this location). Richard and Craig are here to fish, unfortunately on the half day that I am there, they catch nothing, I catch nothing as well. I only have two blankets and the temperature can get to near freezing, thankfully they let me stay in there tent, but I am still cold but much better off.

Equipment I took: tent, sleeping mat, 2 blankets, bear spray, fillet knife, fishing rod, fishing flies, water container, 2 cans of beans, 2 packets of noodles, 4 cereal bars, small gas stove, small pan, spoon, 2 lighters, dish scourer, camera, 20m rope(to hang food in tree away from bears), maps, head torch(flashlight), 2 t-shirts, trousers, water proof jacket and trousers, 2 more warm jackets for sleeping at night, thermal pants, socks, walking shoes. (forgotten item: can opener)

I have to leave the lake early to get back for my afternoon/evening shift at 3.30pm, I say my good bye's and head off on the trail alone. Meeting good people for brief periods is what I love most about travelling alone. For a quiet person I find it quite easy to approach and chat to people, it is easy in Canada to be friendly!

10km from the lake, I come to a fork in the path, straight ahead is a more defined path or I could take the path to the right that looks less travelled. I seemed to remember coming on the less travelled path on the way and looking at the map it would be the quicker root, so right it is. The journey on the less travelled path started out OK, there were fallen tree's blocking the path and it was very overgrown but manageable. After about 20 minutes I totally lose the path and I am just wandering through forest and walking on the moss, at this point I should have turned back! I eventually find the path again, but there are 6ft sapling trees growing on it and my visibility on the track is very limited, I should definitely have turned back at this point! I bash two rocks together to make sound so as to alert any potential bears further up the track of my presence*. A large owl flies out of a tree ahead, I stare at it for a while, then look back onto the overgrown track. About 120m ahead there is a black bear poking its head above the trees and staring at me, it must be at least 7 feet tall, I have a massive rush of fear. Its ears are standing up on end like a dog wanting a treat, I don't want to be the treat so I back up 3 steps, it is still looking at me, so I head down into the forest to intersect the more defined path, I quickly come to the correct path and I feel relived but shaken. Just 30 minutes later I am walking along the more defined path, making noise, when a bear walks out onto the track from the forest and stops on the track about 150m ahead, I say 'oooohhh fucking hell' and my heart sinks, he stares at me for 2 seconds and then runs into the Forest. He filled the whole track, probably slightly longer than the width of a large car. I wait for 2 minutes then head up the path to where the bear was. I have no choice but to carry on along the path as I don't want to enter the dense forest to the left, I am reassured by the fact that it was on its own and was scared of me. I get out my bear spray (mase for bears) and keep it ready to fire, my heart is racing at 100mph, I look into the forest where I last saw the bear but it is long gone. I want to be away from this trail at that moment, 'Beem me up Scotty!'. The sight of the bear on the track was an awesome one, really beautiful to see this big black mass suddenly appear, stare at me and then disappear just as quick, it felt good to see one in the wild but I hope not to again! I noted how differently the two bears acted when they saw me, one was scared and ran, which is common, but the other one just stared at me!. Because the first bear seemed unafraid I had to leave the area, without running. The lack of vision on the track was also bad, if he did decide to leave the trail or run at me, I Wouldn't have been able to see which way he went, the lack of vision could also have spooked and provoked him.

I see a variety of animal prints along the way which is interesting. On another treck I saw either a bobcat or a lynx. I love been observant on trails and finding evidence of animals.

This is a fore paw from a Grey Wolf. This could also be a dog, but based on the size and location I would guess at a Wolf, I wish I had taken a ruler so as to be more sure. We have an animal tracks book at work, this track is also very similar to a Coyote and Grey Fox, both of which are a lot smaller, with a different shaped back pad, the claw imprints are also different. There were at least two different Wolf prints at this location, one set slightly smaller than the other. Wolfs are definitely misunderstood, not the man eaters people think!.

This is the left fore paw of a Black Bear. I Wish I had put something next to it to show the size.

*Some bear information: It is unlikely that a bear will attack you unless it is startled, hence why you make a lot of noise when trecking and also stick to clear paths (like I did not!). They can become less weary of humans and become more bold and enter towns, etc. It has been known for bears to eat people when hungry but this is rare. Grizzly bears are the most unpredictable, especially if they have young or you enter their habitat, hence why it is also important that people stick to defined trails. You should also never run! Check out www.pc.gc.ca for more accurate detailed bear info.

Check out this video from Youtube: