Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007 has come and gone for us here in Tonsai. The fake Christmas trees have been taken down and all the fireowrks have been exploded. And hopefully the Pha Nang penninsula will start clearing out. The last few weeks had by far been the busiests and Tonsai takes on a european feel, as the Thais are severly outnumbered by climbers and tourists. Last night (as the Americans were just waking up to New Year's eve) we went down to the beach. It was essentially a club in the sand with DJs and fireworks and buckets of beverages. I spent Christamas and other days real sick and not leaving the house so it was fun to be back out on the beach again watching the rice paper laterns and Western New Years revelry mix into the already ecclectic mix of Tonsai evenings.

Climbing has been teasing both Michelle and I. After a successful onsight of 4 pitch Humanality 6b+ just days before Christmas (and Michelle leading a series of technical 6as) I was ready to step up any a longer list of steep limestone pocket routes. Christamas eve though began 5 days of mystery Thai sickness that is taking time to recover from. The only benefit is the weight I lost is translating to feeling a little lighter on the crag, but almost a week off from climbing has definently taken some wind out of our sails. The last few days we warmed back up to the idea of pulling on tropical stone with amazing routes at the far right of Thaiwand wall and steep and crimpy routes in the shade of the deep jungle at Wee's Present Wall. The prominent peak at the penninsula's end, Thaiwand, beckons to be climbed again and again - higher and by many varying cool routes. Dangling above the sea one is always reminded just how fun climbing is!

more photos soon: limited internet here in the land cliffs and rain

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Tonsai climbing update
Michelle gets after it

After our visa-renew, adventure roadtrip to Malaysia through southern Thailand the rustic bungalows of westernized Tonsai were a happy and one-of-a-kind place to return to. It felt awkward returning the steep limestone cliffs after a week of not climbing but after a day Michelle and I were climbing apon the laurels of or previous month of steep pocket training. The climbing in Tonsai is indeed like none other and nothing but climbing itself can prepare one for both the mental and physical stamina required to get up dramatically overhanging routes. Even routes rated 6a or 6b (5.9-10b) are steep and demand muscle, good footwork, and a head for air beneath the feet.

Most climbers who have investiagted a trip to thailand know of the ongoing bolt problems here. Basically every kind of protection bolts used for rock climbing across the world fails here within a few years. Stainless stee, the obvious and standard choice for bolts worldwide breaks down abnormally fast thanks to a combination of intense sun, heat, salt water, and chemicals present in this particular limestone (some folks are saying chlorine gas, but I know too little of chemistry to understand the further complexities). What it comes down to is that anything that isn't new or rebolted is dangerous. For the last few years route builders here have been exploring many option for bolting and now all new bolts are titanium stables or bolts glue-in with super-epoxy - these work, but not without a cost.. Thousands of dollars have gone into equipping the routes here in tonsia, few passing tourists/ climbers recognize this. A few handful of devoted climbers put Tonsai on the climbing map, and many folks (including multinational development companies) are reaping the benefits.

We have been lucky to meet a collection of these Tonsai climbers. Our neighbors, lucky for us, are retroboltng routes daily, and then passing the bolting information on in the evenings. The result: we climb routes that have been lost to obscurity for a few years that are now equiped with titanium bolts just days old - a treat. Add oustanding views, technical and steep climbing on sometimes sharp sometimes flawlessly smooth limestone, cave features, open jungle and ocean below, and you've got a recipe for outstanding rock climbing.

There are always areas to explore. We hike through the jungle, traverse across ledges, wade across sand spits at low tide to reach islands in search of new crags. We are always rewarded with clean climbing in outstanding positions, and are continually challenged by the heat, bugs, and sheer steepness of Tonsai rock. These challenges, after a month, have indeed made us stonger. Michelle is leading 10s high above the ground and looking strong, I am feeling more comfortable than ever on very overhanging ground. Each day we return to our buggy and slighty ghetto bungalow and are happy with our increasing strength and confidence apon jungle stone. The areas come with telling names as well: Hidden World, Cobra Wall, Jungle Gym, Fire Wall, Monkey World, The Nest, and Wild Kingdom. We are truely climbing in a new land.

In the pictures: Michelle leans back from the third anchor of The Wave 6b/10c (5 pitches). Thaiwand wall is across the bay and Tonsai beach is below. Michelle lead the 6b crux pitch and I the rest on this outstanding moderate 100 meter route. Also pictured: approaching most crags means walking across sunny beaches and a few steps up through the jungle; Thaiwand wall (which the guidebook calls tropical alpine climbing) through a regular afternoon thunderstorm.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Road trip completed
Don't let anybody tell you you can't drive in Asia

After and short week Michelle and I have made it back to AoNang intact and happy. Unexpectedly we travelled 1500 km all the way through southern Thailand, down into Malaysia to georgetown, and then back up again. Every minute was nothing short of exciting. We stayed in a different random bungalow or hotel each night except for in Panang where we just could leave the wonderfully clean and handy SD guesthouse on Love Lane. though we didn't plan it while in Panang we were able to secure a 60 day thai visitor visa so we won't be held to anymore dates of departure and can stay in the country until our flight Feb 11.

The lands of thailand (formerly known as Siam) are diverse and mostly wild. We saw many waterfalls pouring over limestone cliffs and met many friendly locals, with which we could not converse with but who were nonetheless happy to drink ad eat with us and laugh. the kids here are especially interested in us,as they know basic English, are sometimes the most fun for us to hang out with. In Satun we stumbled across an amazing terranced waterfall liek a mix of Yellowstone and niagra and we jumped from cliffs and swam with many local kids while the dad's rolled us Thai cigarettes in their primitive bamboo papers. They feed us for what is less that a US dollar and we shared the beers we had bought.

The roads weave through limetsone towers and along mangrove swamps. there are some 4-lane highways but the second lane is used for thais most common transport: the vespa. These 120-200 cc motorbikes are everywhere here. We have seen up to 5 school kids riding one home from school. We have also seen entire Muslim families weaving through rush hour traffic with the women sitting sidesaddle holding an infant. The Thais are truely industrius and many laws like seat belts and helmets that out governments impose apon us to keep us 'safe' haven't quite caught on in Thailand.

Ao Nong feels welcoming and homely now we are back. This afternoon we will hop the usual longtail taxi back around the penninsula to Tonsai and hopefully move back in to our very comfortable stilted bungalor called Countryside. Tonsai is exciting to retuurn to though we now know how inflated theprices are there, after so much time psent in touristless Thailand. We keep reminding ourselves we are paying still so much less than anything comparable in the US and that beachside, climbing side paradise is a hot commodity where one may be in the world.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

!Road construction!

Not to worry, this bridge is just the temporary until the new concrete one (seen to the right) replaces it.

In this region of Trang, Thailand road construction was the norm, though warning signs, orange cones, and flaggers are nowhere to be found. This area was undoubtedly affected by the tsunami in December 2004 and many on these bridges and coastal roads are being rebuilt by a handful of Thai guys wearing flipflops.

Culture shocked
out of our culture shock
Southern Thailand's remote hill towns to unexpected Malaysia big city

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Krabi, Thailand is far to the north now. We have made it many kilometers to the south and successfully entered Malaysia on our climbing/cultural/visa renewal roadtrip. Call us Americans, but once again the automobile has proved one of the finest ways to explore the countryside. Driving is starting to feel normal - right-hand drive, suicidal bus drivers, goats sleeping in the fast lane, a 10:1 ratio of vespas to cars, chickens, thai letters on street signs, pot holes, wooden bridges, - despite the occasional twists ands u-turns we must make to find our way.

We had planned to enerted Malaysia and climb just over the border at a small park. After chasing a flying squirrel out of one of the holds, bushwacking through the jungle, being unable to pay to enter with local currency, walking a bizarre hanging bridge through a cave and raging dark river, and blistering hot and humid temps we were able to make it up one 5.10b on grungy jungle limestone. Without a village near the park and without Malaysian ringlet we had to travel further to Kandar to find a bank, gas, and food. We stayed in out first hotel (50 ringlet) and ate out first bread and cheese in a long time (Pizza Hut).. Malaysia was an unexpected change (very developed and quite English) and so we were tempted further south into the country today searching for both granite cliffs and a little longer taste of things familiar.

We found it on Pedang island. High rise hotels, English pubs, wedged in between chinesse food stall and kebab stands. Driving was the most intense today and I think both Michelle and I are still trying to relax from the 4 lane changes across 100 motorbikes at interstate speeds without a single vehicle using a signal. Downtown was even more intense and the only savior was the AC in our Suzuki - a luxury as temps are well over a 100F, 36C.

In search of a small climbing area and 'the oldest rainforest in Malaysia' tomorrow. then a more direct route back to the north and Tonsai. Wishing you all well... i and m

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The roadtrip begins -

To think... just yesterday we were daggling above the sea climbing a limestone tower and belaying from a longtail boat. Today we are careening around corners amongst mopeds and trucks in the rurals roads of Southern thailand..
Notice in the pictures Michelle is waving from the left side of the car. The Sporty is righthand drive and a 5-speed - two days and I'm finally driving on teh right (or left) side of the road!
Tonsia - Home sweet home

Stage One of our Thailand journey has concluded. We spent almost a month in the perfect international climbing village on Tonsai, Krabi. We climbed over the sea and the in the middle of the jungle. We faught heat and bugs and sharp yet slippery approaches and waded through the sea and talked our twisted stomachs into many a climbing day.

Evenings in Tonsai are beyond relaxing, since every bar in town lays blankets in the sand that are overtaken b y the incoming evening tide. Music is everywhere, fire spinning, BBQs and, Beer Chang are the norm.

Since tourist visas in thailand are only issued for 30 days we are now in the middle of a weeklong roadtrip to Malaysia to get the ever important border stamp before returning to Tonsai for atleast another month. Our adventure in Southern Thailand is thusfar been a cultural expereince and we see things around every corner that is like nothing else we have ever seen before. Driving is quite eventful. Though we a discovering the vibe and comfort of our Tonsai hom eis unmatched and we look forward to returning to Krabi.

The days are constantly busy here even though everyting seems to move very slowly around us. Sometimes the hardest parts of our day is finding something to eat that we can make out what is in it. Communicating is always a challenge and sometimes its just easier to find another eatery than continue to struggle to pick something off the menu. So, admittedly we are limited to businesses that present info in western script - thai characters are nothing but pretty calligraphy to us.

The journey continues and we will surely put up some pictures from our roadtrip with the 2 seater Suzuki Sporty 4WD. Til then -

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thailand Living...

Whether it's riding around the city on a motorbike or treading through water with packs over your head to go climbing or drifting on a longtail canoe...everyday is an adventure here in Thailand.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Happy Halloween


We're outta here

Tomorrow, Monday, we leave California and our amazing NAL season behind and make our way to Thailand. We will fly all the way to Krabi, were we will then make a bee-line for the ferry docks. We will board a longtail boat headed for Tonsai. Tonsai will be home for the next three months. We may take some sidetrips, but the plan is to take a break from all our driving and endless miles earned during the fall and just be somewhere. It sounds too good to be true: cheap everything, sandy beaches, tropical snorkeling, and rock towers looming above it all. Paradise? We hope so. We'll let you know...
~til then,
Ian and Michelle

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Trading the mountains
for the ocean

Life continues in Ventura. It is like never left the refuge of the commercial warehouse I call home each fall. The southern coast of California is now being bathed in the warmest water of the season. Since there are no rocks to be climbed near coastal Ventura I gave in and bought a wet suit. Kindly Naturalists at Large loaned out their boogie boards and Michelle and I headed to the beach. During the relaxing week of NAL PC meetings we couldn't help to give in to the California vibe and relax on the sand.

Don't think it's all fun and games down here in Ventura. The fall season of NAL is looking huge and I've spent my fair share of time in the office prepping for some massive trips I'll be program coordinating. This weekend I head out to Catalina Island for a treat of a trip. I'm sure to send in a lengthy report from the mythical islands next week. Til then-

Sunday, August 20, 2006

If 'home is where you park it,'

then home is Bend right now. Even as the wall of my former converted garage/basecamp comes down I am reminded that Bend is still my hometown. The simple things, like knowing the roads and the TV anchormen, make Bend a more familiar place. Yet, memories and images of other 'homes' are bound to come to mind. It is indeed hard to settle into one place when one is regularly comparing the place you've been to the place you are at now. I'm sure teachers of many great cultures have parables to warn against such things. For now I'll disregard the mythos, and happily live in the past.

I went back to these pictures because I remembered the moment more than the picture taking. It was very early in the North Cascades on a shelf above Wing Lake. I think it was the orange hue that woke me up, but immediately I turned to see the sun's crescent illuminating the rugged range to the north. I was up and out of the tent. I watched as simultaneously the clouds curled from the west into the valley below and the sun crepted to is full orb. The sun was full, big, and deep red and the valley writhed with clouds that had came from nowhere. We had camped here for two days now and were accustomed to the endless beautiful views and lighting, but this was something outstanding. I woke Michelle up. Her dismay slowly warmed in t o gratitude as the show went on.

I took some pictures. We walk out to the point for an even more unobstructed view. The dance between the outrageously red sun and the ethereal morning clouds continued. We stayed up to watch but quickly fell asleep as the red turned to gold, and eyes had to again squint against the brightness. The warmth was welcomed to keep back the chilly alpine morning. Home felt more comfortable than ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Well friends, summers just about coming to and end for me. I can't say that the deserts of SoCal are 'calling me,' but my contract with Naturalists-At-Large sure is. The summer climbing and hiking adventures in the North Cascades are still fresh in my mind as I compute away here in Bend. Driving over from Portland, past Mount Hood, the Oregon mountains seemed more dry than usual - but I have yet to pin that on climate or my mind's immersion in the lush, glacial, and wild northerner regions of the range. The North Cascades are (obviously) nothing like those of my hometown Central Oregon volcanoes. It was great to see again, the stratavolcanoes, alone on the horizon, not fighting for space amongst the other mountains of the land

The last big adventure - besides the incredible four night Summer Meltdown Music Festival last weekend - was Michelle and I's one-day ascent of Mount Kangaroo Temple.

For my climbing geek friends: we climbed the Northwest face which is, according to Beckey who made the first ascent in 1946, Grade II, 5.7. What was novel about our climb is that we approached via the Twisp River trail rather than via Washington Pass. It made for a long day, but meant great trailhead
camping and some fun and beautiful off-trail travel through Kangaroo Basin. After about 14 hours of climbing, hiking, and scrambling we return to our camp. The climbing was really fun, though the Beckey topo was pretty useless (though the written description was helpful). I lead the route in three steep 5.7 pitches and shortroped (unnessecarily) the last couple hundred feet.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wing Lake Welcomes Us but Black Peak Turns Us Back

Ahhh...the North Cascades. I can hardly believe over a week has gone by since Michelle and I started our post-summer-work mountain adventure. Eight days in the expansive rugged range has gone by since we left Bellingham for the mountainside towns of Marblemount, Winthrop, and Twisp. I launched into the North Cascade National Park before that still and one thing is certain – only a tip of the iceberg that is the North Cascade mountains has been revealed. The mountains are big, the rivers and roads are long, and the small towns friendly and diverse. It's tough work investigating the intricacies of the one of the wildest region of the U.S. - but here's what we have so far.

Bellingham is always a welcome resupply stop. For the North Cascades adventurer it is perfect port of entry. Prices are always right in Bellingham. There is, without question, something happening the night your in town. And while its not considered 'on the way' it feels as if there is always reason to go there. So, keeping NW Washington tradition, we left B-ham early last week with full food bags, full tummies, and sleepy eyes leftover from the evening revelry.

Next stop: Marblemount – the true portal to the north North Cascades. Here you'll find the best map selection of any Ranger Station on the west coast, essential permits, and last-minute country stores and eateries. But our sights were set high and we lingered only briefly in the lowlands before beginning the climb up Highway 20 towards Washington Pass. We drove past Diablo Lake and countless trailheads, past Mount Colonial and into the mountain hemlock, to the top of the pass and a busy parking area. The trail to Lake Ann, Heather Pass and, our objective, Black Peak, waited.

I would love to go into endless details about our approach to Black Peak. But I must resort to age-old tactics for description: over 2,000 feet of elevation, 5 miles, off-trail boulder fields (Michelle now knows the definition of scree), and, since we started at 2, walking higher into the evening. The reward: wild and deserted camping at alpine and icy Wing Lake. The small tarn at the base of Black Peak's East Face tenuously hangs above the valley and has open views far into the sub-range to the north. This is qualifies (in my book) as one of the most outstanding places to pitch a tent in N. America. What's more is that classic and massive Black Peak looms above – the two most common climbing routes (the N. and S. ridge) outlined in every color of sky as the day progresses to night.

The next morning we were anxious to climb higher onto the peak. We were equipment for rock climbing only (i.e. no ice axes or crampons for snow) so we opted for the S. Ridge which appeared to possibly have a rocky sneak around to reach the rocky and snow-free ridgeline. We climbed for an hour or two, leaving the lake behind, and welcoming the closer views of the East Butresses and South col. We climbed high into a gully along a steep snowfield and stopped short of the crest as the rock quality decreased. Note: poor rock quality is the climber's way of saying ' shit was falling down all around me and everything I touched pretty much just broke off.' After attempting a couple of different lines and backing down for lack of sound anchors we, disheartened, reverse the loose slopes and returned to splendid Wing Lake. The day would have been long yet there is always something to do in the alpine and we occupied our afternoon traigulating and naming the peaks to our north and hiking to various viewpoints. The weather was outstanding, the scenery surreal – we were merely observers of the mountain land all about us.

While we didn't summit Black Peak, two nights at Wing Lake and three days of alpine travel with climbing and backpacking gear wore us out. A rest day was in order. Marblemount and Rockport provided food and showers; Bellingham friends led us to a keg party in the back of a barn full of locals, Park employees and alpine climbers. The weekend was apon us and tourists came out of the woodwork, so we headed back over the pass bound for the east side and the low-use (not quite deserted, but nearly so) Twisp River valley. More about our adventures to Kangaroo Temple to come.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Amongst the Peaks
and Streams and,
errr.... clearcuts

These last weeks I have found myself either busily planning for a trip or waiting patiently for a partner to come about. After Michelle returned to Seymour to finish off one more week of driving and logistical adventures I found myself once again weaving through Seattle traffic on a missionless return to the north. After nearly running out of gas amongst the bumper to bumper I decided I needed a plan. So I exited to th U District and found the perfect burger place with wireless internet. Its amazing how a few google searches can add clarity to an otherwise foggy day. It wasn't long before I was arching northeast towards the town of Index and the swimming holes of the Skykomish River.

After a few circles and a stop by the Ranger Station (which was no help) I found the finest of local swimming holes about 5 miles east of the deli at Index. Eagle Falls is top notch. Endless cliff jumps and the deepest pools yet, amazingly fun bouldering traverses high above the water, a rope swing, and water worn rock pools that form lounge chairs of all dimensions. Friendly locals directed me to the climbers camp at the base of the Index town wall. That evening I found more swimming – with Mount Index and Persis towering above.

After dinner I quickly delved into the guidebooks and maps in search of route information for the peaks that stood before me. Index's steep north walls would require rock climbing and a partner – the easier routes from the west looked brushy and long. I set my sights on a relatively easy and straightforward ascent of Persis via the West Ridge. I planned to beat the heat and get an early start.

In the morning I inventoried my snacks and found a stop at the Index general store a necessity – I waited until they opened. Armed with two guidebooks and a Forest Service map I expected no difficulties in route finding. Two hours later, after a hike up an abandoned logging road, 4-wheeling through clearcuts, and returning to the main road to reset my odometer I parked at the slight pulloff indicating the West Ridge trail. I hiked straight up through brushy clearcuts and tree farms in midday heat. Seems to be my standard story for approaches these days. All the while the hum of harvesting machinery and the beeps of loaders sounded from below. The patchwork of treeless swaths and access roads became sickly apparent as I climbed up onto the flanks of Persis. The valley below me, intermixed Forest Service and Weyhauser land, looked strained and denuded – resource extraction from the tallest ridges to the lowest basins superimposed an unnatural and angular infrastructure on the land. I climbed steeply, hoping to the leave the noise and emptyness behind.

I gained a ridge and tall timber. I came across two small lakes after 2500 feet of ascending in less that two miles. After the lakes the trail was distinctly alpine in nature. As I made my way across talus and heather towards the summit clouds began to swirl up to me from below and Mount Index began to show its mighty buttresses and gullies. From the summit of Persis an impressive view of Mount Index is gained – one I will not soon forget.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Records Temps &
Washington Swimming

or Blue Eyes, Blue Pools

The rivers of Washington flowed with added allure this weekend. As Seattlites struggled through traffic and record heat Michelle and I escaped to the forks of the Snoqualmie River. I shared briefly in the traffic of the weekenders as I made my way from Bellingham to the Key Peninsula and back out across Tacoma towards the pass. I still forget that driving is a requirement for getting out. I-5 is a humble reminder to those of us Northwesters that are still under the false impression that traffic jams are confined to Southern California. I can assure you they are not. There is, up north, a strong urge to escape the city when the time comes. The traffic is reminder that I am not the only one yearning to swim in an undammed river or climb above the smog and clearcuts into the untouched alpine. Cars and roads take us there - so we drive.

Struggling through traffic in western Washington may come with extravagant rewards – services that are not found 30 minutes from comparable southern cities. The magical high Cascades give forth year round snow melt. These summer snowfields, guarded deep within range, fill the endless rivers and stream. Deep pools, cliff jumps, swimmable rapids, and ample flat rocks turn any hot summer day into a blissful and refreshing swim day.

Besides infinite swimming holes, the I-90 corridor also offers a few rock climbing destinations. We guessed our way to Mount Si and were rewarded with two clean and fun sport routes before the heat chased us back to the river. Sunday morning's breakfast, with my sister Alyson and Bill, took us well into the heat of the day. Easy decision: skip climbing, straight to the next deep blue pool. We guessed that this summer Sunday, with the sun high and hot in the sky, was the busiest day of the season for the deep pool we lounged beside.

Add a few random forest roads and scouting for future scary adventures (note Mount Garfield below - Beckey's guide book calls the routes on this peak 'masochisitic and serious endevours'). The forest is still welcoming the continuous stream of visitors. For thoughs of us used to having it all to ourselves it is weekends like these that remind us to share.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Liberty Bell and South Early Winter Spire
Mountain climbing in the Subaru's backyard

My Cascades adventure has begun. The weather in northwestern Washington is nothing short of perfect, the Subaru is running well, and I have gear for just about anything. At the beginning of last week I started with an attempt of Sahale Peak. I went to sleep under crystal clear skies only to wake up to clouds boiling up from the valleys below. After 4 miles and much elevation gain I was deep in the clouds. Visibility was poor and I abandoned my climbing mission and turned to naturalizing amongst the boulders and alpine trees of Cascades Pass. Heather and columbine mixed with many other flowering high elevation gems to form a mat of distinct color and texture. The dense fog only added to the effect and I found myself saying 'now this is the Cascades.' I ambled slowly back down to the trailhead, finding a huge marmot along the way, and taking pictures of plants I didn't know off hand to reference later.

Back in Bellingham I started the partner search for something a bit more adventurous. Luckily my good friend Anitra had put me in touch we her roommate and alpine partner, Misty. We made plans for the classic 'alpine cragging' zone of Washington Pass. Fortunately for me Misty was excited to get on the same routes I had my eye on – the weather was shaping up.

Two days, two great peaks. Liberty Bell via the classic Beckey Route, and then South Early Winter Spire via the Southwest Rib. Both of these routes were on great granite with outstanding views and fun climbing. The first day we used a double rope technique I've been excited to refine. On day two, citing the 400 foot knot we untangled the previous day Misty convinced me to return to the traditional one rope for the spire. We climbed fast and had fun and beat the heat. This area has immediately beacem one of my favorite climbing areas and I can't wait to get back up there – though Misty claims she's had her fill of the meadering Blue Lake trail for the year.

Photos: Fog at Cascade Pass, Early Winter Spires, Columbine, me with way too much rope for the route, & Misty showing off our secret weapon (a 4.5inch cam used for the dreaded bear hug off-width pitch; which she led - well).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The adventure continues up north

Canada is always a treat

Home is Bellingham today – and I couldn't be happier about it. Last night the sun went down late behind colorful clouds that hung over the bay. Downtown seemed to be lit by crisp and orange spotlights. I was happy to friend my good friend Ryan bartending at the Calalloo and happily drank the tall mojitos he muddled in front of me. After my intense two week trip in British Columbia I couldn't pick a better place to catch up with the finer things in life and enjoy a few days without being a leader.

Lots of notable things happened on my BC trip with LongAcre Expeditions. We backpacked through much more snow than expected, we skiied in blasting summer sun on a disappearing glacier served by roped tows at Blackcomb, the kids ripped apart some really hard routes at Squamish (this may have been the hardest things I've ever seen beginning students climb, were talkin' 5.11 slabs here), and we weaved through the normal nasty traffic of Vancouver to make the ferry to Galiano Island. From Galiano we traveled by sea kayak to a handful of islands around Wallace Island.

Sea kayaking, for me, was great (I guess the kids had fun too). I peppered our experienced guide with endless questions about currents and winds and rescues and paddling techniques. Sea kayaking is fairly new to me and I wanted to meld my knowledge of map reading and canoeing etc. into a new skill set for expedition kayaking. After a few days with Mark I think I've got it and am looking at a personal trip in early August. It felt great to be a neophyte at a new outdoor en devour. Plus: sea kayaks can hold just about anything and I'm dreaming of all the yummy food and field guides and toys that can be loaded into one. We're still looking for some fellow adventurers for the Vancouver Island sea kayak mission. August 1.

The pictures from this trip were few and far between. I find I don't take as many pictures when leading. Something about having kids in tow and just not focusing on capturing the moment on film. Also, it may have something to do with the large group – everybody's always snapping pictures so I feel less inclined to take some for my self. Nonetheless, The frozen glacial lake in Garabaldi Provincial Park was some of the most scenic countryside I've seen in a while. The bald eagle we came across while sea kayaking was almost a little too comfortable with us being there – I think I was actually scared when my boat continued drifting in closer and I had little I could do since I had brought my paddle parallel to the boat so as not to spook him. I sat there, uncomfortably close, waiting for the wind to puff my boat back into open water. I adjusted my rudder with the foot pedals ever so slowly and was able to turn nose in to shore so as to not pull up directly alongside. The nose of my polymer boat bumped the barnacles on the shore, the eagle stared directly at me. It seemed like an eternity before the boat began to slide back and away from shore – I dropped the camera in my lap and sheepishly backpaddled with my hands. The sea kayak is indeed the perfect wildlife viewing machine.

The summer continues with another backpacking trip up north – and then play play play. Keep in touch all!