Thursday, August 27, 2009

Return to Canada Part 5: Bluegrass Breakfast!

C&B took us to this fantastic little place for Sunday brunch called the Dakota Tavern. From 11-3 it's "family-style" brunch with eggs, sausage, potatoes, coffee, orange juice, blueberry pancakes, and live bluegrass music! It was an absolutely genius move by C&B to share this spot with us, thanks guys!

The Saturday Saints were awesome, but alas, no CDs, no website, no nothing. So - you'll just have to see when/where they're up next in Toronto... maybe at the Dakota Tavern?

Return to Canada Part 4: Many Visits

It all began with some gardening in Waterloo with Hez. Or should I say, finding the garden amongst the zucchini jungle. I still think we could have built a log cabin out of them...

A reunion of sorts - it's funny reconnecting with someone whose blog you follow so regularly it hardly feels like you'd never actually met the 2 kids they'd had in the 4 years since you last hung out... But great conversation was had, alongside delicious grilled peaches and mojitos, and it just means that the next time can't wait another 4 years!

Then, after the wedding, it was time to garden with KM and J-Smooth at their new place in Toronto (and in a traffic calming zone). I was remiss in taking photos, but I guess that's tricky when you're covered in dirt from planting trees...

The lawn-free backyard, I dig it!

cute sign

Finally, after BEG & I returned from Newfoundland, I found myself in Toronto once again. This time for a reunion with long time Barrie friends, and where better to start than a micro brewery?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Return to Canada Part 3: Long Range Traverse (Newfoundland)

After completing the Green Gardens adventure, we first had a night of black fly molestation in camp at Lomond, then had a busy day during which the search for camp fuel continued (success finally in Rocky Harbour), returning the rental car to the airport, going through our Long Range Traverse "orientation" (which was really a map and compass test), and finally setting up camp at Green Point that night. We ate our delicious dinner (Natural High's Honey Lime Chicken ****) by the ocean, well, the Gulf of St Lawrence, and were amazed by how vast the horizon appeared considering how thin of a strip of water there was between us and the mainland.

Bright and early the next morning we ate our breakfast on the beach again, then packed up to catch our taxi up to the hike to the Western Brook Pond (a land-locked fjord) boat ride. On the boat we met a couple of other hikers who were to do the Traverse, and also heard of a troupe of boy scouts who had reportedly gotten somewhat lost on their first leg of the same expedition.

steep fjord edges of Western Brook Pond - with the uplift of the land post ice-age, the terminal moraines uplifted too and cut off the fjords from the ocean

Once we got off the boat at the eastern edge of the land-locked fjord, we had a brief bout of trail-following that lead us into some immensely tall weeds:

you can see BEG's backpack lid peering up through the weeds in front of me (sort of)

Not too much farther along we began following the creek bed and gradually ascended the 600m incline through bushwhacking, tree-swinging (yes, literally), rock climbing, and wild blueberry eating. In fact, it was through all these distractions that we were able to pop out on top without having been too distraught over the lack of trail or the flies, or really thinking about getting particularly lost on the way...


voila! atop and looking down from whence we came! a terrific reward it was, especially when we coupled it with some lunch...

the climb above the treeline was significantly more difficult it seemed, likely due to the lack of trees hindering our progress (just straight up granite gneiss here)... here's the last view of the fjord before we headed into tundra

Beyond the fjord climb, we began navigating bog and marshland dotted with irregularly shaped lakes - all the better for map reading with! We saw barely a cloud in the sky, and progress was good. There were frequent trails, which we followed with caution, and eventually - about an hour and a half before reaching camp, we met our first moose on one of them.

beginning of the bog-slog, and a beautiful view

BEG approaches Leonardo the one-antlered moose on one of the trails we encountered

We decided to name our first moose because he had only one antler and we felt like he must have been some kind of sorrowful reject moose. Then he pooped in front of us.

Eventually we made it to our planned destination of Mark's Pond only to find the place over run with the mythical lost boy scouts. We ate a buggy Backpacker's Pantry Pesto Pasta with Salmon for dinner and Ritter Sport in the tent for dessert. A game or two of cribbage and we called it a night with the following reports (in the field of awesomeness):
  • successful navigation up densely forested valley while eating blueberries (check)
  • doing so faster than everyone else heading up the valley that day (check)
  • getting called hard core by the young couple who caught up to us just as we were finishing our lunch break (check)
  • showing up at the boy scout camp and being accused of making amazing time as well as appearing "fresh and chipper" by a boy scout leader (check)
On the second day of our traverse we started shortly before the boy scouts and vetoed the mysterious trails for a cross-country map and compass route - success! We made our way easily to the next camp site, our hearty lunch spot, splashed around in the pond for a little while, and just as the wind and clouds came rolling in began the next leg of our day. We drifted between trailblazing with map and compass and following random trails. The trek often felt like a slog, a bog-slog in fact, but we ate the odd cloudberry (yuck) and blueberry (yum) and just after completing the 2nd of 3 hills, we caught up with the 2nd boy scout troupe. They had of course left two days before us, and were motivational by complimenting us on our excellent progress. From there we set off on the 3rd and final hill of the day, coupled with caribou, and made it into camp (passing a moose mama and baby) along with our first downpour.

caribou. dead center. for real

Of course in our zeal with the wildlife, and trying to eat the blueberries, and making a beeline for camp, we were somewhat damped by the sogginess and found ourselves among tuckamore (where you don't want to be) and on a steep-enough hillside that we had to start considering our haste at the end of the day... During a rain intermission we ate a dinner of Mountain House Teriaki Chicken with Rice followed by Backpacker's Pantry Cheesecake with freeze-dried strawberries on top. A divine conclusion to the day!

Unfortunately the night was remarkably cold and damp - brrrr - which resulted in a buggy morning and our first morning of 2 cups of coffee to shake the cold. We had a wettish departure from there with all kinds of things hanging off our packs to dry in the 98% humidity day.

me, eating my way along the trail of blueberries, as usual

With some map and compass traversing we made our way to a spectacular view of 10 mile pond, another land-locked fjord, and a great place to hunt for a breeze and have a quick snack.

BEG at 10 Mile Pond, Gros Morne Mountain to the left

Beyond 10 mile pond we had a view of Gros Morne Mountain, our destination, but it was difficult to keep in sight over the rolling topography and overcast skies. We eventually had a detour around a round lake that we had mistaken for a different round lake, but despite annoyance, sweat and slog, not much was lost besides time and a good trail was found again. This good trail was then followed by some hairy spots in tuckamore, and a ridiculous traverse down a steep endless gully, severly overgrown, slippery, and frustrating.

tuckamore... the dwarf forest, sometimes more dwarfed than others

Then, lo and behold, there was camp! We set it up, hung things up to dry, ate our lunch and were joined by two moose while pumping water and washing dishes at the nearby pond.

camp. moose.

moose. clean dishes. moose pee. good timing!

After lunch we went and hiked up Gros Morne Mountain, without our full packs, and felt the glorious freedom that was, along with a breeze too! From up top we saw familiar views from a different angle, relaxed, gave some day hikers our water, and set back down for camp dinner.


the mountain was all nasty quartzite rubble, but the view was terrific

the 2nd boy scout troupe, with whom we shared camp 2 nights of our traverse, cheers!

Our final camp dinner was Mountain House Mac & Cheese with Sea Bear salmon, it was delicious. We packed up slowly in the morning and set off for the Gros Morne Mountain trailhead, our end point. It was signficantly farther than we had bargained for, and really the descent was relatively arduous. More than likely this was because we were mentally prepared for a piece of cake, and that it was not. Considering all the hiking we had done already we were feeling a little wimpy.

Eventually we reached the bottom and called a taxi to get us to Norris Point, which was sort of pointless, and we were delivered to Rocky Harbour by a kind stranger where we set up camp at the local RV campground (they get ***** from us!). We had much needed showers and strolled into town for a genuine Newfoundland dinner at Earle's diner. We had a large plate of fries, Quiddi Vidi beers (Honey Brown, Eric's Red and 1892 Traditional), a moose burger, fish & brewis, toutins with molasses, and lemon meringue pie (thanks to a group of hikers who had just come off of the North Rim Traverse). As if that wasn't enough, after dinner we walked back along the shore and capped our evening off with an ice cream. The other group of hikers accused us of being hard core because we were camping (again) that night, but really... it was the cheapest option!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Return to Canada Part 2: Green Gardens Hike (Newfoundland)

BEG & I arrived in Deer Lake, Newfoundland at different times, and since I had several hours to kill I found ways to effectively do so. Thanks to the town website, I found that there was a community center with a swimming pool that conveniently had open swimming time the evening of my arrival. I figured I'd head into town, pick up some fruit for our first few days, swim, wander around, and then mosey back to the airport.

It turned out that trying to lap swim in the community pool when there is nothing else to do in the community but jump around like hooligans in the community pool is rather difficult. My swim was cut short.

I picked up a Bolthouse Farms C-Boost juice partly because I had managed to sit directly in front of Coughy McPhlegmy Pants on the plane (which made me nervous for my health), and partly because I was entertained at finding a Bakersfield product on the extreme opposite end of the continent. It was tasty. And expensive.

BEG's flight was delayed half and hour which pushed our rental car picking up time to after midnight and 30 minutes before the rental desk closed. With the car "in hand" we drove off to Gros Morne to find a place to set up camp in Trout River. Although the plan sounded simple, the signage to the park was less than stellar and it was dark and it was the wee hours, so after a turn around at the Tim Horton's and listening to a cute/amusing pronounciation of the letter H (haytch), we were en route on the Viking Trail. We eventually pulled in to the camp at Trout River Pond at around 3am, and the place was packed full, not a site for a tent to be found. After a brief discussion we settled on using the apparently abandonned "walk-in" sites, which were available, and collapsed into a much needed sleep.

The next day we set off to find some camp fuel (FYI Kerosene is NOT white gas, there's a story, but I don't feel like typing it), some coffee, and get out on the Green Gardens trail for a leisurely backpacking 1 nighter. After NOT finding camp fuel, we figured the worst that could happen is that we'd eat cold rehydrated camp meals. Gross, but no one would starve. Through sheer luck we were able to mooch some fuel off campers who we encountered in the parking lot who had just finished the trek when we arrived. Meanwhile our morning had consisted of visiting some of the most poorly stocked "convenience" stores ever imagined, and at the 3rd one BEG finally found a toothbrush - ironically it carried a price sticker from the 1st convenience store we went to that didn't carry them... Que???

Green Gardens was fabulous - we started by walking, literally, on a slab of the earth's mantle. For the geologists that we are, this was ridiculously exciting. My new boots got their first REAL initiation, and once we plunked our packs down at our site for the night, we set off to explore the rest of the thrust up Iapetus oceanic crust. For this exploration we needed our swim suits, sandals, snacks and cameras - for it would involve sea caves, sea stacks and waterfalls, all carved into an ophiolite suite.

lacing the boots up in the parking lot

holding up a chunk of mantle (aka peridotite) - almost nothing grows on it

delicious ophiolite outcrop; big blobby pillows above, sheeted dikes below, BEG for scale

hidden waterfall and (cold) pools - nice for a dip if you're not me!

funky basalt sea stack

After an extensive period of exploration we set back to camp to set up the tent, make dinner, and get our pumps to filter some drinking water. Upon nearly reaching our stuff my right sandal started flopping about uselessy, this too was ironic as I had been loudly proclaiming (prior to the trip) how awesome those sandals were and how long they had lasted... I had bought them in 10th grade, and at the time they were quite the investment. While BEG took care of stove/pot/dishes type things I meticulously duct taped my sandal top back to its bottom.

doh! but check out our view!


After a dinner of Mountain House long grain rice pilaf (we ranked it ***) and Lindt sea salt chocolate (*****), we went to sleep by the ocean. The next morning, from inside the tent, I heard the following:


BEG & I both sat upright in the tent, awoken from our slumber.

"did you just hear a bleat?" I asked
"I think so" was the response

She unzipped the tent door and peered outside. There were about 10 sheep grazing and lolling about, one of them was black. This was NOT what we had expected of Newfoundland wildlife.

"it must be because I smell like wet sheep with all the merino I've been wearing" I said

Once we got up we actually saw a cluster of these sheep gathered on a basalt outcrop by the sea, nestled on it the way one would expect to see seals on a rock in the ocean. It was incredibly cute.

"baaa" - note the one black sheep and the visibly confused facial expression on the white sheep making eye contact with the camera

We saw many a spectacular ocean view, overtly fluffy sheep, and face-high overgrown raspberry brambles (among other face-high prickly greenery) on the remainder of our hike. At many times the overgrownness of the trail was frustrating, especially due to the "grabbyness" of it on our hiking poles, but at other times, especially due to the raspberries, it was quite tasty.

spectacular ocean view - this was after a particularly steep climb through some particularly grabby brambles... anyone know what kind of plant that bush with red berries is?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Return to Canada Part 1: The Wedding

Among many fun and reminiscent visits with friends during my 3 week tour in the north country, the big event was our very own Fly Fisherman marrying his Mexican sweetheart. Everyone was there (most of them even managed to get to the ceremony on time), and the intimate back yard setting of the reception (not to mention the food & beverages - mmm!) was fantastic. More photos can be found here.

The bride & groom - now fully "tartaned"

In the words of Kilometres: a typical Gnat perspective

The reverse side of the quilt I made them

The full-fledged chaotic front of the quilt - so much going on!!!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Until I'm back in California and have my photos downloaded, here's a brief intermission (thanks Coach Ducnati for sharing) - ahhh, life in Bakersfield.

And with that, I'm off to walk on the earth's interior in Newfoundland and eat lots of delicious dehydrated backpacking meals!