Taking the Plunge

“But I’m wearing my leopard underwear.”

I never feel this way. The tension of knowing what I will do and being completely unable to stop it. I’m so used to knowing what I want to do and having it line up with my morals. Not this time.

Push through it.

“I’m so fucking scared,” I say through gritted teeth. And then I take off my clothes. Knowing full well I’d never done it before. Knowing full well I’d be cold out of my mind.

But there are no eyes on the far side of the lake. Only the ones on shore, up close, and looking the wrong way.

It’s suddenly my turn now. My turn to clamber onto the log with slimy moss and shimmy across to the far end hovering above it. The cold, cold lake. My companions encourage me forward, the ones who join me and the ones who don’t. And suddenly I’m there. On the end of the log. With three other brave dare devils.

That’ when I know there’s no turning back. All three of them have devilish grins on their faces, but it’s one guy that captures my attention the most. He stands neither confidently nor tall on the log, but out of the crowd standing on the edge of the log, silhouetted by the emerald trees of the lakeside, he’s getting the biggest kick out of it. He’s the one who grins wildly and announces, “We’ve got to jump in all at once on the count of three.” We debate amongst ourselves whether to jump on three or after, who will be in charge of the count down. We delegate that role to the two who are still standing, dry and safe, on the faraway shore. Good. They won’t judge me. Except…

“You’re the kind that slowly dips your toe first and get used to it?” Three heads turn and the leader gives me a cockeyed look as I submerge my legs to the knees, sitting down with a death grip on the log.

“It’s not as cold as I thought,” I hedge, but then the hysteria of the moment gets the better of me. An alien laugh comes from me. “That’s the only way I can do it.”

“I’m a fair weather swimmer. I only swim in warm water,” chips in a fit and brave but not cold-water girl from the shore.

“See?”

The others dance impatiently on the log. The leader speaks up again, unperturbed, at most slightly perplexed. “Isn’t that worse? We gotta all jump in a once.”

“I never swim. The last time I swam was probably three years ago.” But now I know it’s too late. How did I make this all about me again?

Somehow I pull my legs out of the water and stand, poised to jump, with the rest of them. I’m shivering so hard I know I’m ready to back out, but pride keeps me on the log. Keeps me from dipping in my toe, walking back to shore, or falling. “Ready!” And the count down begins. 3…2…Take one last look at the serene fern-green surface of the lake…1. We take the plunge. Cold air and space is what I feel as I dangle in the water, watching my terrified reflection for a split second before I break into the mirrored glass. The impact is more surprise than bite. Cold and fear confiscate my breath. I flail, blind and full of terror. Have I dropped in too far? Will something catch my leg and keep me hostage? I kick, furiously, and there I am, suddenly, readjusting my vision to the wavering green all around me and rapidly assessing my temperature and breath. I’m not desperately cold, I’m not desperately out of breath. But I have taken off my glasses and my vision is blurry and I desperately want to see up close the reassuring faces of my companions…

 Push through it.

I swim. I’m shocked I still have the moves in my muscles. It’s freeing, flailing helplessly in the water and then suddenly refinding one’s legs. I feel so liberated my core warms up, bubbling with exuberance and joy, training my eyes on the jewelled grey expanse of water that is the far shore, and filtering the closer mossy branches of the log and floating green debris around me. Beautiful.

I’m determined to power through the water haphazardly, to swim to the centre of the lake like everybody else. When everyone else whoops that it’s not too cold, I join in. When we reach a spot far enough to be safely considered away from the log and are turned around to face each other, the leader declares, “We should have brought beer!”

“We should have a party!” I agree, exchanging grins with him.

“Agreed!” says a pro swimmer who’s got an impressive amount of body above the water.

Lanky guy smiles at us with a grin that dwarfs his ears “This is the best! I thought it might be a bad idea, but I’m so glad we did it. I”m probably the worst swimmer here.”

It was just a short leap into May waters, anyhow.

Reading teen fic again after one year of not reading it and I can’t say I’m above reading simple sentence simple vocab books for reluctant teen readers. Reading something is better than reading nothing, and just reading something again makes me want to write. To me, reluctant teen fic has certain tropes involving romance, something to prove, and plentiful decision making, leaving room for realizations (and, hopefully, growth.)

Trip report: Rockclimbing and Car Camping for real this time

Sometimes I think I will die with vivid dreams and calloused hands and nothing more and it won’t be enough but it will be all that I get and even to the end I will be confused why I got this and not more. 

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Climbing itself is beautiful and hard mental and physical work. Car camping and waiting to climb 7 50 foot 5.6-5.9 lines over 2 days while sitting on your ass 90% of the time though is soul sucking. I’m surprised how much I hate car camping but the beauty of the trip was definitely just meeting climbers and being in the climbing community. They’re a strange bunch, and their work is to be admired. I probably wouldn’t call what I did “climbing”, but I’m proud to have gone over some stuff that made me ankles weak. Once I fall and start swinging good old fear pumps limb-numbing agents through my body and I forget about the awe inspiring beauty of giant slabs of rock and get tunnel vision. But gripping the textured, rough, and multi facetted grey granite is so reassuring, and I’m not sure if I’d want to go back (I’d rather not go car camping again ever in my life.) It’s hard work and I don’t have the body or mind for it, but I have to admit it was so much easier than my first time climbing simply because I was fear free for some of the time. So now I can understand why I might like snowboarding but other like minded outdoor adventurists don’t. Because it wasn’t in their element (rock, water, snow, dirt, air) and a lack of script fed their fear. And now I feel like I’d have to work at it to break down that rock wall that keeps me from rock climbing again, and also the wall that keeps my friends from snowboarding. Sweeping, massive granite faces can be just as beautiful as snow capped mountains, and I could see why people got addicted to mountain climbing. For the record, Octopus Garden in Smoke Bluffs is recommended on a sunny day if you want to bask in awe of its beautifully scarred flat face. I could stare at it for ages and not remember how I began to feel its pull in the first place.

Trip to Snow Round 2: Snowboarding gets a new meaning

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I think I learned a lot by organizing my own overnight hiking trip. I remember being pissed that a leader of an overnight once was so wishy washy with plans and didn’t seem to have any more stoke than hatching the next hackeyed plan. Fast forward to this weekend, and I found out that I’m exactly the same.

What I remember: losing motivation at the last quarter of the hike even though I could physically go on; wanting to exclaim “I hate exercise!” to everyone jovially in the hut after a 20 degree day 400 m snowboard run in the sun without sunscreen; freaking out over the dark red spots on my arm after said solar-intensive excursion; shoving as much couscous into my mouth as possible before I could really taste the sourness of my cooking, so I could unweight my heavy pack.

And throughout this, I was constantly worrying whether the others were having fun, and how I could balance spending my time with the people that I did know, and make welcome those who didn’t. Things that went right: ice cream making. Mixing readily available snow with salt to lower the temp and tossing it in a bag, with a smaller bag filled with cream, vanilla and sugar, makes ice cream after five minutes of vigorous shaking. It was delicious, and it made our nights as well as a couple who got to try with our last portion of cream.

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Being the May long weekend, the 33 person capacity hut was near filled. There were at least ten tents too, reports told; I was glad I didn’t go ahead with my original plans to go all-out and tent, too. Because although I planned the trip, I was the slowest person most of the time.

The way up requires snowshoes. Two weeks ago I visited this place and it was a winter wonderland. The snow was deep and untouched, save for a few telltale parallel skinny tracks. This time I was jealous of the parallel wheels that populated the start of the trail-people going mountain biking in this paradise that was no longer suited for winter. So to my relief, I was the only one who hauled ten pounds of snowboard-even though I nagged and nagged in my emails that this was the perfect beginner friendly ski trip because I would wait-actually, I’d be slow and waiting regardless.

This trip to the hut was the hut that I remembered from New Years. Bursting with languages and international travellers, the May Long weekend attracted not as many, but still a substantial amount of campers from Vancouver Island, India, and places I can’t remember. Listening to their stories was always a joy, and like last time, the first day of the weekend was filled with partiers, whereas the second was more mellow, filled with people with a bit more time on their hands. The first day up was filled with strong sunshine and I forgot to apply sunscreen until it was too late; when we got up, to my relief and to everyone else’s joy, we basked in the sunshine and the wonder of snow in 20+ degree weather. Feet were soaked. Boots, relegated to the sunny deck, refused to dry overnight.The fireplace/heater, unlike last time, was shut off, with a finality that belonged to the official start of summer. It took us (me) roughly 6 hours. The final stretch was prolonged by the fact that I insisted on strapping on my snowboard for one tiny little hill, to make carrying the dead weight up worth it. The problem wasn’t just the slow slushy snow; it was that the subsequent trek in snowboard boots was compounded by the incompatibility of my snowshoes to bind around the bulky boots. Restrapping the snowshoes every ten steps, I quickly lost self esteem and tried not to cry at how stupid I felt. But I made it. Remembering what it felt like to lose motivation on a difficult trip, one of my hiking party stayed behind with me to encourage me. “I give up,” I proclaimed at one time. “This is crazy,” at another. “The snow is…so bad.” I bet I sounded like a negative nancy and not like myself. But I was struggling in the sunshine and heat and probably the fact that the third time up here isn’t much easier than the first, despite four months having passed.

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So I thank my hiking party, the same one that looked to me for the lead. Secondarily, we immediately shed our snowshoes and made dinner. Mac and cheese, some well thought out precooked lentils/rice/spice/veggies and salami sandwiches were our fuel of choice; mine was some overcooked angel hair pasta and a can of mushroom soup I hope I forget forever. I didn’t bring any chocolate for myself, since I knew I’d be over tempted to eat it instead of real fuel; but I was offered some chocolate middle cookies that I just could not resist from a fellow hiker. Card games, aka meet and greets with the other hut goers, was next; we played endless intense rounds of Banagrams and some card game I can’t name, but know; in a weird twist of fate I actually ended up on the winning side and stayed there for a long time. I hated being the leader and winning, but no one else seemed to notice. What I enjoyed much more was our ice cream making session. I was glad to see that ice cream made other people happy as it did me. Also, I was glad that no one had heard of this DIY recipe before, one which I had fantasized about. After procuring the different sized bags and ingredients needed from our hiking party, we donned winter gloves and shook the ice bags around. I smiled inwardly and outwardly at the ingeniousness of using the snow around the hut to make this treat. Like everything, the more harmonious the means to the desired end, the more fulfilling it is.

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We slept at twelve that night and woke up around nine the next day. Every camper but our party left, done their one night excursion. The night had been cloudy but we were awake, from the loud party music and probably being too keyed up from the sunny hike. The next day we awoke and our driver went to go on a long hiking excursion, leaving me to answer “What are we going to do today?” “Whatever we want,” I answered, not realizing how anti climatic this answer was. People on hikes liked plans. One was sick though, and sat out on the deck to sun and draw. Her friend eventually joined her. “I might just go check out that hill over there,” I told them. “I’ve been there before. It’s really short. I’ll be back in the hour.”

So commenced my first attempt at the slushy hill. The sun was relentless. The angle of it rallied my ability to stay cool. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but after an hour at least out in the sun, I realized:

a) I was sunburning

and b) Being alone here freaked me out.

So I went back up to try to build a small jump on the hill, where I could either do a straight air or 180. Turned out making a jump with one’s own hands, even if one dedicates half an hour to it, reverts to slush. It was dramatic, the way my weight collapsed the jump. Deterred, I trudged-snowshoed-back and harnessed the shovel. Fifteen minutes later, I had a jump, but no more motivation to do it. That was when I realized that it was the sun, beating down on me so hard that I felt sick. On the other hand, my solar heated body felt more flexible than it had been since I stopped stretching several years ago. I took two go’s at the jump-and promptly ran to hut to the smell of myself burning.

My hiking mates were still drawing and sunning and enjoying the view at the cabin. Because I was too sunned to joined them, I went into the darkened hut, where my happiness dropped even further, although my brain murmured relief.

Fail.

Two lunches, some sunning on the deck and a dinner later (not because I was that hungry, but because I wanted to get rid of extra weight from my backpack), I was so bored and hyper I took out my board again. Leaning down to buckle on the snowshoes gave me nightmares. I wondered if it was worth it to switch to backcountry (free) snowboarding. I decided it wasn’t. The sun had lowered in intensity considerably though, and so now instead of punishing rays I felt a gentle glowing cast to the landscape. Beautiful. I hit the run one more time. Amazing. This time I went further than just 400m~. I followed the snow through the mostly-buried trees until I hit flat ground. And then still I pushed the board-but there was a stream. There was snow all around me in a memory burnishing vista but a rusty green orange patch of undergrowth peaked out from a cusp of snow and there it was, a fast flowing stream of clear water.For the first time, I thought Beautiful. and  Fuck, I’m lucky to be here. If I weren’t alone, I wouldn’t morbidly philosophically think It’d be okay if I died here but I was, and I knew I had the whole vista to myself. Amazing.

But the thunder rumbled, and, shaken out of my reverence and reverting to paranoia, I scrambled up the slope. I cursed the clumsy snowshoes and was glad my overnight pack had enough straps to hold a snowboard. Clawing my way up the hill, I eventually reached my original spot, did a few more runs off the very small jump safely, and went back to the cabin again. (I couldn’t ride switch but I managed to switch enough to do a 180 rotation, but so poorly it was pure hip movement; still, it was so satisfying to land and not fall.) Such was the life of not having anything to do and being at a cabin for the day.

Thinking I’d shoot myself if I carried the same amount of food down as up, I had a second dinner and sat outside the cabin where the usual crowd sat watching the beautiful landscape and drawing or talking. The sky was now streaked with oranges, golds, and pinks, and as my hiking fellow held up a pencil to me: “Draw!” I protested, “I drew here once but it sucked, and I feel like if I drew again it’d suck more.’ “Nonsense,” she said, “you get better every time you draw” and I saw the fallacy in my words. Alright, I was failing at most things this trip it seemed, including not being tired out, snowboarding (I seemed to have forgotten how to snowboard in the two months I’ve been away from it after a snowless season and not thought about it since) and making everyone in the party feel equal. So I accepted the piece of paper, and was struck by the perfect idea: how about I snowboarded down the hill to capture the beautiful vista of the sunsetting mountain? My hiking companions nodded enthusiastically, it was done, and I rolled the piece of paper between two newspapers (gotta have reading material) and into a plastic bag with a thicker jacket for when I sat down. So I commenced my third trip down: this time knowing there would be good.

Because the sun had beat down in the morning, and lessened in the afternoon, I knew now, now was the time to snowboard: with dusk-chilled snow, I made sure I had a half hour buffer to snowshoe back up, and went on my way. I slide over the small jump dramatically, because now it was more solid (but nowhere in the vicinity could anything be called ice) and landed board first on the snow. Next, I retraced my boring but safe track down the hill-I hated to be boring, but I was deathly scared of riding on my own, and that hill was the only tame spot. 3/4 of the way down, I gasped in awe and sat down. I slotted my board into the snow with a satisfying crunch. Next, I took out the newspaper, gingerly unrolled my paper, fished out the pencil at the bottom of the bag, and turned over my backpack with the snowshoes inside to make a seat. My brain was frazzled from being outside for two days and mostly on the move now, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to control a pencil. Neurons fired hopelessly. I began to draw, feverishly. My graphite grey could never hope to capture the melting pot of rainbows in the sky. Still I tried and, mostly haphazardly capturing individual items in the landscape, I came up with a coherent drawing and called it a day. When I sat down I had aimed to finish as soon as possible so I could go back to snowboarding, but once I was done, I was chilled, and slide more contemplatively down. I went a few more metres further this time, and got a really good peak at the sliver of stream. It was simply amazing. In the sunset, it looked like tundra, something out of a book. I was almost in a bowl; I was at a river valley; I was in the centre of a vast sheet of white with a stroke of verdant greenery in the background and slate blue mountains rearing in the distance. And beyond that, I was a child of the fiery sky, which went on endlessly; and of the white tree-dotted snow, which sloped down into some delicious secret.

Fucking amazing.

As I stood there all alone, thinking I was so lucky and also so right to be in this situation, I was equally faced with the torture of reaching this moment. 6 hours of snowshoeing, my 3rd time strapping on my snowshoes and walking up and down the hill to see if it was worth snowboarding, and exercising when I really didn’t want to (all the time).

And I had no answer.

I just had to accept the torturing reality of the beautiful and ugly moment.

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it was a cloudy night but tonight’s crowd was a contemplative one. We discussed how life changes with travel and how different country’s perspectives make us appreciate our own. Another midnight night in considerably chillier weather, card games forgotten. We went back the next morning to a bout of hail, the worst snowboarding on the worst slushiest five minute of snow I have ever experience, zero fun, and lots of traffic in Squamish, but also plenty of interesting sights, such as the pre requisite expensive car with an N sticker; a trailer with a truck attached to the back of it; loads of bike starfishes created by piling multiple bikes on back of the car bike racks; motorcycles strapped to trucks; and pointy-ended canoes pointing all but demurely from the backs of open trucks.

First time Rockclimbing/Beach Party

This is about my first time rockclimbing and subsequent camp in Squamish; the climb was at Smoke Bluffs and the beach was somewhere along the Squamish Valley Road at a faraway beach campsite. IMAG6107

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Rockclimbing, or A Different Kind of Rush or I Fucking Hate Rock or Car Camping are all appropriate names of this entry. It was my first time rockclimbing, and car camping, too. Having not much leads on my main areas of adrenaline interest, I didn’t think twice signing up for the 60 person beginner to advanced rock climbing trip. I was a little disappointed about car camping, but that was as far as my concern went.

In fact, I didn’t even bother to write a pre-trip, and also, I packed in the morning, meaning I arrived on scene without my sleeping bag. The extra volume that my borrowed climbing gear had taken up in my bag had apparently also taken up space in my limited mind. That didn’t concern me either. “It’s May,” I said. ” And I’ve slept in colder with a sleeping bag that was basically useless.” Still, when the night came, I gratefully accepted donations of clothing from my awesome tent mate. It definitely saved me from half of my body being cold all night. However, 9~ degrees is plenty warm enough to sleep without a sleeping bag, although you should layer up. Some slept in a sleeping bag but without a tent so they would have stars imprinted on their eyes.

What had I expected out of the trip? Nothing really. Socializing, a good sleep after a tiring day. There were several familiar faces from previous trips and those that weren’t soon became familiar. I learned of the club famous stoke master whose main job was maintaining pure stoke. My car mates, one of which I had been on a trip with before. Cooking mates, people whose faces were familiar but I had never talked to earlier. My climbing mates, some of which I knew from previous trips, and first years who were inspiring in their keenness. Last of all, there were the little ones, the seven or so year olds who were out climbing with their families, perhaps for the first time, looking all the more like little heroes dwarfed by the rock face in their miniature climbing gear.

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I had had qualms about being in such a large group, but I was wrong. The five people instructional groups kept the groups tight. It’s hard to think that the first day was when I first stumbled over tying double eights. The double eight knot, used to secure the climber when he or she is climbing, evaded our uninitiated hands at first. Speaking for myself, I practiced knotting over ten times before I felt the motion working its way into my memory. Once we got that down, we learned how to use the belay device, a piece of metal used in conjunction with the rope the climber is climbing on and a locking carabiner. For the longest time, I was convinced the climb would be easy after the relative difficulty of new equipment.

There wasn’t mental space to be scared. Holding the newly minted knot formations in our minds, we were told to “just climb.” No, you aren’t taught how to climb; it’s supposed that you have climbing in you on your first climb. Just like no one instructs you how to use a jungle gym, you are set loose and expected to play and gain vertical. And that we did. I let my partner go first, being more confident in belaying than my ability to climb. An eager climbing-lover who climbed jungle gyms (that was me too, back in first year, no more) she virtually sprinted up the wall. Easy! My turn. I was eager to see what it was that she loved so much and I clung to my first foot and hand hold on the rock without a thought. Uh oh! Pretty soon, I realized that unlike climbing gyms, there were no visually apparent or consistent handholds. Faced with probably the first organic monotone face I had ever seen, the rock made me feel like I was reading braille for the first time. The surprising part was how grippy the natural granite was, a solidness and organicness that was soothingly like a bedrock for my trust. The less thrilling aspect of it was finding the hand and footholds, which I did by touch and not by brain, and I also scaled up, like a salamander, like my instinct had taught me to do. Anti intuitive was one word I could use; subconsciously intuitive was another.

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The next four hours, we spent rotating using two ropes, “two lines”, scaling up and down routes generously changed by our instructors (The best part about any activity is definitely the keeners that donate their knowledge). The four hours gave us each ample time to climb different routes (we each probably climbed 7 lines), a chance to consolidate our knowledge of knots, the feeling of belaying, the feeling of climbing, and fine tuning that intuitive or anti intuitive instinct about climbing that we all have and collaborating it with the actual sensory information gleaned from actually climbing rock. For example, through climbing we learned the grippiness of granite; if it was a certain texture it would hold with the help of our climbing shoes; if it stuck out in even a tiny crack, it would be enough to sustain our weight, which could only be deducted to mean that granite was grippy; and so on. Next, learning what inclines we could scale was yet another factor that we learned on the way. If there are cracks to stand or grip on, the vertical won’t matter much. These walls are extrude from the ground at a very steep angle, hence the rope to catch as when we fall. If you fall, you will realize that. I fell once and since I had strayed from the direct fall line of the rope, I swung. But after that I looked harder for those cracks-“That’s all we do all day-looking for crack. Where’s the crack?”-and trusted the vertical looking slab later. I prefer the more slab like beginner routes than the obviously craggy ones, a bias I picked up from learning on slab-also, obvious crags are also boring, bothersome, and even scary because my mind isn’t focussed with laser attention on feeling the rock with the sense of touch rather than my sight.

After four hours I was pooped, and I was surprised I made it that far as I said “I’ll be happy to belay you but this will be my last climb” several times. I also had said in my head “I hate climbing” out of sheer fear countless times at the start and on the way up, only to reach the top gratefully and relish the simplicity/joy of rappelling down. I’d also been disappointed/flabbergasted that one does not climb by pulling oneself up with rope or go down that way, either. Somewhere some moving media must have put that image in my mind; if not, then jungle gyms had. Breaking every misconception or lack of conception I had of climbing, I was thoroughly exhausted. The best news I heard then was “Everyone good to go to Mcdonalds?” I shamelessly admitted that the idea of a cone of icecream from there was the only thing that kept me climbing.

Some french fries, icecream, and smoothes in our stomachs later, we begun to embark on an even more rewarding stage of our journey, which we were yet to know. A long paved winding road trimmed on both sides by soft fern green trees and equally lush rivers served as a pleasant reprieve for the next several miles. Somehow on that road, we already felt like we were in paradise. There were no other cars; the entire road was picturesque; and snow capped mountains loomed in front of the dashboard as they stereotypically do in photographs. But this was not a photograph; we were traversing through many people’s dreamscape, most of all mine, for real. There was nothing, absolutely nothing to complain about, and I was sorry that I even considered leaving without camping because I was burned out from the climbing and had no sleeping bag.

At the end of the peaceful road there was a fiasco rather than a destination. We were the first to arrive, surprisingly, since we had made a long stop at McD’s and also a short jaunt to a brewery. “Arrived” meant being stopped at the end of a road among a smoke show of tent-on-cars and camp fires a scant metres from cars and bush in dirt circles clearly carved for that purpose. Dismayed, we got out and found out that they were all taken, and not from our fellow 60 person climbing crowd. “How can we camp here?” we all asked each other. Suddenly, fellow climbers burst from the trees. Just beyond that we saw were two gigantic logs crossing a moving river. “There’s a camp site on the other side!” one exclaimed. “It’s amazing! Huge sandy beaches!” the other collaborated. Rather than feel excited though, we stayed rooted at the spot, knowing we had to cross the river somehow. At least I and the driver’s girlfriend did. One of my climbing mates had already crossed on the log and was shimmying her way back. I felt a pang of jealousy at her bravery, but I didn’t go myself. And if I did, I’d want to walk across, to really feel that rush of adrenaline. Either or. In the end we all stood there waiting for the rest to come before making unnecessary crossings, taking into account the huge, heavy bags we had all brought in anticipation of easy car camping.

In the end, as more and more of our party arrived, a rope was est up, a la rock climbing, and one by one we made the river crossing. I stepped on the log with utter confidence but as I went on and on I lost my stability with the rope. It swayed so much I thought someone must have gotten on with me, but then I realized it was wobbling on its own from its own slack. I snickered at the ingeniousness of camping with a group of climbers but crossed with my helmet on my backpack loop, although I did not put it on my head.

The greatest surprise still lay beyond. As we scampered off the log in relief and through the short burst of green forest we emerged into the most beautiful beach that I suspect many of us had seen, judging by our collective surprise and gasps of appreciation.Snowy, blue mountains hugged one end of the river; green lush forested peaks on the other. Large but sparse sun dried logs cluttered artfully along the narrow beach front. Clayey sand suspended our weight and filled the cracks between our toes in some places; fine pale sand shifted to accommodate us in others. Through out it, the crowning glory, a strip of jade green river flowed like liquid jade next to the untouched beach. There was little a person could do with their own hands that would destroy this perfectly integrated strip of beauty and instead many opted to just take pictures of it.

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Just a small portion of the long, long beach front where some have already started a fire (we were not the only party there; at least three other parties occupied the far-down-the-road beach. 

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The blue mountain side of the beach

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Getting dark

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Let’s get this straight: I’ve never been a fan of beaches. I don’t know how to interact with water or flat mushy land that’s hard to run across with no natural features to jump off and frolicking on flat ground gets boring for me quickly. But on this beach, I felt completely in my element. Also, I was extremely tired, dirty, and the water looked inviting. Someone’s boyfriend had wandered out in the water already and their girlfriend called out to him, “Crazy!” as he took more and more to the water, eventually going for a swim. Virtually sweating in jealousy of the serenity he must be feeling, I rolled up my pants and dipped my toes into the water. The water was so cold I felt the bones in my toes become brittle instantly. Still a minute later I left my friends at the beach front and joined the “crazy” to cool off. The water was as comforting as I thought I’d be. My aching legs suddenly become new again as I lost feeling to them in the icy water. More than I have ever before, I walked to and from the water, steeping myself in the icy cold, and enjoying every minute of it: the warm numbness, the clayey bottom, “seeing” with my feet, seeing the beach from a different angle to the bemused expression of my friends.

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It was paradise but there were duties to attend to: dinner, tent, bathroom. I decided to leave the cover of darkness to come before I took care of bathroom duties, so we set up our tent first. It comfortably fit me and my tentmate. (It was the first time I had shared this particular tent, since I bought it last year but didn’t get a chance to use it before winter started.) Dinner was also a first, sharing our cupboards to make a communal pot of pesto veggie pasta. A rock was substituted for a cutting board and a swiss army knife was borrowed. The dark descended before the pasta boiled and we eagerly feasted. Surprisingly the large pot fed the five of us with just the right amount, and we broke dinner as we saw that a large bonfire had started on the beachfront.

(One bathroom break later), we found ourselves in the middle of a mad frenzy to build the biggest bonfire ever on an island that wouldn’t be a big deal if it burned down, on a beach front that wasn’t patrolled. The more avid climbers hauled large branches as kindling, and logs that were usually meant for sitting on up to dried out trees as the main fuel. A continuous job, the fire leapt over our height easily, sending a cloud storm of embers like fireflies into the dark night. “Like a pyre”, someone remarked as log-meant-for-sitting on was added vertically for a centre pier. The fire exploded in the dim night. Still, the operation was not done. Time quickly flew by; from finishing dinner at nine, and the continuous expansion of the fire at ten, eleven, and well into twelve, the fire never ended. Only two logs were used for sitting; sit to close, and you were roasted as if someone was blowing a blowtorch in your face. But our party of sixty all still huddled enthusiastically in front of the fire. An untuned ukulele was passed around, and sharing the duties of tuning it, I eventually found I had a penchant for strumming the little sweet instrument. It was to that tune I continuously strummed that I started to fall asleep, but that was long before the party ended at two a.m. Before that, smores, drinks, talk and half naked dancing commenced around the fire. I trashed myself with more smores than anyone should have eaten, but I resisted drinking. Between more inspired party conversation and displays by the half naked log-getters we all revelled in the heat of the fire and how this was the best night of a lot of our lives. It wasn’t lost on us, not even the more seasoned hikers than me, that this beauty and impromptu beach party was of a high calibre. And it wasn’t lost on me that I enjoyed the party as much as I thought I always would; in short, this was the first party I had ever been too, as I’ve tried to avoid parties in the caution that they could get saturated with alcohol and get wild too quickly. Instead of getting too hammered to enjoy the surroundings though, the stoke of the fire was bigger than any number of beers that everybody downed.

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The fire, with big branches as kindling and sitting logs and tree trunks as the main stoke.

Who am I? That’s a question I often ask when I go on these trips, which my entire family disapproves of. Their image of outdoors pursuitists are Neanderthals with a death wish, and to some degree this is very true. None of us are happy with walking on the ground, and now I’ve learned, as I suspected, that it’s when we get wild that our social side really shines. I’ve grown up holding self restraint on a pedestal, and this is the first time I’ve really let go of it in a big crowd. It felt good, really good, and also dangerous. Like mountain biking, once I let myself become a firm but ultimately elastic member of the crowd’s whim, I’m more prone to doing crazy happy things but also dangerous things. Is that me? Should I shape myself based on weighing pros and cons, like I always have, or is that even an aspect of myself that I can change?

We all decided to go on this trip, so something bonds us together. And maybe that thing is that we’re all a little crazy. Some of us just find out later rather than sooner.

PS The night was cold but not freezing without a sleeping bag. I wore about 5 layers up top; 2 athletic tank tops, 2 fleecy tops, a synthetic puffy jacket, and a basically uselessly thin jacker on top. I even started to sweat under that, but unlike a sleeping bag, top layers aren’t designed to circulate body heat over a large area and allow even heating. My hands smelled like my feet after a night in thick gloves, sweating but still cold. My lower half consisted of synethic pants, legwarmers, and then my tent mate’s jacket (I put my feet in a bag first before I put it through her fleecy jacket) It was almost a sleeping bag, with extremely poor circulation of air. I also couldn’t move because then I’d feel the cold. Oh, and I wore a hat. It was pretty miserable and I don’t recommend it but like I said I wasn’t freezing and I’ve frozen three times before with improper gear on my first camping trips. I still came back. But my standards are a little higher now and I don’t recommend it, because then you will have less energy the next day for more awesomeness (which amounted to just two more climbs as our car group elected to leave early.)
And there you have it. My first time rockclimbing, sleeping outdoors with a sleeping bag, first party, and so on and so forth. And now I’m quite tired so I’ll turn out, but not before I say that I was definitely jealous when I saw skis and mountain bikes strapped to the same car parked where we were parked in a parking lot in Squamish, clearly on their way to Whistler.

Mt Fromme

It was beautiful. And I spent none of that time staring at it behind a camera screen.

There’s a time to take pictures, but there is also a time to leave the camera at home. The image of the back of Grouse Mountain, fully visible from the second peak of Fromme, is clearer than any I’ve captured on camera. What does this say about our camera-addled memories?

Although it loomed beyond arm’s reach, Grouse’s flank rested with gracious humility in the crystalline air, as if the abyss between us and Fromme did not exist. It was very much like peering into a private window at the map of scars of a war embattled scalp. Although it was amply sylvan, enough roads criss crossed it to suggest that a legion of people had lost many days of sleep battling their way up. It looked like someone with bad taste had tacked brown ribbon on a Christmas tree at the last minute. In the same powdery tan, fatter ribbons ran down its side; these were the ski runs in the winter. We had to remind ourselves that because it appeared so different it was not readily apparent. The chilly mountain air made its first appearance as it wicked away the heat we had accumulated and reminded us to move. But we stayed, rooted by our shared agreement of its majesty.  It was altogether impressive, novel, powerful in its vulnerability.

A few patches of snow and that was it. Good thing a grizzled local arrive at the top with us, telling us to visit the second peak. It It would have been a pity to miss this view.

Mt Fromme is also a mountain biking trail and I wasn’t the only one to feel a tinge of jealousy as a biker went by. With no price-friendly bikes so far on second hand sites and no readymade beginner peers to ride with, I felt contented with hiking. But walking under the Dreamcatcher sign ignited something. Dreamcatcher, carved into a wooden moon, hung over a wide boardwalk over a stream, elevated many metres overhead (no railings, naturally.) That would have been something to go over with someone for the first time.

Summer in the Snow

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Ridge where we met other snowshoers with a boombox. Seeing this skiable area made me almost cry. It never left my mind that this was paradise and that it hurt so much not to have my snowboard with me.

Famous Last Words:

I’ll spend more time on these trip reports…

Asians don’t burn.

If I’m going to go hiking, I’m going to be obnoxious about it. I’m going to get a Disney Princess magic carpet.

There’s not going to be that much snow. I’m not going to bring my snowboard.

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Tons and tons of skiable and rideable miles of soft spring time snow

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                               Almost there                                                              First time on snowshoes

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                       More skieable area                        Trees that would be amazing to ski/snowboard around

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Drawing

-Artsy fartsy hiking trip with musicians, and artists; biggest girl to guy ratio ever (1 guy, 6 girls) He brought a long a friend twice his age but their respect for each other, creativity, and duet musicianship could not have been more kindred.

-Surprisingly, tank top and shorts are a must. Sunshine was surprisingly hot, but the snow had not melted. I wish that I had brought my snowboard, but I had thought with such high temperatures, the snow must have melted.

-Actually being able to see the landscape because of high pressure skies. I couldn’t believe how much bigger the area looked without the fog of snowy skies.

-Fulfilling a small wish to play violin by being taught twinkle twinkle little star on a violin with a sponge for a shoulder rest and also moon salutations at midnight.

-My phone ran out of batteries, and I was once again mesmerized by the sight of the mountains after dark. Again it was nearly a full moon and the night as bright as day. I drew mountains by the light of the moon until 2:30 AM. I’m not satisfied that I captured their beauty, but I remember a time before cameras.

-Finding out building a sliding station on slushy snow hill is harder than you think. It was so hard just to smack out a straight line down a hill, much less avoid shelves in the snow.

-First time snowshoeing; they remind me of flip flops

-You never know how much you love something until you don’t have it: the pain I felt seeing some people snowboard past me while I pondered on my snowshoes threw me off for the entire trip. The minute I saw them I knew in my heart that I’d always love snowboarding/or skiing because of the thirst for adrenaline it ignited in me. And everything I walked past, everything I saw, was a canvas for riding. Although I generally don’t tell people that I like to snowboard, at that moment I thought I’m really a snowboarder. Whatever the passion or skill level, if you see it providing you happiness and friends for a really long time, then I’d say you’ve struck gold.

We’re all awesome, so don’t be jealous of others

Here’s an interesting phenomenon: whenever we meet someone who checks the box of some pre determined checklist, such as skydiver, we automatically think of them as “cooler than us.”

It doesn’t really matter what else they’ve done. It all pales in comparison to that main point-that they’ve done something that you haven’t-and it feels….well…it feels…like jealousy.
You’re jealous.

Of their one accomplishment.

It may have occurred to you that you needn’t judge before you’ve heard the whole story. Maybe they’ve got bullying friends, who won’t let their friend live down a missed sky diving opportunity, so that’s why he or she did it. That’s the story, and that would never have impressed you as much as skydiver did.

Maybe this person is a scaredy cat in the rest of their life (that’s me) but they decided to overcompensate for their lack of courage by skydiving just once, to quiet that raging voice inside their head. And still has nightmares about that experience.

Maybe, just maybe, this person doesn’t see themselves as special or talented in the way you, for having skydived, and maybe even they wished they were  a little bit cooler, and have slacklined across two cliffs, like another friend he or she know did. You ever think of that? You ever think how he or she might lie awake too, berating themselves for not taking control of their life?
Whatever the reason, no one is ever just one experience. You might have chosen the experience, but you equally might have not. And certainly they probably don’t hold it on as high of a pedestal as you, or think of themselves as highly as you, because how unlikely is it that they might also be jealous of the quirky way you joked about being jealous?

We’re all awesome.

Case closed.

Pre-Trip Post: So Underplanned

These are my pre-trip thoughts to (not sure? Undecided?) I write down my pre trip thoughts because they are an accurate snapshot of how I feel and my thoughts are usually overcharged at this time. I also find it humbling to write down my fears before each trip because it allows me to face them here first instead of on the trail.

No apologies. Just me, my thoughts, and I.

What the hell? You want me to walk a shitload of distance with a heavy back despite not carrying a heavy pack or anything for four months? Are you sure? Is it too late to bail?
How can I afford not to? My mental health is on the line here. I need to get out there. Put myself out there. Be in the centre of all beauty.

Fuck this bullshit called the social status. I don’t care if I’m popular or unpopular, talked or untalked about, known or unknown. I know that I am loved intensely by people I also love intensely.

Can I make this? How can I not?

Last time I did it was the hardest thing I’ve done. Last time I also overpacked.

I guess the snow is melting. It’s supposed to be no snow. Boohoo. Shoulder season sucks.

I want to be in the centre of all beauty. I want to make sense of it and write it all out so others can experience it, too. I want to get closer to people with this. I also want to stop pretending. I also know if I don’t pretend I’ll not move a muscle and be like who I was before, full of aches and pains from long stretches of introspection and anxiety. Unbearable.

I need to know that I was right. That people were wrong when they said the world cared about outsides and reputations. That the world is really about what the people you love think of you and what you think of yourself. That that is how you succeed, coupled with realistic strategies and second to none.