Trans-Canada adventure part two

Sorry about the delay, folks. I’ve been pretty dang busy the past several weeks and this post is long overdue. I am currently writing this at a friend’s beautiful goat farm near Portland Oregon. Time for part two of this little adventure. For those of you who missed it, here’s part one.
So there we were on Sunday the 11th. In Calgary after 13 hours on the road. At the airport picking up the Matt Mullenweg who decided to join us for the last three days of travel to Whistler. Matt is one of the founding developers on the WordPress project and the CEO of Automattic (where I work).
We headed to a hotel near the airport for the night to rest and plan our next few days. Unfortunately, the bar didn’t stay open long enough for us to even have one drink, but we still figured out a rough plan. The hotel also had fancy glowing beds.

On Monday the 12th, we got up pretty dang early in order to make it back onto the TCAT (Trans-Canada Adventure Trail). When first got onto a dirt road, we stopped to get our Jeeps ready. We deflated our tires a bit and added a few flags to our Jeeps because it seemed appropriate at the time.

As we drove along these roads, Matt spotted both of these quirky signs:

Apparently, where we were near Calgary, a cattle guard is called a Texas gate. Both Matt and I are from Texas and had never heard of a Texas gate before.
As we headed up into the mountains, we had nothing but beautiful views. At one point, we even found winter in full force with a bit of a snow storm, some fresh snow, and an amazing mountain pond. Also, cows. Many many cows.

We did occasionally make our way through small towns to gas up and admire local cuisine.

We didn’t stop for lunch in that town. Instead, we headed back into the wilderness to find a good spot near a river for lunch. We made a small campfire to head up some sausage from Montreal for some delicious sandwiches. Also, a rock skipping contest was had between Matt and me. There was no clear victor because we’re both pretty good and it’s hard to count when the skip counts get too high.

After lunch, the trails got a bit narrower and a ton muddier. We did lots of this stuff:

And stuff like this:

Which looks like this:

And this:

And this:

Until we had a technical issue. Stephane’s Jeep refused to start in the middle of the mountains somewhere. We had been hitting puddles pretty hard se we thought it was a short. After some looking around and trying a few things, we decided we needed to get some help from our phones. Stephane (or Matt?) remembered we had reception a bit back so we decided to drive back to get reception in order to do some searching online. Matt volunteered to stay behind with the broken Jeep.

After trekking back a ways, we eventually found some potential answers. We turned around and then came to a pretty interesting realization: We left our employer in the woods with no reception and we forgot to mark on the map where we left him.
Anyway, we found him eventually which is all that matters, right?
It turns out, the only thing wrong with Stephane’s Jeep was that the battery leads wiggled loose. After he tightened them, it started right up again.  YESSSS!!!
After finding Matt in the woods and getting Stephane’s Jeep started, we made a stop at “THE BIGGEST TRUCK IN THE WORLD!” There was also a huge rock chain saw.

Then we headed back into the wilderness.

Where we found a trailhead that we thought was a promising place to look for a camp site. It ended up not being ideal since we couldn’t find the open water we were hoping for, but we got a short fun hike in anyway.

Next stop: camp site! We kept driving until we found a good spot to camp off a logging road next to a river and set up our shelters. When I was out gathering firewood, a moose apparently walked right through our camp. There’s a photo of Stephane below running to call me over. I just missed it. I have yet to see a single moose in Canada.

We made some dinner, told some stories, and then when it started getting just a touch too chilly, we went to bed.
In the morning on Tuesday the 13th, there was frost everywhere, but it was a beautiful day. I headed down to the river to hang out on a rock until the others woke up. There were also huge prehistoric-looking logging trucks whizzing by.

Then we headed back on the dirt roads. Matt did some driving today as well up by some power lines. We stayed out of trouble most of the day.

We stopped at a lake for lunch and made more sandwiches. More rock skipping as well. This time, we got a little competitive. There is still no clear winner.

We then hopped back on highways and headed down to find an old friend of Stephane’s. Jim is a master of all trades and someone who can make anything out of anything. When we arrived, he put some music on in his custom audio soundscape of a living room. He was also kind enough to make us a most memorable meal. Jim also happens to be a master mad scientist chef using both found and fresh ingredients including some lobster mushrooms, blueberries, and a chicken. It was fantastic experience!

On the last day of the journey, Wednesday the 14th, we headed out after saying our goodbyes to Jim.

Shot with DXO ONE Camera

My future home?

About halfway to Whistler, we had to take a ferry. It was pretty dang fun. I had never been on a ferry with my own vehicle, so this was a big first for me. It was quite fun chatting with some of the strangers waiting for the ferry and on the ferry. One of them helped inspire me to make it up to Tofino a few weeks after.

After the ferry, we had quite the scenic drive to Whistler with a few quick stops along the way. It was quite the curving steep mountain road, though, and we had to stop to let our brakes cool. At the place we stopped, I noticed Matt was standing next to a Brake Specialists sign. Talk about a perfect place for that ad.

At the end of the day, we finally pulled into Whistler and met up with the rest of Automattic. This journey was unbelievable and I hope to continue on adventures like this.

Thank you Stephane for helping make this happen. Thank you for joining us, Matt. It was awesome to get a chance to roam the wilderness with you both.
Shot with DXO ONE Camera
All images and videos in this post were taken by Matt Mullenweg, Stephane Daury, or me.

Trans-Canada adventure part one

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Horseshoe Bay waiting for the ferry to take my Jeep and me to Vancouver Island. A little over two weeks ago, I left on a trek from Montreal, QC all the way to Whistler, BC. According to my trip meter, we travelled about 5,800 kilometers (3,600 miles). We did not take the direct route.
This whole thing started when I jokingly told Stephane Daury that we should take a Jeep across Canada to get to work. Stephane is one of my coworkers at Automattic and is one of the main influencers in me getting a Jeep in the first place. He lives in Montreal and has been spending a bunch of time learning to weld and building up his Jeeps. Now, when I brought this up, he enthusiastically agreed to do this trip. That’s when it got all too real. The initial plan was to carpool, but as it grew nearer, he decided to bring his own Jeep so we could hit some seriously epic trails. (Never Jeep alone. That kind of thing.)
I met up with Stephane in Montreal a few days before our departure date to work with him to ready both of our Jeeps. Stephane had welded together a rack for the back of his Jeep enabling us to carry extra fuel, water, wood, and some charcoal. The wood and charcoal turned out to be pretty great as most of the places we stayed were extremely damp. Even the standing dead wood was soaked. Check it out.

Stephane had discovered a route called the TCAT (Trans-Canada Adventure Trail) documented on this website. It’s a scenic off road trail designed for motorcycles that utilizes old roads, trails, and county roads primarily. There are often side routes that involve much more difficult terrain. It runs from coast to coast through Canada and takes around three months to complete. We did sections of it at a time and jumped onto the main highways to make up some time when necessary. Needless to say, we were pretty excited to find this gem of a trail. I will definitely be sending a donation to the creator.
Stephane had already scoped out a good section of the TCAT for us to spent a couple days on while we were in Ontario, but other than that, we just knew we had to head west. Our deadline for arrival was the 14th.

Day 1: Tire trouble and a dip in a lake

On the morning of Wednesday, the 7th, we set off on what would end up being quite the unbelievable adventure across Canada with no real plan as to where we were going to stay or even what routes we were going to take.

Our trip was not entirely smooth sailing. Almost immediately after we set off, two and a half hours precisely, Stephane’s rear tire dramatically exploded with a huge gust of smoke billowing out of it. It was extremely hot to the touch and looked like the sidewall had melted and then exploded in a huge tear. It was smoking from the inside for about ten minutes. We quickly swapped out the tire and hopped back on the road. We had my spare to swap out if need be for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, we didn’t need it.
We made up time stopping only for a few minutes of relaxation at some rivers and lakes along the way. I had never personally seen rivers quite that large. They looked wider than some of the lakes I’ve visited in Colorado.

We stopped for the day at Driftwood Park in the afternoon. It was just too perfect a spot to pass by with a beautiful beach to camp on and a clear lake to swim in. At this point, we were both fairly novice at setting up hammocks and hammock camping in general, but we set up our hammocks, some tarps, and went swimming while the sun was around.
In the evening the mist from the lake, the clouds, and the low lighting created quite the scene. If you stood right on the edge of the lake you couldn’t really focus your eyes on anything and it felt very much like staring into a welcoming abyss. Later on, when it got dark, our frog friends swam to shore to join us and sing us to sleep.

Day 2: The roads less taken lead to a pleasant surprise

Thursday the 8th we ventured onto the TCAT. We had no idea what to expect other than some cliff notes from the TCAT website. We started on some logging roads that took us pretty deep into the mountains.

For lunch, we found a beautiful spot near a lake where someone had previously set up a perms-camp. It hadn’t been used in years when we found it, but we took good care of it and were thankful for the lone chair and the phenomenal view. We brought eight french sausages from Montreal to use along the way as well as a few baguettes and cheeses. These were our primary food sources for lunch and sometimes dinner.

Once we passed the lake, we decided to take a road that could barely be categorized as a trail. Yes, it was on the map, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at it.
The trail was part of the TCAT, but hadn’t been used in quite a long time. It was heavily overgrown and was laden with trees that had fallen across the path. As we went, it got narrower and narrower and narrow occasionally opening up for some rocky fun along some power lines. The larger rock faces were covered in the softest spongiest moss I have ever seen. We couldn’t resist lying down on them.

We were initially pretty excited at the opportunity to test out our axe and my chain saw. My chain saw is just a flexible chain with a handle on each end and a cutting blade similar to a normal chainsaw. We discovered that with two people, we could make quick work of a large tree with the chain saw. We cleared several trees and even had to winch one out of the way. Then we hopped in our Jeeps, drove ten meters and realized we had quite a long night of work ahead of us. We got into a really solid groove of moving trees and only cutting what was absolutely necessary.

Each night we tried to stay somewhat near a body of water for the views, potential swimming, and water access. We saw what looked like some good sized ponds or lakes on our GPS maps and did our best to get there, but it got dark a bit too fast. Like Captain Ahab, I pushed us forward looking for a white whale. Inevitably, it became too dangerous to continue in the dark so we backtracked a little and found a quite nice camp spot to hammock up for the night. I believe it was the first night Stephane slept in his Jeep.
In the morning I slowly and quietly emerged from my hammock cocoon, slipped on my shoes, and wandered over to find a place to pee. I didn’t want to wake up Stephane yet. Along the way, I noticed a grey streak glinting to my left. Was it water maybe? Then, out of the bushes I heard Stephane running over and yelling. He was apparently already awake. He excitedly told me to follow him. We ran through some brush around the corner and revealed a huge beautiful lake I dubbed “Surprise Lake” due to the nature of how we found it. The place we camped was just on the other side of this huge lake the whole time! It was glorious! Our hard work paid off and we certainly spent some time celebrating and enjoying the view.


DAY 3: A bunch more dirt and a baby bear

Friday the 9th, we packed up after some quick breakfast, which most days consisted of a banana along with some tea or coffee. We said farewell to Surprise Lake and emerged from the deep woods onto some delightfully curvy logging roads. Before getting too far, though we stopped and went swimming in the river.
We saw a massive sand hill and tok the opportunity to test out our vehicles. Only Stephane made it to the top.

Later on, we saw what I thought was a huge dog running on the road, but as I got closer, we saw it was an ultra fluffy black bear cub running to its mother. We didn’t stick around long enough to find out. 🐻

Days 4 and 5: endless highways

Saturday the 10th we decided to really pick up the pace. We had made very little progress and we knew we had to be in Calgary by Monday morning to pick up a special guest. In order to make good speed, we stayed almost entirely on highways for the next 24 hours of driving time.
Even though we were in a hurry, Canada put on a beautiful show for us with sparkling lakes, thunderstorms, and fantastic cloud patterns.

We stopped by a lake for lunch. The calm and quiet it brought was welcome after hours spent in a Jeep. Dinner was even better. I followed Stephane off the highway onto a service road into the forest and we found a beautiful place for dinner. We had some of the french sausage we had brought with us from Montreal.

On Sunday the 11th, we realized we could actually make it to Calgary in time to pick our guest up from the airport if we headed out a little early. We jumped back on the road stopping only for the occasional silly selfie and gas. It’s hard to tell from my photos, but the clouds in the evening were phenomenal.

We made it to Calgary, picked up some Timbits for our guest and headed to the airport. Who did we pick up? Well, you’ll have to wait for part 2 to be published or skim our Twitter feeds. 🙂
All images and videos in this post were taken by Stephane Daury or me. 🙂

Backpacking on Mount Carrigain

On Wednesday morning, the Golenski’s and I headed up to New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. We gathered up everything we needed or wanted to backpack up to the top of Mount Carrigain. The hike up is a bit over five miles, but has an elevation gain of around 3,300 feet, most of which starts around 2.5 miles in and continues the rest of the climb.


Andrew Golenski on the left and Jeff Golenski on the right.

We took my Jeep to the trailhead and, armed with plenty of dehydrated food, cliff bars, and water, started heading up the rocky staircase of a trail.

Most of the trail looked like this.

We made it to the top in about four to five hours with plenty of stops. We lucked out with the weather on the way up in that it wasn’t too humid, but there was no breeze at all (ugh). One we got there, we made our way up to the 30 foot high tower and had amazing views in every direction as a reward.
IMG_5378 (1)

Next, we made camp at the base of the tower in the surrounding trees. There was a bit too much wind to camp up on the tower or we would have. We rehydrated our meals and relaxed for a bit waiting until around 9:30 or 10:00 to head back up to the tower to take some photos of the stars.
Once it was dark, we took some sleeping pads up to the tower along with our cameras and snacks. It was unbelievable what we can see. I can’t remember actually being able to see the Milky Way with my bare eyes just by looking up. I can’t stress how cool it was to be up there viewing the sky. Andrew got some music going and then Jeff spent some time showing me how to do these long exposures. I never got anything nearly as cool or sharp as his photos, but I think I did okay for my first time messing with this stuff.

In the morning, I headed back up to grab some last photos of the hazy mountains before we packed up and got a little artsy with them.

We packed up and headed out after spending some time dismantling our campsite and making dang sure we had stirred our fire entirely out. It was a much easier hike down with plenty of breeze and light cloud cover. I had just barely enough water to make it down (though there were plenty of creeks around to filter and refill our water bottles if needed).

I want to thank both Andrew and Jeff for being my guides on this mountain. It was an excellent adventure with great people. I would definitely do it again.
Phew! Pretty dang fun week so far. 🙂

Last weekend: midnight grilling, mountain biking, July 4th camping

Kelly and I started Saturday morning with an epic ride up Buffalo Creek. We took the Mini Buffalo Creek loop which didn’t feel so mini at 15.5 miles and 1700+ feet ascent. There was a four mile ride up a road to the start of the singletrack trail which was pretty easy. It meanders next to the creek the whole way. After that, the initial climb was fairly unrelenting. Take a look:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 10.29.51 AM

data via MTB Project

The way down, though, was pretty phenomenal. It was filled with large rock faces that were absolutely a blast to play around on. We also spotted some pretty wild mushrooms that looked like they materialized out of a Mario game.

Saturday evening, I went up to Nederland to meet Josh and Jeremy at our favorite asado spot. Any time Jeremey offers to cook, you should take him up on that offer. He’s a fantastic chef. We had a several course meal, all of which was grilled over the fire. We had mussels, spicy Italian sausage, cuts of beef, and cuts of lamb. I didn’t think to get many photos of the actual dishes because we ate them so quickly. We hung out until well after midnight before cleaning up, packing up, and heading out.

Early Monday morning, Emi, Kelly, Joe, and I headed up to Nederland again to camp out for the fourth of July. We were hoping to get a good spot to catch some fireworks and hang out all day and we definitely got to do all of that. We set up camp fairly early and then just relaxed for a bit.

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Jeeps & tents & mountains

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We set up camp fairly early and then just relaxed for a bit. Joe and Emi broke out their ukuleles and noodled around for a bit.

In the afternoon, we did a leisurely hike up to the tippity top of Sugarloaf Mountain. We saw some pretty gnarly burned trees from a forest fire some time ago and had quite the view from the top.

In the evening, despite Joe’s insistence that we wouldn’t get rained on, we went through a pretty epic thunderstorm with a bit of hail. We dashed over to Joe’s tent and played Spades while we waited. We never finished, but I believe Emi and I were winning when the storm ended.
We grilled some brats, corn, and Joe’s special Veggie mix for dinner. So dang good. We had some leftover veggies that we turned into an omelette in the morning.
Once it got darker, we ended up seeing some fireworks from way off in the distance. They were just tiny little glowing flashes of light. After the shows ended, we just hung out and relaxed to Joe’s ukulele. I didn’t get any photos after dark because I had drained my phone’s battery playing music on my Jambox earlier in the day.
For those of you in the US, I hope you all had a great Fourth of July weekend. For everyone else, I also hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend.

Last weekend: Nederland, Eldorado, and Leadville

Well, not really last weekend, but I like the idea of posting about my weekends every once in awhile. About a week and a half ago, on Friday, I went camping with Kelly and Emi in Nederland. We Jeeped in and found a pretty dang good spot and the weather couldn’t have been nicer.
Interesting things:

  • Kelly and Emi had two amazing hammocks that took no time at all to set up. Definitely on my wish list.
  • Emi and I made the fires with a magnesium block and flint steel (my favorite method so far).
  • We heard strange low growl-ish noises for most of the evening, but nothing too close to camp.

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The next morning, we set out to find a good mountain biking trail after some eggs and bacon. It turns out some trails are closed to bikes on Saturdays and Wednesdays. We ended up heading over to Eldorado to ride a fairly short and easy trail.

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Nice view of the Flatirons

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After biking, I headed way over to Leadville for my friend, Devin’s, birthday. It turns out, I have no data in Leadville (T-mobile), but I had some maps and some luck. Devin had sent me a pin where we were meeting near on the lake using Google maps via text. Google first sends a small image map of the location which ended up saving the day for me. Thanks, Google.
The beach was a pretty great place to hang out. Beach chairs. Beer. Dogs. Interesting people. So good. Also, the weather stayed fairly nice until we decided to pack up and go set up camp.
Unfortunately, when we got to the camp site, we had about 20 minutes to get a fire going and set up our tents before it started raining. It never rained particularly hard so it wasn’t too bad and we had one heck of a sunset because of it.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty great weekend. Next weekend should be good, too. I think we’re going to hit some high elevation ghost towns. 👻