Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

I've never been exposed to poetry much. Never required much of it either. Until recently.

I found myself sitting by a campfire at Trashers Cove on the West Coast Trail. It was wonderful being all warm and toasty after our first day of hiking. A trail veteran and our firestarter, was willing to recite some of his poetry.."Religion, Love or Nature".. Three categories from which we could choose. "One of each" we decided, starting with religion. As I didn't expect much of it I stared into the fire as he spoke. Three poems in I felt goosebumps on my skin and tears in my eyes.

Religion moved me, Love inspired me and Nature got me...

Grateful I returned home. Grateful for the kilometers I've hiked, the people I've met and this experience in particular. For it inspired me to write a poem, for it reminded me to be an enthusiast in life, to express, to be vulnerable.

A tribute to a friendship. A tribute to life...

Het Leven leven
Is door ons tot een kunst verheven 
Niet met overmoed
Niet met grootspraak 
Maar met vriendschap 
Met liefde 
Mogen wij het Leven leven  

Sterker dan de tand der tijd is 
Onvoorwaardelijke steun een gegeven 
Gebaseerd op respect 
Met respect voor het jouwe 
Durven wij het Leven te leven 

Soms ongevraagd 
Nooit opgedrongen 
Puur en eerlijk 
Eerlijk zijn wij rijk 
Met deze vriendschap 

Leven wij het Leven 

Living Life
As a form of art
 Without elation
Without bluff
With friendship
With love
May we live life

Stronger than the sense of time
Unconditional support a given
Based on respect
Respect for what is yours
Dare we live life

Now and than unsolicited
Never foisted
True and brave
For the brave of heart
and this friendship
Do we live life

Lots of love. You inspire me. Always. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Summer lovin', had me a blast! Summer lovin', happened so fast!

They say time flies when you're having fun..
When I wrote my last blogpost spring had just sprung, but today there's a nice fall dusting of snow on the mountains surrounding the beautiful town of Canmore. In the blink of an eye..

Summer has been a bliss, with the odd blister here and there. I've been lucky enough to tick some boxes of my bucketlist and spend time with truly amazing people. Canadian summer has been good to me.

In January of this year Daphne and I booked our trip to hike the West Coast Trail from September 4th till September 11th. A world class trail along the west coast of Vancouver island in quite possibly torrential downpour! For experienced hikers only ;).. Living in the Rockies I've had my fare share of hiking before summer really kicked off, but I lacked some backcountry camping experience. Time to change things up.

There's only a few people crazy enough to embark on a backcountry trip with me without knowing what they're getting into.. one of them is the lovely Anne. Anne arrived in Canada June 21st, the  same day my mom and dad left. The best parents in the world made a quick visit to Canmore to celebrate my 28th birthday with me (yay!), do some hiking in Jasper and support me during my second Canadian half marathon in Banff. Thanks for being there for me, always.

Birthday hiking with the mummy and daddy!

Anne and I chose to hike Berg Lake trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park. It being the very first backcountry camping experience for the both of us we made it into a 3-nighter so we'd have plenty of time to acclimatize to the trail and our hiking days wouldn't be too long. In short this trail blew my mind. The scenery is just beautiful, the people are as friendly and the trail is a good challenge. So proud of my travel buddy for hiking this trail with its ups and downs, both literally and metaphorically. You're a gem <3!

A picture says more than a thousands words they say.. You bet!

@Peyto Lake, soaking in this view

The yellow and green monster

Pure Bliss

Bear food locker!

Keep them coming those views!

The beautiful Kinney Lake that stole our hearts.

Mount Robson; immer in the clouds!

Scrambling is fun!

A selfie a day...

Enough said...

Okay, one more!

After finishing the trail Anne and I made our way to Vancouver. We stopped half way in Kamloops for a much needed shower (dear God we stank!) and some celebratory food. Unfortunately I lost my wallet on the road from Kamloops to Vancouver (don't ask.. I know!), but that didn't stop us from soaking in the scenic route and enjoying our little road trip. In Vancouver we spend our time drinking, eating and biking. Vancouver has a super friendly vibe and is great to explore by bike. They serve some excellent coffee and Stanley Park is a massive city park with beautiful ponds covered in colourful water flowers. As luck wasn't on my side during this trip, someone broke into our car on the last day and stole our portable navigation system and my daypack full of dirty laundry. Karma, bitch! The unfortunate thing was that I had to drive home to Canmore (red. 10hr drive) and the time spend at the police station, to file report, set me back big time. The drive itself was smooth and I was happy to go "home" to the beloved mountains.

The next trail on my calendar was the Skyline trail in Jasper, the highest situated trail in Jasper National Park. My partner in crime for this one was the amazing Jana, whom worked at Banff Sunshine ski hill over the winter and had the summer off to explore the trails of Alberta and BC. Before we embarked on this multiday hike together I visited Jana at Lake Abraham near Nordegg, where she was WOOFFING at Aurum Lodge. The beautiful location, lovely staff, Alan and Madeleine, and the peaceful and impressive surroundings, make it a must visit when in the Rockies. We didn't meet a single soul on our 8 hr, 18km, 1600m of elevation gain hike. Such bliss!

Lake Abraham!

Hike, hike, hike.

On Skyline trail we got a little less lucky... Our first day of hiking was short and easy, 8 km to Little Shovel campground, but nevertheless a good start, keeping in mind the big day ahead; 23 km to Tekkara campground. While setting up the tent we learned that a gazillion mosquitos would keep us company over the night...Both Jana and I went through several emotional stages, from denial to anger and depression to acceptance. By the end of our dinner we were both wearing our full set of rain gear, mosquito nets and had used our entire supply of insect repellant. Yet I still managed to have at least 40 bites on my right hip and innumerable bites on my back... #Blister. We managed to keep our spirits up and had a pretty good night of sleep. In the morning we left early for our long day of hiking, with immensely heavy bags.. guess we packed ourselves a little bit too much food. Haha. Lesson learned! The hike was just plain beauty with flowery alpine meadows, but it was cold, windy and foggy! By the time we reached the highest point of the trail, the Notch, and hiked Maligne Range's crest, with supposedly breathtaking views, it was hailing and fog took over the views. The wind picked up so badly we almost lost our pack rain covers and had to lean into the wind making sure not to get blown over. The strong winds were also our luck, lifting the clouds every now and then, so we did get to see some of the impressive view.

Still smiling...#mosquitoattack

Great view, huh ;)!

After the descend to Tekkara campground we learned that the massive rain fall, of the days prior to our hike, turned this campsite into a big mud pool. As we arrived at the campground it also started raining steadily and being in the mud calf deep, both Jana and I were a tiny bit sad. We opted to add another 11 km to our already long day of hiking and hike out to our car. (Jeezzz I just realize that I forgot to tell you about our spectacular hitchhiking skills; on day 1 Jana and I parked Jana's car at the end of the trail and hitchhiked to the beginning of the trail. It took us no more that 10 minutes to get a ride with a sweet couple from Israel <3) The last six kilometers of the skyline trail were on a fire road and being tired, hungry and slightly grumpy from the rain, hail, mud and wind this wasn't the best place to be. Such a SLOG with way too many switchbacks! Anyway we were keeping up the pace and found ourselves a shortcut to the next switchback. If only we'd looked at the map, we'd have know there weren't anymore switchbacks and this so called "shortcut" would add another 3 kilometers, through DUE TO WILDLIFE ACTIVITY CLOSED area, to our hike. Let's say we learned another lesson and got our swangry (sweating-angry!) on from hiking way too fast with way too much clothing on, not willing to stop to delayer as there was bear scat EVERYWHERE! "Hey, bear!". By the time we reached the car at 7.30pm we were exhausted, hungry, but oh so happy. I think I laid on the asphalt for at least 15 minutes before I was able to get up and help Jana start making dinner. As there was nowhere to pitch the tent and driving was not an option (to where?? haha) we slept in the car. First car sleep ever and I really enjoyed it, slept like a baby. The next day we drove to Jasper, had an amazing breakfast at Bear Paw Bakery and hiked a easy-peasy 4k to get our muscles stretched, before I took the bus back to Canmore and Jana prepared herself for her next trip. We'd meet again later in the summer to hike Assiniboine trail. As this was certainly not the most ideal backcountry experience I was so happy to have learned that we were capable of hiking long days with heavy packs and to stay motivated in less than ideal circumstances. Thanks a million Jana for sharing your knowledge with me <3! You're an angel!

In between all the trips I've been loving life in Canmore. Working at Mountain Mercato is such a great experience. I love the interaction with co-workers and customers, the food prep, the groceries, the coffee and the being on my feet all day. I've had the opportunity to put my tiramisu recipe on the menu, served in cute little maison jars and photographed by the amazing Joel wedding/food photographer of Kingdome Come Photography co. Yay, so much fun! To that extend I've also been given the opportunity to become supervisor, making sure everything in store and cafe runs smoothly. Having the cutest staff in the valley this has been a bliss. So grateful for all these opportunities and am so happy to be able to announce that I'll stay in Canada for another year. By the end of December my first year has passed and Mountain Mercato is giving me the opportunity to experience another year in the Bow Valley. Thank you!!! Besides work Canmore has so much more to offer: hiking, climbing, slack line, biking,  camping, canoeing, running, mountain markets.. I've tried a bit of everything with climbing outside with Lada (Summer didn't turn out to be the climbing summer I'd in mind, but I guess hiking had my priority. Oh well next summer...), running the Canmore and Banff half marathons, biking the Goat Creek trail to Banff with Evi and Petr, slack lining with Kamil, Jorge and Lania, canoeing Bow river from Banff to Canmore with Kamil, hiking Lady Mac with Sara and Hiroko, strolling the Mountain Market, hiking Grotto mountain with Steph and Julian, car camping and driving highwood pass with Kamil, Alberta Galimax Foodtour with Eva, city trips to Calgary with Sara & Karen and kids, etc. etc... So grateful for these people and opportunities.

Obligatory summit-selfie!

The amazing Joel at work


Bike friendly Canmore

Legs, legs, legs.

The crazy bunch! #MercatoFamily

I'm on top of the world...

Time for the next backcountry experience! Eva, Jana and I would embark on the Assiniboine through hike from Sunshine meadows in Banff to Mount Shark. 60 kilometers through alpine meadows, crossing passes, creeks and beautiful scenery. Luckily we got a ride up to Sunshine village, due to Jana's connections, so we could have an early start.. a very early start..we left sunshine village at 7.30am! Our travel itinerary told us we had 12km to hike from Sunshine village to Porcupine Campsite, but we ended up hiking 27km straight to Lake Magog Campsite at the base of Mount Assiniboine. It being Eva's first backcountry experience Jana and I are immensely proud of her! Because of our long hike in, and our decision to hike out in one day as well (another 27km day!), we had 2 days to explore the day hikes in the area; Nub Peak and Windy Ridge. Our hiking days in a nutshell: lakes, peaks, "can you take my picture", flying tents, photobombing mountains, marvellous lakes, sunshine, rain, lightning, thunder, hikers happy hour, grizzly threats, skinny dipping, oatmeal, peanut butter, laughter, silence, frustrations and revelations...

Summer was nearing it's end, but I had one last trail on my calendar; the West Coast Trail. On September 2nd I flew to Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, to meet up with Daphne. Daph and I have been part of the same climbing group of Mountain Network Nieuwegein, the klimgekkies, and somehow found out we both really wanted to hike this trail.. so we did. The first two days we stayed at Maartje and Tania's place in Victoria to get our food and bags prepped. Obviously we enjoyed the beautiful Victoria brunch-scene and walked along the harbour. On September 4th we drove to Port Renfew where we would embark our adventure at the southern end of the trail, the Gordon River trailhead. After an hour long introduction by one of the Park Rangers, with regards to wildlife safety, trail etiquette and conditions, and the weighing of our packs (25kg..jaiks!) we hopped on the ferry and faced our first obstacle: a two story high vertical ladder. Oink! Both Daph and I were a little nervous at the start, but by the time we reached Trasher Cove campsite these doubts were long gone..Life is easy. The pleasure of being on the trail, with the simplicity of hiking, eating and sleeping, is refreshing and energizing. Our packs were heavy, but our spirits high and our legs strong. We found companionship in Marie, a Parisian French girl, whom with her cheery, bright and open mind made our trip to a truly blissful experience. We ran into a bear, watched killer whales from the shore, spotted sea lions and seals, waded rivers, rode cable cars, built campfires, got poured on, were serenaded poetry, crossed slippery logs and boardwalks, fell, got back up, climbed innumerable ladders, passed as many bridges and talked about life and living while hiking those 75 kilometers. A once in a lifetime experience. I'm grateful for the people I've met, the kilometers I've hiked and the truly breathtaking, unlike anything I've seen before, scenery I got to take in. In 6 days, 5 nights we completed the West Coast Trail. Walking on Pachena Beach, at the northern end of the trail, we didn't feel like going home just yet and getting back on the grid. I'm pretty sure society wasn't ready to accept us back in either, because we stank really bad..like really bad! Mostly of wet clothing that we tried to dry over a campfire.. unsuccessfully and leaving the weirdest smell combination of smoke, body odeur and wet dog. Passing this group of clean washed and shaved guys, just about to start their hike as we were heading out, almost made us hallucinate with visions of showers and soap. #Hhhmmmm
Victoria was the best place to head back into society though.. we spend two days eating, having random little reunions with a Mercato-Fam-cutie, Carina, laying on the beach (Have you swam in the pacific before? Well.. what are you waiting for? *plons*...bucketlist..CHECK!) and drinking coffee.. lots of coffee. Life's not that bad! On our way back to Canmore we followed David and Wayne's, of the incredible "Blisters and Bliss - A trekkers guide to the West Coast Trail" guidebook, which by the way serves as the perfect fire starting material, advice to celebrate our survival "any way we see fit" and stopped at the D-Dutchmen Dairy Farm for some delicious ice cream.. Legen..wait for it..Da(i)ry!

You can go your own way. Go your own way!

Being back in Canmore I had to get back into work (hard..really hard!), but also prepare myself for a move across town, a trip back home, WHUT?!, and winter. Winter is coming! More about these adventures in the next blog. It'll be worth the wait. #Thatswhatshesaid

Lots of love, hugs and kisses. You're my inspiration! Always!

It turned colder, that's where it ends...