Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Here we go!

Two days ago, I bid my adieus to Bozeman.  All 't's' crossed, all 'i's' dotted.
My little car, somehow loaded.  Of course with the start of any adventure comes the night before, when time is spent with good friends. I was lucky to have four wonderful girls, each of us on the cusp of transition, ready to head out into the world on our own amazing adventures. I couldn't have asked for a better way to end my time in Bozeman. Surrounded by the people I love, nourished by good home cooking, and a night whiled away by laughter, fortune telling, stories and the honourary slumber party sleep-over.  What more could a person ask for?
Sunday morning, Easter. Though there were no egg hunts to be had, long good-byes were made. Already, I have a nice little list of postcard writing to do....and that will only grow by day. In the late morning, I hopped into my car, and set forth along the highway.  First destination on the adventure plan? Butte, Montana, where I spent a lovely afternoon brunch with my dear friend Megan and her beautiful family. No dull moment here, as the house was a flurry of family and friends. The afternoon took me on a nice walk along an old railroad line, long since out of use though a few reminders of the line remain.  The trail continued to wind, and had my first real experience of what it will be like in a few short months, along the Camino. Only the trail ahead, with a vast landscape all around. I am ready.
Monday, under a blue sky, the road beckoned, heading further north to Missoula, to visit my good friend Bridget. The need for a post office and grocery store took me to exploring the area, not getting lost per say, but definitely not easily finding my way about. Sometimes I find it is the best way to see a place, get off the main roads and meander about. Though the visit was brief, I thoroughly enjoy my time here, sharing crazy dreams while trying to interpret the meanings behind the symbols.  Our conversations, always flowing and drifting from one thought to the next. Outside, life has begun to return. Buds pushing out the fresh green leaves, small spring flowers greeting you along the sidewalk, birds singing a merry tune up along a branch in the trees. The joy that a little colour can bring!
Now, my feet find me in Calgary.  I was greeted at the border by a herd of mountain sheep. Of course, this required me to stop in the middle of the road to snap a few photographs, before being called up to the window. Sometimes, I too am the car seat tourist. Guilty! The crossing went smoothly, something that always brings an extra jilt to my heart.  This time, they were very focused on if I was bringing in any protection such as mace, bear spray, pepper bottle, gun, knife....he rattled off quite the list, and of course, though I had none, couldn't help but to smile my nervously amused smile.
The drive through the rocky mountains is incredible. On either side of the highway, towers the mountains, the view ahead reavealing more snow capped peaks.  The mountains. So strong and full of wisdom, greeting each traveler like an old friend. Or perhaps it is I who greets the mountains.
The drive was smooth and peaceful, catching up on new music I have long since wanted to hear. Though an 8 hour trip from Missoula, the time quickly passed. It seems like everytime I visit Calgary, it doubles in size. The sprawl that pushes outwards is crazy and overwhelming. It stirs up a lot of feelings, an uncomfortable uneasiness that brings about the fierce environmentalist  and aesthetic designer from within. But this is not the time to stand on my soapbox. I'll save that rant for another day.
It's been awhile since I have been in a city, and definitely felt a little out of place. My evening propelled me and my friend Jessye into the downtown scene, to play punk bingo. After living in a ski town community to now being surrounded by hipsters and trendsters, certainly was feeling a trifle shell-shocked. All of a sudden, I became very aware that my hiking boot/ colourful clothing ensemble revealed the truth: I am no city dweller. Those hipster days of mine put on the back-burner, with the wind in my hair and the road at my fingertips. Ho hum...that's the nature of passing through, you acquire the look of a wanderer.
It's hard to believe I am here already.  In a week, my job begins, and once again am propelled into a world of long days with only the land and my trees to keep me company.  Life is about to get very simple. Eat. Sleep. Plant. In the meantime, I am looking forward to the great visits with friends, family, and my dad, who is en route as I type. Future forecast: a trip to Banff for some awesome exploration and maybe even make it out to see some glaciers, thrifting, more gluten free baking (maybe even round three on the pizza dough attempt...), and hanging out with a cute little babe (and her oh-so-awesome parents!).
Now, to focus on warm thoughts for the ground to thaw in Hinton, get some exercise/yoga in for good measure, and begin shifting thoughts for the month of planting ahead. It certainly is a different state of mind.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Onwards, Upwards, Outwards

This is it. The final week before I say farewell to Bozeman and begin my journey.
Isn't it strange how one feels most connected to a place right before transitioning away from it?

It seems like ages ago that I was sitting at the house, trying to piece together all the details, deciding what to do.  Now, the time has arrived, the plans are set and soon I shall be back on the road.  My final week filled with hunting down boxes, narrowing out what to keep and what to pass along, spending final moments with friends and squeezing in last minute adventures.  Have I filled my time accordingly here in Montana? Done all that I set out to do?
There are many trails, still needing to be explored in the area, but I made it out to many, and found at last the elusive Palisade falls, which only took three tries before uncovering its not so very secretive spot. It just so happened that I was headed in the wrong direction!  But regardless of the direction, the searches each revealed new areas of exploration, sights of beauty that would have otherwise remained a mystery, and the slushing through the snow with the mountains always quietly watching, maybe even at times laughing.  Oh the wisdom they impart, what I have already learnt from them.
Yesterday, took me and my good friend Nina to Yellowstone National Park.  I have wanted to return for further exploration since my last visit in the fall, and boy was the day worth it.  Along our drive, we saw two wolves, each traveling solo...or were they playing a large game of hide and seek with one another? Capture the flag?  Wooly elk, greeted us from time to time along the road. At one point, I had rolled down the window, in hopes to catch a better glimpse, and to hear the heard's infamous bugling. One curious elk, came right up to the car, looking at the two of us looking at him, and nearly popped his head into the car! What an experience that would have been! I don't think I would quite now what I would do, if an elk put its hear right in the window. Pet it? Squeal with delight? Imitate a stone and not move?  What would you do?
Our days hope was to make it down to see Old Faithful.  The drive was amazing, with still much snow covering the ground. Every now and again, we'd come around a bend, steam coming up out of the ground. I never fully realized how many hot springs/ geyser sights there actually were within the park.  Once we had arrived in Old Faithful, we were lucky to tour the visitors centre, which has a great little exhibit room with great information about the park, in particular about how geysers work.  We explored the area while waiting for the next eruption, as we had about an hour of time. Letting our curiosity run wild, we peeked into the windows of the old Old Faithful Lodge.  Sadly it was closed for the season, but a few looksees into the windows revealed enough to let the imagination wander on what it must have been like to visit and stay in Yellowstone during the early 1900's.  Such a different world back then compared to now. I dare wonder what a family vacation would have been like. At 6:40pm, true to form, Old Faithful erupted, steam and water shooting high into the air.  It is an incredible phenomenon. What must it have been like, to be the first person to come across this site, and watch it erupt? Mind blowing is what comes to mind. Still is.
We watched the day pass in the park, leaving at sundown, making a long and snowy trip back home. Content.  On the way out of Gardiner, stood a small herd of Bison, peacefully grazing on the newly exposed grass, their backs slowly turning white from the fresh snowfall.  As I glanced at them, I thought how similar a look I shall be wearing in a few short weeks. I too will be out in open fields, though not grazing on grass, I have a feeling that even with planting, the snow shall fall some days, and my shoulders also, will have a dusting of snow.

Today, I pack.
As I begin to gather my things and fit them into boxes, I wonder if I will return to Bozeman to live here for another season.  The fall, still too far away to begin to know where life will propel me next. This is what the trail ahead is for, having the time to piece together the next plans, whatever they may be.  I do my best thinking while walking.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


There comes a time in the winter, where I begin to crave fresh food.  Not like the sort-of fresh foods from the grocery store. We all know, it came from many miles away.  As March rolled in, it was time to do something, garden season was just around the corner, and though I won't be in a place to sow any seeds, I decided I could at least grow some food inside. So, I bought some sprout seeds. Actually, truth be told, I bought these seeds in January, hoping that somehow the knowledge of growing sprouts would just somehow filter into my mind naturally. Somedays, I forget that researching is a possibility. Call me stubborn, it's alright, I'm aware of this quality. I've lived with it for some time.
Where was I now? Oh took me awhile to get the sprouts underway, but when it's time for something fresh and homegrown, there's no stopping me. I finally hit the books...or rather in this case the internet search engine and went to work. Let me just preface this by saying that growing sprouts is not as daunting as I was making it out to be. In fact, I am surprised that more people don't grow sprouts, because it's fast, convenient and you get a fresh healthy snack. Albeit, the endless warnings of contaminated seeds is a little off putting, and leaves a person wondering "gee, are my seeds good ones or bad?" but I think there is a time when safety concerns need to be put at else are we ever going to accomplish or do anything? Honestly. If you wash yours seeds thoroughly, and you can even do a flash heat, then it will take care of this little hiccup.

Grow sprouts.  They're so refreshing, great on sandwiches, great on salads, great on you...or rather in you.
Here is how you too, can make some sprouts:

First, got buy some sprout seeds.  You can find them in the bulk section of your grocery store, order them online, buy seed packets, or....if you've got dried beans/lentils then you can make sprouts.

What are wonder? Dormant seeds. Add some water, and those seeds come to life.

Step one: Wash your seeds real well. Get a jar, add the seeds, add some warm H2O and do a little shake and dance. Sprouts like to dance, little known fact. Rinse and repeat, 3-4 times.

Step two: In a mason jar, add your freshly washed seeds in jar, along with water, to cover all seeds. This is what is going to hydrate the seeds, waking them up from dormancy. You are going to want to let your seeds breath. Get yourself some cheese cloth or even some panty hose, put over mouth of your jar, and seal it with your jar ring.  Set in a dark place for 24 hours, the closet is a good place. Or a cupboard if you are feeling a little leary of growing sprouts next to your unmentionables.

Step three: (you do not need to remove cloth/ring combo) drain the water from the jar.  Rinse with cool water several times.  This is the key to getting great sprouts. You want to keep the seeds moist, but not sitting in a pool of water.  Be sure to rinse twice a day, because this will keep the seeds moist AND fresh. Stagnant moisture is no bueno!  Return them to a cool dark spot.  You will want to rinse the seeds twice a day. Keep this up for a couple days, rinsing with fresh water, until the seeds begin to sprout.  Then, once they are looking good, the sprouts growing long, they'll be pretty white/pale looking.  Put them in a sunny windowsill for a day (don't forget to rinse still) and they will absorb some chlorophyll and turn a beautiful green.  They're now ready for eating.  Rinse them one last time, remove from jar and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Welcome to the crew Oboz!!

The fine folks at Oboz Footwear have joined in on the adventure, and am so thrilled to be working with them!  Based in Bozeman, Montana, Oboz shoes are made for the wilds at large. Once you port a pair of their shoes, you're ready to set out out on the trails. Behind each shoe stands the passion for getting out and exploring while having happy feet.  Not only do they make great shoes, but are forward focused on making a positive difference in the world. For ever pair of shoes you purchase, a tree will be planted through their "One More Tree" program. Come check out the Oboz Footwear company at, they're doing phenomenal things and making some darn good shoes!
Many thanks to Taylor and Abby!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mystery Ranch Onboard!

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ben at Mystery Ranch and would like to welcome them to the team!! They will be supplying me with their SWEETPEA pack as I set out along the Camino.  I am so excited to be working with them!  Their passion lies in making good packs, always with the backpacker in mind. Designs are simple, well-crafted and functional, while also providing support and comfort on the back.  Their company is located in Bozeman, Montana.  Check them out, the heart is there and they are doing amazing work!

Thanks so much to the Mistretta's and Ben!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Camino: refined and from the heart

The Expedition:
Where: Geneva, Switzerland – La Finesterre, Spain
Distance: ~1,200mi/1930km
Dates of Trip: June 15, 2011 – August 24, 2011
Duration on trail: ~55 days 
Anticipated average miles/km per day: ~22mi/35.4km
Highest pass/elevation: ~4947ft/1508m

I first came across the Camino in 2004, while on an adventure across Europe. On a whim, my traveling companion and I decided to purchase tickets to wherever the next train was going. The destination: Santiago de Compostela. As we railed across the country, I remember looking out the window, mesmerized by the changing landscape, and longing to know what it was like to be out there instead of on a train. It wasn't until arriving in Santiago, that I heard about the trail. I knew then that I would walk it. Rolling into fall 2010, I began to plan my coming year. The time and opportunity was there to put together an expedition and I was ready. The pieces started to fall into place, starting with a tree planting contract in northern Alberta. With four years of planting experience, this gig promised the finances in which I could make my plans possible.

On June 20th, I will set out on a 1200 mile solo trek across the Camino de Santiago. Starting in Geneva, Switzerland I will travel west through southern France, crossing the Pyrenees before continuing on through Spain. In Santiago, I present my credential (pilgrims passport) as a way to mark my completion of the Camino. My journey, however does not end for another three days as I will proceed past Santiago to Fisterra, Spain -known as the 'end of the world'. Here I shall dip my toes into the Atlantic, do a little dance and watch the sun set upon the ocean's horizon, celebrating the completion of the trail.

This will be my first long-distance hike, as well as the initial stepping stone for more to come. I am eager to set out, with the world in front of me, feet connected to earth, and the horizons endless. It is my hope to learn and grow, allowing nature to teach me her lessons while building confidence within myself so that I may better realize who I am.

The nature of this trip is three-fold:
  1. Environmental stewardship: Learning the lessons that both earth and trail teach, through knowledge of place and the rigors of the elements. Living lightly, walking gently and nurturing a sense of wonder for the natural world while being conscientious of my actions. Gaining invaluable knowledge of place.
  2. The way of ultralight long-distance hiking: Hitting the trail prepared by researching equipment, towns/resupply areas and the trail itself. Minimizing what I am carrying to that of which I will truly need. Read stories, contact people who have hiked long distance or have already done the trail; knowing what to expect before setting out.
  3. Self-discovery: Unearthing my own individuality. Fostering an undefeatable spirit in the face of hardships or challenges that are presented along the trail. Building confidence within myself, drawing forth my spirit and curiosity for life and community.
Physical preparation will not vary much from my regular day to day, perhaps only increasing distance. I prefer walking over driving and I run +3mi/4.83km 2-3 times weekly, focusing on keeping my heart strong and energy up. In May, I will spend a month working near Grand Prairie, Alberta, with Little Smokey Forestry Services, as a tree planter. With the weight of the trees, long days and the ruggedness of the land, I will be put to the test for both physical and mental strength.

For environmental preparation, extensive research continues to happen, learning the history and landscape of the trail. Understanding it's background, is not only interesting/inspirational, but also essential to know what to expect before getting out there. I have been in touch with several hikers, who have done the Camino as well as getting the opportunity to speak with a few ultralight long-distance hikers, whose guidance has been vital. I am fluent in french and am teaching myself spanish for this adventure. As this will be my first unaccompanied, lightweight, long-distance hiking expedition, I continue to research all I can, preparing for the challenges ahead. Similar to planning an OB adventure I have been working on the logistics for this undertaking and already have a calendar written for daily events, connections, and contingency plans.

Though there is much work that goes into planning an expedition, I am eager to put in the effort, not only to set myself up for success, but also because the payoff for all these preparations is going to be well worth it. I have a plan and goals, I know where I am going, why I am doing it, and what it is I am doing. I have tremendous encouragement and support from friends and family for my adventure.

Expenses per day on trail: 10€/ $14 USD/ $13.6CDN/ 8.8£ ->this will include both food and lodging. Following the entire route, are pilgrim hostels known as albergues or refugios that are either free or by donation for those who hold a pilgrims passport. Each hostel is supplied with a full kitchen, in which I will prepare the majority of my foods as my dietary needs are a little tricky, being vegetarian and having a gluten intolerance. Though I will be passing through towns each day, I intend to pack two days worth of food, to save on cost and for convenience.

Travel cost:
Airline round-trip from NYC to London: $765 USD flying Iceland Express
Transportation expenses in Europe: ~100 €/ $135CDN/ $140USD ->once in Europe, transportation is relatively cost effective, and quite easy to get around. I will be looking into both inexpensive airlines, ferries, trains and the bus system for getting to and from my start/end destinations. Once on the trail, no transportation shall be required, just my two feet to get me from place to place.
Pre/post trail lodgings: Anticipated costs none. Logistics with family and friends in Europe and North America already in place.
Pre/post trail food: ~50€/ $70 USD/CDN

Gear, clothing and Equipment:
Due to my background of being both an Outward Bound instructor and my years as a tree planter, much of the gear I already own will be put to the ultimate test. Some will be replaced, as it is geared towards colder climates (ie. a -30C sleeping bag may be overkill), or upgrading to a lighter expedition weight. My goal is to travel lightly, with my pack weighing about 10-12 Lbs excluding food and water. The Camino is unique in that there are so many towns and villages, giving easier access to things I may need along the way.
The majority of the expenses for this trip will be coming directly from me. I have been saving and planning for this adventure during the past year.
Total budget for trip (not including flight): ~$1,200 CDN/USD

For this trip, I will be using a Canon S90 camera. My family and post-secondary educational background includes training in both art and photography.