The Big Pig Bike Race at Boer Mountain, Burns Lake, BC

Wild blueberries are the best. But picking them in a lesson in patience.

Wild blueberries are the best. But picking them in a lesson in patience.

On the downhill section.

On the downhill section.

On the pump track section.

On the pump track section.

Finishing the cross-country section.

Finishing the cross-country section.

Cookie medals are the best!!

Cookie medals are the best!!

Really cute piggie cookies.

Really cute piggie cookies.

Race face on.

Race face on.

Creepy pig bike light. Nightmare material.

Creepy pig bike light. Nightmare material.

They finished in first place!! They did 7 laps of 10 km in under 5 hours. They are the only team that did 7 laps! 

They finished in first place!! They did 7 laps of 10 km in under 5 hours. They are the only team that did 7 laps! 

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

Downhill race on Charlotte's Web.

This incredible little boy was doing the race and his daddy was following behind. 

This incredible little boy was doing the race and his daddy was following behind. 

The Four Cross Race was quite a show!

The Four Cross Race was quite a show!

The Four Cross Race was quite a show!

The Four Cross Race was quite a show!

Keeping with the theme, of course!

Keeping with the theme, of course!

The Blood Sun (yes, that's the sun!) created by the smoke from the forest fires.

The Blood Sun (yes, that's the sun!) created by the smoke from the forest fires.

We have so much history here (just do a search with #burnslake on the home page)... A broken arm, mechanical problems, meeting friends, moon rise watching on the dock in our sleeping bags, bonfires and berry picking... It’s no surprise when a local comes and knock at the bus door, happy to see us returning once again and offers us a shuttle up the mountain.

I wasn’t excited to come back here again this year. You see, I long for discoveries and new places. All the time. My family likes a mix of both and the girls were *really* looking forward to come back here, especially for the Big Pig Bike Race that we have missed for the last two years since we left the Yukon too late... But as unexcited as I was, it didn’t take long for the magic of this place to hit me! I love Burns Lake. The bike trails are amazing, the community of riders is incredibly friendly and the camping is FREE right by the trails and by a gorgeous lake.

The BC Bike Ride event was here just before the Big Pig and they wrote a great article (with beautiful pictures) about this great place and the amazing mountain biking community.

So this year was the 10th year of the Big Pig Bike Race, which is the premiere mountain biking event in Northern B.C. It’s a family friendly festival, with kids events, downhill races, 4 Cross races, an epic cross country race and cross country events.

On Friday, Mathilde took part in the Pump Track, the Downhill and the X country challenges in the 10 to 12 categorie. She took the first place int he Pump Track challenge behind 12 yo girls and came in 2nd in the other two events! 

JF and the twins did the Dante’s Relay, a timed event in which teams or solo riders race to complete the most number of 10 km loops in a five hour period. For the past 9 years, one lap of 10 km was added every year to the Dante’s Inferno course. It culminated with a grueling 9 Rings of Hell last year (for 90 km). I remember reading Dante’s Inferno (in Italian!) when I went to school in Italy at 17. To describe it as dense and intense piece of work is an understatement!

Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK + Salmon Glacier

Lake Clements Rec Site is another free camping paradise, 13 km from Stewart, BC.

Lake Clements Rec Site is another free camping paradise, 13 km from Stewart, BC.

So many thimbleberries! Thimbleberries taste like raspberry yogurt. We LOVE them.

So many thimbleberries! Thimbleberries taste like raspberry yogurt. We LOVE them.

Waiting for bears to come and eat salmon along Fish Creek in Hyder, AK.

Waiting for bears to come and eat salmon along Fish Creek in Hyder, AK.

Can you see the salmons in the water?

Can you see the salmons in the water?

Salmon Glacier.

Salmon Glacier.

If you look at the map of Northern BC, you can see that Stewart, BC, really is the end of the road. There is no US customs to enter Hyder, Alaska, and no customs again as you reenter BC to get to Salmon Glacier. Hyder really has this end of the road feel. A lot of houses are unfinished or abandoned. We have seen a few buses turned into houses with structures built on top of them. This must be the only place where you can enter the United States without identification.  The reason being, is that once you are in Hyder Alaska, there is no place else to go except back to Canada. (You will need a passport or Canadian ID to get back into Canada).

This article published in the NY Times really gives an accurate portrait of Hyder, AK.

For $5 per adult, you can go see bears catch salmons along Fish Creek. At this time of year, you are pretty much guaranteed to see them since the salmons are running.

If you keep driving up towards the mine, you will eventually reach Salmon Glacier (people might tell you that the road is rough, but it's not; you can get there in a 2WD vehicle). Trust me, it's well worth the drive. The view of the Glacier is stunning. And well, it might not still be there in 50 years. You can see here how much the glacier has retreated since 1975. 

**You can see on the map that I circled the places I talked about in my previous posts for reference.

Morchuea Lake Recreation site on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway

Beautiful Mount Edziza in the distance.

Beautiful Mount Edziza in the distance.

Picking fireweed to make a tea mix.

Picking fireweed to make a tea mix.

Picking mossberries for syrup. These berries are very juicy, but not very tasty on their own, but once cooked with a bit of sugar, they turn into a delicious syrup. A great addition to Gin & Tonic.

Picking mossberries for syrup. These berries are very juicy, but not very tasty on their own, but once cooked with a bit of sugar, they turn into a delicious syrup. A great addition to Gin & Tonic.

Clouberries are also called salmon berries or baked-apple berries. It's hard to get lots because every plant only has one berry. Again, this pretty berry's taste is pretty disappointing raw, but once cooked with a bit of sugar and cinnamon, they do taste just like baked apple!

Clouberries are also called salmon berries or baked-apple berries. It's hard to get lots because every plant only has one berry. Again, this pretty berry's taste is pretty disappointing raw, but once cooked with a bit of sugar and cinnamon, they do taste just like baked apple!

The Stewart-Cassiar 1 ½ oz Port Chilkoot Distillery Gin ¾ oz Lillet Blanc ½ oz lemon juice ½ oz real maple syrup ½ oz rosemary syrup 3 dashes of homemade lemongrass-cardamom bitters 1 egg white Dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Add a rosemary twig for garnish.

The Stewart-Cassiar
1 ½ oz Port Chilkoot Distillery Gin
¾ oz Lillet Blanc
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz real maple syrup
½ oz rosemary syrup
3 dashes of homemade lemongrass-cardamom bitters
1 egg white

Dry shake, then add ice and shake again. Add a rosemary twig for garnish.

We found lots of gentian! I use the root to make bitters.

We found lots of gentian! I use the root to make bitters.

Mathilde's Boreal tea mix: Labrador tea leaves, raspberry leaves, pineapple weed, fireweed flowers  and red clover flowers.

Mathilde's Boreal tea mix: Labrador tea leaves, raspberry leaves, pineapple weed, fireweed flowers  and red clover flowers.

Our friends were traveling up the Cassiar and we met at Morchuea Lake for a night. Here, the girls were doing the dishes together.

Our friends were traveling up the Cassiar and we met at Morchuea Lake for a night. Here, the girls were doing the dishes together.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love a good free campsite. With the bus, we don't need the services that a campground offers, but we long for the quiet of the wild, so recreation sites are the perfect solution for us in BC where campsites are pretty pricey (and busy!). Morchuea Lake is located just North of Iskut on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and has 8 campsites (2 that are closer to the lake). There were quite a bit of bugs (black flies, deer flies, mosquitoes...), but the gorgeous lake with Mount Edziza as a backdrop (and a kitchen tent!) made it worth a 2 night stop. 

Mount Edziza is an icon of BC culture and Canada's second largest young volcano. It is surrounded by lots of cinder cones. It is not accessible by road and the best way to get to Mount Edziza Provincial Park is by plane from Telegraph Creek. There is some spectaclular hiking to do around it and it's an area we'd love to explore more one day.

Boya Lake Provincial Park, BC, the Bora Bora of the North!

I mean, look how clear this water is!!

I mean, look how clear this water is!!

Picking Saskatoon berries on the trail to the beaver dam.

Picking Saskatoon berries on the trail to the beaver dam.

Isn't that place spectacular or what? OK, there are some leeches in the lake and lots of deer flies, but hey, Bora Bora has dengue mosquitoes and sting rays, so we're even. 

For more info on that campground, read my review on Campendium. Make sure your fridge is full of groceries and your tank full of water, because this is quite far off in the boonies. 

In the garden, in the kitchen and on the road we go!

Mom, I picked all the carotts!

Mom, I picked all the carotts!

Having fun combining my interest and knowledge of mixology and botanicals.

Having fun combining my interest and knowledge of mixology and botanicals.

Making rosemary lemon syrup for our cocktails

Making rosemary lemon syrup for our cocktails

The Aurora Borealis

1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Yukon Aura gin (a gin little Boodle or even The Botanist would have worked well here, anything that is not too crazy on the juniper or spruce)
1 ½ oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
3/4 oz Odd Society Spirits Bittersweet Vermouth
1 bar spoon of homemade wild rose syrup
½ a bar spoon of homemade rosemary syrup
1 spring of rosemary and 1 lemon rind for garnish

Shake all ingredients (except for garnishes) together in an ice-filled cocktail shaker for about 25 seconds, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Provençal sour

1 ½  oz Bourbon
¾  oz Benedictine
¾  oz lemon juice
¾ oz homemade wild rose syrup
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes of homemade lavender-grapefruit bitters
½ an egg white

Dry shake. Add ice and shake again. Top with dried lavender.

Harvesting wild sage along the Yukon River.

Harvesting wild sage along the Yukon River.

Wild sage

Wild sage

Harvesting juniper berries.

Harvesting juniper berries.

As you can see, our last few weeks in the Yukon were spent harvesting, picking food from our friend's greenhouse, cooking and playing with herbs to make cocktail bitters. What are those, do you ask? I remember when I first read about bitters in cocktails... I thought they sounded so fancy and so hipster... Bitters are a maceration of bitter herbs, citrus peels, spices and other ingredients in alcohol that you add to cocktails (often just a few drops) to give them depth. The combination is limitless and I had a lot of fun preparing my own. I have currently many in the cupboard that I will test in a few weeks (lavender grapefruit bitters, orange wild sage and juniper bitters, rhubarb, chamomile and ginger bitters, lemongrass-cardamom bitters and more!). Yes, it is quite addictive! A fun combination of plant knowledge and kitchen/cocktail fun! It's like magic potion making for adults! And now, with berry season, I am also playing with liqueur/cordial making (I currently have haskap liqueur and black currant liqueur macerating). Those cocktails will just get better!!

We're off down the Cassiar-Stewart Highway for the next few days and will reemerge on the other side after 3-4 days without connexion. Just what we need after an exciting summer full of friends and activities.

 

Carcranked Bike Fest

Pre-race meeting at the Carcross Commons on Saturday morning.

Pre-race meeting at the Carcross Commons on Saturday morning.

Felix and Louis, getting ready for the Enduro Race.

Felix and Louis, getting ready for the Enduro Race.

And the climbing begins (10 km of it!).

And the climbing begins (10 km of it!).

I love that all the trail signs are in their native language too (yes, that's the least. Montana Mountain is the Carcross/Tagish First Nation sacred mountain).

I love that all the trail signs are in their native language too (yes, that's the least. Montana Mountain is the Carcross/Tagish First Nation sacred mountain).

Stupid race. I can't even ride with them...

Stupid race. I can't even ride with them...

Finish!

Finish!

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Filling up their Explorer Cards, trying new trails on the mountain.

Filling up their Explorer Cards, trying new trails on the mountain.

It's always great to end a riding day at the beach!

It's always great to end a riding day at the beach!

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We showed the kids some old mountain biking movies on Saturday night at the Bistro (on VHS, on course, on a real old TV). Who remembers Cranked and Dirty Dreams??

We showed the kids some old mountain biking movies on Saturday night at the Bistro (on VHS, on course, on a real old TV). Who remembers Cranked and Dirty Dreams??

Enduro races are fun because the climbs are not timed, only the downhill sections are, making it a relax and social event where riders wait for their group before every downhill section. JF, Mara, Felix and Louis had a blast on the short Enduro course. There was also an Explorer punch card with stickers to collect everywhere on the trails and some trail work with the Singletrack to Success team was planned, but had to be cancelled at the last minute for family emergency. If you haven't seen the documentary Shift yet (made about the Singletrack to success project), make sure you do! It won the people's choice award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival and many more. It is a half-hour documentary about the indigenous youth from Carcross, Yukon, who have spent the past 10 years converting traditional trails around their town in to a world-class mountain biking destination -- and transforming their community and themselves along the way.

 

Mountain biking, hiking and fishing in Carcross, Yukon

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Reading aloud around the bonfire.

Reading aloud around the bonfire.

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Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Drawing plans since 2007!

Drawing plans since 2007!

Getting ready to ride on Montana Mountain.

Getting ready to ride on Montana Mountain.

Ending our ride right on the beach by Bennett Lake.

Ending our ride right on the beach by Bennett Lake.

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Her first catch! A beautiful 5 lbs lake trout! She got a second one that was a little smaller!

Her first catch! A beautiful 5 lbs lake trout! She got a second one that was a little smaller!

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Fish anatomy lesson with Philip.

Fish anatomy lesson with Philip.

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Hiking up Nares Mountain. Steep, but beautiful!

Hiking up Nares Mountain. Steep, but beautiful!

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Lots of board game time!

Lots of board game time!

The Carcross Commons

The Carcross Commons

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Mountana Mountain is a mountain biking mecca and people come from far away to ride these beautiful trails. Be warned though, that this is not the best place for a beginner rider. The riding is technical and steep in places, but there is plenty to keep the comfortable intermediate busy. For a longer ride, ride Mc Donald Creek or Nares View. For a quick afternoon ride we like to combine Maggie's Run, Sporting Wood, upper Dei Kwan, Sam McGee and AK DNR (then Mossy all the way to the beach on a nice day). Another good combo is Holey Roads, upper Dei Kwan, Lower Wolverine and Fox. Upper Wolverine will delight the more advanced riders, so will Black Bear and Goat. You can shuttle up or ride the nice uptrack (or do a bit of both!). Get more info on the trails here.

There are two places to camp in the area (on top of an ugly pricy RV park): the Carcross campground is right in town, but in a nice wooded area (that's where we like to stay, riding and walking distance from everything, good cell signal, free wood, included in our Yukon camping pass). There is also a new territorial campground 10 minutes out of town called Conrad. It's also treed and more quiet, but there is no cell signal and you need to drive to get anywhere.

There is the famous Carcross desert where every tour bus coming from Skagway (AK) stops, but there are also some beautiful (and hard!) hiking trails that rewards you with beautiful views of the area after only 10-15 minutes of hiking (no need to go all the way to the top, but we highly recommend it!). I especially recommend you hike Nares Mountain, Caribou mountain or Sam McGee (also called Mountain Hero), 2 km passed Conrad Campground. Bring your bear spray and make lots of noise, we have seen bears on these trails every year we came to hike them.

Carcross is a really cute little town with one of the most beautiful (although often very windy) beaches in the Yukon. The new Carcross Commons is a cluster of tiny houses with Tlingit-inspired facades featuring artisans, an amazing coffee shop, a gelato shop, an authentic maple products shop, a bike shop and lots more. There is also a delicious restaurant called The Bistro. 

There isn't much in terms of supply in Carcross. A corner store with pricy crappy food, a laundromat at the RV park (and that allowed us to fill our water jugs there) and dump and fill for $10, no propane, so make sure you come prepare and grocery shop in Whitehorse before coming.

By the way, for those interested, I think my love affair with the Fujifilm x-100t is already over. I miss the bokeh of my Nikon 24-70 mm (on the D700). I know I cannot ask this little camera to do it all well (as my friend Michel says, it's not a grand piano, it's a synthesizer, it doesn't do everything, but what it does, it does well). It's a great second camera, but since I cannot afford 2 cameras, I'll go back to my super heavy work horse. Maybe the xt-1 + the 56 mm f 1.2 would be the answer, but I would need at least another lens (23 mm?), which adds up...

Adäka Cultural Festival

Adäka means “coming into the light” in the Southern Tutchone language. The Festival is a gathering of many First Nations (mostly from the Yukon, but international First Nations are also featured) to celebrate their vibrant cultures. It is NOT a show put on for white people and the vibe is completely different than the wanna-be-politically-inclusive skits we see First Nation performs at official ceremonies. It's a real celebration by First Nations for the First Nations to which everybody is invited to participate. And it truly feels like an honor to be invited to such a wonderful event. 

We hear it all the time: First Nations are so proud of their heritage! But to see it in action is very different. I have had the chance to work with children from different Canadian First Nations last summer and this summer and I felt that pride more than ever in the youth. It was heartwarming to see so many young people perform as dancers and drummers. We could feel the strong connexion and the pleasure they had to be together. 

There were also 4 traditional boats being built during the festival and we got to talk for a while with a Maori carver from NZ who was working on adornments for a Tlingit dugout canoe. I loved this excerpt about that project called Dań Kwanje ’Á–Nààn: Voices Across the Water.

Our cultures were overtaken by colonization in the centuries following first contact with newcomers. We persevered in reclaiming our lands, autonomy and cultures. Today 11 of 14 Yukon First Nations are self-governing, exploring new pathways to sustainable prosperity. 

Resilient and resourceful Elders survived tough times, preserving our languages and cultures. Honouring them we are building four watercraft ~ a moose skin boat, birch bark canoe, dugout canoe and quyaq ~ for Canada’s 150th anniversary. Like the watercraft of earlier days we have arrived at a new destiny – a place of pride and celebration as independent Indigenous peoples. It is in this spirit that we join with other Canadians – young and old, new arrivals and long time settlers, to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. 

Dań Kwanje ’Á–Nààn: Voices Across the Water carries messages for all of us and for people around the world. We have only to listen, to learn and to share in this time of reconciliation – moving forward together safely into the waters of tomorrow. 

The 24 Hours of Light Bike Festival

Passing the bâton... or the timing bracelet.

Passing the bâton... or the timing bracelet.

Balloon popping with a partner game!

Balloon popping with a partner game!

Less than two hours to go!

Less than two hours to go!

On her last (and 9th) lap, Mara came back just 1:38 after noon and her lap didn't count!

On her last (and 9th) lap, Mara came back just 1:38 after noon and her lap didn't count!

The amazing Mountain Goats!

The amazing Mountain Goats!

Twenty-four hours is a long time. But a 24 hour bike race under the midnight sun with some good friends? It goes by pretty fast... at least when you race (not so much for the support parents!). There were only 2 junior teams this year, The Mountain Goats (our all-girl team) and School's Out (all boy team made of the brothers, cousins and friends of some of the girls!), so you can imagine that there was no competition at all!! Both teams did incredibly well and showed great sportsmanship. The 6 km junior course was pretty hilly with some technical sections. The adults (solo up to teams of 8 and a family category) had a 12 km course. Some teams came all the way from Texas, Colorado, Ontario and Alaska to participate. 

It's such a fun event, especially in a small town like Whitehorse, where most mountain bikers know each other. To spice things up, from midnight to 6 am, if you race your lap naked (and I mean COMPLETELY naked, except riding gear: socks, gloves, helmet and bike shoes), you get an extra lap for your team! Needless to say, it was darn cold by then, hold-your-beer-with-ski-gloves cold! You REALLY do not want to encounter a bear or crash your bike in your Adam suit! 

The kids stopped and slept from midnight to 5 am, then it was game on till Sunday noon. At 6 am, Mara came back from her lap with a missing shoe! She had fallen off her bike and lost her (probably not tied properly) shoe in the forest and couldn't find it! JF went back and found it later. Some girls were getting too tired to ride more than one lap on Sunday, and Mara was the last one to go just after 11 am and when she came back from her lap nobody wanted to go again so in a snap decision she went out again with less than 26 minutes to go before noon. She needed to pull a fast lap to make it, but that second lap in a row this late in the race made her miss the cut off by less than 2 minutes. As usual, she finished with a smile. Aïsha won the prize for the fastest lap by a girl on the youth course.

This was the girls first experience of a longer race with a team and they had a blast. Soon they will be hammering down the full course by themselves and won't even need to freeze their bum to ride many laps. To many more fun events like the 24 HOL. 

 

A weekend of camping by Kusawa Lake and paddling the Takhini River

There was a lot of reading aloud by the fire. This was a great book called Zlata's Diary: A child's life in wartime Sarajevo.

There was a lot of reading aloud by the fire. This was a great book called Zlata's Diary: A child's life in wartime Sarajevo.

Cooking grilled cheese for 25 on the stove.

Cooking grilled cheese for 25 on the stove.

2 am on Kusawa Lake

2 am on Kusawa Lake

“I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love.” 
― Leo Tolstoy

We had been stationary for more than a month and I was itching for an adventure. When our friend Edith invited us to join them for a weekend of rafting on the Takhini River, I was over the moon. JF was going to Alaska that weekend to hike/run the Chilkoot Trail in a day (yes, that's the hike we did in 5 days last year, 54 km/33 miles). He did it in 12 hours by the way!! Woot-woot!

The girls and I left in the rain on Friday morning and had a wonderful time just being together in the Westfalia, reading by the fire, cooking and enjoying this magical place that we mostly had to ourselves at that point. By 8 pm, people started arriving and the plans were set for the next day. We woke up to a mere 3 degrees Celcius/37 F) and found out through a friend that had just arrived that there was 4 cm of snow on the ground in Haines Junction, about 40 miles from us and that the famous Haines Junction to Haines Alaska Bike Relay had been canceled because of that... So... we decided to wait for the rain/hail to stop and see if the afternoon would bring us better weather. Bringing a bunch of kids on a freezing river with the risk of falling in in that weather was not very appealing.

We were all crammed in the shelter around the cook stove in search of warmth, but the sky finally opened up and by 2 pm, the sun was back!  We blew up the rafts and went on the river. What a wonderful ride it was! We did part of that same run the next day. By 3 pm on Sunday, everybody had left and only our friends Edith and Trevor who had organized the weekend were still there. We had to boost the Westy since it had died and as I got it to run and prepared to back it up when the shift stick stayed in my hand. Literally. And I knew right there that I was in big trouble. We were out in the boonies with no cell reception for 30 miles, at the end of a 25 km dirt road... And JF was on the Chilkoot. I was out of food, almost out of water and out of dog food. Edith gave me some pasta sauce, milk, orange and yogourt and since Mathilde had to be in town the next morning for her canoe camp, she brought her back to town. 

A mechanically inclined friend assessed the damage, tried the screwdriver trick (to stick it in the hole and use it as a shift stick, but we decided that it was not safe to drive anyways and put wood blocks around all the wheels so the Westy wouldn't move). The campground was quiet again and the twins and I had another slow night by the fire together, making banana boat with the last few squares of chocolate and mushy bananas. Our campsite neighbor spent the evening burning what seemed like a lifetime of important documents: letters, race numbers, old certificates... He had a few boxes of those with him and looked at each document before putting it in the fire. It felt very ceremonial and we spent a fair bit of time making stories about him.

The night felt long and I was a bit worried about JF. I had no idea how his very long day on the Chilkoot went, if everything was OK, if he was back, if Mathilde had someone with her to help her get ready for camp the next morning, if she was worried too... It's a strange feeling to be far out in the woods with no way of reaching anybody and not way to get out. You have to experience the North to completely understand it. There is just nobody around, no houses, no nothing for miles and miles... As I laid there in the semi-darkness of 2 am, I remembered the first time we left on a road trip to Alaska with the twins when they were only 14 months old (and I was pregnant with Mathilde). Mara had had a croup attack in the middle of the night the day before our departure and the idea of driving for 8 or 9 hours and to be in the complete middle of nowhere with babies felt scary all of a sudden. Nature had always been a safe place for me, but confronted with so much vastness, I felt panicked. What if something happened? What if we needed urgent care? It's just not something you have to think about in the South. 

So when we woke up the next day, we had no idea when JF would come... we played board games and read some more, but the rain was back and the day dragged on... We had run out of propane by then, so there was no way of cooking or warming up water for tea. We were cold and decided to nap like a pile of kittens on the bottom bunk of the Westy... and got woken up at around 3:30 pm by JF knocking on the window. Rescue had come! He had borrowed a friend pickup and towed us back to town. I felt very tired all of a sudden. The kind of fatigue that comes with relief. I sure had had my adventure!

Rock climbing, kayaking and mountain biking in the Yukon

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The girls have been helping with school groups coming for a rock climbing day with Equinox Adventures, the company for which I worked last summer. It's been pretty amazing to see them be in charge of students, guiding them on the climbs, teaching them how to belay, etc. They were already used to setting up and pulling down the ropes from last summer, but this year, they have really stepped up their game and are incredibly confident and competent around the students. They honestly blew my mind. I wasn't sure if they were ready for this, but their maturity was obvious and most teachers were very surprised when they found out that the girls were actually the same age or younger than their students! During lunch, the teachers would have conversations with the girls, asking them about their peculiar lifestyle and it was a treat to watch from the sidelines.

One day, Mathilde was guiding a group of 9th graders through a GPTeaming course (a combination of orienteering with a map + GPS and team-building activities), when the group got a little out of hand in the forest. She ran to the front of the group, stopped them and said: I am a staff and you have to listen to me! She said they all stopped in the track and actually listened to her from that point on. If you know her, you can totally imagine her doing that. And you can also see the glint of pleasure in her eyes... On another day, she lit a fire by herself without paper or dry wood. My girl.

Mathilde is doing a regatta ready 2 week long kayak camp this June and will be competing in Regina at the beginning of July. She is pretty excited about that! She is also planning to volunteer at the animal shelter. My baby sure is growing up and it's beautiful to watch.

The 3 girls are also doing the mountain biking camp like in the previous years and are attending orienteering meets. The Yukon has so much to offer for kids... and grown ups too!

Yukon Spring

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Still frozen lakes... this type of ice is called candle ice and the sound it makes when it moves is totally amazing. 

Still frozen lakes... this type of ice is called candle ice and the sound it makes when it moves is totally amazing. 

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10:30 pm light in late May.

10:30 pm light in late May.

10 o'clock in my bedroom in late May...

10 o'clock in my bedroom in late May...

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Gardening with our friends.

Gardening with our friends.

That's my favorite summer cocktail. I am pretty proud of that creation that I call the Ubach Especial, since I created it first for my good friend Antonio (from Tucson). Recipe below. 

That's my favorite summer cocktail. I am pretty proud of that creation that I call the Ubach Especial, since I created it first for my good friend Antonio (from Tucson). Recipe below. 

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The girls did an orienteering workshop and had a blast. They will be going to the orienteering meets of the club this summer.

The girls did an orienteering workshop and had a blast. They will be going to the orienteering meets of the club this summer.

Eating bearberry flowers (uva ursi) on a hike. These are a spring delicacy.

Eating bearberry flowers (uva ursi) on a hike. These are a spring delicacy.

There is discomfort for me in staying put. I thrive on new adventures and new places to discover. I know I’ll never outgrow my wanderlust, but I need to learn to do ordinary. I want to. Every time I come back to the Yukon, I struggle with the transition from in-movement to no-movement. It’s like I wait for people to come up with plans, dinners, activities. I feel clumsy in this life of calendars and organized weeks.

There’s lots of shoulds in my head that I am trying to shush right now (you should just appreciate this down time after all the wonderful adventures of this winter, you should be grateful for the lack of busyness this summer, etc.). But balance is necessary in all things. Just like night makes you appreciate day light, slowness makes you appreciate a faster pace... Too much of anything doesn't feel right and I am adjusting and fine tuning this balance as we settle back in for the summer. It's a fine act, but I am slowly finding my groove.

I added a new search by locations/activities tab on Road it up website, so it is easier to find the information you need in the archives of the site. You can also do a search on the Home page with Moab camping or Oregon rock climbing to get more specific results now that I have added tags to the posts (thanks, Audrey, for that suggestion!). Note that I am still going through every old post and tagging it, so it will take a bit to have everything in there.


Ubach Especial

For 1

1 oz Vodka
2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz red vermouth
1/4 oz Campari
1/2 egg white
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Candied grapefruit peel (or plain old grapefruit strip)
2 oz Soda water

Combine the 7 first ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, open carefully and add ice. Shake again for 30 sec, then strain into a chilled rocks glass. Top with 2 oz of soda water. Add candied grapefruit peel. Note that you can replace the Vermouth + Campari by 1/2 an oz of Italian Bittersweet Vermouth.

2017 Northern Migration - The Canadian part

Fruit trees in bloom in the Okanagan Valley, 10 km from the US border in Osoyoos.

Fruit trees in bloom in the Okanagan Valley, 10 km from the US border in Osoyoos.

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Rock climbing in Skaha Bluffs Provincial park.

Rock climbing in Skaha Bluffs Provincial park.

JF showing the girls how to build an anchor.

JF showing the girls how to build an anchor.

Stout drinking in the Okanagan Lake at Evely Recreation Site campground, a little gem of a campground.

Stout drinking in the Okanagan Lake at Evely Recreation Site campground, a little gem of a campground.

Watercolor by the lake.

Watercolor by the lake.

Brrrr!

Brrrr!

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Such clear water!

Biking in Vernon with friends.

Biking in Vernon with friends.

Camping by Lodgepole Lake, near Kamloops.

Camping by Lodgepole Lake, near Kamloops.

Stout fell through the ice on that lake and gave us quite the scare.

Stout fell through the ice on that lake and gave us quite the scare.

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Dinner by Lake Kamloops.

Dinner by Lake Kamloops.

Late spring and very high water levels everywhere (Kerry Lake).

Late spring and very high water levels everywhere (Kerry Lake).

We got completely stuck in mud going to Inga Lake, just before Wonowon. A towing was needed to get us out of there.

We got completely stuck in mud going to Inga Lake, just before Wonowon. A towing was needed to get us out of there.

There was even snow between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson!

There was even snow between Fort St. John and Fort Nelson!

One of many similar gas stations/motels/restaurant along the Alaska Highway. The guy that lives there had grey skin. He says he spends his winters here all by himself. What a life!

One of many similar gas stations/motels/restaurant along the Alaska Highway. The guy that lives there had grey skin. He says he spends his winters here all by himself. What a life!

Liard Hot Springs.

Liard Hot Springs.

I am unclear about how to handle social media right now. It seems like the blog is more and more a rehashing of what I have published on Instagram and Facebook in the last week or so... I am really enjoying the My Story feature on Instagram right now (the bubbles at the top, where you post little blurbs that disappear after 24 hours, yes, a copy of Snapchat) and this is where I feel more compelled to post. I feel like the IG community is more active now than the FB one... So where does the blog fit in that? Not too sure, but I know I want to keep it up and going. Let me know what you think or what you would like to see more on the blog.

This is a text I published on my personal FB page and on Road it up Instagram. You might have read it already.

As we drive through rows of black spruce, the girls fight over iPad charging cables. I put my earphones back on, close my eyes and go back to the Masai Mara in Kenya with Tsh Oxenreider. I'm listening to her latest book, At Home In The World, the retelling of her year abroad with 3 young kids. She discuses with expats she meets along the way about how intense it is to be with her kids 24/7. I've never known anything else. I've been with my girls day in and day out for 13 years straight. As crazy as it may sound to some, I wouldn't want it any other way. Even on hard days. There were hard days when I worked in an office too (many more!). I smile as I now hear the girls laugh in unisson at a movie on which they finally agreed. I am back in Venice, eating gelato twice a day and drinking an afternoon macchiato with Tsh and her family when I spot a black bear scratching his back on a tree on the side of the Alaska Highway. We're home. Or rather, one of our home. But we're always home in our bus. The outside might be less familiar, but we feel home anywhere. 

I pause Tsh’s book and look ahead, lost in thoughts. What is home anyways? A familiar bed? A favorite mug? A sense of safety and comfort? A smell we recognize and that makes us smile? The way the light filters through the tall branches of trees at 10:30 pm?

I dig my face into the Yukon moss. Yes, I am home, indeed.

2017 Northern Migration - The USA Part

Trying to find Deer Butte Hot Springs, OR.

Trying to find Deer Butte Hot Springs, OR.

Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

Found it. Don't go looking for it... it has become a foot bath.

The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

The water was unusually high this spring and the rock wall that allows to control how much cold water you let in from the river was nowhere to be seen. It was the weirdest experience since the burning hot water from the hot spring was floating on top of the freezing cold water from the river. So our thighs were burning while our feet were freezing. We had to keep stirring the water non stop to make it bearable... not the most relaxing experience!

The smell from the Juniper trees at Skull Hollow Campground (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

The smell from the Juniper trees at Skull Hollow Campground (Oregon) was amazing. It was the perfect place to camp to enjoy Smith Rock State Park.

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Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

Smith Rock SP totally blew our mind. We were taken aback by how thoughtful and well managed the place is. Twenty years ago, it was pretty much only visited by climbers, in fact the bridge didn’t exist and you had to do a tyrolean across the Crooked River (prior to that you could drive and camp beneath The Monument.) The trail system is great, sustainable and enviro and people friendly. The climbing scene and vibe is great and everyone, climbers and non-climbers, is very friendly. On the left, Mathilde climbing 5 gallon buckets, one of the most popular 5.8s in the park.

Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

Our beautiful camping spot at Frenchman Coulee, Vantage, WA. These are climbing towers you see at the back. They are called The Feathers (or the French Fries). I could see people climbing from my bed! In a few hours, we climbed 6 routes in this sector and another one on Agathla Tower.

Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

Aisha belaying JF. These girls are getting strong!

Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

Mathilde climbing House of Cards, 5.8, on Agathla Tower.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot, or the Okanagan sunflower. It's everywhere in the Spring.

When we left Maple Canyon, we quickly worked our way up towards Bend, Oregon, to spend a few days with our friends. We had such a good time, that I didn't take a single picture! We went mountain biking at Phil's trailhead and ended up hiking a part of it in ankle deep snow (tourists!) and shared great meals and drinks! Bend has the most incredible selection of beers and I tasted one of my favorite IPA (RPM from Boneyard Brewery, on tap only). It took me a few years to really enjoy an IPA. For a while I called it skunk pee beer, but I now truly enjoy many IPAs.

I remember my dad telling me that there are some food that you need to taste 10 times before you start appreciating them, as he proceeded to give me a slice of baguette with a tiny piece of Roquefort. There was also brain, frog legs, sweetbread (ris de veau sounds much tamer in French), mussels... and the yearly lobster feast where everybody exclaimed when they cracked open the lobster and found that green stuff that they ate with great delight.

Let’s be honest here, none of this is a love-at-first-sight food, but they do grow on you – some of them at least - to the point that you’ll pay quite a bit of money for it. Think caviar. I’ll always remember the first time I tried black caviar (brought directly from Russia by a client of my family when I lived in Italy)... or when I had risotto al nero di sepia (Italian rice cooked in squid ink... and yes, it’s black).

So what makes a delicacy a delicacy? Is it simply that you have tasted/eaten it enough time with people you loved and that appreciated it that you end up loving it too? Is my brain reminiscing all the joyful dinners with interesting adult conversations that I was allowed to participate in when I was a young teenager and when I could have a little sip of delicious port with the blue cheese? Does my mind remember the pleasure my grandpa had in sucking the lobsters’s little legs that people had left in a pile in the middle of the table covered in newspaper? Do all these memories collide in that one first bite? What do you think?

Rock climbing in Maple Canyon, UT

Cobble stone is pretty unique and people come from all over the world to climb at Maple Canyon.

Cobble stone is pretty unique and people come from all over the world to climb at Maple Canyon.

Signs of spring. Last time we were here, it was fall (the best time to visit Maple Canyon with all the maple trees changing colors).

Signs of spring. Last time we were here, it was fall (the best time to visit Maple Canyon with all the maple trees changing colors).

We found the perfect campsite minutes away from the crags.

We found the perfect campsite minutes away from the crags.

Sleeping with the sound of a river makes for such peaceful nights.

Sleeping with the sound of a river makes for such peaceful nights.

The Pipeline (Left Fork area)

The Pipeline (Left Fork area)

Aisha on Double the Beef for a Buck (Fast Food Joint). Poor Stout was so stressed to see us up the wall.

Aisha on Double the Beef for a Buck (Fast Food Joint). Poor Stout was so stressed to see us up the wall.

Exploring Box Canyon.

Exploring Box Canyon.

Inside Box Canyon.

Inside Box Canyon.

Reading time at Orangutan Wall.

Reading time at Orangutan Wall.

Climbing at the Road Kill wall just before it started hailing.

Climbing at the Road Kill wall just before it started hailing.

The stunning view from Early Bird crag.

The stunning view from Early Bird crag.

Heart rock features a 4 star 3 pitch climb called Tachycardia. On the right, you can see JF on the last pitch, in blue on the top left.

Heart rock features a 4 star 3 pitch climb called Tachycardia. On the right, you can see JF on the last pitch, in blue on the top left.

Can you spot JF?

Can you spot JF?

Climbing with friends is the best!

Climbing with friends is the best!

Look at this rock! It's begging to be climbed!

Look at this rock! It's begging to be climbed!

It was really fun to reconnect with our friends from Live Small Ride Free.

It was really fun to reconnect with our friends from Live Small Ride Free.

As we left the warm climate of Moab and Goblin Valley (literally too hot to bike most days for us now), we drove through Capitol Reef National Park and crossed many remote villages of Central Utah to finally get to our coveted destination: Maple Canyon, 3 miles from the little town of Freedom and about 2 hours south of Salt Lake City. Maple Canyon's unique cobble stone walls attract climbers from all over the world. It is located at 6,700 feet of elevation and we weren't even sure if the climbing season had started there since the campground was not officially open yet. 

If you decide to climb there, or if you just come to explore this beautiful area, please remember that canyon amplifies sound. A lot. And don't be jerks like the family climbing beside us with 12 children screaming their head off while climbers are trying to communicate with their belayers. This is basic rock climbing etiquette: keep your voice low, don't walk into a belayer's space - and step on his rope - and please, keep your dog on a leash if you can't control him.

Maple Canyon is the first place the girls climbed outside 5 years ago and we had been eager to come back ever since climbing this cool conglomerate type rock. We were very happy to find the perfect camping spot big enough for our rig and free, just outside the National Forest (I logged it here on Campendium if you want more info). 

Moutain biking at Goblin Valley State Park

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Walking through Goblin Valley is a must! Go early or even better, at sunset, to beat the crowd.

Walking through Goblin Valley is a must! Go early or even better, at sunset, to beat the crowd.

Looking at agates and jasper on the Buffalo Head trail.

Looking at agates and jasper on the Buffalo Head trail.

Mathilde, JF and Aisha ran part of the trail system.

Mathilde, JF and Aisha ran part of the trail system.

Finding geodes.

Finding geodes.

View from the Landslide trail.

View from the Landslide trail.

Mara by the San Rafael Swell (Dark Side of the Moon trail).

Mara by the San Rafael Swell (Dark Side of the Moon trail).

Molly's Castle (on Desert View Trail).

Molly's Castle (on Desert View Trail).

Lizard Foot trail.

Lizard Foot trail.

Goblin Valley State Park is known for its Goblin Valley... most people drive in, walk around the Goblins and leave. First, you can plan for a longer hike since there are 3 valleys of Goblins, but I highly suggest you explore the other side of the park which is also totally spectacular and much less crowded. A beautiful bike trail system was developed a year and a half ago and seemed to be barely ridden or hiked. We were there on Good Friday and by 9:30, the Goblin parking lot was full, but the parking lot for this little gem of a trail system remained empty all day (we only saw two persons on the whole 12 km ride!).

If you don't want to bike the whole thing or if you'd rather hike it, I highly suggest you make a bee line to The Dark Side of the Moon trail that leads you along the San Rafael Swell. It'll be a 3-4 miles hike well worth it and you'll likely have the place to yourself (a good plan on busy weekends). 

I suggest you camp just outside Goblin Valley in a beautiful and free BLM called South Temple Wash. You could come see the Goblins at sunset when it's less crowded (the best light, since the morning sun is lighting them from the back, as in my pictures, not ideal). 

I've found out about these trails on the Trailfork app (I highly recommend you use it since the flower petal like trail system is a bit confusing even if there are signs at most intersections, there are lots of Do not enter sign that could keep you going in circles if you're not careful - we ended up doing some of the trails counterclockwise). I found this page to be the most informative about the trail system, even if it is a bit outdated, the info is still pretty accurate. Lots of sandy spots still (be careful of the sandy g-outs - sharp dips into washes - lots of them...). If you're planing to ride there, I suggest you start with the Buffalo Head trail clockwise - you'll be stopping all the time in the beginning to check out all the agates, jasper, geodes and quartz along the trail. If you're keep (and riding with kids), bring a small hammer to crack open some rocks and find geodes!

Then, skip the Landslide trail (the landscape is beautiful, but the trail is still pretty sandy). See this from the page mentioned above: While much of the trail is already firmly packed, there are long soft stretches which will tax even strong riders. The worst was a 0.4 mile stretch on the northwest side of the Landslide loop riding clockwise. Although it climbed only 100 vertical feet, the soft red dirt felt like grunting up Puke Hill. With the brakes rubbing. Into the wind. Towing a fat kid in a trailer.

Yeah, we got confused and rode it and it's pretty bang on. 

Then, head to The Dark side of the Moon (ride it clockwise, even if there is a Do not Enter sign), the most beautiful trail that leads you along the San Rafael Swell (so close at times, that I walked my bike...). Then proceed to Desert View for more lookouts and if you feel comfortable with off-camber AND exposed trails, come down through Lizard foot (or do like me, and walk many sections!).

Moab, 2017 Edition

Intrepid Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Intrepid Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Big Chief Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Big Chief Trail, Deadhorse State Park.

Cross Canyon trail, Klonzo North trail system.

Cross Canyon trail, Klonzo North trail system.

We went to the Outerbike Moab bike festival, tried some great bikes and scored some nice swag!

We went to the Outerbike Moab bike festival, tried some great bikes and scored some nice swag!

Demoing bikes at the Outerbike festival. Riding North 40 in the Moab Brand (Bar M) trail system.

Demoing bikes at the Outerbike festival. Riding North 40 in the Moab Brand (Bar M) trail system.

Circle-O trail, Moab Brand trail system.

Circle-O trail, Moab Brand trail system.

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Bull run trail (Mag 7 trail system).

Gemini Bridges Rd.

Gemini Bridges Rd.

Beautiful campsite among the boulders (only accessible for short 4 X 4 high clearance rigs). I posted it here on Campendium if you'd like the coordinates.

Beautiful campsite among the boulders (only accessible for short 4 X 4 high clearance rigs). I posted it here on Campendium if you'd like the coordinates.

View from Gemini Bridges Rd.

View from Gemini Bridges Rd.

Driving on Gemini Bridges Rd.

Driving on Gemini Bridges Rd.

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Rocky Tops trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Ramblin trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Ramblin trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Chisholm trail (Horsethief trail system).

Chisholm trail (Horsethief trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system).

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Big Mesa trail (Navajo Rocks trail system)

Trying to play the trumpet with Stéphane.

Trying to play the trumpet with Stéphane.

Our beautiful campsite on Dalton Wells Rd.

Our beautiful campsite on Dalton Wells Rd.

I've already written a lot about Moab since it is our 4th time here (I published a long post containing lots of practical info last year), but we still had a long list of trails to ride. We stayed in Moab 3 weeks this year and rode almost daily, so we checked pretty much our whole bucket list! The Navajo Rocks sector blew our mind (Big Mesa was a favorite) as well as Bull Run (Mag 7).

We went back to Milt's as is our tradition for the girls birthday now and discovered that the food is much better if you eat inside than outside (that was the Milt's we knew from 5 years ago - we had been disappointed in the quality of the food in the last few years). The space inside is very limited (a snack bar counter and two tables, but it's well worth waiting at the back door for a party to leave - it is still much faster than doing the line outside and waiting 45 min to be served).

We drove the whole Gemini Bridges Rd in the Westy. This year, we ended up staying on Dalton Wells Road since Willow Springs was very crowded. We found a great spot off the main road along some beautiful green cliffs. It gets pretty windy on those flats sometimes, but there's no avoiding it in that area. Just keep your awnings in check.

We also discovered a great place to get awesome espresso without having to wait in line at Moab Espresso and Gelato, it's a little bike shop café called Bike Fiend

We spent a lot of time at the Poison Spider bike shop since our bikes got damaged just before we got to Moab when a trucker backed up in our Westy while we were parked in a truck stop to cook dinner one night. Lucky for us, the trucker's insurance company was great and covered all the damages and bike rentals while the bikes were getting fixed (JF got a brand new bike). We had great service and if ever you need anything while in town, go see Russell, one of the managers, he's really an awesome person!

 

If you really knew me...

You would know that I sometimes feel like a fraud. I’ve been climbing on and off for 20 years and I still struggle on a 5.9. Granted, I’ve never committed to it seriously and never really trained (if it’s boring, I’m not doing it, I don’t train, I play). I can’t call myself a beginner in mountain biking, but I often make rookie mistakes. I walk most of the hills, I have a panic attack when I am too out of breath and I grunt like a woman in labor while trying to do power moves…

I have strong legs, but poor cardio (see higher: I don’t train). I’m a strange mix of adventurous daredevil and anxious wuss. I’m not a natural at sports, physical things don’t come easily to me. I learn and improve *very* slowly.

I was the kid that was often picked up last in the teams in Phys. Ed. I was the kid that hid at recess to not have to play dodge ball. I was the kid that was scared to bike to school. I was the kid who didn’t do any sports *for fun*. Oh, I danced and even went to semi-professional ballet school in Italy at 18, but at 5 feet tall, they didn’t even consider me for an audition…

I’m not the typical wiry, sinewy rugged looking woman you see on the trails that seem to be born with a bike under her and flows and flies with her every turn.

Why do I keep doing it then? Some days, I have wondered that, but I do less and less. As long as the fun vs fear/frustration ratio is leaning on the right side, I’ll keep at it. I’m just happy to be out there with my family, heart pumping, learning alongside my girls. They are actually the ones teaching me now, calling the features ahead (big drop on the left mom! Tight sandy corner!), cheering for me and waiting for me. It’s awesome and humbling. But growing is pretty humbling.

All I want to say is that: you don’t need to be born with the athletic gene to enjoy yourself out there. This is not a select club, even if it might look like one from the outside.

After reading an inspiring article last year, I’ve stopped saying: “sorry to keep you waiting” every time I go on rides with people that have to stop for me to catch up with them at intersections, but rather: “thanks for waiting”! It’s not a small difference. It’s like saying: I’m proud to be out here even if I’ll probably never be the one who waits for others, but I’m doing it and having fun!

And to all the guys who wish their girlfriend would love mountain biking, don’t bring her on your favorite trail the first time, she probably won’t like it. Rent her a good full squish bike with big tires and ask the bike shop if they have a woman saddle (trust me, those cheap hard men saddles they put on rental bikes make the ride much less enjoyable). Take her on a fun green trail (I know green doesn’t rhyme with fun in your head, but try to remember what it feels like to be a beginner). Pack a lunch (with beer!) and take picture breaks on top of hills so she doesn’t feel like you’re stopping just for her to catch her breath. Tell her you’re happy to be out here with her and that you don’t care to do an easier ride if it means riding with her (go do a harder ride before, so you’re nice and relax and full of endorphins!). Remember that most of us don’t like feeling vulnerable in a situation like this (me, well, you’re reading that post, vulnerability is my second name), especially in a discipline in which you kick our butts. Be reassuring and understanding. And try to have fun! 

**The pictures are from our hike to the Fisher Towers in Moab. It was the most beautiful hike we did in that area. A real Dr. Seuss landscape. The first picture was taken on the morning of my birthday when we were woken up by a hot air balloon taking flight just outside our bedroom windows!

Sedona, Sedona!

Hike to Devil's Bridge.

One of the views on Devil's Bridge Trail.

Red rock scrambling on the Devil's Bridge hike.

Look carefully, the girls are standing on the bridge! A bit nerve wracking for a mom!

We spent a lot of time by the river near the Mezcal trailhead, building structures, cooling off and washing ourselves a bit.

Reading by the river during the hottest time of day.

Exploring ruins on the West Fork Trail.

The first of many river crossings on West Fork Trail.

Many beautiful evening by the fire with our friends.

Meeting people on the road and traveling with others is one of the most amazing parts of this lifestyle. Needless to say, it’s also one of the most challenging. Setting boundaries when sharing the same public space is not easy. Making plans as a group can be an exhausting task.

But karma is an interesting beast (bonus points if you use the word Karma while in Sedona, extra bonus points if you can combine it with the word Vortex in the same sentence). So it is that I get plenty of opportunities to practice... a vortex of opportunity ;)

I love meeting new people. I am also pretty active on social media, so I am in touch with great people living on the road. After 4 years of this life, we’ve had lots of amazing encounters... and a few harder ones. This week, we had a miscommunication with a family we were eager to meet and the whole thing turned sour. People got their feelings hurt and I felt like shit. So long for trying to be more assertive and honest in setting boundaries...

So back to Sedona. It’s a gorgeous place, but man it’s touristy... We had to go on bike rides and hikes early in the morning to beat the crowd (lots of retired people hiking the trails and young spring breakers, which makes for not-so-flowy bike rides)... It feels like Sedona’s infrastructure has not adapted to the amount of visitors (or maybe it’s all part of the business plan). The trailhead parking lots are almost always overflowing along the roads, the roundabouts in town are always jammed... We were lucky to find a great boondocking spot away from the craziness of the town in West Sedona, near Nolan Tank/Loy Canyon. We were a 12 minutes drive from one of the best trail networks in town and midway between Sedona and Cottonwood (doing laundry and grocery shopping is much cheaper there).

The Crystal crowd is real in Sedona. You can have an aura reading followed by a vortex tour or a UFO tour??... People make eye contact in that I-sense-your-beautiful-spirit kind of way at Safeway... and when I bought chicken necks for the dog at Whole Food, the cashier assumed I was making bone broth, the old lady at the coffee shop who laid hands on our friends’ dog hips saying she was sensing pain without first acknowledging them (because, you know, connexion with the animal kingdom)... The convergence of these different crowds (the old hippies, the mountain bikers, the retired RV community, the people that come here to do Pink Jeep or Hummer tours and on top of it this week, the Spring Break kids...) makes for quite the combo. But that’s what makes Sedona, Sedona and it’s all part of the experience.

We have explored only a fraction of the trails Sedona has to offer and saved many for next time. Sedona is known for its pretty advanced mountain bike trails and I had heard many times there was nothing except the Bell Rock Path (a wide green trail) that was not hard. We were happy to discover a loop that we really liked near our camp spot that was fun without being too technical (Park at Mezcal trailhead, do Long Canyon + Deadman Pass + Aerie, turn left on Cockscomb, turn left of Dawa, return on the road to trailhead). The Mezcal trail is beautiful (blue-black) if you are comfortable with some exposure (and maybe walking a few pretty rocky sections). For more intermediate/advanced riders, Slim Shady, Templeton and Llama are great. Hiline was JF’s and Antonio’s favorite (solid black). We didn’t get to ride Canyon of Fools, Chuckwagon and many more (JF and Antonio wanted to do the Hogs but ran out of time).

As for hiking, it’s the same network, plus some. We only did two hikes during our week: Devil’s Bridge (the hike itself is only 1 mile to the Bridge, but you have to walk down a rugged Jeep trail for a mile prior, so this part was not so great, but the Bridge hike is nice, but so very crowded). Same thing for the other hike we did on the other side of town (towards Flagstaff), another one of the most popular hikes in the area called West Fork, during which you have to cross the river 13 times. A super fun family hike on a warm day, but get there early since the parking lot is small and gets full before noon. You then have to wait in line for someone to leave to be allowed to enter. Also, even if it is a National Forest (Coconino) and you have a National Park Pass, this is a special fee zone ($10 per vehicle). Bring hiking poles and shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, walk straight through the creek to avoid the crossing line-ups (yeah, it’s that busy). Both hikes were dog-friendly.

Hiking to Miller Peak and exploring the Coronado Cave, Sierra Vista, AZ

Beautiful boondocking spot at Miller Canyon

There was a beautiful creek running 300 yards from camp.

We loved that huge oak tree and sat under it during the warm hours of the day.

The snowy peak is Miller Peak. We hiked all the way to the top (9 700 feet). It was quite the hike (photos below).

We went to explore the Coronado Cave, one of the biggest unimproved cave in AZ. It's a half mile uphill hike to the cave. I highly recommend you check it out!

It was amazing! 

Then, we drove up to Montezuma Pass trailhead at 6,300 feet of elevation.

Can you see us on the mountain side?

Some parts of the trail were quite windy!

We made it to the top! Mexico on one side, USA on the other.

Cloud volcano

Right from Dr. Seuss!

Miller Peak is a landmark mountain located in far-south Arizona near the town of Sierra Vista and the Fort Huachuca Military Base. The summit reaches to 9,700 feet and is one of just five mountains in Arizona with over 5,000 feet of prominence (a so-called "ultra" peak). The summit is accessible via the Crest Trail, which runs along the main range crest (5,3 miles). It is also the first leg of the Arizona Trail, so it was fun to see thru-hikers on their first day heading towards Utah! 

It was a beautiful hike, but it was challenging given the length of it (and the fact that we had hiked to the Coronado Cave in the morning on top of it!). The trail is well-designed and is mostly of moderate grade thanks to the many switchbacks. The vegetation changed as we meandered along the ridge from the North Side to the South side. The kids and the dog were delighted to see snow.

Given the peak's proximity to Mexico, there are often border crossers who are entering into the United States via the Crest Trail. There is a border patrol on duty in the Montezuma Pass parking lot and the guy asked our friend Jason if he was carrying a weapon to hike the trail since we could possibly see some smugglers on the trail.

We don’t carry weapons... but it was still interesting to hear that AZ Trail thru-hikers have to pay close attention since the crossers trail are so used that they can be confused with the official trail! Here’s something I found on a hiking site: Attacks on hikers just do not happen. They (the smugglers) want nothing to do with you and will hide given the chance. If you should come across a group, use your best judgement.

This area is defined as a Sky Island since it is high enough to rise above the valley floors of desert scrub or desert grassland without being connected to woodlands. It ranks as the second most biologically diverse ecosystem on the planet because of the overlap and blending of several major biogeographic zones: it is the meeting place of two great deserts, the Chihuahuan and the Sonoran, and two large mountain chains, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Occidental. The nearby San Pedro River serves as a migratory super highway for birds and other wildlife, while the Huachuca Mountains host another world of flora and fauna as they rise above 9,000 feet.

If you are planning to visit the Coronado Cave, make sure to bring a headlamp and gloves (as to not alter the rock formations) and I would have liked to have a buff or scarf because of the dust in some areas. The cave is one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona. It is 600 feet long and in most places about 70 feet wide. It was super fun to explore!