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!

And South we go...

Our last few weeks in the Yukon were a series of awesome dinners and shared moments with friends.

These friendships that survive the distance mean so much to all of us.

A last evening at our dear friend Josée's.

Coloring at night in the bus.

Last sunset on the Alaska Highway.

Following a Westy from Argentina.

We stopped at Boya Lake on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway for a little hike.

And pick berries, of course!

It was the first time our California friends saw a beaver dam! 

We stopped for 4 days in Burns Lake to ride at Boer Mountain. It rained the whole time, so that's pretty much the only biking picture I took... You might remember our epic adventures here last year! Day 1 is here, then Day 2 (the shit hits the fan), Day 3, Day 4 and there are more posts on that beautiful place (just click Newer at the bottom of the posts)!

Medicine making with arnica, yarrow, fireweed and rosehips and dutch oven apple crips with freshly picked thimbleberries and blueberries.

Prosciutto and sage leaves wrapped chicken and potatoes over the fire.

Lots and lots of dirty laundry. We rode in the mud for 3 days!

Diedra found out that the thrift store was doing a 5$/bag of clothes week. The kids were creating a play, so it was perfect! They are so creative!

The sun came out for 30 minutes and we could litterally see the earth exhale.

Kager Lake, right by the campsites at Boer Mountain. There are tent campsites all around the lake accessible through a fun bike trail. During our time there, they were doing controlled burns all around the lake and it was pretty surreal to come across these big campfires every 200 meters as we picked berries in the rain! They kept us warm!

Transitions. Every parenting book I read when the girls were little had a chapter on that. Every parent knows all too well the meltdowns that followed the announcement that we had to move on to something different, be it jumping in the car to go visit grandma or wash hands before dinner... In the Waldorf world, we had little transition songs for each of these moments, imaginative stories of foxes chasing little mice in the bedroom for storytime... It’s not easy to leave behind something that felt good and comfortable, something you were engrossed in and could keep on doing. That’s how it felt to leave the Yukon. We weren’t sad per se, but we could have stayed a little longer (in a warm house, not in the bus!). Most places we leave feel like that after a while, Tucson, Moab, Virgin... Our life is a series of transitions, of hellos and goodbyes and see-you-laters. An interesting choice for a girl that had lots of separation anxiety as a child... But, hey, I’ve always been the kind to grab the bull by the horns!

Or rather, I’ve always had that pull to explore, to get out of my comfort zone. Leaving for a year in Italy at 17, attempting to hike the GR20 in Corsica at 21, a little underprepared... Hitting the road in an old bus we had just bought! It’s not an adventure if there’s not a bit (or a lot!) of unknown in it, right?

Last days at Boer Mountain

Fall is well on its way here. During the time we stayed at the campground, we really saw nature going from summer to fall. The colors are amazing now!

This place is one of the most amazing camping spots we have ever been to. Boer Mountain has left us many unforgettable memories... and a few scars.  Seriously, what are the chances to find world class bike trails out your door, a beautiful lake to paddle on, a free peaceful campground (and free firewood!) five minutes from a friendly town with everything you need? 
Boer Mountain, we will be back.

Bike, eat, sleep... rinse and repeat (and a bit of kayaking too)!

The kids spent many hours carving spoons around the fire. They have to burn the center to make it hollow.

The biking crew!

Muddy trails!

The Northern Aqua Ninja, a very rare specie!

With 10 bikes to take care of and all the riding that happens around here, there is almost always someone working on a bike...

The girls taught our new friend Lee and his girlfriend how to cook bannock over the fire

Oh the beautiful sky! We have been hoping to see Northern Lights, but no luck so far!

Living so close to nature, I cannot help but notice every little change in the environment around me. How the light changes throughout the day depending on the weather. How the beaver spends his day going back and forth across the lake, collecting timber for his hut. How the mama duck swims around the lilypad patch with her 6 ducklings... Even the unicyclist with his bear bells (yes, on a mountain bike unicycle... He goes down When Pigs Fly and Charlotte's Web on it!!) that rides by our campsite every night at the same time, like a swiss watch. 

There is something quite comforting in that sameness, that predictability.

When Jennifer and I went for a kayak outing at sunset, we stopped paddling for a moment once we reached the other side of the lake and listened in silence. The sun warmed our faces and we smiled at each others. Both of us strangers in that self-contained world. 

When Pigs Fly

How many bikes and persons can you fit in a Westy? For this ride, 8 bikes and 10 persons!


The trail network at Boer Mountain is pretty amazing! One of the most popular ride is called When Pigs Fly. And yes, that's the trail on which JF broke his arm (only because he was going too fast into a jump). You can see it here on YouTube. It's a very flowy trail with big berms and lots of jumps. The first time I did it, it really kicked my butt and I walked most of the berms. My sweet friend Jennifer waited for me, gave me tips and encouraged me to keep trying.

There is another short fun black diamond trail that the kids love called Smells like Bacon (seriously! Bike trails and climbing routes have the best names!). All the trails have been named with a pig theme in mind (Slaughter House, Charlotte's Web, Soooeet, Curly Tail, etc.). 

Every Wednesday, local youth from the bike club come and do some trail work in exchange for a shuttle up at the end of the night! The club is very active and organize an awesome bike fest (The Big Pig) around mid-August every year.

And someone sure had fun finding names for the age categories:

1. Cutlet - 12 and under

2. Junior Tender - 13-15

3. Senior Tender - 16-18

4. Lean - 19-34

5.Gristle - 35-49

6.Freezer Burn -50+

The Reunion

Supervising our dear friend while he fixes the coolant hoses

Sewing, of course!

Java now has two families... and two homes!

The kids spent many hours building forts

Even doing the dishes is fun with your best friend!

Remember when we said goodbye to our beloved traveling friends last April in Moab? Well, we were supposed to meet in Southern BC, but with all the events from last week, this amazing family came all the way up to be with us and give us a hand! How awesome is that?
We are so happy to be back together and it feels like we never were apart. Having these wonderful kids in my bus feels so natural... There are so many adventures ahead of us! I am excited beyond words!

Oh the people you meet!

Java's not too sure about JF's new hairdo....

Love this girl and her awsome attitude. Her tattoo: Be Yourself Fearlessly. She is the embodiement of it!

Even cooler, the bottom part is the mountain range behind Canmore!

We did a few shuttles up and rode together most of the day

Happy hour in the parking lot!

This guy's van is nothing short of amazing! He did the whole conversion himself. Under the bed, he has sliding trays for his bikes (notice the wet suit hanging inside the door, surfboard and paddle board on top? Fully equiped!

And, he is a bike mechanic, so he took a look at my bike derailler. His motto: lubrication is a wonderful thing!!

We met Madeleine the night before. She had just driven 14 hours down the Cassiar (she was in Carcross, in the Yukon, biking, two days earlier!). We hit it off right away and told her to come by for coffee and a shuttle up the mountain the next morning. She currently lives off her little car. She ice climbs, paraglides, heliskis and rides hard! She is a fiery, spunky girl that sucks the marrow out of life. She radiates joy and fun! I hope my girls become their own version of Madeleine one day!

When we came back from our ride, a man she had met in Carcross a few days ago was there with his awesome Sprinter van. It was an empty shell that he customized. It is GORGEOUS (think modern, lime green bamboo laminate, dark grey and chocolate brown accents with stainless steel... and lots of gear!), with great music playing at all times of day. He is 53 and has been living off his van for 2 years already. He spent the summer hiking, biking and paddling in Alaska (and fly fishing from his paddle board!). So inspiring! I hope more people would have that kind of guts!

Then, the next day, we met Mike, a young Austrian guy, who has been traveling for 6 months on his super heavy 7 inch suspension freeride bike (the antithesis of a cyclo-tourism bike...) pulling a trailer, covering usually over 100 km a day (and sometimes 160 km!). He had already climbed up the mountain (that we usually shuttle!) twice that day and ridden back down. The guy is a machine! He's having the time of his life!

What do these people have in common? They feel so alive and happy! They traded the traditional life and the security that comes with it for freedom and adventures. They are high on life!


A perfect evening under the full moon

We have had a pretty intense week, but it's also been a pretty amazing one! I have felt closer to my girls than I had in a long time and this alone, felt pretty wonderful. On Friday, I was litterally bursting with gratefulness for the life I live. After a rainy morning, the sun surprised us and came out in full force. Mara, Mathilde and I went for one of our favorite ride (Aisha has pain in one knee and she should only ride the mostly flat trail around the lake for a few days... which we call the Java trail since it's his daily ride...). I feel more confident by the day even if I have more bruises than I can count. JF calls me his little dalmatian...!  

When we came back, I made one of my famous frappé in the Vitamix to curb the effort migraine I felt coming (Three Sisters Kicking Horse coffee frozen in ice cubes - espresso shots from our machine - with half and half and a little bit of maple syrup!) and went back for a lake side ride with Aisha and Java. We stopped on our favorite campsite on the other side of the lake (accessible only by feet or bike) on a peninsula and watch the sun come down on the lake together. When we came back, I made delicious lemon garlic thyme cream pasta and opened a cold bottle of local Riesling. We ate in the setting sun.

The girls and I then grabbed the lambskins and our sleeping bags and went to the dock to watch the moon rise. When the sun came down, bats came flying around us on the lake. A beaver swam nearby. Suddenly, we saw it: the beautiful bright moon coming up between the trees. Then, Mathilde spotted the first star. Soon enough, we could see Orion and Cassiopea (my favorite constellation!) and even a few shooting stars. It was very sweet to hear Aisha say: I don't know what to wish for... I really have all that I could want! And Mathilde say: I wish I could have my very own moon that would follow me around all the time... That girl! One day, she will make a man work hard...! 

We layed down a long time in the dark silence of the night. An owl hooted in the distance... I said I wouldn't leave until I heard the loon... At around 10, we heard it. I looked at my daughters' faces, illuminated by the moonlight, smiled a fully contented smile and took a deep breath to remember this moment forever. Now, we could go to bed.

Day 4: Making the best of it

Nature's laundromat

Nature's bathtub

Dishwashing with lake water.

Can you see the dragonfly right by her hand? There are tons of them around here. Which is good because it means less mosquitoes!

Having a big red bus, a cool Westfalia and a funny puppy comes in handy sometimes. Especially when you are parked right where lots of bikers start their rides. The people we rode with on the weekend come back here almost every day, so when JF told the guy that works at the part store about having to drive 80 km to get our Westy part, he said he could have it shipped right here in Burns Lake for $10!  One less thing to worry about! 

It was a very hot day (by Yukon standards!) and we decided to enjoy the lake while the sun was high in the sky. We jumped in  the cold lake and let the sun warm up our skin lying down on the dock while rainbow trouts jumped all around us!

Later, the twins and I went for a longish ride. They convinced me to try the 4 Cross course (I did it!) and I rode most of a black diamond trail with them (except the wooden features, drops and wall rides!). I was pretty proud of myself! It was so cute to see the girls cheering for me all along! Mara stayed behind me the whole ride and gave me tips and corrected my positions!

At some point on the trail, Aisha (who was yelling and singing non-stop... to the point of having a sore throat after an hour...) stopped and bursted into tears. She had contained her fear of meeting a bear, but felt overwhelmed by it now... (she woke up with terrible bear nightmares the night before... poor girl...). We sat and talked for a while and she decided she wanted to keep on riding. So we did! What a brave girl I have! 

We were so hot after our ride that we went straight to the lake and jumped with our clothes on!! It was such a special moment to swim in that beautiful quiet lake with my big girls, all three of us high on endorphins and pride! As I came out the lake, one of the girl found a HUGE leech on the back of my tank top. We all freaked out and undressed right there, checking each other out, giggling and screaming! For some reason, this whole adventure almost felt like a rite of passage. My girls teaching me mountain bike skills, Aisha and I both facing our fears, Mara holding us in her peaceful energy the whole time. I felt so honored to be there with these two wonderful young girls. I think we all felt it. 

When we sat beside the fire by the lake that night, Aisha wrapped her arms around me and held me tight, a big grin on her beautiful face. We didn't need any words. 

Day 3: Rolling with the punches

Who's taking this whining little guy out at night now?!  Three times last night!!!! Arrghhh!

Tacos and a good Grasshopper beer make everything a bit better...

There they go again...

Warming up the shivering puppy...

Westy mechanic 101. Since papa can't do it with one arm, the girls are learning!

When we woke up, the (usually great) Internet connexion was down... We laughed it off with a triple shot latte (at least there was sun to provide some electricity to run the coffee machine!). Let me recap the last week for you: first my computer stopped working a few days before we left the Yukon when JF installed Windows 10 (he spent A LOT of time trying to fix it, online, on the phone, in store, without any luck, so we only have one computer between the two of us, which is a problem, because we often have to work at the same time...). Then, in the middle of the Cassiar Highway (in the middle of nowhere, where there was no cell connexion for a few hundreds of miles), a part of the tow system broke, leaving us to drive the two buses separately. When we climbed the hill leading to Kager Lake on Boer Mountain, JF smelled coolant and discovered a hose had just popped... After a few tests, he found out that there was no moving the bus from its location until that was fixed. 

Then, he broke his arm and on that same night, we thought the Westy's engine was fried. So we were stuck 5 km up on a dirt road, with no running vehicles (the area where we are parked looks like a garage yard right now with the front of the bus open and parts everywhere...), we are practically out of fresh water. The girls haven't showered in over a week. JF needs meds from the pharmacy in town for pain and to prevent infection in his many road rashes. We need to go get the part to fix the bus tomorrow 80 km away.

I might be an eternal optimist, but I still see our luck in the bad lucks. The part on the Westy is under warrantee, and we should receive it in a few weeks. We were VERY lucky JF saw the Westy moving to the side in his rearview miror, because we could have easily lost it in the ditch... Or we could have broken down completely and not be able to move from where it happened. We have met a local guy that works at the parts store in town while biking this weekend and he was able to help us. The Westy's engine seems fine. We needed to replace the coolant tank (that completely split in two) and the alternator belt. 

And most importantly, JF is alive, not disfigured, and his fracture should heal fast. We have a lake nearby to get some water (and clean ourselves if we are brave enough!) and we still have food for at least a few days. JF called the towing to bring the Westy to a local mecanic he rode with on Sunday. We have amazing trails right off our door and the girls and I will take advantage of that. Oh! But life doesn't give us much rest! The gilrs and I surprised a bear that was eating thimbleberries. Poor Aisha was in front and got very scared... We talked to him, but we could still hear him in the bushes, so we turned around... I sure am glad it happened when we were only 10 minutes from the bus! A half an hour earlier, I had asked Aisha to stop singing loudly, because she was driving me batty... I told her to just make noise every 2-3 minutes... The problem is, in 2-3 minutes on a bike, you cover a lot of ground... On our after dinner ride, I told them they could sing non-stop the whole ride... Trust me, the bears did not stand a chance!!

Boer Mountain, DAY 2: The shit hits the fan...

A dock... water... Déjà vu... RUN for your life!!!

I love Monday mornings at campgrounds. The place is empty after a buzzing weekend. Here, at Boer Mountain, the campsites are right by Kager Lake, so we went to sit on the dock in the morning sun and watched our new friends fish as we chatted. It was a gorgeous day and we were already making plans for the trails we wanted to ride. Since the people we had met were leaving in the afternoon, the girls and JF arranged for one last shuttle up the mountain with them.

I had done the shuttle the day before and knew that by the time I drove back down, the riders were usually back down too. But their pickup had been down here for a while and there was still no sign of them. I watched the clock, trying to convince myself that they probably had decided to try a different trail. I tried to quiet down the voice that was telling me that something was wrong. 

I was working on a translation contract when I heard Mathilde starting to give a guy the spiel about the Westy and the bus (the girls are getting pretty good at answering questions on our rig!) and came out to help her with some details. That's when I saw JF approach, all bloodied face and scratched, his woolen shirts ripped and with a weird look in his eyes. When he peeled off his glasses and I saw the gush on his nose, my legs almost went from under me (I would have been a very bad nurse...). Turns out he had caught a jump too fast and went flying and crashed face first on When Pigs Fly (just thought it was funny... I can now call him my little flying piglet...!). A minute after the crash, a friend found him sitting by his bike, dizzy. He helped him change his tube, assessed the damage and they slowly rode back down. We were on concussion watch for a while. I tried to convince him to have his painful shoulder checked at the hospital, but he said it felt OK (I knew he was still on adrenaline... and I also know that JF is always OK...). I sure am glad he had his full face helmet and protections when it happened (he doesn't usually wear them...). 

By 6 pm, he was looking worst and we decided to go to the ER. Sure enough, he had broken his humerus! The doctor said the tendon pulled so hard on the bone that it ripped the bone! The good news is that in a situation like that, one of two things happen: either the rotator cuff tears or the bone breaks. And a break is a much better option. Since they can't put a cast on a shoulder, he has to wear a stabiliser sling (absolutely no movement for 2 and a half weeks). Then, if he is painfree, he can slowly get moving. If not,  he will need to have an ultrasound done to assess the damage (if any) to the ligaments and tendons. 

After the verdict fell, we all piled back into the Westy and drove back up to the bus. When I turned off the engine, we heard a weird noise coming from the back. We jumped off and saw it: the white smoke! "Let's hope it's not the head gasket!",  we both exclaimed at the same time, incredulous... Really?! How many bad lucks can you have in a week??

JF turned around, leaving the Westy behind in the dark, and said: "I need a beer!"

Mountain biking at Boer Mountain, in Burns Lake, British Columbia, DAY 1


Under the proud paternal look...

That's a skinny skinny!!

Boer Mountain Bike Park is the first of its kind as the park is the only mountain bike park to be build on Crown land in Canada. There are miles of classic singletrack offering riders a sequence of cross-country, freeride and downhill trails, as well as a skills park, jump park and Rider Cross track. This park was also designed by Whislter park designers and the best part is it is free to use. There are about 15 campsites with picnic tables and firepit, as well as a huge parking area for bigger rig (all for free, 14 days max for camping).

We were lucky enough to meet some of the locals that were part of the project since the beginning and helped designed the trails (thanks to our friendly puppy!). We chatted for a few hours and JF and the girls went riding with them the next day. Since the Carcross episod, I felt very unsure about my biking skills. My confidence was at its lowest low and I declined a few more challenging downhill rides with these skilled bikers.

After reading the trail descriptions on the map, I asked JF and the girls if they'd come try some cross-country trails with me. I tried to focus on the skills the girls had me practice on the pump track in the morning. My thighs burned from the effort and the constant standing up. The sharp turns were challenging and I walked the wooden boardwalks behind the girls, feeling like a big wuss... I took a deep breath and tried to channel a friend (who is so at peace with where she is at in terms of skills, even when riding with experienced people) who often says when she walks parts of the trail: I don't make one with the bike yet! And I smiled, clearly not feeling at one with the bike... At other moments, I heard another friend whispering into my ear: Trust the bike! And I did... for a few hundred meters... until, a jump threw me off balance.

Tears welled up in my eyes. I heard my friend who just last week told me: You are brave. And I felt it. I was being brave. I was back on the horse!

As I looked at JF watching the girls with pride in his eyes, I decided turn that same gaze towards myself. I was proud of myself. Proud to be there, riding berms and managing sharper turns than before, my heart pounding, feeling the flow of the trail. And my confidence increased. Thanks for riding with me today, friends!

But that, my friends, was only Day 1... Things got a little more... action packed on Day 2... Stay tuned! Spoiler alert: don't look on Facebook!