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.

 

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 8 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.

A weekend of riding and eating (and blueberry picking) in Carcross, Yukon

Calling the teams for the last day of riding of the season, on Montana Mountain, in Carcross.

Waiting to find out in which team she will be...

Meanwhile, the adults are riding!

Endind a perfect biking day at Benett Lake!

Ben even caught a fish!

Braised fennel. Yum!

Covering the potatoes with moss to keep them from drying out.

Peach and cranberry cake in the dutch oven

The trick is to have a 3 to 1 ratio of coals (3 on top, 1 at the bottom) and to have the bottom on a trivet or a rack so it is not sitting on the coals.

Apple crisp in the dutch oven. Success!!

Beautiful light on Lake Bennett.

Picking blueberries in Fraser, BC (45 min from Carcross towards Alaska).

Mossberries

Early blueberry (aka blue huckleberry or Vaccinium ovalifolium) on the left, dwarf blueberries on the right (Vaccinium caespitosum)

Do you understand why we call huckleberries "black mouth" in French (gueules noires)??

Fall is definetely here. The willow and alder leaves are turning yellow, the fireweed are a rainbow of green to dark red, often on the same plant, and the berries are incredibly abundant!

Riding on Montana Mountain in the fall light is nothing short of magical: the way the light filters through the trembling aspens and the glowing green mossy trails... It feels like such a treat to be part of it all. 

As Rachel who lives in the Colorado mountains says it so beautifully: 

"Here is a place where weather is an animal that will never be tamed.

Here, being human feels like just the right size, appropriately small amongst the stout spruce and fir trees, and the ancient, storytelling rocks. For a brief, wondrous time you may find your desires shrink into something manageable, a small parcel that you can put in your pocket and examine later.

Here, the flavors of happiness may begin to look different, less about accomplishments and acquisitions, and more about the privilege of walking this beloved earth. You may allow yourself to be schooled by the resident teachers, the living things who seek only what they need. Maybe life need not be so complicated."

Camp is over. What I've learned...

As Passenger sings I've been living in this month of Sundays, and I forget what Monday morning feels like. Actually, I feel like I've been living a life of Sundays for over 12 years now. Not that I don't work and that I live a lazy life, but I've simply not been on a regular Monday to Friday work schedule for almost 13 years... and I hadn't challenged myself professionnally for over 15!

Being a camp leader/instructor for Equinox Adventure has been challenging and exhausting at times, but also incredibly empowering. I learned that being given a lot of latitude can feel scary and disconcerting at first, but that it can create incredible results. You end up owning the challenge presented to you in a very different way. It became my camp and I could give it my color. And because of that, I felt more involved and wanted to give more.

I learned that I can do some hard and challenging physical work, even if it pushes me outside of my comfort zone, even if it triggers frustration sometimes at being a short woman working in a world of tall strong men. I kept at it and became competent at the things I thought I could not physically do.  And I was that role model for my girls.

We lost Java on the first day of camp. That night, I wanted to quit. I thought I could not do it. It was too much at the same time. I gave myself till the end of that first week. And to my surprise, I wanted to keep doing it. It felt good. It felt right.

Don't get me wrong, being a translator and a homeschooler is rewarding work, but facilitating learning in such a tangible way as on a rock climbing cliff for instance, seeing children challenge themselves, push hard, accompanying them as they face their fears and reach the top, gave me great joy. I felt like a made a small difference. I felt needed. It gave me a new and different purpose and it filled me in a way I hadn't experienced before.

This experience gives me a completely different appreciation of my "life of Sundays". It's all about balance, they say. And I might have to agree.

A visit to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Meet JB, a female moose who was rescued when she was only a few days old. Read her story here.

Since she has been bottle fed since her rescue, JB is very interested in humans.

Sweet mule deer.

Megan being a moose!

Mountain goat having her breakfast

Mr. Caribou and the salt lick

Thinhorn sheep

On the last day of Adventure Camp, we were supposed to go canoeing and kayaking on Chadburn Lake, but since the weather was already fall-like and grey, we decided to bring the group to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and nearby Takhini Hot Springs. 

It was great to be there early in the morning for feeding time, since most of the animals were very close and awake. We also got very luck to see many babies! The 3 arctic fox babies stole the show!

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve Operating Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining the over 700 acre preserve and its animals for the education and enjoyment of all. 

 

A weekend of rock climbing and camping with friends

Climbing blindfolded! A great challenge.

Vincent made it to the top blindfolded!

The smile on their faces was such an incredible reward!

They built an awesome two-room shelter together

Making willow bark rope.

The fireweed have already gone to seed! Fall is almost here.

A table full of awesome kids.

One of the perks of being a climbing instructor this summer is that I have access to the climbing material we use for the groups. On Saturday, we got together with five other families for a fun day of rock climbing. The kids had a blast and the parents had a good time too! Then, a bunch of us went camping at Marsh Lake together. There was good lemon-lavender Radler from the Yukon Brewery, wild Agaricus mushrooms were sauteed in butter and pepper, meals were assembled from what we could find in our campers. There even was a skinny dip (one kid was heard saying: skinny dipping with your friends sure makes you closer!). The simplicity of spending time with good friends. The magic of it all. It sure fills my heart.

The first 7 pictures were taken by my friend Jason and the following rock climbing pictures were taken by my friend Josée (I was busy belaying!). Thanks guys for immortalizing this fun day!

A canoe run down the Takhini River

Lots and lots of giggles! That time, they had tricked me by jumping down the cliff to a ledge, while they threw a big rock in the water to recreate the impression that they had fallen into the river. They thought it was hilarious to see my reaction. There will be revenge.

I love camping in the Westy with these 3. They truly are a joy to be around these days!

Leaving from Kusawa Lake.

Learning to read the moving water.

Stopping on a sand bank for a snack.

And some exploration (and erosion...).

Liam almost got a fish!

Skittles Smores (aka Liamores).

Morning light at camp.

The smell of wild sage on the cliff by the river just across from our campsite. I couldn't resist lying down in it while soaking up the morning sun. 

By the time we got everybody fed and organized, it was 7:30. We debated not going, but it was so nice out and we knew we would not run out of light. We drove from the campsite to Kusawa Lake, brought the canoes down and started building the raft. We pushed it in the water a little after 8:30 pm. Chris gave us a little crash course/refresher on moving water, a bald eagle was spotted on a nearby tree, the sun peaked from behind the clouds and streched its amazing late summer night light on the mountains. I couldn't stop smiling. Laughter erupted as we hit the waves and water kept splashing us. There were some sea salt chocolate and chips. Some hummus and carrots too. Another bald eagle. Lots or fishing, wet girls lighting a fire, too many smores and a very late night in bed.

The next morning brought pancakes and coffee by the fire and a fishing and blueberry expedition. Hats that became pails, a lesson in fly fishing, a river crossing up to the waist, a scratchy alder bushwack on river cold legs; some cranberries were found (almost ready!). And more laughter too. It was just the adventure we needed.

Our time in Marsh Lake

Marsh Lake

Maryne's greenhouse

Aïsha made Mémé's molasse's cookies

Mathilde made mini-tart filled with homemade custard, cooked peaches and strawberries and chantilly cream. The kid can cook.

Photo by Josée.

Sunday breakfast at Josée's

We did a housesit for our friend Maryne who lives right by Marsh Lake, 30 min South of town. She had planted her greenhouse just for us and we ate from it daily. What a treat! Her place also happened to be only 5 minutes from my friend Josée's beautiful house, so we spent a lot of time with her.

We baked and had friends over for delicious meals. We spent lots of time at the beach (Army Beach is one of the nicest beachesin the Yukon) and in the water (the water is really warm this year... which by Yukon standards means that you don't get calves cramps), and enjoyed having a homebase for 5 weeks. 

So much fun at Equinox Adventure Camp!

Collecting wood to cook bannock over the fire.

Shelter building.

Practicing t-rescue. First: tip the boat!

Then, proceed with rescue mission by sliding the tipped canoe over the rescuers canoe.

Pond exploration. 

Learning the parts of the paddle

We built rafts with the canoes and went on an adventure on Chadburn Lake. We found a cabin where we had lunch, made a fire and cooked banana boats, and then went on an island where we found a geocache.

The girls are setting up the routes with me before the camp children arrive at the site. Ava taking the "hanging upside down" challenge.

Doing one of the GPTeaming activity

Another challenging GPTeaming activity

Hiking along the Yukon River and learning about plants and trees as we go.

My colleague Megan and our 3rd week of camp kids!

Preparing bannock

Cooking bannock over the fire

Making chocolate-orange bombs to cook in the fire

What are these kids doing with balloons on their heads? Sticking them on top of the route they climb. On their next climb, they can pop one if they make it to the top again!

The full-time summer camp is on now and it is such an incredible learning opportunity for both the girls and I. We rock climb, canoe and kayak, do GPTeaming (teams use a GPS and to locate activity based initiative caches) and learn lots of outdoor living skills.

When I take the children on plants and trees identification hikes, I tell them to stop us anytime they have something to share about a plant or a tree they know. One First Nation girl told us about how her grandma used to say that when soapberries turn red, the salmons are running. Another First Nation kid showed us how to gut and eat minnows.

In the last few weeks, I've learned to use an Atlatl (a spear-thrower), improved my paddling strokes and have become better at teaching all sorts of skills. I have rubbed sunscreen on many many kids and held hands with little five year olds who were scared of falling in the outhouse when peeing. I've wiped tears and noses.

The girls are now all proficient belayers and help me set up the routes on the rock climbing days before the camp children arrive (they bring the ropes up, install the ground anchors, carabiners and grigris, and tie different knots), they've made new friends and are learning a lot about group dynamics, teambuilding, communication skills and so much more!

I've had moments when I wondered what I was doing there, but many more where I was in complete awe that I was actually paid to spend a day paddling on turquoise lakes and rock climbing with my girls. 

My hands are full of scratches and cuts, my body is sore from carrying big bins of ropes and bringing canoes up and down a trailer. I'm getting stronger and more confident by the day. 

I've learned that this is right along my alley and that it combines my love for the outdoor with my love of people, my natural leadership and organization skills and my sense of compassion. 

It's truly an incredible experience for all of us.

We come back home tired and dirty, smelling of smoke and bug spray. I love that we spend 8 to 10 hours a day outside in nature, learning and playing and being active. 

And by the way, if you think the girl in Eat, Pray, Love has it hard to meditate with mosquitoes swarming around her in India, imagine what it feels like to belay someone with mosquitoes biting you everywhere. That, my friend, is a lesson in mindfulness.

My summer job

It’s 8:30 on my third day of work and we are already drenched from collecting wet firewood to light a fire for the school group that will be arriving in 30 min. We get a tarp up and drag the wet picnic table under it. The group of 4th and 5th graders arrives, rowdy and cheeky. Most than half of them don’t have raincoats. Chris, the owner of Equinox Adventures, leads a simple introduction game and the kids can’t seem to be able to follow basic instructions. Two boys take off in the forest. The teachers yell. We try the game again. It’s only 9:15. It’s gonna be a long day. I’m usually still in bed at that time. What am I doing here? Why did I say yes to this? A challenge? Really? Getting out of my comfort zone? Learning new skills? Is this all worth it? Am I not too old for that?

Chris divides the group in half, girls on one side and boys on the other to do what he calls GPTeaming, an activity similar to geocaching, but with a team building/problem solving activity at each station (that the kids find with the help of a map and GPS). He assigns me the rowdy boys group. I’m sure that if he had looked at me at that moment, what he would have seen in my eyes was sheer fear. He was feeding me to the wolves. I wanted to run. My comfort zone was long gone.

The day went on, we got wetter and colder, but the kids seemed to have fun and to listen to me pretty well. A small victory. I was doing this.

Next thing I knew, it was lunch time and we tried to dry our feet and warm up our hands by the fire (that was June 13th, and it was 6 degrees Celsius all day...). Then, it was time for games. Panic stroke again. Games? I think we need to find more dry firewood, don’t we?

Finally, it was rock climbing time. An area I feel competent and comfortable in. My rowdiest little friend worked hard on a route, fought tears and finally trusted me enough to get all the way to the top. It was a very touching moment and I felt privileged to be a part of that.

By the time we had coiled the ropes and packed the helmets and harnesses back in the bins, I felt like myself again, humbled and full... and tired and cold.

As I drove back to the bus, my hair still dripping wet, I searched my mind to figure out why I committed to do this for the next 6 weeks. It really wasn’t for the money... it wasn’t because it was easy either. What was it then? Working hard physically outside? Yes, but there was more to it... Why was I putting myself in that position? I felt like a teenager at his first job. Trying to look confident but feeling pretty vulnerable inside.

Do I want to prove myself that I can still learn new things that are outside of my area of study and expertise? Do I simply like the idea of leaving in the morning and coming back home at night? Do I do it for the intensity and adrenaline, the newness of the experience? Yes, that is all possible...

I’ve started feeling bored since we have stopped moving for the summer. Not bored in a there-is-nothing-to-do kind of way, because the Yukon is full of awesome people and things to do, but bored in a more personal way. It’s been brewing for a few years since the girls are more and more independent. Bored in a what-do-I-contribute-to-the-world way. In a how-do-I-exist-outside-of-my-family-and-translator-title way.

And I wanted to have fun! And as much as this third day of work wasn’t really my definition of fun, all the other days have been great and fulfilling. For the last two weeks of June, I worked with Junior Rangers from the Northern communities of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (some children came from the southern part of Baffin Island!) and it was a fascinating experience. These were mostly First Nation kids (half of them Inuits) and for most of them, English was their second language. Some didn’t speak English at all and needed an interpreter! I belayed a guy named Courage (it was pretty cool to say Go, Courage, Go!). They were also terrified of bugs and bears (because when you live in polar bear country, you should be!) and kept breaking tree branches (most of them live in the alpine tundra and are not used to be in the forest). Some of them had never ridden in cars before… One morning, my girls even joined the group and got to climb and learn to belay! They loved it.

Equinox is an adventure company that uses rock climbing, canoeing, ziplining, GPS/map & compass navigation and outdoor living skills to build character, trust, communication, teamwork, problem solving and leadership. I really resonate with Equinox’s mission and feel excited to be a camp leader this summer!

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail

The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile (53 km) trail through the Coast Mountains that leads from Dyea, Alaska, in the United States, to Bennett, British Columbia, in Canada. It was a major access route from the coast to Yukon goldfields in the late 1890s. Tlingit Indians used the trail as a vital trade route to trade for resources available in the interior from the Dene people. 

The trail begins in Dyea, a ghost town and campground, 15 minutes from Skagway. From the trailhead, the route winds through coastal rainforest along to the Taiya River. The first campsite is Finnegan's Point (from Wikipedia).

That was Day 1 for us and the beginning of the adventure! Here's a map of the whole trail, as well as a profile map so you can follow along!

DAY 1: FROM DYEA CAMPGROUND TO FINNEGAN'S POINT - 7,7 km (5 miles)

As you might have heard, there was a bear situation on the trail when we left. The week prior, a black bear had broken into a staff cabin at Lindeman City and raided the fridge. They evacuated all the hikers from the trail and closed the trail for 5 days while they dealt with the situation. They had just reopened the trail when we started the hike (it is a very popular trail that requires reservations a long time in advance, so it was not an option for us to just wait it out) and 3 of the 9 camps on the trail were still closed, which would have made our last day a 13 miles (20 km) hike since we would have had to hike all the way from Happy Camp to Bennett (our last night was in Bare Loon, but it was closed at the time of departure). The other option was that they boat us out from Lindeman City to Bennett Lake.

They sent us out to the trailhead, after a long talk about bear safety, telling us that we would get updated about the situation at Sheep Camp and Happy Camp.

Signing the trail log.

There are lots of boardwalks over marshes on that first part of the trail. Some are slippery and bouncy and that not always so great when you are still getting used to having a big pack on your back!

First thing to do when you get to camp: put all the food, toileteries and anything that smells in the food cache. Second, write in your journal.

Then, set camp.

The cook shack at Finnegan's Point. Far enough from the tent pads and equipped with a wood stove.

The beautiful sand bar at Finnegan's Point with a view of Irene Glacier, a great place to relax!

JF was in a 2 person tent with Mathilde and I was with the twins in another tent. We talked late into the night about boys crush and first love in front of an audience of mosquitoes lined up in the roof screen, who were just waiting for one of us to need to pee.

I got up at 1 am under a light sprinkle. Our tent platform was surrounded by Devils Club and I was smiling to myself as I used my SheWee (that I like to call my Pee-Miss) and pee like a man, standing on the platform instead of having to put my shoes, go down the platform and crouch down in the prickly wet plants.

DAY 2: FROM FINNEGAN'S POINT TO SHEEP CAMP - 12, 6 km (7,8 miles)

We stopped at Canyon City on the way, where most people spend the first night (12 km from the start). It is a bigger camp with a nice log cabin with bunks and some artefacts from the Gold Rush. After Canyon City, the trail starts climbing steadily upward.

Pedestrian suspension bridge at Canyon City.

Fairies in the moss.

Snack break in the beautiful Alaskan Coastal Forest.

Filtering water along the trail.

The trail follows the Taiya River all the way to Sheep Camp.

Second night at Sheep Camp. Sheep camp is the last campground on the American side of the trail as well as the final resting stop before the trek up Chilkoot Pass. It is the largest of the campsites on the American side of the trail. A Ranger comes to Sheep camp every night at around 7 pm to talk about the day ahead and how to prepare for it. She had no updates about the bear situation. That night we met Charlotte, 7, and her dad who were doing the Chilkoot alone together. 

Doing laundry in the Taiya River.

DAY 3: FROM SHEEP CAMP TO HAPPY CAMP - 12 km (7,5 miles) but with an elevation gain of 2,500 feet over 7,7 km!

Within sight of the pass, and at the base of the "Golden Stairs" (the long difficult incline that leads to the pass), are The Scales. The Scales were a weight station where freight would be reweighed before the final trek to the pass. There are lots of artefacts there since a lot of people left things there and turned back or tried to lighten their load to make the final push...

No image better conjures the human drama of the 1898 gold rush than the lines of prospectors struggling over the dreaded Golden Stairs. As we climbed the golden stairs ourselves, all I could think was: people did that for gold, how crazy! Followed by: you know what’s even crazier: doing that for a holiday!

JF facing the base of the Golden Stairs. There are two false summits before you reach the actual summit.

We made it to the summit! And just like many women feel after childbirth and forget about it a mere few months later, once you make warm coffee and eat a bite, you're ready to talk about the next big trip, forgetting the grueling feeling you had just an hour ago, when you promised yourself you would never do that again...

The view from the Chilkoot Pass. USA behind. Canada ahead.

The trail wends its way by a series of alpine lakes: First Crater Lake, Morrow Lake, and finally Happy Camp.

And the beauty never stops. We walk and walk and walk, through snow and rocks, oohing and aahing all the way.

Lips of snow under the water look royal blue or turquoise. 

Happy Camp! Once you see it after one of many bend in the trail, you understand why it's called that way. You are so ridiculously happy to see it come into sight!

We got into camp at around 5:30 pm (we had left Sheep Camp at 6:30 am), granted, we took our time and lots of break, but it still is the longest day on the Chilkoot. Charlotte and her dad were not there yet and the Ranger who had met us at the warming cabin at the summit said Charlotte was struggling a lot after the Stairs. The Ranger had given Charlotte magic candies to eat along the trail and stickers to put on the trail markers. At 7, she called a meeting to let us know that Bare Loon camp was now open. We were exstatic! We could do the whole Chilkoot! However, we still had to be in groups of at least 4 adults, so many people had to pair up together, because there was no confirmation that the right bear had been shot yet. An man from Italy was not happy about the whole pairing/bear situation and was trying to argue in broken English with the Ranger. Since I speak Italian, I offered my help as a translator and got caught in an interesting arugument that went from Trump-is-the-new-Berlusconi to arguing that the bear was long gone and would not come back (because we know that Italian know a lot about bear behaviors...).

At 8:30, we were getting ready to leave camp to go meet Charlotte and her dad who were still not back to camp. Just as we were putting our wet shoes on, they walked into camp, looking exhausted. What a trooper that little girl was. I offered them to join us for tomorrow's hike since they could not walk alone and since I thought it would lift Charlotte's spirit to be with other children. The plan was for them to stop at Lindeman City and see if they could safely spend the night there with a ranger.

DAY 4: FROM HAPPY CAMP TO BARE LOON - 13,7 km (8,5 miles)

Breakfast inside the Happy Camp cooking shelter.

There are lots and lots of river crossing... Almost impossible not to get your feet wet... To the right: doing dishes.

Charlotte and Ron

Approaching Deep Lake Camp.

Bare Loon Camp, where we spent our last night on the trail. One of my favorite camps!

The girls even went for a swim!

DAY 5: FROM BARE LOON TO BENNETT - 6,4 km (4 miles)

Last day was only 4 short miles to Bennett Lake.

Bennett Lake!

We made it! We finished the Chilkoot. The renovated St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church is the only gold rush-era building still standing along the trail today. 

The trail station in Bennett, BC. As we get into the station, Mila, the Philipino woman in charge of cleaning the station, offers us a cup of warm tea and tells us all sorts of fascinating story about her life. As the girls and I step into the bathroom, we all have the same reaction as we look into the mirror. Ellie says it first: Ah! It's weird! I haven't seen myself in 5 days!

At the station, we found out through a ranger that Charlotte and her dad would be taken out by boat from Lindeman City. She was too tired to finish the trail.

A beautiful 2 hour train ride from Bennett, BC, to Carcross, YT.

We even made it in town in time for the girls bike meet!

To call the Chilkoot a trail is an understatement. For the tens of thousands of desperate gold rushers who followed it, the trail was a saga that forever changed their souls, and cost many their very lives.

An incredible weekend in Carcross, Yukon (overnight hike + bike)

We went just below that snow patch that we can see higher up in the middle.

Beautiful arnica flowers everywhere on the trail!

Our little village!

The beautiful beach in Carcross along Lake Bennett.

We wanted to do one overnight hike before leaving on our 5 day/4 nights hike on the Chilkoot trail next week. We decided to combine a bike ride on the awesome trails of Montana mountain in Carcross (45 min from Whitehorse) with a hike up Sam McGee/Mountain Hero trail. This trail was originally made to service the tramway built in 1905 by Sam McGee for a silver mining operation. There are many remnants of the tramway and mining artifacts along the trail.

When we arrived in the alpine after a slow 3 hour climb in the forest, we quickly found a great spot to set camp. The view from the top is fantastic, with Windy Arm of Tagish Lake below, and all of the surrounding mountains. We all sat in silence, in awe of this incredible wild land, thankful for it all. And thankful for all this amazing nature, from the scraggly moss I used to scrub the pots and dishes in the freezing creek, to the beautiful arnica we collected to make a healing oil for our sore muscles, the deliciously sweet wild rose petals we ate along the way and the chewed up yarrow leaves we put in Mathilde’s nose to stop a nose bleed.

And yes, it was every bit as idyllic as it looks... Except maybe for the sleeping part, because, well, sleeping in a tent on a ridge over the tree line 3 days before summer solstice is a challenge! Let’s just say that I could read my book at 2 am without a headlamp… And there was the full moon... And by 6:30, we were dying in the tents because the sun was so hot! Oh my beautiful Yukon!

*Photo note: these pictures have all been taken with my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S7) with the Camera FV-5 app and imported into DXO Optics Pro (a photo enhancement software that I LOVE). I’m pretty happy with the result! It’s nothing like my Nikon, but it works.

On top of Mt. Anderson, Yukon

This is Anderson mountain. We went all the way to the top on the ridge to the left.

                                                                                Mt. Anderson is located in the beautiful Wheaton River Valley.

Climbing in the alpine is hard work. David is eating some bearberry flowers to fuel up!

                                                                      Is that the view you expected Cat? No, but it's nice... Nice? Yeah, you sure are spoiled...

The climb up was steep and intense, but the view was well worth it! THAT was the view I was expecting!

Other side. Can you spot JF and Aïsha?

Time for a June snowball fight!

There are so many mountains in the Yukon that most Yukonners don't even know where Mt. Anderson is located. There are no hiking trails per ser there, but some of old mining roads that you can follow until you get over the tree line, then you simply pick a line up through the alder brush and bearberry bushes, avoiding the morraine as much as possible and make your way to the ridge. The climb in the alpine is steep and longer than it looks. Sarah turned around at some point and said: that mountain keeps on growing, guys! Yep, that's what mountains seem to do when you climb them! The summit is always "right there".

 The 360 degree view from the top was simply jaw-dropping. Hiking in the alpine is so unique. This wide-open wild space covered in moss and tiny flowers, the route possibilities are endless. That sure is a hike we will remember for a long time.

Hike to Bonneville Lakes Ridge, Yukon

It was crazy windy on the ridge and the kids wanted to make sure that Java would stay warm!

You have to be pretty creative to take shelter from the wind in the alpine!

The Bonneville Lakes hike, near Fish Lake, is a popular hike that is close to town (popular meaning you are likely to see a few other hikers on the weekend!). We had never done it and included it in our Chilkoot prep hikes.