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!

 

Another Christmas in Tucson

The boys made tourtières and meat pies for Christmas!

I made blueberry and cherry pies!

The girls offered us a gastronomic 3-course meal for Christmas. We were completely blown away!

Aïsha prepared us a mango-avocado-shrimp tartare that could not have been better at an high end restaurant.

Mara made a Garlic Basil Chicken with Tomato Butter Sauce. It was delicious.

Mathilde made us a Layered Chocolate Cookie Sundae. Yum! I think that a tradition is born!

Mathilde made us a Layered Chocolate Cookie Sundae. Yum! I think that a tradition is born!

And on Christmas day, we went for a geocache hike on Brown Mountain. 

We love spending Christmas with this sweet family year after year!

It's the fourth Christmas that we spend in Tucson and it has become a tradition that we all look forward to. Pascale and Antonio always welcome us with open arms. It is such a treat to see their boys grow every year and to be enjoying the outdoors with them a bit more every year. 

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?

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. 

Hiking up King's Throne, Kluane National Park, Yukon

This is a steep trail up to a spectacular cirque -- the "seat" of the King’s Throne. The hike up to the cirque (and return) is 10 km (6 mi). If you keep going up to the summit (unmaintained, unmarked trail on steep scree), it is a 16 km (10 mi) hike. The hike to the summit is extremely steep and hiking sticks are highly recommended (slippery moraine most of the way). Elevation gain is 548 m (1,800’) to the cirque and 1 442 m (4,729’) to the summit. If you want to try the summit, assess the weather carefully, it can get very windy very quickly. Not a good thing on an exposed ridge. Clouds can also descend rapidly and make finding the route difficult.

As usual, be very bear aware. Kluane is home to the most important concentration of grizzlis in the world. We had been informed that there was a mama grizzli and cubs in the forested part of the trail, so we were very loud and stuck very close together, with an adult up front (with a bear spray) and an adult behind (also with a bear deterrent).

Kluane National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is over 22,000 km2 in size, and 82% of it is covered in mountains and ice. It’s home to the St. Elias Mountains, the most massive range in Canada, and the second highest peak on the continent, Mount Logan.

Hiking up Sheep Creek, Kluane National Park, Yukon

A tad bit windy!

A curious Dall sheep looking at us.

The children ate Bearberries flowers along the trail.

It was so windy on Kluane Lake that there was some dust from the dried lake bed section flying everywhere. So much so that we wondered if there was a forest fire.

 

We had planned on hiking Sheep Mountain Trail, but found out it is much more strenuous than the Sheep Creek trail and that you can’t turn around because of the very steep climb in the moraine. Since it is a 16 km hike and it was noon already, we decided to hike up Sheep Creek, where we could enjoy a view of the Slims River and Kaskawulsh Glacier. From Sheep Mountain Trail, you have a view of Kluane Lake (Yukon’s largest lake) and can see sheep from up close. Interestingly enough, this trail is virtually snow-free all year.

We stopped at the little visitor center and could use the binoculars and telescopes to see the many sheep on the mountain. It is baby season, so we were lucky to see many 3 weeks old Dall sheep babies! What a treat!

Sheep Creek Trail is a 10 kilometre (6 mi) return hiking route with an elevation gain of about 430 metres (1400 feet) reaching an elevation of 1281 metres (4200 feet). For more information about that hike and the driving directions, check this site.

A grey hike on Grey Mountain

Picking forgotten cranberries from last fall. They are now pretty sweet... for cranberries!

Happy Yukon dog!

Java had a blast playing in the snow!

These late nights of light are hard on sleep... Catching up on rest in the moss and lichen...

Spring is about a month behind on top of Grey Mountain and the crocuses are just opening!

We clearly didn't pick the best day for catching up on the past year, Josée and I! Between the yelling to keep the bears at bay and the howling wind, it really wasn't conducive to chatting, but the view from the top of Grey Mountain is always amazing. So we went back to the warmth of her beautiful home, wrapped ourselves in blankets, poured a glass of wine and it was the perfect end to a beautiful Yukon day!

Northward bound!

Martine has started a tradition to give me a mug evertime I visit. I LOVE this new one!

Snow fight at Lake Louise. The Lake was still frozen, but still a stunning turquoise!

Driving the Icefield Parkway through Banff and Jasper National Park. One of the most stunning drives in BC.

I love that we are following Spring all the way up North (remember the cactus in bloom in Tucson in February and the lilacs in Virgin in March?) and fall all the way down South! My two favorite seasons! Never too hot or too cold to play outside!

Aïsha and I could not resist peaking into this abandoned café and hotel. You probably know by now that I have a thing for abandoned place. This one was pretty sketchy, but fascinating. There is something about witnessing this life frozen in time... Of course, when your selling points to attract clients were clean rooms and cable TV, no wonder you went out of business...

Aïsha and I could not resist peaking into this abandoned café and hotel. You probably know by now that I have a thing for abandoned place. This one was pretty sketchy, but fascinating. There is something about witnessing this life frozen in time... Of course, when your selling points to attract clients were clean rooms and cable TV, no wonder you went out of business...

As usual, we were treated to a real show on our way North. Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, a wolf, cariboos, moose, lots of bears and even brand new bison babies...

Oh and we stopped at Liard Hot Springs, of course! As close to paradise as you can get!

If you are planning to drive North, I recommend that you come up through Glacier National Park (crossing near Babb), check the Canadian side of Glacier (Waterton Lakes National Park) and head towards Calgary on Highway 2, then to Canmore on the TransCanada Highway (spend some time there, it's a super cool city, lots of biking, hiking, climbing), then a stop in Banff and Lake Louise, and then onto the Icefield Parkway. That's a must! Know that there is no connexion at all in Banff and Jasper National Parks, but there is some in Lake Louise, in Banff and Jasper (town). There are tons of nice hikes to do in these two parks. Our friend Melissa who knows the area pretty well recommended these hikes: Cirque Peak, Parker Ridge, Fish Lake (2 days), Bow Falls, and the little stops like Peyto Lake, Sunwapta falls and Maligne Canyon. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do any of these this time, but are planning to take some time off work next time to explore more.

Then, take the 16 to Prince George and head North on the 97 to Fort St. John, and all the way up to Whitehorse! The drive between Fort Nelson and Liard is the nicest. Make sure to do it by day as you are likely to see many animals. There are pullouts along the road where you can spend the night. There is a nice flat pullout just before Summit Lake and a few more between Summit Lake and Muncho Lake. There is no signal from Fort Nelson to Watson Lake (you'll get some in Steamboat a little after Fort Nelson). Then, no signal from Watson Lake to Teslin. Make sure to have enough fuel or carry a jerry can of gas with you since the gas stations are far and few, some are closed and some are sometimes out of gas.

I am publishing this post from Teslin, 3 hours from Whitehorse. We'll be there tonight! So excited to be back!

Hiking and swimming in Negro Bill Canyon, Moab, UT

In the beginning, we all felt like Aïsha: not sure I want to get wet and hike all the way with wet shoes and wet clothes... but it didn't take long that we were all standing knee deep in the water!

                                                                                       And yes, dripping as we hiked...                        

Natural waterfalls are the best!

                                                                       This base jumping guy gave Misty and I the creep! We thought he was falling off that cliff... until his parachute opened!            

 Free camping at its best.

The kids spent hours playing outside in the desert around camp.

Those who have been following our travels for a while might remember that we gave this hike a try 3 1/2 years ago, the first time we visited Moab. However, it was in November and the water was freezing cold and Aïsha fell in the water (some would argue that it was freezing cold this time too, but they can't say that to a Yukon girl.... ). I happily played and sat in the waterfalls with the kids. It felt amazing to cool down! That's definitely a hike you want to do on a warm day since there are at least 5-7 mandatory stream crossings. It's so awesome to see (and smell!) all that greenery at the bottom of the canyon. It feels like an entirely different place than the surrounding desert land.

It's the perfect hike to do on a (bike) rest day. If you hike all the way to the end (we didn't), you get to an arch called Morning Glory Bridge.

Exploring Bryce Canyon National Park

It was our second time visiting Bryce Canyon - the first time was in late October 2012 - and it was as stunning as the first time. There is something completely magical about this place. You feel transported to a different planet. These unique hoodoos (those tall bulbous columns) are created by erosion of course, but unlike many places, it is snow that is mainly responsible for it. As it melts, water seeps into the fractures and as it re-freezes, it expands and cracks the rock around it.

Because of its high elevation and lack of light pollution, Bryce is one of the darkest place on earth. Unfortunately, the two nights we were there were a bit cloudy, so we couldn't really see more stars than usual, but it was still incredibly dark.

A family week in Utah

The girls were super excited to go pick up Grand-maman Claudette and Serge (JF's mom and her partner). We hadn't seen them in almost two years!

We went to eat lunch at LYFE Kitchen in Vegas. So good!

We spent the first night at Las Vegas Bay Campground and the second one at Sand Hollow State Park, near St. George. We were so happy to swim in this beautiful (and freezing cold) water, surrounded by red rock cliffs and black volcanic rocks.

We then spent two nights in Zion National Park. Here they did the Riverwalk that leads to the entrance of the Narrows (the Narrow hike that I did with Martin was closed because there was a risk of flash flood and the water level was too high).

On Tuesday, Mathide decided to spend the day with her grand-parents while JF, the twins and I hiked Angels Landing and a part of the West Rim Trail (this picture was taken on the West Rim Trail).

Our campsite in Zion.

We then drove from Zion to Bryce Canyon through the tunnel. The view is absolutely stunning!

The girls (and Java!) were pretty excited to see snow! Bryce Canyon is located at 8000 feet and there were still many patches of snow on the ground.

We hiked Queen's Garden Trail and Part of the Navajo loop with Claudette and Serge, for a total of 6,5 km with lots of ups and downs. They did great! We were impressed!

We had a huge campsite in Bryce and the girls built a zip line. They had so much fun!

We went to celebrate the girls' birthday (and our last night together) at the Bryce Canyon Lodge with a delicious meal.

We had a great time playing cards at night and chatting by the bonfire. It was great to see the girls reconnecting with their grand-parents. Six days went by pretty fast.

Hiking Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail, Zion NP

Going up the Walter's wiggles.

At the Scout Lookout on Angels Landing trail (where many people end their hike) we decided to go check the West Rim Trail since there was a line-up at the beginning of the last section of trail for Angels Landing Peak. After a few switchbacks, we were by ourselves! Incredible! Angels Landing is such a busy trail (one of the most popular in the park) and we decided to keep going for a couple of miles on the West Rim Trail.

The West Rim Trail was simply stunning with views of Angels Landing and Observation Point.

After a few minutes, the red slick rock becomes yellow, then white and the trail takes you across large expanse of slickrock. The view was breathtaking. And there was not a soul in sight... even the morbidly obsese squirrels that have become a serious pain in the park do not come here. I really don't know why this trail is not more popular!

Since Mathilde had decided to not join us on the hike (she spent the day with her grand-parents), JF had the wonderful idea to ask the twins if they were up for the challenge of getting to the top of Angels Landing as a kind of 12 years old rite of passage. JF had done it 3 times in the last few years and knew it well enough to judge that they would be safe on it (but maybe scared).

I had never seen something like it before. You walk on a thin fin with big drops on both sides in places and a breathtaking view.

We made it to the top! It was much less scary than we expected!

It's funny that quite often, when Americans see and hear us, they thing we are Portughese. On that particular hike, 3 different persons asked us if we were. But one man kept speaking to me in broken Spanish even after I told him we were French Canadian... Some people are a little too eager to practice their second language...

                                                                                                 We went all the way to the top!

It was a really beautiful moment that we will remember all our life. It truly felt like a rite of passage, for us as much as for them. Watching them go so confidently, their stong bodies working up and down the rocks, agile and comfortable where many adults weren't.

I remember that when they turned 10, I could see the little girls and the women at once when I looked at them. Now, not so much. I see the young women they have become. I enjoy their presence so much and all the discussions we have. Something strange happens when your children become as tall as you. You litterally start seeing them more like an equal. And I feel so very fortunate to share my days with such amazing partners.

**If you are planning to come to Zion, check out the great post our friend Ching wrote about the hikes in the park. She is the one that suggested to combine Angels Landing and part of the West Rim Trail (which is approx 20 miles long, all the way to the west entrance of the park at Kolob Canyon).

Hiking Ice Box Canyon, Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, NV

This is the waterfall at the end of the trail. Some people tried to climb all the way up there (think people coming to Vegas and that never hiked before...). It is very steep and sleek. Much easier to climb than to downclimb... All of a sudden, we heard a big splash!

Seriously, people!

And a nice guy and his girlfriend helped that woman come down... She had fallen into the upper pool of the waterfall... And in the next 30 min, we saw a few (asian) tourists try to go up and get in very tricky situations... 

With a name like that, especially on a warm day, that canyon sounded very appealing! We came to Red Rock last year and did some scrambling in the Calico area and some awesome rock climbing too. Red Rock is a climbing paradise and our plan this year was to come spend 4-5 days to climb at the beginning of JF's vacation since there is no cell signal at the campground. However, since JF broke his finger mountain biking in Virgin, that plan went out the window.

We instead stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds (Las Vegas Bay, next post!) and came hiking to Red Rock. We wanted to hike Turtlehead Peak, but while doing some research on it, I found out that a woman had fallen to her death down the trail 10 days ago (lots of loose rocks on this exposed trail). However, given what we witnessed today at the waterfall, I understand that people die on hiking trails... Red Rock is only a 20 minute drive from the Vegas Strip and most people that go to Vegas, come to Red Rock... so lots of inexperience hikers doing things too hard for them or being unprepared = lots of accidents.

Ice Box Canyon was a nice hike that meanders through the desert for about a mile before dropping down into a canyon that ends at a waterfall. There is some scrambling required and a fair bit of rock hopping, which makes it a moderate 3 mile hike. 

Hiking Hidden Canyon Trail, Zion National Park, UT

Sunrise over Zion

 

                                                                                         Bouldering Gagnam Style!

                                                                                                                            JUMP!

Delicious birthday lunch prepared by Jen: quinoa salad with roasted red onions, sweet potatoes and kale. YUM!

That's only the beginning of the trail!

It's our third time visiting Zion National Park and honestly, we thought we had seen everything there was to see. Then, we came across that link about Hidden Canyon and decided it would be the perfect birthday hike. I'm so glad we did because it was nothing short of breathtaking! It starts with a long climb up (the same one as the Observation Point hike we did last year) and veers right. There is a pretty exposed section of switchbacks with chains (where some people turn around) and then it's the end of the trail, but you can enter the canyon and scramble your way in as far as you feel comfortable. We left very early to beat the crowd and we rewarded by having the trail and canyon almost to ourselves!

On our way back, we decided to hike up to the canyon on the Observation Point trail since it is so spectacular. We had lunch in the sun just outside that canyon and the sun felt so amazing on our skin.

That night, my amazing friends had prepared a surprise dinner potluck. The kids worked hard to help prepare it and were great at keeping it a secret. The next day, we were all parting ways for a few weeks, or so I thought... but they had another surprise in store (next post!).

Canyoneering in The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Very early morning coffee making outside, so as not to wake up the others.

                                                      A side-trip into Orderville canyon

The ray of light that I mention later.

Looking for rocks to bring back to the kids.

The current was very strong in places.

The Narrows is a very popular hike in Zion, and we made sure to be there as early as possible to beat the crowd and were rewarded by having the place pretty much to ourselves.

The sun only enters this very high canyon around 1 pm, so we hiked the 5 miles upstream without seeing any sun. Since we were pretty much alone, the experience was completely awe inspiring. At one point, we came to a bend and saw one ray of light falling all the way down to the water. It felt completely magical. We hiked as high as possible up to Big Springs, where the current is too strong to keep going and chose a spot on a river bank to eat our lunch. As we started heading down, there was more and more sun entering the canyon and the experience felt completely different. It almost felt like an entirely different place. We passed a few people, but most of the hikers stayed in the first few miles (and missed Wall Street, the narrowest part of the canyon, and the most beautiful).

Since the water in the canyon is at 44 degrees F at this time of year, it is necessary to wear a drysuit and neoprene socks with special river hiking boots (available for rental in many shops in Springdale). We saw a few brave souls in wetsuits and some crazy Spring Break kids in shorts and sandals. The probing stick saved us many falls in the icy cold water.

When I came back, Mathilde told me: Woah! You walked 16 km in a canyon full of water?! Mom, I didn’t think you were *that* crazy! I looked at her perplexed and she quickly added: but crazy is good! Ahahahah! That’s my girl!

Bacon-themed post on the joy of inertia

Hike up Cat Mountain. It felt like we hadn't hiked in ages... With all the biking and rock climbing, we had forgotten how much we liked hiking too! How much more contemplative it is than biking... especially in the desert with all the cacti (no contemplation allowed!).

We went to one of the many tents of the Rock and Gem Show, the biggest in North America. Here Aïsha spent a lot of time touching and admiring her favorite stone, Malachite. We ended up talking for quite a while with the owner of the booth, in French (he was from Congo) and the Malachite came straight from there!

This guy spent a good 10 minutes telling the girls about different fossils (here shark teeth) and showed them a black diamond ring selling for $16,500!

The man was grilling bacon-wrapped chicken... We might buy bacon only once every 2-3 years, but when we do, we eat it in style!

Yes, we are still in Tucson. We renewed our rock gym membership for February. The BLM where we *live* feels like home now. The hippies drumming and fire hoola-hooping in the distance, our closer neighbors made-up orchestra of guitar and violin playing at all time of day and night. Even the dogs know each other now! We've had many communal bonfire nights, lots of great conversations and good laughs.

We know most of the regulars at the gym now. It feels good to be able to work on the same routes over and over, to feel ourselves getting stronger and getting some technique in. We are pretty excited to go spend the weekend at a beautiful rock climbing spot in our tents and Westy (real camping!) to celebrate Jen's 40th birthday. 

I am not in this space that often lately, but you can find me almost daily on Instagram or on Facebook (and no, I don't post the same thing in both places).