The seed was planted early on…

It’s back to school week!! I don’t even have children (thank god) and I am excited. A couple of my nieces are in kindergarten, one is in grade THREE and my nephew is in pre-school… where did the time go?

IMG_7017I’ve said many times I grew up a little differently than most kids. My parents divorced (for the better, they are now good friends) when I was about 5 and I moved with my mom to this tiny town and eventually moved to an even tinier place called Keats Island. I would take a small boat over to town to attend school, day in and day out. It made for random stories that I look back on fondly. I could even say I miss island life. Being from a coastal city, I remember our gym classes weren’t the “norm”… we would actually have to go outside and RUN 2km each class. We had this forest that wrapped around our school and we would run daily. We would go on snowboarding trips, beach days and even big treks to the big city (Vancouver) for a day of rock climbing.

In about grade 5 or 6 (I can’t remember I had the same teacher both years) we would have Greenpeace come in and talk to our class about the importance of the environment and my teacher would explain to us the meaning of respecting nature and all living things. Ms. Russell was her name. She knew I lived on an island and, more often than not, I would have some weird story about the commute to school. She would do roll call and right before we started class she would ask me about my ride in. Some days there was nothing to report, others, like in the fall or spring, I would tell the class stories of riding the tiny little 20 passenger ferry when pods of orcas would come right up to the windows and peer in the boat. I would talk about the dolphins that played in the wake or that one time the ferry caught on fire (under my mom’s and my seat) or when the ferry hit a “dead head” log sticking out of the water and I went flying the length of the boat, thinking I broke my wrist… see? Different/weird upbringing. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world now that I look back on it.

Trust your JourneyShe would be teaching us geography in class and asking us the capitals of countries and I would jump out of my seat to answer, eagerly waving my arm in the air. Normally I was a pretty quiet kid, but my obsession with traveling started in that class, in Ms. Russell’s class! I would dream of these far away places in other countries; the languages they would speak, the food I could try. I felt, even in Grade 5/6, I needed to see the world. I have only had ONE dream in my life that I hope to accomplish before my time is up and that is to travel to Nepal and set my eyes on Mt. Everest. I didn’t say climb it… I would like to just see it. 🙂

Ms. Russell took us on our first ever climbing experience to Cliffhanger Climbing in Vancouver. (I can’t believe I remember this far back!) I remember my instructor, a shorter girl with spiky hair who many, many years later both her and I learned we knew each other way back when. We became friends and played in a band together and toured North America. (Small world, eh?) Ms. Russell taught me to reach for the stars, to go forth and see the world and experience new things. The best education was to see the world and experience everything it could offer.

She told us of this place she used to kayak on vacation, it was called the “Bay of Fundy” in Nova Scotia. I’ve never been but you bet your ass that place has been on my list of places to see since I was 10 years old.

lookout at Canyonlands National Park
Lookout at Canyonlands National Park.

Ms. Russell, thank you for inspiring me to see and feel the world, to experience it on my own and with others. The best education you can give yourself is to immerse yourself in what you are truly passionate about. I am passionate about travel (we already knew this). I now get to travel the world, taking photos and collecting tattoos along the way!

I’m considering writing that book you always told me I should write. I hope you are well. 🙂

– Devon.

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Utah is BEAUTIFUL

Crows at sunset

Devon atop Double Arch

Windows section of Arches

Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Face-timing in Arches National Park :)
Face-timing in Arches National Park 🙂

Sandstone

Double Arch

dead wood

Trust your Journey

Overlook at Mesa arch
Overlook at Mesa arch

Arches national park

Big rocks :)

on the way to the LaSal mountains
on the way to the LaSal mountains

Oohwah Lake

trekker

Squirrel friend

lookout at Canyonlands National Park
lookout at Canyonlands National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park

Balanced Rock @ sunset

Antelope island
Antelope island
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Hidden arches on 13 mile hike
Storms over the Colorado River
Storms over the Colorado River

Salt Lake city and the mighty mighty Bison

The vegan buffalo sandwich!
The vegan buffalo sandwich!
Yes, I drove to Salt Lake city for a sandwich, don’t judge me. It wasn’t the only reason, I LOVE SLC. The town, the people, even the religion going on in the city. 🙂 I still didn’t really have a destination for my trip so I decided to spend a few days around the SLC area and go camping up at Antelope Island. It was so peaceful.

I got in around 2pm, got my sandwich(es) and made camp. I set off to explore the island some more and was met by these two very lovely students from BYU. We talked roadtrips. I told them the best places to see the bison on the island and soon we parted ways.

I took off to the other side of the island to catch the sunset. Having been to the island once before, I had a good idea where I was heading. I was told by the park ranger earlier that evening that only four other groups were camping on the island that night… that put the head count at about a dozen people on Antelope Island that night, CRAZY!

Wandering the streets of Antelope Island
Wandering the streets of Antelope Island

I must say watching the sunset from the roof of my car was a highlight of the trip. I pulled over to the side of the road, climbed up onto the roof of my Honda Fit and just laid there taking in everything around me. No phones, no cameras, no distractions.

Bison

Watching the sun setting off in the distance and as I lay there taking in the scene, three bison walked over to my car to sniff it. Remember, I am on the roof sans phone or camera, just watching the sunset. I’m laying flat on the roof of the car so as not to startle the bison, when all of a sudden the three of them move towards the trunk of my
car to give it a sniff (I’m sure they are smelling my dog). I flip over to my stomach ever so calmly so now I am laying the entire length of my car (on the roof). I could have reached out and touched the bison but no, instead I just laid there watching in awe as they sniffed around my car, grunted a few times then wandered off. My heart was RACING. A total Jurassic park moment for me… Cue the music 🙂

After the sun set over the hills, I hopped back into my car and took off for camp. When I ran into those same three bison again, I jumped out of the car and grabbed this photo of them, wished them a peaceful night and back to camp I went. I watched a movie in the car and fell asleep being sure to set my alarm for the sunrise that would be anything but lame. 🙂 Utah, you are one of my favourite states!! 🙂

Sunset on Antelope island
Sunset on Antelope island

– Devon

Magical Lakes & Bison Sightings.

The first day of our crazy road trip started off like any other. Everything packed up & off we went. The first day of our trips are always about distance. Putting distance between us & our lives back home. Washington state is beautiful. The lush green backdrop is a constant reminder of how lucky we are to live in such a vibrant environment. The Pacific Northwest is amazing, hands down. However, if we don’t make it out of Washington on the first day of a road trip, it simply feels like we’re cross border shopping. So we moved like bandits on the run from the law. Making it all the way down into Oregon that first night.

The first hiccup of our trip has to be the moment our “new” GPS decided it would be awesome to crap out on us. It was back to reading a map for me & navigating old school. Having searched the map for a worthy camping site close to the Idaho state line, we saw a state park sign for Anthony Lakes in between La Grande & Baker City OR. Enjoying the 20 mile drive up to the park, we came upon fields of cows who were more than willing to pose for photos & seemed to enjoy the attention. Once we were on the drive up the mountain into the park, we both remarked how similar this felt to Yosemite, but on a smaller scale. The mountain tops were blanketed in mist making the whole drive up there both beautiful & mystical.Anthony Lake Oregon After arriving atop the mountain we were surprised to see it was a popular destination. We managed to snag a spot away from the groups of families. We then went for a quick walk around the area & found ourselves surrounded by crisp air & vibrant colours. The peak itself, Mount Ireland, was stunning. After a while, what I thought was a campsite we did not want to intrude upon turned out to be one of the lakes, we hiked down to the water to take in the living postcard before us. Every angle was an amazing photograph. There were a few people quietly enjoying the lake, fishing & taking their own photos. Devon picked up some discarded fishing line so it wouldn’t become a hazard to the wildlife. Then, we heard the distinct sound of a base being tuned up. Apparently, there was a wedding reception starting up. With that, it was back to the camp site.
Lake Anthony

Devon set up the site while I walked down to the camp site host for a bundle of firewood. We enjoyed a quiet dinner with the crackling of the fire pits seemingly in unison. A rather nice lady from the site across ours came over to introduce herself. She saw that we were Canadian and wanted to say hello. A fellow Canadian, we ended up having a lovely chat with her & quickly fell for her beautiful rescue German Shepard. The next morning, I walked over & gave them the remaining firewood we were unable to use up or take with us. Their dog was super sweet & quiet playful. Just seeing her made us miss our Jacke Boy that much more. We said our goodbyes, gave them some advice on travelling back home up to Victoria & started out for the day. A quick stop in historic Baker City OR for coffee & then it was on to Boise ID.Camp Dinner

I’ve never been to an REI but I can tell you this, after stopping at the one in Boise, I really want to go back! The employees are so nice, and the product selection is varied & far more cost effective than the items back home. We also stopped in at Whole Foods for some much needed food supplies for our cooler. From there it was on to Salt Lake City, Utah. The drive through Idaho went faster than it has in prior trips. I wish I could tell you that the scenery on the drive through Idaho is unreal but the reality is far more bland. We spent more time watching the roadside for deer than the landscape itself.

Antelope Island After high fiving having crossed into Utah, a state of calm washed over us. It truly feels like a vacation when we hit Utah. The drive through this section is breathtaking as you see the land change colours before your eyes. After consulting the map again for the exit to Antelope Island, Devon saw a sign for it & we started in on our next adventure. Making our way through the small town of Syracuse we found ourselves at the entrance for the Great Salt Lake State Park on Antelope Island. Paying for our entry & campsite, Devon almost drove off in a mad rush to just relax after having driven for 10 hours straight. The park ranger handed us our booklet & our campsite pass then we drove into the park. Devon remarked that the drive in seemed eerily reminiscent of Tsawassen and the drive to the ferries. The first thing we read about Antelope Island is, of course, the antelope that inhabit it, as well as the bison. There are roughly 500-700 head of bison that call the island home. The road ahead forked and we picked the left hand road because Devon read that the bison like to hang out near the water. Not 5 minutes into the drive down this road were we met with 5 bison chilling by the roadside, grazing. The biggest smile took over Devon’s face & it looked like she would cry. These creatures are so massive & gentle. They meander with not a care in the world. We stopped the car, put on the hazards & took as many photos as the bison would let us. There were three to the left of the road on the lakeside & two more to the right of the road. A giant bison lumbered slowly across the street not 5 feet from our car. Both of us slack jawed & awestruck while furiously clicking away on our cameras, the bison had no worries about our presence and took his time crossing the road. I looked over & I felt as though Devon would burst into tears, her eyes reddening, her voice shaky with excitement. We waved at these beautiful creatures, said our thank you’s & made our way down the road a bit more before turning around and heading back down toward the turn off for the campsite. We were assigned campsite #18 and as we drove up into the Bridger Bay campground Devon saw a bison in the distance and quipped, “I’ll bet you he’s at our spot.” Truer words never spoken. As we circled around the site, looking for #18, we slowly pulled up & there he was, sitting there, like an official welcomer to Antelope Island. There he was, this gorgeous animal enjoying a dust bath not 15 feet from our site. We stopped the car, grabbed our cameras and took a handful of pictures of him as he lay there, enjoying the weather. We took a few shots of the sun setting as it tangoed with the low hanging clouds creating this crazy halo above us. Looking back at the bison, he would stay there all night, as if to say, “I get it, we’re cool.” These mammals made peace with mankind long ago & now they live in harmony with the land while we get to share in their beauty. I think that he hung around all night because he knew that we needed him to be there. We appreciated his presence and will continue to be grateful that we got to share his energy all night long.Bison

We set up camp, made a fire & ate beans as our meal while quietly enjoying the bison laying within 20 feet of us. Laying down for the evening, I could not wipe the grin off of my face & I wondered why I was so happy. The moment we set foot on the ground there a calm energy washed over me & stayed the whole time we were on Antelope Island. I kept sitting up, looking for the bison as darkness fell all around. Though hot all night it was a peaceful sleep. We arose the next morning, our new bison friend had moved on. Devon was awoken by a magpie sitting on the post next to our car. He cheerily chirped & sang her awake. Once up for the day, we made a BioLite breakfast of coffee & peanut butter & banana sandwiches. There were several pheasants visiting the surrounding sites. Curious little birds, they walked about looking for food. After packing up, we decided on exploring the island a bit before leaving. We ventured down the roadway & back down the road that first took us to the bison. Sure enough, they were there again. We waited as they marched on past us. This time they galloped past, then settled down & calmly walked across the road. We grabbed a few more photos then carried on our way down the island to the Fielding Garr Ranch.Antelope island ranch A working ranch for over 100 years before stopping operation in 1981, in modern times, the ranch house is still the oldest building on its original foundation in Utah. We took the self guided tour around the ranch. I enjoyed the simplicity of the 100 year old blacksmithing equipment, while Devon wasn’t much impressed with it having being raised on a farm. Her grandfather had a dairy farm & understood the inner workings of it all while I had to stop & read about everything. She humoured me & let me read each display while she tried to say hello to the horses in the corral. Once we were finished with the tour, it was back into the car & back on the road into Salt Lake City for the most amazing vegan buffalo sandwich I have ever tasted.

– Jade

Monumental Moments.

Going into this past road trip I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. Then again I hadn’t planned on extraordinary. We’ve got a great system in place so far as picking destinations, mapping out routes & budgeting for any extras that might pop up. But when you come across a natural wonder that has breathtaking beauty, nothing prepares you for the shock and awe. This was my reaction to Monument Valley.

After rendezvousing with our friends, Paul & Lisa, and continuing on to Moab for four days of fun and relaxation, it was time to move on. The drive down from Arches National Park to Monument Valley is nothing spectacular to speak of. It’s a rather benign drive with a typical Utah backdrop as a constant companion. This is something that, I feel, no one can ever under appreciate or gloss over. Utah’s beautiful scenery stays with you as a reminder, even as you venture home. It gives you something to look forward to and keeps you coming back for more.

Driving closer to the Arizona border and deeper into Navajo country the landscape begins to morph in front of you. The dark reds begin to pale leaving a washed out orange with a distinct yellow hue seen only in the Colorado Plateau. This particular stretch of highway dips and swerves with great respect to the unforgiving terrain. Along the way the turnoffs and shoulders are dotted with shanties and kiosks hawking handmade Navajo jewelry. One final apex in the rolling roadway and just when your vehicle begins to dip down, across the horizon massive buttes majestically jut out from beneath the arid earth. They stand stoically, head and shoulders above their surrounding monoliths and spires. And as quickly as the desert plain takes a drastic turn, so does the colour. Back are the deep reds and vivid multi-dimensional oranges that can only be seen here as well as in the Moab desert. The view is impressive and nearly all traffic stops to take pictures. We pulled over and took several shots from this lookout before continuing on our way.

We arrive shortly at the gate to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Both Devon & Paul drive low profile cars. Normally this isn’t a concern but the scenic drive around the buttes & mittens in Monument Valley is on rather loose sand. We stopped in at the visitor’s centre which has a gift shop and a restaurant attached to it. The centre is chock full of knick knacks, trinkets and miscellaneous sundries. The indoor overlook has a full 360 view of the entire valley. As we were reading information about the buttes and their sacred spirits, it was brought to my attention that in either corner there were dinosaur tracks, preserved and on display for all to see. When you step outside onto the overlook you are immediately taken aback by the gigantic rock formations jutting out from valley floor. They stand proud and for centuries have been a beacon for the indigenous people, the Navajo. The wind whips around whistling and carrying ancient stories to the elders who in turn pass them on. These are the stuff of legend, whose tall tales turned up in dime novels in the late 1800s. These grounds are sacred and must be treated as such. The feeling that encompasses you here is one of complete calmness and a heightened sense of wisdom.

After taking some stunning pictures of the three most famous buttes & mittens, we decided to try and drive around the valley loop to get a closer look. Since we couldn’t tell from the top of the loop how soft the road was we just went for it. After one hill and an embankment, we could tell this would be a fun and trying drive. The sand isn’t compact and in some spots it seems like quicksand. One would think that a national monument would have paved roads to allow for greater access but that is not the case when it concerns Navajo country. Paul’s car is a little lower than ours and has a trailer hitch, so this small loop was proving difficult. Up and over big rocks and down into sandy ditches we go. I imagine the jostling about was similar to riding around in an old jalopy without shocks. Watching Paul’s car dip and bounce about was both impressive and amusing. We both ended up bottoming out and stopping to check our cars. In a turn out, taking pictures and checking the undersides of our cars, we somehow became roadside fodder for truckloads of kids on a guided tour. One group of kids waved excitedly at us saying “bonjour”. I guess they think all Canadians are bilingual.

Examinations of the undercarriages proved that the path was too difficult to do in our respective vehicles. Turning our cars around and attempting to make a run back up the hills and onto paved road, we had to time our runs with the oncoming truck tours. You never knew when your car might jump sideways as it tried to dig in and find solid ground. As it turns out, coming down into the valley loop was much easier than trying to climb back out of it. At some points, we lost all power and traction. With Paul leading the way, we watched him struggle and slide back, coming within inches of our car. Every time they went a few inches forward, we did too. And every time they lurched back or let up on the gas, Devon skillfully retreated to a safe distance without losing too much ground. After rolling back down a bit, Devon said, “F*** it!”, dropped it into first and gunned it up the final hill. The three truck loads of tourists cheered us on as we summited and finally arrived safe and sound at the top.

We flirted with the idea of pulling over and hiking around the base of one of the buttes but after that frustrating loop attempt, clearer heads prevailed and we decided to check out the Navajo markets instead. We strolled about in the market place and took in all of the beautiful arts and crafts. They use such amazing colours and utilize turquoise in such a way that it’s both tasteful and subtle. The bracelets and necklaces are magical looking with every colour of the rainbow represented. Everything is handmade and polished to perfection. I was particularly smitten with the knives, bows and arrows. But it was the fry bread that had me on the first bite. Fry bread is essentially a Navajo flat donut. This is a traditional sweet snack in Navajo country and it can be prepared in a plethora of ways. I chose to sprinkle icing sugar on mine. Walking about the arid outdoor mall, the hardest part for me was seeing all of the feral dogs wandering around, looking for food, water & cool shade to hide in, in an effort to beat the oppressive heat. The pregnant dogs almost tore my heart out and I found myself wanting to tear up. Both Devon & Lisa assured me that the local people took good care of these wild dogs, which eased my mind a bit. Looking about the vendor’s wares, Devon & Lisa picked out a nice, simple silver ring for me and a beautiful purple bracelet. In the very last shop we stopped in the proprietor was a very sweet woman who cared deeply about her goods and spoke fondly of their meaning. After shopping and as I waited for my fry bread, I watched as she took a bag of food outside and left it along side of the building for one skinny dog to eat. She had water out for the dogs as well. This filled me with renewed faith in mankind and I was able to let go of the fret I had with the dogs. Devon told me that this was their way of life and this was normal for these parts. With our new jewelry in hand and a giant fry bread to consume, we packed up and headed out for our next adventure, Sedona AZ. But we will cover that fun in another post.

Monument Valley was both barren and beautiful, stark and stunning. The air was filled with an energy that cannot be put into words. The terrain takes your breath away and the rocks themselves, if you listen close enough, speak to you like you’re the only person there.

What they said to me, I cannot say. You just have to go there for yourself.

– Jade