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.



Bold statement, right?

You might say this to the super annoying guy at your local coffee shop who keeps asking you for a date. Can’t he see you’re just there for the java? Buzz off, bud! Don’t you know I’m a zombie without my cuppa joe?!? Perhaps you’d yell this out the window at the impatient driver who cut you off three times in one block. Seriously?!? Are you kidding me right now? I’ll see you at the next red, pal! Piss off!!

I can tell you that I’m a little more compassionate than that. I’d probably politely turn down the guy at the coffee shop and maybe even buy his drink and I’d most certainly let that driver be. They might be having the worst day of their life. I mean ‘get lost’ in a different way.

Every time I step outside my apartment or get in the car with no set destination or time frame to be somewhere, it is my intention to go out and get lost.

This is not as easy as it might sound. I have an innate ability to either know which direction I’m going or find my way without much struggle.

The same cannot be said for Devon. She is the first person to concede that she has a horrible sense of direction and she cannot read a map. There have been a handful of disagreements over which street to turn on or whether we were going in the right direction. These are the rare times that I am not only right, but Devon admits it.

What Devon lacks in a natural compass she makes up for in her ability to get completely lost. When this happens, she always exclaims “it’s an adventure!” and nine times out of ten, it is!

Shiprock, a monadnock jutting out from the desert floor.  (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Shiprock, a monadnock jutting out from the desert floor. (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
There was that time our “Canadian” showed and we picked up a stranded elder Navajo lady who was waiting for her son to pick her up at church. What was explained to us as “a little bit down the road” turned out to be a four hour drive into another state (AZ) in the opposite direction of our destination, deep into Navajo country. If we hadn’t dropped Jessie off near her home, we would have never heard her stories about Shiprock (NM) and its importance to the local Navajo people. Not only does the rock formation stand guard over the town but it also takes a decent selfie.

Anthony Lake, beautifully serene.
Anthony Lake, beautifully serene.
The same can be said for our unscheduled detour to Anthony Lakes Park (OR). Not only did we pull over and hang out with cows on the way up to the park but once there, we were blown away by the beauty and serenity of the lake we camped at. We’ve driven past this detour several times over the years, never knowing what we were missing. We shared many moments of perfect stillness coupled with wonderfully deafening silence sitting lakeside. If I’m being totally honest, it felt like I had walked into a postcard. The scene before us looked far too picturesque to be real.

How they "roll" down in Cannon Beach.
How they “roll” down in Cannon Beach.
Then there was the time we drove down the Oregon coast, letting our car pick our destinations. This led us up the side of a mountain which felt like we were off-roading. This old logging road literally went nowhere but the ride up and down was pretty fun. We also ended up at Long Beach which had some very smooth white sand. We ended up in Florence on one of the whitest beaches I’ve ever seen during a dune buggy race. As we walked through the sand to the shoreline, dune buggies and ATVs zipped by all around us. Had we been better prepared, we would have rented one and bombed around with the rest of the overgrown kids.

I’m not a jealous person at all but Devon’s ability to randomly find adventure and awesome at every “wrong” turn has me a little green with envy.

Sometimes the best laid plan is to rip up the blueprint and go in the opposite direction. Sometimes the stress of a timetable zaps the fun and random out of your trip altogether. When was the last time you ended up somewhere unintentionally? On your next road trip, vacation or holiday, do yourself a kindness and plan absolutely nothing. Throw caution to the wind, think outside the box and let the open road lead you to anywhere you’ve never been before. You’ll be a better person for it and you’ll thank me later.

I wish I could get lost. I can’t even do that in my hometown. I always find my way to somewhere I’ve been before and, eventually, back home.

What’s the worst that could happen? Give it a try. The next time you step outside your front door, go ahead… *GET LOST.

– Jade

* in a good way. 🙂

Why I Vacation.

Vacation is today’s big bad wolf.

That’s right. Millions of people are frightened of taking time off from work. Why? They dread the pile of work awaiting them when they return and no one else can do what they do at the office. This is, essentially, a ‘martyr’ complex, believing that they’re the only ones who can do their jobs.

This is my definition of insanity. There is a certain amount of ego in this thought process. The world does not stop revolving because you’re not at work. Yes, someone else does know how to do your job. That’s called cross-training. Of course they don’t do it “your way” but the job still gets done.

There are many companies with a “use it or lose it” policy in place when it comes to vacation time. Many would prefer you to take time off while others buckle when pushed to pay out that time. Your employers want you to take some personal time. It’s healthy.

Benefits of vacation:
– Better physical health
– More productivity
– Closer family relationships
– Newer perspectives
– Increased mental power
– Lower chance of burn out
– Improved mental health

Now that you know the science behind it, here’s my reasoning. Up until eight years ago I had never taken a vacation. I had also become stagnant. I gained weight, became complacent and was no longer satisfied by activities I once enjoyed. I had all the signs of depression and burn out. It was for these reasons that I finally took my first vacation. I was already in my thirties. I have only one regret… I wish I had taken a vacation sooner. It would have spared me a lot of mental anguish.

After the constant communication, collaboration & negotiation, finally the timing was perfect. Schedules were cleared and the stars aligned. That first vacation was the breath of fresh air my soul so desperately needed.

I’m not one for the details and I certainly don’t need to know everything. The planning part I can completely do without. But everything else is pure joy. Whether you’re flying or road tripping, the process gets smoother each time. We’re like a well oiled machine now. I enjoy watching the scenery change as we make our way to our destination.

Everything is fresh and new when you’re on vacation. Even the people are nicer. It just occurred to me that they’re nicer because maybe they’re on vacation too. The process of de stressing and recharging your battery is as simple as showing up. Maybe all you need is a good hike in a national park. Perhaps a massage is in order. Lounging poolside is the key for some individuals. Some people find searching for knick knacks in gift shops a thrill. I honestly don’t care what it is that you do, just so long as you do it.

In fact, you don’t even have to go anywhere to enjoy a vacation. I’m a big fan of the “Staycation”. It does the soul wonders to turn off all of your electronics, unplug and relax in the comfort of “Porta My Yarda”. It can be as easy as not having to answer to the alarm clock in the morning and waking up on your own, naturally. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to feel re-energized.

I don’t know why North Americans find excuses for why they shouldn’t go on vacation or why they don’t deserve one. The daily grind can really chew you up. Some european countries have a mandatory thirty days off. You’re not allowed to work for thirty consecutive days. We could learn a lot from their laid back lifestyle.

Why do we, as a society, feel the need to punish ourselves for all our hard work? Shouldn’t we reward ourselves with time off? Why do some of us feel undeserving while others overindulge?

I vacation because I owe it to myself to live a happy, stress free life. I owe it to myself to get out there and see new things. I like the adventure. Each trip is filled with spontaneity. We’re not meant to stay in one place. We’re drawn to new surroundings. I can’t imagine living my life any other way.

Life is meant to be experienced.

– Jade


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 🙂


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


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

Mill Fork Cemetery.

We’ve zipped past this a dozen times on our annual drive down to Moab UT. Each time we both say, “Dang! We missed it again. Next time!” Well… next time finally happened. Ironically, we missed the entrance on our way down but we managed to take the time to stop and check out this semi-hidden jewel on our way back home.

Mill Fork is a ghost town, established in 1837 and abandoned by homesteaders in the 1930s. It’s located in the Spanish Fork Canyon. Based around and named for the sawmills, at its height the town boasted some 250 inhabitants. It was an important part of the railroad development through the canyon and upon completion the town & its resources dried up like the earth surrounding it. All that remains of the town is the cemetery offset from the busy highway camouflaged by the tall grass that is typical of the area. The arched entrance to the small, well-tended to cemetery is a landmark on U.S. Route 6 between Spanish Fork & Price UT.

The ancestors from three families, the Atwoods, Chadwicks & the Elliotts, are responsible for the maintenance of this tiny reminder of a long since forgotten town and its history. Without their tireless efforts, most of the 16 known residents of the cemetery would have been forever lost or unknown along with their tragic stories. Up until 2005, no one had known exactly how many souls where forever marked on the unforgiving terrain, their names a mystery shrouded in the dust and decay.

The Mill Fork Cemetery entrance.
The Mill Fork Cemetery entrance.

We pulled off of the highway and drove under the arched sign and parked in the small area levelled out for visitors. We grabbed our cameras and started our way on foot and I was surprised to feel an overwhelming sense of calm wash over me after crossing a run down bridge into the cemetery proper. Devon & I had thought being in such a place would have given us both the worst case of the heebs. The fenced in cemetery with its carefully planted trees had an eerily soothing feeling to it. Being mindful not to step on any of the residents we both walked about reading their headstones in sombre silence while taking pictures. I left a coin on the main marker bearing the cemetery’s name. This slab feels original. Legend has it that leaving coins helped the spirits pay the toll to have the gates of Heaven opened for them. This is especially important to do so in a place where most of the inhabitants are children. Leaving coins also lets others know that people have visited.

The original Mill Fork headstone.
The original Mill Fork headstone.

Devon wandered off on her own & I found the visitors book in a neat looking box with a pen. I thumbed through the pages and read some comments before flipping to a crisp page to leave a message of my own. I then returned the book to its rightful place and locked the door. We went through each section at a time. The family plots were distinctly marked with separate fencing and gates. I’m no stranger to cemeteries, I actually find them both beautiful & calming. I will say this… the markers for the children were the smallest I have ever seen.

The earliest inhabitants, the Finch children. Interred June of 1893.
The earliest inhabitants, the Finch children. Interred June of 1893.

I looked up a few facts about Mill Fork before we arrived and it turns out the cemetery is steeped in tragedy. Two such events stand out for me. The earliest inhabitants were three little girls, sisters, who perished due to scarlet fever in June of 1893. The youngest, Edna Vivian Finch, just 1 year old.

Even more shocking than that is the story of Paris & Voila Chadwick Ballard. The two met, fell in love and married. Years later, in 1919, Paris took a job as a range rider on Antelope Island (another of our favourite spots). The Ballards had to relocate to Salt Lake City for this job. As Paris was away for work, Voila spent more time with her first cousin, H.A. Hill. Paris grew paranoid & jealous of anyone who spent time with his wife. Voila’s cousin ate supper with her & her sister almost every night. When Paris came home, he grew increasingly jealous of Hill because of his constant presence. After one particularly bad argument where Paris had threatened to kill his comely wife, Voila & Hill went to the police station to report it. Voila was then accompanied home by the deputy sheriff, where they discovered that Paris was gone, so the deputy left. Paris had taken his clothes, making it appear that he had returned to Antelope Island… he had not. He purchased a gun & ammunition the next morning and returned to his apartment to confront his wife. After a heated exchange neighbours heard two quick shots followed by her screams. Seconds later, two more shots rang out. Then there was silence. When officers arrived they found two bodies. Paris lay on the bed, barely breathing… he died in hospital eight hours later. Voila lay dead between his feet. There is still speculation today among their ancestors whether his jealousy was merited.

The sad final chapter in the Ballard's lives.
The sad final chapter in the Ballard’s lives.

Mill Fork came about in the pioneer days, bringing much needed jobs with the expansion of the railroads and the industrial revolution brought the demise of the town altogether. The beautiful arched entrance, in its simplicity, stands as the constant sole reminder of this long gone town. Without the dedicated work of these three families this cemetery would have been but a faint mark in an obscure history book ignored on a dusty shelf in a tiny library in some forgotten small town. Due to their efforts, the cemetery, like its inhabitants buried within its sheltering fence, has undergone a resurrection.

I’m glad we took a few minutes to finally stop and visit. It was worth the wait.

– Jade

The Desert Rat.

A twisted juniper in Red Rock Canyon.
A twisted juniper in Red Rock Canyon.
I’ve been to Vegas four or five times. I’m not a gambler, I simply don’t understand the lure of it. I have no interest in drinking my face off and I don’t trust any buffet that’s only a dollar. So what keeps me going back to Sin City? Besides the ideal climate, it’s the desert. Also, I’m a huge mafia buff. Vegas is steeped with a rich history of mob run businesses and casinos. In organized crime’s heyday of the 20s-80s, Las Vegas was where they would bring their ill gotten gains to launder and legitimize their wealth. It started back in the early 1940s with Bugsy Siegel being given the task to establish the mafia in Vegas by building a casino. From there, every faction sent at least one person to represent each family and stake claim to their own turf. It was a mobster’s dream to run a place in a state with little to no rules.

On our last trip to Las Vegas, we each had one thing we wanted to do. Since it was Devon’s birthday, she got to choose the all of the activities on her special day. Everybody else got to choose one activity. This trip was planned well in advance of her actual day of birth and we invited two close friends to join us. The trip itself was actually really fun. We spent a week exploring Vegas, walking up and down the strip for an entire day.

Devon free climbing.
Devon free climbing.
We mixed it up a bit by flying down instead of driving. After arriving we picked up our rental SUV and drove down the highway to our hotel. Devon picked the place. She had been there on another trip and enjoyed her stay. We pulled into the Red Rock Casino & Hotel and checked in at the front desk. I honestly don’t think I’ve been in a bigger hotel. Nor have I seen one with nine pools before. With a casino floor and seven different restaurants to choose from, we really didn’t need to leave our hotel at all. There was also a keno lounge and a bingo hall.

Once checked in, we went down to the casino floor and walked around. After all the travel, sitting on a plane, driving to the hotel & settling in, the only thing on our minds was food. Since Devon had been there before, she knew which restaurants had the good eats. We settled on the Yard House, a draft beer pub with gourmet food. We ate probably the best nachos there. The portions were more than enough and we were sufficiently stuffed. After eating it was off to do a little gaming. We spent about an hour playing some games then we went back up to our room to relax for the night.

Devon having a blast.
Devon having a blast.
The next couple of days were spent walking around old Vegas and shopping at one of the large outlet malls. I’m actually impressed with Devon on this. She’s not a fan of shopping and an even bigger non fan of malls, yet she managed to hang in there for three hours of insanity. Our friends had never been to Vegas and they enjoy shopping. A part of me thinks that they think it’s a sport. All I know is they have black belts in retail therapy. We walked up and down each side of the mall, stopping at what seemed like every other store. Finding a few things we needed and a handful of stuff we didn’t, it was back to the hotel to rest for a bit before heading off to dinner and a little gambling before calling it a day.

On Devon’s birthday she wanted to go to Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. Driving up to the park is nothing special but driving down into it you can visibly watch the scenery change before your eyes. The crazy hues of yellows, oranges & reds saturate your vision and everything seems crisp, vivid. We walked down into the canyon a bit and took some pictures. There were a few people around so we decided to move to another less populated area. Driving further into the park, we found a nice area with huge rocks jutting out from the rock face. It was there that we went for a short walk. There was some primitive art of hand prints along the wall and we stopped to take a few photos. The park had a feeling, very hard to describe. I felt an energy present, that’s all I know.

Elephant Rock.
Elephant Rock.
After that, we drove 128km (1hr & 35 minutes) to Valley of Fire State Park to look for rock formations. We ended up at Elephant Rock which, not surprisingly, looks just like an elephant. We hung out on top of the rock face for a bit, watching the sun set in the distance. As the sun went down, so did the temperature. The desert is famous for it’s heat. During the day it can get blazing hot but at night the temperature drops so drastically that it plummets into subzero weather. There is a harsh beauty to such an unforgiving environment. With the temperature down to an uncomfortable level, it was back on the road and back to our hotel.

The next day it was back into Vegas for a day of walking the world famous Las Vegas strip. Devon & I have been there several times before and we’ve walked the strip a few times. But every time we go with someone who’s never been there, the strip is still pretty fun to check out. We went from hotel to casino, up and down the strip, checking out all of the sights. We had lunch at Pink’s hot dog stand and continued on walking. You never really know how long or how far you walk, but I have a pedometer. I use it daily, and on this day it told me that we had walked over twenty-five thousand steps. So long as you keep moving, everything is fine. But the second we got back to our hotel room it seemed like everything ached with pain. For me, it was my knees. I felt my heartbeat in them. It was still a fun day and we saw a ton of what Vegas has to offer.

The next day would be the one item I really wanted.

– Jade

Bison, Bison, BISON!!!

Bison Traffic Jam

Leaving Crazy Horse we finally made our way to Wind Cave National Park where we would be camping out for the next 3 days. This place is easily up there on my top 5 places to visit. This was the only thing left on our list before we started the drive home. We decided to stay away from Custer State Park. Instead we drove along the outside of Custer Park into Wind Cave. The energy there… it’s something else. So calm, so peaceful. This was the perfect place to spend the next few days. We quickly raced to the visitor centre to ask a few questions before camping out. The rangers are SO nice at Wind Cave, answering all our stupid questions. The park is small and a small highway runs through the park. The park campground was near empty, only 3 other campers the first night. We quickly made a fire and settled in for the night knowing when we got up the next morning we would be seeing the famous bison 🙂 I was like a kid on Christmas, so excited I could barely sleep. Having the owls hoot me to sleep helped.


The next morning it was go time. I rushed J awake even before the sun fully rose, coffee and toast, check. Now, let’s go hiking. We drove down past the visitor centre not knowing where we would be going. We go up a hill, turn the corner, hang a right at the stop sign and BOOM there they are… The bison. Making their way across the green hills and up across the road to their daily mud baths, then into the Black Hills forest surrounding Wind Cave. Hundreds of them… everywhere!! It was like Antelope Island all over again. I was speechless and near tears. The bison just sauntered around like we weren’t even there, no other cars around us, just Jade and I along with HUNDREDS of these animals. They stopped in front of our car, two came right up to the window. I admit I panicked a bit and rolled up the window while J laughed at me. Once there was a break in the road we drove down a few miles until we accidentally left the park, turning around and re-entering the park we round the corner and BOOM again we are in grid lock with the bison. Can’t say either of us were upset by this. We pulled into a look out and turned off the car and just sat with them, for what seemed like an hour. Mothers and their babies walked past us. The leaders of the group, the big, huge males sniffed our car, they knew we were there to just sit with them, not causing any harm. We watched as they bellowed at other cars and jumped out of the way of some assholes who refused to slow down for them. We just sat with them and gave them our time, and respect.

Wind Cave National Park
Wind Cave National Park

I can easily spend all day talking about the bison we encountered on this trip. It was exactly what I needed for my soul. Sitting here, going through all the pictures, I feel a sense of calm wash over me, everything is going to be ok. Weird, those lyrics JUST played in my headphones. I guess it will be ok.

J and I went to Wind Cave just for the bison. We were greeted by more prairie dogs, deer, antelope, coyotes etc. all at once. We watched as a coyote stalked the prairie dogs, J telling me we need to let him know he will be eaten but no, this is nature doing it’s thing. The bison walked up and scared the coyote away all while ruining the prairie dog’s home by peeing in it and then rolling around. Prairie dogs have it rough guys. 🙂

View from Camp @ Wind Cave
View from Camp @ Wind Cave

We sat by our campfire just taking in the sights and sounds of Wind Cave. The owls in the forest behind us, the deer roaming the hills while the sun goes down, the crackling fire, the PERFECT rolling clouds and landscape. This was my favourite part of the trip, just sitting at camp with all of nature around us. We often get so side-tracked by life, we don’t get to experience or enjoy this. 3 days in Wind Cave I will remember forever, the bison everyday, greeting us with such delight, the final day we went to go say thank you and goodbye to them. They were doing their morning walk to the forest across the road. Today was a little different, we pulled off to the side of the road and just watched as the mothers and their babies walked up to the car. The babies playing right beside us, jumping and kicking in the air having the time of their lives while we watched. The mothers let this happen, they know, we knew. It was a peaceful moment we will both remember forever.


I drove out of Wind Cave extremely relaxed, ready to take on the world. I was commenting to Jade as we made the last uphill decent towards the gates that this trip really changed how I look at things. I then slowed the car through the prairie dog maze and stopped, yelling that there were TWO bison at the top of the hill just standing there. We both looked over and Jade said, “Oh yeah! There they are!”, then got out her camera for when we got to the top of the hill. When we got there, there were no bison to be found… I swear up and down they were there, in a park full of rolling hills and far away forests it’s hard to miss TWO 1500 lb creatures. Were they there?? Or was it another “Jessie” instance?


Maybe it was some of that “Canada Magic” we’ve been told we have. 🙂

– Devon