Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Australia Adventures - Part 1

Well, Australia has been good to us so far.  Our Number One observation has been that Australians are a warm, generous, welcoming and giving people.  We've been spending time in smaller places mostly and people seem to be willing to give you their right arm if you need it.  Be it that Keith and I are also like-minded folks, we've been having lots of great interactions and adventures.
We started our trip on the right note - that is, with a visit with my uncle in Port Stephens.  Uncle Ronny picked us up direct from the Sydney Airport and whisked us off into a far more relaxing corner of Australia.  His backyard is populated with quiet beaches, bays and villages and was the perfect low-key way to ease ourselves into this journey.  My uncle is also a wonderful, warm, generous man who has a great sense of humour.  Our time with him was thoroughly enjoyable, relaxing and fun.  Thanks Uncle Ronny!

During my time in this area, we made a trip to visit the lovely Gretel Fortman and go for a run in Brisbane Waters National Park.  It's an amazing pocket of nature located not-to-far from the metropolous of Sydney, but it felt wild and wonderful.  The run from Girrakook to Patonga is highly recommended.  It was a hot day and I was super-happy to find a killer swimming hole to jump in.  Gretel's home town of Terrigal is absolutely lovely, as is the lady herself and her family.  It was great to connect up with another runner girl and this girl rocks!  Watch out for this one - she's not only gorgeous, but young, athletic and talented.  Gretel spent a fab year and a half working and training in Squamish and has had a helluva' running season.  With great finishes at White Mountain and a top 10 finish at UTMB this year, the girls got legs to go with a sparkling personality. 

Gretel in her playground

After our time with Ronny, Keith and I got in the car and made our way North to Yampa where we would base ourselves for a few days while we enjoyed the Yuraygir Coastal Walk.  I knew nothing about this walk apart from reading this little brochure, but when I found out it was the largest stretch of undeveloped shoreline in all of NSW, I decided we needed to go and see this place. 

The Coastal Walk was amazing!!  It was an amazing stretch of coastline, with crazy beautiful scenery, remote villages and long stretches of walking on the beach.  We followed the "path of the Emu" in hopes of seeing a rare coastal emu.  In our time we saw dolphins, sea eagles, whales, incredible bird-life, beaches and shared the trail with kangaroos.  We didn't see an emu, but we did find emu tracks and scat on the trail.  We saw virtually no people on the trail and most encounters where with locals where we were close to the villages.  On our first day, we came across a naked guy, just walking along with his sunhat and sunglasses on.  He was carrying an apple and a smile and was barefoot.  I surprised him walking around a blind corner and greeted him with a warm and chuckling "Hello Mr. Naked Guy!" to which he had a laugh.  He was also kind and generous and offered up some great local knowledge.  I just had to avert my gaze from time to time.

 Most Aussies have brown feet and a flip-flop tan.  I do NOT.

 Heading down to the beach on the Yuraygir Coastal Walk

 Walking in my bikini bottoms - Why Not?!?

 Sunset at the campground - Sandon River

 Longest stretch of beach walking- 10km on Sandon Beach

The lack of people on this walk was a serious highlight, as was the incredible scenery and the encounters with the few people we encountered along the way. We met a couple outside of the village of Sandon, who took us in, fed us and got us blindly drunk with one of those bottomless-glasses-of-wine. It just kept getting re-filled and the next thing you know, Keith and I where not just drunk, but plain-ol' shit faced. It took us 2 cups of coffee to get us out on the trail and it was a long walk in the sunshine, but totally worth every moment.

Berna and Cora - on the headland behind their house

We did 100km in 4 days - with a bonus night spent at a lovely campground close to town for an easy walk back to civilisation.  The Yuraygir Coastal Walk was amazing on so many levels, highly recommended if you wanted to do something well off the beaten track.  You can't go wrong with a place this remote and beautiful.  So far, Australia has proven itself to be a big, beautiful wonderful world.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shits and Giggles

Beware. Banff Trail Trash is about to get trashy. There's going to be some potty-talk here. Brace yourself because it's all shits and giggles!!
Poo. There's been a lot of it this month. I got the Fever! The Beaver Fever. *Insert bad jokes here please.* That's Canadian-speak for Giardia. It's a nasty little critter which takes hold of your guts and reaks havoc. Essentially, aliens have colonised and reproduced in my intestines. It's been crappy, so to speak and I've been feeling like Ass. The Aliens made me sick for quite a long time. I was out of commission for a couple of weeks with The Fever and my energy has been slow to return. But I'm back! I'm feeling good. Moving on and moving forward. Life has certainly been passing, as fast as projectile poo and bad gas!

After 2 weeks of zilch, nada, zero activity - I was itching to get out. It was time for some shits and giggles. I eased myself back in the saddle with a road trip to visit my folks in Creston B.C and a 2 day backpack with the lovely Danni. I thought I would try and see if I had enough energy to walk, yet alone run. It was an awesome summer weekend in Montana and while I wasn't feeling 100%, it sure was glad to be back in the saddle.

I'm having problems downloading the Montana photos, but trust me when I say Danni took us to a beautiful place.  I had great company in Keith, Danni, Amber and the 2 puppy dogs to keep me entertained.  My energy was still in the tank, but I managed to backpack for 2 days and I sure did enjoy the relaxing.  It was an honest-to-goodness summer weekend with time spent lounging in the sun, playing with doggies, swiimming in the beautiful Crater Lake and it was even warm enough to sleep without a tent fly.  I sure do love my Montana friends and their fine backyard! 

I jumped in with both feet the next weekend, with a 3 day mountain bender. My energy was perking up, so I needed to get moving again.  The weekend was crazy weather-wise. On the Friday, I found myself high atop Northover Ridge in winter-like conditions. Snow had accumulated and the conditions were sketchy enough for us to turn around. Craziness!

Let's Go There!!

Waaaaay Up There!!

Where we came from....



....thinking about Winter

...cornice in September!!

...and more Views!!

Despite the snow, Northover Ridge was an amazing place to spend a September day.  It was Awesome with a capital A.  It's an incredible beautiful place and I'll be back next summer. Up high on the ridge line, the conditions got sketchy, so we turned around and lived to "run" another day.  Still, Mike and I had a great day and a fun adventure!

The 2 days that followed were perfect summer days. Oh the difference of a day! 

The sun came out and just like that, summer was back.  It was incredibly calm, we enjoyed clear blue skies, sunshine and warm temperatures to get us all blissed out.  Our friend Lara was visiting on the long weekend, so we decided to go hike the Lake Louise Teahouse Circuit.  You can visit both Lake Agnes and Plains of Six Glaciers in a day - and we added in a bonus hike of both the Little Beehive and the Big Beehive.  We beat the crowds by starting early and had the place to ourselves.  It was a great day and it felt good to stretch out my legs which were surprisingly sore from the day before.  I guess that is what happens when you don't run for 2 weeks!

Lake Louise

The next day, I was joined by some of my favorite Goofballs Miles, Monica and Nicki.  We decided on an extra-special destination and ran a run that features some of the most gorgeous yet accessible scenery in all of Banff National Park. We ran a gorgeous route from Moraine Lake to Lake Louise.
It's the beginning of a Great Adventure!

Heading towards Sentinel Pass
Views from the South Aspect of Sentinel Pass

The North facing side of the pass was still covered in snow and ice.  It was tricky footing as we made our way through the boulder field, the rocks were super icy.  Then we got to make a glissade through the fresh avalanche debris to get us to the bottom in one piece. ;) 

Eventually, we made our way down Paradise Valley and past Lake Annette, before turning abruptly skyward and beginning the ascent up Saddleback.  The views climbing upwars were simply astounding, with great views of Mount Temple the whole way.  At the top of the Saddleback, we coudn't resist scrambling up to the summit of Fairview Mountain - one of the most accessible scrambles in the area.

From there, we had a quick fun descent down to the shoreline of Lake Louise where we couldn't resist jumping in the lake.  It was mayhem on the shoreline of Lake Louise with it being a long weekend and a beautiful day and I'm sure the crowds were entertained by the shenanigans of these 2 lovely ladies.
Glacier Fed!

And then as a grand finalee to a Most Excellent Day, I had to bust out my own personal salute to Lake Louise.
I Love you Lake Louise!
Finally, my energy felt almost normal this week so I was excited to make the drive out to Mount Robson for the inaugral Mount Robson Marathon.  It was an absolute perfect weather weekend and I couldn't pass up my one chance to run a race on the Berg Lake Trail.  As a bonus, I had some great surprise company for the road trip in the form of  my friend Martin Gaffuri.  Martin is from Annecy, France and is part of the extended Trans Rockies family.  We stopped for a run at Parker's Ridge because the weather was so damn incredible.  It was a rather amazing day to be driving the Icefields Parkway with not a cloud in the sky.

French Beefcake!

Upon arriving in Mount Robson Provincial Park, I don't think I ever recall seeing Mount Robson so clearly.  As the largest peak in the Canadian Rockies, it's huge, massive and impressive.  We had a visit with the rest of the friends who were running before heading back to the campground for an early night.
Mount Robson

As one of my favorite trails, I was stoked to be running an actually race in this incredible place.  The Mount Robson Marathon was a one-time only event to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of B.C Parks.  Only 100 people were allowed to run and it was to be a special day for all.  The marathon started at 7:30 in the AM on a beautiful clear cool morning.  I had no expectations on this day and started slow with almost everyone charging out in front of me.  I was expecting a lot of them would come back to me and I was right.  Eventually, I passed a whole bunch of them on the steep climb up - and I walked every inch of it with my hiking poles.  I was looking forward to seeing Berg Lake and Mount Robson under a clear blue sky and when we reached the turn-around there were all sorts of awestruck first-timers gawking at the lake.  This was my 4th time to Berg Lake, but I was equally in awe.  I snapped a few photos before turning around and blazing down the trail.  As soon as the trail turned downhill, I started passing people and I had lost track of how many when I reached the bottom of this awesome descent.  I was having fun and gaining some serious momentum.  I kept it going right to the finish line, elated to be finishing happy and strong and feeling much more like myself.  I think I got my mojo back!!

Sadly, I'm having trouble posting my Berg Lake photos - but you should all seriously put Mount Robson and Berg Lake on your life list.   It's that good.

On that note, I'm all caught up.  That's been a snip of my life the past 3 weeks.  Now, I'm embarking on a new adventure as I right this post from the airport.  Keith and I are leaving for Australia today for 3 whole months!  Now that IS exciting.  It's all about Shits and Giggles.  And Adventures, too!