“I’ve been living here 3 years. This is my third year.”
Yeah. How do you like the winter?
“Oh it’s bad. I don’t like it. Where I’m from, I worked at a tea shop in India. It’s not like here, like big and crazy tea and coffee shop, but it was small…”
Probably really quaint.
“Yeah. It was not crazy like here, but it was nice. It was peaceful. Back there, I would be in my shirt and shorts to go pick tea leaves outside. I have family and friends and I miss them sometimes, but that is the sacrifice we make. We come here because of what we earn. Because of what we earn, we have peace (don’t need to struggle for food, housing etc). There’s good and there’s bad. Both are options. You can opt for good or opt for bad. Either way, it’s up to you.”
“Be as simple as you can be; you will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.”
– Paramahasa Yogananda
From Gods in the Global Village “Cultural diffusion, driven in part by economic developments, has resulted in a global greed for consumer goods among those people who can afford to participate in the system (and often a hope for participating among those people who cannot afford to do so).
I was mostly after LCD Soundsystem but after browsing galleries and museums to visit during my planned stay, I found out that Thierry Mugler (whose exhibit I missed in Montreál) was going to be on at Brooklyn Museum.
I’ve been frequenting New York as of late (5th time in 2022). The change of scenery is great for relieving stress and putting things in perspective. I have family there too so I usually stay with them but not on this trip. I just wanted to go and do my own thing. I may or may not have snuck this trip… I suppose it doesn’t matter now since I’m blogging it and they’ll find out lol. It was only for three days anyway but it was jampacked with so much culture.
I was mostly solo on this trip. As social as I can be, I actually really like being alone. We need these times to process what’s going on around us, to quiet the noise and hear our own voice. Sometimes the nuanced misunderstandings that we come across on almost a daily basis, which is arguably a form of culture shock, can be exhausting.
We all experience this to some degree due to the world we’re living in including the kinds of media, we’re exposed to, which all become a part of what shapes our reality (have you watched any of the old-school Disney movies lately? Some of them have statements now before the film starts, that pretty much say, “We know we fucked up but instead of removing the content let it be topics of discussion on how we can form a more inclusive world.” I know they’re a big company and can afford all kinds of losses but I thought it was pretty ballsy of them to own up to it and not take it down. It made me wonder what their thinking/legal processes were that came to this decision. If you have a Disney Plus subscription, check it out for yourself. It also made me wonder how it shaped our biases). In case you haven’t figured it out yet, art/culture/design can be play very powerful roles that instigate social and political change… for better or for worse.
Try to remember that an objective instance isn’t always processed the same way, subjectively. Just as our chemistry with others isn’t necessarily telling of what another may experience with the same person/group, it is influenced and reflected by our own reality. Somebody who watched Disney films in middle America in the 90s wouldn’t necessarily have the same worldviews as someone who watched it in the Phillippines.
In this sense, life is a solo act. Sure, we can belong to communities and families but we’re all ultimately still on our own paths. To me, perspective is of great value, especially when it comes to arts & culture, moulding ourselves and the ways we change, transform, and evolve in this life.
On that note, I’m really diggin’ Brooklyn’s vibe and since I’m drawn to it, I figure it will aid in the whole growth thing. Even if it doesn’t, I knew I was going to enjoy myself so… I did it.
Hotel RL Brooklyn
I didn’t take photos of the place I’m staying in, unfortunately, nor did I bother taking many photos outside the hotel. I’ve just been going there enough times that it’s now become a part of my “normal” so it didn’t occur to me.
I did take a video at the tail end of my trip. It’s in this neighbourhood called Bedstuy and it was right by a subway track with some amazing street art and graffiti.
It’s funny ’cause my cousin who was born and raised there would come visit Toronto sometimes and, to her, Toronto feels like a small town lol. Yeah, I can see that.
When I was fresh from Asia, I felt more at home in New York because of the density, the pace, the pollution, the graffiti, and the grime (which is part of its charm for me). But having lived in Toronto for over 20 years, I’ve gotten used to the space and I’m not sure if I can live here anymore. I like my quiet, relatively reasonable monthly rent (yeah, I know Toronto’s still ridiculous but compared to New York… come on).
I landed around 9:30 but airport security, customs etc had to happen in between so I didn’t get to my hotel until around 11:30. My room wasn’t ready until 2:00 PM. I debated on going out somewhere but I decided to just stick around at the bar, which was closed for service but open for lounging at the time.
I just stayed there for a couple hours since I had my luggage with me too. I pre-ordered some stuff from this metaphysical store in Manhattan that have iron fillings in them. The last time I took them home via carry-on, I almost missed my flight due to security. This time, I decided to do a big order which covered my holiday shopping and check my luggage in even though I was just there for 3 days.
As soon as I checked in my room, I changed my clothes and headed straight to the store which was about 40 minutes away via transit. I love taking the MTA. It’s so sexy.
The TTC just doesn’t have the raw-ness and history that the MTA does. There are delays and issues with both transits but with the TTC, once a subway stops running, you’re stuck with buses as there are no workarounds whereas the MTA would have way more options because their system is so much more robust… just don’t use it after around 10 or 11 at night (4 murders on average per month + other forms of assault and numerous petty crimes).
I ordered a bunch of stuff from a store I ended up loving called “Enchantments.” They market themselves as the oldest witchcraft store in New York City (30+ years).
I actually feng shui’d my condo when I moved in and, during the session, I was re-introduced to crystals and metaphysical things that I got into in my late teens to early 20’s. I didn’t have much faith nor spirituality back then so I just kinda forgot about it. I was intrigued but didn’t really take it too seriously. These days, however, I’ve been taking up more spiritual things and if you’re into carving your intentions and focusing for manifestation, I would totally recommend this place.
I brought my luggage here as the sole purpose of having checked-in luggage was to stuff the candles in it. The last time I carried it with me, I got extensively checked by security due to the iron fillings on the bottom of the candle. I hurriedly packed them at the store so I can go prep for the concert, which I was really giddy excited about lol.
I had about 2 hours to get to the venue after I was done with Enchantments. I went back to my hotel, stored my luggage there, had a change of clothes, and are dinner before Ieft for the concert.
I was about 15 minutes late and freaking out but as it turns out, they weren’t going on ’til an hour after their supposed start time. There weren’t any opening artists or anything so I entertained myself with some merch and the bar.
For those of you who don’t know them, they’re an electronic punk band from Brooklyn. I discovered them just a few years ago but they’ve been big-ish (not quite like Mariah Carey or Beyonce or lanything but they’re too popular now to be “underground” so not sure what category they fit in) since the mid 2000’s. They broke up in 2011 but got back together in 2015 (whew!). If you like Depeche Mode, chances are, you will like their music too.
They come from humble and very punk rock beginnings.
And now, they’re still super punk rock, sans the obscure venues.
They played most of my favourites except for one “North American Scum.” It was kind of a bummer ’cause I was really looking forward to yelling, “Thanks for not blaming us.” (The lyrics have “We don’t blame the Canadians” lol) but overall no complaints. I had a blast!
Brooklyn Museum, Main Attraction: Thierry Mugler
Thierry Mugler (Strasbourg, France) was a couture fashion designer who started gaining notoriety in the 90’s well into his death (2021).
And in case you want to know how to pronounce it… (2:22)
His works were exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum at the time of my visit… or rather, I timed my visit so I can catch both LCD Soundsystem and Thierry Mugler lol. Before I booked everything, I debated on whether I should go to New York just for LCD Soundsystem (I probably still would’ve) but once I found out Thierry Mugler was in, I was also in.
The first section was an installation art, straight away. It was a projection of the play, “Lady Macbeth” from the 80’s. Thierry Mugler costumed it in the 80’s while Michel Lemieux (Quebec, Canada) worked on the very impressive installation art.
After this Macbeth bit came the clothing and photography exhibit.
The ones right below this paragraph are probably my favourite. Mugler was known for outrageous, crazy shit styles, which I also love but these were the ones that resonated with me the most. Couture isn’t really practical not wearable unless maybe it you’re a celebrity and you’re walking down the red carpet or something. It’s fun to look at because they’re worn pieces of art but for everyday life? Eh… I think these would be the closest “practical” stuff you can wear.
These ones are simple but it’s still got that kick.
There were a bunch of sections but I’m only posting the ones that stick out to me.
Next up, outrageous, crazy shit.
This collection, in particular, actually reminded me of a couple of festivals that I’m familiar with:
1.Sinulog “The Sinulog-Santo Niño Festival is an annual cultural and religious festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City and is the centre of the Santo Niño Catholic Christian celebrations in the Philippines.” – Wikipedia
2. The Toronto Caribbean Festival “The Toronto Caribbean Carnival, formerly known as Caribana, is a festival of Caribbean culture and traditions held each summer in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is a pan-Caribbean Carnival event and has been billed as North America’s largest street festival…” – Wikipedia
It’s funny yeah I went through a phase of partying lots and hopped around different crowds and subcultures. I came to realize that there’s no such thing as original. Everything has been done before and if you look through history, it’s all a matter of how ideas and concepts are applied in different contexts, which is arguably what innovation is.
Look at Apple. They took design concepts and applied them to technology, not just on the aesthetics of their products but on the functionality as well.
On that note (veering a bit here), creativity tends to come out during hardships which is why there tends to be a lot of vibrancy that can really come out of oppression and poverty. If we observe the arts & culture that come out from the lower end of the scale (like the ones I came across when I was partying) and then compare it to the couture, fancy stuff, you will notice that the high end stuff resemble the low end ones, polished it up; case in point of what Thierry Mugler’s works reminded me of. He may not have directly come into contact with the environments and settings I speak of but it’s very possible that he came about it via social osmosis. He’s also gay and during his time it was still not as widely accepted as it is now, potentially causing him some oppression. His works that are loud, proud, and colourful may very well have been the parts of him that have been subjugated causing the expressive and creative blowback. I don’t know Mugler personally nor have I done extensive research on him so if you know better, please correct me if I’m mistaken.
I drew my observations from experience, as an artist, having worked with different people formally in the trade and via informal, collaborative projects.
But speaking of crazy shit, here’s more.
There are plenty of insights within these works. If I were to write about it, it’ll just end up being a fucking thesis paper so if you’re interested in the meanings and motivations of this great artist (and how he impacted his time as he still does now), look him up.
After Mugler’s section, I checked out other exhibits and funny enough, as much as I love the previous works I’ve shown you, this happens to be my favourite because it made me feel a deep sense of peace.
It’s by Albert Biestadt who’s known for his paintings of the American west. This is apparently somewhere in the Rockies and was painted during a rapid development in the 1800’s (ie. colonial times). While those times were shit, it doesn’t discount the fact that coming across this painting, I felt at peace.
It was a nice contrast to Thierry Mugler’s works, especially since it was right beside it. It felt like walking into something completely subjective with expressions coming from deep within (Mugler’s) to something, still subjective (which art isn’t?) but, more objective via a landscape.
I really appreciate both paradigms: the insanity and noise of the city vs the silence of nature. Somewhere in between, lies our own inner voice.
I had two days off that I needed to use up by the end of the January 2022, before I lost out on them. I wasn’t originally going to use them – everything is in lockdown. Coldwater diving isn’t really my thing (yet? I made friends with a coldwater instructor and I have yet to take him up on his invitations) and we don’t have mountains out here in Ontario for hiking. Days for doing nothing are great and I do like my stay-in-bed-all-day days but I wasn’t feeling it. I was so ready to lose those days off. I didn’t care. If there’s nothing to do, I’d rather work.
I had invested in a good pair of hiking boots. I forgot the model name and I think it’s been discontinued but the brand is Ecco. Before I purchased it, I read a whole bunch of reviews and read up on materials. Gore-tex is apparently like hardcore moisture-wicking and keeps you dry as it’s waterproof. I thoroughly searched online, went to several stores, read hundreds of reviews… it was not an easy task. I can’t find the review that prompted me to choose this but it was a frustrated mountaineer who gave it 2 out of 5 stars. She went off about how she has used it for several years, constantly climbing mountains with rugged terrains in North America and Europe but it gave in at 35km in extreme weather (-25°C near the summit) when she went to her third mountain in Nepal under conditions mildly similar to some places I would trek. But my thought was, it only caved in Nepal in that weather after other numerous mountains?
I’m thinking she was probably just pissed at the inconvenience and frustration of having your gear fail on you in those crazy situations. I don’t blame her; I know what it’s like to have shit go sideways when you’re out there, you’re exhausted and you’re nowhere near comfort and warmth. Those are times when I ask myself why I’m doing this in the first place… but it’s Gore-tex, not some enchanted, magical crystal from Krypton.
I get a lot of remarks on choosing to hike more during the winter. I get it: what kind of moron would go out and explore nature during the season of staying in and having hot chocolate by the fireplace?
It’s understandable – our species as modern humans are about 200,000 years old, and we migrated to cold places only about 45,000 years ago. What were they thinking? Fracking idiots… or maybe they were like me when I first started hiking in the cold, “I have this, this, this, and this. That’s good. Let’s roll.” Then I learned along the way and adapted, as I still do.
Don’t get me wrong: I like warm weather hiking too especially during the fall but the snow tends to insulate the noise. The snow also adds more visual texture which makes it even more appealing to me. I’m not a big fan of summer hiking though; there are bugs, bears aren’t in hibernation, and humans tend to be more confident in attacking you. People I come across are mostly nice but it’s not just forest animals we have to look out for especially when you’re alone which is why I brought bear mace for wildlife and pepper spray for assholes. I got a hunter’s knife as well and a strong flashlight. I learned my lesson from last year when my brother and I inadvertently ended up night hiking because we got lost. Sometimes we go through emotionally/mentally jarring experiences in life and when we get out of it, we’re a bit different. In time, in the accumulation of these things, sometimes we turn out to be a different person entirely. I hope for your sake that you’re not the same person because otherwise it just means that you didn’t learn and grow from it. Don’t let your suffering go to waste. Let yourself evolve.
But do you remember that feeling of safety and comfort as a child? When you were cradled in your bed feeling like everything will be OK? As an adult choosing to explore these elements, there are obviously safety measures we need to take… but all adulting aside, when I’m out there in the middle of the thick snow and woods, I’m brought back to those moments. I don’t know why or how but sometimes it just feels like one big makeshift, natural pillow fort. And the tricky trails remind me of physical obstacles when I would play fight with my cousin and friends. I often stop and pause to relish these moments when I’m out there but unlike hiking in warm weather, that pause is limited.
Winter hiking is great but you have to keep moving.
Montreal & Cowansville, QC (arrival night)
I arrived at my AirBnB late on Friday night. I could’ve checked in around sunset if I wanted to but I popped by Montreal to visit a friend. After which, I headed right to my lodging in Cowansville, QC.
It was a cute, quaint town. I didn’t really have time to explore so I don’t have any media there. Everyone I came across spoke French to me, by default so I had to keep saying “I don’t speak French.” I only really know Oui, Bonjour/Bonsoir, Merci and C’est chaud!
I unpacked my things and called it a night. I didn’t sleep well though. I was, in Tagalog, namamahay. It’s one of those words that you can technically translate but it’s not quite right (“living”). The nuance is not there but it essentially means something along the lines of adjusting to one’s new environment so you’re having trouble operating at your usual pace/comfort because you’re not quite used to its vibe yet.
With the lack of sleep and these lockdowns taking a toll on my overall fitness, I decided to do 2 moderate-rated hikes as a warm-up.
Just a note: you don’t have to print your tickets if you get them in advance. I thought I had to but just make sure you can access it offline on your phone (there’s reception there but the data is finicky even though you have full bars). When you get to the entrance (where there’s access to all of the trails from that point), you show your ticket then they give you a pass that you have to either tie on your stuff or your clothing. Park rangers checked it on me a couple times.
I printed my tickets because I thought it was like Banff where you have to print it and place it on your dashboard… but that info wasn’t on the receipt nor tickets so I didn’t know. I ended up grabbing a Sharpie and a random piece of paper where I wrote all the details of my Banff pass which I placed on the dashboard in hopes that it was enough for me not to get a violation note.
Anyway, it was -20°C/-4°F that day. I wasn’t really that worried. I hiked up in Banff at that temperature before. It’s doable for sure but it isn’t without its challenges apart from the trail itself. In that weather, you can get frostbite in less than a minute of bare exposure. I kept pulling and pushing down my neck scarf because my cheeks were starting to hurt but if it’s up all the time then it’s just mucus wet, moist, and gross.
I was dehydrated too. It was just so cold that I didn’t want to take my hands out of my gloves. The gloves take away so much of your dexterity but maybe I just needed to get used to them because the next day, I was able to (very slowly and clumsily) take out my drinks/food from my backpack, undo the cap/open up the lids with my gloves on.
It was so cold that I was wearing my goggles not just to protect my eyes from snow blindness but also from the cold. Yes, I felt my eyeballs getting cold especially from when the winds blew directly on my face. And no, my nose wasn’t colder because I had a septum piercing (people were asking). I was pretty surprised myself as I anticipated that would suck but it didn’t. If you’ve got piercings though and you get cold (happens to some), I would suggest getting plastic or acrylic retainers. I don’t know much about goggles but there are varying degrees of sun protection, as I learned. I just got one with minimal protection since I’m not skiing or snowboarding or anything.
The key to staying warm is to keep moving. It wasn’t a problem during the ascents. Mind your cardio.
working up a sweat
About halfway up, the irritations started kicking in, “Why am I doing this again? I’m fucking exhausted! I want soup! I hate my life!” 🤬
I’m not a mountaineer myself but I have a couple of friends who are (very technical, more hardcore terrains, much higher elevations, at least a couple days) and they understand the struggles along with common misconceptions. It’s fun but it’s not all unicorn farts. Everything has a price including this one. It is very difficult to explain when you’re not in love with it to the point where you invest so much of your efforts, time, and money.
Someone mentioned to me that when you’re out in the woods, especially when alone, everything comes out: your joys, fears, anger, your denials… but after finishing an intense hike that comes with inner and outer turmoil, sometimes it feels like a soul cleansing. I always feel emotionally lighter after an intense hike.
I’m veering off a bit but one of my more prevailing thoughts during my trip was about Ramadan. During Ramadan, practicing Muslims fast (no eating/drinking after the sunrise and before the sunset). I’ve always thought it was more of a religious thing but after being good friends with a couple Muslims, I was informed that they do it more to teach themselves to appreciate the value of what they have. In a sense, to empathize with millions of people all over the world who have to go through great lengths and/or struggle for food and water… to remind them of our privilege and, despite striving for better, to not forget to be thankful for what they have. Beautiful 💕
The discomfort of the cold makes me appreciate the warmth of my bed more. I’m able to enjoy the cold weather because I’m privileged enough to have that security. Some people don’t (sidenote: if you live in Toronto, you can call “311” if you see homeless people out in the cold and a team will be dispatched to assist).
Along the way, we come into struggles and moments when we forget about the initial spark that inspired us to do it, to begin with. We tend to pacify “negative” emotions but, unless it’s a reaction that was prompted by something inaccurate or incomplete information (in which case we should clarify if it’s detrimental) or directly related to a fact which we can either change or solve, I don’t believe in it. There’s plenty things in this world we can’t change and naturally, we may initially react. It’s very human to do so. One of the many lessons I’m reminded of when I do these things is that we need to monitor and accept these sensations, thoughts, and emotions. We need to acknowledge its presence and, if it doesn’t serve a productive purpose (like some fear can be good so we can take precautions just as a little bit of anxiety is good fuel for get-shit-done mode): let it pass through our bodies, minds, hearts then let it go. Otherwise, it’s just excess baggage stuffed by superficial reassurances and oppression. We all have baggage because it comes with the package of Life but throughout our journeys, we load and unload as our paths would have it. This is why I think it’s important to make time for mindfulness when we can.
It’s good to strive to be a better person but how do we do that when we deny ourselves our own humanity? Don’t silence your own heart for fear of the unknown that lies deep within yourself.
Sometimes meditation and therapy come in the form of mountains, the woods, and old man winter
This trail is mostly challenging due to non-stop ascents. The terrain isn’t rugged or anything but the peak itself was rather difficult (and fun!) to get to.
This part was a bunch of steep stairs that were covered in snow and ice. I can’t imagine being able to do this without crampons (I can’t stress this enough for deep winter hikes: get the spiked ones, not the studded ones). The walking sticks really helped. The trails out here are doable without it for the most part but walking sticks turn this whole thing from a lower-body workout to a full-body workout. Without it, your legs do most of the work (if you’re not climbing which I didn’t have to do here). With the sticks, you can use your arms to help propel yourself up so your upper body gets a workout too… in case you care about these things like I do.
When you arrive though, you tend to forget about the troubles of what it took to get there.
View from the peak
The temperature was -20°C/-4°F but once you get to around 100m/325ft+ elevation, you start to feel the temperature gradually drop so I didn’t stay up for too long. I just drank some water and ate a protein bar which felt more like hard candy due to the cold.
Much of this is about the journey apart from the goal. Don’t take it against yourself if you can’t reach the peak either. Life happens. Lessons are learned. Now you know. Now you’re wiser. Enjoy the ride.
Having said that, descending from steep slopes where you can slide is fun fun fun! 😊
I got water-resistant pants this time. It’s the bomb. It kept me warm without a thermal under the same temperature in the city. I loved it and I’m glad I finally got one (I was just in thermals and jeans last time).
Everyone had trouble getting down. You can’t see it from the video but some rocks, which were part of the stairs, were just covered with treacherous black ice.
After this, everything was pretty much a breeze (all puns intended). Descending is usually more challenging due to the whole balance thing but this was easy, in my opinion. The only part that sucked was that all the mucus that kept flowing from my nose to my neck scarf was now frozen. I was seriously getting worried about my cheeks which were starting to hurt about a quarter way down (30-45 minutes).
I finished this trail around noon so I had time for one more. I really wanted some soup though so I went to town (Sutton, super cute – again, no photos, unfortunately. I was very hike-centric).
It’s funny ’cause I would hike out in the mountains in extreme weather but once I got to town, I was looking for parking right across the restaurant because I didn’t want to walk more than 1 minute in the cold. Go figure.
My neck scarf was 100% cotton which I got for my barely-equipped trip last year (still not bad for keeping you warm) was now wet and iced up, I popped by Bonnetier to get a new one. “I’m looking for a neck scarf.” “How about this one?” The salesperson handed me a black one. I felt it up with my hands. “Yeah, that looks like it would be good.” She then walks around the store and grabs a couple more. We feel the fabric with our fingers and hands. “I don’t think these would be enough”, she said. “Yeah, I agree. I think the very first one you showed me is best.” “It’s Merino Wool.” “Oh. That one for sure then.”
I used to diss Merino Wool as it’s costly and I didn’t really feel the difference. Granted, I’ve never used it in extremely cold weather hiking. I initially didn’t think it warranted any counts of investment on my behalf but since so many people swear by it, I decided to get a base layer to test it out (not much of an advantage for me when I’m in the city and/or just lounging around). I brought my moisture-wicking Merino Wool (250 fabric weight) base layer and my polyester/cotton blend ones.
The latter is actually just as warm but they weren’t moisture-wicking and oh man did I feel the difference… but I didn’t know better until Day 2 since I didn’t wear it on this day. I did feel significantly colder in comparison to when I started though the temperature didn’t drop. Whereas Merino Wool did wick away my sweat and therefore, I stayed warm. Sometimes different settings equals different results especially if it’s of a technical/mechanical nature.
For reference, it’s good to have moisture-wicking fabric especially if you’re doing activities in cold weather. When you’re hot, you sweat. When you’re not moving and/or you start to cool down and the sweat doesn’t leave your body, the sweat cools then you get colder. I knew all this in theory but I still wanted to test out the difference for myself.
Next time around if I go hiking in -20°C/-4°F weather, I would double-tuque too. If you shave your head or you’re balding or something, I would suggest you do the same. Once I got to the peak, my shaved head was not very warm anymore. My discontinued tuque was impressive though. I didn’t start feeling cold up until I reached the peak and that was definitely colder than when I initially started off. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to double glove too. Maybe have the thinner gloves with screen touch then top it off with the winter heavy-duty ones. Under normal conditions, my hand warmers are so warm to the point where it feels like it’s burning but when it’s this cold, my fingers were still starting to get frostbite with the heavy-duty gloves on.
I drove back to the entrance of the park. I had to put my car heater on full blast otherwise the anti-freeze fluid would just freeze on my windshield.
After I finished my soup and put on my new warm 🥰 neck scarf, I headed back to PENS for my next trail. I picked a shorter one with less elevation. The sun sets around 17:00 and it starts to get dark around 16:00. Right around when it starts to get dark, the temperatures drop too… and I didn’t want to inadvertently hike out at night again.
I finished this one around 16:30. It was significantly colder at this point. I wasn’t wearing the moisture-wicking fabric. I was cold AF.
I drove back to the town where I was staying. I picked up an insulated bottle (nope, didn’t have them, “None of them have a flip-lock lid. It’ll be too much of a hassle to open up in the cold. I’ll be fine. I didn’t have problems last time.”) because throughout the entire time I was hiking, I kept wishing I had a warm drink.
Mont Orford via Sentier du Ruisseau des Chênes (Day 2)
It was warmer the next day (-15°C/5°F) which was perfect for this trail.
I was still pretty tired from the day before so I just kinda stayed in bed for a few hours and stretched.
This trail was supposedly going to take about 5 hours so I had time. I usually add 30 minutes to an hour padding for breaks and the unknown though. I had never done this trail before so I didn’t know what to expect and how I’m going to interact with it. I read up on it but knowing things, in theory, can only go so far. And theory is concluded by other people and their experiences. Unless it’s cold, hard facts, I’m sure my truths will overlap with theirs but I like to discover my own just as I would encourage everyone to do the same. It’s good to belong or take part in communities without losing your individuality in this sense.
I wore my Merino Wool, moisture-wicking base thermal then. I was super excited to test as to whether or not this feature actually made a difference.
I didn’t have an appetite and since I was just doing the one trail, I figured I could afford to go for a couple hours on an empty stomach… yeah I fucked up there as I found out later lol. I thought I was just out of shape and I did lose a lot of my fitness due to facilities closing with all these lockdowns but no, as I found out the next day, I just didn’t fuel well enough.
Towards the latter part of the trail was a cross-country skiing/snowshoeing trail. I came across groups of people who were essentially cross-country skiing their way up and then skiing down. There was one last very steep ascent. I saw a woman struggling her way up. WTF? “I’m getting tired just looking at you!” I yelled out. It looked insane.
Judging from this graph, that incline was probably about 60° to 70° which is, for me, apparently actually (as I found out) not that bad… but skiing up? Fuck that shit. The lady kept slipping down and hey man if you can do this: hats off to you but… damn. I was glad I had my walking sticks. It was doable without it but very difficult, especially with ice and snow. I imagine without the snow, I would’ve had to use my hands and climb up.
This was the third significantly steep incline in this trail. There was another one before it that was probably about just a little less than a quarter of a km (.155 miles) that was nothing but rocks, ice, and snow. I had a lot of fun interacting with it on my way up (not sarcasm).
As I figured my way up, I simultaneously thought about how sucky it would be to get down from. “Shh. Focus on your ascent,” I thought to myself. I came across several viewpoints and debated on backing out after the third one. I was just so tired (and lacking in food in my system)… but every time the thought of turning back came, I look at how far I’ve come and thought, “You’ve gone this far. Don’t stop now.”
It was the exact same thought I had when I came across the part of the trail that was a ski/snowboarding area. I did read a good review that mentioned the ski trail bit but I just really didn’t want to turn back. When you set out to do something, turning back can be heartbreaking. Defeat is probably one of the more difficult losses to accept, as a human being… so I ascended on the side of the ski/snowboard trail. Along the way, a skier and a snowboarder almost hit me. Nearing the peak, I decided that I was going to take the lift down because this was just too much of a hassle and a hazard. It was a Sunday too so there were relatively a lot of people.
I approached the operator when I got to the top, “Can I take the lift down?” “Do you have a ski pass?” “No.” “Then no.” “Well, where I can buy it?” “At Customer Services down there.” “…how am I supposed to go and buy it there to take a ride from here?” “No.” “Can I buy it here? Can I just pay you?” “No.” Then he just left me and went back into his quarters.
“Fuck. I guess I’m hiking down.” I thought. I went to a viewpoint area and had a snack. There was a huge part of me that was not accepting the fact that I have to hike down. It just felt too dangerous. Then I saw several safety folks who were wearing a red jackets with a white cross on them. I approached one of the guys, “Hi. I hiked up here and this was part of the trail but I think this part was meant for summer.” I then showed him my map. “Can I take the ski lift down? I don’t have a ticket but I’ll buy one when I get down there.”
“Oh, okay. Stay here.” He then went to speak to the operator then he came back to me, “Okay. We’re going to trust you, okay? You have to buy a ski ticket in Customer Services once you get down there. We’re letting you ride because we can’t let you kill people by going down that way again.” “Thank you!” “You have to pay, okay?” “Yes! Of course. I will.” What a relief.
I went to Customer Services once I got down but they essentially just let it go, “Oh don’t worry about it. Nobody takes the lift down. Thank you for your honesty.”
I still really wanted to finish the trail though so I debated on going back the next day but I wasn’t sure if I’d be too exhausted. I mean, I was planning on just doing a quick and easy hike before I headed back home.
Mont Orford via Sentier du Ruisseau des Chênes (Take 2, Day 3)
I woke up the next morning, determined. I had a good amount of sleep. I packed my stuff and decided to eat a proper breakfast… and that proper meal made all the difference.
I just loved this trail.
It had such a variety of terrains, diverse landscapes, frozen falls, and visual/tactile textures. In some areas, I had to lean on tree trunks, grab onto branches, maneuver way around iced rocks, and I had several chances to slide down at some points 🥰
I used my iPhone 11 for everything by the way. As I’ve mentioned in one of the videos, I didn’t have a sports cam. I would’ve brought my sports cam but that went kaput in Calgary when hiked at -20°C/-4°F. I’ve never had electronics break on me due to natural conditions (except for that one time underwater). I knew extreme weather can cause it to malfunction but my mentality is, “If I, a human, can live through this then so can that.” Wrong. Don’t leave your phone under the sun either. Sheesh.
I got a little insulator bag (from the dollar store) for my electronics this time around (solar power charger, cables, phone, portable speaker) but I just never got around to replacing the sports cam. I’d get the GoPro but the fact that its underwater housing can only withstand pressure up to 20m/65ft is a turn-off for me. I don’t dive all that often but I just want that one camera when I’m hiking and/or doing other things on land and for underwater shots. I haven’t looked into it yet but when I do, I’m sure I’ll probably write about it too.
My media does not do these places any justice… but at the same time, I can’t imagine lugging around a frickin’ DSLR when you’re trying to climb and figure your way up & down and then maneuvering the settings when your fingers are numb. In this weather (-10°C to -15°C/14°F to 5°F) I can see how it’s doable. But any colder than that and it’s just… ah I don’t know. We’ll see. I mean just several years ago, I was the type who would barely ever wanna go out when it’s cold, and yet here I am loving it 🤷🏽♀️
I turned back once I came to the skiing/snowboard part but I essentially finished it for about half the time compared to the day before even with my more frequent hydrating and snack breaks. I was pretty surprised myself. It was -10°C/14°F. I still felt the temperature drop as I ascended but I think it’s safe to say that this temperature is the sweet spot for me. I was sweating profusely underneath all my layers. I know it’s going well when I get the urge to take off my layers in this weather because I was warming up so much. I even took my tuque off at some points because of how much I’ve warmed up.
In case you want to take up winter hiking, I would suggest starting around this temperature. It has other downsides though… like, because it’s not as crazy cold, the snow and ice were starting to melt. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on their mood. When the ice starts melting, you can safely plant your walking sticks and/or shoes with crampons(!) and have more solid footing OR the ice is melting and therefore you’re left with nothing but very slippery black ice right by steep ledges. If you like the thrill of that though, then you will be excited and scared just as I was. This trail had a mix of that so when I was dealing with steep inclines, I had to keep poking around for solid footing. Parts of the trail still had snow up to my knees. It wasn’t quite as crazy as Banff where I got stuck on snow that was thigh high (wrong estimation on the poking and one of my legs just got buried and it took me a good minute to get myself out. I was lucky there was ground underneath as it was on the trail but this can be very perilous if the snow is just hanging by the side of a ledge as you could fall straight down so be careful)
Sometimes hiking mountains feels like getting to know a person very closely and intimately. You interact with the layers of soil, its different landscapes, viewpoints, flat areas, steep areas, thickly wooded areas, plain grounds, bodies of water, wildlife that inhabit it… and in turn, you get to know yourself better… much like when we interact with other people from different walks of life: we get to know and explore different parts of ourselves because we’re given new perspectives.
It’s funny how worried I was about the descent but it was actually not that bad. There were even some of those inclines where I could slide down, so I did. I used my elbows to dig down the snow to slow me down when I was going the wrong way. You can pivot your body around too. I don’t snowboard nor ski but I imagine if you do, you must know this. If you’ve ever gone caving, you’ll know this too. This is why I love these activities; it’s very tactile and physically interactive with the environment. I tried to capture it but I kept failing (pressed the record twice on the first attempt, dropped my phone which slid all the way down on the second attempt #BrainFarts).
“Do you have good crampons?” A lady asked me. “Yeah.” “I saw people doing that too. Maybe they didn’t have the proper equipment.” “Oh. Yeah, I have the proper equipment but I slide because… it’s fun.” “Fun is good. Have fun!” “I am having fun!” 😊
On my way down, I came across several people. Some were panting and resting and frowning due to exhaustion much like myself when I started. “I’m trying to pace myself but whew!” said one woman. “Oh yeah, no it’s not easy. It’s worth it though. Goodluck!” “Thank you! Have a nice day!”
Finishing the trail felt good. I wish Ontario had mountains but at least now I know if I need a quick fix, I could just hop on over next door.
“I saw it. You take your time because you really take in each moment like you ingest as much of the elements of everything you come into contact with.”
– My brother, accurately observing me during our 6-hour hike
I love that I get to dynamically interact with these natural elements using my body. If you can tell the wealthy range of textures you come into contact with via the images and videos, imagine touching and smelling them. Imagine hearing the sounds of the rocks or branch or pile of dry leaves or cracked ice & snow when you step, run, crawl, or hold on to them. Imagine tasting the air or the soil that got in your bottle, which you only realize when you’re drinking forest-flavoured-water, because you dropped your stuff while sliding. Think of being able to effortlessly hear and feel your every breath every step of the way. Think about the thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations we go through when we encounter difficult paths and overcome them while our senses are invigorated.
It makes me feel so alive. ❤️
And I’m grateful for having had the privilege of being able to do it out here.
If you ever find yourself graced with the presence and majesty of the mountains, caves, rocks, canyons, soil, forests, and trees that have existed on this earth long before we had – older than our species or dinosaurs or anything else that we may not even be able to fathom – by all means: take a moment.
Imagine the wisdom they hold.
I learned quite a bit during this trip though I’m still a noob.
I’ve always loved nature trips. I did a little bit of that when I went mountain trekking with my parents as a child in Indonesia. I remember my mother telling me to walk sideways because the path was so narrow and the edge was very steep. Then we came across a family of Orangutans, which stressed my parents out. I had a blast.
I had a blast out here too except this time around, it was me that was getting stressed out during magical but potentially tragic moments. It comes with the package. But it’s a great and fun way to teach ourselves and each other about boundaries, problem-solving, thinking creatively, resourcefulness, resilience, teamwork, leadership, cultivating thrivability, environmental awareness, sustainability, our strengths & weaknesses through experiential learning… the benefits are endless.
Getting engaged in the outdoors wasn’t really much of a value that I was raised with. For years, including all throughout my adolescence, I cherished those memories of the time we went mountain trekking in Indonesia. As time went on, I gradually forgot about the mountains though I took up scuba diving as a young adult but again, for some reason, I didn’t take it up for years. I think there was just such an absence of valuing these things in my system that it didn’t even occur to make space for it in my priorities. Also, immigrating to Canada was such a culture shock that it was difficult to be able to effectively communicate with people well enough for me to keep the ball rolling. Sure this is an English-speaking country but there are all these social and cultural nuances, sensibilities, stigmas, etc that we need to learn to work with when we’re adjusting. These can be huge (social, cultural, and/or generational) barriers in achieving our goals. I see it happen as much as I encounter it myself.
On the outside, we’ve got similar, if not the same, objectives. But beneath the surface, what goes on inside all of us, how we process, what memories or emotions or the kind of headspace and thoughts it may bring forth may very well vary. In this current global pandemic when most of us have switched to different lifestyles, schedules, a higher than usual turnaround, not being able to solidify a lot of plans or commitments, and working remotely: I’m sure you know the strugs of miscommunications and misconstrusions.
I didn’t anticipate falling in love.
I had forgotten it for so long but I’m ecstatic to have remembered.
My injuries don’t heal as fast anymore. My recovery time is longer now. I have to be mindful of what I consume so I can keep the engine running in ways I need and want it to.
I don’t mind aging like the mountains though. We tend to be more comfortable with ourselves the older we get as we learn how to love ourselves better… but I really mind that my body isn’t as resilient nor strong anymore.
Although that feeling of pure and innocent wonder is back.
I had previously started hiking out here in Ontario but little did I know that these terrains are… well, some of them are decent I suppose. But it’s mostly flat, barely any elevation, rarely steep nor visually/physically textured/varied, there’s phone signal almost everywhere so I only really needed basic equipment (ice cleats, hiking shoes, dry bag, water bottles, protein bars, bear mace). With most things we take up, we come into new gadgets that we have to learn to make extensions of ourselves which in turn also takes up our energy – like when we’re learning how to drive.
It took me a while to notice that driving can take up a significant amount of my own personal energy. It’s weird ’cause you’re just sitting there but I forgot about the psychological strain that we go through. When we drive, we make the car an extension of who we are so we have to mentally occupy the space the car occupies. We have to start “feeling it out” as to which spaces you can fit in, how much to turn etc. I love driving though. It makes me feel like I’m controlling a Transformers robot. Suffice to say, I try and re-try things in an attempt to tune in to that part of myself.
I finally tried caving (been meaning to – canceled a trip to The Mammoth Cave in 2019 due to weather), cold water diving (Canada is home to some great cold water diving but I need more practice… if I do decide to pursue this… still debating but it’s nice to have the option), and some rugged hiking.
I had 13 full days and was only “inactive” (was still going out, walking around) for 3 days, which was not enough. I don’t live here so I went hard until I was almost completely out of juice. My thighs were yelling at me on my last hike. A good pace for me would’ve been 1 rest day per 2 active days and 2 rest days per 3-4 active days. 5+ consecutive active days of vigorous activities would be pushing it for me. I also found out that my dormant light asthma is back and since Calgary is low on humidity: my eczema was acting up too (more on that on Part 2). The only time my back hurt was after driving for 4+ hours as well as when I did the cold water dive (90 pounds worth of equipment I had on me while I went up down some stairs as well as a ramp). As for my eating: I tried to regulate it as much as I tend to get annoyed with the fact that our bodies aren’t self-sustaining (sometimes breaks are an unwelcomed nuisance of a necessity). I force-feed myself for times when I don’t have an appetite and I’m about to tackle a day of activities. I would try to have a proper breakfast but, because of Covid, things were open later and closed earlier so sometimes breakfast was blueberry muffin and coffee or tea. When I was in Calgary, I had a kitchen so I would actually have the proper eggs, veggies, and fruits. Throughout the day was consistent snacking (protein bars, beef jerkies, apples, bananas, oranges) and lots of water. I didn’t use electrolytes during this trip but I would recommend it. Dinner was usually a full meal… or leftovers from yesterday’s breakfast… or charcuterie and veggies… cheesecake with some red wine lol. I ate crap on occasion like when you’ve had your proper dinner and you just wanna veg out (times like these you need weed and chips or gummy bears). I didn’t bring my vitamins (I take about the same amount of supplements as my grandmother). I wasn’t able to troubleshoot as well as I can because I was constantly out & about but if my schedule and resources were more stable, my diet would’ve been slightly better: I would hold on to the constant snacking bits but I would make my own protein/energy bite things on top of what I previously listed. I would mostly have full meals for breakfast and dinner. I will also probably attempt to quit smoking cigarettes 1,000 more times.
Having said that: if this trip was big about the food, I would have temporarily thrown all my diet regulations out the window. If I happen to find something I really like, I would integrate it into my flow and modify it as needed in accordance to my own preferences.
Everyone’s different so suss out how you feel and go to your doctor too. Remember that everything has a price: Sports and exercise are great but these are also sources of injuries and mileage on our bodies.
Pace yourself sensibly.
I’m going to be writing about some equipment I learned about, stuff I would recommend, and how I came about this knowledge (hint: I was not properly equipped just as I didn’t anticipate the ruggedness of the terrains). Please do note that I am new at this so I’m sure there’s still plenty I have yet to learn. I’ve been meaning to take workshops and courses but they’re all canceled at the moment thanks to Covid.
I’m in my mid 30’s but since I’m reviving things I love, that I’ve unwittingly repressed, I feel like a beginner again ❤️
My intention is that the information will be more ingestible for people who hold no knowledge whatsoever about these things since the learning curves are still fresh on me. It’s still not a fully integrated part of my system and we tend to be starkly aware of the details of the gradations, during transitory periods.
We are all students of Life.
As always, if there’s something you spot that’s like, “Hmm that’s incorrect” or you think something could be better or if you just think that you may have some two cents you can contribute for myself or this blog (thanks!) and for whoever may be reading this, please comment or contact me.
Also, yes, we were all wearing masks on each and every tour. I would distance myself well over 2m/6ft to take off my mask or pull down my neck warmer when I really needed some air.
And so, without further ado…
Calgary & Banff + surrounding parks
I got Covid tested 72 hours before my flight. They don’t require it for interprovincial travel but I was pretty rattled from last year’s trip (got stalled from my connecting flight). I arrived on Wednesday night, February 3rd.
I initially intended to just see my brothers (Vancouver) but, because of the pandemic, I can’t travel outside the country so I decided to finally explore the wonders of Canada. It’s just that every time I get the schedule and fiscal budget, I always end up going somewhere warm because getting in the water is always on my agenda. “I live here. It’s much easier to go there vs another country” is what I’ve always thought. As it turns out, this mentality was a very big oversight on my behalf. If you’ve never seen the Rockies, especially if you live in this country: make it a point to go.
I rented a car because I intended on driving from Calgary to Vancouver (family + more mountains + diving). I just opted for the smallest and cheapest. I’m alone and I don’t even have checked-in luggage. I didn’t need anything bigger… or so I thought.
“Well, that’s it. It’s a Kia Rio. It’s so small. So tiny.” said the lady on the counter of the car rental. She said it with a bit of a warning tone. I shrugged, “Yeah, well it’s just me. I just want winter tires. Can you install winter tires on this?”
“No. The only cars with winter tires are the SUV’s and not all of them will have it. This has M+S (all season).”
“And is that OK? Will that do in the passageways?”
“By law, M+S is the minimum requirement to drive in the passageways… but that’s it. This car is so small.”
Whatever. I’ve driven in crazy conditions before, I thought.
My estimated driving time all throughout this trip was 40 hours. I loved it: for hours it was just me, my music, the road, the mountains, the heavens…
… along with big cargo trucks that won’t stop nor slow down nor speed up for anyone in the snow and ice…
Of the 40 hours I drove, I was stressed out for… I’d say about 4-5 hours total.
Like I was already a little stressed here because of the random ice that you don’t see, and only feel when you drive over it… then this big frickin’ truck comes along near a bend on a snow space-reduced 2-lane road and meanwhile there I am with a tiny car. Ack!
I checked in my AirBnB, got some dinner, took a shower, and called it a night.
Two of the tours I booked were canceled so I had nothing until the 5th and 6th. The 4th and 7th were empty. So on my first full day, which is the 4th, I got some toiletries, essentials, etc in the morning and decided to pick a trail by myself in the afternoon.
It was already around 2pm once I decided on a trail. It was about a 2-hour drive and on the first hour, I realized that if I go any further, I would only have half an hour of a hike before it starts getting dark and I need to head back. So I just kinda decided on a trail that I passed by. I ended up about an hour away from Canmore.
I just looked it up and apparently, I ended up in “Goat Creek” which is a total of a 37km hike… right, I’m sure I didn’t even get to a quarter of it because I only spent about an hour. I don’t know how much elevation I reached but its peak is supposedly 1351m/4430ft… hmm, perhaps I’ll come back for this one too.
There were other people but not too many. Because of Covid and winter hikes not being as popular as warm weather hikes, most of the trails had less than 10 people at any given time. It was great! 😊 👌
Shortly after I recorded this, I stepped on a chunk of snow that rolled sideways. I fell and sprained my left ankle. A good chunk of the trip was hiking and I sprain my ankle on my first day, “Nooooo!!!” 😭
I freaked out and went to the pharmacy right away. I got stuff I needed and treated it at home.
After which, I checked out the city for some street art.
(in the mix are some murals I found during the day)
It didn’t feel like an urban space, in this regard, at all. It was so clean and they barely have any sketchy alleyways.
The guide at Johnston Canyon did mention that Calgary is one of the top cleanest cities in the world. It’s weird. I’m not used to cities being this spotless. It’s pretty but it lacked grime that I tend to value in urban jungles.
The next day, I put on all sorts of heating adhesives on my ankle before putting on my socks. After the socks, came the bandage. I loosened my left winter boot to make room for the first aid things on my foot.
Yes, I used my winter boots, with cleats, for hiking throughout the entire time (in Ontario and out West). You may be able to get away with it too, depending on your boots. I have the Uggs Adirondack III, which worked well, for the most part. I just found out that it’s actually partially sold and marketed as a winter hiking boot. And though there’s one specifically for hiking, my version performed fairly well. It definitely kept me warm and dry. Water barely got in and the only time my feet were wet was when snow got in. I’ve chatted with other people about gaiters, so that might be something worth looking into.
Flexibility is not the best though. For basic hiking with terrains that aren’t as rough: it’ll do. But for terrains where you have to do all kinds of things to keep going: I would invest in something more suitable. Sometimes you have to wedge your feet in small cracks and be able to use that as support while you ascend. I just went off the trail and crawled/climbed during these instances since these boots weren’t made to cater to that.
img courtesy of Uggs
img courtesy of Uggs
I also hiked in my parka, which I would not recommend at all. It kept me warm but its length and bulkiness – overall make – doesn’t make for a good hiking/trekking coat. It got in the way of dexterity, especially with my thighs and legs.
Proper coats have qualities that wouldn’t make you sweat as much (you’re nothing but perspiration underneath). I just didn’t wanna shell out on a new coat or additional stuff that I might only use once. But if you’re gonna make this your thing, then you should mos def look into investing in these. However, when I take up something new, it takes several sessions/practice to learn my preferences and what I’ll work with best so I wait until… I learn the hard way, pretty much lol. There are all kinds of guidelines out there but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. I like being able to discern my own preferences with the ergonomics.
I would not recommend Moose Knuckles nor Canada Goose. I’m not hating. I used to have Moose Knuckles but I found it way too bulky, even in urban settings, so I gave it up for my current ones (warm but less puffy).
As for knee support: I didn’t have them here except for the tour-provided ones when we went caving. I learned that we can use our knees to get around. It was OK when I was hiking since it was mostly soil I had my knees on but every now and then there were rocks. I just incurred a little bruising but I would definitely get knee pads for next time.
I didn’t have walking sticks. Again, for Ontario hikes, it’s unnecessary but the mountains and terrains out in Alberta and BC are really rugged so I’d recommend it. It would’ve been really helpful on parts that were nothing but rocks, ice, and snow right by steep edges. Fun! (half sarcasm/sincerity)
Oh and get snow pants, thermal underwear, and waterproof gloves. I only had the cloth gloves and didn’t get waterproof ones until I got to Vancouver. I wore thermal underwear underneath my jeans.
I mostly had the mix cotton/polyester/spandex (synthetic) thermals. I’ve been hearing some good things about Merino Wool, which I’ve tried before. I wasn’t too impressed: it’s costly and I tried it out under -10°C/14°F and it didn’t help at all but I wasn’t hiking (intermittently sweating and cooling). Merino Wool is supposed to be an excellent base layer for this but I haven’t tried it in enough of a variety of conditions to be able to give sound advice.
I’d suggest getting a pair of Merino and Merino blend to try out though. If it’s not working out after many attempts, then start looking into variations from the general design like how I needed a micromask type thing.
I didn’t actually realize how intense some of the activities were up until I was narrating it to a friend (and my asthma attacks). When you’re there, you just kinda do it.
Although come to think of it, I’ve never actually worn snow pants before.
Johnston Canyon (Hiking)
Our meeting point was about a good drive away from where I stayed. I had to be there at 8:15 so I left around 6:15. Sunrise is around 7:30. For a good 30-45 minutes, it was nothing but pitch black in a blizzard. Headlights didn’t do shit. I was stressed out… but I also kinda had fun. It was an interesting experience.
I noticed that most mountains (when it’s not snowing/a snowy area) would have more soil/trees that are exposed around the base. The forest is joined by a little snow around the middle of the slopes then there would be more snow, if not all snow, at the peak.
Right around sunrise, I had come into a bend in the road, which was situated on a mountain that I had seen from far away. From there, I was able to see that this mountain, was mostly covered in soil and trees, with bits of snow high up near the clouds… but what I didn’t realize was that this particular mountain was much taller than it had originally revealed itself – and the summit was covered with clouds.
I witnessed its true height as I drove closer to the bend: the sun rose, shining a light on the clouds which moved westward (to my left, at the time) that gently unveiled the snowed-in summit like a moving gradient, feathery cotton which previously disguised itself as part of the peak.
All of this happened within a span of about a minute. I was in awe… but I had to snap myself out of it. I was driving with the very same elements which fascinated me that, under different contexts (ice/snow on the road) if we fail to take care, could be fatal. I really wish I could share that moment but I wasn’t able to capture it so here’s the closest thing I have.
The tour company offered me their crampons, “If you have your own then just use those. We just have the crappy ones.”
“They’re studded, not spiked.”
“Like the ones I have (lol). I only have studded ones.”
“Oh, well the path is just filled with snow like this. No slippery ice or anything.”
“Alright, cool. I’ll just stick with mine since it’s the same thing as the ones you provide.”
Walking on thick snow can be tricky so it’s nice that tour companies provide ice cleats (or “crampons”), even though I have my own. It’s fairly new since I haven’t started hiking in the winter until late 2020. If it weren’t for Covid, I would never have hiked in the winter. Cabin Fever got me active. I didn’t even know what cleats were up until I couldn’t get up a steep and iced portion of a path so I looked up how to get around it. I got a studded one and that worked great for Ontario hiking but if you come out West: get the heavy-duty spiked ones.
I didn’t realize there was an elevation gain of 2066ft/630m for the canyon. I was struggling to catch my breath during points when the trail got very steep with some portions being 15-20 minutes nonstop ascend. Up until then, I didn’t realize you can still slip with powdery snow.
“In the summer, it’s still amazing but the ice isn’t there. It’s just water flowing on the rocks.”
“Yeah, I would never have checked this place out during the winter if it weren’t for Covid.”
I didn’t anticipate loving winter hikes either. I couldn’t get enough of it.
After which, I drove through Banff to the Gondola ride.
The Gondola on Sulphur Mountain (Gondola & Hiking)
The Gondola was on Sulphur Mountain (upper terminal elevation: 2281m/7486ft, trail/stairs peak that you can hike/walk from terminal: 2481m/8041ft – about 200m elevation gain). I didn’t get the nice views because of the mist but it was still pretty fucking cool. And yes, you can tell that the air is thinner, the higher up you go, which is why mountain trekkers/mountaineers sometimes come with supplemental oxygen… but I didn’t get that far up so I didn’t use any and I can’t recommend or comment on that, at this point.
When I went home and took off my boots, I found out that my left foot – from the bottom of the calf to the middle toenail – was bruised in all sorts of colours. I thought about canceling the next day but I decided to give it some therapy instead. I grabbed an empty wine bottle and rolled it under my foot. I put on heating cream and went to bed.
The next day, the black bits of the bruising turned purple (yay!). I put on heating cream again, let it dry a bit, placed heating patches, put my socks on, wrapped it, and went off.
Rat’s Nest Cave (Hiking & Caving)
The tour guide asked me what prompted me to sign up. “I’ve always wanted to check it out. Also, I’ve been making more of an effort to try outdoorsy things.”
He suggested a few things around the area for skiing, snowboarding, and skating… all of which I haven’t taken up yet. I checked out lessons for snowboarding but schedules didn’t work – there are significantly fewer spots due to Covid cancelations. “Outdoorsy things just weren’t a part of my upbringing. It might be a culture or social reality thing.”
“Oh. Where are you from?”
“I’ve been living here for 20 years but I was born and raised in Manila. Were you born/raised here?”
“I was born in South Korea but I was 3 when we moved. It’s a similar story: it wasn’t part of my upbringing either. I’m working with the university (MRU) in researching about newcomers (immigrants and refugees) with regards to these things.”
He explained that his research had to do with helping with social and cultural assimilation and/or integration as well as reaching out to make avenues for access. He understood when I mentioned that, socially and culturally speaking: it’s just not in the usual headspace/scope of wavelength plus all these gears and gadgets can be really expensive. Also, if you’re coming from a developing country, there’s the factor of conversion rate/cost of living/priorities kinda deal so these tend to be an upper-class thing in developing countries and/or communities… and this is veering a bit but I had a friend who was half Iranian/Italian, born and raised here, who noted that her parents were adamant on sending her to camp because it’s “a North American thing”. They wanted their kids to assimilate whereas I came here when I was 16. The only activities I was involved in when we left were Taekwondo and the mandatory C.A.T. in Filipino schools.
I’ve never snowboarded, ski’d, wakeboarded etc. though it’s definitely on my list (up until I decide it’s not my thing after trying it a couple times). As an adult, I’m at liberty.
Also, as an adult, I have a better idea of what I’m doing it for (fun + self-expansion + spiritual). It comes with certain internal blocks since we build mental and emotional walls to survive this world but I can articulate myself better so it’s really good for working with people.
“It’s good you’re taking it up! I would encourage anyone to do that. It’s never too late.” said the tour guide.
It was about an hour from the bottom of Grotto Mountain to the cave. Our elevation was just about 200m/650ft but the summit of the mountain itself was 2706m/8877ft, which is hike/trek-able (goals).
The snow was dense enough that we didn’t completely sink but, on average, our feet sank about a quarter of a metre/1ft for each step. I remember going through a very steep and very slippery path. My studded ice cleats were not doing a good job (get the heavy-duty ones, kids). I didn’t have walking sticks but one of our mates lent me one of his because I kept slipping on powdery snow. The guide was also teaching me some tricks and tips on how to properly ground yourself and/or suss out so-and-so part of the snow if it’s stable enough for you to walk on. It was just so thick that it probably went up to our thighs if we were to step on the actual ground.
I slipped on one of the slopes then decided to walk sideways with my hands on higher ground/wall.
I only had cloth gloves too… not even waterproof. I got up and just stood there covered in snowflakes as it started to gently snow. I was cold and hot – nothing but sweat underneath that evaporates and chills you. My respiratory entrances and its surrounding parts, wet underneath my neck warmer, the rest of my face numb, my eyelashes decorated with ice, my legs aching as I felt the cold, the warmth, my wet hands with the texture of snow, soil, and parts of a tree’s roots, which touched the sleeves of my w̶h̶i̶t̶e̶ sweater that used to be white.
Then… I looked to my right, and saw the peaceful landscape that surrounded me despite my own chaos.
That’s when I realized that I was in love.
And I’m a Capricorn (mountain goat) so this makes sense.
I snapped myself back down to earth as we continued on our way to the cave… though the love stays with me.
“Caving is awesome. But it’s bigger in Europe than in North America. The caves here just aren’t as accessible like you have to go through long hikes. This is a short one. Some of the caves are only accessible via multiple-day hikes whereas there are plenty accessible ones in Europe.”
Good to know.
The cave itself has a self-regulating temperature of 5°C/41°F so we didn’t need our coats. And since we’re doing a lot of crawling and sliding in tight spots, we couldn’t bring many items. We didn’t do any squeezes on this 4.5-hour path but the 6-hour one that I originally booked, which was canceled, would’ve included it (I managed to find a little show on Rat’s Nest tight passage squeeze). There was a clearing with a little cover set up right by the cave entrance. This is where we took off our winter coats to gear up for caving.
The temperature at the bottom of the mountain was -17°C/1.4°F. At the height we were in, temperatures dropped well down to -20°C/-4°F. It was totally manageable but taking off your coats and not moving: awful.
First, we took off our coats then we put on our caving suit. I velcroed it everywhere and then pointed to the guide that the part on his waist wasn’t done (buddy check habits), “It’s intentional. Warm up your hands then we’ll proceed with the next steps.” We all breathed on our hands while we grabbed our warmers.
He then showed us how to put on and secure our harnesses, which had cold metal clamps, which we were mostly able to set up with gloves but there were some parts when we really needed our fingers’ dexterity so we were glove-less at some points. The way we did it was: set this part up, warm your hands for a minute or two, set this up, warm your hands again, and so on until it’s complete.
I can’t comment much on the equipment as it was my first time doing this and it seemed pretty basic enough. Though if I had to get my own caving suit, I would probably look for a more tactical one with pockets. As for the harness, it seemed basic enough but, again, I wouldn’t know enough to comment.
Getting to the cave entrance was also quite challenging especially given my winter boots. I had to take off my cleats so I had significantly less traction. My Uggs were against rocks and ice. There was a lot of using my knees to propel myself up and gramps helped me up a bit (it was the guide, myself, a teenager, her very healthy and capable 60+ grandpa).
I have no words for what was inside the cave. I brought my sports cam but the battery just died because of the cold so no photos from me but here are some photos from my caving mates.
We came across another group that was caving in the dark. We just heard their voices and were surprised.
“They’re caving in the dark,” explained the tour guide.
“Oh, I guess you have to really know the cave first before you do that,” I added
“But why do they do it?”
“Because they like it. A group of us (guides) sometimes do that for fun. Let’s do it now.”
We turned our lights off for several minutes.
“I still don’t get it. Why would you do this?”
“Yes, but do you mind articulating why? I’m just trying to get a sense of it, you know, as someone who would not comprehend these things because it’s a world I’m not familiar with.”
“Your awareness of your senses is enhanced.”
OK I can see the appeal now but, should I ever get there, I’ve got a long way to go.
On the very bottom (55m/180ft underground), was a body of water, which the guide’s boss (a scuba diver) would dive in every now and then. I asked if it was dive-able but they’re still scoping it.
The work never ends… but it would be pretty sweet if Canmore ends up having cave scuba diving… but imagine gearing up for it with your caving equipment and then you gotta prep the stuff you’re bringing in the cave (that you’re not wearing/activating before you get in the water) while you crawl, slide, and squeeze?
Yeah, if this happens, I’m doing it in warm weather.
Lake Louise (Hiking)
I didn’t book any tours on my last full day in Alberta. Johnston Canyon was spectacular but the trail was so well-marked and guided on its own that I felt like I could’ve done it by myself. When I was with my group (4 total), there was only one other group in the whole park with us. They had a group of 6. So all throughout the entire time, there was only a total of 10 people in the entire park. I kept fantasizing about being alone with my music, singing along, talking to myself, taking my time when I wanted to, hurrying up when I wanted to, maybe smoke a small joint on peaks…there were many spots there that I wish I could’ve stayed in longer. You can’t always with winter hikes though because if you stop moving for a certain amount of time, then you’ll start to feel the cold. You have to keep moving.
So I decided to move along Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, and Marble Canyon by myself on my last day.
I wanted to go up the woods but the tour guide from the cave warned me about avalanches, “Yeah it’s better in the summer. A lot of the trails here are avalanche areas. It doesn’t always occur but every 2 years or so we tend to get the random couple who went out there without any proper training or equipment on how to deal with avalanches… and well, you know.”
I still went to an avalanche area on the bottom but not deep in the woods. There was no other way (just like when we still all had to drive through avalanche areas in the passageways). Suss it out. There was a mountain I snowshoed later on (Part 3) where I backed out from the avalanche area because there was no phone signal, there was a blizzard, you couldn’t see shit in the mist, and we were about 3280ft/1000m high (near the peak – the summit was 3900ft/1200m). Some people still went though… but they looked like they were properly equipped. I personally will not go to these spaces unless I have the proper gear and training.
Emerald Lake (sighseeing)
There weren’t any winter trails on this one. When it’s warm, it’s good for sightseeing and chillin’ at the cabin lodge bar/restaurant.
I took a bunch of photos, had a glass of red as I checked my media, and left.
Marble Canyon (Hiking)
The parking lot was nearly empty when I came. It was around 4pm too so it was getting dark (sunset is around 5:30). The trail itself should’ve only taken half an hour, out & back, but I took my time and a crow followed me the entire time.
I wasn’t getting creeped out then but when I went to wipe the snow out of my car, it followed me to wherever side of the car I was in – that creeped me out. There were 2 other cars in the parking lot like wtf why is following me? I fell in love with the woods but I was raised in cities; I’m so much more comfortable dealing with the random creepo in some alleyway over this. I was totally freaking out so I got in the car real quick and drove off.
There was an abandoned Gas Station (Fort Chiniki, near Canmore) that I kept driving by. I finally checked it out on my last day.
I went home and packed up. I was just gonna go straight to Vancouver from Calgary but, as I had found out, one of my colleagues lives and works remotely in a small town in BC.
“What? Where are you?”
Good stuff. At least I don’t have to drive 12 hours in one day… just 8 hours to her place.
When she found out how I got there, she said, “Hatchbacks and anything smaller than a sedan usually just topple over and fly right off the roads. And your car, those things just get squished.”
Now I know why the lady at the car rental was giving me death looks and warnings.
Most of the cars I saw on the road were All/4-Wheelers (cargo trucks, SUV’s, Jeeps, pick-up trucks) and sedans. It was very rare to see anything smaller than a sedan, like my hatchback… and a SmartCar at one point 🤔 lol
The SmartCar was going much slower than I was. I was very weirded out and I wondered if the big 18 wheeler truck drivers might’ve also been just as weirded out by my hatchback. Trucks don’t care, by the way. Well, that’s not true but it sure seemed like it when I first merged on the mountain passageways. Out in Toronto, trucks would slow down so I expected the drivers to work with me but they didn’t. They just keep going so I waited at the end of the merging lane before I went in. My friend told me that they can’t really stop because if they did, it could make things worse. Like, 2 people down or 1? That big truck occupies a lot of space so if they stop, will their cargo move around and fuck more up? I’ve never thought of it that way but it makes sense (bye-bye Kia Rio with Gelene in it).
Despite the slippery, winding passageways – some of which had no barriers on the edge – with unpredictable chances of blizzards, rain, and snowstorms – and the fact that I had a puny little hatchback with all-season tires, I always looked forward to driving here.
But, as I found out, a remote coworker lives there.
“You’re gonna come visit, right?” she asked during one of our meetings.
“Where are you?”
“Well, I was planning on driving from Calgary to Vancouver.”
“Yeah, it’s on the way.”
I look it up. “Word. Guess I have another stop. Sweet.”
I popped by Revelstoke as per a tour guide’s recommendation. I just had a quick lunch at a bar. I didn’t really explore much as I was more concerned about arriving at my friend’s before dark though it was a cute little quaint town.
I then went on my merry, beautiful way.
The drive was pretty epic.
I passed by the town, got some gas, and continued on to her home… which was situated on a mountain… damn.
We had plenty chats about work, her story, why they moved out, etc. They’re actually from Ontario. They decided to move out here for reasons I visited. I was meeting a lot of people who were originally from Ontario and Quebec.
This place is paradise to me but I knew that it wasn’t perfect. Nothing ever is. I was having a blast but I only just skimmed through the social aspect of it. That’s when it usually gets… complicated.
Apparently right around the time Floyd happened and people were protesting and such, a brown family’s home was vandalized complete with broken windows, graffiti, ruined furniture etc. The writings were of the hate crime nature towards visible minorities.
Having said all that, it doesn’t stop them from enjoying life there nor did it stop me from loving the mountains. I mean we ate cheese, crackers, veggies, and she prepared an Indian dish that we consumed with red wine… so… whatever.
They grow their own weed… BC buds. It’s so much work though and you have to wait a couple months before you can harvest it. I guess, much like everything else, you just need to get started, keep the ball rolling, and get the hang of it. You need a good amount of space and artificial lights and such.
I can’t even keep a plant alive for 2 weeks lol… uh, maybe at some point when I care enough to do this. I personally prefer edibles so if I grow my own, I have to go through a whole process.
To me, it’s one of those art & science things that we can integrate into our lifestyle like it’s not just a passive endeavour as you have to be mindful, proactive, and nurturing.
it takes skillz
All my stuff was just on my luggage the entire time since I was just there for two nights.
The next day, I woke up around 5:30, brushed my teeth, headed back to bed (too early), and later realized that I didn’t close my door shut.
They have a big German Shepherd, which I had seen from cameos during some of our meetings. I’m generally scared of big dogs (got bit when I was 8) and would require some time (about an hour) to be comfortable around them. Once I did, “Oh dude you’re adorable!”
He got in my room and went on top of me and the sheets. I had to wrestle my way out. My face was covered with drool, “Oh dude you’re annoying.”
But I loved him 😊
“Good morning! Were you in the living room the entire time?” I asked her. I woke up to a woman screaming on television so I thought she fell asleep on the couch.
“No. I was weirded out too. It just turned on by itself.” (creeeeppy)
We ate breakfast then I joined the daily meeting to say hi to our team. I then went off. I was meeting up with another friend (I’ll call her Rachel) who was staying at Penticton, at the time, which was about half an hour away from Peachland.
We actually met in Thailand last year at the hostel in Phuket. Funny enough I had all these long convos with random people there but Rachel and I only very briefly interacted yet she was the one I had the most chemistry with.
I met her the night before I went on the liveaboard. I needed to replace my SIM card and make a phone call for some reason (I forget what) and I didn’t have the ejector tool. I asked everyone in the hostel – from the receptionist to everybody I came across in the lounge area.
“I have something that you can use,” Rachel said. “It’s not the thing though but it’s like a hairpin. It should do. Let me get it from my room.”
She came back with the actual tool, “I didn’t realize I actually had it!”
“Sweet! Thanks!” I replied.
We hung out at the lounge for a bit. As it turns out, she’s from Toronto too (well, one of the suburbs surrounding the city). She was working in China as an English teacher and couldn’t go back because of Covid so she just took the vacation. After the liveaboard, I went back for one more night before Cambodia. I bumped into her and we talked about diving things. Once we were both back in Toronto, we talked about hanging out “once all this Covid kerfuffle is over”… but it’s still not over so we didn’t get a chance to hang in Toronto. But she was posting her travels on social media and when I found out she was out west, I hit her up right away.
“Alright, cool. It’s about half-hour from my friend’s. Any trail recommendations in your area?” I asked.
She recommended a trail that I intended to do that day. My intention was to do two trails but that didn’t pan out.
Pincushion Trail (Hiking)
You have to walk a bit to get to the actual trail from the parking lot and I ended up going to another side of the mountain that wasn’t part of the path. Phone signal was spotty so the dot of where I’m supposed to be just kept jumping around.
This section was snowed in and there was steep part I had to walk sideways and slide from… that I had to climb back up to to get out.
I walked around for probably about another hour before I finally found the trail.
Out in Alberta when I told people that I like hiking they kept referring me to B.C. “Hiking is more interesting in BC.”
“Why what’s the difference?”
“The terrains are more interesting.”
“There’s just more variety.”
I found out what they meant via a trail that I loved in Vancouver but I got a taste of it here.
Most of the challenges were icy paths right by steep ledges. There was a particular one that I could’ve really used either walking sticks or knee pads for. It was right beside a huge rock, which had some snow, and the portion of the path itself was covered with black ice right by a ledge that was at least a 15 metre/50ft drop. I crawled on the rock, which was a struggle. On the descent, I crawled over the rock and slid down.
I didn’t actually finish this trail. I kept getting lost and by the time I was supposedly about half an hour near the summit, it was already 1:30 and I still had to descend. I was meeting my friend at 3 so I didn’t have time for the second trail either.
Penticton (Chill Out)
Rachel and I met up at Neighbourhood Brewery where we bumped into a server who she went to high school with, in Toronto (what are the chances?)
We caught up about each other’s lives and raved about the trails out there. We were both in awe.
We also talked about the physical realities of hiking and how exhausting it could be. She used to do gymnastics albeit having asthma though she doesn’t need her inhaler anymore. Apparently, she took out something from her diet and that made a difference. I told her about my difficulty breathing with nonstop ascends and how I used to have asthma as well.
“Are you wheezing? And when you breathe, it doesn’t feel like a full breath?” she asked.
“Yeah. That’s what’s been happening here.” I replied.
“You’re wheezing? And they’re half breaths?”
“Girl, that’s asthma!”
I was diagnosed when I was around 10 or so but I only really needed the inhaler for like a year and then a few months in my mid-teens. I thought my difficulty in breathing was just me being out of shape as I haven’t used an inhaler in over 20 years. But when she said told me about the signs, memories started jogging through my head.
I’ve essentially been having asthma attacks for the last two years: according to my airways, non-stop steep ascents are equivalent to a session of Krav Maga.
After the brewery, we headed over to a coffee shop and chatted in the car. She asked me for advice on something personal because we exchanged experiences and I’m like… I said something along the lines of… I can’t really give advice. I mean, what will apply to me might not apply to her because we’re different people and we have different chemistries with people we interact with because we’re wired differently.
Unless we’re involved in a situation where we’re both aware of the process and we’ve been entangled in it, then yes, I may be able to give sound advice that you may directly put into practice. But other than that, I usually give out new angles of looking at it or metaphors or concepts that you can apply, independently, especially with personal matters. We’re all traveling our own respective paths though ideas taken from an entirely different situation can be successfully utilized to another with modifications… like metaphors.
In this case, I ended up giving her something kinda cheesy and really vague that I actually believe in…
“Follow your heart.”
I dropped her off where she was staying. She and her bf had been hopping around small towns in BC, both working remotely. They stayed in a town for about a month to let it simmer in type thing.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year since we met! I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other since then! I can’t believe you’re leaving now.”
It was a bittersweet goodbye. Meeting someone randomly, even in my own city, that I jive with right away with no difficulties with the communication lines is very rare for me.
If you’re reading this: I hope to see you again soon, perhaps, in another part of the world or maybe around the same area, at different points in our lives. I’m really grateful to have you as part of my life journey 🤗
Anyway, I drove back to Peachland. People there drive fast. There was no snow on the road and it wasn’t snowing or anything so I could’ve gotten away with it too. But it got dark and the roads are winding by steep ledges and I’m not familiar with the area so I decided to play it safe.
Gladstone Trail (Hiking)
The drive to Vancouver from Peachland is about 4-5 hours. My colleague mentioned that it was 3ish lol but that’s because they drive crazy fast and I couldn’t do that with my puny car. In any case, I had time to do one trail before I drive down. I just couldn’t get enough of the hiking.
I was pretty disappointed at the onset of this trail. I thought it was ugly. The frozen lake was pretty but it was right beside a construction site and everything around it was just leafless trees, mud, dry plants and a whole lotta blech.
I had second thoughts on this one and was looking at other trails before I continued… but then I saw a doe roll down playfully and took it as a sign. “OK cool. If she’s having fun, maybe I’ll check it out.”
I actually ended up liking this better than Pincushion. The trail, to me, was more interesting.
Thanks for the tip, Doe.
There were more steep edges with iced trails lols. There was one point where there was a turn on the trail and the edge was all rocks. I saw where the trail continued and looked around, “That can’t be the connection. Oh man wtf?!” It was a bunch of big rocks on an edge and it was all iced so I had to crawl up. On my way down, I crawled backward. The bits where you can “walk” were so small that I found it impossible to find a good balance when your feet are pointing down… and it would’ve been a steep fall… and I was alone… and there was no phone signal… hmm… maybe don’t do this, kids… I may have been a little too excited for my own good.
Hiking alone with my music is so refreshing to me… but I think I should get some training before I make it a regular thing. I hike alone out here in Ontario but it’s essentially just walking, really. It’s not quite as dynamic.
I was thinking of taking a couple of tokes, get a nice buzz, chill, sober up for the descent but it was way too cold to stay idle for longer than 5 minutes.
Imagine being stoned and tripping out on this?
…someday… I’ll probably bring my vaporizer too. It’ll be part of my equipment list.
“Yo, I’m almost there,” I texted one of my brothers.
“When are you coming?” he replied
“This evening. Do they (other brothers) know yet?”
“No. Not yet,” said the brother I’ve been in cahoots with. I haven’t told anyone I was coming. I just didn’t want to announce it only to disappoint everyone because of Covid delays/cancellations (was supposed to be there summer 2020) so I waited until the last minute.
Augmented Reality (as part of Vancouver Mural Festival)
None of my brothers could make it out that night but I have a friend, that I went to college with, who’s working on an Augmented Reality exhibit as part of the Vancouver Mural Festival. They were setting up that evening so I paid him a visit.
He started talking about some plans that aren’t quite ready to go out yet so I cut the video short.
In the meantime, to enjoy the exhibits: 1. Download the VMF app on your Android or iPhone 2. Using the app, navigate your way in the city > click “Murals” on the bottom > “Map” on the top of the page’s menu
They were setting up the main attractions so none was ready for viewing at the time though I checked out a couple of them with my brother several days later.
East Hastings (Weed Cafe + Unsanctioned Graffiti Alleys)
I took the next day off to rest.
That evening, I went out with a couple of my brothers. We found a great alleyway.
Urban grime at its finest… and when you add in a sexy car (my brother’s Dodge Challenger)… voila.
We hung out at a 420 cafe and talked about our plans. They were all down to go to the mountains. No dragging needed. 👌🏽
I don’t remember the exact sequence of events but I took the next day off again (my third day off – the first one was a driving day of 8 hours). I tended to my injuries and went downtown to get smaller spacers (didn’t wear for a week, left one was uncooperative, had to re-stretch). My sprained ankle and muscles were still sore.
I also went to the dive shop to get my papers in order as well as an on-the-spot, “You have time now?” instruction for putting on the dry dive suit (more on that later).
Cypress Mountain (Snowshoeing)
Three of my brothers and I snowshoed Cypress Mountain.
We were pretty tempted to go to the avalanche area but we backed out. It looked sick but it was misty, there was a blizzard, bad visibility, no equipment, no phone signal = no go.
Afterwards, we went home, cleaned up then had dinner with everyone again.
When I got back to my room, I prepped for the cold dive the next day.
Whytecliff Park (Cold Water, Dry Suit Diving)
I went with one of my brothers to the dive shop a couple days prior to get administration things in order but I also got an on-the-spot suit fitting instruction.
It was pretty hardcore. Putting on the suit is a skill in itself.
I couldn’t decide if I felt like the Michelin Man or a teletubby.
I arrived at the shop around 8.
“Gelene, right? Not Marie,” asked the instructor.
Fun fact: It’s a common Filipino thing to name daughters with Mary or variations of it as a first name then a middle name, which we go by. I didn’t like conforming to the first name basis but it became too annoying to correct people though my closest friends have always called me by my preferred name. I eventually just stopped putting “Marie” on my stuff. I had to do it here though since I went by it when I first took up diving so it’s on the records.
“Yeah. I can’t believe you remembered that.” I replied.
“I always remember random things. It’s the important stuff I miss; solving equations, the time of my flight…” Excellent. I was in good hands. 👌🏽
I wasn’t able to take photos on location since we were busy setting up and our hands eventually numbed and perma-pruned.
I managed to take one after the briefing though. Here it is to give you an idea of how that day was like.
So apparently cotton is one of the shittiest things you can use as a thermal because it doesn’t wick moisture and retains it instead.
I brought my part cotton thermal but didn’t wear it during the initial dive. The rental package included drysuit-specific thermals so I thought I was good.
I signed up for three dives but only ended up doing two.
On my first dive, I had a swimsuit, a onesie thermal, a top thermal, the drysuit, gloves (no thermal gloves just the drysuit gloves), socks, the boots, the hoodie.
Know how we tend to need to “acclimate” to different environments before we’re comfortable and well-adjusted? In theory, I knew that’s what to expect: the first dive would suck because my body’s not used to it yet and supposedly the next dives are OK.
“Water’s probably gonna get in my suit,” I told the head instructor as I carried my tank down the ramp with him.
“No, don’t say that.”
“It’s my first time.”
He shrugged, “Yeah, that’s a good point. But don’t aim for that.”
“Of course. I’m just saying the chances are higher for me.”
Water didn’t get in my suit at any point at all… although once we got in the water, all I wanted to do was get out; it was cold AF.
The temperature that day was -2°C/28°F which is, by Canadian standards, not bad. The water’s temperature was 8°C/46°F which is, by Canadian standards, “it’s starting to get warm.”
Diving in this temperature, however, will feel much colder (know how humidity makes it feel colder? Apply that concept here except it’s not humid: you’re actually in the fricking water). The drysuit is used for insulation by inflating it with oxygen (it’s why it looks like… that) so it’s also used to manage your buoyancy. The pressure down there feels like it’s more than it actually is because it’s cold and dark (“good” visibility is 8-10 metres for cold water diving but with warm water that visibility is crap)… so yes it’s a mind thing which, arguably, makes it more challenging. It’s the cold that makes you more aware of unpleasant factors that come with diving.
I did a technical skill thing underwater that I couldn’t complete: my gloves were too big (dexterity) and, as we had realized later on, the hose’s connector was stiff. I had to disconnect the hose from the inflator valve on the chest of the suit. After several failed attempts, we moved on to other skills and just moseyed around. My mask fogged a couple times; the way to clear it is to let water in, shake it around, and blow it off.
went back the next day to check the place out. people were diving
I don’t know if I was hallucinating, but I thought I might have had little ice bits when I let water in the mask… and no, it wasn’t the full face mask. Yes, parts of our faces were directly in contact with the water. I shave my head so I didn’t have extra insulation under the hoodie. I didn’t have gloves underneath the drysuit gloves and I forgot my neoprene socks in the hotel… Good times.
“Aaaaah!” I yelled as I emerged.
The head instructor gave me a big smile, “Was that for elation or agony?”
“Agony! Definitely agony! Aaaaaaaaah! Fucking brutal!” I kept yelling. I’m from the tropics! I’m Filipino! Why am I doing this? What am I doing with my life?!? I questioned myself.
I had to go to the bathroom too. It was terrible. The bathroom was heated but it took me about 15 minutes to take all the layers off so I can go. Most of my body, especially my hands, were numb so I had a hard time maneuvering the whole thing. When I was done, I went to the car and turned on the heat. One of the instructors came by.
“I’m never doing this again. I’m not going back there. Fuck this.” I said.
“Yeah, it’s hard not to quit after your first dive. You’re not the only one. One of the guys (a scuba and freediver in warm waters who signed up with us) just left.” she replied.
“Legit just walked out?” I asked. “Yeah. He just ascended early, packed his stuff, put it back in our van, and left,” she replied. “When are you here ’til?” she followed up.
“I leave on Wednesday.”
She looked away for a bit, scanning, “Hmm we don’t have any dives scheduled before then. It’s just that one skill you didn’t complete; you’re not panicking, you’re buoyancy’s fine, everything’s fine. It’s just the cold… Tell you what: we’re doing the second dive right now then we’re going for a break then doing the third. It should give you about an hour and a half. Get some food in you, warm up, and see how you feel. I don’t want you going home without your certification for that one thing.”
She goes off with the group to do the second dive.
Less than an hour later, she comes back up, “Sorry, my bad. They finished the second dive early and we’re not going for a break or anything so they’re starting now. You coming?”
After 40 minutes of shivering and warming up in the car, I suited back up. I put another warmer on each foot (didn’t help) and wore my cotton thermal under the drysuit thermals.
While we were on the shore, I coordinated with the head instructor about the task that I needed to complete. “I wanna try it here first (while on land),” I told him.
“Oh yes, I completely understand,” he replied.
When I couldn’t disconnect the hose, I asked him to check. He tried disconnecting it too but the connector was stiff, “What in the… Oh Jesus! You’re doing mine!” he said.
“OK cool. Let me try.” I was able to disconnect his hose from his valve. “Alright. I’m good.”
“Wait hold on,” he said. He took off his dry and thermal gloves. Then he took the thermal gloves and squeezed out a lot of water from it. I just stared at the whole thing, What am I getting myself into? 😶
When we got on the water, we still waited on the surface for a few minutes for one of our mates before descending.
During which, snow started falling… there I was feeling the different cold sensations on my body; submerged from my chin down with most of my head (with a hoodie) exposed to air and the snow. The submerged parts felt like it’s freezing you while the parts that are above water started feeling like cold stabbing pain and the wind, albeit gentle, made it worse… “We have to trek our darkness to see the light” is a quote I really like just as how painful experiences suck (physical pain and mental discipline, in this instance) but it opens up deeper parts of ourselves so we become more sensitive and we start to notice some things we didn’t before… … just as the moments during the snowfall, to me, was poetry 💕
It also felt like a proper Canadian rite of passage.
I had 40lbs/18kg to start off with; you need more weights for cold water dives because the suit (I usually use 8-13lbs/4-6kg for warm water). I had trouble sinking the second time around so they put another 20lbs/9kg on me… guess who had a burger and carbonated water for lunch?
I don’t know if it’s the food or my numbness or the cotton thermal (better than nothing) but I was acclimated. I still felt the cold but I was fine. We actually stayed underwater for 23 minutes and I had no qualms about it. Once I got out, one of the instructors and I talked about how we both would’ve been down for another dive. I totally could’ve done it and I kinda regret skipping the second one… now I know.
I had to take off the extra 20 pounds from my BCD to get out of the water. I kept tipping off from the waves and the rocks with all the weight on me (total of about 90lbs/40kg). I couldn’t get out of the water with it on my body so I carried the extra weights, with the fins, using my hands.
“You’re very brave,” said one of the onlookers. “Or stupid, depending,” I replied… I haven’t quite made my mind up as to which. It’s cool and all; you get some things you can’t in warm water (better preserved historical sites like shipwrecks, different marine life) including some benefits from swimming in cold water including, as I found out, hydrotherapy for fibromyalgia, which a couple of my friends have. Also bonus for vanity: so good for your skin! I was glowing for days 😇 But on the other side of the argument, you’ve got: we fold the suit to protect the zippers, which are supposedly the same or modelled after what NASA uses because it has to be water/airtight. If I’m not doing this for health benefits (solely or “as well”), it feels a bit much for a leisurely activity. On that note, someone asked me about what if this was a hiking or trekking the mountains thing, would I still think it’s too much? Do you like onion rings but hate onions on your burger or salad? 🤔 For times when there’s so phone signal especially since I sometimes go solo deep in the woods or the mountains, I’m probably gonna need a GPS thing that uses satellites so I’ve been looking into it. Taken out of context: a very unnecessary and excessive piece of fucking cool technology. With what I love doing and its objectives: a very necessary, fucking cool lifesaver.
“Dip your hands in it. That’s what it’s for. My toes and fingers are numb too,” said one of the instructors as we got to the parking lot. He had a pickup truck with a cooler at the back filled with hot water specifically for this purpose.
We were acclimated as in: you don’t really feel the kind of exposure you’ve just put your body through up until you start warming up. I was shivering on my drive home, “I’m gonna turn the heater on max, cuddle up in my duvet… I want some soup, some hot chocolate, a fireplace… I want my nana! 😭” were my thoughts lol. It was jokes.
I took a long warm shower that evening. I couldn’t feel my left palm up until I went to bed that night.
Diez Vistas and Buntzen Lake (hiking)
We didn’t actually start off with the Diez Vistas trail as you need to hike about 2 km from another trail to get to this one. The initial trail was gorgeous though; the forest was so wild! 😍
…but the terrain was way too easy to the point of boredom. We (my brother who I was in cahoots with + myself) decided to stick with the original plan and go to Diez Vistas.
We weren’t too worried about the Cougar: it was daytime, there were two of us, I had mace… what could go wrong…
The initial parts of the trail gave us a sneak preview of what’s to come. It was super cool.
spooky, misty woods
My brother has been here before but he was still amused. It was just so magical…
Some parts were quite challenging without proper equipment like the one below was essentially a bunch of rocks covered with ice and snow right by a steep ledge. My brother slipped a bit, “It’s fine. It’s just snow,” he said.
“Yeah but it’s right by a ledge. If you had slipped all the way…”
About an hour later my brother was like, “This doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t feel like we’re heading anywhere.”
I checked the trails on my phone when I got some reception (very spotty) and we realized that we had gone to a longer and more challenging trail than the one we intended to go to.
“Maybe we should turn back. It’s getting late,” he said.
“No, it looks like we’re halfway in. If we turn back, it’s the same thing,” I said. “From the looks of it, it should just be another 2 hours?” I followed up.
It took about 4 more hours, with the extra km from the other trail.
There were signs everywhere, upon entry, saying that park gates close at 5:30.
When we were approaching 5, we started accepting that we were probably gonna get locked in. My brother suggested to take an Uber and just get back the next day.
“Let’s figure that out later. Right now, let’s focus on getting outta here,” I said.
We started talking about strategy. His phone was at 60% but his data was shit. My phone, on the other hand, is great with data but is only at 20%. We decided to use the light on his phone while I put mine on standby so I can still check here and there about being on the right path. We couldn’t afford to get lost at this point.
“It’s getting so dark,” my brother commented.
“I know. Just keep going,” I replied.
We were rushing, in part due to denial over the fact the we weren’t gonna make it out before dark… but when the sun set, we finally accepted our fate and paced ourselves.
That cougar warning at the entrance started to creep in my head. Keep going. Just keep going, I thought.
“This is so fucked up,” I kept saying.
“Yeah, shit,” he replies.
I can see how night hikes can be fun but this was unintentional; we didn’t have any equipment nor proper light. We were using my brother’s phone light, which isn’t sufficient at all as it was only lighting up about 3m/10ft. We came across a couple of forks in the road and oh man making those decisions as to where to go and spotting the trail marks were not easy tasks. My phone was dead at that point so I couldn’t check. We were out of food and only had about a quarter litre of water left. We pretty much had nothing but the phone light with 30% battery, ourselves and each other, at this point… make sure you’re comfortable and you trust your hiking buddies, kids. Also, look for strengths and weaknesses complimenting: I sucked at being able to tell which path was correct whereas my brother was amazing at it. However, he sucked at taking into account surrounding factors (like where to point the fricking light, staying close together, random things we can use as tools, coordination things etc), which is where I came in. If things go wrong and you guys don’t have any sense of working rapport, times like these can easily turn into a hot mess (situational dilemma + no syncing = no good). Imagine if both of us were good and bad at the same things? We won’t be able to tell which path or we could’ve lost each other… we would’ve barely made it out.
A few minutes after it turned pitch black, I heard two faint howls. It sounded far so I wasn’t too scared but I mos def had it in the back of my head. My brother didn’t hear it until about 10 minutes later. He stops in his tracks, “Shhh. Did you hear that?”
Fuck. It must be getting louder, I thought. “Yeah, I heard two faint howls earlier. Keep walking. Don’t stop. Just keep going.”
Right after I said it, we heard another howl.
“There aren’t any wolves here though,” my brother says as we kept walking.
“So what was that? The cougar?” I asked
“Yeah, probably. Plus wolves attack in packs and that sounded like just one. They have night vision though,” he said.
I’m pretty sure cougars don’t howl so that gave me a little assurance but if wolves attack in packs, what if this one lost his group and he’s calling out to them, “There’s food over here!” Then I remembered how cats tend to go into a very silent, incognito mode when they’re stalking their prey.
It was pitch black with no other audible sounds but the ones we were producing (footsteps, interacting with elements – we still had to slide and crawl on steep areas that were iced) along with the intermittent howls.
I thought about which parts of an animal I would aim for (stomach, head, eyes, maybe stab it in the mouth when it bites me)… but what if it pounces from behind? It probably deserves to live more than we do (fucking humans) but as animals, like them, we have equal base instincts for survival. In the sense of the latter: it’s fair game. Getting eaten alive is essentially torture… although I thought about how it would be funny to end up in the news as the girl with the wolf tattoo that got mauled by a wolf… then I started really freaking out. Too soon for jokes.
“Pick something up. Pick up a rock or a twig or a branch that you can use…” I told him. The howl went again and it was louder.
“In case something attacks us. Pick something up.” I said as I held on to my mace with my right hand and lit up the path with the phone light with my left hand.
We talked about random things and made a point to make our voices louder in an attempt to “make noise” in hopes that the thing would leave us be.
Once we saw a post with reflective light paint and garbage bins, we gained a new sense of hope.
“I’m so tired,” said my brother.
“Let’s rest,” I said.
“No, it’s OK. I can keep going,” he replied.
“No. Let’s rest. We need the energy to keep going and in case something comes at us, we need the energy to defend ourselves,” I said. “It’s a good thing you got cleats and I’m surprised those shoes fared well.”
We sat down for about 5 before we heard another howl, “Time to go.”
I don’t know how much time passed before we finally stepped onto pavement. After which, it was about another half hour before we reached the parking lot. We were so relieved. The howls were still happening so to celebrate/try to fend it off, we started making a whole lotta noise on our way to the car, “Holy shit! We made it!”
I found a note on the windshield indicating that park staff looked for us until 7:30. It was 8… 😒 We went to the Warden’s office and I heard the rings when I called the phone. Then we heard two howls; it was significantly louder. “Get in the car. No one’s here,” I told my brother.
“But there’s a truck parked,” he replied.
“Yeah but it looks like a work thing so that’s probably why they leave it here,” I said.
We heard another howl that was much louder.
“Get in the car. Just get in the car. It sucks but I’ll just come back here tomorrow,” I said as we both headed in.
The immediate gate wasn’t closed or anything so we thought maybe we were good to go but we got to the main entrance and it was locked.
We called Uber and Lyft but couldn’t get a ride (no one was around the area) so we finally called for a cab. I decided to park the car close-ish to the entrance.
While we waited for the cab, a park staff member arrived and unlocked the entrance gate… yes, that’s how lucky we got. I think it might have been the Warden. He initially didn’t want to let us off, “I work here and I need to attend to something. Who are you? I don’t know you.” We explained our situation, I showed the note, and he let us go. I drove my brother home and called it a night. I was so tired that I was tempted to sleep on the floor with everything on… but I felt gross so I showered real quick.
What a day.
Gelene Doesn’t Remember (Hiking)
I debated on resting the next day but it was my last full day and there were so many trails I still wanted to do. I picked a trail that was ranked “easy” because I still felt the tiredness from consecutive days of hiking.
I probably should’ve just chilled ’cause when I went on the steep ascent, it started feeling like my thighs were about to give. I kept going very slowly though I wasn’t able to finish the trail. The path I’ve been following was a shared path among several trails and the one I intended to go to had been blocked off for skiing and snowboarding.
After this hike, I had dinner with all of my brothers for the last time during this trip. I was to meet up with my friend after but he canceled as he got busy “There’s always next time,” he told me.
“Hey do you know if I can get in?” I asked one of my brothers.
“Like? To come here? You’re not supposed to.” he replied.
I was aiming for Vancouver because hiking there is so much more dynamic and I really want to spend more time with my brothers but BC wasn’t accepting people.
“I know… and I totally understand where they’re coming from. But these lockdowns are starting to take a toll on my mental health. Guess I’ll go to Calgary.” I said
My brother who disagrees with me traveling for leisure (but also understanding my reason while acknowledging that I understand where he’s coming from as well) goes on a rant about counterproductive measures that don’t make sense.
I listened. He brought up some very good points.
I booked things starting with the AirBnB.
This trip was very last minute and I wanted to be more equipped. It was rather finicky because so many things I needed weren’t going to ship in time but since I wouldn’t be able to bring bear mace in the plane anyway, I decided to just get that when I arrive.
“Do you have bear mace in the house, left by other guests by any chance? The reason that I ask is because I will be purchasing one when I get there but I will have to leave it in the unit as it’s not allowed in flights.” I asked the landlord.
“Sorry, no guest left one here.” he replied.
“OK. Well I guess I’ll be the first one to leave one. I’ll ask you where to put it when I’m about to go. Then maybe you can put it as included in the rental for hikers. lol”
“Okay. If it’s not used, I would like to pay it. Thanks for your suggestion!”
“If it’s not used” echoed in my head… like who the fuck goes out there anticipating they’re going to use their emergency/safety devices?
It prompted me to watch a bunch of wildlife encounter videos, which freaked me out… but it’s better to know.
I got a pair of walking sticks too. I wasn’t sure which one to get because… well, you know how it is, “This one has adjustable flip-lock for convenience. This one has a cork handle for less slipping. The handle on this one can convert into a microphone for some reason. This one has a button for launching one of Elon Musk’s spaceship etc etc.” 😵
I figure I should start out with a basic one which you need to twist to adjust the height. Having said that, I learned that I might want the flip-adjust better. The terrains out here are nowhere near as rugged as BC’s so I only had to adjust a couple times within the same trail. But if you hike out in trails where you have to climb, crawl etc, you’d want easily adjustable ones.
I don’t regret it though. My mom lightly hikes so I’ll probably just give it to her when the time comes.
All of the gaiters that I had my eye on weren’t going to ship in time so I got a so-so one. I got a bigger one thinking that it might be safer to do so because I can just tighten it… nope. There wasn’t enough velcro space for me to pull it so it was a little baggy. During my hikes, I kept needing to adjust. It got hooked on to my crampons at one point. Super annoying… but I got them spiked, heavy-duty crampons now!
It worked great! I loved it! 😊
My shoes were alright. I got them a couple years ago when I intended to climb La Malinche but the booking agent I was talking to was only doing it with pairs and my friend backed out. I’ve only been able to use these shoes on summer/fall/spring Ontario hikes. Again, for Banff/Alberta, it was good enough as the terrains aren’t quite like the ones in BC (more rugged and diverse).
The main challenge in Calgary/surrounding parks is the ascent, really… and my cardio has been garbage as of late. I used to do elliptical or stairmasters in the gym multiples times/week, regularly.
Last year, when I went to Cambodia, I went up 3-5 temples in a day for 3 consecutive days, under very hot and humid weather, with no problems. I can definitely feel the deterioration. It sucks. When things open back up, I’m definitely gonna suck… try not to take it against yourself either if you do. It’s hard for everyone.
I tried running but I have back problems and that causes some impact so no dice. The cardio I’ve been doing lately have just been stationery exercises which is better than nothing but nowhere near as good (sidenote: Darebee.com – free resource for at-home workouts).
Having said that, I was recently educated on optimal cool down to increase stamina (ey! If you’re reading this, you know who you are! Thanks for sharing! Much appreciated! 😊)… apparently we lose and absorb heat the most on three parts of our bodies: face, palms, soles of our feet… and it made me look back on my non-waterproof gloves winter hikes where, on average, I was able to ascend 600m within less than 2 hours with only about 3 breaks.
Makes sense… you’re all heat underneath but your palms and your face are exposed to the cold… so, in a sense, winter hikes are actually better… the only drawback for me is my asthma and eczema as Calgary’s is really low on humidity (got scaly eczema spots on my hands within the first day. Last time it was on the side of my head. My nose bled a couple times too. I hate being sensitive to these things). The advantage to low humidity though is that hiking in -17°C/1.4°F is super doable… I still can’t believe I did that… but it’s actually quite fun.
I would do it again.
Powderface East Ridge (H̶i̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ Fail)
I booked a flight that was scheduled to arrive in Calgary at around 9am. I didn’t want to waste any time. I wanted to go hiking. Pronto.
So, I got off and picked up the car rental, which I was adamant on an AWD this time even though the owner was like, “There’s no snow. Chill.” lol. I was told by a couple clients that there are spots in the mountains that are always snowing and I was under the impression that the roads will be one of them but I found out it wasn’t the case. After which, I went straight to Canadian Tire (bear mace, holster, belt for the holster even though I hate wearing belts), checked in the AirBnB, got the Flare satellite add-on rental (it syncs with your phone via bluetooth and you have unlimited text messaging + you can easily message your location in the case of emergencies), went straight to the trail.
By the time I got there it was already around 3pm-ish. The latter half of the road, on the way to the trail, was closed though there were a lot of people around.
I specifically chose “Heavily trafficked” trails since given the pandemic, “heavily” trafficked trails are moderately trafficked, “Moderately trafficked” trails are lightly trafficked, and lightly trafficked trails have almost no one around. I love being alone in nature but since all these lockdowns, we’ve had more wildlife has been thriving, which is great and I love it, but not when you’re hiking alone and you come across predators.
But I got so excited that I forgot to eat so I was essentially on a protein bar diet that day… and I also forgot to unpack my frickin’ bear mace… and you can’t outrun nor Krav Maga that shit so I backed out.
I was pretty annoyed at the situation… and myself… but… how can I stay mad at me when I came here ☺️
Sundance Canyon Trail (Hiking)
I decided to do an easy trail the next day with intentions on doing a moderate or a harder one afterwards.
This was mostly flat and paved, which was kind of disappointing to trek but the views were still pretty spectacular.
Having said that, there actually came a more interesting part towards the end — it had a higher elevation with combinations of rocks, soil, snow, and water that I had to get around which are some of my favourites.
Devil’s Thumb via Lake Agnes Trail (H̶i̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ Fail)
I intended on doing 2 trails/day: an easy one then a hard or moderate one or two moderate ones… which I realized, later on, was a little too ambitious.
I may have actually been able to complete this trail one the same day if it weren’t for the excessive-chlorine-filled tap water I filled my containers with. It eventually gave me a headache halfway which prompted me to turn back. “I can go tomorrow,” I thought. I’m not as anal as my first trip. Back then I was very, “I’m going to the top come hell or high water fuck everyone and everything.” lol I still aimed to get to the peaks but, this time around, I valued smelling the roses just as much 🥰
I still went back the next day as I had promised myself…
I didn’t actually end finishing the trail either. The trail to Lake Agnes is its own and we have the option to keep going all the way to the top. Right around the mark where the washroom is, I couldn’t find the rest of the trail.
I actually came across a couple – around the washroom mark – who was trying to do the same thing but they couldn’t find the trail either. They told me that they tried going North but it doesn’t look like the trail. They were right but the other way around had nothing on it: it was all snow and/or melting ice from the lake.
The couple decided to check out what’s right by the lake once more (where the trail is supposed to be) and I decided to head North and see if I can find some sort of path in the bushes or something (I honestly don’t know what I was thinking nor even expecting but hey man if it’s a dead end one way, then we gotta look at alternatives and make it work).
I found out later that the trail I took was its own, called the “Little Beehive Trail.” The rest of the trail was just covered in snow. I still could’ve gone but it would’ve been significantly cumbersome to continue… and well, again, I’m not really complaining… and I came across a group of British and Irish hikers who I chatted and kinda hung out with. They found an awesome spot and started drinking. “You’re quite brave doing this on your own,” the Brit said. “Eh. It’s supposedly a heavily trafficked trail and I’m not completely alone. Plus I have bear mace.” I replied. “Yeah, we saw bear paw prints on our way here.” “You sure it’s bears, not dogs?” “Yeah. The telltale was the claws,” he replied. “Oh. Well that sucks… but I have bear mace.” “Yeah we have one too… but he (points to one of his friends) left it in the car. Can you believe it? I’ll leave him as a friend. Or maybe throw him out to the bear if it comes,” he jokes. “Yeah, that’s not a bad idea.” Good folk.
They continued on their way. I took my time as I also wanted to test out the walking sticks, which I realized, were most useful for the descent on this trail.
Going a on a steep downhill using the walking sticks are actually pretty amazing for strengthening your grip and forearm muscles. As a tattoo artist, I could really use those muscles so I took full advantage. I got one of those grip strength trainer things but this is way more fun.
Sulphur Mountain (Hiking)
I took the gondola to this mountain last time but I found that there’s a hiking trail so I decided to hike it this time.
It was Saturday at this point, which was my 4th day. The night before, I was thinking about making this a rest day and maybe hiking it on Sunday very early morning then make it on time for my flight. But I woke up that morning with a desire in my heart to go albeit my legs feeling kind of limp, “I’ll just be slow and take my time. Should be OK.”
Ah… well, going up should only take about 2 hours whereas it took me 3. I was super slow. I just kinda let people pass by me (it’s not a competition) and I realized that I had been focusing more on quantity instead of quality. The quality of this hike was low for me because I didn’t have enough rest, on top of my deteriorated cardio.
I don’t regret coming here… but I regret not resting. If I had been better rested with fuller recovery, I would’ve been able to do the 2 hours… now I know.
In any case, it was pretty unreal seeing the gondolas come up and down while you trek the mountain yourself.
The view on top was amazing.
My legs were screaming by the time I got up. “Fuck this. I want a burger,” and the quickest way to that burger was the gondola… gondola on the way down it is.
The next day, I intended on doing 2 very short, very easy hikes… but guess who locked her keys in the car rental and had to call service, which took 3 hours to arrive?
I was already telling myself that I really need to rest the next day but I was being stubborn… it’s funny ’cause when things don’t usually go as planned, I tend to go on episodes of ranting and get pissy before I finally come into acceptance (stages of grief)… but somehow, as soon as I closed the trunk and realized that I had left my keys in there (was organizing/prepping equipment), I accepted the situation right away… most likely because, deep-down, I knew that I should be resting.
I just kinda chilled out while I waited. Once the service arrived, I decided to look for things to eat in Calgary. I was starving.
For those of you that know me – terribly sorry as I will be at it again (friends have been very, “OMG here she goes again about her keto or low carb 🙄” lol)… but yes, I went back to keto because I haven’t been as active and, quite frankly, I haven’t been eating much as of late because I haven’t been needing that much fuel.
I found an amazing cafe that sells keto desserts 😋
Leanbacks by Wisk (Food)
I loved what he said about process. In the beginning of course we root for the end goal or sometimes we discover something by accident with the process only being secondary but refinement of the objectives can only be attained when we become more mindful.
We obviously have to keep caring about the bottom line but if it’s longstanding and the process is not maturing or half-assed… you’re essentially not letting whatever-you’re-doing evolve.. the process is where the art, heart, life begin to nurture and enhance the end goal.
“This is amazing! Please open up a branch in Toronto!”
He sighed, “Would love to but Toronto’s a mess right now.”
“Yeah, I hear ya.” (Covid)
They’re located at 1314B 9 Ave SE, Calgary in case you wanna check them out… I encourage you to check them out even if you’re not in the whole low carb/keto thing. Their stuff is delicious.
After which, I ate a proper meal because I do desserts before that, apparently. I got a car wash, returned the car and flew back home.
The Rabbit Hole³
“It comes from Alice in Wonderland where she fell down the Rabbit Hole into some bizarre shit (trippy stuff from the 70s). Therefore, it is commonly used as an expression or euphuism for a portal to bizzarro world/significantly strange happenings/extremely surreal situations, etc.”
– Urban Dictionary
The French, who are known to be a part of a sexually liberated culture (obviously an overgeneralization but for argument’s sake) call orgasms La Petite Mort which means, translated, “The Little Death.”
It’s funny how two cultures from different ends of the spectrum relate in this sense that if it weren’t for sex, none of us would be alive. And for each Life the only certain destination we all share, yet have to ironically go through alone is Death.
Death, by the way, is also considered a symbol for transformation, rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation… this makes so much sense to me.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller, architect
When lockdown started, I was still determined to keep practicing my tattooing. Since I’m unable to tattoo others, I just went ahead and did it on myself. I learned my lesson from the geometric leaf though. I take care with clients but when I’m doing it on myself I tend to be more lenient in terms of pushing it so I ended overworking my skin on the top part (the yellow bits) of the leaf. Whereas with clients, I’m very, “Okay, I’ve run the needle several times on this section already. That’s enough.” But on myself, I get all, “I think it may be time to stop but I’m not in that much pain and it looks okay. I can do more.” 🤔
Anyway, during the process of designing, I kept adding and removing a bunch of stuff once I got a gist of the concept. It was my art on my calf that is to be tattooed by myself. The only restriction I had was regarding the parts of my body that I can/can’t reach.
It was absolute creative freedom and my head was exploding.
I showed a couple of my sounding board friends about 30 variations of the design (not an exaggeration).
One of them laughed and remarked about how it’s always going to be difficult to know when to stop. In being actively engaged with the process, I was reminded that Freedom is a responsibility just as Love & Life are forms of Art and everything has a price.
If you don’t know how to begin: you’re in trouble.
If you’re having problems stopping: you’re on the right path but in order for it to work, you have to know when to stop.
Everything in Life, even the fun-and-games bits, takes work. This is, for me, work and fun. When we’re doing our shit, over time, it becomes effortless because it becomes an extension of who are. It doesn’t just function within our cognition, it gets embedded in our subconscious. When we’re at the latter stage, that’s when it just becomes like typing or walking. Baby steps, if you are at liberty to proceed this way, IMO is best. In a world of short attention span where people, such as myself, who work in tech ourselves are having trouble disconnecting, patience is an inner resource that requires nurturance within ourselves.
Letting our inner child play is also a responsibility. It never ends, indeed. #BeingAnAdult
On that note: on with the fun.
The Left Calf
geometric leaf, pre-female orgasm piece
I wanted something that goes with my geometric leaf.
My favourite flower is Birds of Paradise which I tried to incorporate. I twisted things around by distorting the flower, changing the colours and the placements but despite my efforts it just wasn’t working.
Having said that, while I was hashing out different ideas on what type of plant (was fucking around with it too and just doing random leaves with different colours), I kept seeing (in my imagination) silhouettes of a woman. So I looked up silhouettes of women and somewhere along the way, I remembered this photo of Angelina Jolie taken by David LaChapelle that I love.
Yes, I used it as reference.
image courtesy of artnet.com
I deferred to my cousin who started getting into plants. Via one of our video chats, she showed me a plant that looked super cool, “It’s called ‘stromanthe’ something. It’s Brazilian.” I looked it up.
It was perfect.
Once I had the image of female done, I was looking for plants of flowers that were kinda 2D’ish in its colour style that mixes well with the female bit, composition-wise.
image courtesy of Master Gardener Program by University of Wisconsin-Madison
I was stencil testing early afternoon, “I just wanna see how it’s gonna be placed then maybe I can mark stuff.” It took several tries before I finally got the right placement and then… “Wow. That was a super annoying. When I actually tattoo I’m gonna have to do this again…”
“Fuck it. I’m doing it now.”
I finished the outline, black fill shading, and black shading in the evening and took an hour-long break. For both calves, I was essentially taking a 15-30 minute break every 45 minutes or so. This is not common but:
1. Getting tattooed takes a lot out of you due to the pain.
2. Tattooing takes a lot out of you because you essentially have to keep that focus throughout the entire process and you’re either always crouching while you’re at it or you’re in some other weird position.
3. Tattooing myself meant an extra weird position to accommodate me trying to focus on the work as well as giving myself a proper positioning/view of the body part. When it’s on someone else: totally feasible. When it’s on yourself: it’s a real challenge.
4. I’m at liberty to take all the time in the world as this is essentially a pet project that also serves as training/practice.
5. Tattooing yourself is all of #1, #2 & #3 so, yes, I shamelessly took my time because #4.
While I was at it, I was essentially doing variations of the half-pigeon yoga pose to properly accommodate the activity. Yoga is great but not for hours on end. I woke up with all sorts of pain in my abdomen, hips, and butt the next day. Damn.
When I finally got to the colours, I realized that the pink I had wasn’t working nor did I have the correct shade of brown. I did this at home, not the studio which has all the other colours available.
When I was done, I didn’t even have the energy to take photos. I dreaded the fact that I still had to wash it and apply second skin. I was exhausted. But the next day, once I got up, I ordered the ink right away.
Weeks later when it was healed, I finally finished it.
The Right Calf
geometric ankle tattoo, pre-Death/skull piece
I already have an anklet tattoo on my right calf. It’s a pattern I got from the internet and customized. I added the Arabic word, “Maktub.” I wanted it close to my feet so “wherever I may roam” type thing (if you click the link for Maktub, you’ll get it. A sentence or two is simply not enough for readers to capture its essence).
When it came to brainstorming, my head was exploding on this one as well. I knew I wanted something to match my ankle tattoo along with the random geometric shape I tattooed that is connected to it but complete freedom = 🤯
You have to get through the initial shock before making your way to coherency.
I took the page of patterns and fucked around. I love experimenting. It brings out so much life and joy out of me so I do it.
I initially wanted just a skull. Then blotches of ink started popping in my imagination then I remembered another earlier work.
It has two characters from my favourite graphic novel, “The Sandman” by Neil Gaiman (it’s been about 15-20 years since I was really into graphic novels but this is, by far, the one that struck me most.
The man standing is Dream/Morpheus/Sandman. He’s the third of 7 siblings while the woman is the second.
She is Death. She tells us that we all get what anyone gets: we get a lifetime…just as the amount of time it took me to finalize everything felt like a lifetime as well.
She’s onto something and when I was a teenager, she was one of my role models. It’s a done deal; she’s going on my calf.
Death and Dream
I already know this piece isn’t tattooable. You don’t want parts that should have definitions (lines, shapes, colours, shades of colours etc) to be too close together in a small or medium-sized tattoo. Like, okay, this is tattooable if it were to be a huge back piece maybe. Hmm… this would make a sick back piece but some parts still need to be simplified.
Anyway, I took Death and the skull and modified it a bit. I composed it with the pattern and a red stroke, trash polka style.
I wanted to finish the entire tattoo in one sitting but after 8 hours (break every 30ish minutes plus a 1 hour lol) of self-inflicted pain along with a funny position: I was done. After my hour-long break, I could only take 30 more minutes, “Fuck this. I’m done. Fuck this.” I didn’t even have the energy to finish the shading on the skull at that point.
I was burnt out.
I may also have gotten a little too ambitious with parts I can/can’t reach. A good chunk of it is way too low on the front of my shin and parts are too far on the back of my calf. I really had to crouch to reach those areas. I can reach my toes and all, yes, but for tattooing, you have to maneuver a vibrating machine with a need to focus on a close look.
Let’s just say that I woke up the next day with pain in parts of my body that I don’t even know the names for. It wasn’t just crouching anymore it was Yoga Xtreme while tattoing. It was already cold out but I opened the windows because working through these literally made me sweat. Damn.
I was also twitching on myself. It mostly happened when I was on the middle front of my shin. It’s not something we can control but we can alleviate it by singing, swearing, yelling, chanting, or something. I encourage all my clients to cuss when they’re twitching or when I’m doing parts that are especially painful. I took my own advice and cussed my way through.
It works. Trust.
After about a week, I was ready to go again but the tattoo wasn’t because it wasn’t healed yet. So I had to wait another two weeks (it’s different for everyone: some people take 2 weeks, some people take 4. My skin heals in time by 3).
When it was time, I retouched some parts on the black fill shading, finished the skull shading, put the stencil on for the red parts, and filled it. I normally would’ve just put the stencil for all the outlines but the red parts on this one aren’t outlined with black. It wasn’t like a component that was far out from the rest of the composition but is very meshed with the design so I had to do it separately.
I had a lot of fun doing the red blotch. I had a stencil and a reference drawing but when I got into it, I realized that I can just fuck around and go lighter on some areas, give some areas shading, added some dots and splatters where it wasn’t originally intended to have it… I mean blotches, splatters, and spatters are inconsistent and you get random bits of it inadvertently in some areas so I decided to be deliberately unintentional.
After another total of 8 hours; the first 4 being a breeze, the next 2 being “tired but I can still go”, the next hour being “I’m close to being done” and the last hour being “Oh my God I don’t think I can take any more pain (on my position and the needles – after the last break, I started off with a 7-needle for about 10 minutes to ease me in the pain onto the 11-needle again for filling some more of the red bits)” I finally finished it.
I love tattooing and I love tattooing myself. It’s so much fun and doing this makes me feel so alive but just as Life has its strugs, these aren’t endeavours to be taken lightly at all.
Having said that, I’m still obsessed.
I went to see my acupuncturist, at one point, after a long day at the studio. I’ve been seeing her for years now so we know each other fairly well. Once I stepped in the door she said, “You look tired… but happy. Good for you!” She laughed.
Then I proceeded on to her table to have needlework on my body… after a long day of having people on my table to get needlework done on their bodies, I suppose you can say it was my turn.
You know how it is in the hole. There’s Life, Death, and everything else that’s in between.
And regardless of how far, deep, or wide it goes: We all end up in the same place.
“I’m not merciful or blessed. I’m just me. I’ve got a job to do and I do it….When the first living thing existed, I was there. Waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.” – Death, The Sandman
The train ride was about 5 hours. It was pretty comfortable and I didn’t mind so much but I always tend to mind the fact that the travel time alone takes away from the actual venturing into places/activities within your destination.
I had a glass of red with my double chocolate flavoured protein bar. Yep, that was dinner. It was actually pretty good.
I’ve been to Montréal a couple times before but it’s been years. I had forgotten how much cooler their subways are. Bonaventure, at night, could pass for sections of Batman’s cave. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had filmed neo-noir types of works here.
Besides jumping twice for mistaken stops and then missing my actual stop (nice), it was a pretty quick night as I had arrived around 22:30 and, thanks to Covid, everything was closed. So I met up with my friend, headed to his place, chilled, and called it a night.
We had some delicious salmon bagel with cream cheese for breakfast the next day… yummm 😋
After which, we headed over to Mount Royal, which is supposedly where the name “Montréal” came from.
“You ready to slowly die?” my friend asked as we approached the stairs.
“Why is it crazy long?” I asked in reply.
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“Oh, that’s just the beginning. There’s more up there when we get in.”
Yeah, no kidding.
I still wanna hike mountains at some point (I haven’t as an adult) but it’s good I got a taste of the kind of physical strain it might entail.
The view from the top was beautiful and breathtaking… literally.
It’s a small mountain in the middle of the city which is pretty awesome but my cardio: not so much.
My friend, on the other hand, was still very physically calm and stable when we got there.
On our way to grab some lunch and catch o̶u̶r̶ my breath, we passed by some quaint streets and an art studio. We intentionally stopped by to see some metalwork sculptures (Glen Le Mesurier, a fairly well-known local artist). I would’ve taken more photos of his pieces, which were all over the neighbourhood but everytime we were around the installations, it was either overcast or nighttime and there weren’t any proper streetlights around it; it just wasn’t enough light for me to work with.
We discovered that the entire building was essentially an open artspace (a bunch of studios, various types of media).
We’ve no control over when or where inspiration hits. Sometimes it happens when we’re exploring nature and sometimes it happens when nature calls.
We walked around downtown that evening… and if you know Gelene at all, then you would know that street art is one her priorities when she explores urban spaces because, as far as she’s concerned, a city isn’t a city without willful and orchestrated grime.
Fuckin’ love it.
(*in case you’re interested, there’s a great read that touches on its history, evolution/revolution across the globe along with its symbiotic role with society and industrialism, “Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution” by Cedar Lewisohn)
many thanks again for taking me around 🙂 I had a blast!
We also checked out core downtown where the museum and university are… but of course everything was closed. Duh.
It was still nice though.
We were going to check out Old Montréal (I’m after the architecture… yeah, Europe is mos def on my list) but our heinies started getting real cold ’cause the temperature took a sudden dip so we decided to do it in the morning instead. Exploring isn’t really fun, educational, nor productive when you’re uncomfortable ’cause then your thoughts and consciousness start to veer towards how cold you are vs just taking it in because you’re chillin’ (all puns intended).
I’ve never been to Europe but apparently, Old Montréal has a good grasp of the vibe.
I do remember being around this area some years back when I visited last. There were some skateboarders in the middle of town. It was a cool juxtaposition (old and, arguably, stern & formal-looking buildings vs post-modern graffiti skateboarding kids). They weren’t around this time but try to picture it.
Very few places allowed customers to use their toilets even if you purchase something so I ended up eating ice cream in the cold weather so I can use a facility. Inspiration didn’t hit that time when nature called but I enjoyed my dessert.
After this, we headed to The Biosphere, which was closed (surprise!) but the make looked interesting so I wanted to check it out.
We headed back to my friend’s place to grab some lunch and get ready for me to leave.
I got that dreadful feeling… you know when you travel and you get sad towards the end because it’s ending but, also, you know that it’s time to leave and that it’s the right thing to do (sometimes, I really hate being a grown-up)?
…like, it’s time to go. All things in due time, fortunately and unfortunately.
I was only there for a weekend with only 1 full day (Saturday) so I didn’t really anticipate going through that usual sensation… goes to show how much of a great time I had, I suppose. 🙂
My friend and I bid farewell to each other as I headed to the trains. By then, the dreadful feeling had already gone and was replaced by excitement of the idea of traveling, even though I was technically headed home. I looked forward to the 5 hour ride. I brought my tablet with me so I actually managed to be productive for a good part of it.
Conclusion: While global travel plans may currently be on hold for most of us, we don’t have to stop entirely. I’ve always meant to explore more of Canada but it’s not priority because I live here.
It’s much like how I originally intended to go to the Philippines on my last trip (February) but ended up in different places due to Covid19.
Sometimes we get taken off our anticipated paths to discover wonders in our journeys that can be of all sorts of value – either towards our end destinations or towards the wealth in our lives (the kind that can’t be bought nor sold) – that we otherwise wouldn’t have come across… like I have during this lovely weekend in Montréal.