Part 1: The Rockies & Calgary, Alberta here
Part 2: Peachland and Penticton, BC here
“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.
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.”
“My feet have been wet for the last hour,” he replied… he hiked in his Chelsea, metrosexual dress shoes lol
“Shit. OK no, stop. Let’s rest,” I insisted.
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.
Looking forward to it.