We three made it back to Fort Collins, CO in one piece, and sans mouse, on August 27th 2014! The five month long trek is now over. Along the way we laughed, we cried, and we pulled out our hair.

When we got back to Fort Collins we stayed the first night at our friends Holly’s and Kenny’s house. But since they have big dogs that have had some problems with aggression with small dogs we couldn’t have Hoggle in their house. So Jay spent the night in the van, while Em stayed in the house (his choice over renting a room somewhere). It was great seeing them and their two precious babies again (Ryan,- almost two, and Leylah nine months.)

After the first night, our friends Kay, Greg, and their six month old baby Miles, had space available at their house for a couple weeks and were kind enough to give us a place to stay while we were looking for housing and transitioning back into real life. So we all moved in with them for a little over two weeks, and had a great time hanging out with them and their six month old.

The first weekend we were back was the New Belgium Tour de Fat bike parade, so we got dressed up and went to that. We got to see some of our other FoCo friends, Matt, Jess and Darryl – which was great, and we also got to meet Matt’s new girlfriend Melissa.  Holly also came out to join us with her two bundles of joy. Jess and Darryl were dressed up as foxes, while Matt and Melissa were the Joker and Harley Quinn. Jay and Em just wore a hodge podge of goofiness put together at Kay and Greg’s house that morning. We award Kay, Greg, and Miles with the “most subtle costume award” for their Portal costumes.


Greg and Kay were wonderful hosts to us, making us feel at home, letting us borrow their cars when needed, and really just helping miles the cutest baby (11)us get back into the swing of things. Miles is adorable and Jay practiced his baby portrait skills while we miles, leylah, and ryan playing (16)were there. We had a get together with Holly, Kenny and their two kids – so he had a lot of opportunities for baby picture taking. DSC_8209

<—Em and Ryan      

   Leylah and Miles—–>





Jay, Greg, Kay, and Miles went for a hike to Arthur’s rock and had an outdoor photo shoot that yielded some really cute photos too.

greg and miles-4greg kay and miles-2Kay and Miles-10

Kay and Miles-19kay greg and miles on arthurs rock-7Kay and Miles-13

Hoggle did pretty well with Kay and Greg’s two kitties during our stay, though there were a few minor chasing/fussing incidents. Though he seemed kind of scared of Miles, and gave him a wide berth. But he did like sleeping in Miles’s old car seat in the living room. 

Thank all of you again for all your help and friendship – you are awesome!

Integrating back into life in Fort Collins has been an interesting process. We’ve only been gone for about two years, but the town has grown and changed a lot since we had moved away a couple years ago. So it simultaneously feels very familiar while also feeling very new. Traffic has gotten much worse, though there is a new public transit system in place. Rent has sky rocketed and finding a place to live proved a little challenging. But within just a few days of being back Jay posted a status update on Facebook, “I’m back in town, does anyone need a mechanical engineer?” and received a temporary contract job from a friend almost immediately. By the end of the second week, he had also had three interviews and a job offer for a full-time position. And meanwhile Em’s post-doc position in a private practice was also firmed up to begin in October. It’s not just anywhere that we could make a transition like this so quickly and smoothly! We got by, with a little help from our friends. Smile

So a few days ago we finally bit the bullet, moved out of our rent free housing with Greg and Kay, and got ourselves a one bedroom apartment with an attached garage. We don’t have our stuff yet, only the stuff we had in the van, so the place is pretty empty and echoes loudly right now. But it seems like a nice place. It was hard to swallow how much we were going to have to pay to live here (several hundred more in rent a month than we were paying for a 3 bedroom house with a yard in Knoxville!) But, we like it here so it should be worth it (for example, the nearest grocery is a five minute bike ride away).  We plan on looking into buying a house to move into when our lease is up. That should be another adventure.

Here are a couple snapshots of the new place. Doesn’t our van bed just look lovely on the bedroom floor? It is our only piece of “furniture” right now. We were listening to a comedian on the radio the other day that had a bit about how when you are poor all of your stuff gets much lower to the ground. Bed on the floor, clothes piled in the closet…we could relate, haha. It’s still a big step up from the van though!  Featured in a position of honor are the toiler and shower photos, which should be considered the very best parts of any residence so far as Em is concerned.




Moving the stuff from the van into the apartment made Em feel nostalgic about the road trip. It made it really register for her that the adventure was actually over, for good. But the nostalgia was for the fun parts of the trip. All it took was for her to give herself a brief reminder of the roughing-it elements of the trip again, and the nostalgic feelings faded pretty quickly. Mostly she is happy to be back in a more comfortable and bigger space that contains a toilet. 

Committing to apartments and jobs did provoke some stress and feelings of the walls closing in after being so free and unattached for awhile. And at the same time, it also felt good to be more stable and connected, and to be back in one place and building something for ourselves again. It is almost as if time stood still for us during this trip, while it’s still been ticking away for everyone else. Even though we were physically traveling all over, it’s more like we were standing still while everyone else has been moving forward with their lives. The five months feel like no time at all has passed for us. It’s hard to describe exactly, but it feels kind of like we’ve been holed up in a van for half a year living like nomads or something. Weird.  

UP NEXT: Though our trip is now finished, we plan on posting at least a couple more posts with some concluding remarks on the entire experience. So stayed tuned for those over the next couple of weeks! Thanks for reading!


welcome to idaho-1Well readers we are reaching the end of our trip.  We are both ready to not be living in a van.  The weather is dreary as we drive down south through Montana.  We stopped quickly to see a small limestone bluff that William Clarke made some observations at on their famous journey, but other than that is was driving south and south into Idaho.

We stopped in Idaho Falls to visit the location where Em’s maternal grandparents and aunt were killed in a train/car accident when Em’s mom was only two years old (Em’s mom was the only survivor of the accident). We had never been there before, and neither had Em’s mother since the accident. We bought some flowers, placed them by the tracks, and Em said a few words. Em was surprised by how emotional she felt given that she had never met them and that her mom was too young to have memories of them. But being there made the loss of never knowing them feel much more real.

memorial flowers-2

After staying there for a little while, we left to drive to Pocatello, Idaho for the night.

welcome to Utah-1We hit the road and kept going south until we hit Utah.  We pretty much just drove through Utah through the day, stopping only to get gas.  We contemplated going for a swim in the Great Salt Lake but we didn’t.  We didn’t even drive through Salt Lake City, which we’ve been to before.

We ended up camping at a Walmart in Vernal, Utah.  We had some McDonalds hamburgers, at Em’s request, for dinner.  Gross junk food was yummy.  This Walmart closed at midnight but we slept there unmolested anyways.  It rained intermittently throughout the night.

We had picked this route (down south through Idaho and into Utah) to avoid driving through Wyoming again.  We have driven through those state’s horribly boring interstates one too many times and Jay is sick of it.  This route may be a little longer, but there is a lot more to see on the way (towns, mountain ranges, mountain passes, forests), instead of just barren landscapes.

welcome to colorado-3In the morning we woke and drove just about thirty miles to our final state border of the trip.  We were back in Colorado!  We have made it!  Like almost all Colorado entrance signs, we were in the middle of a dry flattish landscape on a beautiful partly sunny day.

We drove through Dinosaur, Craig, and Steamboat Springs before stopping for some lunch and a shower in the Routt National Forest, just west of Rabbit Ears pass.  But before we could get lunch going, a hail storm came through.  Luckily it didn’t damage the solar panel as it was only pea size and Jay was able to maneuver the panel under an Aspen tree.  The lightning was right on top of us.  We were unscathed fortunately.

lunch time-1

After lunch we decided we would rather camp one more night than drive the four or so hours to Fort Collins.  So we drove a little ways, almost getting stuck in a few mud holes before finally finding a really nice camp spot on a forest service road, well away from the main highway and in a nice meadow.

UP NEXT: We drive to Fort Collins and end our great van adventure

On our way down south through Montana, Em realized we were pretty close to Helena and decided she wanted to give her Uncle Matt and Aunt Margarete, who live in Helena, a call to see if we could stop by for a visit in the next day or so. Well, we got ahold of Uncle Matt on the phone and he was more than welcoming and said we should come on by that day if we could and that they would love to have us.  How nice is that? He gave us Aunt Margarete’s contact information to get in touch with her, and so we decided to abandon our Missoula plans and headed their way!

They were only about three or four hours from where we were. We drove by Missoula and arrived at their home late in the afternoon.  Molly’s Aunt Margarete greeted us along with their big Saint Bernard Rosie.  They have a really beautiful home and have turned their backyard into something of a mini amusement park.  Uncle Matt and their two boys (Em’s cousins) weren’t home yet, so the three of us decided to take the dogs on the walk to help get them to know each other.  That seemed to help as Rosie, who sometimes has problems with small dogs, accept Hogman. 

IMG_20140819_214311692When Matt got off of work and got back home with their two boys, Mattie (pictured front in yellow) and Charles (pictured between his mom and dad) who had been at Mattie’s football practice, we piled into their minivan and headed off to dinner at a small pub called Chubby’s. They had some great Montana food like big honking steaks, and some Montana beer. Jay was true to the experience and ordered a huge steak, but Em went for the shrimp instead.

Everyone was pretty tired when we got back so we didn’t stay up very late. Uncle Matt had to go to back to work in the morning too. We had a few drinks and gabbed a little bit.  We stayed on the lower level in the nice guest bedroom, which has a bed and a bathroom and running water and climate control which was really nice for us.  

slip and sliding-55The next day we played in the back yard.  Uncle Matt had told Jay how to make the slip n slide, offering some lessons learned from his experience. He even had the grass graded so the lay of the land acted as a small valley to keep the sliders aimed right for the pond that’s built at the bottom of the hill.  Once you reach the bottom you fly off a three feet or so drop and land into the swimming/fish/duck pond.  We got the black plastic and water hose set up and the boys were off!  The length of the whole slide may have been thirty yards or so.  It was really fun.slip and sliding-62

For hours Charles, Mattie, and Jay took turns flying down the hill, and then a little later on figured out that it was fun to have the boys go first and Jay fly behind them, catch up with them and then all of us go crashing into the water.  Em took photos and videos, and then took her turn on the slip-n-slide too. 

We then transitioned back and forth between the slide, the pond jumping rock, the hot tub, and trampoline, and indoors playing board games and foosball.  Who could ask for anything more? The boys also are into the Simpsons, so we watched a couple episodes of of their DVD’s.  It was strange to watch episodes with the boys that we had watched when we were their age.  That show has been on a long time. 


IMG_20140821_212509185For dinner that night Uncle Matt and Aunt Margarete made us a delicious fish diner with Salmon and Halibut they caught on a recent fishing trip to Alaska. Em contributed her balsamic glaze recipe for the salmon. Everything was really yummy! 

It seems the next couple days were a lot of the same.  It was great spending some quality time with Em’s family. Her cousins hadn’t seen us in about four years, and were too young to remember, but we think they will remember us now.  We shared stories and laughs with Aunt Margarete and Uncle Matt, goofed off with the kids,and just had a blast.  Aunt Margarete had yet to go down the slip-n-slide despite her boys asking her to. One morning, she finally agreed that “Okay, she’d give it a go.” Hoping that this would soon be forgotten, she procrastinated and put it off all day. Finally, at 10pm at night her boys were night time slip n sliding-8-2still at her to take her turn. So after getting herself nice and warmed up on some of that Canadian whiskey Jay bought (he drank it with her too), she decided to go for it! Uncle Matt and the boys were all still up, so we all went out into the yard and set the slip-n-slide back up for Aunt Margarete’s run. It was chilly out, but Aunt Margarete was a trooper, true to her word! Jay and Charles decided to uncle matt-1-1slide with her too, while Em did the night photography with a flashlight. The rest of us had fun spectating the spectacle. Mattie was all wrapped up in flannel pants and a flannel robe (below in the chair), and had filled his pockets with pretzels for the event. Uncle Matt could barely contain his excitement (to the right). It was a hoot! Even Rosie joined in on the fun. Hoggle thought we were all nuts and stayed inside cuddled in blankets on the couch.night time slip n sliding-14night time slip n sliding-9night time slip n sliding-5

The rest of the night Jay, Em, and Aunt Margarete spent hanging out talking in the hot tub. The boys hung out with us for awhile until they succumbed to sleepiness. Uncle Matt and Charles were leaving at 1am to drive to Seattle to see a Bears preseason football game, so they definitely needed a few ZZZ’s before their big trip. Aunt Margarete, Jay, and Em ended up staying up late enough to see them off before we went to bed.

We were having such a good time it was hard for us to tear ourselves away and head back on our trip. But it was time for us to head out and get going to CO. We went out in Helena for a late lunch/early dinner with Aunt Margarete and Mattie before we filled the van back up and were off. (Thank you all for an awesome visit!!)  

We drove a little ways south on I15 and stopped at the national forest to camp.  We found a spot in the middle of a field.  Squatting over a hole, and the wet grass in the rain was a far cry from a warm comfortable dry bathroom, but that’s the life we lead in a van. It rained all night which gave a nice pleasing sound as we slept. 

UP NEXT:   Thathathatha….that’s all folks!

Welcome to Glacier NP-1In the morning we woke to nasty gray clouds.  We headed to the park anyway, maybe the weather would clear.  We stopped at the visitor center and checked the weather.  It said it would be sunny today so we decided to drive up the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

We’ve driven it before and it never ceases to amaze.  It’s probably the best road in any national park, and is probably worth going to Glacier even if driving around on this road is the only thing you have time to do.  Em was lucky enough to be the passenger, so she got the full enjoyment of the view. The road is built on the side of a cliff, and when you look down there is about a 4,000 to 5,000 foot drop into the vast valley below. There are waterfalls and creeks – it is truly amazing. We saw a mountain goat running alongside the road looking quite panicked, poor guy. He definitely did not want to be there. The further we drove the more the clouds seem to break up, and by the time we got to the top at Logan Pass it was sparsely cloudy. But there was no parking at all. Rangers were turning people away from the parking lot.  We drove around and looked for some parking before driving about a mile down the hill to a pull-off to eat some lunch.

Jay was wanting to do a hike at Logan Pass. Em had planned on hiking some of it with him, but since there was no where to park the only option was for her to drop Jay off at Logan Pass. So that is what she did and then she and Hoggle had to drive back down. Jay would take the shuttle back down. She got behind this ridiculous person on the way down who was coming to a complete stop at every single curve in the road, letting everyone in the other lane going up the road pass by him before he was willing to venture around the curve. It was like he thought we were on a one lane road even though it is a regular sized two lane road and there was plenty of room. After a few incidents of this Em started blaring her horn at him, and fortunately he finally stopped doing it.

Since it was already later in the afternoon, Jay decided to go on the Hidden Lake hike (6+ miles) instead of the Highline Trail (11 miles).  The first part of the trail was packed, as this is probably the most popular trail in the park.  So popular it’s a boardwalk the most of the way to the viewpoint of HIdden Lake.  Even with all the crowds the views are pretty amazing.  The mountains of Glacier NP are unlike any other in the States.

[Group 11]-Hidden Lake Pano 11 (1 of 7)_Hidden Lake Pano 11 (7 of 7)-7 images

mountain goats at hidden lake-1But after you walk just a little past the first lookout the crowds drop tremendously and the views get better.  Jay saw a mountain goat family on the way down to the lake.  How cute.  At the lake he found the water to be pleasantly cool.  Much warmer than a lot of the lakes we’ve been in.  So of course he took a dip.  After drying off he explored the lake area, read a little bit, and headed back up to Logan Pass.

jon swimming in hidden lake-1

The shuttle was a nightmare.  There was not enough buses for everybody;  it took probably an hour and a half just to get on a bus.  With the hour plus drive down Jay didn’t get back to the van until around 7:30 or so.  In time to eat some dinner and go back to our forest service road.  This time we were able to find a pretty decent spot.  And Hoggle did not once roll in poop.  Success!

mountain goats at hidden lake-5marmots on hidden lake trail-2

After leaving Yoho National Park we stopped in Golding, British Columbia and got some lunch.  Em, IMG_20140816_134022062decided to get a BLT with egg on it, and was perplexed to see how much it cost relative to the other menu items.  Well when this BLT came out it was actually a bacon cheeseburger topped with a fried egg and onion rings.  For some reason the menu failed to mention the huge beef patty involved in the sandwich. This is something she would never normally order and it was funny to see her with that big honkin’ thing in front of her. She dutifully dug in and ate half of the crazy burger and most of the onion rings, but Jay had to finish up the second half of the burger for her.  cow pasture campsite-5

We drove south from there on BC Hwy 39 until we got tired of driving and found some public land that was some type of prairie.  We drove over the cattle gate and found a spot off a rutted dirt road in the middle of a cow pasture.  They were mooing at us all evening.  The most exhilarating event of the evening is when we were all sitting in the van and Hoggle decides he wants to go out.  Jay lets him down and he immediately runs from the van and towards a giant cow.  He chases it away barking furiously, and the cows run away from him!  Jay is yelling at him to stop, which luckily he did before the cows decided they could stomp the crap out of him.

welcome to the US-1The cows didn’t moo too much during the night so we got some pretty good sleep.  It was nice being back in the van.  We left in the morning and drove about an hour south until we arrived at the US/Canadian border.  Jay stopped in at the duty free shop and bought some whiskey before we headed on over.  This time the border guard was nice to us, unlike the last time we entered the US from Canada, and sent us back home to good ‘ol ‘Merica!  And Big Sky Country, Montana.

Welcome to Montana-1

We drove south on US Hwy 39 for a while before we headed West to take a quick detour at Glacier National Park.  This will be the last big thing we see on our trip.  We first stopped to do laundry and get some lunch in Columbia, MT.  We then hit the road and found a campsite on a grass/brush/tree road (it couldn’t even be called a dirt road).  We had to fold in the mirrors to fit between some small trees, and had to do a upwards of twenty point turn to get the van turned around before we finally settled on a spot.  We hung around a bit and were about to make the bed when Hoggle comes strolling up covered in poop.

Hoggle loves rolling in poop and dead smelly things.  This poop was especially gooshy and It was all over his harness mostly, but a lot was on his neck too.  We immediately filled up the wash basin and gave him a bath and rinsed his harness.  Nasty dog.  We then started to make the bed.  The first step was to unload all our clean laundry. As we finished unpacking it, we quickly realized we had left half of it in the second drier back at the laundromat in Columbia. Shit! So Jay had to navigate the van back through the crazy trees to get back to the road. Fortunately it was only about 10 miles back to the laundromat so we drove back.

Em luckily found the laundry still there, and we headed back toward the forest.  Hoggle still stunk so we gave him a second bath with lots and lots of soap.  This time it seemed to do the trick.  We drove around more and more dirt roads until we finally found another spot to camp.  We made some burritos and settled to bed.  It was a long, irksome day. But on the bright side, there was no smell of mouse decay in the van so he must have just run away somewhere in Canada. Maybe he was just wanting to be an expatriate and was looking for a ride. Good luck to you little mouse. You probably cost us about $250 in hotel fees, so we hope it was worth it for you.

After Mt Robson we headed back east into Jasper National Park again to go visit the southern part of it.  We stopped at the town to pick up some groceries and then turned south on Hwy 93A.  This turn south marks the homestretch of our trip.  It’s all going south through the Rockies all the way to Colorado (it won’t be a very long trip though).

[Group 0]-Mt Edith Cavell Meadows pano-1_Mt Edith Cavell Meadows pano-7-7 imagesWe drove up the road to Mt Edith Cavell, a really tall peak that has a few glaciers hanging off of it.  Jay went for a short hike up into the meadows near the peak, but the haze was bad so it wasn’t really worth it.  There must be wildfires burning everywhere.  It might be hard to imagine, but even Jay is starting to have his fill of hiking amidst beautiful mountains, glaciers, meadows, waterfalls, etc…. This hike wasn’t all that thrilling.  Even he is starting to tire of being on the road. 

jon swimming in lake near Edith Cavell-8We drove back down to the valley and on the way stopped at Cavell Lake so Jay could take a swim.  The water was really cold, one of the colder lakes we’ve been in.  It was invigorating though. He did his signature crooked handstand for the camera. After that we found a campground.  And we found out that rednecks inhabit Canada as well.  A  giant dually diesel pickup truck with a huge trailer in tow pulled up.  They backed into their spot and their three kids and three dogs piled up.  The dad wore a sleeveless Coors shirt and a camo baseball hat on.  It was awesome, just like being at home.  The only difference is their camp chairs had Canadian flag patterns to them. 

It was then off to bed in the tent with hopes of catching that damn mouse.  But we didn’t. For the third day in a row we didn’t catch it and it didn’t eat the food out of our traps. We figured either its dead in the walls, it ran away, or it isn’t hungry right now and will come out and bite our toes later.  Most likely it died.  So we’re going to move back into our van and hope it doesn’t start stinking like decay. 

Em Athabasca Falls-1We packed up and continued to drive south.  We stopped quickly at Athabasca Falls, which looked pretty awesome from the road.  It was a busy road-side attraction, but worth it  The falls weren’t tall, but were a torrent of water flowing through some crevices. Amazing how powerful water is when squeezed into a small outlet like that.

We continued south until we hit Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier.  When we got out of the van it was much cooler and windy.  The wind, as it goes over the mountains, and crosses the icefields and glaciers, cools significantly.  The effect is, when we hiked near the toe of the glacier, we get blasted with cold icy  air. Hoggle hated it.  Em thought it sucked too. Jay loved it so much he wanted to build a summer home there. 

Most of the trail was under ice just a couple of decades ago.  The glaciers are receding rapidly here.  They have signs that mark the year of the glacier’s progress.  As we passed 1992, we saw that the glacier is hundreds of feet up the valley.  It’s as if the globe is warming in some manner.  Weird.

[Group 2]-Athabasca Glacier-2_Athabasca Glacier-5-4 images

[Group 1]-peyto lake pano 2-1_peyto lake pano 2-7-7 imagesWell we kept on trucking and stopped at Peyto Lake for a quick view.  Another beautiful glacier fed teal lake. Wish we had more of those in Colorado Then we left and found a campsite.  We’re going to stay in the van tonight!



Lake Louise-2First night back in the van and not crammed into the tent was a nice change! No sign of mousy. We got up and headed to join the throngs of people at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.  It was incredibly crowded.  And the weather was nasty.  So we took a look and then left in a hurry.  Someone was waiting for our parking space as we pulled out – the huge lot was completely filled. We left and drove West to Yoho National Park, but we just drove through because the weather was even worse. There was so little visibility that any mountain hikes wouldn’t be worthwhile, even to Jay. He had to go back on his “any hike, anywhere, in any condition, should be done” motto. Jay checked with a visitor’s center and found out the weather was supposed to be bad and rainy  for the next week. So he decided he wanted to go ahead and start heading on down to Montana. Em told him “Don’t leave early on my account. You still have time left. We can stay and you can devastate yourself with all the hikes you want,” but Jay  declined. So that marked the end of our time in the Canadian Rockies.

Since one backpack trip Jay has been wanting to do before we even started this trip was at Mt Robson, but we still hadn’t killed the mouse yet, we decided Em would stay in a hotel while Jay went backpacking.  So we drove back west to Mt Robson Provincial Park where Jay picked up an overnight permit, not always an easy thing to do at “the most popular trail in the Canadian Rockies.”  After that we headed to the campground and set up camp there and took showers (which were not coin-op!).  Jay packed his bag and then we went to sleep, next to the busy highway – again, since the campground is near the road.  We figured out that Hwy 16 through Mt Robson and Jasper is one of the only mountain pass roads in the Canadian Rockies, so it gets a lot of truck traffic.

jon before trip-1The next morning we woke up early (Hoggle), and we drove to the trailhead.  Jay slung his backpack over his shoulders and was off on the 19km (12 mile) trek to Berg Lake, at the foot of Mt Robson and its Berg Glacier.  The trail starts off following the blue rushing Robson River up the valley until it hits Kinney Lake at 5km.  The lake is like all others around here, a beautiful teal color.


kinney lake-1

The trail then climbs through the Valley of a Thousand Falls, where water falls across the steep glacial carved valley fall thousands of feet and a few that the Robson River makes just next to the trail.  All of them are pretty amazing, but Emperor Falls near the top of the valley was the most unique.  The river falls over a cliff and hits a rock about 3/4 up the face of the cliff and most of the water is ejected horizontal from the cliff.  It makes for quite a unique falls.  And the fact that the water hits a relatively flat section of rock/earth means you can walk right up next to it.  Which is what Jay did, taking a couple of self portraits as the falls mist and rain over him.

emporer falls-1jon at emporer falls-1


robson river and mountain-1After Emperor Falls the trail gets to the Berg Lake Valley and starts to follow the Robson River.  With about 2km to go the trail enters open terrain where it passes through a rock fall and then onto the rock bed that the Robson River makes as it braids its way through the flat valley.  During spring floods the river takes many different courses through the flat valley, creating a wide open rock “prairie.”  A few braids still remain during the summer.

gravel bed trail-1

berg lake campsite-1Then the trail makes it to Berg Lake and Marmot campground, where Jay is going to camp.  Berg Lake is named for icebergs that the Berg glacier deposits in the lake.  Jay saw one of those bergs there.  Jay set up his tent and rested his feet by soaking them in the cold lake water.  Then he took off on a day hike up the lake shore a couple of kilometers to take some pictures and see more of the glaciers.

Jay did some walking around in the mud, creeks, and other things like look at the clouds and listen to the cracks of the glacial ice giving way up on the mountain, which sounds exactly like thunder.  It’s a neat thing to hear.  One time he even got to see a chunk of ice and snow break off and fall down the mountain.  The snow and ice flow just like water would.

muddy feet-1

mt robson pano (15)Jay wanted to stick around the north shore of the lake, about 2km from his campsite to watch the sunset, so he brought his stove and made dinner on a rock at Berg Lake.  A pretty awesome spot to make some prepackaged lentils and pepperoni sticks.



jon at berg lake, mt robson-1   mt robson panos, cropped (3)

After the sunset Jay walked back in the dusk 2km to his campsite.  This time of day is the ideal time to come across bears, and this being black and grizzly territory, he decided to sing aloud to warn bears of the presence of his delicious juicy flesh.

robson river-1Well all was fine and Jay slept only to wake up to gray skies and the smallest of drizzles.  After dozing around in the tent he paced up and headed out.  Em wasn’t going to meet Jay until 6pm, and it would take him much less time to get down there he needed.  So he decided to rest a lot and explore various things along the trail including a large glacier tarn, a crystal clear swamp, and waterfalls.

At lunch at one of the shelters along the trail he met a couple from Belgium, Katerina and Manu.  They were cycling from Prudoe Bay, Alaska (the very tip top of the state) all the way down to Mexico.  They chatted for a while and Jay offered to host them in Fort Collins if they come through.  Hopefully they will!

jon swimming in kenney lake-2When Jay got to Kinney Lake he was hot and sweaty from the last two days so he decided to take a dip in the water.  It was cold, but pretty bearable for glacier run-off once you got in for a few minutes.   Once he had his feel it was on to the final stretch of the hike.  He met Em at the trailhead at about 5:30 and all was right with the world.



jon after the hike-1

We jumped in the van and decided to try to find a spot on a dirt road just east of the park.  After driving around a while we finally found a nice spot in a meadow with Mt Robson and more Canadian Rockies out in the distant.  Quite a place to take a shower (Jay) and set up a tent (Em) and try to kill a mouse.

Em’s Time Off

Em mostly relaxed in the A/C at the Alpine Inn in Valemount and took lots of showers while Jay was backpacking, but she did go see some spawning salmon in a creek there in town. There was a guy doing a talk about them, and Em was lucky enough to show up at the right time to hear some of it. The salmon swim from the ocean, up the river to this exact spot in the creek to lay their eggs every year.IMG_20140812_103402391 The females work hard for over a week digging with their tails to form a spot for their eggs. The males all hang back behind them, and only come up to fertilize the eggs. It was something else to watch the fish constantly swimming against the current to stay in one spot to lay and fertilize the eggs, and to realize that they swam that whole way against the current. If they stopped swimming for even an instant they started getting washed back up the creek. And all of them were on borrowed time. The speaker explained that their bodies were now chemically imbalanced from going from salt to freshwater, and their skin had become soft and it basically sounded like they were rotting while still alive. He said that they often break off their dorsal fins on tree branches or rocks on the journey because this imbalance makes their skin just break and flake off so easily. Indeed, Em saw several crushed dorsal fins with bones sticking out of them. But the fish carried on as though nothing were wrong – on their mission to complete their lifecycles. Em had heard about the lifecycle of salmon before, but it was one thing to hear about it, and quite another to witness this stage of it. It’s amazing what these fish go through to reproduce. It’s a non-stop tortuous suicide mission. Em simultaneously felt bad for the fish, and was in awe of them.  It was something to behold for sure.