A first hike (ever!) in the Canadian Rockies. Bumps, bruises, lessons learned & a few epic photos for proof.

Written by: Jolena Hove

I’m 30 and went on my first hike 3 years ago. A friend invited me to hike Allstones Creek in Nordegg, Alberta. Not knowing what to expect; I packed a lunch and some Nikes, picked up my friend from Edmonton and we drove for three hours listening to every genre of 90’s music on the way. 

About 5 minutes into the hike our group was going down a steep embankment covered in loose rock. The kind of steep that you should descend one of two ways: slide on your butt and grab every piece of anchored foliage on the way down, or if you’re over 6’2 and very athletic- just run down it. I chose option two like the person before me, but unfortunately I’m not really either of those things and ended up tumbling head over feet most of the way down.

I was surprisingly unscathed, despite a few gashes and scrapes. After crisscrossing and rock hopping through a creek for another kilometer or so, we shortly found ourselves at a little waterfall. I was airing out my scrapes and enjoying a handful of trail mix when when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to find a lady with a concerned look on her face and a finger full of Polysporin.

“I’m sorry… but I’m a mom and can’t help myself- can you please put some of this on?”

Welcome to the Canadian Rockies.

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Intrigued by the brilliant turquoise water of Abraham Lake, my teacher-friend and I strapped our paddle boards to the top of my Volvo station wagon and set off for Nordegg the next summer. I was secretly anticipating the initial view of the lake as we drove the David Thompson, glad I could witness the awe of an Abraham Lake virgin. Our excitement was soon diminished when we couldn’t seem to find a way onto the lake. Sure there were some accesses to the shore, but the wind was so strong on the lake, after a quick and scary paddle out, we decided we didn’t want to die that day.

We were eating lunch at the David Thompson Resort when a man pulled into the parking lot, paddle board on his roof racks. We ran out and asked him where we could get onto the lake safely. He looked at us hesitantly, then explained:

“No. You don’t paddle this lake. I work with search and rescue and people die here all the time.”

But we had come all this way and damned if we weren’t leaving with some pictures of us on the lake.

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Somebody did die that that day. A wind gust took Krista’s paddle board off the roof of the Volvo. It was never to be paddled again.

Two years later I returned to Nordegg with another group of friends to do the same trek. I had discovered a love for hiking and the outdoors, had more than a few decent hikes and much more experience now. Or so I thought. Turns out a creek in the Rockies is much different in May than late summer. There was still a bed of snow and ice at the fall and the water was fast, high and freezing cold. It was difficult to maneuver across the rocky bed with numb feet and a strong current, but the towering rock faces and blazing spring sunshine suppressed any complaints our group might have considered.

If you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies and want a more primitive hiking experience, follow the David Thompson to Nordegg. Don’t worry about reservations, but remember your head lamp. Maybe a map too. And your dog.

 

 

Jolena lives in Rich Valley, Alberta- an extra small place you’ve never heard of. She is a teacher who loves to spend weekends and summers outdoors in places without cell service. She loves backpacking with her husband, friends, beef jerky and St.Bernard, Norma. Follow Jolena’s adventure’s on Instagram!

 

“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.” Some inspiration to just get up and go…

Halfway across the country and back in 35 days- Part 1

By: Michael Grice

First three things you think of when you hear the words road and trip?  Freedom, best friends, or maybe a mini vacation? Well you’re wrong!  I’m not talking about a long holiday weekend or a weekend warrior trip; I’m talking about a month long, breathtaking, home is where you park it kind of road trip. First three things that personally come to mind are two songs and a book. The greatest book about freedom, “On the road” by Jack Kerouac, “Running on empty” by Jackson Browne and “Take it easy” by The Eagles.   

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June 2017, I quit my full-time job/career of thirteen years to go back to school and begin a new career path.  Venturing on my new path in life, I decided to buy a cap for my truck and built it out for sleeping. I started researching places to visit with my portable home, which lead to a short conversation with a friend about the adventure that could await us. A couple weeks of last minute planning took the idea of a road trip to a fully loaded truck, two stand up paddleboard, a cooler full of beer, snacks and grilled cheese necessities.

I left New Jersey on Sunday July 23rd, picked up Natalie at her family’s house in New Hampshire and set out route for Niagara Falls. After a quick picture of the falls we drove for what felt like hours to Michigan for night number one of camping in the truck.  Michigan was okay; it did include a few hours on the paddleboard.  Our time in Michigan was short, to skip through the BS we drove from NH through VT, NY, Canada, MI, WI, MN, to SD.   The true adventure began in South Dakota with a Couple of hours in the Badlands National Park with some breathtaking views and incredible photo opportunities.  This was followed by a quick stop at Mount Rushmore for yet some more amazing photo ops before hunting down a place to park and set up camp in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands for night number two. We parked, set up camp and made a fire just in time for an incredible sunset that included an even better sunrise the following day.  

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We packed up the next morning and drove through some of the most incredible National Forests Wyoming has to offer!  Bighorn, Ten Sleep, and Shoshone National Forests had some of the most picturesque views I had ever seen.  The next three days expressed everything this road trip was about and why it was worth every minute on the road.  Yellowstone, one of the most over-rated and overly crowded National Park I had ever been to.  The springs were gorgeous on the other hand and made the crowds well worth it. We ended our day outside the National Park in Shoshone National Forest for camp. This location was surreal with no cell service for three days making it one of the best parts of the trip.  Completely free of distractions and zero reasons to worry about anything, except if a grizzly was nearby.  

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Yellowstone was an amazing experience but came nowhere close to the views, camping and the overall experience of Grand Teton National Park!  The jagged outline of the Tetons across the horizon was and is probably the greatest single view I have ever witnessed in person.  We spent day one paddle boarding Jackson Lake with the Tetons looming high above us reflecting off the early morning glassy water. We finished up our day wandering around the town of Jackson for dinner and driving up to the summit to catch a glimpse of the sunset before trekking back into the unknown in search of a campsite. We came across an area by map in Bridger-Teton National Forest and set up camp for both nights in an area off a winding dirt road along a semi dried up riverbed, nowhere near civilization with nothing but endless stars, great company and a campfire that would make any weekend camper envious.  

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Day two in Grand Teton National Park and the final day of this road trip resulted in wandering around Teton Village and Jackson Hole. This was followed by a long drive to Boulder Colorado to part ways as I continued my road trip adventure and my friend went back to reality.  This unforgettable trip of seven days may have been coming to an end, but the journey and the drive to travel had only just begun for me.  Stay tuned for part two to find out where the next twenty-eight days takes me on the best road trip of my life!

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“All he needed was a wheel in his hand and four on the road.”

‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac

You can follow Mike’s adventures on Instagram

You can also follow Mike’s friend Natalie on Instagram too!

The beginnings of stocking your gear closet- Some thoughts, do’s and don’ts.

 

Written by: Josh Ryan

  I have always been into the great outdoors, I grew up in a small town in Vermont and try to do things outside as much as I can. A couple of years ago I decided to get into hiking in the Adirondacks and ultimately, hike the Long Trail in Vermont. I knew I was going to have to find and buy gear that will last and perform the way I hoped it would. If you haven’t found the site yet, you should check it out, OutdoorGearLab.com, they review a lot of gear and its a good place to start. I started with OGL (Outdoor Gear Lab) for most of my gear except a handful of items.

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I also don’t like to pay retail for gear. When I first started hiking, I bought used gear from replay sports and Craigslist. I had a pair of Keen boots I used for work and an old Kelty bag I had from high school. I like to think that you get what you pay for, and most of the time I feel like it’s true, but not always. I am by no means telling anyone to go out and spend tons of money on brand name gear, I just want people to enjoy the outdoors and find stuff they’ll like. I am slowly upgrading gear and finding what works and doesn’t work for me. I have found some great gear and some that just wasn’t worth the time of day. My big thing is, I read a lot…gear reviews, gear tests, gear this and gear that, I just like to know what works for others that used it in the same way I intend on using it. When I was planning my Long Trail hike, I started following AT hikers on Instagram and talking to them to see what worked for them on their 2000+ mile adventure. Everyone I talked to seemed to be happy to help and I learned some good things. All of that is easy, when you talk about it, but when it comes down to using everything, that’s when you see what actually works. Please do not go buy gear and never use it before you go into the wilderness. I can’t say it enough, use your gear before going out, just do it. Go to the park, go to your best friends, go anywhere you can and try it out and get to know it and how it works before you go out and actually need to use it. I bought a WBBB (warbonnet black bird xlc hammock and mamajamba tarp) for hiking the Long Trail and overnights in the ADK. I only used it a couple of times outside of hiking in the park but I am glad I used it beforehand. I had to set it up a few times in the dark, thank god for headlamps and patience.

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I find myself rambling on about things but I do hope someone can take something away from this blog. I will be writing more and the more I write the better my info will be, and I will try to touch on a bunch of different subjects. Feel free to hit me up on my IG as well and maybe I can answer some direct questions on there.

Josh is 35, resides in Vermont, The Green Mountain State, and home of The Long Trail. He likes to spend as much time outdoors as he can, be it snowmobiling, working on becoming an Adirondack 46er(12 of 46) or just walking a back road. He has a Redbone Coonhound, named Cooper and is a Visual Merchandising Specialist at Hubbardton Forge, in Castleton, VT. Follow Josh’s adventures on Instagram. 

Risk managers: Taking calculated risks to live a life of adventure. Written by MK McDonald

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Mountains inspire opposing feelings. Feelings of being tall and small simultaneously. Ego can reveal itself while mountaineering and in my experience, any extreme sport for that matter.  In contrast, there are also opportunities to become vulnerable, trekking on the outside of our comfort zone.  How do you find balance when there is so much going on externally and internally when attempting an unknown summit (Direction, safety, maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beauty and nature, photos, meeting like-minded folks,etc)?

In the last 10 years, I’ve finally started to realize while summiting and not summiting, I’ve become a risk manager. Although my parents describe my brother (we go on a lot of hikes together) and I as risk takers.  We are aware of the risks, but we push ourselves anyway. The stories about having to bail out on a hike, I believe are my favorite stories. The last time this happened that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face because it was blizzarding so hard.(Last year, December 22nd on Pikes peak). My brother is born on the winter solstice and he always plans a “death march” as he calls it. This year we just went camping and stayed up to watch the meteor shower! Everyone thought we were nuts when packing up the car and it being snowing and freezing outside. We got to Penitente Canyon, presently a beautiful popular climbing spot with American Indian petroglyphs and Virgin of Guadalupe painted high on a canyon wall left there by Los Hermanos Penitentes, a Spanish religious sect that favored Penitente Canyon for its solace in the 1880s. This is how the canyon got its name.  Anyway, it was like the heavens opened up, the sky was clear, and it really wasn’t that cold (-4 degrees).

The last major trekking trip I went on was to hike two 14ers in the same weekend… Wetterhorn (class 3) and Handies (class 1) with my best friend Nikki.  Needless to say we rocked it on Wetterhorn, on the top it got sketchy. In fact a gentlemen, thank goodness for him, caught us going up the class 4 route. He said “where are you guys going.” And I was like” uh, to the top!” On the right trail we approached the top by climbing up a steep wall, definitely stepping/crawling outside our comfort zone.  At the top we took real selfies of our bare butts.

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The next day we had planned to do our first sunrise summit on Handies peak, a considerably shorter hike than Wetterhorn.  We got lost in the dark, took a wrong turn and felt pretty dumb.  We couldn’t bag an easy class one … whoops!  The sunrise was gorgeous, we were safe and we were still very high up.  You never know exactly what will happen in life as mountaineers and risk managers but we are aware of the outcomes. Keep pushing your comfort zone but know when to bail. Also, learn how to read a map, bring one, know where you’re going!  Understanding your ability and what your level of acceptable risk is, is an important first step before heading out on your next adventure.

MK is an Art Educator, Yogi, Colorado Native, Snowboard Instructor in the winter and Raft Guide in the summer. On her free days she is often travelling, trekking, camping, backpacking, taking a walk with hippopotamus (a special brown dog) hot springing, and all the outdoor things.  In the summer months you’ll find her in a foreign country or living in her 1970 red VW van down by the river! 

Follow MK’s adventures on Instagram!

Happy 2018 Wanderers!

Bidding 2017 adieu wasn’t a difficult task for the general population, and we are stoked about the possibilities of awesomeness that 2018 will hopefully bring. Our family has some amazing (A.Maz.Ing.) adventures already planned this year that we are excited to share with you and we have some fun stuff coming to Live and Let Wander as well!

We’ve enlisted the help of some fellow wanderers, adventurers, photographers, travelers, and all around cool folks from all around North America to contribute to the blog and share their general badassery with us all. We’ve either enjoyed following their stories via the interwebs, adventured with them IRL, or admired them from afar, so we are thrilled and appreciative that they are going to be sharing their outdoor love with Live and Let Wander.

Here’s to many new adventures, good memories, and a lot of love in 2018!

Happy Trails!

Elisa & Matt (& the crew…)

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