Monday, June 6, 2011

Smoke? No Thanks, I'm Trying to Quit...

So, Jasper was nice. Actually it was pretty spectacular with its snowy mountains and steep sided hills and rivers and whatnot. unfortunately I didn't stay as long as I'd thought I would, as I struggled through a planning meeting in reverse (i.e. I worked backwards from being on Salt Spring Island for the 14th June, fitted in everything I wanted to do on Vancouver Island, tracked back to where I was) and discovered that if I wanted to fit it all in, I'd have to leave after the second night. I also found out that all the camp sites I had picked out in Glacier National Park were still closed due to snow, so the best place to stop between Jasper and Whistler was going to be a tiny town called Field, which was about 200km closer to Jasper than I would have liked - nothing personal, it just meant I was going to have a mammoth day to get from there to Whistler. Still, one thing at a tiime.

I drove out to a couple of places local to Jasper and did a couple fo day hikes - real pathetic stuff, really, but several in a day wasn't bad exercise. I was done in by about 5pm thanks to too much driving, bad sleep thanks to snorers in the dorm, and the remnants of the cold which I can't shake, so I took it easy in the evening.

An early start with a couple of hostellers who wanted a lift to the Columbus Ice Field saw the first part of the days drive done in comapny. We stopped at a couple of waterfalls on the way too, which broke the 2 hour journey up. I took a look round the ice centre, but opted out of an hour long trip on to the bottom edge of the glacier due to cost and the fact I could see the glacier out of the centre window, so didn't feel the need to see it closer up. I continued on and stopped a few more times, before getting to Lake Louise, where I went on a 5km hike up the shore line. Again, nothing challenging in it at all, apart from the new shoes I had bought not half an hour earlier and wanted to break in a bit. After that, it was on to Field.

Talk about tiny towns: Field was it! About 3 streets, but many lodges and the tidiest hostel I'd ever stayed at. Couple that to the Truffle Pig - a restaurant that deserved several stars if it didn't already have them - and it turned out to be a top spot. It was in Yoho Natiuonal Park, and the next day I put in 3 shortish hikes, ranging from 3ish to 7ish km in length, for a total of about 15km along and 1.5km of climbing. Much more strenuous, and my shoes rubbed a doozy of a blister on my left foot. Perfect for what I have in store of the trip between Whistler and Vancouver. Bugger. Anyhow, lots of good wildlife, lots of sweating and a feeling of actually enjoying being somewhere for a bit, later and it was another cold beer in the Truffle Pig. Things were looking up.

Today, I have just arrived in Whistler after a mammoth 10hour drive covering about 780km. It was spectacular country, adn half of it was off the main highway - somehting Is hould have been doing more of, but the satnav tends to take me the fastest routes and I don't ahve the maps to argue - apart from this time, when it got in a bother again when I took things into my own hands, and eventually had to re-programme it again to avoid being sent via Vancouver. I had a great time on the winding mountian roads - perhaps too much of a good time, as I found the brakes doiing funny things after a bit. I wondered if I should pull over and see if somethign was wrong (in which case I'd have to stop and try and get help) or just pretend I hadn't noticed and hope I could limp into town and sort it there. I opted for plan A after deciding that if I ignored it and the brakes crapped out altogether, I'd most likely be tipped into a ravine several hundred meters deep. It was a good call. Even to my untrained eye, I couldspot two problems almost immedieatley that I stepped out of the car. The first was the moke pouring out of the front left wheel. The second was the smoke pouring out of the front right wheel. It seems that my enthusiastic (but actually extrememly safe) driving had pushed the brakes past their heat threshold, and they weren't too happy. Still, half an hour later and they had cooled down to the point that the warning light on the dash had gone out again, and I continued on, more sedately this time. the light came on once more on the last part of the down hill, but after that it was level enough to not need the brakes, so they cooled down properlyin the chill mountain air.

So here I sit, in the evening sun, on the balcony of the YHA hostel in Whistler, that not so long ago was built as athlete accommodation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, so you can perhaps imagine the tidy condition of the place. Very nice it is, too.

I shall relax a bit tonight, and hope my raw heel comes a bit righter by tomorrow when I have a trail to hike that sounds very similar to the one I did in Marumbi Park in Brazil, with rocks and ladders and chains to assist in the ascents. Sounds good to me. So, until after then, keep on smiling. I have been.

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