After spending a bizarre New Years in Fauqier and a wonderful couple of nights at the Arrow Beach Cottages, I paddled across Arrow Lake to meet my Sister in law once removed (We need a better word for that relation. I propose: My Sister's love sister. :)) Marta is an inspiring, tough, and strong woman. I'm filled with respect and gratitude for her help in getting me across the Monashee Mountains to Vernon. A special thank you is also in order for her husband Alex who seemed to have a tougher adventure than us while watching the kids at home as we skiied. Thank you Alex! The following words are from Marta:
So I went to the pub the other day. The beer tasted very good. The pub was sandwiched between Kalamalka lake on one side and a rail road on the other. Before meeting up with the lake, the rail road ascends north in the middle of an agricultural valley known as Coldstream. Underneath the Coldstream Valley lies clear groundwater, originating in the Monashee Mountains and getting filtered as it descends towards the lake. I think the fact that I skied 150 km in five days, following the route through three different watersheds, and then descending slowly towards the lake, with all that fresh tasting groundwater beneath me, might be why I was so thirsty!
Markus Pukonen encouraged me to plan a section of his ski route through the interior BC on his "Around the World using only human power" trip. Obviously the next natural step was for me to join him! With two kids under the age of five, working full time, I hadn't exactly been on any backcountry ski trips in a while. My vintage ways sure hit home when Markus was tucking himself into bed the first night, and he casually mentioned he had gotten a sweet MEC sponsorship and there was a new foamie technology called Neoair and it reflected his body heat back at him. Um. I'm not sure if that was the most appropriate time to mention that, as I could literally feel the cold get transferred from the -21C snow, through my "original" thermarest and into the fleshy part of my thighs.
A typical day following Markus Pukonen around the bush went like this: wake up, put old underwear on. Find boots, peel ice off boots, warm hands. Go pee careful not to sink up to thighs in fresh powder and to not knock over perfectly setup stove for tea. Use up ten matches trying to light stove. Break them all. Try lighter. Get blister on thumb. Ask Markus for his lighter. Finally light stove. Cook coffee. Drink coffee with butter. One tablespoon for me, four tablespoons for Markus. Yuck. Pack tent, careful to shake all ice condensation out. Give all heavy stuff to Markus to pack in his pack. Pack one sleeping bag and one pot in my pack. Ski for 4 hours along one logging road. See cougar tracks. See no other people or any sign of people.
Route-find using map and compass to valley bottom. Laugh out loud while watching Markus face plant while attempting to go over a slight jump while carrying two people's gear on back. Oops. Sorry about that route Markus. Cross valley, including crossing unfrozen creek at least four times. Lose Markus. Markus where are you? Find Markus. Reapply wax. Double check route. Eat last yummy cheese and butter and salami wrap leaving just enough for one more lunch before food cache 15 km away. Look for non-existent ATV track. Start Bush Whacking. Whack tele binding every three steps to unstick stuck binding. Find non-existent ATV track, which we had been paralleling for two and a half hours. Go wrong way for 1km. Turn around. Find right clearing, enjoy some turns, and laugh out loud while watching Markus face plant again.
Find a flat spot to camp. Spend 2.5 hours setting up camp including an hour of of gathering firewood (actually twigs is a more accurate description - lots and lots of twigs - the finer the better), eating dinner and drying out socks over fire. Attempt at lighting fire. Send Markus out to get more twigs. Set fire: Hurray! Eat tasty dinner and safely stow last packet of instant oatmeal and chicken noodle soup for breakfast before food cache 10 km away. Setup all waterproof clothing under foamie. Crawl into sleeping bag. Listen to Markus snore. Fall asleep marveling at how happy I feel to do nothing but eat, sleep and ski.
After three and a half days traversing the Monashees we finally emerged back into civilization, and spent the next two days skiing along snowy roadside ditches, railroad tracks, and farmers fields. Finally we emerged at Alexander's pub. Man those beers tasted good. I took a taxi back to my house. Markus of course found a closer place to sleep.
It's so cool to know no matter what, you can always just go from point A to point B under your own power. The amazing thing about being part of Markus Pukonen's adventure is how he rekindled my love of self propelled travel. When I was a kid, we all road bikes or skate boards or walked to get around. We waved at neighbours. We stopped and talked to our friends. What happened to that? In Vernon where I live, 73% of trips are done working 5 km of their destination, the ideal distance to walk or bike. Who cares if it takes half an hour to walk home when you are happily on two wheels, getting your exercise and vitamin D all at once?
Since joining Markus on a section of his adventure, I have changed my ways. I ride both my kids to daycare (they are 3 and 6 and we live at the top of a hill). We ride to soccer as a family. I drop meals off at friends house using my bike and trailer. I walk Emily to the nearest Elementary school from where she takes a school bus to her school. I have chosen to live in a small house 7 blocks away from the office. I have a small 10 year old car. We camp at beautiful local parks in a tent. We enjoy BC, the most beautiful province on earth. We have single track trails that have 1300 m of elevation gain that I can bike to from my door. I work for a company that is a leader in climate change adaptation, mitigation and is trying to think outside the box when it comes to carbon offsets while still making a profit for its Canadian shareholders.
People. Climate change makes all of the other issues of the world so insignificant. Our children's lives will be completely changed for the worst. We are facing the biggest crisis of the last thousand years at least. At best we will be facing mass migration of the human race starting with low lying areas, and more drought, disease, forest fires and floods for the rest of us. I don't want to think about the worst case scenario. There is no way out of this at this point in time, our only option is to minimize the impact of climate change. We must act now. Plus, commuting under your own power is really really fun! It's not really a commute. It's part of my life and my community.
The world has finally started to cooperate on solving the climate change stalemate and I am very encouraged with the Paris convention. Markus - your contribution to leading by example in this extreme way is inspirational. You have helped me reaffirm my love of self powered transport. Now, when someone asks if I want a ride to the start of the mountain bike trail, I say "No thanks. I'll meet you at the trailhead in 22 minutes". However, next time you ask for help with planning a route, I will be putting in that order for a new Sleeping pad, knowing what the "natural progression" might be! Thank you Markus, for saving the planet in this unique and jovial way.
Below is a gallery of many photos from the ski across BC.