Part 4- The Walbran
After 6 months of buzzing around the island working and exploring, it was massive relief to finally come back to the Walbran Valley to get back to what I love most, trailbuilding. The fall ended up being really exciting; the core trailbuilding crew, Alex, Maia, Will and myself ended up laying down the most amount of boardwalk yet. After 2 years of figuring things out and improving our woodworking and saw skills, everything clicked together and projects were getting done faster than ever before.
With winter closing in fast, we finished the season in mid November with some big work days labouring well into the night under skis of heavy, unrelenting rain.
The Bugaboo Giant
On the way out from one of our last trips, we came across a tragic sight. After 3 days of torrential rain, a huge, fully grown, healthy cedar had fallen across the road on the the Bugaboo main. This 1000+ year old tree had zero rot, perfect grain and beautiful foliage, but with the ground saturated with water and zero wind protection (the surrounding forest had all been clear cut), the Bugaboo Giant toppled over in the storm.
It took us 3 hours with two chainsaws to cut a gap wide enough for my car (ripping the muffler off in the process). A wild adventure, but an emotional one as well. Although it was an exciting mission to get my car through the tree, it left us feeling sad, confused and shitty. When Christopher Columbus stumbled onto Cuba, this tree was already over 500 years old. It's now just a bunch of dead wood on the side of the road...
Part 3 - Climbing
2017 was a big year for climbing. It was the year I left the gym and seriously started climbing outdoors. My home base was perfectly located; 40mins from Crest Creek Crags, a super varied basalt crag, and 90mins from Horn Lake, the ultimate in overhung limestone craziness. To top it all off, I lived in the heart of Vancouver Island’s Elk River Mountains and I could be on route for the alpine within an hour of leaving my cabin. I got to sport climb all over the island, have some great alpine ascents in Strathcona Park, and tried trad climbing in Squamish for the first time.
Part 2 - a Frosty Spring
Last spring started with a few frustrating attempts to get to the Walbran Valley. The valley and roads got so much snow over the winter that access was completely shut off for almost 6 months. On my last attempt, I hit ice on the road into Port Renfrew and 180º’d into a tree. A pretty sad day for my car Janet, but by no means the end of her reign.
In early April, after a show in Whistler with Walk Off the Earth (my trumpet froze during the outdoor concert and almost didn’t make it through the set), I headed up to the Strathcona Park Lodge for my new job as an outdoor instructor. I moved into a small cabin on top of a hill and started a whirlwind six months introducing kids to the outdoors. In rain or shine, I guided eleven to sixteen year olds down lakes via canoe, up mountains with boots and sweat, and through difficult hikes with lots of complaining. More than anything, the job reasserted my commitment to the outdoors, and showed me that I still have a lot of learning to do.
2017 has a been a year of change; I spent 6 months working as an outdoor educator and guide in Strathcona Park, started rock climbing seriously, had some sweet new adventures, and moved to Nelson BC. After 8 years of putting music first, I wanted to take a step back to self reflect and try new things.
In the next few posts, I would like to present a retrospective of my year through pictures.
Part 1 - Winter Mountains
I started the year with a 4 day solo snowshoe trip in the Forbidden Plateau (Strathcona Provincial Park). Although not a very long trip, it was the most intense feeling of solitude I had ever experienced. No footprints, no trail, no noise, and very dense fog.
After getting a glimpse of Mt Albert Edward for just of a few minutes, completely encased in snow, I became obsessed with the idea of climbing it. I returned a few weeks later with my friend Dan for a fantastic blue bird day ascent.
I’m going to be playing a show with my Dad Thursday, March 30th at Hermann’s Jazz Club. We’re putting on a tribute to Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and it’s going to be suweeet!
Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, for those of you that didn’t go to bebop school, fronted an incredible jazz quartet in Los Angeles during the 1950’s and were the originators of the west/east coast rivalry that continued until the death of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac. They played cool jazz instead of the… ummm, other kinds of jazz. Suck it New York City.
Anyway, our band’s awesome. It’s got Damian Graham on drums, Bruce Meikle on bass, and Rob Cheramy on guitar. Our band members are all alive and not strung out, so we’ve got the edge that Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker never had. Our show is full of real instruments, an all-ages bar, and reasonably priced tickets.
SEE YOU THERE :-) !
Facebook Event Here
Two days after getting back home from the David Simard tour, I was crammed in the back jumper seat of Will’s little pickup truck, barreling towards the Walbran Valley. I was exhausted and sick (a gnarly cold was setting in), but excited. I hadn’t been back in the valley in months and hadn't done any work on the trails since early spring. I was itchy to get back at it.
Last year, I had spent 4 months going up to the valley almost every week, often for 5, sometimes 12 days at a time. We broke our backs brushing old trails that had disappeared, cutting new ones and doing boardwalk repair. Just before heading out on the road with Aidan Knight, I met Will O’Connell, a forest firefighter who was super amped to tackle the massive list of things to do in the valley. We decided that later that year, in the fall, we’d go at it guns blazing.
Six months later, three and half hours from Victoria, cramped and sore, I pulled myself out of the truck, stepped into the cold, wet air, and relished the constant white noise from the river surging below. For the next 17 days (with a total of 4 days off), we worked from sunrise to sunset ripping and replacing decrepit boardwalk before passing out completely exhausted. We’re giving ourselves a forced two week break before starting the saws up again in the December.
- The first half of these recent trips were accompanied by Alex Smith and Maia Beauvais. We could not have done the amount of work that we did without them.
- If you like the idea of a well maintained trail network, think about checking out this gofund me page. A friend of mine setup this fundraiser to help offset the costs of these trail building trips. I had some major repairs come up on Janet, my old Rav4 and without funding we sadly won't be able to continue repairing and maintaining the iconic boardwalk trails.
We’re just getting into the last leg of The Heavy Weight album release tour, it’s started snowing, and I’m starting to get excited to see the coast again. Some highlights so far.
- Kenora: Career first. Someone threw their hat at us, someone else threw a beer can. It was one of the rowdiest show I’ve ever played. People heckled us, yelled at us (and each other), and were mostly horrible. Kenora, you sucked.
- It started snowing yesterday in Saskatoon. Arrrghghhh!!!!
- Played a show in a vintage, still working 1950’s bowling alley in Sackville. It was incredible!!!! Even got to sleep in the lanes that night.
- Rampaged around Lloydminster last night climbing buildings. Boulder problems for the restless urban prairie boy.
- Maybe hungover right now….. :-\
October 5 | Village Guitar Amp & Co. | Saskatoon, SK
October 6 | Almanac | Edmonton, AB
October 7 | Wine-Oh's | Calgary, AB
October 8 | The Ymir Schoolhouse | Ymir, BC
October 14 | The Wise Hall | Vancouver, BC
October 15 | Northern Quarter | Victoria, BC
Hell yes! This route is F*CK*N* AW*SO*M*!!!!!!!
It starts in a forest’y alpine meadow, climbs up a big mountain, goes over the top, down a beautiful ridge, climbs a huge step, into a gorgeous, remote lake, makes you sh•t yourself with terrifying day trips, climbs another big ass col, then gives you permanent knee problems with a 6 hours descent. LOVE IT!
After two days of absolutely stunning trail up and over Mt Albert Edward, we got to the flawless teal waters of Ruth Masters lake a day ahead of schedule. This small, but deep, crystal clear lake is walled in by two mountains and a connecting ridge, giving it a huge amphitheater’esk feel. Trip reports had mentioned the lake’s serene beauty, but they couldn’t of been less understated.
With an extra day on our hands, we decided to stay another night and spend the following day hiking up Augerpoint Mountain. The next morning, we skirted around the lake and, forgoing the easy trail, started climbing up a beautiful little creek. Within minutes, the hiking went to scrambling, to full on climbing. After a series of 15 foot chutes, we decided to traverse across the mountain to try to regain the trail. What we thought would be a 30min traverse turned into a major 5 hour adventure across steep scree fields and class 3-4 rock gully scrambles (class 3 means it’s freaking scary, class 4 means don’t fall). We finally linked up with the trail for the last 50ft to the summit. It was nice to stand at the top, but wayyy nicer to come back down on an easy trail after an exhausting climb powered by cliff bars and adrenaline.
I won’t talk about the next day because the descent down to Buttle Lake broke me. My knees are recovering, but my morale is done forever ;-).
With swarms of mosquitos clouding around our exposed skin, we surveyed the climb in front of us. It was only about a 100ft down with most of it walkable, but a series of near vertical, 10-20ft steps bared our way to a beautiful little tarn that looked perfect for camp. Shifting our 40lbs packs around in a futile attempt to ease our sore shoulders, we tried to find a route down.
It was the second day of a beautiful hike on flower ridge. The day before, we had hiked up the steep trail 1800m up to the beginning of the ridge. Waking up with unbelievable views of the mountains on both sides, we started hiking the ridge, slowly gaining altitude and the illusion of getting closer to the giant mountains on the horizon. Pushing beyond the well worn route of day hikers, we landed on steep scree slopes and barren alpine rock of the ridge summit and eyed our descent down this large grey rock wall.
With some careful prodding and butt sliding, we made it down safely with much more imaginary danger than reality. Unfortunately, the tarn ended up being a bug super camp and with more mosquitos than either of us could handle fully clothed with bug nets on, we decided to turn back and camp as high and as close to the ridge summit as possible.