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“Rwoo woo!”


Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, my worst fear is being left at the mercy of some dangerous beast. 

This is not how I expected the nightmare to come true.

 Rosco, Wonderdog

Meet Rosco, a.k.a. Mr. Fur Pants, a.k.a. Cujo, a.k.a. Rosco, Wonderdog – my sister’s 18 month old golden retriever and our room mate for the past month while we’ve crashed here between backpacking trips.

Rosco is a very dangerous animal. Not because of his penchant for showing how much he loves you by making confetti out of a favourite personal item (when I say Rosco devours the classics, I speak literally – just ask my former copy of Thoreau’s The Maine Woods). Not because he is fully capable of hauling your arms out of their sockets in his favourite game, tug of war (played with any one of a number of objects including my gor-tex hiking socks). Not because, with his insatiable taste for the elk poop that peppers the landscape of Jasper this time of year, he’s a four-legged e-coli hazard. And not because, at 80 pounds, his love of bounding onto the bed with you in the middle of the night is akin to being periodically buried alive in a golden avalanche.

He’s dangerous because a big, furry galoot of a dog is the ultimate reminder of the domesticity we’re supposed to have foresaken for the next year. Who needs to travel the world when you can get so much joy walking this guy around Pyramid Lake? Why worry about meeting new and exotic people when you can spend hours trying to communicate in caninese about the importance of “sit”, “no” and “no, please don’t eat that”? And how could anyone commit to spending 12 months in tents and hostels when you’re so happy with that big yellow head asleep on your lap while you read the paper?

He may not be a snarling grizzly or a pissed off bull elk, but he’s become a serious threat to the health of our Tundra to Steppe adventure. 

We want one.

Somebody get us out of here quick. 


“You could stay here and love life…”

Al Boileau, future Brother-in-law and Tempter

Right about now, I should be waking up in the Tonquin Valley.

We had planned to hike though this area, with it’s famous view of the mountain range known as the Ramparts, this week. But the gravitational pull of my sister and brother-in-law-to-be’s hospitality, not to mention the incredible fuzziness and general cuteness of their golden retriever, Rosco, persuaded us to delay that trip and rest up for a few more days at their home in Jasper.

Here’s what we’re missing.


I’m sure it’s not that great. 

So instead of boots and bannock, we spent yesterday in our p.j.’s poring over travel guides for the international leg of our trip. We’ve been procrastinating on planning our Africa itinerary and it’s time to get a move on. First stop, Egypt. We’ve put together a rough schedule and it looks like fun. Besides the mandatory temple visits, we’re also looking at becoming beach bums on the Sinai Peninsula for a couple of weeks, after a visit to the Burning Bush of course. Between that and the oases, Nile cruises, desert hiking and camel purchasing (I just think it would be fun to buy a camel), we’re figuring that we’ll be able to kill off a month or so before heading to Kenya and Tanzania. Schedules for those destinations are the subject of this morning’s breakfast meetings. I anticipate some anxious debate over whether a hike up Kilimanjaro is worth its steep price tag.

It’s exciting to be working out the next leg of the trip. But staring at this photo is making my feet itchy…

Robson Panoram

Berg Glacier (left) and Mist Glacier (right) plunge down the face of Mount Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies 

“On every side the snowy heads of mighty hills crowded round, whilst, immediately behind us, a giant among giants, and immeasurably supreme, rose Robson’s Peak”

Milton and Cheadle, 1865

I imagine that being an attendant at the Mount Robson tourist information centre is kind of like being an ice age mountain. With 11,000 people a year registering for overnight trips on its famous Berg Lake trail, 5 times that number inquiring about day trips in and around the icy feet of the Rockies’ tallest peak and uncountable numbers just passing through and wanting a little more intel on the area, I imagine the unstoppable, groaning mass of tourists slowly plowing their way through your kiosk wears you down, rubs off your patience and crushes your sense of humour.

So in retrospect, my approach to the 50-something lady in the BC Parks uniform slumped behind the Berg Lake Trail Pass counter on a hot Monday afternoon couldn’t have been more wrong.

“Any room at the inn?” I ask folksily, smiling as I stroll up to her station.

She peers at me through hula-hoop sized glasses with a mixture of concern and boredom. “There is no inn on the trail, sir. Just a cooking shelter at some of the campgrounds.”

Janine stares at some “Supernatural British Columbia” t-shirts to hide her laughter at me. I switch to plain English, requesting trail passes for the week. I guess I can’t blame the woman for not getting my drift. She’s probably had people ask her whether there’s a hotel at Berg Lake before.

It’s my first encounter with Robson’s curious blend of tourist fool-proofing and political correctness. Outhouse signs ask you to close the toilet lid in four languages. Warnings posted by backcountry trails advise that cliffs are “high” and children should be supervised.

How do you say “duh” in German? (…full story)

Floe Lake at Sunrise 

Floe Lake at Sunrise

Having an adventure shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone wrong. An adventure is interesting enough — in retrospect. Especially to the person who didn’t have it. 

Vilhjalmur Stefansson


To my knowledge, there is no official “Comprehensive Don’t Do This List” in the annals of Rocky Mountain trekking. But if there was, I imagine that hiking in the dark would be on it.

For one thing, darkness has a habit of obscuring what we want to see (let’s say, oh, the Rocky Mountains) and amplifying, or even creating, what we don’t want to see (“Bear?! No, rock.”  “Bear?! No, tree stump.”).

So beginning our 6 day hike on Kootenay National Park’s famous Rockwall Trail in the fading light of a late August evening was not in my original plan. But through a wonderful mix of poor planning, incompetence and bad luck, we started out our latest trip with an adventure.

And a hell of a lot of fun. (…full story)

Where are we now?

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