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Chilcotin Bikerafting Route

On Saturday Aug 3 I should be starting my 8 day bikerafting trip through the Chilcotins. Here is a route map:

Chilcotin Bikerafting Trip Route

I’ll start at the big yellow dot. The first part will be an alpine hike-a-bike (yellow) westwards over to a river valley heading north. Then I’ll packraft (red) a few kilometers down this. This enters the Lord River valley via a big steep waterfall, so I’ll have to bushwhack (yellow) a km or two down to the valley bottom. Then I’ll packraft 20 km northwards down the Lord River and the smaller lakes it goes through (red), finally emerging at the south end of Taseko Lake. From here there is an established trail (blue) going back to Gold Bridge via Warner Pass.

There should be lots of grizzlies and bugs, and epic views. The safe aspect is that I’ll be attempting the hard parts — hike-a-biking and packrafting — first, so if there are problems I will have time to get out. The very first part is up that side valley to the north of the Bridge River. The road goes further up than Google Earth shows, apparently. I found this report from a trip that headed east up from that valley into the alpine. I’ll be starting from the same place, but heading west up into the alpine. This photo was taken looking northwards, right around where the yellow dot is:

Looking back down to valley from which we ascended.

I tried to line up Google Earth with that:

Start of trip

I’ll head up the creek to the end, and then go left up the western fork up to the alpine. Then I’ll turn left and head west over the alpine. Doesn’t look too hard … I’ve said that before!

You can follow my progress on my Spot GPS map page. I’ll update it every night.

Here is my beast:

(no time to take a photo, I’m leaving in a couple hours — I’ll post em up after)

Front fork:

  • 2 water bottles
  • alcohol bottle
  • bear spray
  • water filter

Handle bars:

  • Tarptent Moment
  • two “Mountain Feedbag” stem bags with lunch inside
  • maps and other small items in the pocket in front of the tent

Frame:

  • “Gas Tank” bag on top tube which has my Nikon V1 and flash
  • frame bag has stove set, clothes, tool kit, and a few other things

Rear rack:

  • packraft goes on top, with paddles strapped to the sides
  • innertube and piece of spare tire are strapped to the rack mounts by the seat stays
  • tire pump mounted on top of rear fender by seat stays
  • Thermarest mounted under rear rack, wedged in above fender at the very back end of the bike

Pannier

  • food, some other clothes, electronics, all other miscellaneous stuff
  • Zipshot tripod mounted on rack / bike frame beside pannier

Other side of rack:

  • sleeping bag lashed directly to rack
  • solar panel mounted in an Ocean Spray bottle right beside this

May 25 to 28 — Long Beach, California to Alfonsinas, Mexico

This year my two week vacation was to Baja California with my friend Mark and his family in Long Beach. Kayaking the BC coast will have to wait until next year (but I am planning a big 8 day bikerafting trip through the Chilcotins in August, so stay tuned — hey, that’s in a week!)

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The flight goes right by Yosemite.

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Mark picked me up at LAX, then we ran some errands, including going down to the Marine Institute at Los Angeles Harbour…

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… to pick up a bottle of Nitrox we’d use to refill the tires at some point on the trip, after we leave the gravel and get back on pavement (for a smoother ride off road, you air down the tires. But this low pressure isn’t good on sealed roads).

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First wildlife sighting of the trip.

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Long Beach

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Feral parrots are still living in the palm trees at Belmont Pier in Long Beach, right where I used to live.

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Getting my stuff together at Mark’s house. We left 3:30 Sunday morning to avoid freeway traffic and to arrive at our destination not too late.

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We zoomed down to San Diego, then turned east on Interstate 8. Over the pass into the Imperial Valley is windy, and the turbines appeared against the sunrise.

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Dieseling up at Calexico before crossing the border. I’m a conspiracy buff myself, but are they “chem”trails, or just “con”trails from water vapour from combustion in the plane’s engines? C6H14 + O2 –> CO2 + H20

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Marathon in Mexicali

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700 km later, we hit San Felipe for breakfast and did some tourist shopping. Here we are, stuck in traffic on the strip.

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They are paving the road all the way south from San Felipe. Very sad to see the gravel road go, that was a classic. They want “development”. The problem now is you can’t get off the highway down to the little coves we used to go to.

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Finally hitting gravel, and airing down. They have only gotten so far with the paving.

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Once across this arroyo with a bridge, the pavement will continue.

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Shortly afterwards (150 km from San Felipe) we got to Alfonsinas, which is a spit a few kilometers long that has a row of beachfront houses along it. Alongside the spit is a runway and many people fly in rather than drive.

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At the end of the spit is a restaurant / hotel. But the tide was extremely high that afternoon so we couldn’t get over (that’s the runway submerged).

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Oh darn, we had to wait it out on the beach.

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Quincy

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Finally … dinner.

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Looking back down the spit from the restaurant

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Frigate

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These gigantic 2″ wasp things were quite common most places we went.

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We didn’t have a proper bike rack so we just lashed my bike to the front grill. I thought I had put padding on all the rub points…

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Damn! Missed one! Ouch! That was nasty, but it didn’t seem to be in a critical location. The perils of owning an aluminum bike…

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It rides very well on the sand, much better than on snow. The tidal range here is huge, wider than anywhere I’ve seen.

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This one is shorter:

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The palapa I set my tent up in. There are a few reasons it is open on this side, and closed on the other. One is the view of the beach, and the other is…

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That evening, all of a sudden, the winds shifted from a nice gentle sea breeze to coming from the desert, blowing out off the interior. It got stinking hot and ferocious for most of the night. I got to set my brand new tent up in the dark, for the first time, in the windy palapa. I was peppered with a fine dusting of sand that made it through the thatch.

Here are a couple pieces of video stitched together showing the wind and the sand dollars (I don’t have the resources right now to turn them into little movies):

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The sand dollars are a little different down here.

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Up from the beach at the road is a store / restaurant. We were sitting there eating dinner when this monstrosity pulled up.

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It was John and Betti from the UK! They shipped it over to Halifax and drove around Canada in winter, then made their way south through the US. They had just entered Mexico en route to South America. One of the first things he said to me was, “You must really love the sun!” If you’ve seen me in Mexico you actually haven’t seen much of me, because I cover up. You don’t want to mess with skin cancer! There’s a reason the Arabs wear sheets. I’m a pasty northerner, I’m not sand people.

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It’s a Mercedes fire truck that he converted over. He made the box himself.

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Being from the UK, he really doesn’t like Range Rovers. Of course, a whole pack of them pulled up beside us.

We spent a few days at Alfonsinas with some of Mark’s friends from work, and their friends, all marine biology people (all Colombian too). They weren’t going further south though since they didn’t have the time or proper vehicles for it.

Ring Pass, Attempt #2

It was the July 1st long weekend, time to try crossing over Ring Pass again from the Callaghan Valley to the Squamish Valley. I sold my Mukluk fat bike to my friend Mark in California (story to come) so I took my regular mountain bike instead.

This time I drove my electric car up. I went up Thursday evening in the dark and the rain. I brought my generator with me so I was a little careless about wasting battery, and I didn’t even start with a full charge. I camped at the Chase Main where it meets the highway (where the road up to Cloudburst Mountain starts from). The generator wasn’t working properly and after 20 minutes I checked my batteries. It wasn’t charging them, it was draining them! I went from 25 km range left to 15 km! And it was 30 km into Whistler! Luckily I had my iPhone so I could check the internet for towing companies. I wasn’t looking forward to an expensive tow the next morning and I curled up in the front seat at 3 a.m. for 2 hours of uncomfortable sleep.

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I awoke at the break of dawn at 5 a.m. to a train rumbling by. I decided I’d just crawl along the highway and see how far I got.

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Amazingly I got to Whistler Creekside! I pulled into a restaurant at 6:30 and plugged in for 20 minutes. This is the view up Whistler Mountain while I waited.

I felt kind of awkward with the morning guy inside probably wondering why I was plugged into his outlet so I risked the remaining 5 km over to downtown Whistler where there is a proper charger.

I carefully drove that section and as I pulled into the parking lot I lost power, the car totally died. I turned into the closest stall and … I shit you not … it had a plug beside it! What are the chances? It was just a regular 120 V plug, but good enough. I had to charge it for an hour and a half before the thing would even let me move it. But at least I avoided an embarrassing and expensive tow.

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Then I went down to the free Level 2 charger at the City Hall. There are also 4 more chargers across the street in the Day Lots (beside those trees on the very left), which are a bit more secluded and shaded. I’ll go there next time.

So I could have made it to Whistler no problem if I hadn’t blared my radio most of the way, had started with a full charge, and hadn’t wasted 10 km with my broken generator!

It would be another 5 hours for a full charge so I went for a little ride around the Whistler trails. There are tons and they range from easy to more technical but I didn’t do too many technical ones. This was just to scope out my bike and gear and deal with any issues. I had just gotten a frame bag which turns out to be too small, but it still works, and a “gas tank” bag that goes on the top tube. My Nikon V1 fits in there perfectly.

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Lost Lake with most of my gear, minus my packraft and snowshoes and pfd.

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I finally did some basic video editing but the free Windows Movie Maker software sucks. I’m going to get the Cyberlink Power Director which is much better. But here is a sample of the video I typically get, which is pretty poor quality (the original HD is really nice). This is just the raw footage. Actually making a movie will have to wait until I get my new computer and software sorted out.

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This mount under the down tube really works. I’ll try to move the camera over a bit to the right so the tire isn’t right in the middle and you can better see where I’m going. It’s a lot harder to mount a GoPro camera on a bike than you’d think. The issue is vibrations, so it needs to be very sturdy, on a short mount. Plus, anything on the front wheel or handlebars swings too much from left to right. So what are you left with? The down tube, and your chest, basically, and a few other interesting locations that don’t really show the view out the front. Plus when you are loaded with bikepacking gear that obstructs a lot of the views.

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This is “disc golf”, whatever that is. Probably some weird legacy from the Olympics.

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In summer Whistler turns into a mountain biking mecca.

By 1 in the afternoon my car was ready to go, and 5 hours in Whistler Village is more than enough, so I was off, with 11 bars out of 12 on the battery charge. I was heading for the Rubble Creek parking lot at the base of the Black Tusk hike. It is a provincial park so the lot would be good for parking. And I only used 2 bars to get there from Whistler! It’s mostly downhill.

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Since I got there on Friday afternoon before a Monday long weekend I got the best spot in the lot — shaded all day, which is important for keeping the car from turning into an oven which is not good for the batteries.

I was off by 3 and headed 8 km up the highway to the Callaghan Valley.

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Along the way, the Cheakamus River was raging over the Daisy Lake dam.

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At Brandywine Falls there was this map showing the historical native bands. It described them as being excellent mountaineers. I wondered how I’d compare on this trip…

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It was very lightly raining the whole way which kept me nice and cool.

When I got to the gravel mainline up the valley the rain picked up, and it got steeper. This meant I went slower. And the mosquitos were insane. That’s one way to push yourself up a hill faster — trying to outrun a cloud of mosquitos! I was maintaining 6 km/hr but that wasn’t enough. 10 km/hr is needed. After an hour the road got less steep so I was able to outrun them.

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Taking a few seconds off from swatting mosquitos to look back down the road.

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At one point I stumbled onto a big black bear 50 m down the road. He took off into the bushes.

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I got to Callaghan Lake and there were a couple other cars there with campers.

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Callaghan Lake in the rain

I felt pretty proud about fitting all my gear onto my bike; it’s so compact and light … yet functional. I’ve put a lot of thought into getting that gear weight down and I’m noticing the results. I even had my packraft, snowshoes, and pfd on there. But there’s still some weight savings to go…

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I set up camp, had dinner, and then went to bed.

I should also mention how my body is turning into a machine. I am amazing myself at how fast I can climb up the hills. All that cycling and Grouse Grind training is paying off. Just put food in, and I get climbing out. It’s good to have my body back. The good part about being up here is that it’s mostly over 1000 m elevation so I get some mild altitude training.

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The worst bear cache ever, but at least it got the bags off the ground.

The next morning was partially sunny and I decided to go for a little jaunt on Callaghan Lake. The outflowing river is right beside the campsite.

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All the pollen was collecting at this end of the lake.

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The exit from Callaghan Lake

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Thick pollen

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I packed up and headed for the trail I took three months earlier in the snow. Unfortunately it was still half covered in snow, and the trail was narrow and tortuous through the mud and roots.

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I lugged my bike through a few kilometers of that before finally hitting the main service road up.

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That was much better, but the further I went up, the more snow-covered it was, and it was not easy lugging my bike over the snow.

This is me lugging my bike over the snow.

At the 11 km mark (Callaghan Lake is at about 8 km) I decided to switch over to the packraft but there were still bare patches so it wasn’t straightforward at all. Plus all that red algae stuff that grows on melting snow was accumulating on the bottom of the raft and making it sticky.

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I got to the lodge and turned off the trail towards Conflict Lake. I could see that on the other side there were lots of bare patches, being south facing, and that was where I would be going up towards Ring Pass. I could see that the final push up to Ring Lake was very steep and there was no way I’d be able to do it in the time I had. Damn! Thwarted again!

So I decided to set up camp there above Conflict Lake, which was nice. But there weren’t any good spots, and I didn’t want to camp on the snow, it would be too cold.

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But wait! I have an inflatable mattress!

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Perfect!

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Ring Pass. Someday I’ll get there… Maybe in September when there’s no snow.

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The next day I headed back down, along a different trail, the lower “Wild Spirit” trail, which is a rough road suitable for quads. It was hot that day.

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Summer had sprung.

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The farther down I got, the hotter it got and the more luxurient the forest became.

This is me riding down a steep section.

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And the chest mount, which is a bit shakier.

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Very pleasant riding through 10 km of old growth cypress / balsam / hemlock.

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Black Tusk over Callaghan Creek

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Alexander Falls. It’s pretty big.

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The final 3 km was the steep push up to the parking. The lot was very busy, being a summer long weekend. I timed that well. I decided to push myself as hard as I could up the hill, for training purposes, because I had no more cycling to do after that. It was really hot.

I was pretty disgusting after all that so I went and took a bath in Rubble Creek. Except it was just above freezing. The air was 30 degrees and the water was basically zero. I couldn’t even hold my hands in it, it was too painful. But I could stand in it, and I splashed the water over myself. Man that felt good.

I made it back home with 1 bar left on the batteries, no probs. Hopefully soon they will get the chargers installed at Squamish. They have them everywhere now, except the one place you need them — Squamish. Go figure.

Taking on Big Oil … And Winning

I made a submission to the National Energy Board’s Northern Gateway Advisory Panel back in February. I didn’t post my speech here because the energy situation has become so grave and depressing I feel it’s tainting my blog with negativity. However, a few people have asked to see what I said (and I wish I had stuck an audio recorder in my pocket — it was a pretty powerful speech I gave, starting off with a bit of trepidation which turned into forcefulness, frustration, and anger rising over the ten minutes to its peak when they cut me off). Here is the transcript I read from … very quickly. The only change I’d make is that it wouldn’t require North America’s entire proven reserves of natural gas to extract and refine the oil sands, it would only require half. And this would be mitigated by advancements in increasing the net external energy return, which is the net energy return adjusted for internally produced and process gas that is liberated from bitumen extraction and can be used in place of externally imported natural gas. Also, North America no longer imports half the oil it consumes. It’s now down to 1/3 as a result of falling consumption and increased production.

The Northern Gateway propaganda seems to have ended so it seems we may have been successful in thwarting the pipeline … for now. We’ll have to wait and see what happens after the US dollar hyperinflates and China emerges with the new reserve currency. Then they may be dictating whatever they want to us. On the other hand, America will still maintain its war machine, reserve currency or not, and I don’t think China would be interested in messing with that. So it seems more likely that America will just force control of the oil sands to supply North America instead, which seems like a much more sensible option.

It also seems that they may instead try to pursue the rail option to ship bitumen to Alaska ports instead. This would pose less of a risk for pipeline spills because the bitumen would be solid in the rail cars. But it would need to be heated up again at the port to reliquify it which would require further energy inputs. It also doesn’t address the sovereignty issue of our country’s assets being controlled by communists. Thanks for that, Stephen Harper!

Hello, thank you for listening to me. I am a soon-to-be Professional Mechanical Engineer (currently an EIT) with one year left until full accreditation. I am bound by APEGBC’s Code of Ethics, whose first line states that:

“Members … shall uphold the values of truth, honesty and trustworthiness and safeguard human life and welfare and the environment. In keeping with these basic tenets, members and licensees shall:

(1) hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, and the protection of the environment…”

Since my professional specialization is in designing pipelines and factories, and doing energy analyses for power plants, I am therefore obligated by my professional code of ethics to comment on the danger presented to the public and the environment by the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.

One of my first thoughts when I heard of this pipeline idea was to question why we are proposing to export oil from North America, when North America is already a major oil importer. In fact, if you go to the BP Statistical Review, you’ll see that North America as a whole imports 3.2 billion barrels of oil a year. This is a full 10% of global oil production, of 31 billion barrels.

So why on earth are the Alberta oil companies proposing to EXPORT oil from North America, when North America already imports half of the oil it consumes? Well, because we can fetch a higher price in the Asian market than in North America, that’s why. Why is that? Because North America supposedly has a “glut” of oil. But if we have a “glut” of oil here, then why do we need to import half of what we consume? This doesn’t make sense.

The answer to that paradox lies in the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In other words, oil is traded in dollars, and this enables the US to maintain extraordinary trade deficits, which are mostly composed of oil imports.

Now, this situation is all fine and dandy, as long as oil continues to be traded in dollars. But if you’ve been paying attention lately, the US Federal Reserve has officially announced that it will engage in unlimited monetary stimulus in an attempt the jumpstart the US economy. What this really means is that US debt is spiralling out of control and the only way they can service it is to print infinite amounts of dollars. This money printing will not end until the dollar’s value is destroyed through hyperinflation over the next few years.

In order to maintain the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency over the last few decades, the Federal Reserve has been suppressing gold prices, since cultures outside of North America value gold as a monetary asset, but the US wants them to hold dollars instead. The Chinese know this, which is why they have been buying up all of America’s historical gold stockpiles at artificially low prices. What this means is that when the US dollar hyperinflates and other countries reject it as payment for international transactions, then China will come out backing its currency with gold. Then China will have the new global reserve currency. THIS is why Alberta wants this pipeline built to China.

When this shift happens, the US will no longer be able to import 13% of global oil production anymore, and US oil consumption will necessarily drop by half. When this happens, the supposed “glut” of oil in North America will overnight turn into an extreme shortage. I am therefore wondering how further starving North America of vital energy resources is in any way “in the public interest”. We need the oil here. It’s our oil, not China’s.

Now, one could respond to this imminent shortage of oil in North America by proclaiming that, “No Problem, when this happens, we’ll just produce more oil here in North America to take up the slack. There is vast amounts in the Canadian oil sands and US oil shales, enough for centuries of supply.”

Actually, this is not so. In fact, US oil production peaked back in 1971 and has been dropping pretty much steadily ever since, despite all the media hype about the tight shale oil explosion in the Bakken. Those numbers are not significant in the grand scheme of things, and they merely offset declines from existing fields. Today, on a per capita basis, the US produces half the oil it did 40 years ago. This is a direct result of the phenomenon of Peak Oil. The US peaked 40 years ago, and now the world is at Peak Oil today.

“Again, No problem! Right? The Alberta oil sands will become the new Saudi Arabia, and we’ll be able to supply the world with oil for decades to come, and become one of the wealthiest countries as a result! Just like Saudi Arabia did!”

Yet again, this is not so. If you go look at the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board’s annual report (this is the branch of the Alberta government that overseas the energy sector), on page 2 of that multi-hundred page document, you will see that the entire recoverable Alberta oil sands deposit amounts to 170 billion barrels. The entire underground resource is 1.8 trillion barrels, but only about 10% of this is actually recoverable as real oil. The estimated ultimate recovery is 315 billion barrels, which supposedly accounts for future technological advances and price increases.

These numbers sound big, but in fact the entire recoverable Alberta oil sands deposit, according to the Alberta government, represents SIX YEARS of global oil consumption. And would you believe that the Alberta oil sands deposit represents about a quarter of the world’s remaining oil reserves? Therefore, the world’s current oil reserves will last maybe another 30-40 years, at current consumption rates.

“But we’ll be discovering LOTS more oil in the future, right?” No, unfortunately, global oil discovery rates are vastly below consumption rates. All the best deposits have already been creamed out. We are now left with difficult, slow, and expensive oil deposits in the Arctic or deep ocean, and of course the Alberta and Venezuela oil sands.

From this it can be understood that the reason there has been such focus placed on the Alberta oil sands lately is NOT because it is a particularly good oil deposit. It’s actually pretty poor quality. Rather, there has been so much focus because the world is rapidly running out of light sweet crude. This is why oil prices have risen so much over the last few years, and these high prices are necessary to make the Alberta oil sands activities economically viable.

In fact, global oil production rates have not increased in over 7 years, despite prices more than doubling over that period. This is the ultimate proof that the world is at, or very near, Peak Oil.

The reason the Alberta oil sands deposits require such high oil prices is twofold. Firstly, it isn’t oil – it’s solid bitumen, like pavement. This has to be refined into oil. The processes required to do this are complex and capital intensive, and therefore expensive. Secondly, they require vast amounts of external energy to be brought in to do the work of both extracting and upgrading the bitumen into synthetic crude oil.

If you look at the Royal Society of Canada’s recent multi-hundred page report on the oil sands, you will see that these processes require natural gas inputs of about 1/5th of the energy contained in the final produced oil. Therefore, the Alberta oil sands deposits have a net energy return of 5:1. You have to put in 1 unit of energy, and you get 5 out. This compares with historical light sweet crude, of which the world is now rapidly running out, with about 100:1 or even 200:1 net energy return.

These numbers highlight the historical trends in oil extraction. We’ve always gone for the deposits with the highest net energy return first, and we’ve since worked our way down to the poorest quality reserves which we’re now left with. This 5:1 net energy return ratio will continue to drop as the best oil sands deposits get developed first.

But the problem here is that you can only go so low. There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, so when we approach a net energy return of 1:1, that oil sand will not be available to us as a source of energy. In fact, in order to provide enough surplus energy to run the rest of society, a minimum net energy return of about 4:1 is required, which is pretty close to where we are now. This is why the vast expanses of Colorado oil shale are not recoverable as a source of energy, and why production rates there are effectively zero, despite there being trillions of barrels of oil-equivalent kerogen solids underground — it’s not oil.

Currently, according to the website of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the easy-to-produce deposits of natural gas are in decline. And when you do the number crunching, it turns out that in order to process the entire recoverable oil sands deposit of 300 billion barrels would require more than the entire proven North American natural gas reserves of about 300 trillion cubic feet.

The fantastic claims made in the media about how North America has centuries of natural gas left are pure fabrication. These refer to the total underground resource, not the recoverable reserves. Furthermore, when oil production soon begins declining, then consumption of natural gas will inevitably increase to compensate.

So then, how are we as a continent responding to the Peak Oil problem? Well, we’re trying to dig it out of the ground and export it even faster, leaving us with even less oil in the future!

I suggest that this is not in the best interests of our country, nor our children’s future, nor even our own future, because these oil shortages are happening right now, not merely decades down the road. Simply adapting to less energy in the future when we run out of oil will not be a feasible strategy, because there is a certain minimum amount of energy needed to maintain complex modern society.

The unfortunate problem we face is that on a global scale, 1/5th of global energy use, according to the FAO, is dedicated to food production and processing. In order to produce 1 Calorie of food in North America requires about 7 Calories of fossil fuel inputs. Food comes from fossil fuels. Without fossil fuels, or an equivalent energy substitute, it will not be possible to maintain 7 billion people on the planet. Therefore, we have no choice – we MUST replace fossil fuels with alternative energy before they run out, or quite simply most of the world will starve. We currently appropriate about 20 % of the planet’s net primary production for food and biofuels. Without external energy inputs such as from fossil fuels, we would easily push this well beyond 100%, which is not possible. We have overshot the planet’s carrying capacity by about 5 fold.

On a global basis, 97% of global energy supply comes from burning complex carbon molecules, which includes fossil fuels, biofuels, and food. The other 3% of global energy supply comes from the so-called renewables of nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. So clearly, alternative energy has a long way to go to make a dent in overall energy supply. Given that we are at Peak Oil today, we really ought to be intensively developing renewable energy systems right now.

Are we? Basically, no. Hydro is nowhere near capable of replacing fossil fuels on a continent-wide basis; it’s a no-go because we’ve already dammed the best rivers.

Timed out here…

But the problem in North America is that we have a cultural infatuation with economic growth. Currently, in Canada, that economic growth comes primarily from increasing unsustainable fossil fuel extraction activities. Therefore, Canada’s economy is growing at a rate greater than the increases in contributions from renewable energy such as hydro, wind and solar. We are becoming EVEN MORE dependent on fossil fuels, not less! At a time when the world is running out of fossil fuels!

The problem we face is that it requires energy to build out renewable energy infrastructure. Currently, that comes from fossil fuels. I have to ask what we are going to use for energy when it comes time to develop renewable energy systems in a big way, once we’ve sold all our oil to China and we desperately need what little fossil fuels we still do retain for food production.

This is why economic growth built around exporting our remaining oil deposits overseas is not in any way in the national interest. Our national interest is in keeping these precious energy reserves here and using them to build out a renewable energy infrastructure before it’s too late.

Thank you.

Snowbiking The Callaghan, Whistler

Since my last bikepacking trip up Cloudburst Mountain was so much fun I was itching to get out and try it again. That was a circle route up over the pass and back around the mountain. So I spent some more time poring over Google Earth and found out that there aren’t a whole lot of other opportunities like that for circle routes in that area because most mountains are just too tall.

I went to MEC to get some real maps and discovered that there is a route leading from the Callaghan Valley (near Whistler) that goes west over a pass by Ring Lake and then down logging roads into the Squamish Valley. Great, I’ll just have to wait until August…

But … I just got my snow bike… so I can handle some snow. It won’t do powder but packed trails are OK. And I also have snowshoes, and a new packraft. So I decided to plan an adventure for March instead. My hope was that if the skies were clear the snow would be crusty enough that I could ride my bike over the pass if I got up early in the morning before it started to thaw. That’s super simple to do and I could easily cover 20 km a day if it’s crusty.

(I was planning to make a movie of this trip instead of a writeup but it just takes too long with the free Windows Movie Maker software. So I’ll just post some raw footage here; otherwise I’d never get it done. I don’t even have time to sort out the videos right now, actually. I have other posts that I want to focus my time on so I’ll just leave space here for them and add at a later time.)

I was super stoked to be trying out my new gear. My three day weekend of March 22 was coming up fast and the weather forecast was for glorious sunshine the whole weekend. I spent all my spare time the previous week working fast and furiously to get the kit together. It’s amazing how much stuff there was to do and I couldn’t possibly manage to get out of the house until late Friday morning.

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Fresh powder across from Brittania Beach

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A little further along, coming into Squamish and this view of Mount Garibaldi

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Above the highway, looking back down the Cheakamus Valley towards Squamish and Vancouver. The Squamish Valley merges from the right just over that hill. I was hoping to end the circle tour by packrafting down the Squamish to where you’re looking, and riding my bike back up the Cheakamus below to further up the valley where I’d park my car.

Video at rest stop.

I’ve never been to the Callaghan Valley before, which is an outdoor recreation area. It has the ski jump from the 2010 Winter Olympics, which apparently rarely gets used now. They punched a paved road way up the valley for that, which makes access easier, but at the same time just constitutes more “development” of our remaining wild areas. When will it stop? When will Whistler stop growing?

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That’s Cloudburst Mountain! That I never actually saw last time when I circumnavigated it.

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Tired of looking at Cloudburst Mountain yet?

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I ended up parking in a big lot at the valley bottom, beside the Whistler garbage transfer station, that snowmobilers use. The guy charged me $10 for two nights, half the normal rate for snowmobilers because I wasn’t snowmobiling. Finding overnight parking up the Callaghan Valley is particularly tough apparently, especially in winter.

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Ready to go on my first winter bikepacking trip.

I headed up the 8 km paved road, starting at 500 m and finishing at the cross country ski area an hour and a half later, up at 800 m.

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Looking up the road. It was fairly busy.

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Looking back across the Cheakamus to the ever watchful Black Tusk (2400 m) towering over the whole area.

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The road crosses the Callaghan River.

I had called earlier to confirm if I could come up and Kim came out to see me as soon as she saw I was there. They were a bit worried when I told them of my plans, especially since I had no compass (don’t need one) or map (all in my head). I had my Spot GPS though in case of emergency.

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I set off up the hills and found it surprisingly easy to chug up the groomed runs. I did the grind for a few hours as I ascended the valley.

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Handlebars: small sleeping bag, rain jacket
Front fork: water on right, alcohol on left. Thermarest on right in green sack, some freeze dried dinners on left in blue sack. GoPro video camera mounted above front wheel looking forward.
Top tube: Zip Shot tripod velcro strapped to the tube for quick removal, and rain pants strapped up front.
Under down tube: tire pump, and GoPro camera looking forward behind front wheel.
Frame bag: cell phone, food, tools, water filter, a few clothes.
Rear rack: packraft in blue sack, paddle shafts, snowshoes, cookset against seat tube, and bear spray wedged in there for quick access.
Panniers: one contains winter sleeping bag, other one contains my too-large tent and more clothes. Various remaining knicknacks throughout as well. Each contained one paddle blade.

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Up and up…

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I was running low on water but there were a few groundwater / meltwater streams beside the road which I could use to fill my bottles, without having to filter.

video

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I could hear a helicopter flying back country skiers in to the mountains across the valley.

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Back country skier tracks

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Snowmobiler tracks. There are actually two black dots in there (top, left of center) which are the snowmobilers.

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The valley beckoned.

I was heading up the Callaghan Mainline (gravel road), which is a cross country ski and access trail in winter. After reaching Callaghan Lake I headed left to go towards Callaghan Lodge.

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On the way there I passed some guests from the lodge coming down the access road I was climbing. They were all very interested in my bike. For once, I was the tourist attraction. That’s not me.

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I was hoping the trail would flatten out after Callaghan Lake, which it did for a short while, but then it started climbing for a few more kilometers.

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The snow was kind of melting down at the bottom but at the top it was still fresh powder. It wasn’t crusty.

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Riding these kinds of trails requires active thermal management. As the saying goes for winter travel, “If you sweat, you die”, so I was pulling layers off to stay cool when climbing. But then if I’d have a downhill section I’d have to put them back on.

My plan was to go as far as the trails would take me and then snowshoe a little further, camp, and continue on over the pass the next day. I’d packraft down the Squamish, then ride back up to the car.

But at the end of Day 1 I was totally beat. Past the lodge the trail got progressively worse. Four hours of hard climbing was taking its toll on me. I normally do the Grouse Grind in Vancouver quite often which is great training for high intensity climbing, but it only lasts 45 minutes or so. Plus I was up at 1300 m now, which is beyond where I normally train, so I could feel the altitude.

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I basically got to the end of the trail and crashed, and set up camp 20 feet beyond…

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Paul at work told me a trick to avoid soaking your boots from the snow — wrap them in plastic bags. This worked reasonably well but some snow still got in there. The plastic was pretty thin and some holes developed.

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That was it for the day.

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View from my tent

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It was getting cold too — minus 5 or so, and dropping fast as the sun went behind the mountains. Luckily I had been winter camping before and learned a few lessons … like, don’t leave your wet boots out when it gets to minus 20 C…

I didn’t make that mistake again but I discovered a few more complications to camping in sub zero weather. Firstly, my alcohol stove was hard to get going at -5. I should have put the alcohol in my pants to warm it up first. Secondly, it’s kind of hard to wash your pots when the food crusties freeze solid in a few seconds. That takes some more planning, especially if you want to use that pot to melt snow for drinking water afterwards.

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Another challenge I anticipated was that the stove would melt through the snow and collapse, so I cleverly brought along some tinfoil to place it on. But it was too thin and the stove still ended up tilting a bit. With all the snow melting, etc. I used about twice the alcohol I usually do.

I got my two sleeping bags set up, with my water bottle, water filter, alcohol, and boots in bed with me.

The other thing that happened was that I couldn’t curl up to stay warm because this caused leg cramps after all the hard work that day. I have to stretch out which means I get colder.

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Ring Pass is thataway.

That night I spent a lot of time wondering if I should risk going over the pass or just head back down. My concern was that the snow went way down to 400 m, so I’d have a lot of downhill hiking through the snow on the other side, with sticks and twigs I’d have to pull my boat over. I’d see how my snowrafting went in the morning, then reassess.

It was a chilly night, probably down to minus 15, but I survived reasonably well. In the morning the trail groomer came by in his machine. I don’t think he was too happy with me camping right there beside the trail, but oh well, it’s public land. Skiers stopped and talked as they went by, and were quite interested and impressed. It’s not hard people, you just need the right gear!

I think snow biking will soon be taking off in Whistler. Years ago it was snowboarders invading the slopes and causing a caffuffle with skiers. Now I think it will be snowbikes to invade the ski slopes, causing a caffuffle with boarders and skiers. They can put them on the chairlifts in summer, so why not in winter too?

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Morning flurries

Video of snowrafting.

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Conflict Lake is quite scenic. Until I traipsed across it with my snowraft, that is…

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It’s pretty hard to pull through the snow. I think that’s because of the rubber bottom material which isn’t very slippery. I will try to find some more slidy material to put underneath for pulling across the snow.

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That’s Ring Pass, right of center.

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After a kilometer around one side of Conflict Lake I’d had enough and rejoined the cross country ski trail to flip back over to my bike again.

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Doing the switcheroo in the blazing sunlight and strong winds, and cold temperatures.

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Above you can see the track the skiers used to climb up to the knoll on the right. And below this track you can see all their ski tracks when they carved their way back down. I’ve never done back country skiing, maybe I should try. No time though, or money. Too many other things to do.

Video of undulating trails.

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Nice bike portrait in the forest on my way back down

Videos going back down.

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Crossing Callaghan Creek the other way.

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That’s it!

I decided to drive down to the Squamish Valley and sleep there in my car for the night. Tomorrow I’d ride up the valley and packraft back down what I was originally hoping to do all in one circuit from Ring Pass.

Callaghan

Better Late Than Never — Horseshoe Bay to Ambleside

I have paddled (almost) every meter from where I started, in the Fraser River in Richmond (2010), up to where I’ve gotten so far, Bella Bella (2012). But I actually started this trip back in 2008 when I paddled the length of West Vancouver’s shores. Unfortunately I was sidelined by a completely preventable and unnecessary sports injury (nerve entrapment) in my leg for the two years between. Then in 2010, just before the trip officially started, I did the sections from Richmond to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Ambleside. And a few weeks after this, I started the trip for real.

The paddle along West Vancouver’s shores went the opposite direction, however, due to the prevailing winds. I headed east, since I really don’t like paddling into the wind if I don’t have to. One September day, the 26th to be precise, I loaded all my gear onto the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus (actually, the 246 first, then the 239, then the 257). People kept coming in and it got totally packed. My gear was up front but I got pushed to the back. The problem was I wanted to get off a few stops before the bus disgorges everyone else out at the end of the line at the ferries.

Somehow I got myself and my stuff off at the right stop, then lugged my gear the kilometer down to Copper Cove. I had dived here years earlier on a collecting trip for the aquarium, going down to 110 feet. I did get narced, but luckily I’m a paranoid narc, not a happy narc.

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I put my boat together on the rocky beach and then launched. Looking north up Howe Sound. I went left.

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Rounding the points heading towards Whytecliffe Park, looking back up Howe Sound to where I came from.

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There was a pod of seals around Whytecliffe Park.

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Racing out from Eagle Marine

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There was also a flock of seagulls hanging out on some intertidal rocks here. I had gotten my long lens only a year before and this was one of the first times I had used it in my bobbing kayak. Most shots were blurry.

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The winds were coming from behind me, from the west. When I went by Lighthouse Park it got quite choppy as they slammed against the west-facing vertical walls.

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Looking the other direction. This is a popular place for climbers to practice. Look closely.

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The park’s namesake.

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I continued along in front of all the waterfront houses. Eventually these made way to the public access sea wall and beaches.

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Approaching Ambleside

When done I pulled out and walked up to Marine Drive, and took the bus home. Not quite as exciting as some of my later adventures in the wilderness, but a day out in my kayak nonetheless!

Copper Cove to Ambleside

Aug 31 to Sept 1 2012 — To Shearwater and Port Hardy

Bright sunshine in the morning

I headed over to Shearwater, and I planned to paddle back to the ferry terminal in the evening.

Times gone by

It seemed to take forever to get there. I was fighting the currents and wind. It’s all about expectations. I was expecting to just have a leisurely little hop over to Shearwater but it turned into a multi-hour slog about 1/3 as long as yesterday’s whole paddle. If I had expected a long paddle from the start, then I wouldn’t have been frustrated by the wind. Those Zen Buddhists are on to something.

I finally got into town and pulled up next to the harbour master with my boat roasting in the sun. I thought I might have to let some air out but it was OK.

I had lunch in the pub which was blaring some asinine television. Here we go again, culture shock. I then bought a book about the local wolves, written by Ian Mcallister, a local here who has been studying them for the last number of years, and who was instrumental in lobbying for the limited protection this area does enjoy, the so-called “Great Bear Rainforest”. The wolves are very interesting and it’s well worth the read. I have a soft spot for dogs so I love wolves. We used to have a wolf hybrid who looked very much like the one on the cover of the book. And it seems wolves have a soft spot for us too — they virtually never attack people.

As I sat in the sun, reading my book and looking out across the channel, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I had gotten about 1/3 of the way to Haines; this was a major milestone for me and I had done it all on my own power (except of course, flying in and out between seasons). My pace had been way slower than I originally anticipated, but here I was! It’s about the journey, not the destination, as the saying goes.

It turns out the ferry also goes to Shearwater on its way south so I just waited there. I’ll see Bella Bella next year. This is the new ferry terminal.

Here comes my ride.

The boat didn’t leave Bella Bella until about 11 pm. It was jam packed full of people and they all threw down mattresses. The floor was wall to wall people. I pitched my tent out on the deck.

Morning.

Next year I hope to stay put in one place for a while somewhere up around Princess Royal Island and spend some time with wolves. I also want to see the white kermode bears.

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