It has been over a year since my last blog post! It never ceases to amaze me how fast time goes by. This last year was filled with much less adventure than usual on account of my foot reconstructive surgery, but also my mad dash to the finish line with my PhD thesis while also being a Learning and Teaching Fellow at UBC teaching first year conservation alongside an amazing colleague. I also did not go on any trips that warranted a trip report to help inform others of conditions or objectives, and this year, I have not had the desire to share my adventures with the world to a great extent, but rather to enjoy them for myself. Regardless, I am now sharing them more formally, partially to serve as a reminder for me to look back on in the future, and partially to remind myself of how wonderful life is and how lucky I have been. Finally, I hope this reacquaints me with my former love of writing, so that I can finish up the thesis.
A few Insights of 2018:
1. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to have a flexible schedule and be able to work on the road while adventuring. I have accomplished 20-40 hour work weeks while in some of the most beautiful places! The rest of my life may not provide such luxuries.
2. Although I am injured often (partially as a result of a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos), I am so grateful for my body when it is functioning. I have come a long ways since foot surgery and can do so much more than I could before already.
3. Life will always be full of ups and downs, and it is important to surround yourself with people who you care about and who care about you in return. It can be hard to prevent other life commitments getting in the way of allowing you to foster those connections, but the worthwhile friends will still be there when you have more time again. Additionally, cherish and enjoy the good moments while they last.
A few things to look forward to in 2019:
1. Finishing my PhD dissertation in the next few months after nearly 6 years full of excitement, trials and tribulation!
2. Taking part of the summer off post-defense to explore BC, the Yukon and beyond. Also taking this time to focus on my physical (physio) and mental well-being, and push myself athletically.
3. Be happy and grateful for where I am in life and everything that I have, even if certain aspects are lacking.
And now, a summary of the adventures from 2018...
January to March
This year started off slow while I was recovering and enjoying the knee scooter life, and my January to March was mostly filled with cats, art and board games. However, on the last weekend of January, a group of friends hauled me up to Red Heather for a weekend of winter camping and Scottish debauchery for the annual Varsity Outdoor Club Burns N Turns Event. This involved four people pulling me on a sled at any given time, and one person in the back to help keep me on the trail. I was so grateful for the opportunity to be back in nature and the logistical and physical efforts put in by such amazing friends! I am truly so lucky to have the community that I do.
During this time, I also regularly went one-legged climbing, while tying my leg behind my back to resist the urge to place it on the wall. On March 2, 2018, I put my foot in a climbing shoe and on the climbing wall for the first time since before my surgery!
In March, 2018, I also bought the Beach Pass to Cypress Mountain and got out twice a week and began getting back into skiing with my new foot.
My very first hike post-surgery was in late March, when a friend and I went up the Grouse Grind.
April to May
The journey to recovery continued to be slow and painful, with more ski days at Cypress and gradually putting more weight on my recovering foot while climbing. I focused on work while I healed, as well as abundant physio. I also wanted to get back into climbing, so I ambitiously jumped on Snake (6 pitch, 5.9 Squamish Apron) with a friend at the end of April. The climb was wet, but fun. I struggled to finish and felt confused, but then was unable to walk the next few days and I realized I used to calf muscle too much which was why I was struggling!
My parents moved to the Slocan Valley in April of 2018, so in May, a friend of mine and I went out to visit and explore. We did a few short, flat hikes, but we also did 84 km of the 104 km return journey of the Rail Trail which extend from Slocan Lake to beyond the Junction of Highways 6 and 3A.
We also hiked to the top of Pulpit Rock in Nelson, and climbed in the Slocan Bluffs with some new local friends.
Towards the end of May, we celebrated a friend's 30th birthday on Salt Spring Island, complete with extreme croquet, costumes and lots of friend love. Such a beautiful group of people! I joined the group late so did not have a car spot and decided to cycle out on my own. It was a really lovely experience to do the cycling portion of the journey on my own, and then meet up with my friends and have a wonderful weekend. My foot at this stage was much better at cycling than it was at walking.
Around this same time, I helped create and run a field school at my research site on Sidney Island alongside my supervisor. We conducted plant surveys and engaged with local islanders to produce a report on the current status of many species relative to deer presence to assist land owners in making an informed decision as how to best manage their land.
By June, I started my "back to running" program with moderate success (and then a 4 month break from too much pain). I also was able to start going on more adventures. A friend of mine and I drove down to Yosemite, where we climbed during the day and I was able to do statistics for my thesis in the evenings (got a full 40 hours in on the trip!). We arrived just after the long weekend and managed to snatch a camping spot in Camp 4. I would go for a run every second morning in the beautiful landscape. My foot was still not nearly fully recovered and multi-pitches were a bit painful, but we managed to do Sunshine Wall (5.5), After Six (5.7, first pitch felt like a 10.a), and Munginella (5.6) amongst many other climbs at the base of El Capitan (Moby Dick, Pine Line). We also drove to the lookout at the top. Yosemite is truly breath-taking!
Upon return, I decided to go and visit my parents in Slocan again and work on my thesis from their place. While here, my dad got really good at photo-bombing.
On this visit, I kayaked Slocan Lake with my father, climbed at the Bluffs again, made it to some local hot springs, and enjoyed time with my pets and family.
I also managed to get more climbing time in in Nelson and Squamish during and after this visit, respectively.
By July, I was pretty comfortable climbing with my foot, but hiking and walking long distances was still a bit of a challenge. I had a few worthwhile distractions to get me through, such as going to Burn in the Forest. This was my first time at such an event and it was exactly what I had been hoping to experience for years without even knowing it!
I also was able to play beach volleyball again, albeit with two knee braces and an ankle brace.
Later in July, I attended a wedding of a close friend and was lucky enough to have a beautiful Samoyed puppy travel with me. A deep bond was formed. We were camping on Vancouver Island for 5 days and had an amazing time.
For the first week of August, a friend of mine and I journeyed out to Slocan one last time before life became really hectic for me. We stopped in Skaha along the way for a day of climbing, and then enjoyed the wonderful activity options from my parent's place. We did my first post-surgery 10 km hike with 550 m elevation gain and then loss (Alps Altura), kayaked across Slocan lake and camped out near Nemo Falls, hiked Idaho Peak, climbed the 8-pitch sport 5.8 MegaWatts II near Castlegar, and climbed at the Slocan Bluffs. It was an amazing time.
The rest of August was spent re-structuring the first year course at UBC that I co-instructed, as well as preparing materials to teach the one-week JumpStart Program at UBC (and actually teach it). I did get to sneak in one evening of sailing and a trip to the PNE.
Towards the end of August, I also took my 90-hour Wilderness First Aid Course.
By the time September rolled around, I was feeling pretty burnt out and decided to take the long weekend off. A few friends and I went up to Valentine Lake, which was my first post-surgery overnight trip and scramble. Absolutely beautiful!
I spent the rest of September working 7 days a week.
October started off nicely with a trip to Skaha with a great group of people! We rented an AirBnB and had a great time.
Immediately after Skaha, I left to TA the Grasslands Field School with UBC in Oliver, BC. We had a great teaching team, great students and great weather!
I spent most of October working overall, but did make it out to Funk-o-ween with a great group of people and puppy-sat the same adorable white Samoyed. I also did an evening hike up Mount Seymour after running a Community Based Experiential Learning Project with first year biology students, where we removed invasive species in North Vancouver.
November was yet another month of mostly work, but I flew to my parents' place to pet-sit while my parents went to my uncle's funeral. I was able to work from here effectively, but also was able to catch up with some friends and visit some local hot springs during the first snowfall of the year.
I had been scheduled to finish my thesis by November 30th and get it to my committee at this time, but unfortunately I only finished the first draft by this date. I was initially devastated by my failure, but have come to terms with it since and hope to get that draft to my committee in the next 2-3 weeks.
December was the home stretch for work. I was wrapping up the course I was co-instructing and trying to make progress on my thesis. I dipped away for a quick trip to Cuba with one of my best friend's and her family, before settling in to Canadian winter and skiing.
The embracing of skiing first began with a day in Whistler, then in Fernie. While visiting my parents for Christmas, we snow-shed to some local hot springs and then skied at Whitewater Resort in Nelson.
To finish the year off, I went to Elfin Lakes with 3 of my gal pals. We also met up with a friend of mine and 30 of his friends (many of whom I had met before, others I just met for the first time. New friends!). It was a fantastic New Years celebration and a great way to bring in a new year!
I look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for me! I do not yet know what I will do for work post-graduation, and that flexibility is part of the fun and excitement in life that I enjoy. I hope to properly foster my friendships this year, but also go and see more of BC and Canada, and make new friends along the way . This will also help me discover what I want to do with my life, and where I want to settle long-term. Thank you everyone for being a part of my life and adventures so far! Here is to many more adventures!
Art and Cat Times