What have I learned?

The point of this trip was to ski, right? Well yes, that was a big part of it, but another part was to learn some things about myself through life experiences. To do some things that made me uncomfortable and see how far I could go. Someone I met along the way asked me the other day if I have any “words of wisdom” that I’ve learned in my travels. I thought about it, and here are a few things I’ve learned in my travels.

•Let the small things go. I had a few stumbles along the way and at times over reacted to them. In the scheme of things, not a big deal. Be grateful for what you have and don’t let the annoyances get in your way.

•Talk to people. At the beginning of this trip I was still pretty quiet. By the time I got to Oregon, that had changed. Everyone I’ve interacted with since then has been so kind and welcoming, and they’ve shared some incredible stories with me. More about some of those individuals in another post soon.

•Do things that scare you, just do them carefully. At times fear has held me back, it kept me from doing many of the things I wanted to. Now, I take more risks but I just spend less time over thinking them. Don’t let fear hold you back from doing what you want.

•Take more time to write. Remember your experiences, whether good or bad, big or small. There is so much you can learn from them.

•Don’t live in the past, but reflect on it and learn from it.

•If you imagine you can do it, you can. I would have never guessed any of this was possible less than a year ago. It might not be easy, but trust me, you can. We are are capable of more than we can imagine.

•Always be aware of what you can do to help others or to show them how you appreciate them. For some people a simple “thank you” is enough. For others, it might be a bit more. Just be aware of that as often as possible and do what you can to make someone else’s day better. Quite a few people have made this possible for me, consider how you can do the same.

Driving the Alaska Highway | April 9th – 11th

Mile 0 of the Alaska highway is Dawson Creek, BC. Already pretty far North. I’d been skiing at Kicking Horse in Golden, which was a fairly close drive to Banff and Jasper parks. From there it’s about 1600 miles to Anchorage. I’ve spent so much time on the road that it’s only now looking back that I realize how far I’ve travelled.
With this trip in mind,  I’d picked up a copy of the “Milepost” a couple of months ago and used it as my guide. It is incredibly helpful to have such a detailed reference especially when there are hundreds of miles without cell service. Every couple of hours I would pull over and take note of where the next stops would be along the way. I also closely watched my odometer and made note of how far it was in between stops. The first day I planned on driving to Liard Hot Springs, a 472 mile drive. I had a bit of a late start because I had to get my window fixed from the damage the prior day, but still had enough time. This part of the drive was off to a fairly uneventful start, but once I passed Fort Nelson, it was so beautiful. Stone Mountain Provincial Park, then through Muncho Lake. Just after sunset it began to snow, I wasn’t too concerned but it still made me a bit anxious as there are no services for miles and I wasn’t seeing very many other cars. Here’s a bit of video from that drive.

I don’t have any photos of the hot springs because I arrived after dark and in the middle of a snow storm. Here’s another persons story of a winter visit to the springs.
Although it was late, I wanted to have a soak in the springs, so I jumped into my bathing suit, grabbed my headlamp and walked down the snow covered path. On a quiet night, the walk felt a lot longer than it actually was. There were a few others there as well, but it was still quiet and very peaceful. The sky started to clear and there was a bit of moonlight. The sensation of being in natural hot springs under a moonlight sky was unbelievable.

I had a ways to go until my next stop so I got on the road early the next morning. This time of year the days are getting longer and longer, which makes driving later in the day easier. I figured I’d make it to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon. I got there, checked the map and figured I might have another 2 days of driving ahead. I was hoping to do it in 1, so I continued on to Haines Junction. A beautiful stopping point and close enough to Alaska that I knew I could finish the drive the next day. About 600 miles to go to Anchorage.

When I arrived the US / Canada border I stopped for a few minutes before crossing customs. There is an unfortified boundary cut between the trees for as many miles as I could see. I stood right on the border for a few minutes and thought about how powerful that is. A sign there read, “This unfortified boundary line between the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America should quicken the remembrance of the more than a century old friendship between these countries, a lesson of peace to all nations.”
I won’t get into the politics, but consider that for a moment. That sign was erected on May 31st, 1982, only a few months after I was born. Consider how much has changed since then. I wish that we were still in that mindset, ‘A lesson of peace to all nations’
As I got closer to Anchorage, the landscape changed a couple of times, from trees to mountains. I felt like the views were just getting better and better.

That evening I made it to Anchorage before resting for the night. Luckily, I was able to meet at a friend of a friends place and had a comfortable place to stay for the night. The next morning I’d be skiing at Alyeska.

My travel route over the past few months

My trip didn’t always go as planned and I made a few unexpected turns along the way. Here’s a rough idea of the route I ended up taking along with some notable stops from the time I moved out of my apartment in Denver.

Denver, Colorado
Kansas City, Missouri
Bethesda, Maryland
New York, New York
Adirondacks, New York
Rochester, New York
Toronto, Ontario
Blue Mountain, Ontario
Boyne Michigan
Boyne Highlands, Michigan
Northern Lake Michigan
Granite Peak, Wisconsin
Minneapolis, Minnesota
North Dakota
Big Sky and Bozeman, Montana
Solitude and Salt Lake City, Utah
Powder Mountain, Utah
Reno, Nevada
Truckee, California
Sacramento, California
Sebastapol, California
Redwoods State Park, California
Crater Lake, Oregon
Mount Bachelor Bend, Oregon
Mount Hood, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Crystal Mountain, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Sandpoint, Idaho
Fernie, British Columbia
Kimberley,  British Columbia
Lussier Hot Springs, Whiteswan Park
Kicking Horse in Golden,  British Columbia
Banff / Jasper National Park
Grand Prairie to Dawson Creek,  British Columbia
Liard Hot Springs,  British Columbia
Haines Junction, Yukon
Anchorage, Alaska
Alyeska Girdwood, Alaska
Seward, Alaska
Homer, Alaska

Chase your dreams

I’ve drafted a few other posts which I’m still working on but I had to share something. This past week has been… out… of… this… world…

I’ve cried everyday for the past week, tears of shock and joy. I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve skied mountains that are larger than I’d imagined. I’ve slept by the beach and woke up to the sound of seagulls while I was surrounded by snow covered mountains. I’ve partied until late at night and heard great music. If I could have imagined that I’d end up in a place like this, I would have come here a long time ago. But I’d guess that there is a good reason I had to work up to it. Everyday this week has been a “once in a lifetime” experience. I’ve driven over 16,000 miles since the end of December and seen some incredible places. 
Back to this past week… I’m speechless. Heli-sking, glacier hiking, a dinner of fresh caught fish from the same bay where I camped that night, a delicious cocktail at the top of the tram while the sun sets at 10pm. I’m asking myself, is this real life? And for many people, this is a vacation destination. And yes it is, but could this be a reality for me? Can I stay here? Should I stay here?
Part of me feels like that would be selfish, after all my bigger goal in life it to do what I can to help others. How do I take this experience and give it back? Perhaps through a story I can inspire someone else to take the same risk in their life?
Hmmm, if I do stay here though, there are things to consider. It’s far, far away from home, far away from my family, far away from my friends… but… what if? The opportunity to find work for the summer is now and there’s no reason I couldn’t stay. Is this perhaps where I continue to venture outside of my comfort zone? We’ll see.
The story of how I’ve ended up here is a long one, and I’ll save that for another day… but for now I just want to end on one note. Do whatever it takes to chase your dreams, the payoff is priceless.

Kicking Horse, BC | March 30th to April 6th

After a brief day of skiing at Kimberley and the prior week at Fernie, I continued north to Kicking Horse in Golden, BC. I can’t say it enough, no matter where I’ve been driving up here, the views are gorgeous. When I arrived at the base of the mountain there’s a lot where there were other RVs and pickup campers parked. It’s located right next to the Purcell heli landing area which serves the surrounding area. A perfect spot to stay for the night and be on the mountain early. It was Easter weekend, so it was a bit busier than usual, but still relatively calm compared to some of the lift lines I’ve seen elsewhere.

Kicking Horse is a very unique mountain. 5 total lifts, and only 2 that I took the whole time there. The “Golden Eagle Express” Gondola and the “Stairway to Heaven” lift. These 2 lifts access some incredible terrain, 2800 acres, and 4133′ vertical feet of skiing. Absolutely incredible. Kicking Horse was also host to one of the Freeride World Tour events this year. If you’ve never seen videos of FWT, I’d recommend checking some of them out in the link. At the top of the Gondola, there are spectacular views in every direction. When I got up there, I took a moment, looked around and thought about where I wanted to ski. I couldn’t go wrong no matter where I headed.

I skied down to the “Stairway to heaven” lift and hiked up to “Whitewall.” From there, pick a line, it’s all incredible. Whitewall into Feuz Bowl, back to the lower portion of the mountain, and ski all the way to the base, jump back on the Gondola and pick the next line.

Given that it was a busier weekend, and there was snow in the forecast later in the week, I took the next couple of days to rest and spent some time in town. I visited Whitetooth Brewing, took a couple of yoga classes at the Golden Lotus, and spent some time planning on where I’d be headed later in the week. A good call, as I’d been skiing pretty much non-stop for the past week and my legs were shot.

That Monday I was back out on the hill, and lift lines were non-existent, I was skiing right back to the gondola. I hiked out to “Super Bowl” in between the “Terminator 1 and 2” peaks. With a couple of inches of fresh snow on top, the skiing was again, amazing.

Form there there is also an incredible view of the “Terminator 2” peak which I knew I had to get out to at some point. The hike is just a but farther than I wanted to go on that day and there was still a ton of incredible skiing closer to the gondola. Still, the lines out there looked amazing and as soon as there was some more fresh snow I was going to head over that way. The following day I did. Getting to the “Terminator 2” peak requires a 10-15 min traverse, before I took off my skis and boot-packed up the rest of the way. The hike starts along a thin ridge with steeps on both sides before arriving at a rope bolted to a rock. I climbed up and around the rock and arrived at the top. Spectacular views. There was one other person up there at the time, and as it turns out he was also from Colorado. We both commented how it feels a bit different skiing there from our home mountains. There was no rush to get down so I took some time to take in the views before skiing back down. Even from out here, the ski back down ends at the base by the gondola. So cool, in one run I’d end up skiing a variety of terrain, from a powder bow, to some bumps, to a groomer, then jump back on the gondola. A full week of skiing 4000′ vert on every run, awesome.

My last day there was on a Friday, and it was snowing on and off the night before and throughout the day. Another short hike up Terminator 1 peak and there’s an awesome line named “Glory.” With there being very few people on the mountain, and good snow blowing in, it made for incredible skiing. I did a couple of runs through there before heading back into town for the night.

The next morning I was going to continue north and drive through Banff and Jasper National Park before continuing on to the Alaska highway. I loved skiing at Kicking Horse, and I would absolutely recommend a visit here. The people are all very friendly, and the skiing is unlike anywhere else I’ve visited.

Where do I go from here?

Ski season will be ending soon, and with the exception of some places like Squaw Valley, CA and  Arapahoe Basin, CO most resorts close in a few weeks. Does that mean the end of my trip is approaching? I’m having a hard time with that… perhaps? And if thats the case, where do I go? While a big part of this trip was about skiing, that was only part of it. Something which was much more important was to find some things about myself that have been perhaps easy to ignore in more comfortable environments. I’ve certainly been outside of it for a couple of months. While it’s been a relatively short amount of time, I certainly have learned a lot. Why do I feel so far from being done though? Am I meant to settle somewhere? Or will I keep exploring? And if so, where do I go?

I have a few ideas in mind. I’ve considered getting a one way ticket to somewhere warm, learning how to surf. Or maybe backpacking Europe, perhaps now is my chance to go back and spend the time I wanted to when I briefly visited there 10 years ago? Someone even suggested the idea of packing up my skis and going to ski in South America for the summer. Hmmm, an endless winter? All interesting options and for sure once in a lifetime experiences.

I’ve known of people who have left on journeys like this and have been living this way for years. My friend Carolina even wrote about them and has had the fortune of meeting many people like this. She was kind enough to mention me in this post. Perhaps I should continue on with this same mindset, “just do it.”

There is no reason it has to end. From a financial standpoint, I have to begin working again at some point, I mean, it has been 4 months since I left my job… but what will I do for a living this time around? I’d love to be in business for myself, I have the knowledge, the experience, theres no reason not to. But where? Can I work remotely and on the go? That was my initial plan, and that’s still my plan if I can make that work.

Last night I was on the phone with my Mom, talking about my plans for the next leg of this trip. She’s concerned, and she has every reason to be, after all, I’m already pretty far and I’m turning north to go much farther. I also know I’m also being cautious and I’m as prepared as I can be for wherever I’m headed next. Still, I can’t decide if it’s fear holding me back, or if I’m just being cautious. If it’s fear, I’d better get over it quick.

Right after our call, I met another person in the lot camping in their truck like I have been. It’s his 3rd ski season traveling and camping like this. He’s visited around 40 resorts this year, while I’m at around 20. He said he was around 20 on his first year doing this. At least I’m off to a good start. One thing we both found, there are very few ski resorts where the “ski culture” is alive. Most places have become unaffordable for most, and 

As for ski areas to left to visit this season, the timing and my options are running out, with the exception of a few places. Again, this isn’t all about the skiing. I’m still working on another post about how I got here, but at the moment, my question isn’t how did I get here, it’s where do I go? And with that, I have the following options at the moment:

For right now, I want to stick to my initial plan. The drive to Anchorage, Alaska is about 2100 miles from here, 38 hours. This time of year the days are getting exponentially longer, and I’d be arriving right at the incredible time when you can watch winter change to spring in days. And how often in your lifetime will I have the opportunity to drive the Alaska Highway? Shouldn’t I do this while I have the chance? I think if I don’t at the point, I’ll always wish that I had. Is it me being cautious, or fearful? And what am I afraid of?

I could turn back south and be back in Colorado in about 2 days. Heck, if I wanted to I could be back there this weekend. I could even go skiing there next week. Colorado friends, thoughts? I’m not done yet, and if I turned back now I’ll wish I had visited elsewhere.

California was also amazing and I wasn’t there long enough. I could go back and spend a bit more time driving down the coast. I’d be happy to do that again and take an even longer route this time around. Squaw has already announced that they are opened until Memorial Day, spring skiing anyone?

Hmmm, and the last, perhaps riskiest option? Put whatI have left in storage (ski gear etc), pack what I need in a backpack, and get on a flight. But, not a ski destination, I’m thinking somewhere comepletely new, even farther outside of my comfort zone. I’m totally open to suggestions, tropical, hiking, backpacking, hmmm. In looking at my map, yesterday I realized that I’ve visited almost every state in the US, only have 7 left I haven’t been to. I’m ready to head overseas, and far, but where?

As drawn as I am to visiting and skiing in Alaska, I’m also somewhat intrigued by these other options. The question now isn’t “What would you do if you were in my shoes” It’s what am I meant to do? And the only person that can really answer that is me. So, I’m asking myself, where do I go from here?

Fernie and Kimberley, BC

The next 3 days at Fernie was even better than the first 2. I was waiting by the rope when they dropped it for Currie Bowl, and the snow was excellent. Fresh powder skiing on a sunny morning is the best. Unfortunately, a lot of the other terrain was closed for much of my visit due to avalanche risk, and I never got to ski Polar Peak. Not really a big deal as there was plenty of other great skiing during my visit.

On Monday nights the bar at the “Raging Elk” has an open mic night. So much fun, the music was great, I got to play pool with some people which was fun, and I met some other people that lived in the area. I overheard someone talking about doing some backcountry skiing right off of Siberia Bowl the following morning and asked if I could join. I’d only done a little bit of touring this season, and none since leaving Colorado. I exchanged numbers with Vic, and met up with him the next morning.

There is a small gate off of “Siberia Bowl” to ski out just before applying skins and beginning the hike in. It was his 3rd time skinning in there that day. On our way up I just knew that the turns would be incredible, but I wasn’t prepared for just how good it would be. I’d left my GoPro in the car, but if there was a day to have it with me, this would have been it, oh well. I didn’t have an exact snow report, but including that day and the prior 2 it had snowed between 20 and 30cm. They’ve also had an incredible year, when I was there they’d received nearly 1100cm of snow for the season, wow.

We skinned to the top in about 30 minutes, and combined with our lift ride up, we had an incredible run back into Siberia Bowl. At the top, I was cautious because the trees were a bit tight and I was unsure of where the line would take me. Then it opened up, I could see through the trees all the way to the bottom. I paused, then took about 5-6 turns on the way down, thigh deep powder turns. It was ridiculously good skiing, I know I keep saying that, but wow… this was up there as one of my top runs this season, really… it was that good.

It was still snowing quite a bit, so we did a few more runs inbounds. My favorite was the “Anaconda Glades.” Traverse off the the “White Pass” quad just below the “Knot chutes” that I’d skied the day prior. Instead of dropping into “Timber Bowl” go left and ski back into “Currie Bowl”. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to hit this storm cycle, every day there was fantastic.

Back at the base, Vic and Brent mentioned that on Tuesdays one of the bars in town does a good dinner special as well as bingo. Sounded fun so I headed over there for a bit. We met with a couple of  other people and had fun playing bingo. I only had one more day of skiing at Fernie before heading to my next stop, and I asked if there were any hot springs they suggested I could visit along the way.

My last day skiing at Fernie, a lot more of the mountain that was temporarily closed opened up. I finally got to ski Lizard Bowl and Cedar Bowl. That morning, I met another local on the lift who had been skiing here for many years. At the top he pointed out some spots on the trail map and suggested some of the places I should check out. One of them was “Corner Pocket” another was “The Saddles” I made my way over to check them out. The top of corner pocket has some tires in the snow, with a rope attached to a tree to help make your way down past the rocks. I took a few turns, then dropped into “Lizard Bowl.” Tons of snow and many fresh tracks to be had. Really good spring skiing. The only issue is that if I wanted make my way back to ski there again, it’s a long ski out, a couple of lifts, and quite a traverse back.

I jumped on the “Great Bear” lift and ski over in “Cedar Bowl” which had also just re-opened that day. More amazing turns, again, more untouched tracks and terrain that ranged from mellow to fairly steep. I did a few laps over this way as it was the first time I was getting to ski over here on my visit.

After a day of skiing I stopped at the hot springs I’d heard about to relax for a bit. Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Provincial Park, what a great stop. The drive to the springs is up a long dirt road which becomes a bit more narrow as I approached the parking area. I would have never known that it was there had he not told me. In fact, as I was driving up the road, I was beginning to wonder if I’d made the correct turn, fortunately I had. I walked down the hill to find these pools created with rocks, right by the river. What an experience, sitting in natural hot springs that felt like a hot tub while being right next to a river of freezing water. I could’ve spent an entire day there. But had had to settle in for the evening. I was about 2 1/2 hours from Kicking Horse, and about an hour from Kimberley.

I decided to head south towards Kimberley and ski the next day there. I wanted to get to Kicking Horse, but I knew I’d be there for a longer visit and I wasn’t in a hurry.

The following day was again bluebird and there were plenty of groomed runs to choose from. I’d been doing plenty of skiing for the past 5 days, so to spend a day on mostly groomed trails was a welcome change.

Kimberley is a smaller ski area than Fernie, but still relatively big compared to many that I’ve visited. 3 chairs, and it seemed to be a bit more family friendly. Still plenty big enough to find fun runs. I spent the day doing some spring cruising around the hill before moving on to Kicking Horse. While I was there, I also dropped off a pair of my skis at the shop, and the technician there did some great work to fix them up. So friendly and he made the exact repairs I needed within a couple of hours.
Next stop, Kicking Horse, Golden, BC.

Fernie, BC | March 24th to 28th

After leaving Seattle, I headed east towards Spokane, WA, then on to northern Idaho before turning north towards British Columbia, Canada. The skiing up this way is unbelievable. More snow than you can imagine. My first stop was at Fernie, they’ve received nearly 1100cm this season, (Thats around 36 feet of snow) and I arrived in the middle of a storm. A couple of inches were in the forecast, but they received nearly a foot of fresh during this cycle. The locals might call this #FernieFactor, yes.
On my drive north on 95 from Idaho. After crossing the border, I saw a few cars that had slipped off the road, and I was very aware that I had to drive cautiously. I stopped at each accident and made sure that everyone was okay. This was not the usual rubber necking. In an accident out here, you want to make sure that everyone is okay as assistance might be quite far away. Fortunately, everyone was fine and assistance was in route.
I arrived in Fernie to a mixture or rain and snow. Kinda a bummer, but I had a feeling that the snow up top would be good. I was right, it was.

I took the “Timber Bowl Express” to the “White Pass Quad” and traversed over to #27/28 “Concussion” and “Toms Run” Steep and deep glades. I loved it. Without knowing the mountain, I was still finding plenty of great skiing. It was dumping. It also seemed that they were under reporting the snow, which was fine with me. According to the locals, it was busy, and yes, it was as busy as a Colorado mid-week powder day, but not what I was used to on the weekends in Colorado. The lines lasted less than 5 minutes, and there were so many easy hike to trails that I felt as if I was alone.

Later in the afternoon, just before the lifts closed, I hiked up to the “Knot chutes” a quick 5-10 minute hike, with some incredible powder turns. At first, I thought that no one had seen the line, I then realized that it was snowing so hard and blowing snow in that I lucked out on some late day pow turns. Incredible, snow was spraying over my head at 4pm on a weekend.

I drove into town and found a place to stay, the “Raging Elk.” While I’d become accustomed to my truck, I was unsure of where to park, and for $25CAD for a night, a bed, a shower, and an attached bar & restaurant with breakfast was a deal.

I settled in and grabbed my computer for some journaling. I was able to quickly write my piece, “Outside of my comfort zone”
At the time, I really was. Perhaps I still am, and maybe I’m becoming more comfortable. Time will tell.

A small group of people had gathered at the table by me. After an hour or so, one of them came over to ask me what I was up to. She was curious if I was a blogger or a hacker. I laughed and shared my post with her just before I published it, perhaps that made it easier to share. Opening up to a stranger before opening up to the world…

I still had quite a few days ahead of me here, but I was already loving it. I learned from her that Fernie is a mining town. Most places I’ve visited make their money from ski tourism, and while skiing is big in Fernie, it’s apparently not the driving force behind their economy. I was also surprised to learn that most of the mining goes to create steel. Fernie also has some of the only Cedar trees this fear east from the Pacific. Both of these facts are according to locals and I’ve not researched, but they are interesting nonetheless. One of them even commented that “Environmentalists often criticize them, but the steel they are mining go to create the reusable bottles and goods that they use” Perhaps not everything is as bad as we think… “Everyone has a story”

They also asked me, as an American, what my thoughts were on the issue of gun violence in my country. One of them even joked, “There aren’t any mass shootings in Colorado, right?” My heart sank. While this is an issue that I feel I can debate in my homeland, it became a lot harder to discuss on foreign soil. I was completely unprepared, I had no words. I put my head down and wished that I had an adequate response, I didn’t.

I never wanted to make this blog political, but when someone commented, “I don’t understand what is going on in your country” (referencing the second “amendment” and how we can’t “amend” it) and I agree with them, what can I say? At the very least, I compared it to a drivers license, why can’t the restrictions at a MINIMUM be the same? I was at a loss for words and desperately tried to change the subject. The few times I’ve visited Canada, I never expected to feel like such a foreigner on such close land, yet here I am. The people here are so kind, and yet I’m feeling so far away from home at the same time.

Enough for the heavy discussion, for now. Tomorrow would be a powder day, and I was going to get after it. Here’s a view from the top the next morning. The skiing was awesome, and I still had a couple of powder days ahead.

More on my visit to Fernie in my next post. This place is awesome. #ferniefactor

Seattle, Washington | March 20th to 23rd

After my second day at Crystal Mountain, I drove northwest to Seattle. Completely unfamiliar with the city, I’d booked an Airbnb relatively far from downtown. It felt like I was in the suburbs, which turned out to be great, I was walking distance from the beach, and the weather was gorgeous. I had a lovely room, and a nice place to stay for a few days. I figured that while I was resetting and reconsidering what to do next I should spend the time somewhere comfortable. I settled in to a place with a view of the water, Mount Rainier, and the morning sound of seagulls, yet 20 minutes from downtown. Perfect.

Seattle was a city that was on my short list of places to consider moving when I left New York. Like Denver, I’d never visited there, but I had the sense that this place was a fun city. Finally getting to visit there, although unplanned, was a wonderful stop. Again, I was fortunate that one of my former colleagues, Paolo, from New York lived here, and we met for dinner and a beer. He was also nice enough to offer some great suggestions for places to visit for the rest of my time here. While I was a complete tourist, I really enjoyed the places I stopped while I was there.

My purpose for stopping here was to reconsider my goals with this road trip, get some more writing done, and decide where to go next.  I still had no shortage of options, the snow in Colorado and California has been great, I could go back to “My Comfort Zone” and spend the remainder of the season skiing there. I could think about where else in the world I’d like to visit (the list is endless) or I could continue on and follow the dream I’ve been pursuing for years. Hint, its north.

After dinner, I went back to my Airbnb and slept in, something that hasn’t been easy sleeping in the truck. I woke up around 11, and took the long drive around Alki Beach. The views of downtown were beautiful.

I drove over the bridge into downtown and walked over to the famous Pike Place Market.  It would be easy to spend hours here. Great little shops, awesome food, and incredible views of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound.

I then stopped at a cafe, Mr. West, for a coffee, lunch, and to write. I considered the events from the past few days, and thought about where to go next. That evening, I took the ferry from downtown to Bainbridge and had dinner at the Harbour Public House. Nothing beats a good Fish and Chips, plus the beautiful evening ferry ride to and from the city. Thank you Paolo for both of these suggestions.

I was still not done with my visit, as I was still thinking through where I’d like to go next, so I stayed another day. I had a coffee at the La Marzocco Cafe at KEXP. Many years ago, I was a barista, and my favorite machine to make coffee on was a La Marzocco. Not only was this cool to check out the showroom, the coffee was delicious. Plus, I was right in the KEXP studio as they were broadcasting. I also got to enjoy some writing. I considered getting back on the road that afternoon, and looked at some maps. I needed just one more day to relax and consider where to go next.

That evening I went out to dinner at “Tsukushinbo” for sushi. While I’d read that it was nearly impossible to eat there without a reservation, I figured I’d give it a shot and go somewhere else if I couldn’t get a seat. I got there as the doors opened and was able to sit at the Sushi bar. The place is so small, there might be 20-30 seats total. Well worth it. The reviews also recommended any fish they just got in, so I order a roll and a few pieces “omakase.” Delicious, I truly enjoyed every piece.

After dinner, I walked back over towards Pike Place Market for an evening cocktail at Radiator Whiskey. Delicious, and a perfect way to cap off my time in this city. A rainy night, delicious dinner, and a couple of great drinks.

While I had that minor setback a few days prior, I still knew I wanted to head up to British Columbia. Not only is the skiing up there incredible, the surrounding national parks and the drives are stunning. I headed east towards northern Idaho, where I would then drive north towards Fernie, BC.

Crystal Mountain, WA | March 19-20

I left Mount Bachelor midday on a beautiful bluebird Sunday. While I was really enjoying it, I’d been there nearly a week and it was time for me to move on. I had a 6 1/2 hour drive ahead and a planned stop in Portland.  I was able to get to Portland in time for a wonderful yoga class, and enough time to grab dinner before moving on. I’ve never been to Portland, but the area where I ended up stopping was beautiful, Nob Hill. I caught a great class and then enjoyed a nice dinner at Bamboo Sushi. I love sushi and hadn’t had it since just before leaving Denver.

As I mentioned in my last post, the drive through Oregon was beautiful, but I still had a ways to go to get to Crystal Mountain. I wasn’t going to stay in Portland that night, so I had to get going after dinner. I continued north on I-5 towards Washington and stopped with about a 2 1/2 hour drive to go. Crystal Mountain is right by Mount Rainier, and I wanted to take the scenic route the next morning. The drive, again, was gorgeous.

I arrived at Crystal Mountain for a stunning day of bluebird skiing. After I picked up my lift ticket, I walked to the Mt. Rainier Gondola, the lift operator had a quote on the sign that I really liked. “Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness. -Unknown” hmmm…
On my lift ride up, I thought about that, I think I night be doing what I like, but I’m not quite sure if I’m liking what I do. Perhaps part of this trip is about finding what I like to do, or perhaps who I’d like to be.

At the top of the gondola, there is a stunning view of Mount Rainier, right off the lift. The conditions were soft, spring corn skiing. I love skiing in these conditions, but I still haven’t had my fill of powder days for the season. Although the mountain range around here was vast and gorgeous, it’s easy to forget that its a much lower altitude than Colorado. While Mount Rainier stands quite tall in the background at 14,410′, the highest lift at Crystal takes you around 7000′. The surrounding views of the Cascades were beyond stunning. The first day, Mount Rainier was surrounded by clouds, but still, incredible.

There was a row of comfortable recliner chairs so you can sit at the top and enjoy the view of Mount Rainier. After a few runs, I decided to stop to enjoy this for a bit. Some people would think that I’ve seen so many mountain ranges before they all begin to look the same, but I can tell you having stood on top of them from coast to coast, the views from the top never, ever get old.

While I was sitting in one of the recliners, I heard a couple of people taking about how to get to the other lifts and other areas of the mountain. Since I had just arrived, I asked if they were headed that way and if I could join them, I met Andrea and John. On our lift ride up, I found out that this was Andrea’s home mountain and she offered to show us around some of the trails. John was a snowboarder who, like me, was traveling around skiing various resorts around North America. He also happened to be from Colorado. His project is to ski 1000 trails in a season and to donate money to “Wings for life,” a non-profit dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. Info on his project can be found here: http://www.1000trails.org. For a while before I set out on this trip, and while on the road, I’ve been asking myself how I can turn this into something meaningful where I can do something good for a cause. My initial thinking was that perhaps my writing would reach someone where it might encourage them to take some risk in their life, to try something they’ve been dreaming about. Perhaps I can turn this personal challenge into something like else like that.

John and I were literally crossing paths in the opposite directions. He had just been snowboarding in BC, where he met Andrea, and was heading down to Oregon, while I was heading north from there. Andrea, having grown up near Mount Crystal, was nice enough to show us 2 ski bums the best trails on the mountain before she went back home to Seattle. That afternoon, the 3 of us even skied from the top of “Campbell Basin” A small 2 chair lift which took us to the top of a ridge line with some of the best views on the mountain, and some of the steepest skiing. Traverse in either direction, or take a hike up the ridge to “The Throne.” We didn’t hike that afternoon, but I planned to the next day. Once we traversed out a little ways and dropped into the bowl, we found that the snow was fantastic. Although there was only a little bit of fresh snow reported that day, there was a lot more from previous storms that was still untouched. Really good skiing. I knew I’d be back there the next day.

We skied until last chair and took an awesome lap from top to bottom. At the end of the day, there are only 2 places to visit for après, “The Bullwheel,” and the “Snorting Elk.” We stopped into the Bullwheel for a beer. Andrea was headed back to Seattle, while John was heading to Mount Hood. I was going back to my truck to find a camp spot to sleep for the night and to ski another day at Crystal. After all, I still had some hiking and more skiing to do here. We all decided to grab dinner at the “Snorting Elk.” I love meeting good people on the ski hill, and its even nicer when you can join them for a bite and a beer afterwards.

It was after dinner that I experienced my first major setback on this trip. Someone (almost certainly drunk) hit my new car in the parking lot and left without leaving a note. I walked outside to find a ton of damage to the side of the truck, and I went through a huge range of emotions. I was livid, then I was sad, then I questioned what I would do if it was worse or if I was sleeping in it at the time, or if I was somewhere more remote. It still was drivable, but I was so upset. I kept trying to remind myself, it’s only a thing, it can be fixed, but the fact that someone would cause damage and not be courteous enough to leave a note made me furious. I don’t think it wasn’t so much the act, but it was combined with the fact that I was already nervous about being alone, cautious of where I was staying, and questioning if the next couple of legs on my journey were the right move. Combined with the fact that my car is virtually brand new, 3 months old. (I know, I’m venting, which is not exactly what people want to read about, sorry.)

There were only about 20 other cars in the lot, so I walked around in an attempt to find any witnesses or evidence. There was very little, most places on the mountain close by 5 and it was about 7pm. I was so worked up that I didn’t want to spend the energy finding a place to camp, nor did I want to keep looking at my damaged new car. I booked a night at the lodge on the mountain and stayed there, hoping to find some evidence the next morning. I’m not materialistic, far from it, I gave up just about everything I owned and moved it into this truck, perhaps thats why I was so protective, I don’t have much left, even what I have is more than I need, but I try to take care of it, and I’m obviously relying on it. The following morning, I went into the office, asked for help from cameras etc, and with the exception of one woman who was very friendly, most people there didn’t really care. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal, but someone getting away with this combined with people who seemed to care less just infuriated me.

I realized I was not myself, or at least not being the person I want to be. I felt bad, I’d shared my disappointment about the accident with my Mom and my Dad, and I later apologized to them and explained that it upset me that I wasn’t being myself. I don’t actually want to feel that mad at anyone or about anything, but I do wish that people were decent enough to do the right thing.
I also called my best friend, Rett, to ask for help. He knows me very well and offered some great advice. I needed to take pause. He reminded me that the point of this trip was self discovery, it’s not all about the skiing, although that’s what I’m using to push myself. He is also my friend that I’ve discussed this trip with, perhaps too much, over the past few years. I was with him in November when I committed to the decision to take this trip. It was very reassuring to be reminded of this purpose. He suggested I take some time to really think about what I was feeling, do some journaling, and go from there. It was good advice.

I jumped back on the gondola a few more times that day. I hiked the ridge line I’d scoped out the day prior, and did some incredible top to bottom laps off the gondola. I even saw a speed flyer land and take the gondola back up with me. I’ve only ever seen this sport in videos, but it’s something I’d like to try one day. I can only imagine what that must feel like, to ski and take off… wow.

Still, I knew I needed a reset. I was less than 2 hours from Seattle, and I thought that spending a few days in a city, writing, resting, and considering next steps would be well spent. I booked an Airbnb near the beach in West Seattle and relaxed. After all, I needed to think more about “What I’d like to do.”
Next stop Seattle, Washington.