Trip motto, just be.
A rekindled spark for climbing brought me back into the local climbing gym after a year off. The nostalgic essence of familiar faces and time spent there was thought about often. Finally taking the initiative to rebuild the community that time had so effortlessly dissolved, I timidly eased myself back onto the climbing wall.
This go around was different though.
I had a new mind, a new body, new emotions, reactions and conceptions. I was a new woman, even to myself. This time I was okay with failing. I appreciated my need for growth on a newfound level. I removed my impulse to feel judged or be hindered by intimidation. I had leveled up brain, body and soul, while all along being broken into new depths by humbling experiences. The layers of life lived had finally began to reveal the core of all that I should have been this whole time.
After forcing out the last two blog posts, I honestly felt defeated by life and the groundhog routines of a busy schedule seemed to consume every waking second. The therapeutic effects of writing and sharing my stories were put on the back burner, and sadly my blogging was forgotten about. Interestingly enough though my brain had never stopped documenting. I would randomly catch myself typing passages into my phone, journaling short stories, and recording funny sayings. They started to shape themselves more prominently into my life as crossing signs that flagged my brain into new directions, and eventually, lead to a revelation that this life is to be experienced, embraced, and shared. Sometimes, all it takes is reading of the unknown to inspire that personal step forward.
It began as I was chalking my hands and recognized the voice of an old climbing friend. One short conversation of catching up lead to a casual invite for an upcoming road trip to Canada happening in six months.
It was as if a light switch flipped in my brain and sparked an electric response that surprised even myself as I straightforwardly stated I would be in that car to Canada. From the moment the words left my mouth, this adventure kept me chasing it. It ignited an excitement I had never experienced and bonded a commitment to myself that had only been a daydream for years.
The talk of the trip quickly turned into action only weeks later as I lay on my bedroom floor googling flights from Vancouver. I found a deal, and purchased the flight without thinking twice. No passport, no real idea of what to expect, except for the fact I had stoked a fire within that became addicting. Texting my friend a snapshot of the flight confirmation, his response hit me like a ton of bricks, “Wow. You were serious.”
Old school Caitlin would have gotten butt hurt or eventually would have found some excuse due to finances, schedule, or who knows what to have backed out, but instead, it only fueled my drive to embrace the unknown. Shortly after, I booked my passport appointment and ecstatically squealed when it came in the mail revealing one of the best hair day photos I had ever had.
IT WAS HAPPENING!
I started investing into a small Canada fund and methodically bought some necessary fundamentals I set aside for the trip alone. Every moving part started to align itself with this trip. The night before, I printed out a stack of photos and hung them around the house with notes to Noah, took the world’s longest shower, and stuffed last minute items into a backpack.
At 3:30 in the morning my alarm went off. The exhilaration of knowing the adventure of a lifetime was only hours away killed any sleep that could have been.
Pulling up to Dwain’s a half hour later gave the best feeling, but like a goof, I quickly realized by the stank of burning brakes in the air I had driven with my emergency brake on the whole way there!
4:01 am, the truck was running and I was given shotgun. Darren and Zeke took back seat between backpacks, snacks and a mountain bike tire. Packed was an understatement, the truck was a moving funmobile stacked with crash pads, paddle boards, mountain bikes and camping gear.
The first couple of stops were pee breaks and gas refills. Switching drivers right before San Francisco, I got to take us over the Golden Gate Bridge just before noon. By that afternoon, we were cruising through the rolling hills of San Gernimo, the green flats of Bodega Bay, and zoned out watching miles of Sonoma coastline fly by.
We were making incredible time and decided to set up first camp on the Russian River at Saint Joseph’s Campground.
Riding on the handlebars, we biked ourselves down to the river for a swim. The water was perfect! An organic diving board of a log provided hours of entertainment as we celebrated a successful first day with a beer in the lake. Dwain and I finished the day peacefully paddle boarding down the river and explored a tree filled passage of water that bordered the backyards to beautifully rustic river homes. Since it was only my second time on a paddle board, I was playing with the give and take of balance and steering but unexpectedly hit a log under the water which launched me into the water with a disturbing splash. Cracking up, I awkwardly crawled myself back on the board and apologized for killing the tranquility. It was just another reminder from life to never get comfy. As we turned around to let the current float us back down the river, we got to see an otter playfully swim past as if we were nonexistent.
The day started with the bright and early morning tradition of “repack the truck tetris.”
By 9 am we were driving through Salt Point State Park and pulled off to witness the stunning views of The Sea Ranch. Weathered stairs lead down to a pebbly beach with crystal clear waves and a mossy mini waterfall. The walk back up guided you down a meadowed pathway where early morning sun rays magically shown between the trees. It was the first stop that truly captivated my eyes and stole my heart.
Driving through Manchester, we pulled alongside a herd of elk and past the Navarro River in Albion around 11 am.
Cruising through Fort Bragg and the curving tree lined roads of Westport we pulled off for a side of the road stretch, snack, and handstand. 2pm we were in Humboldt County, and was stopped at the Redwood National and State Park visitor center a quarter to four.
A walk along a trail through the Redwoods dedicated to Lady Bird Johnson was the next stop.
Searching for a campground that wasn’t full, we stumbled upon Clifford Campground on the border of Oregon. Kamph was set up only feet away from the beach and the killer views of a colorful sun set illuminated the sky while a family style dinner of chili, fried potatoes, and cheeses got served.
Rough driftwood accentuated the softest of sand and a night spent shooting photos on the beach capped off an incredible second day. A campfire was attempted, but since the wood was damp, it soon turned into a desperate smoke out leaving us with swollen eyes, uncontrollable tears, and a slightly melted air pump, sorry AC.
10 am we were driving through Samuel H. Boardman State Park and by noon had hit Coos Bay and the Oregon Dunes in North Bend where Dwain had grown up.
It was in Reedsport that Zeke and I discovered we were kindred coffee spirits. All along the drive, every espresso hut passed was a longed for stop. It was at this gas station which was so perfectly positioned across from a small house with bold letters that spelled espresso that caused one look to be exchanged signaling the “go” for both of us to take off running towards the shop. Though unsuccessful, it became a mutual mission to find coffee.
Around 3 pm we stopped off at the Sea Lion Caves in Florence and by 5:45 had hit Tillamook!
6pm we were excitedly barreling through the doors of the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The line to the free samples was definitely taken advantage of, and I topped off the tour with a bowl of mocha pecan ice cream, which was absolutely to die for, and oh so dangerous if I lived anywhere near that factory.
Continuing my run of the road, I drove us down hairpin turns to a secluded gem in the Ecola State Park, Indian Beach.
It was 7:30 pm and disappointed there was no campground, we explored the fascinating squeaky sands and forested coastline.
At 9:30 pm we pulled into Fort Stevens State Park just in time to get a site. Since it was mosquito nation, the deet was busted out and any skin showing covered. Dinner of different soups was made and scarfed quickly. Priding myself in being raised with camping card games, I really thought learning Kings in the Corner would be no problem, but my goodness, was I sorely mistaken. I lost almost every round, lost any card pride competitiveness I thought I had, and to top it off, accidentally opened and drank a $15 dollar specialty beer that Dwain had just bought from the Tillamook Factory… Oops.
Laying in our sleeping bags, the early morning hour was opened with a laugh filled apology to Dwain for drinking his prized beer. An early morning skateboard cruise through the forest enlightened the start to a beautiful third day. With every pump, I became more invested in the moment, soaking up the brisk air and saturating my eyes with the colors of the forest.
Again, another game of “pack the truck tetris” was in play when I got back to camp and to entertain myself, I started experimenting with forearm stands on the Yeti cooler. I nailed one! Taking it to the next level I began to switch my legs slowly to my off side and got so excited I arched too far back. It went way past saving, ending in me getting catapulted off the other side and into a face plant hitting the pavement busting out two bloody kneecaps and cheese grated hands. YES, success, and a couple battle wounds on top of that made the accomplishment even cooler in my brain.
“Dammit Caitlin! Sit down,” Darren shouted sternly through the laughs.
Swinging by the Fort Stevens State Park Beach on our way out, Dwain surprised us as he turned onto the sand and started accelerating down the beach only feet from the crashing waves. Pieces of huge sand dollars covered the tide lines while pockets of sand crabs soaked in warm pools of water around the remnants of a shipwreck that was the focal point of exploration.
By 10 am we were crossing the Columbia River through North Bend, and a couple hours later, Zeke and I finally got the drivers to stop at an espresso hut called Timber Grounds overlooking one of the most breathtaking views of water, land, sky, and trees.
The hours and land that passed coincided nicely with the silence inside the truck. Wind from the open windows lullabied the cab and an occasional switch in body positions would call for a few words exchanged, but soon would slip back into the tranquil mediation of watching the scenery blend together. This was my favorite part of our trip. It left me with a feeling of gratitude and appreciation for the people I was experiencing this with. No words were needed for bonding that was taking place.
A game of using the wind to place and keep pennies on each finger kept us entertained breaking the driving silence.
The drive through Hoquiam, Washington was joked to be the Sun City of the Northwest and by 1 pm we had entered Olympic National Park and discovered a refreshing break on a trail in the Quinault Rain Forest.
Massive trees loomed in every direction shadowing the dirt pathway. Every shade of green a brain could possibly imagine painted the scenery. Hearing the sound of running water, we took off down a bendy side trail that lead to a wooden bridge crossing over a crystal clear rushing stream.
Desperate for a rinse, we dunked and scrubbed and splashed our heads and pits.
Back on the path, the oddest of tree formations were tucked along the trail with banana slugs clinging to all sorts of foliage.
Darren and Zeke, fascinated with a big, juicy Dijon mustard colored slug held him in their hands. They mischievously joked that licking a slug numbs the tongue. With a dare in his voice Zeke states, “I’ll do it if you do it,” and proceeds with every square inch of his tongue to lick the poor banana slug from bottom to top. I know for a fact time stopped as the guys watched my wheels turn comprehending what had just happened. Before I knew it, my tongue quickly licked the slug too! To say the least, the slug had zero numbing power, and probably felt absolutely violated by the two crazy Californians.
With Ozzy’s Boneyard on blast, we hit the road again and stopped off to take in the winsome views of Forks along the Washington Coastline.
A quarter to four we were almost to the tip of Washington as we passed passed through Beaver, passing Crescent Lake, and were finally closing the gap to Port Angeles! The energy in the car seemed to increase the closer the ferry got. Reading up on the amount of alcohol permitted to cross the border, we unanimously stocked the exact amount of beer and made the ferry with ten minutes to spare.
It was the first time my passport had been asked for and I was stoked to hand it over. Except, I had tried to be a proactive traveler and stuck it in a waterproof travel pouch that it actually ended up getting stuck in. Slight panic mode hit as I realized I was the only one everyone was waiting on, and throwing a little tissy fit, I shook the pouch uncontrollably like a toddler with a locked ziplock baggie. Darren came to the rescue… phew, a little embarrassing, but it didn’t stop us from driving on the ferry only minutes later.
At 5:15 the ferries engine rumbled and we slowly crept further and further away from the United States. I have to say, I did feel somewhat guilty as the distance became greater between me and the States. The more it went out of sight, the more alive I felt. I had left the country and I was on top of the world!
Hand-standing on the different decks, I attempted to get an invite up to the captain’s cabin. Though unsuccessful, he and his mate laughed and applauded my efforts.
It was now 7:00 pm and we drove through customs where we were asked pull aside for a secondary check. Dwain did most of the talking as the officer questioned each of us our jobs, trip intentions, and activities planned for our time spent in Canada. When it got to the list of questions regarding fruit, I openly admitted to bringing two white peaches… the laughing officer disregarded it, but did comment on how precisely planned the exact amount of allowed beers was brought in. Soon enough we driving out of the port.
Downtown Victoria Island was beautiful. Old buildings with intricate details scaped the scenery throughout the city. Around 8 pm we stopped in to withdraw some Canadian money from a local drugstore and pick up last minute groceries before our two hour trek to the campground at Horne Lake. While at the atm, Dwain held out his money and asked how it smelt. I of course, being completely indiscreet squeal, “Whoa! It does smell like maple syrup.” The guys, embarrassed to all means, told me to take my excitement down a notch and get out of there. Eeek! Sorry guys, such a newb.
Travel lesson number one, no matter how yummy the money smells, don’t react.
The last stretch to the campground was a little rough and unbearable for everyone. By midnight, camp was set up, beers were cracked, and a recap of the day under the stars filled with laughs and caterpillars.
I woke before everyone else and walked to the lake which allowed my senses to recharge. The hour spent alone gave way to me becoming completely immersed in the beauty of being still before God and his break-taking creations.
A flowy stretch sesh by the glassy water was filled with toasty sun rays and chirping melodies of sweet birds. Jogging back to camp I came across a snake that I tried to help, but fearfully stared at instead. Remember those words. The poor guy needed to be moved off the road, but I just couldn’t bring myself to touch him.
Dwain had the paddle boards ready to rock and I joined him for what turned into hours of exploration as we outlined a third of the massive lake. You could see down for feet below the water, and at certain points the clarity would drop off into depths of pitch blackness. We perused a shady lagoon with a waterfall where we parked our boards and scrambled across and up into the moss covered rock formations. Sitting in the midst of this mini oasis we talked life and drifted carelessly back into the lake. Paddling towards an island, we again pulled off to park and climb up to only be amazed yet again by the intense vastness of the lake and mountains. The mountain face was striped with different shades of rustic browns and grays that seemed to perfectly frame the outline of the sapphire colors of the lake.
Getting back to camp, Darrin and Zeke had rustled up their specialty of chili cheese potatoes naming it Horne Lake Stew. As we visited and laughed and ate together, this became another sweet moment in the adventure that filled my heart with contentedness and was tucked away in my brain’s Rolodex of irreplaceable memories.
Around 2 pm we eagerly got ready to explore the multiple caves Horne Lake is known for. The bubbling curves of rock tunneled tight passageways through the ground of the Lower Cave. Though this one was short, the formations were fascinating.
The second cave named Andre’s Annex was 54 meters long and a plaque stating “Enter at your own risk” was where it all got real. As we entered through a triangular hole in the side of a hill, we cautiously lowered ourselves deeper into the earth with only the light of our headlamps guiding our way to a roped in ladder that dropped into a closet sized corridor. The smell was crisp and earthy, the sounds of dripping water consistent, and the iciness of cold air encased your body. Following Dwain, I was number two through the crawlspace that narrowed quickly into a tunnel you had to army crawl through. Regulated breathing and convincing your brain this was totally normal became the name of the game as we belly dragged our bodies through the muddy tunnels. After hitting a dead end, and now back in the corridor, we sat in a daze watching our steaming bodies look as if we were smoking through our clothes.
On our way back to the truck we ran into the first of women I couldn’t resist but be inspired by. Her golden blonde hair tied back bared the natural features of a makeupless face accentuating the roughness of her bright red cave guide jumper. Her smile was infectious as she chatted up our plans and shared secret spots known only by the locals. As we walked away, I couldn’t help but blown away by how badass it was to see such a beauty fearlessly guiding cave tours and stoked to welcome the newcomers to the area.
A bathtime in the lake, followed by a beer on the shore in the sun to dry off made dinnertime only that much better. We had found a natural groove between the four of us and organically became sympatico in all we did.
Zeke had mentioned he wanted to go snake hunting and threw me an invite to join him. Detailing how they sound in the tall grass beside the water, we walked through the sun heated brush taking big and methodical steps. After a decent amount of hunting, we walked back to our bikes to have the pleasant surprise to of an olive green garter snake rustling the brush below. Slithering over two folds of Zeke’s hands I refused to allow my brain to consider any predispositions I might have had before and followed his rhythm as the snake transferred from his hands to mine. The calming sensation between the snake and I paralleled themselves as I could feel both of our heart rates decrease. It was empowering to know that a wild animal felt comfortable enough to relax into my embrace. Before I knew it, the little guy launched himself back to the ground and disappeared from sight. An ecstatic ear to ear grin was exchanged between Zeke and I as we recapped what had just happened like little kids on Christmas. I WAS SO PUMPED. I had faced a fear, and won.
On the side note, if you ever come across an individual that takes you out of your comfort zone so naturally they are worth every effort to keep as a friend forever. You never know what you may learn about yourself, overcome, or all along had the potential to do, feel and be.
Topping off the hunt, I road my first trail through a wood lined pathway on a mountain bike and attempted hitting every possible rock, root or tree stump I could find just to say I did!
Dwain was napping when we got back to camp, and Darrin was making a great effort at trying to reorganize the back of the truck again. By midnight, we were knees deep in card games and belly laughs.
Starting the morning off by the lake again, we were about to hit our final stretch of road. By 10 am, we had reached our second ferry ride from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Once again, I filled my time with handstands and back walk overs on the front deck while Dwain read. Walking the boat, I found the washrooms where a woman and I started exchanging stories of Instagram fitness ladies we follow. She ended up being an owner of a salon and did my makeup as we exchanged contact info to keep in touch. Continuing my walk around the ship, I passed a couple on the smoking deck that caught my attention. As I was walking by something in my brain told me to go back and bum a cig. I have to say, it was totally worth it because I ended spending the rest of the time visiting with them and their awesome friends about travel, society, art and life.
We too exchanged Instagrams, and promised to keep in touch in hopes to coordinate a visit the next time they get out to California.
At 1pm we docked at the BC Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and were on our way to our final destination, Squamish!
It was about 26 miles outside of Vancouver and lining the highway was the beautiful sound. Catching sight of the Big Chief for the first time was jaw dropping. We parked, payed, and set up camp as fast as we could to be able to have enough light to get our hands on the rock and do our first multi pitch of the trip. By 7 pm, we snapped photos on top a two pitch climb overlooking the stunning sunset skies of Squamish.
This was the first day of a real rock schooling from Darren and Dwain to Zeke and I. They took us from beginning to end, through gear, anchors, knots, tips, tricks, methods and techniques. By 11:30, I was climbing my first crack, ever.
Since I was cleaning the gear, I followed Dwain, and was given a chance to learn how body, gear and rock work together when done correctly. Cruising over to Shannon Falls, we completed the five pitch climb, Skywalker.
At the top of the third pitch, which was an over exposed traverse hundreds of feet looming on a curved cliff, a steel plate rested above one of the anchor bolts engraved with the propelling words, “May the force be with you.” Reaching the top felt like we had defeated the dark side in an epic battle. It is mind blowing how all time, feelings and thoughts stop when you’re climbing, especially that many feet above the ground. It is as if your body has one mission in mind, and that one mission is to keep going up, no slowing down, no stopping.
By that time I had become awfully hangry… poor Dwain. The one and only mission that consumed my mind was food. A nasty tree stump skinned my already skinned knee on the down hilled hike and after minutes of convincing myself big girls don’t cry, I was laughing with Dwain again as we trekked our tired bodies back to the truck. Knowing it had been a long day without any breakfast, Darren and Zeke were in the midst of cooking up dinner as we walked up. It was magical. My first words out of my mouth claimed a whole new love for them, “You guys just keep getting cooler and cooler!” Who knew chili cheese potatoes and a bag of chips would have become the bombest tasting meal I had ever eaten. Napping in the parking lot we absorbed the incredible feeling of accomplishment and a full belly.
Back at the camp parking lot we visited with neighboring campers, had a few celebratory beers of course, and topped off the night with some face in the gravel assisted stretching to help loosen up those achy harness muscles.
A no breakfast or coffee morning was not going to be the start to this morning and since I was the first one up, I decided to take the initiative to wake the guys with coffee and breakfast to their tents. By noon, we were in Murrin Provincial Park learning how to use trad gear, build our own anchors, set up a top belays, and were being graded on our leading and placing gear skills. The first 5.4 climb Dwain graded me on got a C, but the second, he gave me an A and continuing to specify that though it was not an A+, he did praise my efforts at being a great student! Zeke and I took what we learned and climbed our first route outside our teachers with each other. There is an interesting dynamic that takes place in the brain being a new climber and having only experienced one partner you have built trust with. Just another life lesson to never get comfy. The next route on our list was a 5.11a that I refused to be defeated by. After watching Darren tactfully ascend the beautiful movements the rock positioned you in, I felt compelled to try it. If there was a word for an emoji eye roll, it would go right here, right now. I worked this climb with such determination I completely exhausted myself for the rest of the day. Though I used two of the draws to help me out of a pickle, I completed the route. Disappointed I cheated, I let it go, and accepted the fact that without the help, I would not have known I was capable to have pushed my body and muscles that far.
That night Dwain and Darren picked up Kevin and AC who flew in and were bused to the Squamish Activity Center at 8 pm. Zeke and I took that time to build some thigh muscles with a gnarly bike ride to town for a short wifi sesh. Finishing the day off with some dimly lit night bouldering, the darkness of night finally capped off the full day around 1 am.
The crew kicked off the day with a bang. We rappelled 400 feet down into a gully next to fiercely raging rapids and climbed our way through three, somewhat exposed but mild routes. The first one Dwain and I started. Much to my dismay it was the passport situation all over again. I had forgotten the vital piece of information that when you top belay the bottom locking carabiner should not be attached to anything… I had to have redone it about 20 times but just could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Dwain had already started climbing thinking I was confidently belaying him when in all reality my hand waved the belay device out and a panicked yell shot out muffled by the rapids of “I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong!” It was about two minutes of frustrated impatience on both our parts, but thank God it clicked in my brain and figured the correct set up by the time Dwain topped out of the climb. Eek! Humbled, yet again, I felt beyond blessed to have know such an incredible and understanding friend forcing me keep on going without any negative responses. Bonding moment on a whole new level.
As we rested and game planned back at the truck, I did my longest handstand I’ve ever done. Yay!! We decided to head over to Cheakamus Canyon where we climbed a handful of routes and a falling lesson was given by Dwain to me. He recommended that it was time to learn how trust the system by getting to the top of the route and letting go. I made it a point to not think about the upcoming fall while I climbed, then surprised myself as came to the second to the last draw and instead of clipping, I let my hands slide off and fell the five feet to the last draw! So exciting! It makes my palms sweat just thinking about it. Dwain locked off, and congratulated the fearless accomplishment. The guys had me clean the next couple of routes, and again, I got to learn how to trust another belay partner on one specifically challenging route that I finished without any takes! It was all starting to click. Brain and body began to fall into a synchronizing pattern and I was slowly becoming absolutely captivated with the sensation climbing gives.
Stopping off to check out the rapids of the Cheakamus River and the bungee jumping hut positioned perfectly over and above the turquoise waters we piled back into the truck to find a lake to bathe in on our way to Whistler for dinner.
As we slowed our roll spying out spots for a bath, we just couldn’t seem to find a body of water suitable. U-turning to check out a spot off the 99 we parked on the side of a hole encircled by trees. Tiptoeing across a wooden plank to a cockeyed dock, the murky brown and green colors of a muddy bog sat looking back at us. I am sure there was about a minute we all stood there processing if it was really worth it, and funny enough, it totally was. Five days without a rinse makes any slime hole look appetizing. Dwain bravely kicked off the line up as five out of the six of us slipped into the water and onto the standing log below the deck. Soap was was passed around like a hot potato and scrubbing hands to unseen places. Kevin stood on the deck repeating, “Oh heck no,” and ended up capturing the raw humor of what was taking place.
Feeling like a whole new crew, we pulled into the village of Whistler, parked, and the second the car doors opened, we took in the infectious energy of this rad little mountain town.
It was a mountain biker’s paradise as lifts moved up and down the mountain with riders and bikes following. Tracks were being constructed and an equal amount of men and women filled the waiting lines. It was captivating.
A hot meal and pitchers of beer was beyond enjoyed as we visited with our server and exchanged info to keep in touch. Taking a minute away from the guys, I went back upstairs and ended up having a hilarious conversation with the head chef and his buddy. Darren was the first one to join our company. Commenting on the fact I was reaching my daily friend limit, I comprehended that aspect of myself. I have no problem sparking personable connections with strangers, but it always seems to be fostering them that I need to become better at. I may come across extroverted, but as time passes I fall into a weird, introverted nature. It was an epiphany I felt compelled to refine as it hit me.
It started like any other morning, but took a turn as I visited with this rad little lady named Elise in the parking lot as I made my coffee. Every morning we would bounce the similar details of our lives back and forth. She would finish every conversation with an invite to join her climbing. Nonchalantly, I would respond that I was totally gun-ho, but felt completely intimidated to go without any of the guys. She left me with a statement that morning that made an impact, “It’s important for woman to climb with other women,” she dropped as she walked back to her car. Sitting in the cab, I looked at Dwain and asked what he thought, he casually stated he trusted her and his time teaching me would have been a waste if I wasn’t going to actually put it to use…
“I’ll be ready in an hour,” I yelled across without a second thought!
Here goes. Dropping coffee and breakfast off to the guy’s tent I asked to borrow some gear and told them I’d be back around four. After buckling up, Elise handed me the guidebook and delegated my responsibility to be navigator of the trip. “Your kidding right?!?” was my first thought. I shifted my mindset and breathed my trip matra, just be. You got this Caitlin, just learn to read the guidebook. These books had always been so foreign to me, but within the half hour I got us there, and we were climbing by 11 am. Our first was a two pitch climb called Charlotte’s Web. She led the first and I led the second. Enjoying the views we shared our hearts, had some of the best girl talk that was long overdo, and I ultimately got to learn some key points of climbing as a woman. So rad!
The second climb, Sacrilege, was a 240 foot, three pitch sport climb that I started off leading, and Elise took the last two pitches. Catching an unexpected fall confirmed my hands and brain can be trusted! Two long repels ended it in an avatar like experience that lowered you dangling down into an overhung canyon filled with watching climbers.
Ready for a swim, we drove for what seemed like forever down a beaten path to a secret zipline our waiter from Whistler had mentioned. Staring at the massive tree that had about fifteen nailed boards leading up to a two foot plank of wood working as a seat, Elise and I exchanged a skeptical look as she broke the silence with, “You wanna go first?”
I probably said okay about ten times as I hiked each foot to the next step. Cautiously stepping onto the makeshift plank seat, I slowly pulled in the handles which were two rope loops. I said my last okay as I simultaneously slide my butt off the plank fifteen feet above the water. Rolling towards the middle of the line, it caught the end, struck a pose and dropped into the best feeling water! After a couple more runs and a belly flop, we made our way back into town.
I honestly had grown to miss the company of our crew over the day. There was a mutual embrace of contentment to be back together again when I saw them and while snacking on the parking lot ground, Elise and I excitedly recapped the day’s adventure. That night we finished off with some epic bouldering and beers. My hands were shredded, two blood blisters popped and my failing muscles made it more of a shut down session than ascension, but I came to appreciate and learn from the talents of the crew’s climbing strength and yet again, had mad respect for another bad ass lady.
Friday came all too fast. I barely slept knowing it was my last day spent in this magical adventure. Each face that came to breakfast felt my heartache and turned my frown upside down as they hugged it out with me. Deciding the day should be spent climbing we headed back over to Cal-Cheak were Elise and I had climbed the day before.
Laughing at Zeke’s and mine drive to jump the nest, we headed over to our first multi pitch, Emil and the Detectives without our Jedi masters. A humorous conversation confirming the rapids belay mistake was a thing of the past, Zeke gave a quick head nod and started leading the first pitch. Leading the second, mishap free, we made it to the top and got to enjoy the climbing and views with a new notch under our belt. A high five sealed the accomplishment as we repelled down stoked to have done what we just did.
Back with the group, we soberly took in the last hours we were going to have in each other’s company being surrounded among the trees and mountain faces. I busted out one of my last handstands on Canadian soil after capturing the original road crew in their element.
Driving us back into town and what we had called home for over a week, we stopped off to check out Alice Lake, then headed for a going away burger and beer overlooking the river to the sound.
Walking down to the water, we shocked our bodies with the piercing temperatures of a quick bath, scrubbing like we’ve never scrubbed before. Strolling back with Dwain, I couldn’t help but express how thankful I was he had invited me. As we walked back to a bench with panoramic views, my eyes welled up with tears. It unfairly seemed that the colors and elegance of the sunset skies, glistening waters, and cascading mountains teased me that they got to stay and I had to leave. Emotions of bittersweet gratitude flooded my being from head to toe as we all sat in silence.
Making a few stops along the way back to camp, each of the guys surprised me with some of my favorite things to drink or eat. Tailgating, we went through every detail from my probably being blown by now to these last moments. A few games of cards finished the sweet time, and then it came, I was zipping up my sleeping bag.
Dwain dropped me off at the airport at 7 am, and a couple of hugs later I was walking into the airport with the biggest smile on my face. It was my time. If it wasn’t for Noah, I probably would have never let the adventure end.
Unfortunately, I had missed my boarding call by ten minutes and my flight took off without me. High on life, I didn’t let the impossibly stubborn booking attendant bring me down and soon had booked another flight for 2pm.
The morning was spent mosing around the airport with a coffee and snack until I found a comfy place to sit and start writing. Across from me sat the first of interesting individuals I crossed paths with. He was a director from LA filming an upcoming apocalypse series that kindly lent me the wall plug for my phone charger. Starving, I started another walk through the carpeted terminal until I caught eye of a Thai food joint and got in line. Asking the guy in front of me if the food was good, he commented he had no idea which ended striking up a conversation that lead to us sitting on the airport floor eating our lunch together. With another couple hours to kill, I walked to my gate, and killed some time doing headstands on the conveyor belt, grabbed some more snacks, and accidentally walked myself into the men’s restroom! Deciding that sitting myself down was probably the safer way to go from there on out, I mundanely swiped through Instagram until an elegant European women chose to sit down right next to me. She had some of the best poise and style I had ever seen, and within minutes we were talking of shoes and travels. So engulfed in our conversation, I missed my priority boarding call, but got to jump right in line and a hasty promise to exhange numbers with each other as soon as we landed was made. Almost knocking out every aisle seat with my skateboard sliding out of my backpack, I finagled my way to the window seat of 13 A. With a smile on his face, the man sitting next to me jumped up and came to my rescue loading my overhead luggage without a moment’s notice. The next four hours were filled with diverse conversations of mentalities, ideologies, and experiences. Landing we decided it was fate this crossing of paths happened, and promised to keep in touch as we parted our ways.
Getting picked up by a dear friend, it was heartwarming to see the first of familiar faces. Photos and brief stories capped off the night with my parents as I ate everything I saw in our kitchen. A long shower revealed the beauty of every cut, scrape and bruise my body bared.
That next morning as I layed in my bed, my mind raced through what I had just experienced. Choking up by the change that had taken place in my brain, body, and soul, I felt simplified and marked with a new sense of freedom. A hope to get right back out there, places to go, and people to see syndrome now charges every square inch of my being. Its go time now, and the adventures waiting to be had are just too many to number. There is now no holding back for me.
Quoted perfectly from a Cotton Jones song Elise shared with me, I can freely say “Home, is where you stop for a minute to clean your teeth.”
Until we meet again, Pura Vida baby!