Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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Subscription Boxes for Outdoors Aficionados? Yes Please!

I’m a bit out on the loop on anything new or cool.  I don’t have cable TV, and I rarely listen to the radio, so the latest craze is sometimes lost on me.  Earlier this spring, I found out there’s such a thing as subscription boxes when we got an opportunity to have an online chat with the Social Media manager for Birchbox. I was intrigued.  It’s like a birthday present every month!  That you pay for!

So, me being pretty lo-maint, I wasn’t interested in getting boxes of makeup or craft supplies each month and I started googling for subscription boxes for the outdoors.  I was actually thinking I should start one up. Don’t know why I thought I could pull that off with full-time work and part-time school, but hey, I’m a dreamer.

This is where Cairn comes in. It’s a monthly subscription ” of carefully curated gear [that] will show up at your door”.  It’s the only subscription service for us outdoor nerds that I could find.  And it’s just getting started!

So I watched the company for a while and read reviews online.  The boxes were arriving with one awesomely cool piece of gear, and a collection of smaller items.  People were getting Hydro Flasks, and hammocks, and LifeStraws! The subscription cost $25/month with free shipping, but you were always getting at least $35 worth of outdoors items, so I signed up!

** Right now, Cairn only ships to U.S. addresses until they grow**

Here’s my review of Cairn’s August and September Boxes!

AUGUST BOX

This was my first box, and when it arrived in the mail, it was so light, that I thought they forgot to put stuff in it!

August Box

Here’s why. The August box had a Gosamer Gear Q-Ditty storage bag in it!  This thing weighs .02oz and is super strong! My thoughts were that if your entire storage system was made out of this stuff you could cut some serious weight from your pack. For me though, I don’t know if I would spend that kind of dough on an entire system. The Q-Ditty small is worth about $16 by itself.  But yay!  I have one.  Of course I was going to use it!  Here’s what I did with mine on our recent hike to Kroenke Lake, Colorado:

What I carry in the Q-Ditty

What I carry in the Q-Ditty

Spare paracord, matches, spare batteries, a spork (not shown) and my trusty Canada flag for picture taking!

Also in the box were a pair of Sea to Summit accessory straps, which were great for attaching the air mattress to DH’s rucksack, a Paleo Eats Cro Bar and a tube of Sunsect Sunscreen & Insect Repellant Combo. Both in one tube! Used by the U.S. military!  Total worth in August: $38.50.

SEPTEMBER BOX

My September box arrived this week! It was heavier!

What's in the box September Box!

Check it out!  Our big item was the new insulated Stanley Vacuum Pint with bottle opener. I am sure I still have my classic green Stanley thermos with insulating carrier in the basement somewhere.

So here’s the thing about this item. It’s supposed to keep your drinks cold or hot for a very long time, but there’s no sealing lid, so it’s for nursing a beer around a campfire, not for carrying your drink anywhere.  It also weighs quite a bit, so I wouldn’t bring it with me on a 4 mile hike up 2,000 feet of elevation when I’m trying to minimize what I have to carry.  BUT, this will be my backyard, car-camping, bonfire pint glass from this point forward and I’m excited to get to use it! Oh, and Miracle Loki the Siberian Husky also seems to really like it:

Loki loves her Stanley Vacuum Pint!

Also in this month’s box were two samples of Skoop A Game drink mix, which holds the equivalent of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in a powder, and two samples of Sierra Sage organic outdoor first aid balms. One for muscles pains and one for stings, itches and healing.

Bring your A Game!

Bring your A Game!

Apparently, the salve smells good enough to eat!

Mmmm salve....

Mmmm salve….

The September box contains a worth of $42.20!

SWEET DEAL FOR YOU!

So, when I ordered my first box, I was able to use a $5 off coupon code provided by a fellow outdoor adventure blogger, Val in Real Life, making my first box only $20!

I would like to pay it forward to my followers.  If you liked what you saw (and here’s a list of all the boxes they’ve sent out so far and what was in them), I would like to offer you a $5 off coupon code for a new subscription as well!  Yay!

Just go to http://www.getcairn.com/products/cairn-subscription-box, use the coupon code JENNYRIGHTSIDE and Cairn will grant you $5 off your first box! Also, be sure to tell them when you sign up that Jenny Right-Side referred you with the email address jennyrightside [at] gmail [dot] com!! This offer is good through November 30, 2014!!!

** Right now, Cairn only ships to U.S. addresses until they grow**

ENJOY!!

** Disclaimer: I paid for both of these boxes, and did not receive any free products from Cairn or Cairn’s affiliates. This review is completely based on my experience subscribing to this service**

Skipping a 14er for Stanley Canyon Trail

Part of the reason my blog is called “Stumbling into Adventure” is because I don’t often plan things through.  I get an idea in my head and I make it happen.  It always seems to work out for me – somehow.  My husband likes to carefully plan and be prepared for every excursion – the complete opposite!

So I had it in my head that we were going to climb Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) today. We were going to take the Barr Trail, camp overnight, summit tomorrow morning and hike back down.  With the dog.  My husband thought we should summit the same day and camp on the way down. So we had it all planned out before realizing that Barr Trail gains 7,615 feet in elevation in 13 miles (not to mention the 13 miles back down!).  We then decided to go with an easier mountain, a class 1 but the highest in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Until we saw that a storm was supposed to roll in this morning around 11am in the region.  So we sat down.  And had a chat.  About starting with the biggest.

We settled on Stanley Canyon Trail.   This was close to home and would be a good practice trail with some good elevation, but that we could do in about 4 hours, round trip. 

Loki is ready to start hiking!

Loki is ready to start hiking!

It gains about 2000 feet in elevation in about 2 miles.  The beginning is the worst and requires scrambling over rocks at times. But the views, they were breathtaking!  There were a couple of spots where you could look back and see over the entire city of Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.  Once inside the canyon, the steep walls make for a surreal experience, and at the top of the first section of the climb there is a beautiful, sunny, waterfall area filled with butterflies!  

Flowers in a clearing

Flowers in a clearing

The geography of the entire trail changes about 4 or 5 times along the way up.  Fields, forest, rocky climbs, waterfalls, canyon walls, and finally at the end, a hidden reservoir.

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

The reservoir at the top was a nice secluded location for a lunch or in Loki’s case, a nap!

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

It was a great day and a great hike. And yes, I admitted to my husband that maybe going after the biggest 14ers right away wouldn’t have been such a great idea!  We have decided from this point to work our climbing endurance for a while before going big!  We’re going to try to do two trails a week, alternative between easy, level but longer trails and steeper, moderate trails!

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Hiking Buddies!  Loki was a champ!

Hiking Buddies! Loki was a champ!

I is for Incline!

Since I arrived in Colorado Springs, the Manitou Incline is one of those things that all the “fit” people talk about doing. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that climbing the Incline was the start to every day!

I’ve heard rumours of old men jogging to the top. Women with babies on their backs strolling up as if they were walking around the block. Children scrambling to the top with boundless energy.

The hike is a 2,000 foot incline in less than 1 mile. You are practically one degree from having to climb up a ladder to get to the top!

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When I first got here, I hadn’t acclimatized to the altitude yet, so wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Then winter in Colorado came and I figured it would be best to not tempt Mother Nature. Now I have almost been here for a year. I can handle steps without gasping for air, and the Incline is closing in August for a couple of months in order to do repairs. It was now or possibly never!

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I have to tell you, the rumours were true. The 80 year old men zipped past me as if I was standing still. The uber fit moms carried their babies to the top with ease. Colorado hippies ran up and down wearing nothing but shorts and flip flops, their dreadlocks waving behind them. It was surreal!

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Me? I started gasping for air on the first three steps! But it wasn’t so bad. Everyone was super friendly, it was a beautiful day and the higher we got, the more beautiful the views! It didn’t suck half as bad as I thought it would!

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My friend who climbed with me was 23 weeks pregnant, but a hardcore cross fitter. There was no way I was going to complain! We took it slow and made it up in just under an hour and a half! By the way, the world record is just under 17 minutes. Yeah. Probably by one of those 80 year olds!

All I can say, is that I want to try it again and better my time! What a way to get fit!!

Here’s a video of what it’s like!

 

P is for Pike’s Peak

Yes, I missed a few. And it’s no longer April (in fact, it’s no longer May either)!

So I have lived in Colorado Springs for just under a year now and the over 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak has been looming over me almost every day, watching my every move. The mountain is to the left of me as I drive to work and to the right of me when I drive home.  It is standing there directly across from me as I walk out of my westward facing front door. The only time I don’t see the peak is when the weather systems roll in and the entire mountain range is engulfed in clouds.  Even at night I can see the light flickering from the top of the mountain.

I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy... ~Rockwell

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy… ~Rockwell

Pike’s Peak was named after Bridagier-General Zebulon (if anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know) Montgomery Pike who “discovered” the mountain on an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. Ironically to me (the Canadian in Colorado), Brig.-Gen Pike died in battle during the war of 1812 in York (now Toronto – so sorry about that Americans, I’m glad we’re friends now).

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There are three main ways you can get to the top of Pike’s Peak:

1. The world’s highest Cog Train: For $36 a head, you can ride the train to the summit of the mountain.  It lets you off for about 30-40 minutes while you scramble to take #summitselfies and try the freshly baked altitude donuts, before taking you back down to the bottom. Total trip time: 3.5 hours.

 

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts...

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts…

2. Drive the Pike’s Peak Highway: Pay between $10-$12 at the tollgate (hint $2 off coupon) and drive all the way to the top! Not for the faint hearted though – although the train probably isn’t either! There aren’t any guardrails, and the right just simply drops off the side of the mountain. My husband was like, “Jenny, you can get a little closer to the right. You have lots of room.  You don’t have to crowd the line,” to which I retorted, “No, I’m good.  Thanks for the advice but I’ll just keep driving up the centre of the road.”  Also, word of advice, if you don’t have hill assist on your car/truck, don’t ride the brakes on the way down or you’ll have to stop halfway to let them cool off.  Not good for your car, and you really don’t want to lose that thing that will stop you if you need to!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

3.  Hike it: The Barr Trail ascends 7,900 vertical feet in just over 11 miles. You could do it in one day – the average ascent time is between 6-10 hours – or you can spread it out over two days and stay at Barr Camp half way up. Doggies on leashes are allowed! How do you get down?  Have a friend meet you at the top, take the train, or hike back down another 5-7 hours! (I’ll opt for the train…)

Someone looks a little pooped!

Someone looks a little pooped!

Some neat events based on Pike’s Peak:

The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb: every year in June, racers of all shapes and sizes test their skills and fear of heights to race to the top of Pike’s Peak. I wanted to go and watch in person, but once you’re up there you can’t get down until after the race is over.  Haven’t decided yet.

 

The AdAMan Climb: Every year, a select group of climbers ascend Pike’s Peak on December 31st (actually I think they start on the 30th) along Barr Trail and pop off Fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year.  Here’s the view from Garden of the Gods with my first-time attempt at using a tripod in pitch black and no professional skillz to try and get a photo of this cool phenomenon.

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

Travelling with Pets: Part I

As a whitewater kayaker, I often travelled across the US with fellow paddlers who had dogs.  Living off the grid, near whitewater is a lot easier to do with a pet than visiting cities and towns. Sleeping in the back of your van or truck and paddling through the wilderness has created a pet-friendly living environment.  Some rivers, the dogs would follow us along the shore, while others, we left the dogs in the campground or RV.

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Me watching Black Dog in Vail, Colorado while her owner competes in a down river race

When we discovered that we would be unable to travel for a while due to work and courses, we bit the bullet and adopted a sweet little Siberian Husky named Loki.  When Loki was almost a year old, we decided it was time to bring her along on some of our excursions!

The May long-weekend was the first test to see how well she could travel with us. I did a lot of research online to see what we could do for one weekend with the dog.  My husband was away on a course, so I would be picking him up on the way.

We decided that the Bruce Peninsula would be a great option. Hiking, camping and relaxing for a long weekend would work well as a first trip.  We didn’t have our camping gear readily available, and since DH was at school, we decided to do it in some form of luxury.  We ended up staying at the KOA in Owen Sound, owned and run by a lovely German couple.  We rented a small “Kabin” with a double and bunk bed and brought along Loki’s bed and food.

Loki made friends with everyone, and we were amazed at how well behaved she was when kids went running past our site or other dogs started barking. Lucky for us, we don’t have a “barker”!

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Loki resting in the shade after a long hike!

There were a lot of sections of the trail nearby for hiking, so we spent our days away from the campsite, exploring nature.

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Hiking the Bruce Trail

Loki got her first experience with water (she was born in July last year and too young to learn to swim before it got cold); we let her play in a stream, and then on the second day at Kincardine, a dog-friendly beach.  The water in Lake Huron was still very cold, so the swimming part would have to wait until later.  Loki just didn’t like it at all.

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Loki playing in the stream.

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Not liking the cold water so much.

We cooked on the firepit in the campground and spent the evenings drinking beer, sitting outside, and chatting with neighbours.  The cabins were great for us. Loki’s bed fit nicely in the corner and after each day’s activities, she was out like a light!  It was a great first experience travelling with her and now we’ll have to find some other ways to bring her along.  Next time, we’d like to do some hiking camping with our tent and sleeping bags and bring the dog along.  After a full day of hiking, our normally rambunctious Siberian Husky is pretty subdued! We thought about Algonquin Park and do some real hike-camping, but DH is worried about wild animals and how she might fare in a tent.

It was a great weekend.  We got to spend our time outdoors, and got to bring the dog along.  We don’t feel comfortable staying in hotels with a dog, and know that many don’t even allow them to begin with.

I think Loki was the most pooped after the whole weekend and she completely crashed on the 6 hour drive back to Ottawa!

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One pooped puppy!

I hope to do this much more often in the future.  It makes for an inexpensive vacation, and the whole family gets to come along! Does anyone have any great resources for travelling with pets?  I’ve found a few websites that list “pet-friendly” hotels/motels/parks etc, but I’d be interested in knowing how others fare.

Self Exploration and Recharging

Everyone should always set aside time for themselves and stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the crisp winter air (which is just as rejuvenating).

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A friend of mine was hosting a special retreat at her house is weekend for her business partners and friends, and I was lucky enough to be invited. The day involved nature hikes, yoga, hot tub, self-exploration sessions on our relationships with food and lots of cooking with only raw, vegan ingredients.

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Now I am probably the last person you would see attending a vegan retreat; I love my meat and I hate eating vegetables (I will eat them, I just hate the preparation) but I decided to attend so I could see what I could do with vegetables and fruit to make them more interesting and motivate me to eat more. Classically trained raw-vegan chef Lara Marjerrison came up from Toronto for the weekend with the goal to help us develop a better relationship with natural foods. She brought Britney Binkowski, a psychotherapist with a private practice in Toronto to talk to us about food and get us thinking about why we eat the way we do.

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I realized that as a child, my mother was very sensitive and aware about what we ate. There was never any junk food in the house, and we rarely went out to eat. The only time I ever experienced McDonald’s was when I went to other kids’ birthday parties. We never had KRAFT Dinner, and would look forward to going to my aunt and uncle’s cottage because they had Honey Nut Cheerios (which to us, was a sugary cereal)! When I moved out as an older teen I ate like crap and probably because I never experienced it growing up! I don’t keep junk in the house now, but admit I don’t eat as well as I should, and my husband probably eats even worse!

Lara led us through creating a lunch, snacks, and dinner for the sixteen of us. During lunch, we had no idea what we were creating, we just took knives, cutting board and blenders and did what Lara told us. The end result was incredible! Stuffed hot peppers, celery root and mango salad, avocado and salsa and tacos! The tacos were made with romaine lettuce as the shell and marinated portobello mushrooms and a spiced ground cashew nut “meat”. I could not get over how many flavours popped out of that dish! It amazed me how filling the meal was and how tasty it was. I would argue at the flavours were stronger than in normal meat and potato dishes!

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Later for a snack, we learned how to make veggie and fruit dips. We had two dips made with paste created from nuts (cashews and almonds): a curry dip and a green onion dip. We also had a dip for fruit made from almond butter, coconut butter and cacao.

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Finally for dinner, we created something that I never believed could be possible using only raw foods! A red curry coconut milk soup (tasted better than anything you get in restaurants), a Pad
Thai with the noodles created out of curly sliced cucumber and an Asian inspired green salad. I couldn’t even finish my plate!

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Finally, we had mango-lime cheesecake for dessert! The “cheese” was made of cashews and the “graham crust” was made of dates and walnuts, I believe,

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I don’t know if anyone reading this post is as impressed as I am, but I couldn’t just keep this experience to myself. I learned so much about myself this weekend, was given an opportunity to relax after working 12-14 hour days straight for the past month, and I developed a new appreciation for raw foods. My mind is still BLOWN (!) by the masterpieces created by a whole bunch of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

What are your eating habits like? Do you often feel too busy/tired to eat healthy? I would appreciate some tricks of keeping your clean/raw/organic/healthy eating on track.

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