Woods Explorer Stories: Home Sweet Home on the Sea to Sky Marine Trail

I’ve been haphazardly recapping/journaling memories from  my 5-month, 14-leg trek across Canada back in 2015 – start here, if you’d like to catch up.

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Our final two legs took place in our very own backyard: Sea to Sky country. I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to get back home and sleep in my own bed (if only for a few nights). Having access to all my creature comforts was the most wonderful feeling – but my favourite moment was meeting up with friends on one of the first nights back. It was a very normal night – dinner at their house – and we swapped stories and caught up on life and what I’d missed over the past few months.

The best feeling was actually having stories to share with Cedric when I saw him later that night. I had loved spending time with him, but it was soooo good to spend time apart to recharge with our friends and to have our own experiences, if only for a few hours.

Our next adventure was one I was actually quite looking forward to: paddling the Sea to Sky Marine Trail in Howe Sound. I’d driven past the stunning Howe Sound more times than I can count, but I had never had the chance to experience it via kayak.

Let’s talk about marine trails for a second. When we paddled the Sound back in 2015, the Sea to Sky Marine Trail was still in the process of being “developed” – only it wasn’t so much the trails being developed as the campsites. There are a few campsites scattered on the shores of the coast and the Gulf Islands in Howe Sound, and how you make your way from site to site is pretty much up to you. So the moniker “marine trail” is a little misleading – the whole ocean is the trail.

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PERFECT WEATHER – so good.

In a typical leg, we would get a night or two at a hotel before the adventurous part began – this was to upload and send photos and videos (a task that took forever), to write blog posts, to do laundry, and to buy food and anything we might need for the adventure of the moment. On this leg, our home base was our actual home, so we had a bit more flexibility in terms of adapting to the weather. We ended up taking off a day later than anticipated, which meant that we enjoy perfect, blue skies the entire kayak trip. A++++.

The Sea to Sky Marine leg felt like a well-deserved vacation. We lucked out with mostly super calm waters, so we took our time and paddled leisurely, enjoying the sun. Remember – we’d just finished camping in Banff, where we’d slept in sub-zero temperatures and hiked in the snow. The sun and the sea felt mighty fine.

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The caption lies – this is Anvil, not Gambier

One night, we snagged a perfect campsite on Anvil Island. The tent pad was tucked away on a sandy beach, and there was only one other couple sharing the area. They were nice, but mostly left us to ourselves. We set up our Woods hammock (truly one of my favourite Woods pieces) and enjoyed leisurely breakfasts of toad in the holes. By now, Cedric had perfected his camp coffee-making skills, and our mornings were slow and wonderful.

This leg was not without its mishaps. On one day, the water was so calm that we didn’t need the skirts on our kayaks. Cedric set up the GoPro on the back of my kayak opening (I’m sure there’s a technical term) to get some footage, but I didn’t know it was there. At one point, I spun around to look over my shoulder – and promptly knocked the GoPro right into the ocean. It sunk instantly. That was not a great feeling.

On what was supposed to be our last night camping, we headed to our camping spot early. Cedric wanted to set up the tent right away to get a few photos, and as he went to put it up – something we’d done probably 60 times so far that summer – the centre pole snapped right in half. (I have to give it kudos – the tent was a prototype and went through some serious wear and tear on this trip.)

 

On most legs, this would have been disastrous – but on the Sea to Sky leg, we weren’t too bothered. Since we’d started setting up camp early, we had plenty of time to head back to Porteau Cove where our car awaited us. The waters were a little choppier, but we made it back without trouble and spent the night sleeping in our bed. I didn’t complain!

The final leg of the Woods Canada trek was kind of an odd one. We were supposed to go to Victoria to hike part of the Trans Canada Trail there, but the powers that be decided to leave us in Whistler to do some hiking around there instead. While I would have loved to spend time on the Island, the concept of being back home was still so novel that I didn’t mind.

Sea-to-sky-panorama

Fun fact: this photo was printed in GIANT in the Globe and Mail last summer for 2017 celebrations

We had one gloriously sunny day, which we spent hiking Panorama Ridge. The rest of the days were typical fall in the Sea to Sky weather: grey, cloudy, and endless amounts of rain. I was so grateful to have had wonderful weather on our kayak trip.

We continued to go on hikes, but we kept them relatively mellow – Ancient Cedars trail for the epic tree photo op; some runs on the local trails (oh, how I had missed running!); hikes up the gondola on Whistler.

Trail-running

Perks of running during our Woods Explorer trip: I finally got some good running photos taken. Thanks Cedric!

It was a strange week – we were home, but our Woods Explorer journey wasn’t over yet. We still had to go back to Toronto for a week or so of media, debriefing, and wrapping up the whole adventure. It was a weird state of being in between – the setting was familiar, but we still weren’t in our regular routines.

This leg wasn’t the most novel or exciting, but what I loved about it is that I had time specifically carved out for playing outside. In regular life, it is easy to get caught up in work and appointments and errands and chores, that sometimes I find it hard to dedicate the time to enjoying everything that is around me. It was wonderful to have a couple of uninterrupted weeks where my sole purpose was to explore and document the process.


I guess that wraps up my Woods Explorer stories! It may have taken three years, and even though the memories aren’t all fresh, I’m glad I’ve organized them somewhere where I can look back on them for years to come. In hindsight, I am so, so grateful for my time as a Woods Explorer:

  • My absolute favourite thing was discovering various corners of our country. I’ve never felt so Canadian or so connected, and our time with Woods really made us want to continue exploring Canada (which we have been lucky enough to do).
  • From a relationship point of view, a trip like this either fuses you together or tears you apart. Luckily for us, it was the former. We both learned a lot about our own (and each others’) strengths and weaknesses and, though it took a few trials and errors, we figured out how to come together to form a wonderful, effective team.
  • It felt like a grand adventure – a last “hurrah” to close out my 20s full of epic memories that I’m sure I will be recounting when I’m in a retirement home.
  • Finally, it made me feel very comfortable in my own skin. I had moments where I felt invincible, and just as many where I felt challenged and out of my element. In the midst of living a spontaneous, on-the-fly life (which is very much unlike my regular life), I feel like I settled into myself in a way that, today, allows me to feel very happy, confident, and satisfied. That’s a very good feeling.

The end!

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