Monthly Archives: March 2009

Doing Stuff Outdoors-86



On today’s show we return to the Chic-Choc Mountains of Gaspe in the Province of Quebec. (See the show notes from Doing Stuff Outdoors-83 for a detailed description of the area and an account of Gary’s backcountry adventure there this winter) One night they shared a hut with a group of skiers from Montreal. They had alpine touring gear, telemark and one of them used a split-board. Some had been coming to the Chic-Chocs for years. For others this trip was their first taste of eastern powder. That evening in the hut Gary talked to them about backcountry skiing in the Chic-Chocs.

Also on the show, comments from Gidds the Outdoor Gal and podsafe music from Blind Alley. Email us with your outdoor adventures, your favorite outdoor books and tell us how the recession is affecting your pursuit of outdoor recreation.



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Filed under Adventure, Backcountry, Chic Choc Mountains, Outdoors, Skiing, Telemark, X-C Skiing

Doing Stuff Outdoors-85


Photo by Rob Thomson

Photo by Rob Thomson

On the show today a feature interview with Rob Thomson, a young New Zealander who just finished cycling and skateboarding 20,000 km solo around the world. Here is Rob’s description of his adventure from his webpage, 14 Degrees Off the Beaten Track.

A JOURNEY OF OPPORTUNITIES – Welcome to my website about my journey around the world by bicycle and skateboard. I am an ex-office worker, and I never intended to travel all the way around the world. I certainly never expected to end up breaking a long distance skateboarding world record!

What started as a 12,000km cycle journey across the Eurasian continent quickly became a very different kind of challenge.

Photo by Rob Thomson

Photo by Rob Thomson

I began in July 2006 by cycling 12,000km from Japan to Switzerland across some of the most remote and hostile environments I had ever experienced. I endured -23 degrees Celsius daytime temperatures, cycled over 4,600m high passes, and put up with some of the most frustrating bureaucracies perhaps in the whole world.

However, on the 25th of June 2007, almost a year since I set out from Japan on my recumbent bicycle, I sent my bicycle home and started out again on a longboard skateboard.

I ended up successfully doing what had never been attempted before; I skateboarded solo and unassisted across Europe, North America, and China. On the 28th of September 2008 I finally arrived in Shanghai after skating just over 12,000km (7,500 miles). The previous world record for distance skateboarding was 5,800km.

I started this journey in 2006 hoping to experience the world at large in it’s most raw forms from a bicycle seat. What I got was a humbling, often exhausting, and always challenging journey into my own soul. These two years were physically, mentally, and emotionally the most difficult years of my life.

Photo by Rob Thomson

Photo by Rob Thomson

Also on the show, comments from Mark Coughlin about skiing in The English Lake District. Check out the video.  And music from Blake Morgan.

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Filed under Adventure, Biking, Outdoors, Skateboarding, Skiing

Doing Stuff Outdoors-84


img_1585Our feature interview is with Holly Johnson, a busy mother of five who started working out and loosing weight in preparation for a half marathon. This is the second part of her story and the following is a written account that appeared in a local paper:

Tears well up in Holly Johnson’s eyes when she looks at the Donald Duck Medal presented to her by the kids and teachers at Tiny Treasures Learning Centre. It was their version of the medal Holly worked so hard to achieve and so desperately wanted but in the end was just out of her reach. “I can’t put into words what these kids have done,” said Holly fighting back tears. “If they can even take a little of this and realize how important it is to look after yourself and eat healthy and exercise, they’ll be OK and they won’t be where I was and learn at 37 that you have to do something.”

Holly Johnson of Grand Bay-Westfield, a busy mother of five young children, took on the challenge of her life in January. Until a year ago, she never exercised or dealt seriously with the weight issue that has plagued her all her life. That all changed after the birth of her twins when Holly realized she had to do something about her health. She went to Weight-Watchers and started exercising for the first time. She lost over a hundred pounds and decided to join Team Diabetes and enter a half marathon in Disney World. She trained and worked hard raising the $4,500 required to enter the event. Holly and her family went to Florida in January for the race. In the end Holly was 30 seconds behind the cut off time for the first five miles and was forced to pull out of the race. She said Disney officials, rounded them up, put them on the bus and drove them to the finish line. Holly said it was humiliating and people inside the bus were crying.

(I have to wade in here with a comment about this ridiculous Disney policy. I’ve run in a number of half marathons and everyone who can, finishes the race on their own. That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. These aren’t elite athletes running in the Boston Marathon. Disney World, of all places, should know better.)

Disney World’s ridiculous rules aside, Holly still feels good about what she accomplished. Together with the rest of her team, they raised a lot of money for diabetes research. Holly’s challenge also touched many people included the teachers and children at Tiny Treasures. Holly’s son attends the school and when they heard what she was doing, they all agreed to raise money for the cause. They collected pennies and coins and some kids made a withdrawal from their piggy bank every time they came to class. In the end, the children and staff presented Holly with an ice cream bucket full of rolled coins totaling almost 211 dollars.
After taking a couple of weeks off, Holly is back into the exercise routine. She’s going a fitness class at the gym and she and her husband are talking about getting bikes in the summer so they can all be active together as a family. Holly says she’s come too far to quit now. She can’t go back to the lifestyle she used to have. Holly says these three and four year old kids at the school are truly an inspiration for her and we can all learn from them.

“This medal is way nicer than anything Disney could provide,” says Holly. “It’s made by teachers and kids and I will treasure it forever.”

Also on the show, more of your emails about outdoor adventures from spear-fishing through the ice to hiking the Grand Canyon and more outdoor book suggestions including an audio book review from Anthony of Anthony’s Audio Journal.

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Filed under Adventure, Marathon, Outdoors, Skiing, Walking

Doing Stuff Outdoors-83



In this edition Gary brings you the Chic-Choc Journal from his recent 5 day hut-to-hut backcountry ski trip in the mountains of Gaspe, Quebec. Here’s an account of the adventure:

I know you’re probably sick and tired of snow and everything to do with winter but I have one more wintery outdoor adventure to share with you. It’s about snow and snow and more snow. It’s about the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life. I experienced it in late February on a week long, hut-to-hut backcountry skiing trip in the Chic-Choc Mountains of Gaspe.

I’ve written about this incredibly beautiful and unique area before. This mountain range in the central region of Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula has 25 peaks with an elevation greater than a kilometer. The highest is Mont Jacques Cartier at 1,268 m (4,160 ft). Caribou graze in the alpine regions and the steep slopes are prone to avalanches. We go there at least once every winter for some of the best backcountry and telemark skiing you can find east of the Rocky Mountains. This year when we were there, to our delight, the area surpassed even the west in terms of deep powder.
Our trip started at Le Relais Chic-Chocs, a lodge and cabins that in the winter cater mainly to skiers and snowmobilers. We woke up to sunshine and began our ski to the Le Huard hut. With sleeping for 16 it’s the largest hut in the system. There is no running water or electricity but we  arrange for a snowmobile to bring in our heavier packs and food so we can ski with a lighter day-pack. That afternoon the nice weather allowed us to ski to the summit of one of the nearby peaks and take in the breathtaking scenery. The run back down to our cabin made the climb up worthwhile.

The next day we headed for a two night stay at La Nyctale hut in the shadow of Mount Logan. What started as light snow in the morning soon developed into a full blown blizzard, a common occurrence in the Chic-Chocs. Five hours later we arrived at the hut in near whiteout conditions, after trudging through waist deep snow in some places. Thankful for shelter, we settled in and didn’t leave the hut for the rest of the day. Heavy snow and howling wind continued all night and through the next day but we did venture out to play a little in all that new snow. We found a sheltered slope in the trees not far from the hut and attempted to make a few turns. I say attempted because the snow was so deep we could barely get through it, even on the steeper pitches. One member of our party has been skiing there for the last 15 years and he’s never seen the snow so deep. We sunk to our waists and the powder was truly bottomless. Looking down a tree-well we saw what looked like the base of the trunk 15 to 18 feet below us. That’s how much snow had accumulated so far this winter. When the storm finally ended the next morning we guessed it must have dumped at least 70 more cm of snow.
We awoke to a white, winter-wonderland. In the higher elevation where we were, the trees were so coated with ice and snow you couldn’t see any branches. The white shapes they formed are called ‘snow ghosts’ and they look like frozen people. I’ve seen this many times before in alpine areas but never to this extent. It was surreal. We took our time skiing to our final hut, enjoying the incredible scenery and warm sun. We were at a lower elevation and that afternoon the snow had settled enough for us to play on treed mountain behind the hut. We skinned up and skied down through waist deep powder, finishing the run on the frozen lake beside the cabin. The snow was so deep, some of us even skied off the roof of the hut. It was an incredible day at the end of a truly memorable trip.

It’s always a great experience in the Chic-Chocs but this winter was special, mainly due to the extreme snow. We’re talking about going back in late April for more telemark skiing. This season I’m sure the snow will be still be deep on those slopes through May and well into June.


Also on the show some podsafe music from Jeff Hightower and more of your comments about outdoor adventures and favorite outdoor books including emails from the Wandering Knight and the Canyon Man.

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Filed under Adventure, Backcountry, Chic Choc Mountains, Outdoors, Skiing, Snow, Telemark

Doing Stuff Outdoors-82



Today on the show Gary talks to Kevin Earley of the ‘Church Club’. Here’s Kevin’s account of their latest outdoor adventure:

Church Club – Grand Canyon Adventure

We are group of 40 something guys busy with family and careers living near Philadelphia.  We  mountain bike early on Sundays, often meeting at 6 AM for a couple of hours of adventure.  We’re home before noon ready to tackle the day and spend some time with the family.  When our children were young they would ask where we went.  “Dad’s church” was our excuse, but in many ways it was our time for spiritual reflection.  Church Club was formed and is indeed religious for each of us.

Besides the weekly Sunday services, every year we  plan and enjoy a big adventure that is typically sold to our families as a long weekend out west, simply for exercise and health purposes.  Typically we look for peaks to bag like Mt. Elbert in Colorado, or multi-day mountain biking trips like the Centennial Trail in the Dakota  Badlands.  We typically combine a couple of activities (river running, biking, hiking, and camping), and we jam it into 3 or 4 exhausting days.  In September, 2008 we tackled a grand Grand Canyon adventure.

The trip took months of planning and training.  Kevin, Jim, Frank, Chuck, Drew, Steve, and Cliff met in Flagstaff, AZ on a Wednesday evening.  Thursday we drove to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, looked at the big hole, and boarded a shuttle van for a 5 hr drive to the north rim.  We camped at the north rim and awoke early in the morning for our big hike across the canyon in one day.  We dropped our camping gear at the general store where the shuttle service promised to return our stuff to the south rim that day.  The 7 of us hit the trail  by 6:30 AM –at an air temperature of 35 degrees it felt good to be a live.  Beginning at the North Kaibab Trailhead, We hiked 14 miles and dropped 5,850 ft.  to the bottom of the canyon where it was about 90 degrees when we arrived around 1 PM.  We ate lunch at Phantom Ranch and walked to the Colorado River for a dip in the frigid river.  Some time around 2:30 PM we crossed the bridge and headed for the south rim up the South Kaibab Trail.  The Bright Angel Trail up to the south rim is easier and more popular because there are three water sources.  But we opted for the challenge of no water, more scenery and solitude.

The route we took required 7 additional miles and a climb of 4,800 ft to get to our cars.  Our group which had hiked to the bottom as one group, broke into 3 groups traveling at slightly different paces. As the sun set the vistas and views were spectacular and spiritual.  Storm clouds arrived as the sun set and we were all trudging along in our own trance.  We were feeling the impact of the elevation gain, as we each carefully tried to keep hydrated and fueled.  As darkness approached we knew the trip was epic and we also knew we would get out of the hole.  Except one of us was suffering from dehydration and made our climb a scary adventure.  Drew was one of the fittest in our group, and was drinking regularly and even took salt tablets at the river bottom.  For whatever reason, he got sick and his progress slowed to a crawl.  Fortunately we were all in small groups, and Cliff made sure Drew was OK.  Close to the top, Drew vomited on the trail, and with the team’s  help he made it out, in the dark.  It was a brief scare but fortunately Drew was back in form the next day.  We all hiked out with our lights, and experienced a rare thunderstorm.  It is hard to describe the sublime and surreal experience that night as we completed an epic 14 hour, 21 mile canyon crossing in one day ending with rain, lightening and beautiful darkness.

Like all of our adventures, we did more.  After a rest day, we tackled the highest point in Arizona, Humphrey’s Peak – 12,633 ft.  It was easy for us,  a 10 mile round-trip scenic hike with about a 4,200 ft vertical gain from Arizona Snow Bowl.  The hike through Ponderosa pines and then onto volcanic rocks with great views was just magical.  We didn’t want it to end, we were having fun.  As usual, it was very windy at  the top of the world.  With this climb finished, we satisfied our goal of going from the Colorado River to the top of the world  (9,000 vertical feet) in 48 hours – not bad for some middle-aged 45+ old men from the east coast.   And we knocked-off one more high peak (we have a secret desire to bag all of the high peaks in the US).

The long weekend was completed with some mountain biking near Sedona and beers at the Weatherly Hotel – and Zane Grey Ballroom in Flagstaff, Arizona.  It was an exhausting trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  The adventure is just one of many more to come as we live our life motto:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely, in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming… WOW What a ride!”
In 2009, we are contemplating another extreme adventure – this time our goal will be to go from Badwater (the lowest point in the northern hemisphere at -282 ft below sea level)  to Telescope Peak (11,049 ft) in Death Valley.  This is the warm-up, we really want to get on top of Mt. Whitney (14,500 ft), the highest point in the continental US, in the same trip, is it possible?  I don’t know, but I didn’t think we could cross the grand canyon in one day.  I’m betting that the Church Club, will pull it off.

Also on the show, more comments from listeners about their own outdoor adventures and favorite adventure books. Check out the websites ‘The First 13,1 Miles‘ and ‘Southern Ontario Outdoors‘. Podsafe music this week by Great Big Sea.

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Filed under Adventure, Grand Canyon, Hiking, Outdoors