We’ve been huge fans of the hydration systems by SOURCE for years now. Their water bladders last forever and are super handy companions on every hiking trip. In fact, we also use them in everyday life when we go running or biking. Now, the company asked us to write a little something about what “sustainable travel” means for us. In return, they gifted us a new hydration system about which we will write a product review soon. Best part though, they published our article on their blog, sweeeeeet
Thanks a bunch for this reSOURCEful collaboration!
Photocredit of first pic: Shantina Rae Photography, Quadra Island. Thanks again, you crazy talented person!!
So here we were: Heartbroken from our recent realisation that we could not provide a suitable home for a dog like Freya, a rescue who needed a calm environment and patient re-socialization more than anything. Despite all our efforts, all our love, we couldn’t provide what she needed and had to return her to the shelter. We miss her every day and are happy to report that she was re-adopted last month.
Despite our heavy hearts, we were excited about our friend Felix’ visit who came all the way from Munich to travel with us for 3 weeks and who did an excellent job at comforting us and cheering us up with his dark and oftentimes incredibly blunt humour. Initially, we had planned to travel the Chilcotin area and the famous Banff and Jasper Nationalpark with him, yet, we had to change our travel plans drastically…
Wildfires were roaring all over BC at that point.
After our first trip to Strathcona Park, we were hooked. It’s a truely beautiful stretch of land and offers a lot of remote backcountry trails although it’s right in the middle of Vancouver Island. So, we decided to come back and tackle another mountain: Mount Myra towers at a height of 5938 ft / 1810 m above the park although it’s – by far – not the highest peak in Strathcona. Nontheless, you should take 2-3 days to climb it (return) and be prepared for snow on top during all seasons. We hiked it over the course of three days because we wanted to give Freya enough breaks.
One thing you can say upfront about Mt. Myra: It’s a bloody knee cruncher (!) of a hike. The first few kilometers lead you up an old bobcat trail and are just loose rocks. So steep! We honestly couldn’t decide if we hated the strenuous up or the slippery down more…
Gesa had to carry the big pack because Sebastian had injured his back the week before… Oh, how she sweared on the way up!
Last obstacle before the hike would become more enjoyable…
The only thing that kept us going was the hope that there would be less moskitoes up top because the little pests were all over us as soon as we had shouldered our backpacks. Far from it though:
The bastards kept following us. All. the. way. up.
As much as we love Quadra Island, we feel that one thing is missing here: “proper” mountains. We started to craaaaaave some higher peaks again and decided to explore BC’s oldest and Vanisland’s biggest provincial park: Strathcona. The first Europeans didn’t get here before the 1860s but way before that, the area was already the traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.
The region was declared as a Provincial Park in 1911 but that did not prevent the government to allow logging and even mining in some areas! This explains why you come across an active (!) mine deep inside the park. Trust us, the sight of that disturbed us more than the fact that we had to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the trailhead to Mt. Myra… Luckily, further governmental plans to remove more parts from the park for industrial use were stopped by activists so today, Strathcona remains a huge nature conservation area. In fact, they have just recently added parts on to it. Yes!
Except the mine and some remnants of logging, Strathcona looks like the most pristine paradise for outdoor lovers: Year-round glaciers, roaring waterfalls, alpine mountaineering, crystall-clear lakes…
So you are on Vancouver Island and you’d like to see some more of that scenic Canadian landscape everyone gets excited about? You can’t bother to walk the whole West Coast Trail but you want to explore more than just Victoria’s parks? Then, these three recommendations are just perfect for you. All of these relatively short walks can be reached within 30 to 60 minutes from Victoria Downtown and are suitable for young and old adventurers alike!
It didn’t take us long to draw a conclusion from the recent experience in Whistler: We’re not made for hyped places and we didn’t come to Canada to spend all our meagre savings there. So we moved on. By now, we are on Quadra Island (one of the Discovery Islands between the Westcoast and Vancouver Island) and we really feel like staying for a while…
Upon our arrival, our host took us for a nice walk around Rebecca Spit, a peninsula that offers stunning views in all directions. Click and enjoy the video that we quickly edited for you!
A long day lay ahead of us. Our long descent back into civilization was additionally slowed down because we just couldn’t walk past all these bushes full of juicy, ripe blackberries before we had picked a good couple of kilos of them. A rare treat before autumn!! Eventually, we hitchhiked to the campsite at Lake Mergozzo because we figured it might be nice to spend the last night of our trip in our tent at a lake.
We were wrong. It was horrible. Truly horrible.
Route: Cicogna –> Valley Val Grande
We started the final part of our trek on a crisp and sunny morning. And I’m glad we did because in foggy conditions, I would have been really spoked out by the spider-webby ruins we encountered soon. Over the last few days, we had already seen quite a few of them but the old village of Montuzzo was by far the largest and most impressive sight of our trek.
Before going to Val Grande, Sebastian had told me that exploring some old, abandoned villages in the mountains had always been one of his childhood dreams. And here we were, carefully opening crooked doors on squeaking hinges, peeking through dirt-smeared windows, scrambling through collapsed stone huts. If you are into these kinds of treasure hunts you will have the time of your life in Val Grande, especially in that area. While Sebastian clearly enjoyed the exciting site, I was rather busy making myself think of anything EXCEPT vicious killers hiding in those ruins… Although these villages are long abandoned, there are still many signs of their former inhabitants: old pieces of furniture, broken tools, rusty crookery, … Sebastian’s #GoBackpack video really catches the scary atmosphere.
Due to these explorations, it was already past midday when we finally reached the junction into the wild heart of the National Park: The actual Val Grande. This valley truly lives up the reputation of the National Park. In fact, the path was blocked with this big sign:
Mh…. bugger. We discussed for a bit and then decided to keep going to see just HOW difficult it was. After all, we both are quite experienced hikers and felt sure-footed and fit after our first week of hiking. So, off we went. Down the forbidden path.
Route: Agriturismo „Valle Loana“ –> Cicogna
After this delicious break at the restaurant, we went back deep into the National Park. Stuffed indeed, yet ready and motivated to tackle our next summits after the rather miserable weather at the beginning of our trek. The storms from the days before were not truly over though and we had dark clouds gathering in our backs for most part of this hike again. But sometimes, travelling fulfils the cheesiest sayings… “Ohne Regen gibt es keine Regenbogen” – indeed. And we spotted a truly stunning specimen: A perfect, uninterrupted half-circle in the most vivid colours. It even turned into a double-rainbow for a bit. Amazing!
We arrived at the next shelter (A. Cortechuiso; 1,883m) in the afternoon, unfortunately it was a rather miserable and drafty thing. We really had to do some laundry though so decided to stay and make ourselves comfortable. Little did we know that we would have to share the view and the shack with 8 other hikers soon… After the first few days of almost complete solitude, we felt like we were sleeping in a crowded hostel 😀
Tour: Premosello-Chiovenda –> Agriturismo Valle Loana (close to Malesco)
After a 16h bus ride to Milano and another 2h journey on a hot and crowded train, we finally arrived in Premosello-Chiovenda which is one of the possible starting points into Val Grande. The clouds already hung low and heavy on the mountain tops, reminding me of tropical regions rather than the Italian Alps. We were both super exhausted which is why we decided to spend the night in a local B&B. That night, the thunderstorms raged violently for hours and we were glad to have a proper roof over our heads. The next morning, however, we couldn’t wait any longer. The forecast had predicted bad weather for the next three days but since we had appropriate gear and experience, we decided to start our trek despite the rain. We then hitchhiked to Colorro, the last small village before Val Grande’s borders.
And here’s the odd thing about trekking: It usually requires a decent chunk of work beforehand (researching, planning, booking, shopping, packing, …) but once you’re at the beginning of your trail, you set foot on it and your duties immediately shrink to the very basics. And the main duty of course is to walk. One step, two steps, three steps. And 5minutes later you look back and the forest has already swallowed all signs of civilization. I love them, those first few minutes on the trail, they are magic and smell of adventure. Less magic was the sobering fact that we were walking right into a storm.