Tuktoyaktuk 2017, Part 2 of 3

Tuktoyaktuk 2017, Part 2 of 3

Dawson City – Tuktoyaktuk – Dawson City

Includes: The Dempster Highway and the new road – The Mackenzie Valley Highway

The journey continues as we head south out of Dawson briefly to the start of the infamous and mighty Dempster Highway. The Dempster Highway was originally constructed in the late 1950’s for oil and gas exploration. The Canadian Government wanted to build a road from Dawson City to Aklavik, high in the Mackenzie River Delta to aid this exploration and to assert sovereignty to the Western Canadian High Arctic. This assertion was spurred on due to the discovery of oil and gas in neighbouring Alaska around Prudhoe Bay. The original part of the current road follows the old dog sled route from Dawson to Fort Macpherson and crosses over the Arctic Circle and continues all the way to Inuvik as a year round road. From there on to Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk is the famous “Ice Road”. It is this ice road that is being replaced by a year round road, the very reason why we are here – to travel this new road.

For more historical information check out this great article: Dempster Highway History.

Our journey on this portion of our adventure takes us from the start of the Dempster Highway all the way north to Inuvik where we would meet the North West Territories Government who would escort us on the new road to Tuktoyaktuk. The Dempster is roughly 700km of “maintained” dirt road each direction and with only two outposts and one fuel spot on its entire length it is desolate. It is known to be a challenging road with soft edges, very little signage & protection, tire killing gravel & rock, steep winding routes, ever changing weather, often large trucks transiting at high speed, true wilderness travel, no communications coverage and no rescue services what so ever.

We had planned to two take two days on the Dempster each direction to allow us to enjoy the journey and wow are we ever glad we did. Obligatory photos at all of the interesting spots, signs and the endless truly stunning terrain kept us on our alert for the entire section. We were unlucky in a way, in that it was a very wet drive being fall. However the complete lack of the infamous bugs was a blessing. The rough with the smooth right? It was typically cool, but that being said, apart from the horrible mud – conditions were perfect. For us the road was very very quiet, it was fall after all and just after the schools had returned to session. We saw the odd fellow traveller and work vehicle but that was about it. Camping was wet and muddy – thankfully we were all off the ground sleeping in vehicles our our Treeline roof top tent (a serious must for this time of the year).

700 kilometres later we pulled into the larger than expected Inuvik to rest for a day, stock up on fuel and supplies, take a shower and meet our government escorts. These big trips never go quite to plan and funnily enough our wheels were about to fall off. Upon meeting and chatting to the project manager and the local government we discovered that the new road had received way above average rainfall in the previous weeks and that the road was saturated and almost impassable! In short we were told we may not be able to travel on it! Heart broken to say the least, however a glimmer of hope was given as it was meant to be dryer over the days and if we could extend by a day it may make a difference. It was fun having some time to explore Inuvik,to spend time at the visitor centre learning about the local history, the Inuit, hunting and gathering, oil & gas exploration and chatting to the local people to try and gauge the effect the new road will have.

A day later and another few phone calls, it was on!! The cold dry weather had dried it out enough to travel in only but capable 4×4’s. Thank you weather gods!

Early next morning we met our government escort, a lovely chap full of energy and answers. A short safety briefing, hi-vis vests, vhf radios and strict orders we headed to the new road at the north end of Inuvik.

The new road is an all year road that is to replace the ice road. This new road opens on officially on Wednesday 15th November 2017, although is not open to none local traffic until June 2018. The road is approximately 140 kilometres long in each direction and links Inuvik to Tuktoyakyuk on the shores of the Beaufort Sea. Part of the process of constructing the road was to be respectful to the local highly sensitive geography. A vast portion of the road sits on permafrost and as our escort explained, this would be a major problem. Melting permafrost due to construction would be a disaster. To negate this issue, insulating matting was laid throughout the entire route over the tundra and then the road construction materials were laid on top of this to build the road surface. Another aspect of the build was to ensure that machinery was only allowed to move within the road footprint itself to avoid any damage to the local surrounds, flora, fauna, geology etc. This is an impressive feat and one that we observed to be successful for the entire road. Breathtaking & respectful engineering. Within about 40 kilometres of heading north on this new road we pass “The Treeline”, the line at which all trees cease to exist only Arctic tundra survives. It’s like a line is drawn in the sand as you look east / west to a barren expense that flows as far as the eyes can see north of this line. Our journey north on the new road was approximately 6 hours in length. Slowed by the hundred’s of photos, the many questions we had, the muddy nature of the road, construction traffic and sheer beauty of the area.

Tuktoyaktuk or Tuk as it is known locally is mostly habited by Inuit people who hunt and gather on their territorial lands. Tuk itself is a tiny population of about 800 people, overshadowed by dormant oil & gas exploration camps on the outskirts of the settlement. This whole area across north west Canada is synonymous for the great Peel River & Porcupine River Caribou herds and where Tuktoyaktuk takes its name from. It is Inuvialuktun for “it looks like a caribou”. We spent one night camping within metres of the Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea) on a small peninsular, good dinner and celebrated with cocktails & wine at the foot of a finally setting sun. Our sleep was good, content with wine and good food. Next day however, we were keen to finish our exploration of this small town, to continue to chat to the locals and find out their opinions of the new road before meeting our escort again for the journey south. There is something about this place that drew us closer. Young men working on their snowmobiles, their winter hunting gear, their boats. The ladies bustling about in the limited winter or barge supplied grocery store. Others  working at the small airport, the single gas station and a few small businesses. It is so remote, so far removed from the world most of the year, yet everyone seems happy – certainly everyone we encountered. Most people met us with big smiles, open arms, intrigue to what these outsiders were doing here, and how the heck we got here through closed gates and an uncompleted highway.

Sadly our brief time in Tuk came to an end, far too quickly, as we headed south back down the new road. Again the scenery blew our minds, many more photos, stops of silence and reflection where possible. It was sad leaving Tuk, who knows if we will be back, it is about 4000km from the US border after all. But never say never. Yet, we still had the mighty Dempster to challenge once again as we head south. Again a quick re-supply in Inuvik and onwards. Colder this time, but a little dryer, we cruised on down this marvel of wilderness dirt road, taking in different views, taking pictures in different places. It didn’t disappoint, especially as we passed through Tombstone Territorial Park, near the southern end of the Dempster. The perfect mist, the sub-arctic crystal clear light and atmosphere, morning sun – a perfect setting.

Somehow we had escaped the mighty Dempster with no wounds, no breakdowns and every tire intact. Thank you General Tires! This time…

The Dempster Highway and Mackenzie Valley highway are approximately 2000km of dirt round trip. More information can be found here.

Tuktoyaktuk 2017, Part 1 of 3

Tuktoyaktuk 2017, Part 1 of 3

Home – Dawson City

Includes: Peace Arch US Border crossing, The Peace, Ross River, Hyland River & Dawson.

Goals

Perhaps we should start with the goals of our journey, set the outline of what we wanted to achieve and why we wanted to complete this journey:

  1. Be the first public to travel the new section of the Mackenzie Valley Highway, an extension to the Dempster Highway, to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean.

  2. Be the first ever to travel the full length of Canada, south to north, in the summer.

  3. Travel the new section of the highway prior to completion and prior to being opened to the public, by the way of a government permit.

  4. Complete the journey in old Land Rovers.

  5. Be totally self sufficient.

  6. Share our story across several publications and media channels.

Our little team of three people and two vehicles wanted to achieve a long and challenging journey. We wanted to take in some of western Canada’s greatest sights, visiting places none of us had seen before. Ultimately to share with the world our journey and the amazing places we would see. Places that the majority may not have heard of, or seen before.

The Story

The first leg of our journey started at the US & Canadian border south of Vancouver. We aimed to arrive in Dawson, Yukon Territory in just under a week.

Approximately 3200km : 4+ Days Travelling

We had a fairly tight timeline and were under pressure right out of the gate for a variety of reasons. Firstly a hugely busy year for us work wise and a government travel permit date(s) from the North West Territories Government to make and a goal approximately 4000km away from our start point. Still, nothing like a challenge to make things exciting.

The first few days of the adventure were fairly straight forward baring the odd minor mishap that was overcome with some ingenuity and team work. Travelling north through British Columbia always inspires me. I love getting away from the hustle and bustle of the “people belt” that is southern BC, or at least the very tip of southern BC. As you head north, things become quieter, cleaner, more and more beautiful and it’s worth the hours you put down to get there.

We had some spectacular but saddening sights of the forest fires as we cruised through the southern middle part of BC, near Quesnel and Williams Lake. It is truly breathtaking the scale, power and impact these mostly natural phenomenon have.

I have a favourite hunting area in the southern part of northern BC and I adore being up in this part of our great province. It is always a joy to be in the Mackenzie area of BC, so spectacular. Heading north of Mackenzie has been a dream and featured highly on my must do list.

Finally we slide north following dreams and goals, old Land Rover’s humming away in happy unison – a surprise I know… We had spent many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on making both of our vehicles fit for the purpose prior to the trip. Everything from reconditioned engines, conversions, new suspension and so on. So far money very well spent. Heading up into the fertile Peace River region was breathtaking. The classic rain forests of BC peel back to sprawling fields over laying the rolling hills of the BC. It’s a sad state the BC Hydro is working on flooding thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land to create a dam to feed the industrial and corporate hunger that dominates our world. I am glad we got to see some of this area before it is soon gone for good. It reminds me of the battle of Lyn Celyn and the Afon Tryweryn in the 60’s.

The road must go on, deadlines to meet and a place to be. Sitting there in noisy old vehicles has it’s benefits in a way. We are hardly the fastest out there. BUT, that allows more time to take in our surroundings as we consume the miles. And what spectacular scenery it is. Damn, as I write, I wish I could go back!! I will…

Just before we hit the border of British Columbia and the mighty Yukon Territory are the amazing Liard River Hotsprings & Provinicial Park. This has long been a place I wanted to visit as a young boy, flicking through majestic picture books of Canada whilst living in the United Kingdom. Finally, it was my time to soak up the natural wonder and I was not disappointed. Living out of a roof top tent and a small old Land Rover is fantastic challenging fun, but the ability to have a soak, a wee scrub and freshen up re-invigorates the body more than we can hope for, an amazing feeling.

Onwards north, still the same deadline, becoming more prominent in our minds, many more kilometres and much to do. The kilometres tick off, slowly but steadily…

North of Watson was an important area for fellow traveller Ray. His family had been instrumental in the exploration of the area and as such had a river named in their honour. Ray really wanted to re-visit this area and it of course sounded like fun to us. We managed to get a mandatory image with Ray and the river sign on highway 4, but more importantly headed towards Tungsten and the Little Hyland River which holds more heritage importance to the family. A special moment in a truly special and spectacular place. Moments like these help cement a friendship and allow one to care for others dreams. An honour.

Travelling through Western Canada, or Canada as a whole allows for the magnificence of the country to show itself. The scenery is magnificent, but so is the wildlife; coyotes, cougar, bald eagles, fox, loons, geese, wood buffalo, black and brown bear and so on abound. We are truly lucky to be able to travel through their territories!

The further we head north, the quieter things become, the more wild, the scarcer the population. We pass through small, mostly native dominated settlements such as Ross River. Stunning places, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. We pass old hugely historic roads, make notes feverishly for future adventures, eager to make our next plans, dream of the future. Even though we are less than a quarter of the way through our current adventure. Dreamers, but hopefully doers.

Finally civilization abounds again as we cruise into Dawson. A major milestone. We are in the heart of the Klondike, a massive bucket list location and an area rich in a real passion of mine, the gold rush. As part of my life leads me to work in gold rush rich heritage areas that are the Thompson & Fraser valley’s, Dawson is really exciting to me. I have spent time travelling through Skagway, the Chilkoot Trail, White Pass & Yukon and many a trip to San Francisco. Dawson was the final key in the completion of the west coast Gold Rush Trail. Dawson is a place I have to return to, to understand and explore more, to learn more of this random passion of mine. However glad we are to be here, the road continues. Next stop the mighty mighty Dempster Highway, the Canadian Arctic & Tuktoyaktuk…

Part 2 – Engine Conversion

Part 2 – Engine Conversion

As many of you have been following the progress of my engine conversion online via social media, it’s about time I follow that up with some more detail.

After importing and driving the new to us Defender 90 we decided that an engine conversion was the right thing to do and the next step in the development of our iconic off road and adventuring vehicle.

Originally this Land Rover Defender 90 came with the rarer 2.0 T16 MPI DOHC gasoline engine. The configuration and history of this vehicle came from Land Rover’s special order military ordeign department. The Italian Carabinieri ordered roughly a thousand of these vehicles with this engine configuration due to Italy’s fuel taxation rates and the scarcity of diesel at the time.

The original engine is a really great little engine that loved to rev and zipped the Defender down the road very happily at over 70mph. The beauty of this engine is that it’s small, light, compact and has a low fuel consumption.

The reason for the conversion was to move the vehicle back to the iconic diesel set up to allow for the required low down tractor like torque. Being a model year 1996 Defender 90, the correct thing to do was to convert it to the classic Land Rover 300tdi diesel.

I was lucky enough to arrange some help through Rovalution Automotive in North Vancouver, an old Land Rover specialist shop. I wanted to do most of the work myself to keep the cost down and to learn how to do such a conversion as I had never done anything like this before. Don and the guys were amazing during the whole process.

Our process was fairly straight forward and took a couple of months as I had to fit in the conversion around work. During the conversion we did as much as we could to complete the conversion using OEM parts and to original manufacturing specifications.

The conversion itself was very straightforward forwards, the old engine came out with gentle care as it will be being re-used by a really great friend. And the installation went fairly smoothly as the correct R380 transmission and LT230 transfer case was the same as the original engine and those were the ones we wanted to use. The only things we had to change really were the fuel pickup, motor mounts, exhaust and literally one wire in the current harness – which was a simple matter of blanking off the old fuel sender wires and switching one wire in the starter rely connecter, literally into a new hole in the same connector – awesome!

We did take the time to install all new hoses, seals, timing belt, clutch etc whilst we had the engine out which would save time in the future.

The final few days of the conversion and the first time we started it up was a fantastic moment that made all the hard work well worth it.

Part 1 – Importing a Land Rover Defender 90

Part 1 – Importing a Land Rover Defender 90

The Background

It’s been about a year since I imported my Land Rover Defender 90 into British Columbia, Canada. I thought I’d write to share the experience: some information and the process I went through.

The time had come for a new off road and overlanding vehicle and the Defender 90 seemed like the perfect vehicle for me for a variety of reasons. As I’m originally from the United Kingdom, almost every farm has one or more, often in blue or green, towing an Ifor Williams trailer or a piece of farm equipment, more often than not with a silver open canopy containing at the very least a couple of sheep dogs. I’d grown up around these vehicles and they are apart of my heritage. I’d also spent lots of time in them through various avenues of work and am hugely passionate about the Land Rover brand. I love the brand’s history and am reasonably versed in their capabilities, quirks and any potential issues that may arise.

Sourcing

Finding a solid and reliable vehicle from overseas is an exceptional challenge. After hours on the phone, the internet, chatting to friends and following leads, I found exactly what I wanted via a lovely couple and their company, Bespoke Off Road, in beautiful Oxfordshire, UK.  They had the perfect vehicle in their shop ready and waiting for me.  After some negotiations we agreed on a price but the toughest thing to swallow was that I was agreeing to something sight unseen.  I needed a way of verifying that it was indeed a legitimate deal and a good buy.

This is where my UK roots came into play once again – my younger brother, David, who lives about 2 hours away from Oxfordshire was an enormous help. With some brotherly bribery, I persuaded him to go and check it out in person.  He got the long list of my questions answered and took many videos and pictures – extremely valuable information and I was super impressed at how great a job he did especially since he isn’t a mechanic by trade.  His efforts helped seal the deal and without his help, this dream of mine probably wouldn’t have become a reality.  Once the deal was done, Anna at Bespoke Off Road arranged to have it delivered to the Port Of Southampton for shipping.

Shipping

The process wasn’t nearly as complicated as I thought it was going to be.  It was fairly straight forward after some research.  Even smarter on my part, however, was using the advice given by Anna at Bespoke Off Road as they were experts at exporting vehicles from the United Kingdom to the US & Canada.  They suggested using a company called Fast Lane Forwarding.  A few emails later and I was set up with a all the information I required and a booking.

There are a couple of options for shipping a vehicle from overseas, each in increasing price:

  1. Roll on, Roll off vehicle ship.

  2. Shared 40ft sea container.

  3. Dedicated 20ft sea container.

There weren’t any options for sharing a container and I did not want to use a roll on, roll off option due to the risk of vehicle damage etc., which left the dedicated 20ft sea container option.  Fast Lane Forwarding were exceptional and I got a discounted rate as a Bespoke Off Road customer.  This was great news as every penny counts with this costly process.  The shipping logistics was very straightforward, from making the initial booking, to payment, to organizing all the necessary shipping documents.  The most vital of the documents is the Bill Of Landing which is essential to ensure a smooth, drama free transit.  This is prepared by the shipper and is then issued to the receiving agent only once the vessel carrying the vehicle has sailed.  It contains detailed information on the load (license plate number, VIN, make, model etc), origins, destination, shipper, client, vessel, SUDU & SEAL numbers and so on.  All this information is required at the destination for legal entry through Canada Customs. (More on this later…)

Tracking

Being somewhat of a geek, I downloaded the iOS app Vessel Finder to track the container vessel on its journey across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of the US & Canada on the Pacific Ocean.

The container was loaded in Southampton, UK onto the Hapag Lloyd vessel, the Glasgow Express, for its nearly six week journey to Canada.

It was fun watching it make its progress throughout its travels, watching it stop at a few major ports and even catching it pass through the Gatún Locks in the Panama Canal via webcam.

Canada Customs & Importation

Typically this is where many issues can arise.  The paperwork, logistics and legalities can be hugely complicated.  I had, however, decided to try and mitigate that as much as possible by using a customs and importation handling agent which was money well spent.  Here is an outline of the stages in the process:

  1. Container arrives at destination port.

  2. Container is unloaded. (Applicable fees apply)

  3. Container is taken to a customs clearance zone. (Applicable fees apply)

  4. Container is stored until customs inspection. (Applicable fees apply)

  5. Container is inspected by the CBSA. (Applicable fees apply)

  6. Vehicle can be sent for de-soiling if CBSA requires. (Applicable fees apply)

  7. Container shipped to customs bonded warehouse. (Applicable fees apply)

  8. Storage and de-stuffing of container. (Applicable fees apply)

  9. Release of contents to customer.

Where things can fall apart is if the documentation isn’t arranged properly before and during the transit of the shipment.  Costs can very quickly spiral into hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in storage, extra handling, more in depth container inspections, delay in releasing the shipment and so on.  Using an agent ensured that the process was completed within a couple of days upon arrival into Canada.  This was a huge savings of time and money.  I used an incredibly helpful company called Livingstone International. They guided me through the entire process, made sure I had all the correct paperwork, information and had pre-paid all the fees for customs, GST, shipping & handling.

An amusing yet pain in the butt situation was at the bonded warehouse.  All the paperwork was done, the vehicle was released to me and I had the temporary importation ICBC vehicle insurance – all ready to drive away and start many more adventures to come.  However, the container de-stuffing company decided to use one of their warehouses that had no vehicle ramp, meaning that once it was unloaded into the warehouse from the container, there was no way to drive it away as there was no exit door or ramp – unless I really wanted to test out the suspension with the 5 foot drop.  After a couple of hours waiting for a flat bed recovery truck, we were on our way to the next phase of the importation process.

Inspection, Registration & Insurance

The final process of the importation was registering the vehicle in British Columbia so that it could be insured and legally driven on the road.

This was straight forward, although probably the most expensive part of the process, but I knew in advance that this would probably be the case.

From where I picked it up at the warehouse, I drove it across Vancouver on a temporary ICBC import insurance policy that essentially allows you to drive the vehicle from the customs port of entry, directly to the inspection facility.  I had chosen to use Don and his guys at Rovalution.  Don is an incredibly passionate Land Rover fan and owns the best shop in western Canada which specializes in old Land Rovers, especially Defender’s.  I knew taking it there for its inspection it would get a thorough evaluation that I could trust.  I was a little nervous as it is an older vehicle and I knew Rovalution’s eagle eyes would find things I didn’t really want to hear, but in reality it was a great experience.  At the end of the inspection I knew the exact state of the vehicle and was pleasantly surprised as there wasn’t as much work to be done as I was originally anticipating:

  1. New front break callipers.

  2. DOT rated windscreen.

  3. Third rear break light.

  4. Side reflectors.

  5. Battery hold down bar.

  6. Tie rod ends.

  7. New pedal shoes.

Once the work was done and the inspection was passed, I could then head to ICBC to register, pay the PST on the importation value and then insure it.  Again since I had all the paperwork in order including all the purchase receipts, B3, Form 1 Importation Form, Customs Declaration, Bill Of Lading, CBSA inspection report, mechanical inspection report and so on, it was very straight forward.

It’s Home

As soon as it was insured, it was filled with gas and then driven up the Sea To Sky Highway for the very first time to it’s new home.  Such a fun sunny day on a beautiful highway, cruising along in my new Land Rover.  A pretty exciting day after about four months of hard work and preparation.

The Vehicle

What Bespoke Off Road had found was a 1996 Land Rover Defender 90. However, this is where it gets interesting.  This particular vehicle was never sold to the public as it was made through Land Rover’s special military ordering department after being commissioned by the Italian Carabinieri

This Defender 90 was one of only a few hundred ever built and has a rare 2.0 MPI T16 DOHC 16v engine configuration that was produced only for the Italian Carabinieri.  They needed a small petrol engine to service their force vehicle requirements.  Under Italian laws, these smaller vehicles avoided major taxation that exists on bigger engine sizes in their region.  More importantly, the severe lack of diesel in that region meant that it would have been logistically foolhardy to use diesel engined Land Rover Defenders.  All of their existing fleet vehicles are petrol.

Why did I choose this vehicle? Well, to be honest, finding a good Land Rover Defender 90 that is old enough to bring to Canada (it has to be older than 15 years old to meet import requirements if manufactured outside of North America if it does not meet other criteria).  Almost everything found these days is either exceptionally expensive (usually very inflated, due to the fact that Land Rover has ceased to make the Defender in it’s current & historic configuration), or it has high mileage and is highly corroded.  I knew that this vehicle had come from the dry lands of southern Italy and would be in very good shape.  I would rather a solid vehicle with an odd ball engine than a rusted hulk with a tiredand thrashed diesel engine.

Once it landed in Canada and I saw it, I knew I had made the right choice.  Sure the little 2.0 MPI petrol engine has less torque than the classic diesel 300tdi, but in all honesty, it moved along very nicely on the highway, cruising at 90km/h happily.  It did struggle on the longer steep hills and off road a little bit, but this added character and is where my off road driving skills kicked in and I loved the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment.  It more than easily has coped with trails like Whipsaw with ease – that’s how amazing these stock vehicles are.

Escaping the Ordinary — Embracing the Adventure

Escaping the Ordinary — Embracing the Adventure

By Glenna Barron

For those who know even a little about it, overlanding conjures up visions of traversing rugged terrain, of meeting new cultures, of camping in remote locations and of embracing “the journey.” That is the heart of overlanding. What makes overlanding different from off-roading is that it is not just about overcoming obstacles in the terrain. While off-roading is greatly enjoyable, and many overlanders do it, they have cultivated a different ethos for their pursuit of adventure. Overlanding is about adventure between a starting and finishing point, of wanderlust and traversing remote regions often underexplored and underdocumented. It can be over difficult-to-manoeuvre terrain — a good example was the Camel Trophy event — but it can also be on easier to drive secondary roads and trails in remote locations, respectfully using them in the Tread Lightly! ® spirit. Always the vehicles are self-sufficient, ready for much of what they might encounter over trips of many days to many years, and at the close of each day, camp is set up.

And so the story goes for five stalwart friends who ventured into a remote region of British Columbia, Canada, their journey spanning hundreds of breathtaking and inspiring kilometres.

The journey was what it was about: exploring, each day bringing unique challenges, exhilarating terrain, seeing and doing things that would be woven into stories to be told again and again. Trail lore. Overlanding lore.

The friends navigated a desert area where glaciers had deeply incised mountains; today, velvety sagebrush, cacti and other plant life adorn them, fragile in their existence. It was an area where First Nations once fished for abundant salmon from the Fraser River and hunted herds of wildlife. Later, white settlers moved in to farm; their now decaying cabins dotting the hillsides, thousands of metres above the Fraser River. The roads and trails, some graded and some exquisitely rugged, perched on avalanche-prone hillsides, open to big sky, offering thrilling views. From there, the friends followed a once-wide logging road that became narrower with each passing kilometre, rarely used, nature reclaiming it. Small landslides roughened the trail, providing some off-camber thrills on the way down. Fallen trees blocked the trail, necessitating pruning and removal. The team worked efficiently to make the trail passable, always with safety in mind. This was where trust borne of many trips taken together, the camaraderie, bonded them further.

Around the campfire every night, the five recalled events of the day, each person adding their flavour to a hearty story soup, pausing once in awhile to savour the peace and joy that comes of being in locations that not many of us get to enjoy. Locations that leave a mark on your soul, calling to you again and again. It is a feeling, a melody, that settles in your mind, making itself comfortable: “The adventure is calling, and I must go; must go and live the life about which people write novels.”