18 August 2012

Day of the rapids!

We left camp at 6am and headed straight for the chute and roller coaster on Isaac lake.  The actual rapids were great fun and it was nice to have a change of water flow that actually helped us head down stream rather than paddling on still water (or into a headwind).

As we headed down towards the log jam at McLeary lake. You have to be careful here to prevent the canoe from filling with water and potentially overturning. 

There was a really hard portage by the Isaac River falls but a good chance to take a breather and take photos of the waterfall before continuing on to McLeary lake, another portage and then Lanezi lake and finally Sandy lake.

We stopped at 10am for a well-deserved porridge breakfast and coffee.

The weather was awful all day and so much of our energy was concentrated on just carrying on paddling. We were all cold, soaked and exhausted when we reached the beautiful campsite on Sandy lake (Camp 34).

Sitting round the campfire we all dried clothes out (socks pushed on to sticks and trousers hung off an obliging tree). We all headed off to bed early as we were shattered from paddling for 11 hours!

16 August 2012

Isaac lake

We set off from our camp at 6am, a quick cereal bar and packing up our tents then off to camp 23 for a scheduled porridge and coffee stop.

Due to our mammoth paddle yesterday, we have an easy day ahead and this is a great feeling. We are paddling along Isaac lake today.  The lake was officially named in 1936 after gold prospector George Isaac although had been known informally by that names for many years.  Presumably he had found gold in the area. The lake is vast a good 20-30km and has a range of vistas.

Along the circuit each campsite has a fire pit and there are wood stores, so we collected wood en route to camp 26 and unloaded this from our canoes.
In the wilderness, a camp fire really is a fantastic asset and everyone looks forward to sitting by the warmth of the fire after a cold wet day on the river. The campfire at Isaac lake was one of my favourites and with the view of the Wolverine mountains towering over us, it was the perfect opportunity to wallow in the peace of the wilderness and think about everything and nothing.
"Sometimes my camping trips are an excuse to satisfy the urge to sit and stare into the flames of a camp fire. There is life in a camp fire, and a primitive pleasure in watching it come alive". B, Mason

As we were relatively fresh from the paddle today it was easy to set up camp; we unpacked our wet tents from last night and pitched them to dry in the sun.  The weather here is unpredictable, one minute bright sunshine the next pouring with rain.

We had a couple of visitors today; a young moose and the ranger service.  The rangers said it was probably only a year and a half old.  It was very tall and walked up to us to see what we were doing then went off. Amazing!

We spent a lazy afternoon on the beach, reading, writing diaries and generally relaxing in preparation for tomorrow.  The rangers asked us to travel to campsite 38 at Sandy lake tomorrow, so we have a 25km journey, which will include the rapids! These will need to be negotiated carefully to prevent capsizing. 

I really missed my children today; I really want to bring them here to experience the ambiance of the place. I wrote their names on pebbles, rested them on some driftwood and took a photo of them with the impressive Wolverine mountains in the background so they knew I was thinking of them.

13 August 2012

Paddling from Kibbee creek to Isaac lake

Today was huge; we paddled from orientation at 9am to 7.30pm, this meant we paddled across Kibbee lake, Indianpoint lake and half way down Isaac lake.  The campsites from the start of Isaac lake had been full so we had no option but to carry on and arrived at camp 21 on Isaac lake just before a huge storm. We were all tired and soaked but had to get the tents put up promptly and our waterproofs on.

I felt much better after having some food and with the campfire roaring we dried off quite quickly. Bed by 8.30pm and the best nights sleep I have had in Canada so far.  

The beauty of the Bowron lakes is hard to describe.  I loved Isaac lake it was so huge and peaceful. My friend Jenny said it looked like we were paddling through the sky and I think that's a pretty good description, as the water was so still and the reflections flawless.

12 August 2012

Reflections so far

It's amazing the impact a trip like this has on you. I am still getting recurring dreams from our night at the emergency shelter at Chin beach, which we shared with the Chin beach rats and a cougar (scratching at the walls and growling outside). At the time we thought it was paradise on earth, but on reflection it truly was rather awful! We spent much of the night chasing the rats off our rucksacks and trying to keep the wildlife outside at bay. In my dreams I wake up sweltering with my sleeping bag pulled firmly under my chin... Like that would keep them out!

The Hilton at Chin Beach

A half stable door the only thing that lay between us and a cougar :)

My bed in rat alley with all mod cons (a washing line)

The best impact has been discovering a love of paddling! I had thought my favourite activity would have been trekking, but canoeing is infinitely better! I am amazed I have not discovered this before, but there is something rather alluring to paddling in the wilderness and being totally free from modern distractions.

 Plans are in the pipeline already to continue with open canoeing back in the UK - (Update: Rivers Spey and Tay have since been explored when I participated on a expedition with the KMC students in April 2015).

The Song of the Paddle is a well known book amongst open canoeists. It is written by Bill Mason and is subtitled “An Illustrated Guide to Wilderness Camping”. So although it is a book about open canoeing it is also about the exploring of wild places in your canoe.
Our campsite on Issac lake (my favourite)- an evening in front of the fire

In the UK our wild places are fewer and less wild than Bill had in Canada but even here, when out in your open canoe you can get to feel more at one with nature and escape from the ties of modern life. This is as true with a few snatched hours on the local lake or loch as it is on a multi-day camping adventure.
“Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears when they sailed by the island of the Sirens so they would not be lured to their destruction on the offshore rocks by the sea nymphs' irresistible song. In order to hear the song, Odysseus asked his men to lash him to the mast. I know all about this sort of thing because I hear a song like that of the Sirens every spring when the ice on the rivers begins to break up.

Years ago in the heart of Winnipeg, Manitoba, I would be working at my desk in a commercial art studio, hear the song, hand in my two weeks' notice and get my outfit ready. My parents thought I would outgrow it but I never did. If anything, the song is becoming louder and more insistent with the passing years. Some people hear the song in the quiet mist of a cold morning; others hear it in the middle of a roaring rapids. Sometimes the excitement drowns out the song. The thrills become all that matter as we seek one rapid after another. Sleeping, eating and living outdoors become something we do between rapids. But for other people the song is loudest in the evening when they are sitting in front of the tent, basking in the camp fire's warmth. This is when I hear it loudest, after I have paddled and portaged for many miles to some distant, hidden place."  Bill Mason

Our view from outside Wendle cabin, doesn't get much better than that!

11 August 2012

Bowron lakes orientation

(The Bowron lakes has no phone reception or internet, which was actually rather lovely, but means I could not update my blog so please forgive the delayed report).

Orientation of the Bowron lakes is compulsory and involves individuals or groups attending the Ranger station to watch a video about the 'do's and don'ts' for the park and to register. There is also a display area in the centre where you can find out more about the area and wildlife.

If you are travelling to use the lakes you have two options; to register as a group (limited to 14 people) or as as individuals (up to a max of six).  The main difference between the two is that individuals can camp at any of the camp grounds, whereas groups have to book ahead and are allocated places to stay.  As far as we could see if you register as groups you must canoe the circuit in 7 days.  This may not suit all visitors, so you may consider registering as several individuals to give you greater flexibility.

The thought of carrying food for 7 days being my main concern as it is very heavy!

Between the series of lakes are portages, where you have to push, pull or carry your canoe.  Day one has the longest portages with a 2km and a 2.8km.  The weight limit allowed in the canoe is about 28kg as I recall  and any other bags or equipment must be carried.  The rangers weigh your kit at the start of the trip and tag your boat with what you are allowed to carry in the boat (such as large red bag), so other rangers can check you are not breaking the rules.  The reason for the weight limit is to limit the impact on the portage trails, which at times are exceptionally rutted and steep.

Our group found it necessary at times to line the canoes up and take a group to push them through the rough terrain.  The portages are physically quite challenging and so I was pleased we had a set of wheels to put the canoe on.  Only ten or so years ago, all canoes were carried....

The Bowron lakes are named after a noted pioneer called John Bowron.  He died in 1906 but held many prominent positions with the community including postmaster and Gold commissioner.  He was one of the first pioneers to cross Canada by land and travelled from Victoria to Barkerville in 1864. These people must have been very resilient; even with our modern technology parts of the countryside here are immensely challenging.

The rangers gave us a few tips on wildlife management (bear spray is allowed but no fire arms).  This area has a range of wildlife including moose, cariboo, cougars, black and grizzly bears.

We also received an orange litter bag per boat and told to take everything out with us 'pack it in, pack it out' camping.

Each designated campsite has a bear cache, a fire pit, a stash of wood and camping pads.  Don't get carried away though these are very basic facilities and an axe to chop the wood is essential. After a long hard day in the canoe, the campfire was appreciated by us all and especially good for drying your socks!

Depending on the amount of days you plan to do the trip in (it is 116km) you should expect to be canoeing for most of the day, we averaged about 8 hours a day and if the wind is against you it can take longer.

I had been told how stunning the lakes are and I have to say no photograph I have taken can do it justice.  The tranquility and size of the area is breathtaking.  One of my fellow expeditioners said the collosal size  of the mountains made them feel like an ant; indeed all the mountains on the lake are bigger than anything in the UK at 2000m or higher.  I can think of no other place I would rather be than the Bowron lakes.  It is an excellent destination (for all abilities and learning needs) and I would strongly recommend a visit.

28 July 2012

Juan de Fuca Marine trail in photos

Road trip

Jenny and I have had the most amazing journey across British Columbia en route from Vancouver Island to the Bowron lakes: Like a Canadian Thelma and Louise!
We stopped in Whistler briefly to refuel and this coincided with the lighting of the Olympic flame in London. They showed the event on big tv screens; Whistler hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and has long term reminders of the event including the Olympic village with some impressive Olympic rings!
The magnificent Sea to sky highway brought us from Vancouver to Bowron; it passes through Indian reserves where we have driven for over 200km seeing no towns of people just stunning mountain backdrops.
We were treated to the most spectacular thunderstorm last night, which silhouetted the mountains as we drove into the night....16 hours travelling yesterday and another 6 to go. The sheer size of the landscape is humbling.
We slept in a layby by a lake then hit the road early, now on the Cariboo highway passing ranches and wildlife. No cariboos yet!

26 July 2012

Day 5 Port Renfrew

We've been chatting with the locals today in Port Renfrew and gathering information to take home.
The little town offers hikers the start or finish ( depending which way you go) for the Juan de Fuca trail and the West coast trail.
The Port Renfrew end of the WCT is the hardest part while it is the easier end of the Juan de Fuca trail.
We've been informed that the JdeF trail is always muddy no matter what time of year you do it. The mid section from around 16km to 33km is in very poor condition and the terrain is very challenging.
As there are limited places to get off the trail, from bear beach to sombrio beach you are committed to staying on the trail. We came across some foreign hikers who had come with day packs and no map from Parkinson creek to chin beach and were keen to leave the trail. They carried on towards bear beach but they would need to continue to chin beach before being able to reach a trailhead ( a 37km hike)!

There are excellent camping options on the beach opposite port Renfrew. The land is owned by the Pacheenaht Indian band. A water taxi operates from Port Renfrew to Bamfield and further information can be obtained by contacting the Juan de Fuca express (E: juanfuca@island.net).

Evann at Port Renfrew offers an informal taxi service (tel: 250-647-0071) should you require a lift from the trailheads at sombrio beach, Parkinson creek or botanical bay.

The west coast trailbus stops off at the trailhead entrances twice each day ( in the morning and evening) so this is an ideal escape option and the bus can be flagged down if you have not reserved a place. It can accommodate up to 15 hikers and kit.
There is a choice of accommodation in Port Renfrew and we would recommend stopping here at one stage of your trip.
We stayed in the West coast trail motel, which we would highly recommend, especially Don's breakfasts! There is adequate space to fit an expedition team with a choice of cabins or shared rooms.
Directly in front of the motel is hikers parking for the west coast and JdeF trails.

17310 Parkinson's road
Port renfrew
British Columbia
Tel 1-250 647 5541

The locals tell us that there are 56 eligible bachelors here out of a population of 190 and told us to please send some single ladies!!!

25 July 2012

Day 4 Botanical beach

Today we walked 14km to Botanical beach. This is a stunning area and is the last part of the Juan de Fuca trail. The path is good and we found this the best of the entire trail as there was a clear path. Local youth groups from the area built the last 3km of the trail and had added boardwalks over the creeks to make it easier to traverse.
Sea mist prevented any large marine wildlife spotting in botanical bay but we did see a blue heron fishing by the shore, it was about 1 metre tall. We also saw starfish, sea anemones, tadpoles and mussels in the tide pools and humming birds at Port Renfrew.
You cannot camp near here so we travelled back to Port Renfrew after finishing the trail. It is an additional 4km walk uphill and quite tricky on tired legs.
The little town of Port Renfrew is idyllic and a real treat; the people we have met here have been incredibly helpful and friendly. We are stopping one night then catch the west coast trail bus back to Victoria.

24 July 2012

Day 2 Bear beach to Chin beach

It's ok we're used to the rain, being British... But trekking in it all day up the unrelenting steep ravines into muddy creeks was something else!

We managed 11.5 km today in 8 hours and it was the hardest trek I have ever done. My pack was much better today, not sure whether I just packed it better or having eaten some rations made it lighter!
The highlight of the day was the makeshift wooden bridges over the creeks; seeing seals playing in the ocean and the most enormous cedar trees reaching high into the sky.

We reached the emergency shelter at high tide so decided to make camp before our legs gave way!
What the guidebook doesn't say about Chin beach is the massive rats. We were joined at 1am by 'Roland' the shelter rat who kept us awake trying to climb over our stuff. He disappeared at about 3am when a loud scratching and growling sound came from outside the hut. It  was a cougar. As there was no secure doorway Jenny and I retreated to the highest bunk and left Roland to his fate ( he was ok in the morning).

Day 1 Juan de Fuca trail

Today we walked from China beach to Bear beach a 10km stretch of the trail. There is a mixture of forest trails and beach hiking.
The trip took us just under 5 hours and we were both shattered when we reached camp. The incoming tide prevented us travelling further so we stopped in the campsite by Rosemond creek. An idyllic spot!
Jenny at start of the trek

The terrain has been hard-going made worse by landslides in places and fallen trees making us divert our path. Our packs are making it harder too; they are very heavy and negotiating steep ground requires a lot of concentration.

Lucy filtering stream water

Our spirits are high and we have a great camp spot for the night so no complaints!
There have been a dozen or so other Trekkers on route and there are three groups camping on the beach this evening including us.

Day 3 Chin beach to Sombrio beach

I do not see any reason why you would go out of your way to visit Chin beach; the route to it in both directions is very hard but Sombrio beach is stunning.
Having walked the mere 8km trail here today you might think it an easy days stroll, but this part of the trail is horrendous!
From about 25km to 29km it is one landslip/mudslide after another. No flat ground at all just uphill slog and down hill slip. With a pack it was ridiculously hard and we spent most of it crawling on our knees. Jenny and I are both covered in bruises where we slid in the mud.
The highlight of today's trail was the beautiful suspension bridge and the beautifully tranquil Sombrio beach.
We arrived at Sombrio beach and had a chat with a local photographer who was taking photos of grey whales. He told us that the forest trail further up west Sombrio beach was closed due to landslides. It was high tide so we were trapped as the coastal route was blocked by the tide.
As we have a fixed amount of time we made a call and decided to walk a further 2km to Sombrio beach trail head where we could maybe catch a lift and walk back on ourselves from the other end of the Juan de Fuca trail.
Two very muddy, smelly women who had not washed for days did not seem an appealing option for a lift.
As luck may have it (or call it fate) up drove Anthony a Frenchman on holiday in a new mustang GT ( I swear I'm not making this up- we have photos!)
He very kindly loaded our filthy packs and us into the lovely clean car and drove us to Port Renfrew. In return we bought him a beer and offered him camping advice for along the trail as well as shared our knowledge of the area as he was looking to do a two day trek himself.

21 July 2012

Good morning Vancouver

We have been up early today (5.30am) partly due to our body clocks being all over the place and also to get ready for the day ahead.
Jenny and I will be off to catch the ferry to Vancouver island soon so spending our last few hours in Vancouver doing some last minute shopping and packing rucksacks.
I've ditch some of my kit here as could only just lift my pack - its much too heavy really almost half my bodyweight!

The Hostel in Vancouver made us a hearty breakfast so we should be well set.

The team are building up their bikes; a few casualties from the journey but generally they are ok.

12 July 2012

Bowron lakes route planning and timescale

Jenny and I will be paddling the Bowron lakes in an open canoe.  Our route plan is as follows:

Day One
Bowron lake registration centre to Camp 7 (Indianpoint Lake)

Day Two
Indianpoint to Camp 21 (Isaac Lake)

Day Three
Isaac Lake to Camp 28 (Isaac Lake)

Day Four
Isaac Lake to Camp 37a (Sandy lake)

Day Five
Sandy Lake to Camp 47 or finish

Packing and kit list

I have been packing my rucksack today for the trip. 

My pack weighs 26kg when full, it is almost half of my body weight and just over the flight limit of 23kg so hand luggage will need to be utilised.  I'm going to wear my heaviest clothes and walking boots on the flight!

Here is my kit list.

Kit list:

Head torch and spare batteries
Waterproof trousers and jacket
Fleeces x 3
Thermal hat
Thin gloves
Thick gloves
Socks x 3
T- shirts (not cotton) x 3
Base layer x 2
Underwear x 4
Trousers x 2
Down jacket
Walking boots
Flip flops
Swim costume
Small notebook and pen
Bear spray and holder
Sleeping bag and liner
Pillow case
Water bottle x 2
Books x 2
Route cards
Tide times
Walking poles
First aid kit
Small towel
Soap non scented
Toothpaste (bi- carb)
Spare Lithium batteries
SPOT Satellite personal tracker
Solar charger
Long matches
Mug and spoon
Pocket rocker cooker
Water filter
Bug repellant (Deet)
Steri tabs (for emergency if water filter fails)
Spare laces
Pen knife
Washing up sponge (small)
Bear bells
Spare zip lock bags
Bear barrel with trek food rations
Universal plug adapter
Camera charger

The bear barrel will be used for carrying all food, toiletries and scented items like toothpaste and suncream.  It will also be used to carry any waste material we produce so that we can dispose of it at an appropriate place.  The rules for the trail and Bowron lakes are 'pack it in, pack it out'.  We will not be burying or burning items on the trail.
I have used a stuff sack and zip lock bags for the non food items in the bear barrel to keep it all separate from the food.

1 July 2012

Keep track of our progress

We are very lucky to have been loaned a GPS SPOT Messenger device by Stuart Lansdale - Thank you Stuart!

This will allow us to check in regularly and also publish our trek online.  We will keep the tracker on while completing the trek so that it reports our location at 10 minute intervals.  On the rest of the expedition we will check in at least once a day.

The page to follow our GPS check ins is:


(As we haven't gone yet it may not have anything on there yet!)

Route planning

Jenny and I have been studying our maps and books to plan our route along the Juan de Fuca trail.  It will take us 5 days.

Day 1
China Beach trailhead to Bear Beach
5-7 hours intermediate
Open forest and beach hiking
High tide at 3am and 4pm

Day 2
Bear Beach to Chin Beach
5-8 hours most difficult
forest on hilly terrain, beach hiking
High tide at 3.30am and 4.40pm

Day 3
Chin Beach to Sombrio Beach
4-6 hours difficult
Forest, beach, old gravel road
High tide at 4.30am and 5.20pm

Day 4
Sombrio beach to Parkinson Creek
4-6 hours intermediate
Boulder beach; rough dense low-bush trail; forest; old logging road; trail above cliff; boardwalk
High tide at 5.30am and 6pm

Day 5
Parkinson creek to Botanical Beach trailhead
4-6 hours intermediate
Logging road, mature forest, reef shelf, beach
High tide at 6.40am and 7pm

We will be arriving using the Trail bus at about 7.30am on day 1 which gives us a good start for the first days walking and we should be in camp by 2pm ready to prepare for day 2 which is the most challenging. We will make an early start each day so that we will arrive in camp by early afternoon.  This will allow us to plan the next days hike and get a good camping spot.

Sombrio Beach

Tide times will be important along the trail at Bear Beach we may be delayed as the beach cut off is impassable at high tide and we will be arriving there at high tide! Also at Sombrio beach the alternate hiking route has experienced a slope failure so we will have to use the beach at low tide. (29.3-29.9km section of trail). We have a window between 8am and 1pm on day 3 to get across this section.

8 June 2012


Training has got back on track and we've been doing a few charity races to keep in trim.   I am aiming to carry a 23kg pack at most so packing weight is now becoming as issue.  Kit list will follow soon.

As well as trekking and biking I also took part in the Race for Life 5k run at Kingston Maurward college with my daughter. It has helped to focus my training having events to take part in and make it more intrinsically satisfying to raise funds for worthwhile causes.

5 June 2012

Planning, planning, planning!

Seven weeks to go before I head off to Canada and the planning machine is in full swing.  To be honest planning an expedition is a full time job in itself; so juggling around a full time job and family is tricky!

This week I have been concentrating on maps and route cards, safety, risk assessments and food supplies. I have found the BC National parks website to be a great source of information and it has a dedicated section to the Juan de Fuca trail.  Visit the website.

One of the most useful sections of the website is on safety and this link will take you to the page for plenty of excellent information.

Reference Books

I have been using the Juan de Fuca Marine trail guidebook by Donald C Mills as a source of information for the route cards.  This has a detailed map and ninety-three pages of indepth knowledge.  ISBN 0-9684583-0-0 

As a group we have been discussing bear safety and I have also been reading up on it through Stephen Herrero's book Bear attacks their causes and avoidance.  It is worth knowing what to do just in case there is an encounter enroute. ISBN 978-1-58574-557-9 (Thank you for the recommendation Alison!)

The national park authority has clear guidelines for dealing with wildlife and we will follow these carefully:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife.

  • Reduce or eliminate odours that attract bears. At the campground, store food in air-tight containers in your RV or car trunk.

  • Bear caches must be used if they are available at the park.

  • Pack out all your garbage. Store garbage with your food, out of reach of bears. Do not bury garbage or throw it into pit toilets. Only paper and wood may be burned: plastics, tinfoil, and food items do not burn completely and the remains will attract bears (besides creating an unsightly mess). Storing garbage in bear-proof containers is recommended.

  • Cook and eat well away from your tent.

  • Clean up immediately and thoroughly. Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease or dish water lying around. Dispose of dish water by straining it and then throwing it into a gray water pit or pit toilet. Solids should be packed out with the garbage.

  • The odours of cosmetics, toothpaste and insect repellent can attract bears. These should be stored out of reach with your food and garbage, never in your tent. Leave strongly perfumed items at home.

  • Obey all closures and warnings.

  • We will be using pocket rocket cookers and dried Mountain house Pro-paks for food.  We carry a bear barrel each for food and to store all our waste, any insect repellants or items with scent (toiletries will be at a minimum). Bear barrels will be stored away from our tent at night.


    We are ordering our maps online using Stanfords and using in conjunction with Backroad mapbooks, guidebooks and National park information.  I have found it difficult to find maps of a usable scale for the Juan de Fuca trail in the UK but it seems Stanfords does a 1:50000 set of maps for the trail so these are now on order!

    Tide Times

    This website provides  the Canadian Fisheries and Ocean tide times for Port Renfrew and can be queried by date for a 7 day window, so we can print off our tide times before we go.
    It is essential to consult the tide times as we will be crossing some areas with tidal cut offs and also consulting these for suitable beach camping spots.

    7 May 2012

    Communications on expedition - GPS, Mobiles.

    I have been researching communications for the trip with the help of my Canadian friend Jen. The trek is particularly an issue for us as mobile phone coverage is non existent and so we will need to carry some sort of GPS locator to stay in contact with our home agent, family and friends.

    I like the SPOT unit as it not only allows you to make an emergency call, it also allows people to follow your progress online and send non emergency messages and OK messages. 
    They cost about £130 to buy plus an annual subscription of £100.  I've seen there is a Canadian company that hires for $35 per week so this may be worth doing, I'll also look at hiring locally in the UK (I'm told Windsurfing and Sailing shops offer this service).

    Here are the functions of the SPOT:

    SOS: Use this function In the event of a life threatening or other critical emergency to notify emergency services of your GPS location and that you need assistance. The GEOS International Emergency Response Center alerts the appropriate agencies worldwide – for example contacting 9-1-1 responders in North America and 1-1-2 responders in Europe.

    Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until cancelled or until the batteries are depleted. The Emergency Response Center notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your GPS location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, our country's embassy or consulate, or other emergency search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contacts about the receipt of a distress signal.

    Even if SPOT cannot acquire its location from the GPS network it will still attempt to send a distress signal – without exact location – to GEOS, which will still notify your contacts of the signal and continue to monitor the network for further messages.


    Help: In the event of a non-life threatening emergency, you can use this function to notify your personal contacts that you need assistance. Additional SPOT Assist services can be purchased and programmed to your Help button as well. When activated with SPOT Assist, the Help button will notify professional services either on the land or water. SPOT has partnered with national service providers to offer non-life threatening assistance.
    Once activated, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it along with the HELP message through the SPOT satellite network every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

    Even if SPOT cannot acquire its location from the GPS network it will still attempt to send a HELP message – without exact location – to your personal contacts. 

    Check-in/OK: This feature allows you to let your friends and family know that all is OK with a pre-programmed message along with your GPS location. With a push of a button a message is sent via email or SMS to up to 10 pre-determined contacts and your waypoint is stored in your SPOT account for later reference. Your stored waypoints can be easily integrated into a SPOT Shared Page or SPOT Adventure account. 
    Once you have activated your SPOT Messenger and set up your account, you can change your contacts and customize your message at any time. When you push the Check-in/OK button, you send one pre-programmed message to your contacts. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

    Custom Message: This feature allows you to let your friends and family know receive a custom message along with your GPS location with a push of a button. Use this feature as a secondary OK message or transfer your personal help alert to this message function if you are using a SPOT Assist service on your Help button.
    The Custom Message functions exactly like your Check-in/OK message You can also have access to your waypoints in your SPOT account so you can review your route at a later date. Or link your SPOT account to SPOT Adventures and save a map of your adventures using your SPOT waypoints, and enhance the story with photos and a blog.

    Once you have activated your SPOT Messenger and set up your account, you can change your contacts and customize your message at any time. When you push the Check-in/OK button, you send one pre-programmed message to your contacts. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

    Track Progress: Start/stop tracking at any time using your SPOT device (Additional service required). You can also mark a Reference Point or send Check-in/OK messages from specific locations while in Track Progress mode.

    Mobile Phones

    Mobile phone coverage for Canada has three good carriers (so I am told by my Canadian buddy Jen)




    I am told that with a UK phone you can buy a Telus SimCard, which you can purchase pretty much anywhere (grocery store, 7-11, probably even at the airport) then you  activate it and it works on a pay as you go basis.

    With Rogers you can get a sim online and activate it so you would be all set before you travel.

    You can use your iphone with wifi when you are in a urban areas - burger takeaways and coffee shops have wifi to use!

    The combination of GPS unit and mobile phone with an international sim card will allow us to stay well connected with our home contacts throughout the trip and offer a cheaper solution than hiring a satellite phone and charger for the month.


    Powering the units will also need consideration.  I'd be interested in feedback on either the festival style or solar charger units and how effective people have found them.
    The universal phone chargers use standard batteries and will charge an iphone approx. 1.5-2 times and cost £15. Solar chargers are about £28 and charge a phone in 4-7 hours.

    26 April 2012

    More training and a few set-backs

    My training schedule has continued well in March with some warm-up walks in the Purbeck Hills, I completed 7-8 hour treks through farmland, woodland and then camped out. Successful all round and my pack performed well so feeling pleased!

    Just before Easter I headed up to Coed y Brenin in Wales for a biking and walking weekend. 

    I cycled on the saturday and then walked one their strenuous routes - the Gain Waterfall trail on the Sunday morning before driving the 6 hours home!  The walk was supposed to take 2 hours; I was well under that and feeling strong, so clearly all the training has been helping. It's a great walk, although the harvesting taking place was a bit messy in places...lots to see and very peaceful.

    Gain Waterfall Trail route - website link

    A few set-backs

    I have been poorly with 'flu so haven't been out walking or training for four weeks now and have not felt up to doing much planning either.  Hope to be back out there soon. 

    26 February 2012


    Training for the expedition began at the end of 2011.

    So far I have completed three training weekends, two on the Dorset coast path and one on the Devon/Cornwall border.  All have tried to mimic the conditions we will be encountering; the Dorset coast path has been great in terms of the undulating landscape.  Days two and three of our trek in Vancouver island will be very similar.

    It has also been a good opportunity for Jenny Boyce my trekking buddy and I to make plans for the trek. It is hard when you are working during the day to find time for expedition planning, but our hike from Ringstead to Durdle door this weekend, gave us time together where we could make some progress.

    Forest walks
    In February I headed down to the Devon-Cornwall boarder to trek in Forestry Commission woodland and alongside the River Tamar.  While there was some broadleaf woodland, most was conifer and so similar to what we will trek through on the Juan de Fuca trail.

    The other purpose of training has been to try out some new kit.  I am not buying lots of new equipment but there are a few items that I did not own that are essential.  Probably the most important is my rucksack.  I asked for a lot of advice on which was best and borrowed other people's packs to get an idea of what was comfortable and fitted.
    The company I settled for was Aiguille who are based in Sheffield.  They sent me packs through the post to try out as I am a bit on the small side at 5'3! I fitted the ladies pack and they made it for me.  The best things about the pack is that it is no frills, so nothing to go wrong.  It is very lightweight, which helps for the trek and it has an expandable lid, which is extrememly useful for cramming stuff in! It is 60 + 25 litres capacity. See it online http://www.aiguillealpine.co.uk/cgi-bin/trolleyed_public.cgi?action=showprod_R110

    My other investment has been trousers, which again are a problem if you are on the small side as many of the big outdoor clothing names only cater to size 10 in ladies clothing.  I asked around again for advice and was recommended by an ecologist friend of mine to get some Rohans, which go down to size 8. They are perfect and I got both warmer winter pairs and lightweight pairs. They dry very quickly and take up very little rucksack space.

    Cooking and wild camping

    In December 2011 I spent a blustery night under canvas, having trekked along part of the Dorset coastal path. This was a great opportunity to test out the cooking skills using a jet boil and pocket rocket and wayfarer and mountain house, which is a freeze dried food. My choices on the trek will be to have mountain house (as they don't sell Wayfarer in Canada) or to take pasta/cous cous etc. Cooking will have to be carefully done as the trek is also home to bears and cougars, who will come and investigate any spilt food. For this reason it is important to use bear barrels or caches and store and cook food well away from the tent.