Trail Tales: The Movie

Third Time Lucky! At last our first public talk, on the 10th of April 2018, about our adventure last year was a great success for the Gairloch Heritage Museum, a full house, an audience a wee bit different from usual, interesting questions following our presentation and movie and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

We are now submitting our movie Trail Tales: A journey from Mexico to Canada, to some film festivals. The Adventure Film Festival at Inverewe Gardens, The Kendal Mountain Festival, The Women’s Film Festival, Cinalfama Lisbon International Film Festival so far!  It is quite amazing how many film festivals are out there and just how expensive a lot of them are, just to submit a movie. Therefore I haven’t submitted the movie to a lot of festivals (perhaps this is their ploy to not be inundated?).

Sean Hall, an amazingly talented young man, managed to artfully link all our little iPhone videos into this remarkable movie. Sit back, make sure you have your popcorn to hand and enjoy! Trail Tales: A journey from Mexico to Canada.

Trail Tales: A Journey From Mexico to Canada

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Would you like us to to talk at your event? We would love to! 

Send us an email or give us a call… 077 197 354 39 or 01445 771 006 077 875 262 99 or 01445 771 006


Trail Tales: A journey from Mexico to Canada

In the worst snow year for decades in America’s West Coast, two Scots set out to hike the 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, from the Mexican border to Canada.

The PCT traverses the west coast’s backbone of desert, mountains, prairie and forest as it winds it’s way northwards.

As the hikers walk north, their plans are constantly challenged by the record snow fall and the record snow melt, which swells rivers. Creeks are flowing where they haven’t in decades and hiking the trail and river crossings starts to claim lives.

Trail Tales follows their adventure as the couple keep heading north, their plans are challenged and their journey ends up being completely different from what they had imagined while planning it in their little croft house in Scotland’s remote North West Highlands.



Winter Lecture in Gairloch

If you are in our neck of the woods in January you may wish to come along to our winter talk. Tuesday the 16th of January. A good excuse for a chance to leave the house on our cold winter nights.

Hope to see you there!

Trail Tales: A journey from Mexico to Canada – movie submitted

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Thanks to all the amazing hard work which Sean Hall has put in over the last month, our movie has now been submitted to the Adventure Travel Film Festival 2018.

It was a tight one, as submissions close tomorrow. Sean has worked his socks off and performed amazing feats with the poor raw material which he received from us!

We can’t believe the results!

Thank you so much Sean, you are so talented!!!!!!


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Seen the Movie, read the Book, bought the T-shirt?

He and She movie

We have been home now for approximately 4 weeks and we have squeezed a lot into that time. 1 wedding (my lovely niece Kirsten), 1 big birthday (yip not bad for an auld burd! and all you will read below…


We had the amazing privilege to open the 2017 Inverewe Adventure Film Festival a few days after returning home. Also, we now have an amazing young man, Sean Hall, who is, somehow, going to make sense out of all our videos clips and stills and make an Adventure Film about our He and She Adventure. Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 15.12.05

All being well, we plan, to show the movie at next years film festival, please save the date, 21- 23rd of September 2018. We will keep you posted!

Also we are in discussions with the amazing Issie from World Adventure Guides  about guide books for the Oregon Coast Trail and the Powell River Canoe Trail.

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As we believe we should get a little more coverage about our adventure we have decided to extend our Just Giving page and Virgin Money Giving Page in the hope that we can raise even more money for our chosen charity, Syria Relief.

Americanisms, our own language, PCT speak and more

Americanisms – We all know, from years of watching American sit-coms and movies, that our common language embraces a lot of diversity. Here are some ‘Americanisms’ (as we called them)IMG_2860.

  • Turn Out – passing place/lay by
  • Sidewalk – pavement
  • Pavement – tarmac/asphalt road
  • Hood – bonnet
  • Trunk – boot
  • Yield – give way
  • Trail – foot path
  • Restroom- toilet
  • Rucola – rocket
  • Zucchini- courgette
  • Cilantro- coriander
  • A1 – brown / HP SAUCE
  • To go – take away (food)
  • Jelly – jam
  • Shopping cart – trolley
  • Cable car – trolley/ tram (San Francisco)
  • Drip – filter Coffee (pot)
  • Pour over – filter coffee (single cup)
  • Biscuit – plain scone
  • Cookie- biscuit
  • Schucking corn – peeling corn
  • Heavy whipped cream – double cream
  • Gas – petrol
  • RV – motor home
  • Basement- cellar
  • Pants – trousers
  • Chickadee- tit (e.g.  Coal Tit)
  • Fanny – Bottom
  • Creek – burn/ stream
  • Gouch – gulley
  • Canyon- valley/ glen
  • Saddle – pass (over hills or mountains)
  • Overlook – view point
  • Railway ties- railway sleepers
  • Biscuits and Gravy (breakfast)  – Scone and white sauce (poured over scone)
  • Realtor-estate Agent
  • Washroom (Canada)- toilet
  • Dollar Tree ( Canada ) – $1.25 🙂
  • End to end – hotel to hotel
  • Hot flash – hot flush
  • Go potty – go for a pee (adults)
  • Yellow jackets = wasps
  • Defensible Space – area around your home cleared of combustible materials
  • Garbage – rubbish
  • Trash can – Rubbish bin.
  • Cattle gate – cattle grid
  • Remodeling- renovating
  • Pilot Car – convoy vehicle
  • Cotton tail – rabbit
  • Jack Rabbit – hare
  • Line – Queue
  • Dude ranch – A horse riding, cowboy type ranch for tourists
  • Schedule- timetable
  • Wolf pup – wolf cub

Life on the Trail has it’s own terminology to describe the ‘other world’ which you inhabit.

  • Trail Magic –  while walking the Pacific Crest Trail we were often blessed to encounter Trail Magic. This could be a plastic chair under the only shade tree for miles, or a cooler with water or cookies inside, day-hikers who had little bags of M&Ms which they gave as gifts of ‘trail magic’ to the smelly PCT hikers, a dumpster brimming with sugary drinks and cookies beside a sofa in the middle of nowhere on the trail, a picnic bench and parasol in the middle of the desert with two trail angels dishing out beer and ice-cream sandwiches etc.
  • Trail Angel – The selfless people who kindly offer support in a myriad of ways to Pacific Crest Trail hikers. These include our wonderful friends from back home in Scotland who, through their kindness, we knew things would be taken care of at home (Tracy & Roger, Margot & Andy, Katherine, Frank, Helen, Julia and Conor etc), our American team including, Paul and Jack (amazing kindness, their amazing cabin in Truckee, the best steaks in America, A real fourth of July etc.) , June and Wally (their home!, a comfy bed, washing, amazing food and great company), Jeanette (post office services, advice, lovely company and tasty lunch), all those who gave us a lift when we looked like tramps at the side of the road while hitchhiking (like Jen Jones), people who gave us cookies when we were sitting about minding our own business, for the Trail Angel’s whom we will never meet who stocked water caches, water coolers stuffed with food treats, shared their food, offered hikers places to rest and recuperate ( the Saufleys and Andersons etc). The list of Trail Angels and the over whelming displays of kindness we enjoyed cannot be adequately conveyed here. Without all the named and nameless Trail Angel’s our Adventure would not have been possible.  Thank you so much for being such wonderful people!
  • Suicide Squirrel – little furry creatures which wait until a car is whizzing down the road and they dice with death and try to cross the road, exactly at the same time (adrenaline junkie squirrels!)
  • PCT Refugee – Due to the extreme weather conditions this year on the PCT (current count of 6 deaths on the trial and 1 person still missing), many people wisely chose alternative long distance hikes. These PCTers officially became known as PCT Refugees in the US Press!  While walking the Oregon Coast Trail we could spot a PCT refugee a mile away and we greeted each other with the question “PCT refugee?”
  • Hiker Midnight – officially 9pm, any hiker awake beyond this time officially needs shot
  • Trail Name – Hikers, while walking the trail, could, if they choose to, accept a proposed trail name. These names were suggested by other hikers whom they were walking the trail with. Cory was quite happy with the name he was given at birth although I tried a ‘few on him’ to see if they would fit. I half ways accepted ‘Two Tokens” and “Radagast” and “Hedgebackwards”. I answered to all of the above.
  • Taking a Zero –  A complete day off the trail, with no trail walking, normally a day for resuppling in a town.
  • PCT Hobble – Every morning when we awoke and had to hobble to a ‘bush’ for our business, WE COULD NOT WALK! We hobbled, crippled unable to walk, hence the PCT hobble
  • SOBO & NOBO – South Bound (PCT hiker from Canada to Mexico), North Bound (PCT hiker, Mexican border to Canada)
  • Flip Flopping – Jumping ahead on the trail due to conditions, then returning to complete the section of trail you had to jump
  • Karma dollars –  Money you offer to Trail Angels who kindly offer you a lift. 99.9% of people say ‘keep your money’ but it is a politeness to offer a little bit of karma. (Sometimes we forgot to offer however…oops)

Not only did we Walk the West coast but by having the opportunity to visit the National and State parks of America we got to ‘tick’ many more states. Here are a couple of words which sum of the various states and the impression they left on us. 

  • California – drugs, tented cities, cactus, wealthy, sales tax, pay for a bag, hot, easier hitchhike, high deserts, wind farms, solar farms, lots of people/ large population, water scarcity, gridlock traffic, amazing forests, snakes, lizards, humming birds.
  • Oregon – no sales tax, endless poly-pokes (shopping bags), beautiful empty sandy beaches, driftwood, north easterly winds (summer), Route 101, Hiker Biker campsites, Goonies, Lewis and Clark, temperate rainforest forest, tufted puffins, harder to hitchhike, lots of Scottish immigrants, houses for sale, wooden houses, marijuana shops, plentiful water, huge Tsunami zone.
  • Washington – Seattle, Bridge of the Gods and gridlock traffic.
  • Idaho – (no) potatoes. Flat. Grain silos. Prairie. Clark and Lewis river. Straight road.
  • Arizona – in transit
  • Utah – no booze, repressed, conservative, dry, farmland.
  • Nevada – not a lot there, hot, desert.
  • (Mexico. Baja California) – police checks, pigeon Spanish, good food, whales and mega pod dolphins, pot holes, amazing miles of desert wilderness.
  • Wyoming –  Yellowstone, open spaces. Teton.
  • Montana – country and western songs. Wolves. Cowboys. Cold. Dude ranch.

IMG_6170Our New Language – naturally while spending 5+ months with the same person, living in a confined green tent, eating, sleeping and walking together, as well as developing ESP powers of communication, we developed our own language.  Below are some words from the new language which evolved as we ceased to need to ‘speak’ to each other.

  • Taco Bell – Taco Hell
  • Starbucks – Starbowk
  • Breakfast = McDonalds – breakfast (2 for $2.50)
  • Pizza Hut – Pizza Gut (16″ pepperoni )
  • Cinnamon- Simon  (Simon is added to everything! Cory really doesn’t like Simon at all).
  • Burger King – Burger Ming
  • Greyhound bus – Greyhell bust  (Just how many Greyhell Bust journeys did I endure without air-conditioning in triple digit temperatures?)
  • Triple digits – Tortuously hot
  • Boltbus – BBB – Bolt bus (is) better

Due to the change of plans with the extreme weather conditions on the Pacific Crest Trail we had the wonderful opportunity to visit many of America’s National and State Parks.  We bought an American the Beautiful Pass which allowed us both, for only $80, to enjoy the wonders of the parks throughout the America. The pass is valid for a year but even if you only have a few weeks or a month to explore, it is amazing value. Below is a list of the parks which we can remember we visited… we probably visited more!  The highlights, for me, were Yellowstone (wolf and bear), Bryce (beautiful colours), Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Henry Cowell Redwood state park (the breathtaking trees). 

  • Bryce National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Teton National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Canyon Lands National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Death Valley National Park
  • Kaibab State Park
  • Oswald West State Park
  • Devils Punchbowl State Natural Area
  • Cape Kiwanda State Natural ARea
  • Bullards Beach State Park
  • Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park
  • Cape Lookout State Park
  • Beverly Beach State Park
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
  • Donner Memorial State Park
  • Emerald Bay State Park


Paddling the Powell River Canoe Trail – SHE

Welcome to Canada! 

We spent two days in Canada after braving the wildfires of Washington and the torture of a Greyhound bus with no air conditioning (again) on our trip from Portland to Vancouver. We arrived safely in the ‘dodgy’ end of town and check into our ‘not so cheap’ and extremely hot hostel!

After filling out stomachs on too much wonderful Chinese food (we were right beside China town) and surviving the ‘Mad Max Apocalypse now area’ after dark and a beautiful morning exploring Stanley Park and my absolute best breakfast on my travels so far at the Ivanhoe pub, it was time for more buses and ferries to get to Powell River. It is not cheap to get to Powell River, let’s hope it is worth it!

Again another overnight and early rise and we are picked up to begin our amazing 6 days on the idyllic lakes that make up the trail.  There is ‘one shop in town’ for canoe hire and it is a slick operation, including canoe drop off for those of us travelling by foot (for a price). Mitchell’s Canoe and Kayak . 

We paid $378.35 for 6 days canoe hire and transport to Powell lake from our Motel and collection from Lois Lake back to the Canoe hire base. We then hitched back into town the 6 miles with absolutely lovely Anne-Marie.  She invited us back to her home for ‘real’ tea, in china cups and home made cookies and we got to meet her lovely daughter Elena, son-in-law Don and Scottish Grandchildren.

Day 1. Powell Lake

The weather has been spectacular for the last 5 months and Canada hasn’t disappointed. We overload the canoe with too much food and much to Cory’s disappointment, no booze! He had planned to buy a six-pack and trail it behind the canoe to catch drunks! Or maybe not! But he had dreamt about chilled beer while paddling but it wasn’t to be!

I cannot believe how beautiful and tranquil it was. We had both buckled ourselves into our lifejackets but it was so incredibly hot. The calm waters were sparkling and glistening and with a wind behind us it was breathtaking.

We had been told that the campsites were well sign posted with orange triangles, some of which had faded to white, which you couldn’t miss. Be aware, that you ‘can’ miss them and in cases, they simply don’t exist. The best signposted site was our first campsite and it set the bar too high! All others failed to reach that standard.

Amazing floating cabins line Powell Lake, submerged skeletons of trees poke out of the water or lie submerged like hippos walking underwater, ready to bump you if you get complacent and don’t remain vigilant.

Pacific Loon call to us at our passing and Great Blue Heron slowly flap above us as we gently paddle along.  Power boats and Speed Boats buzz up and down the lake which cause wakes to bump us, eventually, as they travel over the lake towards us but we don’t encounter any other paddlers.

Our $5 recreation map is a bit of a let down, it feels more like a brochure and lacks proper topography thus, it isn’t ideal for navigation. However we do refer to it often, due to the tropical lushness of the forest, spotting the orange triangles for campsites or picnic sites is not as easy as we had thought it would be.

Powell Lake Campsite is amazing, pristine sands and logs to sit on, rakes and brushes to keep things clean and in the forest, there are picnic benches and pit toilets. I complete the trail register and expect to find one at every campsite on the trail but no, the trail register is a one off. I wonder if one of the locals in a nearby floating house has ‘adopted’ this campsite. It is so well cared for and loved. Thank you, whoever you are!

We erect our little tent on the beach, Cory is first to go for a wee dook to freshen up. By the time I think I would like to have a dip, the air temperature has cooled too much for me to be brave. I live to smell stinky another day.

At night, when we awaken for our ‘call of nature’ the night sky is breathtaking. The Plough is sitting onto of the hill, across the lake, as if the farmer just parked it there while he took a break and the sky is just as dazzling as the lake was during the day.

Day 2. Powell Lake, Goats Lake to Windsor Lake (portage is 2.4 km predominantly steep up, hot ‘n’ sticky). 

Lazy days are called for as 6 days is more than enough to paddle the canoe trail. It means we can take our time and enjoy. Nonetheless we are on the water early and heading towards the straights which will take us to Goat Lake. People are having their morningcoffee on the porches of their floating cabins and wave and give us a cheery ‘good morning’. Fishermen chat to us as they relax on the water. The pace of life is slow and soothing.

We cross more skeleton woods as we pass through the narrows into Goat Lake and the little beach.  When we arrive, we meet our first other paddlers, whom we will play hopscotch with for the rest of the trip. 3 adults and 1 girl. She is busy catching the numerous frogs hopping about the shallows, trying to avoid young girls. We see our first giant tadpole, the size of my hand, dead, with pointy teeth which would be the envy of any piranha.

Cory fuels up as he prepares for the portage over The Hump. We decide to take the bags and kit over first to give us an idea of the terrain and route, then return for the canoe.

It really does feel like a tropical rain forest, so humid and sunlight streaming in from above. Clockwise, the route we have chosen, means this is a very tough portage. It is steep, narrow, up, long and very hot. Our canoe weighs 70lbs and is made of fiberglass, thus a lot of weight to carry under any circumstances, never mind in steamy forest, uphill!

I am shattered after walking the bags over!

We return and I direct Cory, as best I can, while he walks about with a canoe on his shoulders! It takes 1hr30 minutes to get to Windsor Lake with the canoe on his back. Thank goodness he is a big strong man.

The Windsor Lake campsite as a food pulley, picnic benches and a cute pit toilet built into the skeleton of an old tree.

Hot and sticky we strip off and head to the jetty on Windsor Lake to cool down and have a dook. The air temperature is hot and the water temperature is just the refreshing side of ‘soup’. It is paradise!

Day 3. Windsor Lake (0.7 portage) Dodd Lake to Ireland ( 0.8 km portage)

The internal lakes have very few or no power boats. The waters are like mirrors reflecting the beauty of the forest and blue skies above us. We paddle along, now without lifejackets, it is so calm and so hot. We watch Osprey fly overhead and frogssunbathing in the shallows.  It is hard to describe the beauty of the canoe trail with the idyllic weather we enjoy of The Sunshine Coast.

The portages have canoe stands are frequent intervals, a lot of them having been renewed within the last year. Their frequency is welcomed however some have been built for midgets! Cory starts his weighted squats sooner than planned as he has to almost sit on his bottom to get under the canoe.

There are numerous board walks and bridges to make the portages as foot friendly as possible and the trails are very well maintained.

We miss the picnic area for lunch, we couldn’t see any signs and almost went past the landing area due to the lack of signage but we get out the map and realise our error.

Then after lunch, Cory portages the canoe to Ireland Lake, to get away from the Sunday crowds at Dodd Lake. It is worth it! We have Ireland lake all to ourselves and the waters are even warmer and the frogs entertain me for hours.

Day 4. Ireland Lake,(2.4 km portage) Nanton Lake and Horseshoe Lake

Ireland Lake is tiny and we are across it within 10 minutes. Is it called Ireland Lake, because that is what it looks like from the air?  Then we have the portage to Horseshoe lake.

This is the most entertaining portage!  The trail follows a creek and the trail itself is gorgeous. What we didn’t expect was to be part of a BBC trailer. Garter snakes have come out onto the trail to warm themselves in the morning sun. We are the iguanas of the Galapagos and the snakes slither (thankfully away and not towards us) as we pass by. But you cannot see them! They are so well camouflaged in the dappled light!

This is what we feel like!

After the ‘thrill’ of making this crossing 3 times, 7.5km, it is time for a wee rest and a clif bar or two….

More dreamy hot weather and relaxing lunches and cups of tea as we take shelter in the driftwood shade offered on the little islands or the shores of the lake.

When we arrive at Horseshoe lake and find a tropical paradise of a campsite in an old quarry, complete with Tarzan, picnic benches and curious chipmunks and squeaky squirrels. We head back to the water and enjoy the best swimming so far. The water has pockets of hot water. The bottom of the lake bends in, to make the ‘horseshoe shape’, near the dam and the waters have so little movement, that it is possible for the temperatures to build up. It is wonderful. We head back to our little Amphitheatre and set up camp, have our ‘tea’ and then head back out to the warm waters of the lake for a pre-bedtime dook.

Day 5. Horseshoe Lake to Lois Lake (1.7km portage)

We had thought we would camp at the top of Lois Lake and base ourselves their for the last night. However we had misread the map and their was no campsite at the top of Lois Lake, it was half way down the portage from Horseshoe lake. We then planned to paddle west towards Khartoum Lake and find a campsite.

At first on Nanton Lake the waters were pond like and calm but once we got out onto Lois Lake the winds had picked up and it get choppy! The wind was favourable for getting to Khartoum Lake but I imagined that the next morning we would have a battle to traverse Lois Lake for our pick up at the end of the trail.

Eventually, around lunchtime, we found a gorgeous sandy beach littered with driftwood and huge upturned tree trunks to offer us some shelter from the still blazing hot sun. We hid behind an ancient bleached tree root and charged our phones, as for the first time in 5 days we had mobile reception.

We ate, slept, filtered water and enjoyed the stunning beauty of our own little beach. The Ospreys swooped  and called over head and Mr Raven called in a few times to welcome us.

Day 6. Lois Lake

We thought we wouldn’t sleep after such a lazy day but we did sleep. The moon peeping out and the stars shining bright above us. The water stopped sloshing against the shore sometime during the night and we were almost convinced the lake had disappeared.

While having our morning cup of tea, Mr Otter swam past, not spotting us, and dived and popped up and dived and popped up again, looking for his breakfast.

Despite the calm waters of the night the wind had picked up again. The pond like waters were gone and we faced a headwind as we headed towards the westerly end of Lois Lake.

We paddled and then sought shelter to rest and tackled the traverse section by section. The sun broke through the clouds just enough to give my phone a little bit of charge on the phone for calling for our pick up.

Again the lack of orange signs lead to a bit of confusion about where we should land. The map indicated we had missed the jetty but again, we didn’t see anything resembling a jetty!

By the time we decided on a particular sandy beach there were a few spots of rain and the wind had a chill to it. We hunted out our gortex jackets and wrapped up against the change of weather.

Cory managed to message Mitchell’s Canoe with our location and I kept myself busy filling my mug with the sweetest brambles in Canada.

Powell River Canoe Trail – SHE


All about the journey and not the destination”. That’s certainly what we have learnt on our Big Adventure. We set out to walk the 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada. The dangerous conditions in the high Sierra ( due to the snow and dangerous creek crossings) has seen us amending and Amending the amendments of our plans. At a rough guess we think we are now on Plan E or F!

Wisely we both got off the PCT. Cory’s experience allowed him to make the sensible choice and get off the trail too after walking 6 days in the High Sierra.  Sadly at least 5 PCT Hikers have lost their lives on the trail this year, 4 deaths happening within the last 4 weeks, two of these deaths were definitely due to drowning in the creeks. There are innumerable stories of serious injury and near death experiences also.

We then walked the Beautiful Coast line of Oregon. The Oregon Coast Trail had its busiest year ever with the unexpected   ‘PCT refugees’ influx. Even most Oregonians had not heard of their own coastal trail. It was fantastic to experience a different sort of trail, from the Wilderness experience of the PCT.

Since finishing the OCT we travelled to the San Juan islands to see Orca and taken our planned ‘holiday within our holiday’ to see Wolf, Bear and Moose in Yellowstone. After the Eclipse we had planned to ‘get back on the trail’ and continue north to Canada. However …

The best laid plans of mice and men…

Wildfires now  rage on the PCT and the ice storms over winter resulted in hundreds and hundreds of fallen trees in Washington. So we have decided to keep heading north and experience a different sort of trail before we reluctantly head for home.

We are going to have an Open Canoe adventure in Canada’s Sunshine Coast. There is a Sunshine Coast hiking trail but we are ready to experience wild Canada from the water. We are traveling to Powell River, where we are hiring a Open canoe. We will then Canoe the 57km, 8 lakes, (5 portage) of the lake based trail, wild camping and hoping to view the wildlife which British Columbia has to offer!

San Juan Islands – let there be Orca – SHE

On my goals for 2017, among many other wonderful dreams, is to see Orca in the wild. Yes, we have a reasonably local pod off the West Coast of Scotland but they are quite a rare sight.

After lots of research and looking at logistics we ruled out getting to Vancouver Island after finishing the Oregon Coastal Highway. Too far away and expensive to get to, as we plan to visit Yellowstone for Wolves, bear and moose and be back in Oregon for the Solar Eclipse.

The San Juan islands are in Washington state and reasonably easy to get too! We take a bus from Florence to Eugene and then another bus to Seattle. We catch a shuttle bus from Seatac airport to Anacortes and a ferry over to Friday Harbour on the main island, San Juan. It’s a two day trip to get to San Juan and it has the feeling of Gairloch. It’s bustling with tourists and all the locals know each other. The islands main industry is tourism, just like back home. However here their are scores of kayak and whale watching boats. Welcome to the island that boasts the Orca Highway.

The resident pod of Orca eat salmon, thus behave differently from the transient pods of Orca which frequent the waters off the coast of the San Juan Islands and Canada.

We catch the local bus ($5 p/p about 4 buses a day) to San Juan County Park which has a hiker biker camp. There are toilets with running water, charge points in the toilet or at the rangers office. For once the Hiker Biker camp, is the best spot in the campsite.

The temperatures are topping triple digits on the mainland and San Juan, although not quite so hot, is dry and balmy. We erect our tent as close as possible to the sea and plan our Orca sighting optimisation plan. The sunsets from the park are magnificent and the lights of Vancouver Island wink at us as it turns from dusk to dark.

There are warnings everywhere about the resident raccoons and thankfully there is a communal food locker for the hiker bikers. Despite this during the night I am awoken. There is something outside the tent. If I didn’t know better I would sweat it was a hippopotamus ripping up hunks of grass with its massive mouth. The noise of the rip and munch is so loud! What can it be? I sit up and look out the mesh of the tent door and I see the delicate silhouette of a graceful black tailed deer. She is gazing at me. I Am gazing at her! She is beautiful! After a while she tires of inquisitively looking at me the big red caterpillar. and resumes her hippo impersonation moving further down the meadow towards the sea.

The Orcas are well know to be visible from the coastline from our park and also Lime Kiln park, down the coast a few kilometres. This is the Orca Highway. The salmon run up the west side of the island and the hunters follow their prey.

Based on all our research we book a kayak trip and dream of our Orca Experience. The kayak trips leave from Small Pox bay, in our park, so we wait for our guide and the other clients to arrive. We chat to our neighbours in the campsite. They have a yacht and travel these waters often and are touring the island with their bikes for a few days. We are the only hikers at the park, the rest of the people are either cyclists or have vehicles. We we chat their little dog heads for the porch of our tent. Cory hollers a ‘hey’ at the dog and the mum quickly retrieves the dog.

Later we I go to renter the tent and get ready for our kayak I find a little horrid parcel the dog had left for us on our porch!!!! Dogs always on the leash, the rules are there for a reason. Yuck!!! Thankfully it was a wee dog! The ‘parents’ are horrified, I’m reasonably matter of fact about it, Cory ‘is Not happy about it’.

After initially accidentally signing into the wrong group! Our guide and van arrive and we set off!

We see Bald Eagles, curious seals, harbour porpoise, millions of tiny fish, various jellyfish but we have one track minds. ORCA. The sea is tranquil and still, like a pond, not the open sea. I feel quite calm in the double kayak with my expert at the back. Cory takes a wee while to get used to having a rudder though! I just paddle as instructed and hope for the best.

We stop for lunch and based on cryptic comments from our guide and the other clients I ask. “Did we miss some Orca information on the mini bus? Are the Orca not around?”

Our guide admits yes we had missed a bit of information on the trip over. The ‘resident orca’ have ceased to be resident. The salmon have disappeared and thus the Orca have too, worse, this isn’t a recent occurrence. The sightings had plummeted in 2016 and 2017 it had gotten a lot worse. Salmon numbers were down to 20% of what they were a few years ago. The Orca now rarely frequent the ‘Orca super highway’.

This is the best kept secret of the San Juan islands where the tourism industry is built of the whales (as well as sport fishing). People don’t come here to kayak, they come to kayak with Orca.

The day ceases to hold any interest for me after that. I can go kayaking, we can go kayaking whenever we want. We live beside the sea, we kayak with Otter and curious seals.

Quite discontent and feeling quite ill treated at this information we rethink our strategy. We book a super fast rib from Friday Harbour the next day, as there are many transient pods of Orca in the Saltish Sea. With a fast boat we maximise our chance of being able to get to any pods, if sighted.

We had to get up and on the road by 7am. The local bus doesn’t start until 10:30 so we will have to walk the 10 miles across the island. If we don’t get a hitch this leaves enough time to get into town by foot. 2 miles into our hike, a young Dutch couple stop and empty their back seat. They have just left our campsite and are headed for the ferry at Friday Harbour. Kerching ! Cory impresses them with a ‘Dank vel!’

The smog from the wildfires in Canada have made the day hazy and humid. We get kitted up in the warm suits and head from

Canadian waters where the captain says Orca have been spotted. It will take us about 1hour 10 minutes to get to the area. After yesterday’s disappointment, we are a bit scared to get our hopes up!!

There is a naturalist on board also but we travel so fast there isn’t much she can say and be heard. The captain, with 20 years experience, seems to know just as much as our guide.

We bump across the flat seas and visibility across the waters is fantastic. If the orca are there, we will see them!

The groups of boats are the give away that we have reached our destination. The tour boats have to stay at least 400yards away from

The Orca to decrease disturbing the whales. Of course if he Orca dive and come up closer to the boat, then you have ‘lucked out’.

Then silently the huge dorsal fins break the surface of the calm grey waters. It is breathtaking!

When they dive we never know where exactly they will reappear. We watch them silently break the waters surface, usually take about three quiet breaths and dive again.

The transients are hunting. They will eat porpoise or seals etc. Thus they behave differently from the resident salmon eating pods. They are silent. They breath as one. They are quiet. They are stealthy.

They are spellbinding.

They are magnificent.

They are beautiful.

We are thrilled. When, after 40 minutes, the captain says we will have to start heading back. We are gutted. I want to stay with them for hours.

Our captain was good however as he, unlike many other boats, kept a respectful distance from the whales. It was interesting to watch the other boats and how they flouted the rules. Also how the boats were ‘almost’ listing to one size with the weight of all their tourists leaning over one side of the boat.

Thrilled we return to Friday Harbour and catch the 4 times a day bus back to the park.

Day three and the Orca pressure is off! We have a day off sitting at our campsite and gazing at the sea.

Day four, again we start hitching into town before the bus service. A lady picks up about a mile into our hike, again she is from our campsite and has a lovely big dog called Bear. She drops us off at a busier junction as she is headed for English Camp. Immediately after getting dropped off Elaine picks us up, she’s in a rush so we scoot into the car and whoosh have a lovely chat as she heads into town in a hurry.

Our initial ferry departing Friday Harbour was late, we get back into town late. We’ve missed the bus that will take us back home. We manage to get to the supermarket before the 60+ cyclists manage to locate it and empty it of booze and crisps and then head to the ‘bus stop’. There is a bus but it won’t go as far as our park. It stops 5 miles before our park and then turns and heads back to town.

We ask to get dropped off as close to the park as possible and the driver recognises us. She’s says if no one else gets on the bus she will take us all the way home. No one else does get on, we are very lucky ( and great full) and leave here a tip as well as our fare!

We leave he island on Saturday and have to be at Friday Harbour by 6am. Cory arranges for a taxi to pick us up at 5:20 and it’s a groggy 4:45 that sees us packing up the tent in the dark.

We wait for the taxi at the park entrance as we sleepily remove ‘sleep’ from our eyes. 5:15, 5:20, 5:25, 5:30. Cory phoned the company, no answer. He phoned them again and leaves a message. 5:35. He tried again. He then phoned our (return journey prepaid) shuttle driver to explain that our taxi hasn’t picked us up! He says that even if he shows up now, we won’t make it as he is about to board. He said we could try for the 8am ferry and try and catch the Bellair shuttle. 5:40 and we start walking.

Trudge. Trudge trudge. Our bus leaves Seattle at 2pm! IF we catch he 8am ferry. IF we can get space on Bellair Shuttle. Will we reach Seattle in time for our next prepaid bus to Portland?

3 miles, we walk three miles and no a single vehicles passes us! At the English Camp junction we hear a truck.

I don’t hitch! Apparently I “pulled a face” which Cory said I should use every time we are hitching. Hehe!

I didn’t use my thumb either! I flagged the truck down! The driver didn’t have a chance!

He was opening his boot before I even explained our predicament. What an angel!

He was a local cafe owner on his way to open up!

He said that the Island operated on its own agenda and wasn’t entirely surprised we had been let down by our taxi driver! We had assumed their was only one company on the island but he explained there was a few!

We arrived in good time and headed for a coffee and to charge our iPhones. We needed to arrange our onward journey and get the taxi driver! Cory phoned and phoned the taxi company and left messages. No one phoned us back!!!

I phoned the taxi company, with my different number, and someone answered. I passed the phone to Cory.

After chatting to the driver on duty it was established that our driver should have been BoB the owner of the company. The driver said he would phone Bob and get a solution and call us back. He did call back and said Bob had forgotten to write our booking in his book! And?

He said Cory should call Bob in the office. Again Cory called and called. He left messages. No response. Cory phoned the driver back and explained Bob ‘wasn’t answering his phone’! The driver then gave Cory Bobs mobile ( well it wasn’t his mistake was it!).

Bob answered his mobile!

Cory, thankfully, managed to remain calm and explained we had now missed our prepaid shuttle to Seattle and would also miss our prepaid bus to Portland.

Bob said he would be with us in 10 minutes to give us money to cover our costs! We then set about trying to get reservations on the Bellair shuttle and change our BoltBus booking. Bob appeared with seconds to spare as we prepared to board the ferry. We got $160 to cover our costs.

We secured seats on Bellair. We managed to get our BoltBus tickets changed we would make it to Portland that night for our prepaid Airbnb. And we even had money left over for a lovely late lunch in Seattle. The most awesome Chinese.

It had been quite stressful! We were just glad we hadn’t been heading to the airport for a flight only bus connections or the consequences would have been a lot more


The Strength to Make The ‘right’ decision! – SHE

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail was our original goal. I was more ‘relaxed’ in my definition of my ‘adventure’ to get from Mexico to Canada, preferably by ‘foot power’.

We have avidly followed the PCT Facebook pages, received updates from the internet and our Californian and Oregon friends. Primarily we were watching the record snow fall, then the lack of snow melt and of course when things did start to slowly melt, our attention widened to ‘creek crossings’.

It sounds quite benign doesn’t it? Creek Crossing. It sounds like a hop, skip and jump with butterflies and dragon flies sparkling in the sunlight, along with Huckleberry Finn.

The reality could not be more different!
Raging torrents, 2+ meters in depth, the force hurling huge tree trunks, boulders and debris.

I decided to skip the Sierras after various plans to ‘flip flop’ and come back and hike then later proved not feasible.

Cory, with his decades of mountaineering and white water experience, decided to hike the high Sierra. As we know 7 days into that adventure, he had the courage to make a hard decision and get off the trail. The reason for his departure? Not the snow but the creek crossings! One slip in the wilderness is all it takes and the conditions this year with 200% more snow = 200% more snow melt = treacherous!

We made the right decision for us! I’ve ‘Walked My Wild’. 🙂

Pacific Crest Trail and now the Oregon Coast Trail.

Mountain Rescue Services have been overwhelmed. We know of two+ deaths already on the trail. These have NOT been reported on the Officially PCT page!

Our Adventure continues. We continue to head North.

We are enjoying our Pacific West Travels!


Only the unofficial PCT Class of 2017 Facebook page mentions the deaths. Thus there will be more serious incidents which aren’t being collated.

R.I.P. Strawberry, Tree & Marvin 💕