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Road Trip – Part 1 – Vancouver To The Rockies

As restrictions lift in British Columbia we judged that it was safe enough to take a road trip. We will not come into contact with many people and will be staying in a self-contained RV. The original plan was to travel to Ireland but overseas travel is unlikely to happen for a while.

May is usually good in the lower mainland but June can be wet. VERY wet sometimes, so we decided on the end of May/start of June. Where to go? We thought about driving to the Yukon. It has been on my list for a long time. I am not the only George from my family to immigrate to Canada, my great grand uncle, George Pilkington spent time in the Yukon in the early part of the 20 century. Maybe the very tail end of the Gold Rush. That’s what brought him there anyway – gold, as far as I know.

After looking into the rout, we decided against this as it would have been a 30-hour one-way journey meaning we’d have to cover a few hours every day. Our idea of a holiday is taking it easy and stopping for a few nights if we want to. We did a crazy road trip like that when we drove across Argentina (read about it here) and then back again and that was a lot of driving every day.

We also thought about hitting Haida Gwaii as it has been on the list for a long time. Again, it’s about a 30-hour trip oneway including the ferries and I’m not sure if visitors are currently allowed there, so we decided on the following.

I thought of the trip as being in three stages. Vancouver to the Rockies (Jasper), Head south through the Rockies (Jasper to Cranbrook) and the Rockies back to Vancouver.

We decided on renting a 27′ RV rather than going with a smaller Westfalia (or something similar) mostly because we want the space with the baby. The total cost for three weeks was $3,300 which included delivery and pick up ($150 each way) to save us a trip to Delta. Keep in mind that if you do a trip like this you are paying fuel and campsites on top of this.

Fuel is currently at an all-time low which is helpful in this situation and private RV campsites generally charge approx. $40 for full hook up. Full hook means power and sanitary dump. There are so many places along the route where you can just safely pull over and spend the night. If you’re not hooked up you will have lights and hot water but you won’t have sockets or aircon (though there is a generator if you need it). Canadream recommends that you try to get a power hook up every two or three days.

The RV itself sleeps, 4 adults and 2 children. That would be tight but a family of 4 or 6 (2 adults 4 children) would be ok. We have a shower with hot water, toilet, stove, oven (which doesn’t work), microwave, kitchen sink and personal sink with running water, heating, air-con, fridge.

It is surprisingly easy to drive even though I have no experience driving these but once you get used to it it’s ok. It also feels kind of nice being the slowest vehicle on the road. Once you park up, the inside of the RV expands and you have lots of space with loads of storage underneath.

I was surprised how often we needed to empty the grey water (sinks and showers). Almost every day – at least every 2 days. Blackwater (poop and pee) we emptied every time with the greywater but that has not gotten close to full yet. It’s easy but you need to make sure you have a site with a sanitary dump or make sure there is a sani dump nearby. This link is useful for Sani dumps in BC.

The freshwater either comes with a tank which you need to fill every couple of days or some sites have a city main you can hook up to that has a constant water supply.

Onto the trip itself.

Day 1 Saturday: Vancouver to Squamish – 67km.

This was an easy day, we drove to Squamish and stayed with our friends Miles and Pippa who live under the watchful eye of The Chief, surrounded by mountains in Squamish. The drive takes you along the spectacular Sea to Sky highway with amazing views of Howe Sound.

If you have not been here before, Squamish offers some of the best rock climbing in the world with some great hiking also. It is close to Garibaldi park which has some great wilderness camping and close to Whistler. It has so much more to offer but hiking and camping is my thing, so that’s what usually takes me there.

Day 2 Sunday: Squamish to Lillooet – 189km:

This is another beautiful drive which takes you through Whistler which is a world-famous ski resort. If you have time and you like skiing or snowboarding it’s great (so I’m told – I’ve never skied there in 9 years living here) but it’s expensive. Worth a stop for lunch or a walk around.

Next stop along the way is Black Bird Bakery in Pemberton, we stop here every time we pass through and love this place. We couldn’t go inside because of social distancing requirements but there are loads of nice places outside to sit if the weather is good. We got talking to Joel who works with Whistler Bear Safaris which is something I’d love to try out. He reminded us if we do see any bears on the road trying not to cause a “bear jam” – it’s ok to slow down to get a picture but don’t stop and DON’T gets out. Hadn’t planned on it anyway – not sure what kind of person gets out of their car to face one of the largest land carnivores on the planet. Especially around Pemberton where you are getting into grizzly country.

From here conditions start to get dryer as we leave the lush rainforests typical of BC and get into a much dryer warmer climate. Lillooet is spectacular. We camped at Texas Creek camp Ground and were surrounded by mountains on all sides with a view of the setting sun casting shadows against the stark rock straight across from us.

Texas Creek is run by Bruce and Jane who live there with their dog Craig. They have 15 amp hook up and fresh water hook up at the RV pads and fire pits with tables and benches. Such friendly welcoming people. The site is just off the main road which you can walk along to get into town or get to some trails. If you keep your eyes peeled in the evening you might see some owls on the property.

Immediately on arriving we loved the place and decided to spend an extra night to rest up and chill out. Baba played with the dog and by play I mean pointed and cried when he walked away. We also went for a few easy hikes, drank some beverages, had some fine food and that was the general gist of it.

Day 3 Monday, we took it easy and went for a couple of walks. The campsite is the perfect place just to chill out after a long drive. It is worth noting that Texas Creek does not have a sanitary dump to empty out you’re RV.

Day 4 Tuesday – Lillooet to Clearwater  – 295km:

Next destination was Clearwater BC. We got up, packed up and hit the road.

The drive from Lillooet to Cache Creek is absolutely spectacular. The landscape is dry and somewhat arid and the rock formations are beautiful. It really is frontier land, though some people might laugh at me for saying that (I have lived in a city for 9 years).

Just before Cache Creek, there is a great farm to stop off in for supplies and a break called Horsting’s Farm Market. You’ll find their website here.

It’s worth noting that there is a public sanitary dump in Cache Creek (exact location here) also which is free to use. I’m told there is a free one in Squamish also but we didn’t use it. We were full up with the greywater and didn’t notice until it backed up into the sink a little. The gauge full wasn’t exactly accurate. After a few days, we figure a shower for both of us every day, regular toilet use and washing dishes mean dumping the grey water every day. We also fill the freshwater tank every day also. The black water doesn’t even get 1/3 full but we empty it with the greywater anyway.

Emptying the tanks is easy, you literally just connect the hose and pull a handle, no smell, no mess, no hassle.

Remember this – Irish readers?

Anyway, enough about poop. The next stop-off point is Kamloops. We gassed up (petrol if you’re reading in Ireland – forgive me – I am Canadian also) and stopped in the station for an hour. They had a parking lot that allowed up to 8-hour stops for customers.

Kamloops wasn’t part of our plan to stay but if you haven’t stayed here before there are some great places to camp – Tunkwa Lake, where you have the choice of the Provincial campsite or the resort, Monck Provincial Park is also really nice – right by a lake.

My favourite thing to do near Kamloops is to visit Birken Forest Monastery which we visited a couple of years ago. You can read about my experience here.

Kamloops to Clearwater is another fantastic drive. The scenery changes again, from dry and arid to greener and more vegetated. The drive along the North Thompson River is so nice and I can imagine if we weren’t dealing with COVID it would be crazy busy.

We arrived at Dutch Lake Camp Ground. My strategy for picking campsites is just going with Google review above 4 out of 5. It certainly paid off here. Dutch Lake is amazing. It’s right on the lake with great views. There is a restaurant in the campground (currently closed with COVID), cabins, RV sites, tent sites, laundry, walking distance to shops and trails.

We have been sticking with the private campgrounds as there is no sign of the provincial sites opening up for overnight use yet. To be honest I haven’t really been listening to the news anyway to keep an eye on the situation but they are currently closed as I write this on May 23.

We had Dutch Lake booked for 2 nights but thought another night might be in order.

Day 5 and 6 (Wednesday and Thursday) we checked out the trails around Dutch Lake. There are lots of trails around the campground some of them along the river. The river is wide and fast-flowing and the trail gives some great views.

One of the nice things about Dutch Lake is that there is a sanitary dump right in your campsite so you don’t need to go anywhere to empty.

Day 7 Friday – Clearwater to Valemount – 199km

I would have liked to explore Wells Grey Provincial Park when we were so close but it wasn’t happening with the baba as it was a decent detour.

Valemount seemed like the logical stopping point on the way to Jasper and the Swiss Bakery made it worthwhile. Great cake and great bread, apparently at this time of year there are usually lines out the door but COVID has had a serious impact on the tourist industry. It’s also not a copy or a franchise it is owned by a Swiss lady.

We camped for the night at Yellowhead RV Park which is nestled away in the trees. The site was drive through which is good with an RV with one sani dump for the park which means you have to drive a couple of hundred meters to it. There are loads of sites here and it seems like it would be a fun campground in the height of the season though it was quiet when we stayed which suited us.

The campsites are very close together so you would definitely get to know your neighbours when it’s busy here.

The town is really nice and has an IGA if you need to stock up on supplies.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. We have another two weeks to go so I am going to leave part two for next week.

Keep safe and keep sane (ish)

Peace,

George

 

PS – If you are into historical fiction, my new book, The Pagans Revenge is available on Amazon. 10th Century Ireland, war, love and lots of other good stuff.

 

The Yamas – There Is More To Yoga Than Postures

There comes a point in everyones life when our brains are so full of thoughts, decisions and emotions that we come to a stop. Our joints dry up like the tin man in The Wizard of Oz and we slow down and stall.

I read a parable about two monks who were about to cross a river when they saw a woman who needed help to cross. One monk carried her and the other monk berated him after, “We are forbidden to touch women,” he said. “How could you do this?”

“I put the woman down on the other side of the river,” replied the other monk, “but you are still carrying her.”

I have carried thoughts and worries with me for a long time. I carried them like a great weight, my shoulders and back were constantly tense and I did not realize I could put it all to one side.

We pick up our problems and hold onto them for dear life like they are our precious possessions. So important are these problems that we carry them everywhere. We do not put them down.

After a time, I realized that three simple things would allow me to put down my burdens:

  1. Exercise
  2. Fresh air
  3. Meditation

For me, yoga is a door way to these paths, it is also a catalyst for consistency. Yoga is not just postures, it is not just meditation, these are important aspects of yoga but each is only one of eight parts.

The Eight Limb path of Yoga is laid out as follows:

  1. Yamas – Moral restraints
  2. Niyamas – Observances
  3. Asana – Postures
  4. Pranayama – Mindful Breathing
  5. Pratyahara – Turning Inward
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Union with the object of meditation

I instruct yoga once a week at the Rob Lee YMCA on Burrard Street, guiding people through the asana (postures). I do my best to emphasize the importance of breath, though I find it difficult to get that across but in light of the above, I teach only a small part of yoga in my classes.

Over the next week I plan to explore one of the eight limbs of yoga in more detail – The Yamas.

The Yamas, to me, are a moral guide to how we should make our way through life. They are just as much a part of yoga as the postures we practise in class. The yamas are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa – Non-harming
  2. Satya – Truthfulness
  3. Asteya – Nonstealing
  4. Brahmacarya – Moderation
  5. Aparigraha – Nonhoarding

We can all practise an aspect of yoga without ever stepping on a mat.

Ahimsa

We can inflict violence on ourselves and others in many different ways. Physical violence plagues our planet, sometimes it may be hidden behind closed doors other times it is out in the open rearing its ugly head for all to see.

There is the violence of rage, which can be silent and contemplative, seething like a sickness, or loud and boisterous like an angry thunderstorm.

The violence of thoughts, when the anger rises in our minds and we think of lashing out.

It can be as simple as an unkind word or thoughts which, when we allow them will light a spark that can burn into an anger that sits with us, hidden in the background.

I have said before that a successful day starts the night before. My Sunday night consisted of staying up late working on the iPad. I found it hard to sleep after the screen time, the blue light firing my braincells up like a Christmas tree, my thoughts going back and forth like Forest Gump whacking a ping pong ball.

The result was that I stayed in bed later the next morning. It’s funny how much of a knock on effect that has. Instead of my regular 20 minute meditation session I gave it 5 minutes.

I set out with the intention of nonviolence but was not set up to carry that through.

I often talk about finding our true selves. I also wonder if we can lose our true selves. As I drove to work I met a lady who hesitated at a fourway stop. She looked at me like I was an idiot and I reacted in anger. That is where we lose our true selves, it is not the real me. Just like the monks at the river, I put that person down a long time ago, but he comes back sometimes. If we were face to face neither of us would have reacted like that.

Two more times I got frustrated on the way to work. A strong person would have noticed the impulse to react, felt it and let it settle and become still like a ripple in water. The person who meditated for twenty minutes that morning would have let it go also.

Meditation (Dharana), just like the Yamas is another part of yoga. They are all interdependent. One leads into the other. Yoga is a way of life, not just a physical practise. That was obvious to me on my first day to examine the Yamas.

Satya

Tuesday brought me to Satya (truthfulness). It is a difficult one to put into action. It can be interpreted in different ways. This evening I was coming to the end of a difficult yoga practice when bridge or wheel pose was offered by the teacher.

Sometimes I will attempt wheel for two or three breaths when my body is warmed up and I decided for my third round I would go for it. The offer from the teacher was either pose.

It was then I realized that I was doing this pose for my ego rather than because it was what my body needed. This was the truth of my yoga practise. I came to the matt open to honesty and ready to practise truthfully.

Satya refers to truth both in thought and action. It can be found in many places in our lives, we just need to open our eyes to it.

There are many forms of dishonesty but dishonesty with ones self is the most difficult to escape. It is invisible and sneaks into our lives like a dark ghost in the night. Only with constant practise and mindfulness of Satya can we ward off this spectre.

Asteya

Asteya (non stealing) can take many forms aside from the obvious, for example, when we do not give our full effort to those who have paid for our services, we retain some of the attention and effort which has been promised to others.

This is human nature, I take out my phone in work and see a notification which is more interesting than what I am working on and my fish mind takes the bait. We fly to the shiny object like a moth to a candle.

How many times through out the day is our time or attention stolen by those who it is not intended for. My attention is intended for those who have put their hard earned cash into paying for it, or for those who I love and who deserve my attention and those who are kind and have earned my respect through friendship or courtesy.

The mindless attention leaches on social media and plastered over unsightly billboards do not deserve our attention, yet they latch onto us and drag us down into the depths of cat videos or online shopping and literally steal hours a week from us.

Non stealing can be looked at either directly or indirectly but either way the most precious things we have, our time and attention can be stolen from us or else not directed towards those who deserve it. Our most precious gifts should be held tight to our chests and given to those who matter most or those to whom we owe a debt.

Brahmacarya

This means moderation. I am vegetarian but I am also a realist. The world will never turn vegetarian or vegan though, this change would have a huge impact on climate change and eliminate unethical treatment of animals.

Eating meat is natural in the animal kingdom but over consumption is not. We eat so much beef that cows farts are literally choking the planet to death.

Whether vegetarian or carnivorous, we all have a responsibility to the home we will pass onto our children. Eating ethically sourced meat mindfully, in moderation will have an impact on this planet of a magnitude many of us do not realize.

Brahmacarya can save us, for we have nowhere else to go.

Brahmacarya can also apply on the mat in relation to the extent of the physical practise. We are always encouraged to push our selves. According to David Goggins, when we think we are spent, we have only reached the 40% mark.

This is true, but we must keep in mind humility and moderation. Taking your body straight to handstand without the experience and practise is not pushing yourself to your limits, it is pushing yourself to certain injury. It will serve your ego rather than your development.

Aparigraha

Non-hoarding. We often, by our nature, accumulate items. We fill our lives with stuff which takes up space both in our homes and in our minds. There is nothing more freeing than letting go of items we don’t need.

A cluttered space is a cluttered mind. The things you own start to own you. More space and more things require more time and maintenance. In my opinion we should only spend our time on those things we really love. If we free ourselves from those things that do not add to our lives we liberate our minds.

Just like the monks who crossed the river, we are guilty of mental hoarding. We hold onto emotions even when the moment has long past and they do not serve us. Often times I find my mind wander back to some perceived wrong which I still carry like the monks at the river. I hoard it.

In conclusion I encourage you, if you are a yoga practitioner, to go deeper and explore how we can take the entire practise, not just the the postures and breath work, off the matt into our everyday lives. Practise yoga every day, not necessarily twisted like a pretzel or meditating on a mountain top, but by being aware of the eight limbs of yoga and putting them into practise as much as possible.

There is much to offer, dig deep and you will find it.

If you liked the blog you would pay me a huge compliment by sharing it.

Thanks for reading,

Peace.

George

Ssssssshhhhh……The Power of Silence

“Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.”

It was by accident that I ended up writing this blog in O Five Tea Bar on Fourth Ave. It is a fitting setting as the other customers are either silently working or silently reading. The staff too, go about their business with the quiet diligence of monks.

Silence can come in many forms, it can be deep and oppressive, it can be heavy like a thick, dark blanket, it can be thin and unwholesome like the silence of a lie or the silence of inaction. It can also be strong and true, like it is in here right now, like it is after a strong Om or like a winter forest when the snow settles on the world to give it the perfect finishing touch.

Some things are best enjoyed in silence, like the tea I am drinking. You almost need the quiet to fully understand it, to fully appreciate it, as if the flavour whispers and it will disappear into the background unless you listen carefully.

I read a blog recently about a lady who managed to get a private audience with the successor to the Dalai Lama. He asked her if she had specific questions. She did not and so they remained in each others company and enjoyed the silence. It was a silence which required nothing else. There was no need to break it with mindless chatter. They shared the silence.

Silence encourages stillness. I am almost afraid to pour my tea too quickly for fear of adding an unwanted flavour to the quiet of the room. As if a movement too vigorous will create a ripple which will disturb the stillness.

Some of us are afraid of silence. We step into an elevator with somebody and take out our phone rather than share the silence. We plug in to the screen, the earphones, the podcast, the music, whatever it is, we use it as an exit system to flee the quiet stillness and rush out into the lights and sound, embracing it with open arms, wishing to be swallowed up by sound and colour.

It distracts us from our discomfort but there is no strength without discomfort. We put on a soundtrack that drowns out the whisper that tells us “something is wrong.” We don’t listen to the small voice inside us. We don’t get to know ourselves, like the parent who tells the small child to be quiet and behave, but the child is scared. The parent does not know because the soundtrack is too loud.

How many times when you were in school did your teacher tell you to “pay attention”? How can we pay attention when we do not know how too? We have never been thought these skills yet we are expected to have them, even though these abilities are being pushed further and further away from us every day.

A friend of mine once said, that if he had the opportunity to do anything in the world without the chance of failure, he would change the world. As Leo Tolstoy says “Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.” “Change yourself”, according to Nick Seaver’s TedTALK, “and you will change the world.” We are our own environment. Change ourselves and we change our environment.

Become still and let the mind settle, like the white powder flying about a snow globe.

Falling leaves in autumn, finding stillness.

That is where we learn to pay attention. There is power in silence, the power to learn, the power to forgive, the power to change the world. Change yourself and you will change the world.

How many earth shattering decisions were made on a whim, thrust out from a blinding flash of anger rather than forged with patience from a still mind.

Viktor Frankl‘s life was ruined in Nazi Germany, his family killed, his dignity stripped. He felt the emotions but he did not fall into them. “Between stimulus and response,” he said, “there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” What Frankl describes is the power to change the world. This power lies in the pause, the silence. The power lies in the gap before stepping forward. The bridge in the road, before continuing the journey.

This is the power of silence. The power to change yourself and in turn the power to create a change greater than any of us have known.

This will open our minds to let us hear the undercurrent that tells us where we need to be. The candle light in Time Square is drowned out by flashing neon lights but it is still there. We just need to find it.

Through silence we can chip away at the surface and find our true selves. The reactive self is not the real self. The true self or the soul, as I like to think of it, is underneath and cannot be seen because the reactive self has encompassed it. Take the time, take the pause. Step away and listen.

John Francis spoke about his 17 years of silence in his TedTalk and it was on the Ted radio hour where I heard him say it was only after months of not speaking, that his mind began to settle. The waves took many months to settle after the storm.

It is ok to stop. We do not always need to move. We do not always need to fill the space. The sound of om consists of four parts, the final part being the silence.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you all to sit in silence. Start small but be consistent. Invite the silence into your life like an old friend and see what stories it will tell you.

“Don’t just do something, sit there.”

I hope you enjoyed reading this one. If you did, please share it.

Peace,

George