I saw a friend posting stories about hikes she was going on with this company - The Adventure Bus Tours Co - and I became instantly curious. What was this? Where was this? How do I get to be part of this? As you know, I love adventure and I love, love, love photographing adventure. I was super nervous about reaching out to this company to see if they would mind if I tagged along in exchange for photos. I mean, I love the photos I take, but that doesn't always mean that other people do or that they are what they want for their brand. In some ways it could be perceived as insulting to offer the exchange of services, so I was hesitant. Straight up I asked my friend if they might be interested first. She led the initial conversation for me, that's how nervous I was to put myself out there. A short while later I was talking to Meg about what it would look like for me to go with them, and she was happy to let me tag along.
While this weekends hikes didn't require any actual prep from me, it did require prep from Meg and James with the Adventure Bus Tours Co. Since I knew nothing about them as people going into the hike, and only knew they had a bus and they took people adventuring, I will share what I learned about them so you can feel connected to this amazing local small business. Meg is fun; I'm not sure there is another way to describe her. She has this confidence about her that is inviting and friendly. She is passionate about exploring the vast wilderness we have out our back door, and she is so down to earth. James is more reserved, but still approachable, kind, and also fun. While I won't get into specifics about either of them so they can enjoy their personal lives, I can confidently say that they are two individuals I would be happy to spend my time with and I'm looking forward to more adventures with them.
Now, on to the hikes.
Fort George Canyon - The First Experience
We met in the morning, loaded up in their four wheel drive van, and headed out to Fort George Canyon. We spent the drive getting to know each other; where we were from, how long we had lived in Prince George, if we had done the hike before, if we had hiked with The Adventure Bus Tours Co before, and other random bits of information about each other.
It was about -10 when we got to the parking lot of Fort George Canyon, and a fresh layer of snow covered the ground. We geared up, had a quick safety meeting, and hit the trail! James was leading us in and Meg was making sure no one got lost on the trail. I fluttered back and forth, having multiple conversations with different people and capturing the stages of the hike. The sunny cutblock we first walked through, and the shadowed fir forest that came next. We stopped to take micro breaks as we went so that no one felt pressured and we could continue as a group. We talked, laughed, and revelled in the sunshine as it broke through the trees. We were graced with the presence of Skipper, a beautiful, well trained dog, who whined at us to keep going whenever we stopped. Talk about motivation. He spent most of the hike running from the front of the group to the back, making sure everyone one was in line, but he never once chased after a squirrel or tried to find the rabbit whose tracks were evident in the fresh snow.
About an hour and a half later we reached the canyon. It was the perfect lunch spot. We were sitting on the rocks that had been cleared of snow by the sunshine, enjoying the quesadillas that Meg and James had made for us. Yeah guys, they supply lunch too! We did some sight seeing where we could along the river and just took it all in. Prepping to make our way back up, Meg lost her glove! She looked everyone and we all had an big laugh when Kim noticed it was tucked away in her gaiter from when she tightened her boots a few moments before.
As we made our way back up the hills, we realized just how much down there had actually been on the way it, but it felt so good to work up a sweat.
A short while later we were back at the bus and heading home. Water, snacks, and good company provided for the ride. It was the perfect way to spend most of my day before heading off to dinner with friends. I felt accomplished, calm, connected with nature and like my heart was happy and content at the same time. I decided that if there was any way possible, I was attending the Driscoll Ridge hike the next day. I had other plans, but if i could make it work, I wanted to be there.
Driscoll Ridge - The Climb
Day 2! I made it happen. I was going on the Driscoll Ridge hike. I drove myself out because I needed to be able to leave during the lunch if necessary to make my second commitment on time. That meant a lot of time to get through the audiobook of the day Girl, Wash Your Face. I wasn't really a huge fan of what I had listened to of the book up to this point, but I was determined to finish it, so I listened while I drove the approximately one hundred kilometers to the parking lot, following James driving the Adventure Bus filled with people who would be getting to know each other and bonding over the experience they were about to share. Obviously I wasn't in the van so maybe this didn't happen, but it's how I pictured it based on the previous days' experience. James helped me secure my snowshoes to my borrowed hiking pack since I was unfamiliar with the best way to do this and he and Meg have the experience. Once they were secured, we had the safety talk, and we were ready to go!
If you have never hiked Driscoll Ridge, or at least never accessed it from the west side, let me paint you a picture. You leave the parking lot, walk about a hundred meters into a clearing, and straight ahead of you in the trail. It looks like it is going to be straight up. There was a frozen creek running down the face of the mountain, and for a moment, I thought that was the trail. I wasn't sure how we were going to get up this ice sheet but knowing that James had scouted the trail in advance, I knew it was possible. We climbed. One foot in front of the other we made it through this first steep section. The trail levelled off a bit and became a more gentle climb, but still a climb.
Thinking of it now I am not sure if there were any sections that were really flat, or if it is just what I told myself to keep going when it was less steep. I don't remember any particularly flat sections coming down, so I think it was more of a consistent climb than anything. We lost the trail a couple of times. The ribbons that mark the trail were tied on willow and devil's club that had been knocked over with the weight of the snow already present on the trail. We never got lost, James just had to take a few seconds sometimes to determine which direction was the right way and what the best way to get through the section was. Since the snow was deep enough to disguise the trail, but not deep enough for snowshoes, I suspect it was a bit of a guessing games at times. James led the way though, one step at a time. We navigated our way through the cedars, coming into the the spruce and balsam forest that indicated higher, dryer elevation. The change in timber was followed by a change in hiking conditions. The snow got deeper and the ground became rocky. In some open section there was borderline enough snow for snowshoes. We were prepared though; Meg and James had emailed the group the night before to let them know to bring snowshoes if they had them, or that they had some for use if needed. I fluttered back and forth amongst the group as much as I could, again getting the chance to get to know everyone and make sure they had photos to remember this day from.
We are so close to our destination now. Maybe 20 more minutes of hiking and we will be taking in a beautiful view of mountains my siblings and I dubbed "The Dream Whip Mountains" when we were kids. The fresh snow on top of the mountains made the scene that much more impressive. As soon as we were in the clearing, taking in the view, I forgot all about my fatigued legs and the sweat I just worked up. Everything was just right in the world up there. Calm, quiet, serenity waiting to be embraced. We stayed a short while and grabbed some photos from the top. The hike back down felt incredibly easy. The snow made everything slippery so it was almost like skiing down the trail. Take that with a grain of salt though; I'm not a skier.
We descended. Meg and I chatted about future plans and dreams while we slid back down the mountain side. We used the telephone game to let others know if there was a more treacherous spot coming up. This sounded a lot like "Whoa!", "Watch that spot", and "Whoops!". We laughed at each other as we slid on our feet and later, our bums. Remember that iced over creek I mentioned at the beginning of the hike; the steep one? All of a sudden we were back to the beginning and it was steeper than I thought. Meg slipped in one spot, and while she waited for me to get over that spot, I slipped, fell, and slid right into her! Neither of us were hurt in case you were wondering. After a quick lunch I had to leave and head back to town for my next commitment, so I said goodbye to all the new faces I met and left wondering what my next adventure with them would be.
If you're thinking you want to get outdoors, go for a hike or a snowshoe but I don't know where to start and it is overwhelming... get ahold of The Adventure Bus. They are fun, easy going, knowledgeable, helpful people and they will make sure they are prepared for the hike. They bring the knowledge and you get to reap the benefits. Worried about your hiking limitations? Don't be. While they have a schedule to keep, their hikes include microbreaks so you don't get too fatigued and forget to pay attention to the beauty right in front of your face. I am not a graceful hiker, if you read my blog about Fang Mountain you might remember I fell into a creek going up to the First Lake. On the Home Lake hike, I slipped on the way out in the wetland area. Raven Lake for my bachelorette...I fell so bad I am now going to physiotherapy to help my shoulder recover. My point is, I can do it, and so can you. Get outside, connect with nature, love your life.