2015 (in Pictures)

I generally have more adventures than time to write about them, but last year was so spectacular I don’t want to forget it. I saw the northern lights for the first time and I narrowly missed seeing the Southern Cross while we were hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, I drove on an ice road and did two speedy drift dives through narrows in BC and Washington, I made it (barely) up to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,700′ and down to about 130′ underwater to see Gorgonian corals…but most of the summer was spent on the road – either on my motorcycle or camped on the ground beside it. Between commuting, camping with the Rainier Ravens and going on a couple of trips with Matt, I put a lot more miles on my bike than I have in a while and ventured down the Oregon Coast, near to Mt. Adams, around Crater Lake, over to the Olympic Peninsula and through Joshua Tree National Park.

I also got a job I loved, hit publish on my 500th blog post on my food blog, made a coffee table, and cooked an incredible amount of delicious food. I had set a goal for myself of eating less meat last year and inadvertently completely became a vegetarian again…except for a handful of meals, I found I just didn’t want meat anymore. We ate some truly incredible meals in Lima then closed out the year by buying a home in Seattle and moving into our lovely blue house in the last few weeks of December. Phew! I crossed so many things off my life list that I’m tempted to sit back and take it easy for a while but knowing me that won’t last long.

Here are some of my favourite photos:

SUNSHINE COAST

Dive boat

Egmont

Red Irish Lord

Early in the year (so early I almost forgot), I went on my yearly dive trip to Skookumchuck Narrows – one of my favourite places – with Porpoise Bay Charters and my Vancouver dive crew -some of my favourite people. We revisited all of our favourite sites and had a bit of a more exciting time than we intending, surfacing at night in the middle of the channel. Skookumchuck means ‘strong water’ and it’s not a place you want to be too far from shore or the boat. Afterwards, we warmed up with port and cheese and the telling of tales.

YUKON

Yukon

Northern Lights 2

Northern Lights

Yukon

Yukon

I am only beginning to understand the nuances of night photography but what I experienced in Dawson City couldn’t have been captured on film anyways – bright colours streaking and dancing across the sky, then dipping below the horizon only to come back around and surprise you. One of the most profound experiences of my life.

EATING

Boat Street Cafe

Vegetarian

Field table

Outstanding in the Field

We’ve had a lot of excellent meals this year, both out and at home but one in particular was at Outstanding in the Field.  It’s been a dream of mine to go for a while but I have always put it off because of the expense. Matt surprised me with tickets for my birthday and I can’t say it’s a great deal in terms of value but the food was excellent and we had a lot of fun wandering around the farm and meeting new people.

AUSTIN

Austin

Sisters

My sister and I are slowly exploring the US on little city breaks – for my birthday it was Austin and we had an absolute blast. Between cocktails, food trucks, cocktails, live music and more cocktails, there was maybe more laughing than remembering but that’s just fine with me. Next year we’ll go to Memphis, Nashville and Chicago.

OREGON

Jellies

Jellies

Riley

We took Riley to the Oregon Coast to play on the beach. Oregon is so civilized that dogs are allowed off-leash on all the beaches and there are just no sad dogs to be seen anywhere. Riley literally played until she couldn’t stand up anymore – she looks drunk in this photo! – while Matt and I celebrated our anniversary drinking Champagne on the sand.

Oregon Coast

A few weeks later I was back down on two wheels although I didn’t actually get down to the beach.

School of Rock

Matt joined a band program with another friend with ours so for the first time I had the opportunity to see him perform on stage instead of on our couch!

OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Ravens' campout

Hurricane Ridge

Hot tub

Summer really ramped up in August where I felt like I was on a motorcycle trip every weekend. Lucky me! The Rainier Ravens (my motorcycle group) put on a spectacular camp out event where we had about 50 women join overnight to Port Townsend on their bikes. I’ve done some camping on a bike before but certainly not on the Ducati so it was a fun project to get it all loaded up with gear. We camped out in the trees, road up to Hurricane Ridge, went to a drive-in movie, had a hot tub and basically the best time ever. These women are incredible.

MT. ADAMS

the Dream Roll

Dream Roll

The Dream Roll, another (larger) all-women moto camp out, was happening the following weekend so some friends and I headed down for that and luckily brought our rain gear because that was some of the wettest riding I’ve done in a while. The countryside was beautiful and the roads were amazing but I had to keep reminding myself that it was August and not October. That’s summer in the Pacific Northwest, I suppose!

CRATER LAKE

Painted Hills

Crater Lake

In September some friends and I had planned to ride to Glacier National Park but sections were closed due to snow so we headed south and went to Crater Lake in Oregon instead. It was still incredibly cold on some of the mountain roads and as the roads got dark and full of deer we pulled over earlier than we had intended. The views didn’t disappoint though – the lake is deeply blue and serene and the ring road needs to be done (despite crappy pavement and an abundance of RV’s).

JOSHUA TREE

Nevada

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Desert

I thought I might have had enough of women’s motorcycle campouts but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride through the desert to Babes Ride Out in Joshua Tree (now in its third year, it is one of the inaugural events that are inspiring all the others). Some friends and I flew to Las Vegas and rented Harley’s, rode down to the campground, pitched tents and then got up and rode almost all the way to L.A. on some very sweet roads. In the morning we got up early to ride through the park and take a look at the strange-looking Joshua Trees. Amazing trip. Next year Matt and I will go to a co-ed camp out in Moab, Utah.

PERU

Lima

Lima

Lima

Maido

Lima

Cusco

Peru

Sacred Valley

Cusco

Inca Trail

Macchu Pichu

There’s not much I can say about Peru yet…I’m still processing it (and Matt’s still processing photos). We went to Lima to eat and we ate exceptionally well at the 4th, 14th and 44th best restaurants in the world – Astrid y Gaston, Central and Maido – then flew to Cusco to acclimatize to the altitude before riding motorcycles around the Sacred Valley and hiking over the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Despite all the photos you’ve ever seen, being there is absolutely magical with the clouds coming in and out and hiking for four days to get there made it a prize well deserved.

HOME

Degan

Finally sitting still, on the stoop of our new home. This winter is going to be a quiet one but here’s to 2016!

Yukon adventure

Dawson City

I have wanted to go to the Arctic for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid my aunt and uncle went to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories for a year to work with Inuit artists and they came back with two huskies, a cool nickname for my cousin, and a pack of stories. I’ve been hooked on the north ever since but it’s not a travel destination that many share. When I suggested that I wanted to spend my birthday ice diving in the arctic, Matt just laughed at me. So I went to the Yukon instead.

ice road

It’s practically the Arctic…parts of it are. A few good friends had taken serial trips to Dawson City to photograph the Northern Lights and I figured that my penchant for taking photos (mostly with my iPhone), combined with my fondness for adventure plus my obvious expertise as a Nat Geo explorer wannabe made me an obvious candidate for the trip. I packed my camera and tripod, my warmest toque, and the Pacific Northwest equivalent of a parka and found myself on top of a mountain at 4 AM, jumping up and down with my fists jammed into my armpits trying to keep warm.

Yukon wallpaper

It occurred to me – not for the first time – that I am not cut out to be a landscape or wildlife photographer. Too much sitting around. I am more the type of photographer that takes a selfie out of a train window on a mountain switchback and hope it works out.

Dawson City

But first, we landed in Whitehorse.  I was surprised by the desolateness and big-town-in-the-outback feel. Instead of advertising the usual spas and kiddie attractions, the brochure in the hotel room was a mining directory. There was also a Tim Hortons, a CIBC bank, lots of government buildings and monuments and (of course) a bar. It’s called the Dirty Northern Bastard and we spent the majority of our time in the city there – all of us keeping watch on the cloud cover and refreshing the NOAA forecast for the Aurora Borealis in the hopes that we would get lucky.

Yukon

The first time I went to Las Vegas I drove from Phoenix and the city appeared out of the desert like a lit-up oasis. To compare Dawson City to Vegas would be ridiculous but the surprise reveal was similar; after driving for an hour through a bleak and desolate landscape, we turned a corner and entered a gold rush town, revived. I roused myself from the nest I’d made in the back seat and started oohing and ahhing at all the old buildings.

The top 10 things to do in Dawson include drinking at Diamond Tooth Gerties’, looking at Robert Service’s log cabin, visiting the Jack London museum, walking by the S.S. Keno (an historic steamboat displayed beside the river), walking by the dilapidated St. Paul’s Anglican Church partially sunk into the ground due to the permafrost, and eating at the Greek restaurant (one of the only places open through the winter – we went twice). Aside from eating and drinking, all this doesn’t take very long and it still wasn’t dark yet so we added in a drive across the ice road and hanging out with some sled dogs. And then we had a nap.

Northern Lights

Finally, it was time to head out into the night. We bundled up went to a mountain top outside of town notable for its height, lack of streetlights, and good view of the sky show. It was all of those things and also seriously cold. I set up my camera on the tripod, hopped up and down a few times to get warm, and then stared at the sky. I didn’t have to wait long – a green glow appeared on the horizon, stretched out into a curtain and then hung there shimmering – it was utterly magical.

Northern Lights

Words like ‘awesome’, ‘mind-blowing’, and ‘extraordinary’ were invented for wonders like the Northern Lights but they have become dull and common with overuse. So we have no words for what happens when the sky comes alive and dances with colour. The Inuit have a myth about the lights being spirits of the dead kicking a ball (or walrus skull) around the sky, and others have mentioned aliens in an attempt to understand the phenomenon. Staring skyward for the better part of the night with my friends, it all seemed believable. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Northern Lights

Yukon