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I’m going back to Boulder Hut

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  • BOULDER HUT by Gerry Feehan

    I asked the pilot where we were bound.

    “Boulder Hut” he said. “Where’s that?” I queried. “Twelve minutes that way,” he said pointing west over Northstar Mountain.

    There are no baths or showers at Boulder Hut. Clean-up after a day of strenuous backcountry skiing involves soaping up in a wood-fired sauna, then dumping a bucket of water over one’s head. To my surprise a fellow guest, fit naked – and female – offered to do the pouring. I reluctantly acquiesced. Thereafter, the absence of a proper shower seemed trivial and I decided to forego my complaint to management.

    Rosie (indifferently) guards Boulder Hut.

    Management at this remote backcountry lodge consists of owners Mark and Sarah Yancey, whose infectious love of Boulder Hut – and the remote lifestyle it entails – is evident from the moment they greet you on the snow-packed heli-pad.

    Over the years I’ve acquired all the accoutrements for ski-touring – and on occasion I’ve skinned up from our condo on the Kimberley, BC ski hill – but I had never before toured in the backcountry.

    unloading the helicopter

    So I was curious when a helicopter touched down at the base of the ski hill on a sunny morning in January. A group of people, ski paraphernalia in tow, was preparing to board. I put down my coffee, stepped off the deck and wandered over. I asked the pilot where they were bound.

    “Boulder Hut” he said.

    “Where’s that?” I queried.

    “Twelve minutes that way,” he said pointing west over Northstar Mountain.

    a bluebird day

    As I ain’t gettin’ no younger, I determined to be on that chopper before the season ended. And so in mid-March I was soaring over our place, watching my wife Florence waving goodbye from our deck. I hoped it was not a permanent farewell.

    Moments later we were up and over the Black Forest on the ski hill’s back side.

    Then we were into the rugged roadless world of the Purcell Range. We hugged a ridge of wintry peaks, summited Boulder Pass and descended into a broad forested valley. A tiny dot far below soon resolved into Boulder Hut.

    lunch

    After a welcoming lunch and safety briefing we strapped on skins and started our first ascent through the thick forest of old-growth spruce that provides Boulder’s gorgeous back-drop. The conditions were fabulous; a storm had just blown through. Fresh powder and sunny, bluebird conditions greeted us.

    Drinking water is drawn directly from a small creek that flows year-round.

    Every winter the media warns of avalanche danger in the backcountry. At Boulder Hut safety is paramount. With Mark and alpine guide Brent Peters constantly checking conditions – and leading the way through dicey areas – we felt safe and comfortable. When there was any hint of risk they dug a snow profile to check for stability and to ensure some rogue slab wouldn’t ruin our day.

    Boulder Hut is remote, quaint and rustic – guests share an open sleeping cabin. If you forget earplugs (and sleeping pills), your repose may be ruined; exhausted snoring skiers make a hell of a racket.

    okay, so Sarah does most of the dishes

    In the evening guests are responsible for stoking the wood-burning stove. Failure to maintain the fire means for a long cold shivering night. As the only rookie, I was utterly exhausted at the end of each day and slept like a baby – with an assist from earplugs (and a little blue friend).

    Drinking water is drawn directly from a small creek that flows year-round. The same stream supplies power via a small hydroelectric plant.

    Boulder has no laundry facilities. By the fourth night my ski socks, hanging over the bunk to dry, had taken on a crisp flavourful bouquet – or so my fellow guests noted (I was obliviously comatose).

    Boulder’s bathrooms are al fresco

    Boulder’s bathrooms are located al fresco; open A-frame jobbies where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the Purcell Mountains whilst engaging in one’s morning constitutional. A sign planted in the snow announces whether the privy is occupied or available.

    At Boulder Hut there is no cellphone coverage or internet. And guests are (gasp) expected to help with the dishes after dinner.

    a great crew

    I’ve been to five-star ski lodges where a cat whisks you to the top of the mountain for each run. At Boulder Hut every turn is earned. Mark calculated that we climbed 14,000 feet (4300 meters) during our stay.

    girls just wanna have fun

    Sound like a miserable experience?

    I had the time of my life. Mark, Sarah, their kids Grace and Alden, mascot Rosie the Great Pyrenees and my seven fascinating fellow guests made for a fabulous, unique experience.

    a sliver of winter sun lights Boulder Pass

    I’m going back to Boulder this winter – and taking along a few buddies – all rookies.

    goodbye Boulder Hut

    Now if only I can arrange for a reprise of that fit lady with the water bucket.

    Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. He says that, while being a lawyer is more remunerative than travel writing, it isn’t nearly as much fun. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to re-publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

    Gerry Feehan

    THANKS to these great partners for making this series possible.

    Click to read an excellent story about the Turks and Caicos.

     

     

     

     

     


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    Norway opens probe into why cruise ship ventured into storm

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  • COPENHAGEN — Norwegian officials have opened an investigation into why a cruise ship carrying more than 1,370 people set sail along the country’s often wild western coast despite storm warnings, forcing a major rescue evacuation by helicopter.

    Hospital officials have said one person is in critical condition and eight others are still hospitalized after the Viking Sky had engine problems off the Norwegian coast and issued a mayday warning on Saturday afternoon.

    The Viking Sky had left the northern city of Tromso and was headed for Stavanger in southern Norway when it ran into trouble.

    The ship anchored in heavy seas to avoid being dashed on the rocks in an area known for shipwrecks over the years. Norwegian authorities then launched a daring rescue operation despite the high winds, eventually winching 479 passengers off the ship by helicopter in an operation that went on for hours Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

    Dag S. Liseth of Norway’s Accident Investigations Board said “the high risk which the ship, its passengers and crew were exposed to made us decide to investigate the incident.”

    The rescue was also hampered when two of the five rescue helicopters helping the Viking Sky had to be diverted to save nine crewmembers from a nearby listing cargo ship.

    The rescue workers managed to take a little more than half of the passengers off the cruise ship, but some 900 passengers and crew were still on it when its captain made the decision Sunday just before noon to halt the evacuation.

    It is now docked in the Norwegian port city of Molde, 390 kilometres (240 miles) northwest of Oslo, which it limped into Sunday afternoon on its own engines.

    Liseth said investigators were headed to Molde on Monday and declined to speculate as to why the Viking Sky captain had decided to sail to Stavanger in the first place despite the intense weather warning. He couldn’t immediately say how long the cruise ship would remain in Molde.

    Yngve Skovly, of the police force in Moere and Romsdal district where Molde sits, says there is no suspicion of a criminal offence but police have opened an investigation to find out why the ship had engine problems. That probe would be part of the one by the Accident Investigations Board.

    The Viking Sky is a relatively new ship, delivered in 2017 to operator Viking Ocean Cruises.

    The ship was on a 12-day cruise along Norway’s coast before its scheduled arrival Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury, on the River Thames. The passengers were mostly an English-speaking mix of American, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian citizens.

    All the cruise ship passengers were expected to be flown out of Norway by Monday evening, police said.

    On Sunday, the operator said the Viking Sky’s next scheduled trip, to Scandinavia and Germany, which was to leave on Wednesday, has been cancelled but no other trip cancellations for the ship were foreseen yet.

    Calls to Viking Ocean Cruises on Monday were not immediately returned.

    Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press




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    Todayville Travel: I survived the Road to Hana

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  • survived the Road to Hana! by Gerry Feehan

    “…I’ve done enough beach holidays to fill a leaky bucket. Watching overweight tourists in undersized beach wear (throngs in thongs) has long since lost its lustre…”

    The village of Hana is located on the quiet ‘windward’ side of Maui. Windward is a euphemism for rainy. Precipitation here averages three hundred inches a year. No person of sound judgment would live in a place where an inch of rain in an afternoon is considered a light drizzle.

    Hana is definitely on the wet side of Mau

    Most tourists endure the gruelling drive to Hana as a day trip, rising early to negotiate the eighty-five kilometer journey with its six-hundred-plus curves, 54 narrow bridges and frustratingly slow traffic. They choke down a fish taco and lemon bar at a roadside food stand then snake back at a snail’s pace in darkness to the dry leeward side of the island, collapsing into bed at a fancy seaside resort in Kaanapali or Wailea, a checkmark on their Hawaiian holiday agenda firmly ticked off.

    “… But as is often the case when one ventures off the beaten track, our choice was serendipitous…”

    Some time ago a clever marketer began selling T-shirts with the caption: “I survived the road to Hana!” It really is a challenging drive, so that intrepid shirt salesman is probably now quite wealthy.

    I’ve done enough beach holidays to fill a leaky bucket. Watching overweight tourists in undersized beach wear (throngs in thongs) has long since lost its lustre. We were looking for a change, an out-of-the-way Hawaiian adventure. There’s hardly a soul living out Hana way. So we decided to spend a week with the free spirits and addled Vietnam vets.

    My search for accommodation in Hana was careful and meticulous. Not. I booked the first place I found on the net: Entabeni Cottage. Click here for their website.  But as is often the case when one ventures off the beaten track, our choice was serendipitous.

    Outdoor shower anyone?

    We had absolute privacy, from the gorgeous ocean view to the solar-heated outdoor shower. The north wall of the cottage consists entirely of glass doors. Each morning we awoke to a 180-degree view of the ocean and the barely discernible sound of waves crashing on the rocky shore hundreds of meters below.

    “Entabeni means the place on the hill in Zulu,” explained owner Terry Kristiansen as she toured us in morning sunshine through the horticultural wonder of her amazing garden. We meandered amongst gigantic Cook pine, African tulip and mango trees. She and her husband Michael maintain a tropical nursery. I tried not to blush when she mentioned that some of the flowering plants were viviparous.

    Green eggs and …

    Two dogs, a cat, a goat, a multitude of chickens and a raucous gaggle of guinea fowl followed our progress. Terry’s hens lay green eggs – organically of course. Each morning our doorstep was laden with a fresh coop-full of Entabeni’s emerald bounty.

    Our Hana booking was for seven days. Perhaps a mistake? There’s purportedly nothing to do there. (A renowned friend of mine, Dr. D, who is intimately familiar with Maui, asked bluntly, ”You’re going to Hana? For a week?”) So, soon after arrival, we decided to scout out some adventure. We meandered into town and chatted up some locals:

    “What do you do out here in Hana?” I asked Tyler, a mixed-blood Hawaiian of Portuguese pedigree.

    Tail of a whale – or whale of a tale?

    “Not much” he replied, “sometimes we fish… when it’s not rough.” He looked ruefully out to sea, as whitecaps roiled in a sub-tropical winter storm. A lone humpback whale breached in the distance. I concluded that there’d be no fishing on this trip.

    “Sometimes we drive into town and pick up mail,” offered his cousin, who was high on friendliness but low on wisdom teeth. “And of course there’s the big meetin’ tonight at the church to vote on the offal plebiscite.”

    I’m not sure what offal is but it sounds terrible. I was about to excuse myself, vacate the cottage and head for dry, civilized parts of Maui when Tyler added: “What we really like is hunting wild boar. We’re going out tomorrow morning. You’re welcome to come along if you don’t mind getting a little muddy.”

    My expertise as a hunter is renowned. I once shot a gopher – grazing it only slightly but deeply wounding its pride; and I’ve caught two fish – three if you include the goldfish I netted in my backyard pond. Still I figured ‘when in Rome’ and agreed to meet them in the morning at mile marker 26, near an abandoned, burnt-out pickup truck.

    Mile 26 marks the meeting spot.

    “It’s blue,” offered my newfound toothless friend, perhaps to ensure I didn’t wait by a red, abandoned burnt-out pickup truck at mile marker 26.

    Terry drove me down at 7am sharp. We hadn’t waited more than a minute when up rolled a pineapple-yellow Ford crew-cab, loaded to exploding with Hawaiians, hunting dogs and guns. The truck, high on its suspension, teetered on two wheels before finally rocking to a stop. The occupants piled out and cracked a Budweiser. The humans that is. The dogs were content to slurp at the slough that had formed around the old blue pickup during the previous evening’s downpour.

    Like most flora and fauna in the Hawaiian Islands, the wild pigs are alien. These invasive, destructive critters are a cross between the small Polynesian variety brought to the islands by the first human inhabitants a thousand years ago and larger European pigs imported in the 1800’s; the result is the large, black, elusive, ornery beasts that Hawaiians love to hunt.

    By 7:30 a.m. we were a kilometre deep in the rainforest, up to our knees in muck. The dogs had sniffed out a promising dig. Fresh tracks confirmed that a large sow was nearby. Three hours later we were still zigzagging back and forth over, around and through jungle streams laced with invasive strangler figs and giant eucalyptus trees. The pigs were clever. On a couple of occasions the dogs bolted excitedly into the impenetrable jungle on a promising scent but near noon, with the tropical sun beating down and steam rising in the heated rainforest, we admitted defeat and called it a day.

    ‘Hurt’ is not an option in here.

    “What happens if you get injured in here?” I asked Tyler as we began the slow hour-long crawl back to the pickup.

    “Hurt is not a’ option,” he answered, tugging at a rubber boot sunk deep in a wallow of mud.

    Back at the truck, with the last of the morning Budweiser, we conceded the feral pig’s victory over man.

    Hike to the seven sacred pools.

    Rainbow Eucalyptus

    “Why don’t you and your bride come down to our place tomorrow for Super Bowl,” offered Tyler, “there’ll be plenty of grind and bevvies.”

    I assumed he meant food and drink.

    We arrived fashionably late with a plate full of devilled (green) eggs and a cooler full of cold ones. After the game (quite exciting – not a Superbore) I asked if it would be okay were I to bring out my ever-present ukulele from its coincidental resting place in the trunk of the rental car.

    “That’d be great bra’,” said Tyler, using the term of endearment that forms every second word of Hawaiian pidgin vocabulary.

    When I returned, a slack guitar and four ukuleles were jamming on the lanai. Uncle Bobby (whose relationship with our hosts I never did quite grasp) was pouring himself a stiff concoction, lighting a smoke and settling into an over-worn armchair for what turned out to be a long night of music and laughter.

    Warm grind, cold bevvies – and a hot uke!

    Later in the week, as we strolled Hana’s streets locals were honking, waving “hey bra’’” and inviting us for grind. Apparently we ‘haole’ (white people from another place) were a hit.

    In closing I offer seven recommendations on how to pass a week in Hana:

    1. Walk awestruck as Terry Kristiansen guides you through the horticultural wonder that is Entabeni Cottage (whilst chickens peck at your progress);
    2. Shower outdoor at night in the Entabeni rain;
    3. Crawl on all fours for hours through steep, muddy rainforest with a pack of men, dogs and Budweiser on the hunt for wild boar;
    4. Enjoy a candle-lit repast of raw sashimi-grade ahi tuna, followed by lightly seared opaka-paka, served with a glass of white wine by your favorite fellow hominid;
    5. Get lit up with Hawaiian locals at a ukulele jam;
    6. Waste a day by shooting close-up photographs of the incredible rainbow eucalyptus trees;
    7. Snorkel at a ‘clothing optional’ black sand beach, oblivious to the nudity of those around you;
    8. Hike the seven sacred pools to Waimoku Falls or traverse the jagged lava cliffs of Waianapanapa State Park.

    Can’t see the forest for the bamboo.

    Did I say seven things? I guess there’s more to do in Hana than first meets the eye. So get off the beaten track, out of the th(r)ong and seek some adventure.

    Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. He says that, while being a lawyer is more remunerative than travel writing, it isn’t nearly as much fun. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to re-publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

    Gerry Feehan

    THANKS to these great partners for making this series possible.

    Click to read an excellent story about the Turks and Caicos.

     

     

     

     

     

     


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    sat30mar1:00 pm- 4:00 pmMAGSaturday @ the MuseumMAGnificent Saturdays welcomes all ages and abilities to participate in a fun art project every week! 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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