Sleeping Giant

On a peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior in northern Ontario lies a Sleeping Giant. An Ojibway legend identifies him as Nanabijou, the spirit of the Deep Sea Water, who was turned to stone when the secret location of a nearby silver mine was disclosed to white men. This past weekend we drove six hour south to climb to the top of the Giant, which sits 750 feet above the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). 

Lake Superior is gorgeous. The teal water stretches as far as the eye can see, and in certain directions, it looks as though you're staring at the edge of the earth. The hike to the top of the giant and back down again was 18 miles, but it wasn't until the last five miles that we really started to feel worn down. I love watching Daisy on long hikes like this. She is in her element, alternating between trotting along the trails and laying down in streams to cool off. Normally when we camp I wake up and see her sitting up alertly, guarding the tent, but after that trek she was sawing logs just as loudly as Charlie. 

Our campsite was located on the edge of a large lake on the peninsula. Both nights we watched the sun set over the water while sipping whiskey out of mugs and skipping rocks. There is a fire ban across most of Ontario because of the dry conditions, so in the evenings we made due with lanterns and candles as we sat around the picnic table playing cards and settling Catan. On our drive back home we saw a wolf standing at the side of the road with a rabbit dangling from its mouth. All in all, it was a pretty idyllic, relaxing weekend. 

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Big Moves

On Friday I handed in my notice at The Northern Sun News, and in a month I will begin a road trip of epic proportions with my dad and Daisy. I’ll share the details of that trip soon, but first let me tell you where I’ll be ending up (and why).

After months of deliberating, I’ve decided to go back to school to enhance skills I’ve been passionate about for a long time: photography and graphic design. And if that wasn’t an exciting enough prospect in itself, I’ve chosen to do that in Lake Tahoe.

Over the years I’ve written for all types of publications—some print, some online—and with each experience, slowly but surely, my goals as a writer have become clearer to me.

I used to be adamant about working for a print publication, but after nearly three years of blogging on the side and many more as an online contributor, I seem to have found my calling in the writing world without realizing it. Now it’s time to invest in myself and take that experience to the next level.

I am really, really excited to dive back into school, to learn skills that will improve this blog as well as my other freelance work, and to do it in a place that captivates me in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I’ll be closer to friends and family, but also farther away from Charlie than I’ve been in a long time. It’s scary and it’s not a perfect scenario, but as I’ve come to learn, that holds true for most big decisions in life.

Because I am going to be a blubbering mess after saying goodbye to Charlie, I enlisted my dad to drive back to Tahoe with Daisy and me. Instead of the direct 33-hour route, we decided to tack on another 30 hours of driving so that we could see some of the most beautiful places in North America.

At the beginning of June we’ll hightail it out west across Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan for three nights of camping in Alberta’s Jasper and Banff Provincial Parks. The glacial-fed turquoise lakes nestled in the Canadian Rockies have been at the top of my Must-See List for awhile.

From there we’ll cross into B.C. and make our way through Glacier and Mt. Revelstoke National Parks. We’ll pass through scenic Kelowna and down through the town of Hope, which I recently learned is where Rambo was filmed. Ha!

Next, we’ll cross the border into Washington for a day in Seattle. After some exploring around Olympic National Park, we’ll head south along the coast with a stop to see Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Portland will draw us inland for a day before we pop back out to the coast. I can’t wait to revisit some of my favorite California spots along the coast like Mendocino and Fort Bragg. At Bodega Bay we’ll cut inland through Petaluma (Lagunitas IPA get in my belly!) and eventually through Napa to soak in the vineyards and snag some bottles of wine. From there, we’ll make a beeline for Lake Tahoe. 

By my calculations, we’re traveling close to 3,500 miles. Our audio books have been selected, and the route scrupulously mapped out. My plan is to write every day about what we’re seeing and experiencing along the way, and to share those entries and photos in a series of blog posts once I’m back in Tahoe. Over the course of the trip you can follow along on Instagram…and Snapchat (clairebear5590), which I only kind of know how to use so I apologize in advance.

I’m getting butterflies in my stomach just writing about all of these changes. So here’s to new adventures, taking chances, and boyfriends who support your dreams.

P.S. If anyone has any recommendations for hot springs, taco stands, or giant balls of string that we should stop and check out along our route, LET ME KNOW!

That Feeling

There’s snow in the mountains, but it’s almost 70 degrees and I’m in a kayak floating in Lake Tahoe. The water is calm and glassy as I paddle around the rocky point toward Zephyr Cove, hugging the shoreline so I can take in the giant boulders 50 feet below. 

Startled by my presence, a flock of common mersangers take off from the lake in a flurry of flapping wings, drawing my attention back up to the snow-covered mountains in the distance. 

I have the lake to myself, as far as I can tell. Most of the boats are still in storage for the winter, so there is no fear of any motor boats disturbing my peaceful ride. I take off for the middle of the lake, paddling as fast as I can until my arms begin to burn. I stop and rest the paddle in my lap.

Normally I'd have Daisy perched on the front of the kayak with me. She'd stare back at me skeptically if the kayak rocked in the slightest. But she is back in Red Lake, and today it feels good to move freely and appreciate this scene in silence.  

It’s one of those moments where I get that feeling. The feeling that I am exactly where I should be. The feeling that there is no place else I’d rather be. I crave experiences that remind me I’m just one little person in a great big world, or in this case, one little person floating in roughly 36 cubic miles of rain and snowmelt.

There were lots of moments like that this past week. Our friends from Red Lake got to meet our Reno and Bay Area friends. We kayaked, SUP'd, and walked along the beach in almost 70 degree weather. We drove to Grover Hot Springs and went for a hike along a creek with the mountains in the distance. We skied and drank hot toddies. We went out for a nice dinner on Valentine's Day, and I finally got my oyster fix. 

No matter how many time we return to the cabin, Lake Tahoe never ceases to amaze me. This, to me, feels like home.

One night I sat on the edge of the break rocks with my camera just as the sun was setting over the mountains and watched as Charlie headed out of the cove on the SUP and two other friends took off in the kayaks. They quickly turned into tiny silhouettes against the sunset reflecting in the water. I snapped away, feeling more inspired than I had felt in months. That night it dumped a foot and a half of snow. 

My best friend and I joke that Lake Tahoe is our holy place. It's where our favorite moments have happened. It's where we finally have those face-to-face conversations about life, work, and relationships that provide clarity on certain situations we couldn't have figured out on our own. It's where we feel the most present. 

In the summer we'll be back again, this time with Daisy in tow. We'll celebrate the 4th of July and Charlie's Birthday with cliff jumping, frisbee on the beach, and hikes up to the roaring Horsetail Falls. But for now it's back to sub-zero temperatures, our cozy home, and one excited dog who's missed us dearly.  

Christmas in the Desert

It was a different kind of Christmas this year. For the first time, Charlie and I decided to implement the alternating-family holiday schedule. We spent Thanksgiving in Kansas City with my family, and Christmas in Palm Desert with his folks. Instead of the usual non-stop holiday season with my large (and incredibly loving) family, we had a peaceful week in the desert. It was our first time seeing the McArthur's new home in the desert, and it definitely didn't disappoint. The house is located on a property right along a golf course but up against the rocky hills for privacy. A peanut-shaped pool and hot tub are lit up at night by several fire places and the expansive starry sky. We ate incredible meals, hiked the trails up behind the house where big horn sheep trek, and threw the ball in the pool for Daisy's original BFF, Darby the fox red lab. She was the dog that opened up our former bridge-dwelling rescue pup to playing and roughhousing while we were in Greece.

The desert is a unique kind of pretty that I didn't understand until Charlie first took me on drives through Nevada. It's harsh; but when you really take time to appreciate it, you notice the subtle beauty and appreciate its expansive views. There is something humbling about a landscape that thrives in extreme conditions. I'd take a garden of agave and barrel cacti over a rose-filled one any day. 

On Christmas afternoon Charlie and I took his dad's new car for a spin through Joshua Tree. It was much colder than we expected--somewhere around 35 degrees--and much more crowded. Nevertheless, Charlie made it his mission to scare the bejeezus out of me by whipping through the park at ridiculous speeds (I know you're going to read this and tell me for the millionth time it wasn't that fast. I'll save you the trouble...IT WAS. But I still love you.)

I'm writing this from Reno and feeling extremely excited because in thirty short minutes we get to see our best friends who we haven't seen in six months, and tomorrow morning we will be driving with them to the place that makes my soul sing, Lake Tahoe. Tomorrow is also the first night of SnowGlobe Music Festival. You can find us out in the snow with jewels on our faces and light up cat ears over our beanies dancing to keep warm. Life is good.

Happy New Year!

Vermont

It's been over a month since I last sat down to write a blog post. I thought about it many times, but it never felt right. I don't know if many of you have experienced unemployment before, but as someone who chose a career in writing and opted several times to move to crazy places for the person I love, I've become quite familiar with it. It usually follows the same pattern. The first two weeks are great. Maybe you sleep in a bit later than normal, but you accomplish all of those projects that you've been meaning to get around to, like organizing your filing cabinet and cleaning out all of the closets. You take your dog on more walks. You cook elaborate meals that take up half of your day. 

But around week three, your emotions begin to shift. Questions like "What am I doing with my life?" and "Why am I living in a town of 4,500 people - five hours into the middle of nowhere?" began to pop in my head.  The newspaper was the only writing gig in town, and as the pattern goes,  I was beginning to feel despondent.

So I planned a trip. I mapped out a route from Red Lake to Jasper and Lake Louise with stops in the Great Sand Dunes of Saskatchewan and Dinosaur Provincial Park (badlands with an incredible array of fossils) in Alberta. I picked up a copy of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck and prepared myself mentally for a camping trip across Canada with just me and Daisy in the Subaru. 

The thought of getting out on the road again gave me a renewed sense of purpose, but the universe had a different plan. In what I can only describe as a bittersweet turn of events, the newspaper was bought by a new owner and I was asked to return as Editor. In two stressful weeks, two of us got things up and running again at The Northern Sun News and completed our first two issues with everything that could go wrong, going wrong. I don't think I've ever worked that hard in my life, but we pulled it off.

After all of that hard work, I was rewarded with a fall-foliage trip to Vermont that we had planned several months ago. It was amazing, and exactly what I needed. We stayed at the hip Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington, ate incredible farm-to-table meals, and tried more craft beers and ciders than we knew what to do with. We rented a car and drove through the mountains and farm country. We roamed an apple orchard, sipping warm apple cider and munching on apple cider donuts before hopping back in the car to visit another brewery nestled in the countryside.

We hiked to a beautiful peak in the ski-town of Stowe with red, yellow, and orange leaves casting a glow on the trail as we trekked to the summit and were rewarded with a 360-degree view of the trees and lakes below. We sat on the sidewalk outside a convenience store waiting for the delivery of the highly-praised Heady Topper Double IPA, the Pliny the Elder of the East Coast you might say, which some people camp out overnight to buy. We rode cruiser bikes along the Lake Champlain promenade with an old friend. It was one of those trips that was just so perfect, writing about it feels too much like bragging. So I'll leave it at that. 

Though part of me did consider neglecting this blog for good, the comments and emails that I got from a few readers in my absence really warmed my heart. Thanks for following along. Really. Sometimes a break is what you need to remember why you started something in the first place.

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Let's Get Out of Here

It's Saturday morning, and my weather app tells me to expect sunny skies and a high of 64. We'd just spent the previous evening watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky while drinking wine and home brew (and noshing on this deliciously simple Raspberry-Ricotta Cake from a recipe I tore out of Bon Appetit) around our fire pit. Our new friends were over who just moved here from Chile, which makes our adjustment from life in Lake Tahoe to Red Lake look a whole lot easier.

"Let's get out of here," I say to Charlie after breakfast, which can be easier said than done at this time of year. 

Luckily the warm weather has melted enough of the snow so that it is navigable outside without snowshoes, but not so much that everything is totally muddy. We decide to make the hour and a half drive to see Perrault Falls and have lunch at the only restaurant in the area, The WhiskeyJack. Perrault Falls is a blip on the radar, and honestly if you look down for a few minutes, you might miss the area entirely. It consists mostly of a few lodges that center around the waterways and the namesake falls. 

The WhiskeyJack is my favorite restaurant in our neck of the woods. Granted it's the same fare you'd find at most restaurants here—burgers, pizza, poutine, sandwiches—but the couple who runs it actually makes everything from scratch, even the bread. You can really taste the difference.

The place is filled with antiques from the area. Old crates of Canadian Moose Lager, vintage cribbage boards, rustic maps and fishing gear. On the stage with the owners' band set-up, "The Electric Beavers" is painted across the drum. Sometimes I can't help but laugh about how truly and stereotypically Canadian things are around here. 

We pick up a flyer with the line-up for The WhiskeyJack's concert series, which kicks off in May. Lots of bluesy roots bands come out of northwestern Ontario. Nearby waterfront cabins are available for rent at the lodges so we could enjoy the concert without having to worry about a long drive home.

Then on to the falls we go.

Walking through old cedar trees, we hear the rush of the water before we see it. The snow has melted in places, then solidified into a treacherous slippery slope in other spots shaded by those same lovely trees. We make our way down the hill with Daisy in front. Four legs are better than two, pretty much always.

Before us is a series of falls descending down a gradual hill to the lake below and running full and fast thanks to the generous donation of snowmelt they recently received. Charlie walks across to a rock to soak in the sun; Daisy follows.

Leaving them to bask on the rock, I walk further down the side of the falls to take a peak at the lake. A minute later, I feel something brush against my leg. My furry shadow. I crouch down to give her a hug. Never have I met such a faithful, watchful creature.

As they say, a weekend well spent means a week of content. Happy Monday!

A River Runs Through It

We drove down Nungesser Road with three dogs in the bed of the truck and the stereo blasting, mostly drowning out the sound of my dad’s beagle-mix howling in excitement. Nungesser is a 70-mile straight shot north to the Berens River and acts as a gateway to First Nations communities; though to get to the closest one, Pikangikum, you’ll need a boat during the warmer months or a sturdy truck for the ice road in the winter. You’ll also find some remote camps and the Forest Fire Management Headquarters forward attack base up there.

The road was built many years ago to service an iron ore deposit for a potential mine, but now it’s a great road to head down in search of trails, wildlife, hidden fishing holes, and even a Christmas tree. After enduring many harsh winters, the road is crumbling on the edges, and potholes have formed from the yearly freeze-thaw cycle.

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It’s always fascinating to me, a Gen-Y’er who’s spent the majority of her working life in Silicon Valley surrounded by tech start-ups and creative entrepreneurs, to live in a community so rooted in the logging and mining industry. In a way, it’s so much simplerharvesting raw goods from the Earth. Not that those industries aren’t complicated in their own ways, but the idea is very basic. It’s a far cry from the cloud storage or software companies that my friends work for.

A few yards ahead of us on the road, we saw what I thought was a young moose trotting along, but I later learned it actually is a female Woodland Caribou. A really rare sighting, according to Red Lake locals. This place continues to surprise me.

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Eventually we turned off of Nungesser onto a dirt logging road and began the bumpy drive to the Upper Chukuni River. The dogs jostled around in the back. At the bridge, we pulled over, climbed over the giant snow berm, and headed for the trail head.

I watched my feet as we walked, with Daisy blazing the trail as usual. The trail was covered with moose tracks big and small. Mamma and baby. We talked loudly as we crunched through the hard-packed snow, not wanting to sneak up on any wildlife. The bears, I am told, will not come out of hibernation until early May.

The river's fast current kept portions of the water unfrozen all winter, but there was still a thin layer of clear ice that stretched out 50 feet from the shore. The dogs walked on it tentatively, and we threw rocks in the air to see if it would crack. A pair of bald eagles soared above us followed by a gaggle of Canadian geese, honking as they passed by.

The winter that I never thought would end is finally coming to a close. I live for days like these.

On Cacti and Break-ins

On Saturday morning we returned from a relaxing vacation in Arizona only to find that someone had broken into our house and taken...[removed pending completion of investigation].

On a happier note, our week in Arizona was a blast. Lots of tacos, pool time and fruity drinks. A spa day and yoga classes helped me hit the reset button, too. Charlie got his golf fix, and I roamed around oohing and ahhing over the array of cacti that were just beginning to flower. I soaked up more sun in a week than I have in the past 4 months.

We even squeezed in a day trip to Sedona, which I would highly recommend to anyone heading to Arizona. The red rock structures were beautiful. Plus, how many places can you visit where there are multiple location to have your aura photographed? Seriously...

The temperature was -4F when we landed in Red Lake, but a large portion of the snow has melted. It may officially be spring, but it is still very much winter in northwestern Ontario. Though I may be back in sweaters and Sorels, at least I have these images to remind me of a week well spent. Happy Monday!

Scottsdale Mountains
cactus flower
Pinnacle Peak Wildflowers
agave plant
smiley beachball
blooming cactus
Pinnacle Peak Landscape
cactus close up
cactus pink wall
Pinnacle Peak Trail View
red cactus
Pinnacle Peak Trail
pink cactus flowers
Sedona Scenic View
Jarritos Mexican Soda
Sedona, AZ

Ice fishing and inspiration

The first time I drove on the ice road by myself, I did so with the front windows down just in case the ice happened to crack and send me, Ford F150 and all, down into the icy water below. No matter how many times people tell me that the ice is this-many feet thick and stable as a rock, I never seem to be able to shake the fretful feeling that I will be the unfortunate fool to go through.

On Saturday as we drove across the ice road towards McKenzie Island where the annual ice fishing derby was held, I began to get that freaked out feeling as I looked at the 20 or so trucks parked on the ice right off the island. How the hell is frozen water supporting all of this.

Roughly 250 holes had been cut in the ice, and already people were crowded around them with their short, bendy rods and camping chairs. While the guys focused on getting registered and scoping out a prime spot, I concentrated on not stepping in a hole.

The ice was covered in a foot of slush thanks to the "warmer" temperatures we've been having lately, and I quickly realized how unprepared we were. No chairs, no wind blocker, no tent, and incidentally, no bait.

We sat out on the ice for three hours and not a fish to show for it--just two measly nibbles. But the sky was blue, our Jambox was blasting old school tunes, and we all soaked up some much needed Vitamin D under a bluebird sky. It was not my favorite activity by a long shot, but definitely something I'm glad I can say I tried...or sat and watched people try. Ice fishing isn't the most interactive sport.

The rest of the weekend was spent with friends and dogs, drinking beer, laughing, and having mini-dance parties in living rooms. I'm happy we've found people who are okay with being weird and ridiculous right alongside us.

Now, here's your daily dose of interesting.

1) I've really been digging the #honestcaption trend on Instagram and posts that allow readers to peek behind the carefully curated curtain put up by bloggers. It's easy to look at someone's social media presence and assume they live a carefree life. Kate Arends of Wit & Delight is one blogger who, in her success, felt the need to open up to readers about her fears and flaws. I thoroughly enjoyed her recent talk on the subject of "Ugly." 

2) With our Scottsdale trip just four short days away, I've been daydreaming about Mexican food. When I get back I'm planning on making a huge batch of tamales to freeze and eat throughout the spring and summer. Sunset Magazine always has good recipes.

3) Do you follow the blog Manger by cookbook author Mimi Thorrison? Well, you should. It chronicles her life in a beautiful farmhouse in Medoc, France. Adorable children, a pack of fox hounds, vineyards, gorgeous French countryside, mouthwatering recipes--it has it all.

4) For the cactus obsessed. You're welcome.

5) Best of Gramatik. An excellent work playlist for those easily distracted by too many lyrics.

Happy Monday!