2 Gear Experts, 1 Truck, 6 Days, 2104 Miles: Joy is in the Journey

6 Days, 2104 Miles....

Because the Fall 2018 Obsidian Collection was curated with adventurous travel in mind, the Cairn Crew opted to nix a traditional photo shoot and send the two guys responsible for curating the collection – Cairn product expert, Conor McElyea, and outdoor photographer, Andy Best – on an actual adventure together. Two gear experts sharing a truck, a tent, and over 2000 miles. They didn’t know each other well when they set off; but they’re now completely bonded over bluegrass music, a passport scare, and – of course – the outdoors. Here are excerpts from their journals of the journey to hike one of the “Epic Hikes” featured in Lonely Planet's Epic Hikes of the World book featured in the Obsidian Collection.

Hmmm, sounds a little like the start of a horror movie (or bad joke).

DAY 1:

Goal: Make the drive from Bend, Oregon (home base) into Canada

Challenge: An expired passport, discovered a little too late (ehem, Conor)

Result: Sweating bullets for the 11-hour drive to the border. Border patrol couldn't have cared less about the passport (and the big file Conor put together including Social Security Card, pay stubs, and an overnighted birth certificate that caused Conor's poor mom a lot of stress). All that stressing for nothing! Crossed the border from Idaho into Canada, turned down a pitch black random forestry road and found a place to make camp for the night.

✔ Day 1 goal

DAY 2:

Opted to take a forestry road instead of the highway to Black Diamond...took longer, but views were worth it. Had a late breakfast at the Westwood (BACON!!) and caught up with friends for tips on fishing spots. Fished creeks and rivers in search of local cutthroat trout along the way to Abraham Lake, and actually caught some! Little tricky to make camp at the lake...Canada Day = crowds. Hunted down a secluded spot, made dinner, enjoyed a couple of cold beers, called it a night.

DAY 3:

Crack of dawn wake up call, aiming to get to Skyline Trail for our “Epic Hike.” Rain, then snow rolling in as we neared the trail. Local mountaineering shop warned us against the Skyline Trail – 18” of snow expected! Just drove 1100 miles, had to give it a shot...realized really quickly on the trail it wasn’t going to happen. The snow was accumulating so fast, we had no choice but to turn back. Regrouped with an atlas and topo maps over beers and lunch at Jasper Brewery. Cheers to the unpredictability of Mother Nature! Headed to Canmore to meet up with local guide buddies for insider tips on off-grid spots worth exploring. Spent the next 24 hours waiting out the storm. 

Gear Feature: The Black Diamond Stretch Rain Jackets from the Obsidian Collection took on ALL the weather...rain, snow, cold and wind.

DAY 4:

Clouds started to part! Headed west towards BC and found a completely secluded camp spot in the Spray Lakes area. Made the most of the day hiking, fishing, and hanging around the campfire (despite being a little on edge in serious grizzly country).

Gear Feature: The Osprey travel-ready Duffels featured in the Obsidian Collection made staying organized as we loaded and unloaded at camp each day a breeze.

DAY 5 (and 6):

Woke up antsy... ridgeline across the lake was calling. Socked in by clouds halfway up, zero visibility. Kept repeating “let’s give it 10 more minutes.” After saying that five or six times, persistence paid off! Clouds thinned out as we climbed. Found ourselves perched high on a ridgeline in the Rockies, hundreds of miles away from our planned destination, completely thankful that we persevered.

Back in town --> Loaded up on energy drinks and coffee, drove alternating shifts for 19 hours straight to get back to Bend. And, hey, still no issues crossing the border with an expired passport (phew)! Benefit of driving through the night on Fourth of July: fireworks on the horizon. Back in Bend by sunrise...passed out (happy).

The theme of this trip with the Fall Obsidian Collection ended up being "PERSEVERANCE." No, the trip didn't go as planned, but the twists and turns ended up being part of the payoff. The more trips you take, the more you understand that the joy is in the unexpected.

The joy really is in the journey.