The Bucket List

The Bucket List

Let’s start with a little rant!  I want to acknowledge that I hate the term ‘bucket list’.  Until the release of the 2007 film ‘The Bucket List”, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, no one ever used this term.  Regardless of my dislike for this term, I can’t think of another phrase that works better.  “To Do” list just seems too menial and it’s rather underwhelming.  Perhaps something more exciting like “Darren’s Super Fantastic 5 Year Adventure Plan”.  I like that.  Let’s go with that. 

Rant over. Thanks for indulging me. 

Now down to the real reason I’m writing this article.  I have a few things on my bucket list, “Darren’s Super Fantastic 5 Year Adventure Plan” that I wish to accomplish.  I’m not saying that they will happen, but I would like to publically set some goals and work towards accomplishing some or all of them.

Before I dive into the details of this I think that it is worth mentioning why I want to accomplish these things. 

At the ripe old age of 36, I’ve had a good run.  I am (super) happily married and my wife and I are expecting our first child this summer.  I have a job that I enjoy, although it does keep me at a desk for more time in a day than I prefer (Mark refers to us as Cubicle Pandas).  I am in good health and I have the ability to pursue my passions.  Even with all of these things going for me, my sense of adventure continues to push me towards new challenges and experiences.  As a personal philosophy I believe that it is important to get out and have at least one grand adventure annually. 

Some of my past adventures have been a Brent Run (twice actually) through Algonquin Provincial Park, hiking through Algonquin and Killarney’s La Cloche Silhouette trail.

In no particular order, here is Darren’s Super Fantastic 5 Year Adventure Plan:      

The Spanish River

My interest in paddling The Spanish River has increased over the last couple of years.  This canoe trip would involve travelling north from Sudbury by train.  At Duke Lake we would be dropped off and we begin our 141km paddle south to Agnew Lake.  Spanish River Provincial Park takes the paddlers through the traditional route that was used for centuries by First Nations tribes, traders, explorers and loggers.  The river itself now attracts outdoor adventurers and canoeist from around the world.  Camping is available with permits at designated sites along the way.  The total trip generally takes 5 to 7 days to complete safely.  The route offers up river paddling, flat water lakes and rapids ranging from Class I to Class IV (with a few portages thrown in for safe measure).  With sections carrying names like “The Fork”, “The Elbow” and “Graveyard Rapids”, it’s bound to be an adventure.    

While I have a long history of paddling (20+ years), I have limited experience in moving water.  In the interest of safety I will be participating in an ORCKA course designed to teach moving water and river running skills.  With this course completed it could mean that The Spanish River becomes a reality this fall or next spring.  

West Coast Trail:

Do a quick Google search of “best hiking trails in Canada” and you will find information on the West Coast Trail.  Located on the west side of Vancouver Island, this 75km hiking trail was constructed in the early 1900s as a route to rescue shipwrecked sailors.  Since that time it has evolved into a destination hiking trail for nearly 6000 backpacking enthusiasts annually.  Open from May 1st to September 30th, this week long trek takes hikers through ocean beach locales, old growth forests, lakes, rivers and canyons. 

The rugged and varied terrain, coupled with traditional Vancouver weather (rain!) can make for a grueling 7 day trip.  Recent trail improvements completed by the Pacific Rim National Park have helped increase the safety levels on the trail, but regardless this is not a trail system to take lightly. 

With our experience hiking The La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney in 2015 and 2016, I believe that our next big backpacking trip will likely be to the West Coast Trail.         

Mountain Bike Moab, Utah:

It was back in 1995 that I started my lifelong love affair with mountain biking.  I remember the early days of riding in the Collingwood area and completely immersing myself in the sport.  I gathered as much information as I could on bikes, bike parts and most important of all, trail systems.  It is no surprise the sooner rather than later, I stumbled across a little town in Utah that was heralded by many as a mountain biker’s Mecca.  Since those early days I have dreamed of riding the slick rocks and dusty deserts of Moab, Utah. 

Moab offers riders with a variety of terrain types stretching hundreds of kilometers long.  Regardless of your skill level, there is terrain for everyone to ride.    

I can’t really explain why I have an urge to travel across the continent to bike in Moab.  Perhaps it’s simply my inner child begging to ride the trails I dreamed of in my youth.  Maybe there is just a force in the universe that draws mountain bikers to the area.  Whatever it is, I am hoping to scratch this urge and make my pilgrimage to Moab soon.     


John Muir Trail:

This adventure is far and away the most aggressive and time consuming endeavor on this list.  The John Muir trail take hikers through 346 rugged kilometers of the High Sierra Mountains from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney in California.  With over 14,000m (46,700ft) in elevation change, 7 mountain passes, peaks exceeding 14,000’ above seas level and a significant amount of above tree line hiking, this trail is only for advance thru hikers. 

Named after the intrepid explorer and naturalist John Muir, The JMT was the brain child of Theodore Solomons.  Construction of the trail began in 1915 and Solomons’ final vision was not fully realized until 1961, 14 years after his death. 

Besides the physical challenge of the JMT, the sheer amount of time required to hike the trail and the logistics to coordinate a trip of this nature are staggering.  A trip taking 20 days would be considered aggressive.  There would need to be an acclimatization phase to adjust to the elevation of the mountains before setting out and with travel to and from we would likely need 28 to 30 days to properly complete this trip.  Given my occupation as a Cubicle Panda, that time would be difficult to arrange. 

Travel logistic to and from California aside, hikers would need to prepare meticulous meal plans and coordinate food drops at points along the trail; carrying 20 days of food is not an option. 

Another complicating factor is that permits are required for several sections of the trail.  These permits require hikers to apply and there is no guarantee that you will be successful.  Applications for permits have increased by 100% in the last 5 years and they are becoming increasingly difficult to get. 

For the curious readers, there is a documentary (currently found on Netflix) called Mile, Mile and A Half.  This film highlights the struggles of a group as they plan and execute a hike along the JMT.  It is well worth a look for anyone interested in the hike or those who just enjoy a good documentary.  http://themuirproject.com/mmah/film/

Conclusion:

Regardless of what you call it, Bucket List or Darren’s Super Fantastic 5 Year Adventure Plan, I believe that it is important to set goals and to strive to accomplish them.  Our lives are constantly evolving and we are forced to adjust our plans and goals.  I am excited to see where the next 5 years take me and how many of these lofty adventurous goals I can achieve.  There are few guarantees in life, but I can guarantee that whatever I don’t accomplish off this list, will appear on Darren’s Super Fantastic 10 Year Adventure Plan.