Guest post by Gaby James
“Ma’am?” she said in my direction. I turned toward the gas station attendant.
“Yes?” I replied.
“Do you want to buy a map?” she asked, “I see you’re from Texas, you’re a long way from home.”
The truth was, I knew those Idaho roads better than most locals. I’d spent the past four years finding the fastest and most efficient way out of Texas. I would spend my summers driving through the United States, each trip was longer than the previous, but each time I had a return date. Things were different this time, I didn’t have a return date. No obligations to anyone or anything. I’d spent my winter in Canada and returned to Texas for my truck and to make some money to move up to Canmore. I was in Idaho and heading north to Canmore, Alberta, the “perfect” bubble (as many would called it). Canmore is a town of 15,000 people and is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and is known for its high peaks, killer limestone, thick ice and wild bunnies.
My road-trip started on July 1, 2014. It was Canada day and I was in Texas. I never really know where or what I’m going or doing until I get there. I map out my journey and let that take me from there, leaving myself open to exploration. I said Goodbye to my parents not knowing when I would actually see them again. It was still dark I needed to catch my last Texas sunrise. I drove to a favorite spot that sits above the rolling hills of Texas. I sat there trying to make myself actually believe I was driving to Canada, it didn’t seem real.
I took my time cruising around the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, stopping at hidden “mermaid lagoons”. At each spot I would record the coordinates and now I have a book full of these little gems all over North America.
On my way through Utah I got a call from Travis Burke, he asked me where in the country I was and how fast I could make it to Oregon. He’d been meeting up with my fellow “Dirt Barbies” and had some ideas for footage. “Canyons, waterfalls and a bridge,” was all I heard and I yelled “Tomorrow, tomorrow,” I can be there tomorrow. I hurried off the phone so I could get back on the road and still have enough time to explore.
I had always had a soft spot for Utah, one of my favorite sayings was, “And on the third day god created Utah.” If you have been then you know what I‘m talking about. I roamed through Utah breathing in the red sand and making my way through the desert monuments. I later found a spot in Northern Utah I hadn’t seen. Towering canyon walls on both sides of me, I pulled over, grabbed my hiking boots, water and my Go Pro and started wandering down the canyons.
I left Utah in my rearview and made my way to Oregon. Travis and I met in Oneonta Gorge and we huddled into his newly refurbished adventure mobile to make a plan for the following day. The next morning Dirt Barbies Ashley Schaffer, Lindsay Hurley and Emily Kleier met us at the trail head.
We spent the morning traversing the canyon walls and ditching our bags to swim in the frigid water to the back of the gorge where a waterfall towers over, our laughs and chattering teeth echoed through the canyon. By 10 a.m. our bodies were frozen and needed to get the blood back flowing so we continued our hike into the forest surrounded by the sound of waterfalls.
I used to have this picture I would stare at back when I was in high school. It was taken in Oregon, of a river with rocks and trees covered in the brightest moss and a tree suspended across end to end. It was nothing special but for some reason it captured me. I would stare at that image for hours dreaming of exploring landscapes like this and wondering if I ever would. As we walked through a clearing the landscape from the photo appeared in front of me. I stood there completely flabbergasted, I couldn’t believe it. I was there, I had found it without ever searching for it. My heart began to race, I could hear it palpitating in my ears drowning everything out and my vision narrowed in back to that small little picture, I felt my body filling up like a hot air balloon and expanding outward gathering breath followed by an exhale that finished with my smile going from ear to ear.
I’ve always second guessed myself and this crazy dream I have been following since high school. I hadn’t seen everything, I hadn’t climbed, swam, skipped, touched, or breathed in everything. That was and is the mission I’ve been on for longer than I can remember. Perfection is that moment when you’re standing in front of your long sought after dream. That unattainable place that had inspired my dreams to explore was now another check on the bucket list.
The rest of the day was spent with bridge jumps, cliff jumps, rope swings and a lot of jalapeño chips. The day ended with a quick run to catch the sunset. As badly as I wanted to stay in Oregon and explore more, Canada was only six hours away and singing my name.
On July 4, Independence Day, I found myself inching towards the Canadian border. Nervous like everyone when having to deal with border officials, I kept thinking to myself, “Crap,” I planned out this whole ordeal and what if they don’t even let me back in. I got to the border official who seemed surprised a girl from Texas, traveling alone wasn’t carrying a gun they searched my vehicle anyway and after a nail biting hour they finally greeted me into Canada. I was in. I’d never been so happy, but my journey wasn’t over yet. Traveling through British Columbia had me trying to grasp the metric system, soon enough I was greeted by the Sea-to-Sky highway and drove straight to Squamish.
I found a secluded spot covered by the forest and long forgotten about by other travelers. Canada’s beaches offered an amazing horizon littered with islands that towered from the sea. My final welcoming gift was a sunset run up the Stawamus Chief. As the night crept in I sat and watched the city begin to glow under me and stars shoot across above me.
I made new friends, heard old stories, climbed, and drilled bolts into mountains. For the first time I wasn’t sad about my summer on the road coming to an end, I had found my home and was living my Canadream.
Gaby used the Goal Zero Switch 8 to keep her GoPros charged and filming