Categories
Hiking and Camping adventures

Best hiking trails in Canada: Mount Robson and Berg Lake

Glaciers at Berg Lake campsite was the highlight

So the hike at Mount Robson and Berg Lake was a memorable one for us and also one of the better hikes we’ve had in a while. This was also the hike which helped us level up our hiking game and whetted a keen appetite for more. It is by far one of the best hiking trails in Canada, in our opinion. You can hear parts of the glacier breaking off in the night and it sounds like thunder!

Great for first-time multiday hikers

The trails are well-paved and well-marked. The toilets were one of the more pleasant ones we’ve come across so far.

It was also our first multi-day hike together as a couple and our first ‘real’ backcountry hike. We both hiked elsewhere previously elsewhere in Asia with friends before we met. Those hikes didn’t require us to be carrying a huge pack as we had porters (and they were amazing).

We were such amateurs back in 2014 when we did this hike (we are still not super experienced but definitely better) that we packed like we were going on a gourmet picnic. I kid you not – we brought eggs in an egg holder which ironically is for camping. I suppose they meant camping from your van. And we had all our food in a cooler bag. Funny enough, it didn’t cross our minds then that we might have looked rather silly.

Getting there:

You will be looking to park at the Robson River Parking Area, where the trailhead begins. Access is from Mount Robson Viewpoint junction. Follow the Kinney Lake Road north from the service station for about 2km to the Kinney Lake/Berg Lake parking area. Look for the path that begins across the Robson River bridge at the end of the parking area. It’s a pretty scenic drive in and we camped around Wells Gray campground for a night just because we were late starters and could not get to the trailhead on time.

[We went on this hike in 2014 so if directions have changed, please let me know.]

About the hike:

This was a fairly easy hike as we’ve come to learn on hindsight after attempting other backcountry hikes later. That said, it is still an uphill climb all through the trail where the falls are, until the Berg Lake campsite.

What we liked about this trail was that it is well-marked and well-maintained as we’ve come to appreciate after some other hikes we’ve been on. It is about a 790m climb from the trailhead to Berg Lake campground and about 20km. The climb begins after Whitehorn campground at 1115m right up to the Emperor Falls campground at 1630m, which is a distance of about 5km. We covered the return trip in a day from Berg Lake campground as it was largely downhill and we went through that fairly quickly.

There are certainly other days hikes you can do from Berg Lake. We made Berg Lake campground our ‘base’ and went on a day hike to Snowbird Pass the following day. It was quite a semi-scramble in the beginning as we scaled up and over some boulders.

This hike has been described as ‘long and demanding’ in a guidebook and it sure was. Still, it was a spectacular hike to the vast view of the Reef Icefield. It is an out-and-back route so you’ll be going out the same way. We didn’t do much research back then and didn’t know that until we were mid-way into it and came across another group hiking out and they mentioned it. The distance one-way is about 10km with a gain of about 780m. It was all worth it and overall a beautiful hike with great views most of the hike, and the meadows are filled with marmots! They pop up every now and then to check out who’s passing through their backyard.

We liked Canadian Rockies Hiking Books (canadianrockiestrailguide.com) and used the book as research material for most of our hikes in Canada. The book as a good list of best hiking trails in Canada and latest updates on the trails on their website. We’ve also found ClubTread Community rather useful in providing trip information.

Categories
Travel Thoughts

Does working remotely overseas sound interesting to you?

The realities of life catch up with your dreams and you know working remotely long-term without making drastic work and life adjustments is not possible. There are tax and living implications for living and working remotely. The pandemic has inspired many changes in our lifestyles and one of which is the dream to work elsewhere since no one was going to the office anyway. With people starting to head back to the office, the window of opportunity for someone to work remotely overseas may be diminishing. However, that again depends on the work you do.

We were working remotely for three months in Phuket Thailand in 2021 during the pandemic. It was a tedious process to go through the documentation for visas to Phuket. We work full-time as permanent employees and when we got approval to work remotely overseas for three months, we were elated. I’m sure getting that pass may be easier or more challenging depending on where you work and what you do but this is based on our experience.

House/Apartment

Can you put your house or wherever you live up on Airbnb and do you have someone to help you manage it while you’re away? Are you currently renting on a long-term lease (at least 1 year to 2 years)? If so, there may be penalties for terminating your lease earlier if that clause hasn’t been included yet on the contract.

Money

Do you have a steady income and enough savings? If you are working remotely, you may be receiving a steady income. Having at least 6 months of savings based on your average monthly budget, depending on your lifestyle is important. When they say money makes the world go round, they aren’t kidding. Having enough allows you to be able to discover and travel with more options.

Transportation

So that’s a segue into the topic of transportation. Transportation isn’t cheap in some places and I guess that’s relative. In Phuket, cost of taxis and ride hailing are more expensive than commuting in Singapore. We explored the option of renting a car, but did not wish to break any laws or get into any trouble should we get into any accidents while overseas. If you are open to the risk, do ensure you have your International Driver’s Licence as that’s the only overseas licence recognized there. Additionally, the International Driver’s Licence is probably more widely recognized worldwide for a short-term stay.

Insurance

Getting a good travel and international health insurance helps you to travel with a peace of mind. International health insurance may be expensive but there are some alternatives like travel insurances which cover COVID.

Pets

Do you have a pet or pets? You will need to put them in a boarding house for a few months while you are away. That means additional cost unless you know of a few kind souls willing to allow your pet(s) to board for free. There’s also the element of missing your pets a lot while you are away. Depending on where you are based, bringing your pets with you on a trip and then taking them back may not be easy depending on the regulations. For us, taking pets out of Singapore and bringing them back requires the pets to go into quarantine at a facility for up to 120 days.

Medications

If you are on any long-term medication, it is good to bring a prescription and depending on the place you may be going, there may be compromises on the exact drug type. There may be alternatives with similar ingredients but not the exact drug. There are some vitamins and supplements which aren’t easily available where you may going. If you are looking to ship them to where you are, you’ll need to consider the various import tax and customs duties.

Portable equipment

Have good portable equipment is essential for working remotely overseas. If you are like me and like having multiple screens when you are working or researching, you’ll want to find a good portable screen. I’m currently using ViewSonic and be prepared to pay about SGD350 for a portable monitor. It has a C-type cable which doesn’t require the screen to be plugged into power for some laptops like the Dell and HP. However, it doesn’t work with my Microsoft Surface. You’ll need to have a USB to USB-C for power transfer. I’ve tried the MSI portable monitor as well and love the sleek screen but I do not love the lack of a proper stand. It’s difficult to prop your screen up as the stand doesn’t hold up well. There are some options for a magnetic stand which you can get.

Everything adds up. I have a portable mechanical keyboard which I absolutely love for how light it is. I highly recommend the Kirin V2 from Tempest.sg. You’ll find customizable mechanical keyboards which come with a semi-hard case for travelling/portability. My husband is more particular about his work station, and he’s brought an actual 24″ monitor with the stand on the trip.

Expect the unexpected

Overall, expect things which aren’t expected, and go with the flow. We’ve moved villas twice in the last three months since we’ve been in Phuket, and the villas are next to each other. The first was due to the pipes and we couldn’t use water in the villa for a while as they fixed it. So we were moved next door. We moved back after four days and a few weeks after, we had a rat problem. Apparently when they fixed the pipes, it’d probably disturbed the homes of the rats. We noticed that a couple of our bananas were gouged out and it seems to be the work of mice or rats. The next day, we noticed the bottom of the storage door chewed which I assume was the work of the rats getting out of the storage into the house. We heard some rattling of the plates in the sink one night when we were in our office working late and came out to find a rat running to hide. Thereafter, we’ve seen traces of their poop around in the house.

Another thing to get used to if you aren’t staying in a hotel for a few months, is the number of times the power goes out. We’re close to the mountains and probably prime habitat for rats, spiders and lizard. The other thing is the power going out almost every time there’s a storm or heavy rain. There was a day when even our mobiles had no cell reception for half a day at the same time when there was a blackout, as the power outage affected two out of the three cell companies here.

Brownouts happened a few times too when we were here – when some power outlets work and some don’t and they may not be working to 100% capacity. For example, you could have lights but they may flicker in and out like there’s a poltergeist in the room. One thing I’ve learnt in the power outages is to always keep your devices charged just in case. Especially if you need your mobile phone as a flashlight and for the internet.

Travelling with creature comforts. We are rather fussy our pillows and I’ve many variations of pillows and the only one which had worked for me was a Tempur pillow which is now in storage. (I do miss it!) So, being mobile as we are trying to be now, I’ve an alternative by Bodyluv. I’ve had it for close to three-quarters of the year now and it’s starting to flatten. But yes, I brought it with me to Phuket and I’m glad I did as all the pillows we’ve had so far have been really uncomfortable.

Last but probably not the least (I’m sure you’ll have more to add-on as not every experience is the same), is ensuring that you aren’t bringing back more things than you’ve arrived with. That’s a tall order as most of us end up buying things when we travel. But I’ve brought some older clothes with me which I wouldn’t mind leaving behind to offset the additional I’ll be leaving with. And I’ve depleted some of my food, supplements and skincare supplies which I’d packed.

Additionally, if you are working remotely overseas, consider the space you might want to have. Do you have sufficient space for work? At the last location where we stayed, my husband and I did not have separate work areas, especially for calls. So we had to take turns working at the hotel’s restaurant which was not ideal.

A work desk against sunset by the beach
Our busy work desk at the villa

Due to taxation policies, there are certain considerations around the duration for working remotely overseas. Our 3-month overseas work-play experience ended a little too soon for us.

Categories
Starting a new life in Canada

Little big adventures; our move across the world

Who loves adventures? Adventures come in all shapes and sizes depending on your appetite. We recently embarked on small adventures in the last year ( March 2021), after putting all our ‘stuff’ in storage. We stayed in Airbnbs for four months while in Singapore and then stayed in Phuket Thailand where we worked remotely for a quarter of the year before returning to Singapore and then jetting off on a one-way ticket 13,060 km to Canada with eight bags and two cats.

One of our discoveries from that experience was how we’ve always envisioned ourselves being nomads and travelling light but reality was from it. There are definitely a few things to consider when choosing to live and remotely but that’s for another post.

I’ve always loved adventures since I was a child and I would get into books like The Hardy Boys, The Famous Five and Nancy Drew. So planning my first solo adventure was a treat and a privilege I’d relished. The one solo trip I’ve been on while I was in a relationship was to Lake Toba. It’s different when you plan for adventures as an entity – while you don’t decide spontaneously on your own, the company makes the shared experience so much richer. We’ve definitely had our share of interesting experiences while travelling.

Our big adventure together was planning to move back to Canada and that took a lot of planning which started two years ago when I had to apply for my Permanent Residency. The documentation was crazy to take on but I got through that. Next, was planning the move and where we would live as that would determine where we would send our stuff in storage to. That’s still up in the air for us as we’ve not decided.

That is an adventure in itself as it means having the freedom to move around for a while before settling in a place. So here we are, living in the basement of our parents’/in-law’s, and having the options of living anywhere, at least at an Airbnb or a rental.

I’ll be sharing some learnings as a new immigrant to Canada and some details you’ll need to manage in your journey. Read, exchange and get insights into living in Canada. Follow us on our adventure in Canada and around! Subscribe and get notified when a new post of our adventure is published.

Categories
Our gear

How to choose your hiking boots

As walking is the core activity of a hike, you would want something which is comfortable and functional for your hike. Having the right hiking boots and footwear can make a difference to the hike especially if you’re planning to hike about 20km a day over 5 days or more. However, footwear can be quite subjective depending on your gait, shape of the feet and your soles. This article is based on my personal experience. Choosing a good pair of walking or hiking shoes have not been easy for me as I’ve moderate bunions for the bulk of my life up to now.

*Update as at 30 October 2021: I've gone for a minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for my bunions earlier this year in February 2021. I'm still regaining full strength and stability on my feet after the surgery as it will take time to regain flexibility in your toes after surgery. However, post-surgery, you'll still need to ensure you pick proper shoes to prevent bunions from forming again. 

Wide toe box
This is probably the most straight-forward and logical ‘step‘ in selecting shoes. We know this from the discomfort with wearing narrow shoes so this is a definite must-have for anyone with bunions. They provide sufficient space and also more support. The space allows for the toes to move more freely and prevent pressure on the bunion from the sides of the shoe.

Flexible and soft surrounding fabric
Some hiking shoes and boots can be stiff and in fact, many do prefer a sturdier shoe which may also be stiffer. Shoes and boots with soft leather is best and of course, do look for sustainable and ethical sources.

Good support
A good arch support is good to have to distribute the weight and will help reduce pressure on the big toe and the bunion. Walking with bunions already tend to throw off proper weight distribution of how the feet land. You can also use custom supports for bunions in your shoes. This is also good for people with higher arches.

Sizing
Getting a pair of hiking boots with the best size, fit and room for custom supports would be ideal. Hiking boots or shoes which are appropriate for your feet size may not be the best fit. It’s best if you are able to head to a store for a fitting. I usually pick half a size up to allow for thicker socks and space for the feet to expand during long hikes.

So which hiking boots then?

For avid hikers, this may not be new to you. Keen is known for their round-shaped and wide toe box designs and this is almost a signature Keen design which is also seen on the Keen sandals and other casual shoes. That said, not all Keen shoes and boots are good for bunions. There are a variety of models for different types of feet.

I’ve tried a couple of Keen boots and this is one of my latest (and third pair) pairs from 2018 and these are NOT recommended for bunions which I should have known better. They look good with the dark and waterproof* exterior, stylish mix of fabric and design to ‘boot‘. However, the toe box here isn’t wide and flexible enough. The fabric where the bunions are can be quite stiff. That’s not even the least of what I to say about these boots. Also, they do run a little more narrow which is fine for the midsole but not for the toes.

Additionally, they do not have the usual support of the signature Keen Targhee models but you could still use a custom support by removing the original inserts. A good thing about these shoes and most of Keen’s shoes, is that you don’t need a long breaking-in period for them compared with other shoes. This pair is also surprisingly light.

There are more shoes which are waterproof these days. One thing about waterproof shoes is that they may not always be the best feature to have. There are a few reasons why I would probably opt for shoes which are not stated as waterproof.

Moisture and heat
Waterproof shoes can get pretty hot inside if you are not using them in colder weather. And even if you were using them in colder weather, you may still get moisture within on a long hike.

Drying and ventilation
They tend to stay wet inside for a longer time it seems due to the breathability or ventilation of the material. The newer generation of waterproof shoes may be different now. This was a purchase in 2018 and it seems they no longer have this model. So there may be new technical improvements since then.

I do have older Keens Targhee but the soles are coming off a little probably due to the humidity in Singapore. I’ve worn these for a few hikes in Norway and Canada and these are my second pair of Keen hiking boots. The Targhee boots are definitely heavier than the ones above. They aren’t perfect but they are the closest to what’s best for bunions. They now have a Targhee III model which you can check out: https://www.rei.com/product/119903/keen-targhee-iii-waterproof-mid-hiking-boots-womens. It seems that they do have an upgraded waterproof membrane material but there are some mixed reviews.

What I like about this pair of Keens:

  • Wide toe box: The Targhee range usually spots the wide toe box. You can check out this model which is non-waterproof but has better ventilation – https://www.rei.com/product/126952/keen-targhee-vent-mid-hiking-boots-womens
  • Good ventilation: They dry more easily as the fabric around the shoe is breathable. This is very useful as you would end up stepping into some puddles, snow, in addition to perspiration. They do get quite muddy on some hikes and if mud isn’t washed off, they just cake around the shoe and stiffens it in addition to reducing the ventilation.
  • Midsole support: This is good for bunions as it provides the support required for weight distribution of your feet and reduces the amount of pressure from your big toe.
  • Soft fabric at the back of the ankle: The soft fabric all around the shoe and the back of ankle is comfortable and hardly requires any breaking-in.

However, I’ve noticed that the soles for this pair do not have a very good grip on surfaces. I’ve slipped on a couple of rocks wearing this pair in Norway. Then again, it is not easy getting a pair with fantastic traction on wet rocks.

Some people have mentioned that this model runs a little big for their feet, due to the wider shoe width. So this pair is definitely not for people with narrow feet. The Targhee models are usually wider so there’s always a pair of shoes for your size and needs. The best way to make sure you get the right pair is to get them at a physical store. I bought all my shoes online just because it is not easy getting a good price for Keen hiking boots in Singapore. I bought the last pair from REI and was impressed with the level of service. Not only that, but REI ships to many countries. I highly recommend getting your equipment from REI due to their coverage of shipping locations.

Socks
They play a big role in footwear. Do not wear cotton socks for your hikes. They are the worst for hiking as the fabric retains moisture is causes blisters. Wool or acrylic mixture are highly recommended. The Smartwool socks help to wick away moisture and also keep your feet dry(er). The padding is also great for long hikes.

Do you have other recommendations? Do comment below!

Categories
Our gear

Sleeping in a tent while camping: What to bring

Having a good sleep system is important as I’ve discovered. How do you sleep while camping? I’m a picky sleeper and that’s not ideal for a person who also loves being outdoors. I’ve found a good compromise, but that also means bringing a little more gear than some other hikers.

I had an inflatable sleeping pad with some grooves during my Greenstone and Caples Hike in New Zealand, and that didn’t work for me. Firstly, I felt the cold from the ground. Secondly, it wasn’t as comfortable as I’d thought it would be. Additionally, it moved around a lot when I moved. The key thing which stopped me from using it again was the cold. I guess this would fine for summer camping when it’s hotter and more humid.

Sleep system base

My preferred sleep system now makes up of a base, Z lite Thermarest, which I bring on all camping trips now. You would probably have seen this signature sleeping pad, with the silver and yellow coloured sides. They do have them in other colours too, but it seems that the yellow ones are the most common which I’ve seen everywhere.

They fold up nicely and they are light. You can easily pack them outside of your backpack on the top or on the bottom. The best part about these pads are how much comfort they provide between your back and the ground. They are well-worth the added bulk and weight for a better sleep while camping.

The next layer I add on as a second base, for added comfort, is the self-inflating ultralight Thermarest. You’ll still need to inflate it slightly manually. What I like about this is that it is suitable for almost all-season camping and very lightweight for the added warmth and comfort.

Sleeping bags

We use the Big Agnes hooded sleeping bags and mine provides a higher degree of warmth compared to the Big Agnes sleeping bag which my husband uses. These are so fabulous because of the high quality down and the full side zippers which lets you unzip yourself from the cocoon for some ventilation. And they are heavenly to lie in after a day’s hike.

We use sleeping bag liners in addition to the Big Agnes as we’re usually hiking in colder weathers, during the fall. So we find ourselves having to camp in the snow very often. I bring two different liners with me – one thinner than the other. The thinner liner is used as the layer against my skin and I believe we can use that with the Big Agnes without the middle liner if it wasn’t snowing or too cold. We use the Sea to Summit liner and it is similar to this.

Pillows

Some people do improvise for their pillows by using their clothes while camping. I think that might work and I might try that next time on a shorter multiday hike. I’ve chronic pain in my neck and shoulders which can be problematic without a good pillow.

I do think that I toss around a fair bit at night. I use the Sea to Summit Aeros at the moment after using the MEC inflatable pillow. After using the Sea to Summit Aeros, I’m now rethinking my camping pillow again. My husband uses the Aeros and that was how I bought it in the end for myself. It works for him as I think he’s more of a back sleeper whereas, I sleep both on my back and sides.

The Aeros seem to move around a lot for me while the MEC pillow has some silicon dots behind which help with keeping it in place. However, it can be difficult to find the balance for your head on that pillow. I’d tried deflating that a little but it ended up losing some support. Plus is a little small as I roll on my sides and I find myself falling off the pillow.

You can also check out this website for a review of camping pillows.

Check out a post on choosing your hiking boots.

Categories
Our gear

Going on a multiday hike? The clothes you bring is important

The thing about hiking, besides our own fitness level, is having the right gear. That can make a difference to how good you feel about the hike. For this article, I’ll be talking about hiking clothes.

Packing for multiday backcountry hikes is a balance between comfort and weight. Ie. Not lugging around half your closet. We’ve been through the various stages from being true blue amateurs to a better level now but we’re not experts. Our first multiday hike together at Berg Lake, Mt Robson, saw us bringing cooler bags and eggs in an egg tray. We did eat very well on that hike I must say.

Hiking on Berg Lake Trail, summer 2014.

We didn’t see that as anything wrong at that time and it isn’t. Equipment and hiking style can be subjective and it is based on personal preference. We were oblivious to the looks we were given on the hike. It’s funny to think about that now. Not that we’re such expert hikers now, but we’ve progressed a lot through learning the hard way and research. However, despite our gear we’d brought at that time, I thought it was one of our best camping trips, for so many reasons.

We ate well on this hike too. This was probably one of the best meals which wasn’t from an instant packet.

One factor was probably the weather we were hiking in. It was summer in Canada then when we hiked Berg Lake. Plus, we didn’t have to pack for multiple layers.

Hiking clothes: Technical and Comfort

Change of clothes, especially underwear and socks are important for us and since it’s not an extremely long hike, we weren’t planning to wash our clothes on the hike. So we bring a change of underwear and socks for every day we are on the hike and a set of PJs to change into at camp.

What to wear for sleep?

Depending on where you are hiking, it can still get to about 0 Celsius at night. A good sleeping system is made up of what you sleep in and on – sleeping equipment.

On hiking clothes, a set of light thermals for sleep works for me. Again, this is personal as it depends on your preference on how warm you would like to be while sleeping outdoors. I like to be slightly toasty but not too toasty in my sleep. I’ll share a little more about our sleep equipment later as that forms part of the sleeping system.

What do you wear in the day on a hike?

This again depends on the weather we’re hiking in. I’ve made the mistake of dressing for cold at the beginning of the hike and start overheating about half an hour or so into it. One of the signs is often early exhaustion. It’s often amusing for my partner to see that, as I end up complaining about being overly tired just half an hour in, and start stripping off the layers. I even had to hide somewhere to remove my Icebreaker thermal pants I’d worn under my hiking pants once. So dress a little colder at the beginning of the hike and add another mid layer if you need that should the weather change.

Tops

I like my Merino wool long sleeved tops as they provide the right level of warmth and ventilation. Those are more expensive but make great additions to your hiking clothes wardrobe. The alternatives I have are the MEC crew long-sleeved tee which work fine too. One bane I have with these technical fiber materials is how much they stink.

Pants

Prana has a range of hiking pants which are good for hikes as they’re lightweight and slightly water/weather resistant. I do bring a few pairs of hiking pants just to change them once every day or two days. I’ve a couple of North Face and Outdoor Research pairs too, but they aren’t as weather proof as the Prana ones. Although they are somewhat weather proof, they seem to have good ventilation and they don’t smell. Hiking clothes which are resistant to elements and smell are important selection criteria.

Outershells

We bring our outershells which is thicker and heavier than a windbreaker. We made the mistake of not packing something thicker before and only brought our windbreakers as the outershell. They weren’t sufficient for weather changes especially if you intend to hike to higher elevations and if you are hiking later in the summer. We had a freak weather when we were in Norway, in August, one year and did not pack for fall weather. It was cold, windy and rainy for a few days in Norway and we couldn’t go very far up on our hike as we were freezing midway.

Thermals

The need for thermals depends on the season you’re hiking in. We bring our Icebreakers or equivalent for most of our hikes as we tend to hike in fall or at higher elevations even in summer. In Summer, I would still bring a pair of thin thermal pants as it does still get cold at night – again, this depends on the elevation and where you are. In colder weather, I don’t go without my thermal Rab pants. I recall that they came highly recommended by a retail assistant who has a few pairs herself. I love my Rab pants now and wear them as my camp pants. They are light, warm and so comfortable after a hike. It’s made of Polartec® fabric with light fleece inside.

Underwears

For women, sports bras/bras are sometimes optional. Some basic bralettes do provide that balance and yet lightweight to carry. I’ve worn sports bras before and didn’t like it for long hikes as they are made to be tight for medium to high impact sports. There is a variety of other sports bras but I recommend one which doesn’t have straps that can press into your skin when you are carrying the backpack. For women do not bring or wear bras with wires. If you prefer wearing bras to sports bras, opt for the wireless types. There are some good ones from Victoria’s Secret.

The basic lycra seamless underwear work well for comfort and wicking away moisture, and they dry fast. Full briefs provide good comfort on the hike. Marks and Spencers offer comfortable lycra seamless basic full briefs or their seamless full briefs which is made up about 85% polyester.

You can also check out this resource for what to wear on a hike. For men, there’s a review of underwears here.

Socks

Good hiking socks which wick away moisture and dry fast are important as blisters can spoil the entire trip. I had at least 4 blisters (and a stubbed, sore toe nail) on that Berg Lake hike. It was not pleasant.

Light wool socks work well. There are many socks which you use for usual daily sports which are made of a mixture of materials. Cotton may sound like it will keep you cool, but it’s not recommended. It doesn’t dry well and it has the potential of causing blisters on longer hikes.

After trying a few types of socks, I’ve found that I like the Smartwool ones as they’re light but still provide some comfort. There are some resources which mention wearing liner socks, but I think it doesn’t do very much especially with wool socks which are good enough to wick away moisture. The liner socks can end up causing more friction. Shoes do play a part too. Read about hiking boots here.

Categories
Hiking and Camping adventures

Best hiking trail in Singapore: Dairy Farm to MacRitchie Reservoir

Are you looking for hiking trails in Singapore? We highly recommend the Dairy Farm to MacRitchie Reservoir trail via Bukit Timah Hill, which is about 12km in total. What you don’t get in elevation gain, you get multiple stairs on this hike. Bukit Timah Hill is about 163.63 metres (537 ft.) above ground level and 182 metres (597 ft.) above sea level, making it the highest natural point in Singapore.

*The TreeTop Walk in my map here is indicated as temporarily closed because it was during the pandemic. They closed it temporarily to prevent crowding on the bridge as this is a popular visitor spot. As I’m updating this now in April 2022, activities have almost resumed back to normal so this may be opened now (April 2022).

Hiking in Singapore: Dairy Farm to MacRitichie Map

Dairy Farm to Bukit Timah

Dairy Farm is in the north of Singapore, about 20min car ride away from central Singapore. The best starting point is at Dairy Farm Carpark B. The best way to get to Dairy Farm Carpark B is by car. If you do not drive in Singapore or have no access to a car, take a taxi or Grab. Grab is a ride hailing app which is well-known and popular in Singapore.

When you get to Dairy Farm Carpark B, be sure to use the bathrooms before setting off because there aren’t any bathrooms until you get to the bottom of Bukit Timah Hill, and the next bathrooms are in MacRitichie.

Dairy Farm Trail start point
Turn right to head up this path to Bukit Timah.
Dairy Farm trail
You’ll continue on straight through the Hut. You can take the left as well. It will take you to the same place as the two paths converge. The difference is the number of stairs you’ll go through. The path on the left will take you through stairs as well, but at a gradual pace.
Dairy Farm Trail stairs
Stairway to Bukit Timah Hill.

Head down the Catchment Path from the main path at Bukit Timah Hill. [Sorry, the videos are very shaky – I’ll need to find another way of placing the GoPro.]

The hike, from Dairy Farm to MacRitchie in a video.

Bukit Timah to MacRitichie

You should turn down Catchment Path and follow the steps down. You’ll get to a map which tells you where you are. Continue on the same path for a short distance and you’ll get to an open space cross junction with dirt tracks. Turn right to continue on to MacRitchie Reservoir road. Watch out for cyclists here as this is a popular mountain biking route. You’ll need to make the first left after turning right to the clearing. This route was a recent discovery for us as we had to walk around on the main road down Rifle Range Road before we discovered this path.

We used to have a trail which would take you through the trees and a proper dirt path but they closed that off for a construction project.

After turning on the first left, you’ll get to a main road. Look out for cars around here. You will walk past a military camp on the road. Follow the road and you’ll get to the beginning of the MacRitchie Trail.

MacRitchie Trail

You’ll get off the road and onto a clay-like soil trail when you get to MacRitchie from this trailhead. Follow the path and you’ll get to a junction. We usually turn left which takes us to the Tree Top Trail. The trail here is mostly under tree cover and terrain is slightly pebbly.

Look out for monkeys on this trail as you’ll see some hanging around. Do not feed the monkeys.

Hiking in Singapore

Trails in Singapore for most fitness levels. The main thing which people need to deal with hiking in Singapore is the climate, especially if you live in a completely different climate. Bring sunscreen, hydration and maybe even a change of clothes. For rainy season hikes, don’t bother with umbrellas or windbreakers. Just ensure you waterproof your electronics.

Categories
Hiking and Camping adventures

Wedgemount Lake: One of the more challenging hikes in Vancouver

Vancouver is a city for outdoor enthusiasts given the many places for day hikes and multiday hikes right at its doorsteps, with great views and challenging terrain. The Wedgemount Lake hike remains as one of the more challenging hikes we’ve been on near to Vancouver.

Start of the trail

We started around 2:30pm or 3pm and it took us about 6.5 hours to complete it. It was about 9pm by the time we got to the carpark. The beginning of the trail takes you through tree cover for the most parts.

The boulder field

After emerging from the tree cover, you’ll get to a boulder field. This is where it starts to get a little more difficult to find the trail due to the snow. I didn’t think we were even on the trail at one point as it was so steep and it just seemed like the rocks weren’t meant for climbing. We were literally scrambling at that point. Then we got to an icy path which seemed more like a trail and a rope which lets you pull yourself up along the steeper areas. It was covered in snow and ice when we were there. Do be careful on the boulder field as there are plenty of loose rocks and should you dislodge a rock, do shout ‘rock’ to people below.

Icy trail (in snowy conditions)

The next part of the hike was steep and the snow made it more challenging as we slipped in a few places. I believe this would not have been that challenging if it wasn’t for all that snow. We didn’t get any photos on the way up given how preoccupied we were looking for the trail and then navigating the boulder field, and trying not to slip. We managed to get a few on the way down.

Wedgemount Lake view

Wedgemount Lake was shrouded in mist when we were there which made it look more like a hot spring…

Misty Wedgemount Lake

There were a couple of huts at the lake and we discovered that one is a bathroom, the other a cabin which sleeps up to eight people.

Hut at Wedgemount
The cabin which sleeps up to eight. We did slip in for a while and I think the space may be a little too small for eight, especially if everyone’s from a different group. We are quite introverted and the thought of sharing the small space with a few other people isn’t very relaxing for us.
Wedgemount Lake campsite
The camp pads would be a great alternative to the cabin if you prefer to have some privacy with a compromise of being out in the elements. I imagine these camp pads would be snapped up pretty quickly during peak season.
Wedgemount Lake campsite
Wedgemount view
As we descended the boulder field from Wedgement Lake.
A slippery descent
The descend felt a little tougher than the climb up as it was steep and the snow was slippery.
Wedgemount descent
Coming down gave me jelly legs.

The return meant descending all the way and it can get tiring for the knees. It started to get dark when we were descending and it was good that we brought our headlamps. There was a lot of undergrowth which would not be very visible in the dark.

Overall, Wedgemount Lake trail was a challenging but satisfying hike.

Categories
Hiking and Camping adventures

Beautiful day hike in Banff: Giant Steps and Paradise Valley

This is not a very difficult hike, but it is a long day hike. You can continue on through to Sentinel Pass-Moraine Lake for about the same out-and-back distance on Paradise Valley to Giant Steps, but you’ll need a shuttle. We did the Sentinel Pass hike on a separate day. This is a highly recommended hike with close to 5 out of 5 stars on Alltrails and ranked as a moderate hike.

You can expect to hike about 20km with a 753m elevation gain on this route. There were some muddy patches during our hike in September 2018. I’ve read of some hikers who have done this trail earlier in the summer and it was less muddy. The campgrounds around the area are closed during the peak summer months due to grizzly activity. So do check with the Banff National Park backcountry office. Always have your bear spray and make noise on the trail, especially if you notice any bear scat or prints.

Bear spray exchange / donation
Also, if I could suggest this to the outdoor shops selling bear spray: Can you please have a refund or exchange policy for unopened and unused bear sprays? It can definitely help reduce the waste of having to throw out the unused bottle. I'm hoping they get picked up by another hiker when we leave them behind at the hotels. Since we aren't able to take them with us if we're boarding any planes.
Here’s Lake Annette, against the backdrop of Mt Temple. I love shoulder season hiking with fewer traffic on the trail but also the autumn views from hikes when the valleys turn into magical wonderlands of brightly coloured hues contrasted against the snowcapped mountain and the blue lakes.

Lake Annette

What’s not to love about this hike? Lake Annette is beautiful as you see in the photos above. Once you hike past Lake Annette, you’ll find yourself traversing through beautiful larches with the open amazing views of the peaks around the valley. I just can’t get over how beautiful it was and how lucky we were to be able to walk through and experience the valley of majestic and massive peaks.

Paradise Valley

The views on this trail were amazing.

Giant Steps

You know when you are the Giant Steps when you see the unique rock formations from the Precambrian period. They get their name as they do look like giant steps. It feels like you are trespassing in the land of giants when you hop and climb from one ‘step’ to another.

The Canadian Rockies are largely composed of sedimentary rock which includes shale, sandstone, dolomite and limestone. The bulk of the geologic formations in the Banff area range in age from the Precambrian to the Jurassic periods (600–145 m.y.a.).

How the weather has changed on the return. It was bright and sunny on the way in and cloudy as we headed out.
The walk back to the trailhead

Categories
Hiking and Camping adventures

Lady Macdonald Teahouse: Good workout on this day hike

There are some great trails around Canmore for day hikes. Lady Macdonald Teahouse trail is one of the hikes near town. Also, it sounds like you could get cakes and tea at the Teahouse – there isn’t one there of course.

We did get a fabulous view of Canmore – one of our favourite towns in Canada. It’s less crowded and less touristy than Banff, but I guess it could get there in a few years. We were there in September of 2018.

About Lady Macdonald trail

This trail is uphill all the way with an elevation gain of about 905m in a short distance. It’s about 4.5km one-way. This is based on the distance up to the abandoned helipad. It can be a rather busy trail depending on the time and day you are there. We were there on a weekday afternoon and it seemed busy, with a few runners on the trail. This trail is difficult enough walking so runners on this trail are amazing.

Starting the hike

You’ll walk along Cougar Creek from the parking lot for about 10 minutes or so. It was dry when we were there, but according to the trail guide, the creek would be on your right on the way in. We took a few breaks on the way up to rest and to enjoy the view.

Lack of signages

Signages or lack thereof were an issue on the Lady Macdonald Teahouse trail as you get higher, since there are a few smaller paths on this trail which can mislead you. However, stay on the main path and look out for the orange tape markings.

View of Canmore town from Lady Macdonald trail
Beautiful view of Canmore and the surrounding area as you pause and look back on the way up
One of our many rest stops on the way up. Look at that view!

As you get closer to the top, the area becomes more exposed and the winds can get pretty strong, so make sure your cap is secure!

View of Canmore town
Looking up from the helipad at Lady Macdonald Teahouse.
The abandoned helipad
Views of the mountain range around Canmore
The view of Canmore as you head down
View of the mountain range at Canmore