Photo Story: Finding Paradise and Purpose in a Pandemic

Jun 26, 2020
by Jacob Johnson  



bigquotesIrrelevant /əˈreləvənt/ adjective - Not connected with or relevant to something. Not related to what is being discussed or considered and therefore not important.


Sometimes we might choose a path in life, but more often than not, life chooses a path for us. Living full time on the road, going full nomad has meant giving up connections to people and places, and in turn, quietly, unnoticed, becoming less relevant to them. Of course, the sacrifices promise rewards that fairy-tales are made of, freedom, and finding connections with new people and new places. I don't think we chose to be nomads, to live an alternative lifestyle, we simply drifted into a new day to day routine. Through our first roaming winter, as much as we tried to choose a path, the world continually laid out its own path for us to follow. Steered by weather, blown-out tires, mechanical repairs, or whatever the circumstances were, we seldom found ourselves in control of what we were doing nor where we were going. Whenever we start to think we're at the helm, we're quickly reminded that we're just along for the ride. May as well lean back and enjoy it.

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Jedi Freeride Area - Anticipating upcoming adventures, I barely pulled the camera out when we arrived in Moab. Had I known how quickly our time there would come to an end, I would have done things differently. What's that they say about living each day?


The year began with that fairy-tale nomadic freedom of being unsettled, gliding from one paradise to another Shangri-La. In February 2020, we had returned to the United States after spending a couple of weeks backcountry skiing at home in Canada. Now back in the sun and warmth of the South, we wandered from Las Vegas to Lake Havasu City, Death Valley, and Sedona. By mid-March, we were settling into the magic of Moab, surrounded by familiar faces and familiar places, excited for the adventures the coming weeks would bring. If our lives were akin to leaves being gently carried by currents and eddies in a tranquil stream, the world around us was trying to navigate a tidal wave. Self-contained, off-grid, and isolated in the desert we tried to keep our heads blissfully buried in the Southern Utah sand. Despite closing our eyes, covering our ears, and yelling la-la-la-la-la in an effort to drown out the reality, the COVID-19 global pandemic found us. All good things come to an end. On March 17, 2020, Moab and surrounding counties closed their doors to non-essential visitors. As communities, regions, and nations shuttered to travellers, the last chapter of our fairy-tale was read, we turn the page in anticipation of more, but the block letters are clear. The End.

Irrelevant; not related to what is being discussed or considered and therefore not important. Travel, adventure... the words synonymous with the life we were living are suddenly taboo, evoking visceral reactions. What we identify with is distasteful and scorned. Romanticizing destinations and experiences have no relevance to a world on lockdown. We are quiet in the knowledge that to many, who we are, what we do, travel, adventure, seems cocky at best, crescendoing to offensive, or belligerent, in the face of a pandemic devastating people around the planet.

Irrelevant; not connected with or relevant to something. To be vagabonds, not connected to a place, houseless, roamers, wanderers... we find ourselves in the awkward position of being neither locals nor essential anywhere. When being a visitor is met with disdain, where do nomads belong?

Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. We could have fought against the current and pushed our luck south of the border, moving from place to place to find a spot that might welcome visitors. But feeling uneasy, we went with the flow of the stream carrying us back home to Canada. With most of the nation firmly gripped by winter, comfortable options were few, and life steered us to Penticton British Columbia. Crossing the border on March 19th, 2020 we answered two questions; 1. "Where are you heading?" 2. "Do you have people there to get your groceries while self-isolating for 14 days?"

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High Pony - Sun is good for the soul!

Should vs shall and recommendations vs law. After isolating for two weeks, disoriented by recent events, feeling dejected with our fairy-tale coming to an end, and anxiety irrationally peaking from an overdose of news media, we do the unspeakable and go mountain biking. Since our license plate is unmistakably not from the region, we're undoubtedly visitors. Even more obstinate, we're pursuing outdoor recreation while hundreds of thousands post #stayhomesavelives. With somewhat irrational fears of exposing our truck to isolated incidents of vigilantes vandalizing visitors' vehicles in an effort to educate them, we opt for the 8km pedal to the trailhead. The sun, warmth, and the outside world was the medicine we so desperately needed. We managed to get out a few more times before life again chose a different path for us. As if righting the wrongdoings we had committed, our bikes were stolen from not more than ten feet away from us. In a deep pandemic coma where hours, days, and weeks blend together, I heard the grinder cutting through metal, but assumed it was the RV Park maintenance team repairing something, as they had been busily readying the park for the season ever since we had arrived. Worse things could have happened, we were still safe and healthy, and still in the sun and warmth of the South Okanagan. A few weeks later, with cabin fever again setting in, I made a 36hr trip, on eerily empty highways, across a border, past endless illuminated overhead sign gantries recommending against non-essential travel, to get a couple of bikes that we had in storage. Bikes are fun!

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Rainbow - Along for the ride.

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Skull Coaster - Spring arrives in the South Okanagan months before much of Canada.

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Roller Coaster - Sunshine, bikes, and flowers. Not bad ingredients to lift one's spirits.

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Slabs - Above Okanagan Lake there are no bad views!

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Rock Oven - Strong winds and a rare rainy day making it feel a little less oven-like.

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Rock Oven - No shortage of spectacular vistas descending to Skaha Lake below.

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Paddling Skaha Lake in a warm almost tropical feeling downpour.

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Drops a Lot (left) and Flow Coaster (right) - Better known for vineyards and boating, there's amazing biking to be found in the South Okanagan.

Another gentle nudge from life that leads us to a new adventure. When our bikes were stolen, police reports filed, insurance claims made, we started following local social media to see if our bikes would pop up. While we never found our bikes, a post jumped out with a link to a video of the Mascot Gold Mine near Hedley British Columbia. As weeks had gone by, we were now well over our fears of being unwelcome tourists during the pandemic and were taking full advantage of everything the region had to offer. Learning of an old trail descending from near the mines all the way down to Hedley had us salivating.

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Hedley, B.C.

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Sun-kissed ribbon to the sky.

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The abandon Mascot Mine teetering precariously on a cliff high above Hedley.

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Donkey Trail - Riding through more than a century of gold mining history.

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Donkey Trail - Descending over 3,300 ft down the mountainside into the heart of Hedley.

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Hadley Grace Church

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Devil's Thumb - The Wiltse trail network is the opposite of popular. Penticton's mountain bike trails are decidedly quiet. The Wiltse trails see so little traffic that they almost disappear into the landscape.

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Egg Rock - Riding the Wiltse network above Skaha Lake.

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Slabs - Aptly named trail in the Three Blind Mice trail system.

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Slabs - Our last ride with friends before leaving. These two got us groceries while we self-isolated, and made us feel at home for nearly three months of fun in the Penticton sun.

Life takes another crazy turn, a new season, a business, and everything irrelevant is relevant again. As warmer weather came, it brought with it confirmation that programming with the companies we've been so proudly guiding and instructing with for years, would be curtailed. While mountain bike programming around the world was decimated, appetite for it was soaring. Kids and adults were desperate to find the camps and clinics that disappeared when larger companies couldn't pivot with the pandemic. With a massive effort, we suddenly found ourselves offering people what they wanted. Programs were published to the website, and with a single social media post, a summer of mountain bike instruction programs sold out. We're humbled and grateful for the overwhelming response and cannot wait to put some smiles on faces through the summer, instructing where I grew up, in Fernie British Columbia.

Until then, we're savouring the spectacular beauty of the Bow Valley, leaning back, along for the ride, waiting to see where life takes us next.

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Mount Rundle from Two Jack Lake, Banff, Alberta, Canada.


Posted In:
Stories



44 Comments

  • 6 0
 Very nice! Great photos. This is going to make people want to come here even more......way to goSmile
#itsuckshere
  • 2 0
 FACT! #ridehedley drink wine in Penticton lol Means tons coming from a local! Huge thanks Sog Salute
  • 3 0
 Awwwww man, we were meant to be riding the trails around Pentinction in 10 days time.... Cancellation of flights means we're still in Scotland Frown
  • 1 0
 Bummer Matt! Fingers crossed we’re all galavanting around the world again soon.
  • 1 0
 Nice article.
Yes, this is a thing: "anxiety irrationally peaking from an overdose of news media"

And love this too "we're pursuing outdoor recreation while hundreds of thousands post #stayhomesavelives"


Would this area be suitable for young kids? Much grade 2?
  • 3 0
 Two thumbs up, great job !!
  • 1 0
 Way way way to kind Redface Grateful for the kind words ATV Salute
  • 2 0
 I really enjoyed your words and images Jake. Congrats on your summer programming! More. Kids. On. Bikes!
  • 2 0
 Thanks Chris! Wouldn’t have happened without you Salute
  • 2 0
 Stunning pictures of your riding. I need to stop taking cell phone pics that suck.
  • 1 0
 Lots of folks put my images to shame with their cell phones... I take craploads of images and only a small percentage look descent! The saying goes that the best camera is the one you have with you Salute
  • 2 0
 Great photos and write up, Jake.
  • 2 0
 Many thanks Salute
  • 2 0
 Great write up and even better photos.
  • 2 0
 Too true... writing make me cringe, especially if it's about me... hence the effort to keep trying to do it. Sorta like a gap jump that's right at my limit or a bit beyond... I wanna do it, but it's not always the best idea lol
  • 2 0
 @mtnmanjake: I think you're a really good writer mate, keep it up
  • 1 0
 Very kind! Hopefully improving each time I try Redface
  • 1 0
 Far too kind Redface huge thanks!
  • 2 0
 Well done Jake, always enjoy your perspective and photos.
  • 1 0
 Truly appreciated D! With luck we'll get to say hello on the trails soon.
  • 2 0
 Ya Jake! Beauty shots as always!
  • 1 0
 Thanks Mint! Hope your summer is all things amazingSalute
  • 2 0
 Well done @mtnmanjake Touching story and amazing photos!
  • 2 0
 Thanks Gnar Salute
  • 2 0
 Good work Jake, uplifting read with sumptuous pictures tup
  • 1 0
 Truly appreciated Soup!
  • 2 0
 Stunning photos as always Jacob!
  • 1 0
 Is that Corb??? How ya been?
  • 1 0
 Amazing...Counting the hours at my desk at work till the weekend hits even more now, thanks! =)
  • 1 0
 Get some tup
  • 2 0
 Great write up and some killer photos, man.. good read!
  • 1 0
 Oh my goodness! Humbled kind sir... thanks so very much!
  • 2 0
 @mtnmanjake Awesome article brosef. Gave me a proper boost reading that.
  • 1 0
 You da man Relapse Pimp Huge thanks!
  • 2 0
 Nice one
  • 1 0
 Ya you are! Don't tell anyone though.
  • 1 0
 @mtnmanjake: beerrrrrrrwwwhhhhaaaat?
  • 2 0
 Brilliant!
  • 1 0
 Thanks tons Grem!
  • 1 0
 @mtnmanjake: aw man sitting at my desk in work on a grey Irish summer day and all I want to do now is pack the bike
  • 1 0
 #itsuckshere Pretty awesome to see my hometown trails here!
  • 1 0
 massive thanks !!! Always a hint of fear / dread about getting absolutely slaughtered by the locals publishing stuff as an outsider lol
  • 1 0
 @mtnmanjake: I’m all for sharing how awesome this place is. Next time you are out this way there’s a couple other gems to show you.

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