Adventures with Iris: Day 1

Adventure is addictive. Our trip to Mexico proved to be terrifying, rewarding and exhilarating. It was a time of significant personal growth for me as well. I realize in reading back through my blog posts from Baja Bella how much change occurred. As a result, I needed to push my boundaries again and set off on a mini-adventure.

I planned a route to the West Coast of Vancouver Island, a place we visited annually as children. I remember my Dad packing up his blue Camaro with all our camping gear and three young daughters and driving off to Green Point Campground. This is a place that has always been an incredible combination of peacefulness and adventure for me.

Chris and I discussed my solo adventure and decided Iris would be my co-pilot. When push comes to shove, Iris is definitely more ‘mine’ and Bella loves her Daddy!

Thursday morning we set off on our adventure! I was nervous, apprehensive and excited. As I ran through all the possible items I forgot or still needed to pick up, I noticed Iris staring through the driver’s side window, a mix of confusion, terror and wonder on her face. I looked up at a hot air balloon flying across the Prairies. Less than 10 minutes into our adventure Iris reminded me to enjoy the scenery!

Our destination was Kamloops with the intent of camping at one of two Provincial Parks. Camping was a critical element to this adventure plan. Having grown up camping, I can manage my way around a campsite and firepit, but having never done it myself, I wanted the challenge. We arrived at one Campground and drove around the sites, as I tried to convince myself that we could stay there. In the end, I decided that the lack of privacy, tent appropriate sites and bathrooms meant it was impossible. As the sun dipped low in the horizon, I made the call to push to the next park. This was not without risk; After all, I still wasn’t sure that my brand new air mattress would inflate, that the tent I borrowed from my sister had all the pieces, or whether I was even capable of setting up camp myself!

We arrived at the next Park and it was beautiful, nestled at the base of a valley with a river and surrounded by trees. The only thing keeping me from accessing it was the train going by. We waited patiently, then drove around to scope out the sites and chose the perfect one. I whipped the tent up in record time, the air mattress inflated quickly, and Iris settled in well. The Camp host came to introduce herself and brought Iris treats, which helped her get over her discomfort with a new place. I bought a bundle of wood and hid behind the tent to chop it, doubting my wood chopping skills. Chris is always the fire-maker and wood-chopper, so I’ve never had to do it!

I am pleased to say that I am proficient with an axe. My abilities are far from Chris’ level of expertise, but I can split a log! I successfully chopped the bundle with only one injury to myself. (I still can’t quite figure out how I hit my knee with the wood end of the axe). Watching that fire crackle resulted in a serious pride burning in my chest.

It was time to celebrate with hot dogs and scotch! The sun had set and we were ready for our first camp night. I sliced up hot dogs to make ‘crab legs’ but they weren’t as good as when Chris makes them. I wanted to text him, but didn’t have service, so instead focused on savoring the moment. Between checking Iris, moving items, finding the right flashlight and sipping scotch, the fire suddenly went out. Plumes of smoke were all that rose from our fire pit. Re-starting the fire was frustrating but another test of my Survivor skills!

And then the trains started. Lesson learned to always check a map of a camp site to verify proximity of train tracks. There was not one, but two train tracks sandwiching us. Every half hour we had a train rumble by. Poor Iris was petrified of the rumbling, lights and shaking. I decided the scotch would help me sleep….

We cuddled into bed under our layers of blankets and listened to the fish jumping in the river behind us. The full moon lit the sky and we could see the Big Dipper out our front door. It was gorgeous.

But freezing cold. Iris sat keeping watch out the back door. Finally I convinced her to cuddle up under the blankets for body heat. It was about 2 hours before I admitted that we were intolerably cold. I made the call to move into the truck. Of course those who know me will realize that I can be paranoid, so won’t be surprised that I only ran the truck for short periods, with windows open to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. This lasted about half an hour before I admitted we wouldn’t make it through the night. We drove up the hill to get cell service and searched for the nearest hotel. I wasn’t sure we could even get out of the campground, as they advertised that the gates were locked at 11:00pm. I began to plot our escape to warmth, but were relieved to find the gate wide open for our escape. Once we had cell service I called the nearest town 15 minutes away to confirm someone was still at the hotel front desk for when we arrived.

Garth Brooks blared during our drive down a twisty, dark highway. We made it to Cache Creek, BC and realized the hotel that we had called was in fact above the town bar. Iris and I cruised past another where we found the parking lot crowded with guys smoking in the parking lot. We stumbled upon another that had plenty of cars in front, and was a single level motel. Winner!

Many years ago Chris and I stayed in the Blue Spruce Hotel in Colorado. It became our base line of terrible accommodations. Robbie’s in Cache Creek has now taken the title. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken some cues from the sign made out of Christmas lights, the highway through the parking lot, or the fact she told me I could turn the heat on when I got into the room. I blame my poor decision making skills on the mild hypothermia or lack of sleep.

I’ll spare the details, but it wasn’t pretty. Sadly, I did not capture the interior glory in photos; only one exterior shot from the next morning. Thank goodness I had my own sheets and bedding in the truck, that the heat worked and that it had running water and a toilet. By this point I was confident I had mild hypothermia and began googling treatments and diagnosis. Once again, those who know me will not be surprised by my Web MD paranoia.

We slept for only a few hours, my mind racing with thoughts. Should I go home tomorrow? Had I made the right decision? Was I crazy for doing this? Should I be driving to the Hospital to deal with hypothermia? Was I suffering confusion due to hypothermia, or lack of sleep?

In hindsight, this was one of those intense learning experiences. I was forced to be the sole decision maker, accountable for my choices. As many times as I asked Iris what she thought, she couldn’t voice her opinion. There were tears, there was massive anxiety and there was considerable fear. In the morning I was torn between turning for home and abandoning the adventure or pushing forward.

After a serious conversation with my husband and a massive break down (emotional, not mechanical Carm!) I made the decision to keep going. This was a time to learn about the importance of checking maps for train tracks, not staying at motels whose signs are made of Christmas lights and never sleeping in a tent when the temperature is 2 degrees. I also learned some key facts that will enable me to diagnose and treat hypothermia in the future. Instead of letting these ‘life lessons’ get me down, I chose to embrace them and keep going.

After a few hours rest, we returned to the campground to tear down. I was determined to make breakfast in order to prove to myself I could, so fired up the camp stove to make a pot of coffee and oatmeal. I’m proud to say I lit the stove and boiled water. Sometimes you’ve got to take the small wins on the road back to the top! It was actually quite a lovely experience as I sipped my coffee and watched Iris take her aggression out on a tree root. My spirits were once again high and I was thrilled to be on this adventure.

One thing is for certain; I never could have done this without Iris. Every step of the way she was by my side. Whether we were on the road, in the tent, back of the truck or in a dive hotel, she was snuggled into me. She followed me in every decision I made and put her full trust in me. Even when she was shivering next to me, she trusted me. It was a moment in our relationship that I’ll never forget; that complete and utter trust and unwavering love. Knowing this little creature placed all her faith in me was huge. For the rest of this adventure, I vow to repay her by trying to emulate her patience, trust and love!

It also makes me realize how anyone who says “it’s just a dog” has never experienced that sort of bond. I feel badly that someone would go through life having missed out on this incredible gift dogs are willing to give to us.

Friday included an insane drive over the mountains to Whistler with 15% grades, 180 degree turns, 20km/hour speed limits and a few gasps! Seeing a “Warning: Slippery When Wet” sign just before turning a blind corner onto a single lane wooden bridge over a river got old pretty fast. It was a nail biter, but absolutely gorgeous. We made it safely to Whistler and checked into The Summit, a beautiful hotel in the Village. Iris and I highly recommend it for anyone travelling with their dog! We lounged on the King bed with the fireplace on, drinking red wine and being grateful for warmth! We strolled through the Village and I was so proud of how she behaved. Yes, she barked at every bike, tried to show a Beagle puppy who was boss and lost it on the Cow’s Ice Cream cow statue, but overall she triumphed. A Whistler hipster even said “nice dog” as he walked by.

The past 24 hours could be classified as “Intense Character Development”. It pushed my boundaries repeatedly, and forced me to choose giving up or pushing forward. I am proud to look back and say that each time I chose push forward. As a result, I can feel that sense of accomplishment and growth knowing the challenges we’ve faced, and the way we coped.

If this is what the first day has brought, I look forward to seeing what else is in store for Iris and I as we continue our adventure!

For tonight, Iris and I are enjoying a king size bed, heat and some cuddles!

#travelwithdogs #adventure #roadtrip #lifelessons

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