50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Recap

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With Dawn Nelson at the Polar Bear Swim – blame her, she started all of this!

The dust is starting to settle after my birthday and the completion of 50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year. I’ve heard congratulations from many of my friends, and even people I don’t know. I’ve heard of how my adventures have inspired others to try new things, and even some people planning their own list of crazy things before a significant birthday. It’s amazing how we can have an affect on people just by being ourselves, and sharing our lives.

In the past year I faced some of my fears head on. Think dating… and trapeze school! I may not have conquered them, but I stared them down and made them just a little smaller, and a little less powerful. Each time I try something that fear monster will keep getting smaller – I definitely confirmed that in the past year.

The Scream

The Scream

I did things in the past year that were just silly, or spontaneous like driving to Kelowna to do an escape room, or getting my nose pierced with Krista, Monica, and Jody – I definitely didn’t see that coming. These are the things we hear about and think, “Gee, that sounds like fun…” but then we get to busy and never do them. I’m happy to say I did them… and more! What I discovered is looking at the world in a certain way becomes a habit. If I saw the opportunity for adventure I usually took it, and I put it out there for others to join me. The cool thing is, they often jumped at it, and then we were all a little more spontaneous or silly.

When I went back to Meadow Lake, SK, in the summer with my mom I went back to the place where I was born. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. It’s not like I was born somewhere exotic. But I’d thought about it for so many years and found all kinds of lazy reasons not to do it. We went, and it was a good thing for both of us, facing the past and the future. I’m so glad we took the time to go.

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I did some things alone, and they were magical. I hiked the Berg Lake Trail, having never done an overnight backpack before. I spent time with myself and discovered not only a beautiful outer landscape but a special inner one as well.

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On the Berg Lake Trail – my first glacier

Friends and family jumped at the chance to get crazy with me, and several jumped multiple times. I had enthusiastic bridesmaids for the Rock n’ Roll 10K, a group of crazy people did the Conair plane crash hike with me. Amanda flew to Florida with me, ran her first half marathon (actually ran her first anything), and rode rides with me while risking the fact that I could very well throw up on her. Krista, Monica, and Jody (all repeat Crazy Thing participants) even ate bugs with me… that is true friendship! And I can’t even count how many people generously supported me by helping me raise an insane amount of money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand while they enjoyed “dressing the fairy”. Dawn Nelson, the crazy woman who suggested my 50 Crazy Things in my 50th year, even did the Polar Bear Swim with me and together we encountered magic we truly weren’t expecting. There were also countless people who supported me in the best way they could – by cheering me on, reading the blog posts, and enjoying my frequent episodes of discomfort. Support comes in many forms and I recognize and appreciate all the support I have in my life.

I want to thank all of the people who helped me, participated with me, and cheered me on. I love all of you.

The biggest thing I learned, or maybe remembered, is that life rarely happens when you’re sitting on the couch looking out the window. It happens out there. Habits are meant to be broken, and rebuilt as new habits. Bars are meant to be raised. Fears are meant to be faced.

What next?

I plan to continue my crazy things – just not with a deadline. I plan to live a crazy life. There were a lot of things I couldn’t fit into my year. The list is still there and it is growing. I will keep blogging about it because people seem to enjoy reading about my discomfort.

My whole reason for starting this journey was to stop the trends I saw solidifying in my life. My life was getting smaller… I’m stopping that. I was saying no more than yes… I’m stopping that too. I want a life that is richer, and one that is filled with more great adventure and more great people. My next 50 years are going to be very busy!

Oh, and to answer that question AGAIN… I am still not jumping out of a perfectly good airplane or tying an elastic around my ankles and jumping off a cliff! Crazy… not stupid!

The list

So here it is, the complete list of my 50 Crazy Things with links to each of the blog posts. Thank you all for sharing this with me. It’s been a wild ride and I’m only getting started! Who’s in?

#1 – Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon
#2 – Ride a roller coaster without throwing up
#3 – Fund raise for a charity
#4 – Run a 10K and a Half Marathon back to back
#5 – Run half marathons on each coast in the same year
#6 – Join the circus (Trapeze School)
#7 – Embrace Obstacles (Foam Fest)
#8 – Walk above the water (Suspension bridge)
#9 – The Berg Lake Trail
#10 – Return to the place where I was born
#11 – 10X up the steps to the lighthouse in Cochin, SK
#12 – Let my cousin drag me around a lake while she tries to kill me
#13 – Hike to the Conair plane crash site
#14 – Go on a date
#15 – Beat the Blerch – Get out of control
#16 – Ride on a motorcycle
#17 – Wear a wedding dress
#18 – The Moustache Miler – spontaneous mingling
#19 – Drive home in my pajamas
#20 – Night skiing away from civilization
#21 – Do a virtual run
#22 – Follow intuition and rediscover magic
#23 – Go out for New Year’s
#24 – Polar Bear Swim
#25 – Make a snow angel
#26 – Give blood again
#27 – Eat a bug on purpose
#28 – Ski the hills without putting the brakes on
#29 – Learn to paint
#30 – Climb a tree
#31 – Go ice skating
#32 – Go rock climbing
#33 – Get passionate (Passion Party)
#34 – Snowshoe race
#35 – Improve at a sport (Cross Country Ski Lesson)
#36 – Downhill Skiing
#37 – Have headshots taken by a professional photographer
#38 – Let a photographer do a portrait
#39 – Get a tattoo
#40 – Visit an Escape Room
#41 – Run a half marathon without training – just because
#42 – Volunteer somewhere scary
#43 – Ladies’ choice (get my nose pierced)
#44 – Ski a half marathon
#45 – Write a screenplay
#46 – Street photography
#47 – Photograph star trails
#48 – Take a selfie every day
#49 – Self portrait
#50 – Turn 50 with a smile on my face

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #13 – Hike to the Conair Plane Crash Site

Cabin Lake

Cabin Lake

A couple of years ago a group of us in two pickup trucks drove on the worst road I’ve ever been on to get a Gold Country geocache at Cabin Lake. We were trying to finish the first series of Gold Country geocaches and this was one of the hard ones to get. The cache itself is pretty easy to find and Cabin Lake is a beautiful spot. The problem here is THE ROAD FROM HELL!

Leaving from Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge, one of my favourite roads by the way, the road to Cabin Lake starts off innocently enough – a 25 Km winding gravel road that is well maintained, dotted with lovely little ranches and acreages. The road climbs up into the mountains before reaching a Y turnoff. This is where things get ugly. The last 5 Km to Cabin Lake is by far the worst road I’ve ever been on… no… seriously… THE WORST!

It took us a good hour to travel 5 Km. Several times we had to get out of the trucks to see how we could get through difficult spots – the whole road was difficult. One time we had to all stand on the back bumpers of the trucks so the front bumpers would clear the gullies we were driving through. At times we got out and added rocks so at least three wheels could touch at once. My mother swore she would never travel on that road again (and she has remained true to her word). On that trip we found the geocache and then split up. We (John Buchanan, Yvonne Odber, Sophie Odber, Mom and Me) were going to get another harder Gold Country cache at the Cornwall Hills forestry lookout near Ashcroft. Rejean and Alisa, in the other truck, were going to do a hike to a nearby plane crash site. We all wished we could do both, but we chose Cornwall. Still, the plane crash was in the back of our minds but thanks to that road we pretty much ruled out ever going back.

When it came time to pick things to do for my 50 Crazy Things the plane crash hike was on my list. I sent John a message asking if he and Ava (his truck) would like to go back to Cabin Lake to do the hike. He flat out said no. Then he sent another message saying, “Ava was kicking up her heels/tires, begging to go… I guess we’re going”.

It was crazy to do that road once having heard what it was like. It was absolutely nuts to go in again KNOWING what the road was like.

So, on August 23rd we loaded up in two trucks and nine of us drove up into the mountains looking for adventure and the wreckage from a plane crash. In Ava was Yvonne Odber, Sophie Odber, and John. In the other truck (no name) was Landon Dick, Jaydan Dick, Krista Dick, Jody and Gerry Lenarcic, and me. Smoke from fires in Washington State made the trip hazy and in a way it set the mood for the haunting journey we were about to make.

The Road
Oddly enough, the road was definitely not as bad as it was the first time. Sure, the trucks were totally pinstriped by trees and brushes by the time we got back (that’s how you know you had a good time in the bush), and at times it felt like we were on a roller coaster, but we never had to get out and stand on the bumper so I say that was a win. It didn’t take us an hour this time, maybe 45 minutes, and then we were at the lake where we were surprised to see multiple campsites in use by campers driving vehicles that had also survived the road. I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression, though. It’s still the worst road I’ve ever been on!

The Hike
A 10 Km hike (round trip) to the plane crash site on Stoyoma Mountain, the trail is not terribly difficult or dangerous.

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Figuring out what trail we’re supposed to be on

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The smoke creating a haze at Cabin Lake

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Cabin for rent at Cabin Lake

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Someone called these Hippy Sticks

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Jaydan – King of Balance

Leaving from the lake we climbed further into the smoke through alpine meadows, catching spectacular views that were enhanced by the smokey sky. The wildflowers that paint the landscape with bright colours in alpine regions were nearing the end of their season but still spectacular. The scenery was magnificent. Eventually we found ourselves above most of the smoke in a rocky valley along the slope of Mt. Stoyoma.

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The smoke in the valley.

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The Crash Site
Our first view of the plane crash site came as we left a grove of thick trees that opened into the exposed valley. What seemed like small pieces of metal were glinting in the sun on the slope of the mountain. I had a hard time seeing it at first, it looked like a natural part of the rocky slope. As we got closer, though, the size of the pieces became evident.

Even with a zoom lens the wreckage looked small from a distance.

Even with a zoom lens the wreckage looked small from a distance.

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Landon, a volunteer firefighter, surveying the landscape.

We stopped in the valley and ate lunch on some large boulders before we picked our way up to the wreckage. Arriving at the wreckage, which is strewn in large and small pieces down the mountainside, the size became much clearer. The plane was large, and the scope of the debris field gave us a chilling idea of how violent the crash had been.

Krista and Jaydan

Krista and Jaydan

This was when I realized how grateful I was that I was with the people I was with. There was no joking, or disrespectful talk when we were at the wreckage. It wasn’t necessarily somber, but it was reflective. A man had died here, and he did it providing a service that people who live in BC’s interior rely on every summer. Living in a world of trees and hot, dry desert summers we are nothing without firefighters.

Conair #24
The wreckage we were visiting came from Conair #24 – a Douglas A/B-26 Invader that had started out in the US Air Force. Later, in 1957, it was registered as a civilian aircraft after it was sold to a private company. In 1971 it was purchased by Conair Aviation of Abbotsford where it would be used to fight forest fires. On August 10, 1971, it crash landed in Prince George, but survived to fly again.

This was Conair 24, the same wreckage we hiked to on Stoyoma Mountain.

This was Conair 24, the same wreckage we hiked to on Stoyoma Mountain.

Conair 22 in action

This is Conair 24’s sister plane, Conair 22, in action.

Three years later, almost to the day, on August 11, 1974, pilot Eric Yuill was flying Conair #24, fighting forest fires in a particularly bad summer for fires in the BC interior. By the time Yuill took off that day it was already one of the most tragic summers in the BC Forest Service firefighting program. On August 2nd, while fighting a fire 13 Km southeast of Ashcroft, a DC 6 Tanker (number 41) crashed killing all three crew members on board. Within 9 days two Douglas A26’s crashed, killing their pilots. The second was Eric Yuill. The wreckage of Yuill’s plane is still in its resting place on Stoyoma Mountain. According to one person who recalled the incident, Yuill’s plane wasn’t found for three weeks after the crash. I have no idea if this is true or not. But either way, it’s very sad.

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Living in Kamloops we see the tankers and helicopters flying in and out of the airport all summer. The distinctive motors are sounds we connect with heat, wind, and the smell of smoke that hangs in the valley. In a way it begins to look routine. Planes fly out with retardant or water, planes fly back empty. No big deal… till one doesn’t return.

I couldn’t find any more information about Eric Yuill. If I do find some, and I’ll be looking, I’ll post an update here.

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Why was this crazy?
Well, the road, for one thing, and the journey for another. Seriously, who would go on that road twice? That’s just wrong! But the journey… that’s another thing. How often do we say, “Oh, we should do that someday” and never do? Even when that thing is in our own back yard? That’s what makes it crazy. We can talk all we want about the cool things we want to do, but how many times do we actually do them?

Would I do it again?
Oddly enough, I would. If / when I buy a 4X4 vehicle then the ability to make it on the road to Cabin Lake will be my new minimum standard when I make my choice.

Huge thanks to John Buchanan (and Ava), Yvonne Odber, Sophie Odber, Landan Dick, Krista Dick, Jaydan Dick, Jody Lenarcic and Gerry Lenarcic for joining me on this adventure!

For more information:
Pictures and a brief history of Conair #24
http://napoleon130.tripod.com/id302.html

The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (Eric Yuill’s page)
http://www.cfff.ca/EN/fallen/detail/?id=677

History of Aviation in the BC Forest Service: A pictorial account for the BCFS Centennial November 2011 – Part 2 : Air Tanker Operations
http://www.bcfs100.ca/docs/pdf/1/481.pdf