I love the act of photography. Holding a camera and capturing a place, a scene, a feeling, is something that I deeply enjoy. Finding a way to capture the essence of a moment in a single frame is a beautiful process.
But if the point of taking photos is to share those moments and feelings with others, then I’m a terrible photographer. I squirrel photos away on hard drives in my closet. While I love capturing photos, something about sharing them feels tedious—especially if I feel like they could have somehow been better.
Not all vehicles are a good match for all roads. But you don’t know until you’ve tried..
I’m a filmmaker professionally, and a photographer recreationally. But in the interest of being a better photographer, this article is a dump of memories and moments that I’ve got hidden away. Some I’ve posted to Instagram, some I’ve hidden in stories, and many others still I’ve shown a few friends who were there. Sharing these photos is as much an exercise in remembering as it is in storytelling. Hope you like reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Halfway across the Cottonwood trail in Kluane Nat’l Park, when Zanny and I thought we had plenty of time and energy to put a camera on a rock and shoot some photos. Happy? Absolutely. Tired? Getting there.
110km ridden so far, 10km still to go. Trail nowhere to be found. Exhaustion, impossible to wipe off our faces. Trying to convince Zanny to appreciate the sunset, despite knowing we’re hours of dense bushwhacking from camp with dead batteries in our headlamps. Later, we’ll try to appreciate the northern lights while we roll into camp.
I began looking through photos from the past few years in anticipation of local travel. Although it’ll still be a while before we can expect to drive across borders or fly overseas to go mountain biking, it’s looking like a real and immediate possibility that road trips outside of the Sea to Sky are going to be back on the menu.
At home in Squamish, fall means dark, wet days and early sunsets. In the Yukon? Daylight till 10pm, but the leaves glow golden.
This road trip was made possible by Scott Johnson’s beater 1990’s Ford Ranger, that he lent us for a bottle of whisky and some bike parts. He said he wouldn’t take it back with fewer than 2500km on the trip odometer.
Questionable from afar, questionable up close too. But you came this far, so you might as well give it a go.
Riding bikes on the Dempster involves a fair bit of driving, and even more uncertainty. You should be willing to hike a great distance over questionable terrain, to maybe only ride a short section of excellent trail. Bring a camera.
Looking through those images unleashes a ton of great memories, most of them inadequately or incompletely photographed. For me, looking at the photos brings back the whole scene: they only need to serve as a reminder. But to someone who wasn’t there, they’ll paint a less accurate, less complete picture.
But who cares. These images bring back memories of squeezing 14 people and bikes into a single truck for a shuttle lap, passing whiskey around countless fires, and packing up and getting in the car before deciding where to go. Some of these things almost feel nostalgic, following 14 months of pandemic where these types of adventures have ranged from frowned upon to straight up illegal.
These photos represent an awful night’s sleep. A tarp is the lightest shelter you can carry: a couple hundred grams will keep three people dry. But tarps don’t protect from mosquitoes. And on one of the warmest nights of the year, sleeping bags can get VERY sweaty.
Worth it though.
Some trails are more frequently travelled than others, and not always by humans.
Sometimes, it’s all about perspective. Are you running away from the rain? Or are you chasing the rainbow? (Odds are good you’re gonna end up wet either way.)
So partly out of excitement about the increasing possibility of travel, and partly in the spirit of becoming better at sharing my work, I hope this little collection of memories inspires you to go out and make some of your own.
Sunrise is always worth it. Thanks, Jacob Tooke, for wearing red.
Three very different feelings, each excellent in their own ways. Thanks, friends.
The morning stillness of a valley, still undisturbed by the sun. In a matter of minutes, it’ll buzz with life when the sun crests the ridge.
Access to these incredible places is hard fought through a mess of blowdown by small groups of motivated volunteers each year, who cut, dig, and clear their way to treeline before packing it up and shredding back down. The payoff? Fresh tracks and shit eating grins.
Pat Mulrooney’s chainsaw clears a LOT of deadfall each year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how many trees fall across trails each year.
Symptom of a good day.
Thanks for reading. Professionally “Woj” is a filmmaker, whose storytelling work and action flicks span the ski and mountain bike industries. Personal trips and memories like these inform and inspire his work. Without them, he’d be creatively lost. Woj is also an ambassador for Kona Bicycles, and is grateful for their support, whether he’s holding a camera or not.