It has been two long years since I’ve laced up my hiking boots and trekked though the majestic wilderness, camera in hand. The stillness of nature and the smell of crisp mountain air is currently just that of a distant memory.

At the beginning of 2020, I was full of optimism of great things to come. This was going to be MY year! I was looking forward to kicking some ass on the Berg Lake trail (to redeem myself from my previous failed attempt), I had ample hiking adventures planned to prep myself for the Berg Lake trip, and was absolutely stoked for the launch of a rad (adventure-related) business that I had been working on for quite some time.

Although when the COVID-19 pandemic started, my world came crashing down. Adventures were cancelled for the foreseeable future and I had no way to get the product or supplies that I needed to launch my business (due to the stay at home restrictions from two of my suppliers, and a shift to PPE production from my other). FUCK! All of this planning and hard work down the drain. I was absolutely devastated. I ended up saying “good-bye” to the business due to the pandemic (along with another major issue that arose while waiting it out). It was definitely heartbreaking to decide to cancel what could have been something amazing and potentially life changing, and I am sure I will be grieving this decision for a long time.

Without adventures and photography, who was I? What should I do during my spare time to keep myself occupied? I had been so immersed in creating a life of adventure, I really knew nothing else.

I don’t even think it was half a day into the first “official” day of the pandemic and I was already getting “cabin fever”. For my own sanity, I needed to immediately switch off the adventure seeking part of my brain temporarily. I remember logging into my adventure/photography Instagram account to update my bio to: “Adventures currently put on pause during the pandemic”, I had a tear in my eye. (Okay, full on ugly crying if we are being honest). I did not want to face the reality of whatever this “new normal” was, and hoped that this would be over in a month or so and not be so disruptive. (Well, my hopes were wrong. We are just over two years into COVID-19, and it’s still raging…)

I stopped looking at that Instagram account, I muted people on Twitter (So sorry! Everyone in an outdoor/adventure capacity that I muted has now been un-muted!), didn’t even think of my blog and “forgot” a world of adventure even existed. I absolutely hated that I was doing this, but I had to. The FOMO that I had of others who lived so close to the mountains, the ocean, trails that were not over capacity, anywhere that that they could still adventure safely, or those that just did not give a fuck was too intense. I was envious, and I was angry at the world. So until this whole ordeal was over (or calmed down at the very least by a reduction in cases or an increase in vaccinations) I had to do what needed to be done. Stay home, stay safe and forget this part of my life. (Ugh!)

Trying to find something to occupy myself was a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t find anything that stuck.
I dabbled in digital art, acrylic painting, baking, bought more books that I could ever read, took my bike out on the river valley trails once to try out “mountain biking” (and had a nasty spill that I never tried it again), and watched more Netflix than I’d like to admit.
I also got into balcony gardening last summer (and won first place in Edmonton’s “Balconies in Bloom” contest!) This was the first time we’ve had a balcony in quiet some time. We had to move mid-2020 as we got notice earlier that year that the building we lived in for the past six year was going to be torn down and we needed to be out by the end of October. Cue the stress! Apartment viewings were being done virtually and I was NOT going to decide to rent a new place without stepping into it and feeling the vibes. Thankfully the tenants that were living in our friends place were moving out that summer and they didn’t have anyone lined up to rent the place, so we decided to rent out their condo. Whew! I am so glad that worked out stress free. And not only do we have a balcony, we have a couple new perks here! In-suite laundry, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, just a better kitchen space overall, underground parking, more storage, closer to Josh’s work, fiber optic internet, there is a pool and gym on site – but we’ve only used it a handful of times when you had to book the amenities and was limited to one household at a time.

Eventually the health and government officials had said that heading outdoors was permitted, and everyone decided that they would take up hiking. The traffic heading to outdoor recreation areas was the busiest I had ever seen, vehicles were packing into parking lots like a can of sardines, and when there was no room left in the lots, they were parking anywhere they could with no respect for the environment. Trails were bursting at the seams with a hundred times the usual visitors, it was complete chaos. Needless to say I did not partake in many adventures since 2020. I like solitude (or near solitude) in the outdoors, and seeing record number of visitors to the trails was not something I wanted to experience. (It was busy enough for me on weekends pre-pandemic!)

Another reason I did not want to partake in adventures during the pandemic, and why part of me is still a bit hesitant and cautious is because hospitals are over-capacity, and everyone in health care are stretched beyond their limits. Accidents can happen at anytime when in the outdoors, and while *knock on wood* I haven’t had a situation on an adventure where I, or anyone I’ve gone exploring with has needed immediate medical attention or to call in Search and Rescue, I don’t want to add that extra stress onto someone else to help me out if we need. (Nevermind the long or non-existent ambulance response time, and long ER wait times in our area).

Unfortunately the pandemic is not over yet, but the calling to get back outside and explore the outdoors is stronger than ever. I’ve missed it incredibly, and have made the decision that I will start embarking on adventures within my province this year while still being as safe as I can (distanced from others and masking when I am in an indoor public setting). I am vaccinated, but absolutely do not want to get infected with the virus, even though some call it “mild”. (My allergies can be debilitating enough when I get a flare up or random attack). I am hoping that now everything is somewhat “getting back to normal”-ish again, that this will reduce the amount of people headed out to hiking trails/scenic locations so I can enjoy the outdoors in peace. *Fingers crossed!*

So if all goes as planned and I can keep my allergies and random flare-ups at bay, you will definitely be seeing more of me on here, and on my social media accounts talking about adventure and sharing my photography. I absolutely cannot wait! But first, I need to re-learn how to use my camera and replenish my expired trail snacks and I should be all set! (In all seriousness though, I do also need to re-activate my GPS subscription, get fresh bear spray, and do a check through my 10 Essentials bag and gear before heading out. Safety first!)

Making a comeback after so much time away from adventures, photography, and blogging has given me a moment to mindfully navigate how I want to show up in this space and on social media.
One of the most important changes I want to make is to acknowledge the land I reside on and explore. On every post that I’ve spent a significant amount of time at (exploring, staying overnight, etc) I will have a land acknowledgement. I’ve also added them to all relevant prior posts, and written more about this on my land acknowledgement page.
I will continue to focus on “slow travel” and the importance of fully immersing yourself in your adventures and experiences (as opposed to following the trends of quick trips just to get a few shots for “the ‘gram” to get a bunch of “likes”). I will take the path less travelled, showcase the beautiful places that aren’t on the “Top 5 Places to See in Alberta” (or wherever I am exploring), and I will refrain from making “FOMO culture” content. (If we are mindful about our impact and take care of our beautiful home, these places will be there for you whenever you choose to explore them).

While I spent this time thinking about the future of my blog, I also worked on creating a new visual aesthetic to accompany my vision on both my blog and social media platforms.
I wanted something that reflected “the good ol’ days”, something simple but outdoorsy without getting too retro and campy. I’ve chosen a topography pattern, am using an analog-esque font, a bit of outdoor language for my blog categories (Field Notes = Blog, Thoughts From Base Camp = Journal), and have simplified my website with a new theme, and removed any unnecessary elements, such as the sidebar. It was a lot of work, but I am really happy with the outcome!

Until next time, chase the stoke!
– Tracey

Chase the Stoke Mountains

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