Most people spend more time indoors in winter, and most people do not think of cross-country skiing as a form of long-distance travel.
But then Anders Morley is clearly not “most people.”
Morley has embarked on a journey to take cross-country skiing more literally than ever before, and to actually ski across from one ocean to another.
On Nov. 19, 2012, Morley left Prince Rupert at the Pacific Coast and headed out (at that point he had to carry the skis, there being no snow on the coast normally) to ski across to Quebec City and the St. Lawrence, an inlet of the Atlantic.
The distance, should he complete his journey, would be over 4,500 km, and on Dec. 26, Morley was finishing up a few days in Fort St. James, where he had met up with his wife and parents for Christmas.
The trip had practically only just begun, but already, Morely had experienced some trials, tribulations and some touching human encounters.
To begin with, due to a strong focus on keeping his gear light, he had only the one pair of boots, and he needed to walk for quite a long ways in them, but they were made for skiing, not walking.
After 60 km, walking from Prince Rupert towards the snowy mountains, his knee had swelled up and had a sharp pain.
To rest it and make sure it was up for the long journey, he spent over 10 days in Terrace.
Going over the Telkwa Pass, he had hoped for the gas line to be somewhat a clear path, but it was steeper than anticipated, untracked and the bushwhacking slowed him down significantly.
“At one point I just came up against a wall of bush – I had to get out my axe,” he said.
Eventually Morley managed to hack a path he could take his gear through in two smaller loads just to make it through the opening.
He also had an unanticipated creek crossing, and was delayed two days to catch the barge across Babine Lake, because he arrived on a Saturday, but the barge only runs Monday to Friday to move forestry traffic across the lake.
In some more positive experiences, Morley was touched by the kindness of strangers on his trip when on two mornings he opened the door of his tent to find a full bag lunch outside and later discovered it was from some loggers working nearby. Three loggers invited him to dinner and a warm place to stay one night as well, with a hot steak dinner being somewhat of a change from the camping fare he was eating while he snow camped across the Babine and Stuart.
Upon arriving in Fort St. James, Morley once again had a wonderful chance encounter, with local nordic ski enthusiast Paul Inden spotting Morley on his skis.
Inden stopped to meet Morley and tell him about some of the local trails, and then invited him to meet up with him at the pub later.
Excited about Morely’s trip, and connecting on their love for ski travel, Inden invited Morely and his family to join the Inden family for their Christmas dinner.
It was a generous small town invitation, and one more human experience for Morely to write about in his blog, as fulfilling part of his reasons for doing the trip in the first place.
With an entire page and eight separate points on his www.bigski.org website dedicated to explaining his reasons for the trip, a severely abbreviated explanation which does no justice to his thorough examination of the subject would be: Morely wanted to see the country slowly using skis as a mode of transportation, spend time in the wilderness and amongst the people, and raise awareness about the environment and our relationship to it.
And while Morely had obviously been wanting to attempt an epic journey of some kind for some time, his wife, who is a native of Italy, was not so convinced of the trip’s merits.
“I can understand this because he needs to be deep in nature and this is impossible in Italy (where the couple has been living),” said Elena Morely-Mazzacchera, appearing both baffled and worried as she did, looking at her husband. “I try to understand but I’m not sure that I do – it’s too different from my culture.”
Of course, it may not help Morely admits it is not easy to afford to spend five months on such an ambitious expedition requiring highly specialized gear.
He is using Åsnes skis, made by a small company that produces expedition skis, metal-edged and light with special climbing skins.
He also has a double-walled tent, a sled he pulls behind him and a warm sleeping bag.
“I’m spending my life savings,” said Morely, looking directly at his wife.
His parents, however, said they both supported what he was doing, and said it is appropriate, given his upbringing spending time in the New Hampshire wilderness with his father.
“My mother’s famous for not worrying,” said Moreley of his mom.
While not doing the trip strictly for a cause, Morely is asking people wishing to show their support to donate to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society through a link on his site.
For this and an in-depth look at his adventure as well as a map showing where Morely has gone so far, check out his site: www.bigski.org.