Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Need to Get Away

When I started my own business 7.5 years ago, I imagined that I’d be taking at least one major (as in more than two weeks) vacation a year. It hasn’t worked out that way. In all the time I’ve been self-employed, not once have I taken the type of vacation I had envisioned. In fact, I doubt if I’ve taken off much more time than the niggardly two to three weeks per year rationed out to most cubicle drones. Why? Mainly because scheduling a big block of vacation time means turning down at least one lucrative project.

I’ve been feeling rather pessimistic about the state of the planet and have come to the conclusion that it is lunacy to be so focused on making money at the expense of doing what I really enjoy--hiking in the wilderness. There are so many places I'd like to visit and who knows how much longer they will remain pristine? Sure, I can go on day hikes right here in Oregon--and I do appreciate that very much--but what I'm really craving is a rustic (but not too rustic) lodge, set smack dab in the middle of a mountain range where cars are not allowed.

Lately, I have become heartily sick of the sight and sound of cars.* It seems there has been an upswing in my neighborhood of cars that tool around with their stereos cranked up to 11. But it’s not just those thumpy cars that get to me, it’s all cars, from Mini Coopers to Stretch Escalades. I just am tired of seeing them! And the irony is, even though I can temporarily get away from cars by going out for a day hike, I have to get in my car and drive on a freaking huge interstate to get to a trailhead parking lot, which is, of course, full of cars.

OK. I’m PMSing. I know no one would have ever guessed. Clearly, the ideal place for anti-car me to go would be, say, a country like East Timor, which has a GDP per capita of $400. I’ll bet there aren’t too many people there who get in their cars to drive 50 feet to their mailboxes. However, I'm sure the presence of military vehicles and aid organization Land Cruisers--not to mention the abject poverty--would bum me out.

Back to the rustic lodge accessible only to hikers and skiiers and definitely not to cars. The Mount Assiniboine Lodge, located at 7,200 feet, in British Columbia right next to Canada’s “Matterhorn” is such a place. It seems just about perfect to me, in large part owing to the fact that the guy who runs it is this Norwegian gnome-looking guy. (Please do take a moment to click on the link. You won't be dissapointed.) This guy knows what he's doing and is exactly the sort of personage I would expect to see in charge of a rustic lodge way up in the mountains.

A typical day at the lodge goes something like this: Guests get up and eat a hearty bowl of crunchy granola and/or muesli, help pack their own substantial lunches, and leave the lodge for a full day of hiking or skiing led by the gnome or one of his subgnomes. Evenings are spent having a leisurely dinner and chatting in front of a crackling fire. Wine and beer are available. TVs, cell phones, computers, and flush toilets (not so keen on this aspect of it) are not.

Unfortunately, as I further explored the lodge's Web site, I discovered that there is another way to get to the lodge—helicopter. Even though there would be no cars up on the Matterhorn, there would be the serenity-shattering thwack, thwack, thwack of helicopters arriving and departing every few days. This does not please me. Also, even if I hiked the 17 miles in, I would still have to drive 60 frickin' miles from Calgary to a remote helipad (where the trailhead is also located) and park and leave my rental car there for the duration of my stay. How incredibly wasteful.

Also, staying at Mount Assiniboine lodge is no bargain, despite the lack of typical hotel amenities. The "cheapest" option is $200 Canadian/night per person double occupancy. And if I were to go, I’d likely have to opt for a single room at a mind-bending rate of $340 Canadian/night, since B has no interest in such a vacation and the lack of flush toilets would be a deal breaker for the one friend I can think of who would have the money and an interest in an unmitigated hiking vacation. Toting up all the costs, I figure a week’s vacation there would set me back—and these are conservative estimates:

Airfare: $360
Wasteful car rental: $260
Lodging (meals are included): $1632
Tips for gnomes and subgnomes: $50
Tax: $130

For a grand total of $2432 for one paltry week of modified roughing it in the wilderness.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, a thousand times ha!

I guess I won’t be climbing the Canadian Matterhorn or sipping sherry by the fire and communing with gnomes.

So back to square one. All suggestions (except the suggestion that I go backpacking—I don’t do backpacking) are welcome.

*Of course, it’s totally hypocritical of me to feel this way since I own and drive a car. But there you are.


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