Finding Focus as a Freelance Writer

Being a freelance writer is awesome – you get to pick when you want to work, do what you want to do, and go where you want to go. As I’ve said before, you drive the bus – or ride the mule!

Being a freelance writer is horrible – work never comes when you need it the most, almost always hits when you’ve planned to take time to travel, and because the paths are endless (fiction, non-fiction, travel, children’s, anthology, blog, e-book…) it can be hard to get traction to get moving. Sometimes, the mule gets a little stubborn and slow.

I don’t set goals or make resolutions in the New Year anymore because they always seem to start off big and fizzle out fast. This year I’m not making plans. Instead, I’m simply digging in to a steep learning curve to get this blog on track.

Hiking Northern Spain. (Photo: M. Kopp)

That doesn’t mean I’m not working on a e-book, still writing children’s non-fiction, and penning travel pieces – I am – but it does mean I’m focusing spare time on becoming a better blogger.

Let’s face it, I suck at consistency when it comes to non-paying projects. My aim is to make this blog a passive income machine. Pay it forward. Possible? Apparently. Over the next few months, I’ll post occasional updates on my progress.

First Steps – or how to get that bus moving again! I am starting slow and learning to walk before I run. Step one: sign up for a little education on the topic. I chose “From Blog to Business” by Wonderlass Allison Marshall. Part of her package is support and additional training opportunities, like a productivity party. Trust me, it’s not fun and games. It is all about sweat equity and it comes with a 25-page workbook. I’ve just finished p. 2 – Celebrate.

Celebrate – it’s time to write down your accomplishments over the past year. I was hesitant at first because it didn’t feel like I had a productive year in 2016. Well, colour me happy! I was pleasantly surprised when I took the time to look back at what I’d accomplished.

Deep thoughts. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Work

  • wrote 9 work-for-hire children’s non-fiction books
  • penned 9 articles for paying markets
  • taught 2 travel writing courses
  • submitted a post to new paying blog market
  • wrote a book review for a paying market

Training

Travel

  • long weekend ski trips to Panorama and Assiniboine, BC and Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  • multiple day trip skis and hikes
  • 6-day mule trip into the canyon of Sierra de la San Francisco, Baja MX
  • month-long hiking trip Northern Spain and Morocco
  • 6-day canoe trip on Bowron Lake Circuit, BC

A little slice of paddling heaven! (Photo: M. Kopp)

And More Travel!

  • 12-day trip to Vancouver Island for family and backpacking
  • 6-day backpack across the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska and the Yukon
  • 6-day trip to Northern BC to spend time with a girlfriend
  • 5-day road trip to Tofino with my daughter
  • 11-day bike/hike trip to southern Nevada and Utah

Write down your accomplishments last year – go ahead, give it a try. Your accomplishments can be related to writing or work or fitness or travel or whatever it is that you do. The act of writing it down not only feels good, it gives you a clearer picture of what actually happened and it gives you “the motivation to keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Bring it on 2017!

Northern B.C.’s Ancient Forest

Ancient Western Red Cedars. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Ancient Western Red Cedars. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Sometimes the best travel finds are those easily overlooked. Take the Ancient Forest Trail, for example. The big sign on Highway16 between Prince George and McBride, BC stands stalwart. We’ve driven by many times, but with miles behind us and many more ahead, we felt a need to get out and stretch our legs.

Slow Start, Big Rewards
The parking lot, overgrown and looking little more than an old gravel pit, is not immediately inspiring. We scan the introductory signage and trail/boardwalk sponsor list and then catch our breath as we head uphill to find Big Tree. Flowering thimbleberry plants quickly give way to Devil’s Club. Scrubby alder disappears in the shadows of ancient cedar trees. Interpretive signs dot the trail, offering snippets of natural history. Bits of boardwalk turn into a steady chain of wooden planks as we climb up into the land of giants.

Over a thousand years old, these cedars are giants. (Photo Credit: M.Kopp)

Over a thousand years old, these cedars are giants. (Photo Credit: M.Kopp)

Naming the Giants
Big Tree measures 5 metres (16 feet) in diameter. It measures its age in millennia. This massive Western Red Cedar is estimated to be several thousand years old. Dubbed Treebeard by local hikers, one of the giants shares its moniker with a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. Perhaps the most important tree is Radies Tree. It’s not the biggest or the most unusual; it’s just an old giant named in honour of one Dave Radies.

In 2005, the graduate student was studying old growth forests. Radies discovered markings on a few of the cedars and learned that the area was to be logged. He spread the word. One year later, the Ancient Forest Trail was built. In 2008, logging plans were cancelled. Thanks D.R.

Near the base of this giant are red survey markings; a tangible reminder of how close we were to losing this special forest. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Near the base of this giant are red survey markings; a tangible reminder of how close we were to losing this special forest. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Let’s take our hearts for a walk in the woods
and listen to the magic whispers of old trees.
~Author Unknown

 

 

Ireland’s Skellig Michael (Part 2)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, distracted by puffins on Skellig Michael. Other travel adventures, work, and life have kept me from finishing this story, but what better time to get back to blogging about Ireland than St. Patrick’s Day?

We agreed that once off the boat, we’d head straight for the monastery dating back to about 700 AD. It is perched on top of the green isle, so we’d save picture ops for the way down. Throw in a puffin or a hundred and out come the cameras.

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A posin’ puffin! (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Shoot! They are too dang cute!

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Pausing for puffins. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

I could fill a dozen posts with puffin pics, but let’s get back to the hike. If you’ve watched the latest Star Wars epic, you’ve seen a little bit of Skellig on the big screen.

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The ascent up Skellig. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

The climb is steep, really steep. So steep that a misstep can – in fact, has been – fatal. But the views…

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Stopped for photos. It’s a long, rocky way down. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

And then there it is, the summit hermitage. Why did the monks choose this remote, storm-battered rock in the Atlantic? What made them stay for over five centuries? What was the best part of life on Skellig?

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Entering the hermitage. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Climbing past the beehive shelters lies the high cross. It’s weathered and worn and full of wonder.

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The High Cross towers over Little Skellig. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Skellig Michael. It’s a walk on the wild side.

Skellig Michael: A Walk on Ireland’s Wild Side (Part 1)

There are places that beckon, that call to a place deep within your soul and say “you must come.” Skellig Michael, off Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is one of those places. It spoke to me. No, that’s not quite right. Skellig Michael didn’t speak, it yelled.

And I listened.

My daughter and I only had two weeks to travel from Canada to Ireland and tour the Emerald Isle for the first time. I really didn’t have any must-sees as long as we worked in time to drive to the Ring of Kerry to find the little harbour town of Portmagee for the chance to board a tiny boat and ride out over the waves to climb 600 stone steps up a cliff to a monastery dating back to 700 A.D.

'Sceillic' means steep rock. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

‘Sceillic’ means steep rock. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Was I crazy? I hate rough seas. Not just a little bit, I’m terrified of rough water. Truth be told, I’m not always that good with heights, either. But I couldn’t help it, I had to go.

The trip out to Skellig Michael (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996) is not a guaranteed event. An average of two days out of seven, it’s simply too rough for locals captains to ply their vessels. With this in mind, and a somewhat flexible schedule, we decided to wait until closer to the date to book our trip. When we did, it was full.

“You can try standby,” we were told.

Skellig Michael tour boats in harbour at Portmagee. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Skellig Michael tour boats in harbour at Portmagee. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Arriving an hour early, we stood in a line that grew to almost 40 individuals – all looking for last-minute passage over to Skellig Michael for the day. There are 12 boats in total running from three locations that hold licences to land at Blind Man’s Cove each day. As the boats began to fill, we stood by the gate and crossed our fingers. Five seats were available for standby.

We were the last two to get on.

Final two seats on the Anchorsiveen. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Final two seats on the Anchorsiveen. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

The captain’s assistant handed out extra waterproofs to cover legs for those of us who hadn’t thought to bring rain pants. The calm inner harbour soon became gentle waves and then rock and roll. Cold, salty water misted faces over and over again. I kept looking back, watching the cape recede. I couldn’t see our destination ahead. My girl smiled and reminded me – yet again – that I was the one who wanted to do this trip.

At the end of the day I asked our captain how he would rate the seas for our trip - with one being the best possible crossing and 10 being the worst. Our trip was only a four! (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

At the end of the day I asked our captain how he would rate the seas for our trip – with one being the best possible crossing and 10 being too rough to go out. Our trip was only a four! (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

As we pulled into the lee side of the island, 11.6 km from the mainland, the waves died down to a rolling swell. Bobbing up and down beside the concrete dock, we jumped on slippery steps and scampered up to terra firma.

Looking back at the landing in Blind Man's Cove on Ireland's Skellig Michael. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Looking back at the landing in Blind Man’s Cove on Ireland’s Skellig Michael. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

I could have kissed the ground – but I was too distracted by the sudden warmth of the sun. Shedding layers, we stuffed our backpacks and began the stroll up the gently climbing paths that led to … OMG… puffins!

Puffins can be seen on Skellig Michael until early August. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Puffins can be seen on Skellig Michael until early August. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Not one, not two, but hundreds of puffins land on the tiny isle to breed every summer – along with guillemots, fulmars, razorbills and…

(Read Part 2 here)

Long Weekend Skiing at Dave Henry Lodge

My friend pulled down a book from the narrow, wooden shelf high above the front window. It was “The Book of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha. The gist of the book is enjoying the little things in life – like waking up in the morning and realizing it’s a Saturday.

Dave Henry Lodge, Valemount B.C. (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

Dave Henry Lodge, Valemount B.C. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Or like standing on the main floor of Dave Henry Lodge, high in the mountains above Valemount, B.C. with two long-time friends and a half dozen or so new acquaintances, brooms and snow shovels and flattened cardboard boxes in hand, trying to coax a pine marten out from behind the indoor woodpile. And trying not to squeal like a little girl as the marten flies past the blockade of plastic ski boots, brooms, shovels, and cardboard and hides under the red and black benches surrounding the long table.

Live trapped and awaiting relocation. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Live trapped and awaiting relocation. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Awesome is walking down the narrow staircase from the sleeping bunks at 6:30 a.m. smelling fresh coffee wafting from the kitchen and seeing thick snow falling outside.

It’s having your guy give up a day of ripping up the slopes with the strong skiing group to find the perfect hero snowpatch for you to yo-yo up and down all day – and then complimenting you on your awesome descent through the thickly treed slope back to the cabin. Plus, it’s catching duplicate ear-to-ear grins on the faces of the lakeside snowshoers and steep and deep skiers at the end of the day.

My guy... (Photo credit: M. Kopp)

My guy… (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

...and I! (Photo Credit: B. Kopp)

…and I! (Photo Credit: B. Kopp)

Could it be just sitting in the low-roofed sauna with a cold beer, a bucket of snow and the irrepressible impulse to throw a snowball at your sauna mates?

Awesome is happy hour beginning with red grape salsa on goat cheese crostini and a guys versus gals game of Sequence, chasing it down with baked steelhead and round of travel and adventure tales and topping it all off with raspberry Linzer torte, Irish-cream laden coffee and a dollop of whip cream.

It’s having one of your new friends point out the silhouette of a hawk-owl perched high on a conifer tree in the middle of the day.

Maybe it’s skimming the tops of two snow-capped passes and banking hard right as the helicopter soars back towards spring.

Passes between Dave Henry and Swift Creek. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Passes between Dave Henry and Swift Creek. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

How was the weekend?  A whole lot of awesome.

  “Because, life’s too short, my friends. Let’s squeeze in as many laughs as we can get.
– Neil Pasricha

A little snowboot downward dog! "“Because, life’s too short, my friends. Let’s squeeze in as many laughs as we can get.”  - Neil Pasricha

A little pre-ski downward dog. Can someone help him back up? (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Where to Stay in Ireland?

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp

Getting excited! (Photo Credit: A. Kopp)

My girl and I are off to Ireland in the not too distant future. She sent me a link today for a possible place to stay – glamping in a country manor garden. ‘Glampers’ receive a ‘glamping box’ on arrival with matches, water, specialty apple juice, a jar of homemade chocolate cookies (sold!), maps of the estate and a torch and head-lamps. Cool!

Yes, it’s time to start the planning phase of where to stay in Ireland. We already know we don’t have enough time to explore Northern Ireland this go ’round. For now it’s a few days in Dublin before working our way west towards Killarney and north toward Galway before completing the loop back towards Dublin.

What are our accommodation preferences?

1. Budget… but does that mean a hostel? Possibly, especially if it includes an element of  number 2.

2. Unique... not a chain… but not so quirky we can’t sleep.

3. A place with intriguing backstory. It could be something about the building’s history or the owner/manager’s background and how they came to be running the place.

Okay travellers, I’m asking for your advice.

Where would you recommend we stay? Why is this the place not-to-be-missed?

Looking forward to your brilliant suggestions!

 

Parks Canada: A Rosy Welcome

Parks Canada initiated a fun program last year called The Red Chairs Experience. The idea was to place red chairs in special places within Canada. Visitors are then encouraged to discover their locations and share their experiences with others via social media outlets. It’s a cheerful way to help spread the wonder of our landscape.

Imagine my happiness when I stumbled across said chairs in Kootenay National Park. The pop of colour mid-winter is a boon. My guy and I were taking the short, but scenic stroll up Marble Canyon’s interpretive trail to the 40 m/130 ft deep gorge of Tokumm Creek to check out ice formations when we spotted this rosy pair.

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

A duo of red Adirondack-style chairs at Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park. (Photo Credit: M. Kopp)

Although I was aware of the program before our discovery, this is the first pair of chairs that I’ve come across. Quick research suggested that 11 of these rosy duos can be found in different locations in Banff, 2 along the Icefields Parkway, 2 in Yoho National Park, 2 in Kootenay National Park, and 6 in Jasper National Park (as well as other parks across Canada).

If You Go: Marble Canyon can be accessed off Hwy 93 (17 km/10.5mi south of the Trans-Canada Hwy). The trail which criss-crosses the canyon is a short 0.8 km/0.5 mi one-way. Note: Stairs can be icy in winter; boot grips recommended.

Where have you discovered the red chairs?