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Art, Adventure and Friendship: Things you wake up for

Hiking to Jiaming Lake has been on my “list” for some time. I recently found myself back in Taiwan, reeling from a relationship gone sour, then turned scary. I’ve noticed myself looking for any mental or physical escape possible from the lingering anxiety left over from the events that took place. Whether it be eight-hour bike rides, long hikes, listening to podcasts or finding something, anything, to learn.

Enter Danielle – Danielle is an incredible, multi-talented artist. We met in high school and bonded over our mutual love of partying, yes, partying, and lot’s of it. Luckily, as we have aged, we’ve developed other facets of our personalities and have, mostly, left those days in the past. We’ve had many interesting, exciting, sad, dangerous, and sometimes reckless experiences together. We’ve lived together, lived separately in the same city, different cities, provinces or countries, talked every day or not for months.

Back In 2012, I packed up and very suddenly moved myself to Taiwan in search of something completely different, and you bet I found it. I remember being so shocked by the erratic, crowded, driving and families of five on scooters with no helmets, that I was incapable of continuing the conversation I was having with a friend while standing on the street. Six months after moving overseas, Danielle joined me and stayed after I left the country in 2015. In the following five years, we only saw each other for a month when she briefly returned to Canada. Still, throughout the years, I’ve maintained that Danielle is my “best friend” and one of the very few people I feel completely comfortable and myself around.

8-year-old Danielle, playing "starving artist. J. Perrault, 1996
Meet the Artist – An audio intervew with Danielle about her art, inspiration and process.

Over the last five years, I have watched Danielle’s talent grow from afar. I was lucky enough to attend her first exhibition before leaving Taiwan and sad to have missed the following ones. Any chance I get, I share her art with others, exclaiming, “this is my best friend!” “her art is amazing,” “LOOK!” Some might compare me to an overzealous grandmother. The dedication, focus and effort I see put into her craft is inspiring on so many levels – in short; she makes you want to work harder at everything

So what does Jiaming Lake have to do with this story?

Jiaming Lake is the second-largest high alpine lake in Taiwan, and on many Taiwanese people’s bucket list as a “once in a lifetime” trip – a place they must visit before dying.

“Jiaming Lake is a mountain lake located about 3,310 meters above sea level on the southeastern of Sancha Mountain, and second only to the Cui Pond in Hsuehshan. It is also called the Egg Pond because of its almost elliptical outline while climbers also call it Angel’s Tears because of its clear blue water. According to the Central Geological Survey, Ministry of Economic Affairs, debris along in the banks of Jiaming Lake contains glassy materials from high-temperature explosions, which puts the Jiaming Lake’s formation to tens of thousands of years ago from the meteorite impact. However, another theory believes that the lake was formed by glacial erosion since the lake has no water source from mountains streams or creeks, yet stays full all year round” – (以力數位行銷有限公司).

Our moody view of Jiaming Lake, Taiwan. B.Warder, 2020

Before I left Taiwan in 2015, Danielle and I had planned to hike the Jiaming Lake trail, but life got in the way, and the plan fell by the wayside. Five years later, we found ourselves plotting this trip again, and within a matter of a few weeks, permits in hand, we headed to the mountains. This time, we had different reasons for the trip. I was still drowning my sorrows in any distraction possible, and Danielle was in search of inspiration, packing along with her a professional camera setup, drawing supplies and a mini set of watercolours for reference paintings.

We spent some time taking photo in the hemlock forest before hitting the alpine. B.Warder, 2020

Though the hike is only 26 km in length, it’s quite rugged and steep at times, so we found ourselves on a three-day itinerary to complete the trip.

A snapshot of the trail entrance map. B,Warder, 2020

Day One

A few days before the trip, there was a road closure on the ONLY road to the trailhead- this meant we had to enter the road from the opposite side of the island, turning our 4.5-hour drive into an 8-hour drive. We were not to be dissuaded by the long drive. Danielle and I had the bright idea that getting up and leaving at 4 am would guarantee we would make it to the first hut by 3 pm, leaving us time to relax and acclimatize to the altitude change. Nope – after 17,000 pit stops, half a million photos, a trip to “Moon World,” a stop in a traditional market, and a horrible drive up a dark, narrow mountain road in whiteout fog, we made it to the trailhead at 7 pm. We hiked up to Xiangyang Cabin on a pitch-black trail, dodging spider webs and praying to the gods that the huntsman spiders that lurk in the trees wouldn’t descend upon us.

Day Two

A quick snack break after our climb into the alpine. B. Warder, 2020

After a sub-par sleep in a crowded cabin, full of snoring hikers, we woke up and decided to take our time eating breakfast and having coffee. In comparison, almost all of the Taiwanese hikers had left at 2 am, and the later crowd was gone by 6 am – we left around 9 am, right when a large group was descending from the second cabin and stopping by to have a mid-morning snack. The hike up to the next cabin was challenging. The trail was rocky and steep, and the weather was questionable. We had hoped for sunny mountain vistas, but we were greeted with wind, fog and rain. However, the elements gave the trail a magical, surreal feel that a sunny day could never replicate.

The second hut - Jiaming Cabin. B.Warder, 2020

After several stops for water and snacks, we arrived at the second hut – Jiaming Lake Cabin. We dropped our heavy bags and tent, had a quick lunch and set off to complete the remaining 10 km roundtrip to the lake. It rained, the wind blew, but it was beautiful.

The gorgeous ridgeline leading to the lake. B.Warder, 2020

The lake itself is more of a puddle, but the journey is where the attraction lies. Rugged cliffs, green grasslands and a beautiful mountain ridgeline piercing the clouds made the bad weather feel a bit less bad. We were exhausted after the last 10km leg, and were thankful for a hot dinner and to collapse into our tiny tent and sleep.

Day Three

Worst sleep ever. Maybe it was the spicy ramen or the slight slant of the ground under our tent, or the fact we were both freezing cold. I awoke to find I had had some mystery allergic reaction, and my face was swollen up, with one eye barely opening. I rolled over and said, “Danielle, is my face puffy?” Being in a bad mood from lack of sleep and generally not the friendliest in the morning, Danielle replied, “yup,” rolled over and pulled her sleeping bag over her head. I immediately had a date with the bottle of Benadryl I had brought along.

Something isn't quite right here... B.Warder,2020

We emerged from the tent to find it was sunny! Danielle finally had a chance to break out her drawing and painting materials and completed a reference painting.

After a long, cold night, the sun finally came out. B.Warder, 2020

After another long breakfast, we headed down the mountain, followed by a few families of monkeys, yelling at us to stay away from their young, and were presented with the amazing mountain views we had hoped for.

This view, without words, sums up all reasons to go hiking. B. Warder, 2020

We managed to get off the awful mountain road before dark. It was just as awful of a dive during the day, and I had several moments where I had no point of reference and thought I might be driving off the side of the mountain – the thick fog was how I imagined purgatory would feel.

Insert Driving Video Clip

On the way down, we talked about how tough and varied experiences – like big mountain hikes, moving away from family, life, financial or relationship troubles – can work to increase your confidence as a person, inspire you, and grow your capacity to feel confident in living each day and chasing your dreams; whether in art or any other passion. A few weeks back, Danielle and I had a conversation about how you should spend your time developing the things that “get you up in the morning” and that at the end of the day, you should ask yourself, “did I fully live this day?” We both agreed that during this trip, we fully lived each day. However, I’m still working on working on finding that “thing ” that gets me up at the crack of dawn.


以力數位行銷有限公司. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020, from

Being Human

What does it mean to “be alive?”

Since the beginning of time, humans have been asking this question, but there has yet to be a definitive answer. Life is a series of moments, both big and small. Sometimes the small moments stick with us longer than the seemingly “big” ones—the in-between moments. Maybe you are walking down a street listening to music, and a song comes on that, in a flash, transports you to a different time, space, mood, and revives long-forgotten feelings. Or, you’re feeling disappointed because you think you have finished your cup of coffee, only to realize you still have half a mug, and this is the best part of your day. On the other hand, maybe it’s a big moment, and you’ve just climbed a mountain you dreamt of your whole life, won a medal or award, written a book, or found “true love.” All of these moments matter, and the sum of them = Life.

What makes you feel alive?

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