Meet Emanuel Smedbøl and Megan McLellan, British Columbia natives known globally for their Instagram accounts @EmanuelSmedbol and @LittleBrownFox. From hiking epic mountains to finding the perfect campsites, this adventure couple knows how to enjoy their own backyard on nothing more than a student’s budget. Learn more about these two inspiring creatives in the interview below… (BONUS: Read till the bottom to enjoy the ultimate three-day British Columbia road trip itinerary created by Megan and Emanuel)
Caley Vanular: Firstly, tell me a little about yourselves? Who are you and where are you from?
Emanuel Smedbøl: I grew up in a little rural area in BC’s mountainous West Kootenays. It was a pretty idyllic place and my thoughts keep going back, and I try to get back for a month every summer. I first moved to Victoria for university, then later Vancouver to do a diploma in graphic design. I loved the city almost immediately — it seemed so big, so mysterious to a small town kid like me. The city has shrunk over the years as I got to know it better, and I carved out a little space for myself and my routine. But still, such a wonderful city.
Megan McLellan: I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. My parents thought that travel was an equally important form of education as school. So, I got used to leaving class and going somewhere with my family every few months. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how hard my parents worked to be able to do that with my family, but it definitely left an impression. I’ve prioritized travel and getting outdoors ever since. But as much as I love to travel internationally, British Columbia definitely still feels like home to me. I love how you can drive four hours in one direction and BC is a hot dry desert. Then, drive four hours in the other direction and BC is a lush wet rainforest with towering trees and a roaring ocean.
CV: The contrast of your backgrounds is so interesting. How did you two end up meeting?
ML: We met at a local Vancouver watering hole, the ANZA (Australian New Zealand Association) Club.
ES: It was pretty awkward TBH… we’re both quiet people and I was actually there with someone else. But that person disappeared and Megan liked my sweater and just sidled up and told me so and that was that. Actually not really. It took a lot of texts and cancelled plans before we hung out again. It took some work but it was worth it.
CV: What do you do for work that allows you to travel so frequently on the weekends?
ML: We both work as photographers (Emanuel also as a graphic designer) and are fortunate enough to sometimes get to travel through that. But we also just take any chance we get to go away, be it an overnighter close to home or a week long road trip.
CV: Megan, as a student at SFU, what are your tips for other students looking to go on more adventures?
ML: Haha, I actually craft my schedule so that I take as many classes as I can in as few days possible. Probably not the best plan for everybody. But if I can take four classes in two days it means I have the whole rest of the week off to potentially go away. But I’ve also been working on my degree off and on for so long now, I’ve taken a lot of semesters off to work or travel. Getting outside somehow always has a way of putting things in perspective, so I view making time for it as important as getting any assignments or essays done.
CV: Emanuel are you a freelancer? How do you find balancing work and play?
E: I worked full time with a little non-profit straight out of college for a couple years, paid off the student loans, then took a summer off to go on an extended bicycle trek. Going back to work was a little more difficult after that… but freelancing has opened up possibilities quite a bit. I often try to work evenings or weekends so I can be out exploring or camping during weekdays when it’s quieter. There are lean years with more play than work but so far it’s worked out ok. These days, I’ve been adding adventure photography to my list of services, so that helps.
CV: Your blog Field & Forest is awe-inspiring; can you tell us how the blog came to fruition?
ML: Hey thanks! It was something we had been thinking about doing for a while. We wanted to create a space dedicated to showcasing photos that told a narrative, and share some of the stories that make adventure feel more approachable, more doable and more human.
Our trips are rarely perfect expeditions and a lot can go wrong. When possible, we wanted to share that side and make it feel more attainable and hopefully inspire other people as well. We want to let people know you don’t need to plan everything down to a T, but to always be as prepared as possible for the real elements of the wilderness. If you forget your tent (in the summer), it’s ok: you’ll get a couple bug bites but you’ll feel that fresh forest wind all night. You just might maybe potentially be better for it.
ES: We eventually started soliciting submissions and sharing other people’s adventure stories on a little side blog called The Journal. It’s been a very rewarding experience. There are so many great places to explore.
CV: On Field & Forest you mention that you wanted to create a space for people who, “aren’t extreme athletes or wealthy or whatever to have a good time outdoors” what inspired this?
ES: It was mostly inspired by feedback we got whenever we went on trips. When we rode our bicycles from Vancouver down to Mexico in 2010, people were just floored. We constantly got questions about how long we trained for or what type of fancy bikes we had, when in reality we pretty much just hopped on our old 10 speeds one day and went for it. When you think about it as a whole, yeah it was a long trip, but we took it just day by day, hill by hill, and it was so manageable. We wanted to share that you can make do with what you have — you don’t need any fancy stuff or a ripped bod or anything. Just a weekend off, some shoes, a sleeping bag, some snacks and a water bottle and you’re good. You can go virtually anywhere. Though maybe a boat would be good too.
CV: Have you two always been into photography? Did Instagram have anything to do with your interest in Photography?
ES: I’ve liked taking photos for a long time. I first picked up my dad’s old film camera in grade 10 and loved it straight away. I went through a long string of half broken camera bodies before getting a DSLR… but then it was so big and so heavy that I rarely took it anywhere. Instagram definitely changed that. My photos never really had much of an audience before, and getting feedback provided drive and purpose. For the first couple years I just shot on an IPhone, then I doubled up shooting both IPhone and camera, then said to heck with that and now mostly just shoot on a camera.
ML: I never really started taking photos until I met Emanuel, or not seriously anyway. I had a film camera that I used a bit when I went on trips but that was it. After Emanuel and I biked down south I started thinking about photography a bit more. And, truth be told it was mostly because I was tired of waiting for him all the time. We would get to a destination and I would see it in 30 minutes and it would take him three hours. I joined Instagram just for fun, but it turned out to be really helpful for getting feedback and learning from others.
CV: Where are some of your favourite weekend trips in British Columbia? Can you share some images of your favourite places?
ML: Oh there are so many good places! From Vancouver, we have easy access to Tofino, the Gulf Islands, the mountains, the Fraser Canyon and the Cascades around Hope. You can literally head off in any direction. We are big believers in taking ‘extra loooong’ weekends whenever you can. Even if you only have one night there are so many great hikes and quick camping spots to check out.
ES: But really the whole province is pretty beautiful. We’re actually writing this from the road, we’re on a two-month road trip up to see Northern BC for the first time! We’re only on day five but it already feels like we’re running out of time, there are so many places we want to see.
ML: Here are seven of our favourite places in British Columbia:
1: Tofino / Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
“We love the wet west coast weather, the raw feel of the elements, the wave-battered beaches, islands, and lush rainforests.”
2: Yoho National Park
“Stunning mountain trails and lakes with peacock hues of greens, turquoise, blues.”
3: St Marks Summit on Vancouver’s North Shore / Cypress Provincial Park
“One of our favourite local hikes! Beautiful views down into Howe Sound.”
4: Lake Lovely Water in Tantalus Provincial Park
“The Tantalus Mountains are a familiar sight on the Sea to Sky Hwy to Whistler but are kind tricky to get to (hence the name). You either have to crawl across a raging glacier river on a little wire or hire a helicopter to get up. But either way, it’s worth it”
5: The Nemiah Valley in BC’s Chilcotin
“I learned a bit about this area in one of my anthropology classes in university. Very fascinating history, and was essentially isolated from the rest of BC until the 1970s. It has a lot of wild horses and BC’s largest alpine lake and some mighty stunning mountains”
6: The Valhalla Mountains
“The mountains I first cut my teeth on in BC’s interior. These mountains will always be home.”
7: Canoeing down the Slocan Lake
“We do this as a family trip with my mum every summer. 5 days of canoeing down the lake, sleeping on beaches and swimming a lifetime’s worth of swims. It can’t be beat.”
CV: All the locations in your images are so impressive. What does a long ‘weekend in the life’ look like for you two? Can you create a three-day trip for the readers?
ML: One trip we’re saving for a rainy day is the Coast Mountain Circle Loop. It’s close to Vancouver and about easy three days in a car if you don’t stop for overnight hikes along the way (of which there are plenty!). You pass through some pretty interesting terrain. Should be a good one! And if anyone ends up doing it before us, feel free to send us any tips or recommendations!
Where to stay: One of the little Forest Recreation sites north of town.
What to do: Stop and marvel at the cascading islands and mountains plunging into Howe Sound. Stop and hike the Stawamus Chief. Stop and check out the trails into Garibaldi and then take a gondola up Whistler Blackcomb.
What to eat: Start with a big breakfast at home then eat crackers and cheese for the rest of the day. Or if you’ve been extra good maybe you deserve lunch at Fergie’s in Squamish.
What to pack: Hiking boots, maps, a tent and lots of snacks!
Where to go: Continue east on Hwy 99 towards Lillooet, then take Hwy 12 south to Lytton.
Where to stay: Camp out on the side of a quiet desert road listening to lonely coyote calls.
What to do: Take a detour down to Lillooet Lake for a soak in the hot springs or hike up and see the turquoise waters and glaciers of Joffre Lakes. Or, take a long look down the arid Seton Lake valley. There are a lot of lakes! But save time for the Fraser Canyon — we haven’t been down this section but it’s probably really very nice.
What to eat: Oatmeal and apples for breakfast, more crackers and cheese for lunch, hot pasta and broccoli for dinner.
Where to go: From Lytton hop onto the Trans Canada which will take you way back to Vancouver. Or, you can jump off the freeway at Hope onto Hwy 7 for a quieter route through some of Vancouver’s more scenic suburbs.
What to do: Stop and swim in the chain of lakes at Nahatlatch Provincial Park. See the boiling roiling rapids of Hells Gate. Peruse for antiques and goat skulls at the Yale Community Flea Market. Have another swim in Silver Lake National Park just north of Hope. Drive up the rough road to Jones Lake for some beautiful mountain views.