On the last weekend in June we ninja camped in Squamish. We had planned on getting in a climb Saturday afternoon, but I had forgotton to pack the rope, so instead we just went for a swim at Murrin park. On Sunday we joined a few of our friends at the Evan's Lake open house. There were canoeing, face painting, field games and a bunch of other activities. I really wanted to try out the stand up paddle boarding. I enjoyed the paddling until I felt a drop of something running down my leg. At first I wondered if I was really sweating that much, but after a few more drops I started to suspect that my water had broken, and decided that I better get to shore. At shore I gathered up the family and we returned to Vancouver, where it was confirmed that it was a false alarm. We were pretty relieved as we did not feel ready for this baby to arrive yet. We spend the rest of the day preparing for the baby's arrival.
A week later on Canada day there were still no baby, so we decided that we could fit in one more camping trip, especially since we now felt that things at home were ready to go. But where do you go on a July long weekend that does not take you more than one hour away from car access and ideally not to far away from your home either. Everything that can be booked will be booked. We decided to give canoeing on Alouette Lake a go. It is only one hour drive from home, they rent canoes, but you can't reserve them ahead of time and it should be possible to find a beach camp pretty close to road access. Despite our late planning we also managed to convince a mom and her daughter from my facebook group, Vancouver Outdoorsy Parents, to join us.
We met Claudine and her 5 year old daughter for the first time Sunday morning at the lake. I quickly set my camping chair up in the canoe rental line-up, while everyone else got to know each other better on the beach. The two girls quickly became friends. About 10 min after the canoe rental opened we had a 4 person canoe. We managed to fit all our stuff and the 5 of us in there without much trouble - despite the large amount of pillow I had packed.
We paddled down wind for an hour before pulling over for playtime and lunch at a nice, but already occupied, beach. We ended up staying for 3-4 hours until we decided it was time to find our own beach. We paddled for another hour before we found an unoccupied beach. It was just 10 min past the Gold Creek campsite, so I felt confident that we would make it out should labour start.
At camp the girls went exploring along the rocky beach, ate wild raspberries, made a teeter totter from an old log and helped Christian gather firewood for a small fire. In the meantime Claudine and I cooked dinner.
On the last weekend in May Christian had another ski-trip planned for training purposes - for his Garibaldi Park Traverse. He had decided to ski the Neve again (for the 3rd? time this year). He was going to take the bus and hitch-hike to Elfin, and then F and I would pick him up from Rubble Creek in the afternoon. We all arrived at the trailhead within a few minutes around 5pm. We then headed to Alice Lake for an evening swim. Christian was really happy to cool down after a warm ski.
We headed to the Chief campground for dinner and socializing. Not surprisingly the campground was full, so we resorted to ninja camping for the night. In the morning we headed to the newish climbing area, the playground, up the Mamquam FSR. After a breakfast we set up a rope for F on the 5.4. She was really excited as she started climbing up. After a few meters though, she decided that she would like her daddy to come along, so she was lowered and Christian tied in below her. They climbed up together, but about half way up F started getting progressively more upset. We tried to convince her to come back down, but she insisted on climbing to the top, despite the fact that she was now full on crying. She did make it to the top eventually and was lowered down. On the ground we had a cuddle and I asked her why she wanted to go to the top. I thought she might be scared of being lowered, but she answered:
"Something in my belly said: (now whispering) I need to get to the top"
It is becoming increasingly popular to take a babymoon - one last vacation before the baby. I wanted a last vacation before the baby as well, but I think my choice of vacation at 7 month pregnant is slightly out of the norm. I thought about it for a while; I definitely wanted camping, but would biking or canoeing be the better choice. I prefer wilderness, but didn't want to go too far from road access. In the end we decided on the Sayward Canoe route with out friends Scott and Sandra and their two kids (5 and 2 years old) over the Easter Long weekend. It provides wilderness, but the road is never more than short paddle away.
The Sayward Canoe route is located in the Sayward Provencial forest close to Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It consists of four larger lakes and a number of smaller lakes linked together by portage trails. In total approximately 40 km of paddling and 8 km of portaging. The route is mostly done in 3-4 days, but we opted for 5 days to accommodate me and the kids.
Video trip report
You can start the route at many different location, since there are multiple car accessible landing sites. The most popular location to start at is Mohun provincial park. Since the parking lot is within the park I felt it was a safe place to leave the car. The many campsite make it possible to split up the trip in many different ways, but we chose the following:
Spring has only barely begun in Vancouver, but I have been eager to put the skis away and get out the bikes for a family tour. I even convinced Christian that he should do the same, but I was only successful because the weather looked a lot better in the Gulf Islands than over Garibaldi park. We were set to spend a night on Pender and two on Saturna Island.
The weekend started out with a bit of a ferry faff. It was very busy at the Tsawwassan ferry terminal on Friday morning, and only 2 of the 4 families made it onto the Pender ferry before it was sold out. The two other families were rerouted via Swatz Bay. After a few frantic phone calls we settle in on the busy ferry and our little holiday could begin.
We spend the first night at Shingle Bay campsite on Pender. It is a short ride of around 5km from the ferry, but there were lots of hills on the way as per tradition onthe Gulf Islands. It is a lovely "walk-in" campsite with around 10 tent sites, a pit toilet, a small river, a meadow and a beach. We got a few rain showers after setting up the tents, but nothing to really be bothered by. The kids spend the rest of the day playing in the small river delta on the beach. Close to dinner time the last two families arrived and we all add dinner more or less together. After another couple of hours playing on the beach and few cups of hot chocolate, it was bedtime.
Saturday started out with an Easter egg hunt. Michelle and Jen brought small plastic eggs and filled them with berries. The kids were ecstatically hunting down the eggs, some with more skill and determination than other, but everyone had a great time. At the end we were all rewarded with an Easter cookie. We then quickly packed down the tents and biked to the Pender farmer's marked. We made it there with an hour to spare, but a lot of the booths were already close to empty. We still managed to scrape together a lunch, while the kids did some dancing.
We took the afternoon ferry to Saturna Island, had a stop at the locale general store to stock up on food and water, and headed to Narvaez Bay campsite. The campsite is in a very beautiful spot, but the beach is a little less accessible here. Still the kids spend most of the evening playing on the rocky point by the water. We all had dinner overlooking the point as the sun slowly went behind the hills.
On Sunday we all split up. I biked with Anne and Christian back towards the ferry as they were returning to work Monday. We went on a little detour along East point road, but didn't make it very far until it was time to turn around. Before heading back to the ferry we had an ice-cream stop at the general store, where we were joined by Jen and Jon. Luckily Jen offered to tow F back to the campsite for me. Back at the campsite we hiked the short distance to Echo Bay. There were lots of little rocky outcrops that the kids enjoyed climbing, and a nice view towards Mt. Baker.
Monday we just slowly packed up while the kids played around the campsite. To lighten my load up the big hill, we convinced the kids that they should walk. It took awhile, a lot of encouragement and singing, but we all made it up the hill to the road. I quickly took off, while the other families were faffing around with unhappy kids. I knew I was going to be slow having to tow Fenya and most of our stuff. We all made it to the ferry with plenty of time to spare, so we spend a few hours in "The Bus" cafe. The kids all loved hanging out on the second floor of the bus, playing with busses, drawing and making puzzles. And I loved the apple crisp.
As we rolled our bikes onto the ferry the first drops of rain started to fall and soon it was raining properly. We felt really lucky that weather had stayed good all weekend, since spring has not really arrived in Vancouver this year. The kids all had such a good time playing all weekend long, and I really could not imaging a better way to spend Easter!
I've been getting more and more comments on my lurk - that is, my single long pole used for telemark skiing. When skiing with one you pole-plant on the same side you normally would (downhill), turn around it, and then (optionally) drag the pole behind you in a low-brace position as you pass by it; it looks almost like paddling a kayak. I won't say it's easier or better than two poles - it's more of a solution looking for a problem - but it is a lot of fun and has some advantages in a very limited set of situations. It does look good, though, or at least it looks different. Kind of like telemark skiing, in general.
While one long pole is fun on the downhill on the uphill you really want two poles, whether skinning up yourself or waiting in lift lines. So I made my own take-apart lurk good for the up and the down. After a few iterations I came up with a design that's been pretty robust for 2 seasons and is actually pretty easy to put together. Here's a short description of how to make one.
For the tips I basically just cut the bottom 8 inches off of some old ski poles, and stuck them on the end of the hockey sticks. I cut the blade-end off the hockey stick so I was left with a hollow cross section, put the tips in, drilled 4 holes through everything, and fastened it with rivets. I had originally hoped to use 8 rivets (one from each side for all holes) but the rivets I had left a little too much material inside the ski pole. So I just alternated sides (really this also means I didn't need to drill clean through everything). So it doesn't fill with water/snow I covered the holes/rivets with regular epoxy, and moulded some epoxy putty in-place with my hands to seal the hollow cross section around the pole.
Once you've made your tips you want to ski around a bit to decide on how long to make it. You can make it shorter pretty easily, but it's difficult to make it longer. I'm 180 cm tall and made mine 122 cm from the end to the basket, 130 cm to the tip (per side - 260 cm total). You can temporarily "join" the lurk to be shorter to see how it feels by just overlapping the two sections and using some ski-straps.
You don't really need "grips" since the whole thing is a hockey stick, which is already a good shape to grab anywhere you like (and warm to the touch because it doesn't conduct heat well). I made the joint by cutting a piece of 1.25" sched 80 PVC pipe just a little longer than both "grips" (22 cm for me) and trapping some webbing under multiple wraps of tape at the bottom of the grips. I found the sched 80 pipe to be the correct diameter for a satisfying fit. To join it you just slide the tube over the end, it bottoms out against the tape, you stick in the other side, and buckle the webbing across it. Hopefully it's clear from the photos...
I later added some wrist straps using matching webbing. I just tucked them under the hockey stick end-cap, and added a small screw (remember to pre-drill!) to keep the cap from popping off. I also drilled some holes in the PVC pipe and tied a little piece of string through it so I can clip the tube to my water bottle carabiner when skiing uphill (and with the buckle between poles for storage). Probably I should drill some more holes in it, just to save weight, but haven't bothered yet. It's not like I bring my lurk with me on fast-and-light trips.
Overall weight for everything is just over a kilo. Some average ski poles from our pile of gear weigh just under 500 g for the pair... so these are certainly heavier, but are not obscenely heavy by any stretch.
Don't forget the camera mount!
I have been to Tetrahedron in the winter a number of times. We have been there once before with F (twice if you count when she was still on the inside), but my first time was a girls trip back in 2012. I remember zipping together 6 MEC merlin sleeping bags into a giant sleeping bag, basking nudy in the sunshine outside the cabin, but mostly I remember post-holing all the way in, because I forgot the liners to my ski boots. We almost had a similar disaster this time around. Christian had been at a party all Friday evening, first with F and later alone. In the meantime I laid everything out, so Christian could double check as he put it in the bags late that evening. In the morning we slept in, and then decided that we were capable of getting ready in 30 min so we could catch the 10.30 ferry. As we were driving over Lion's Gate, Christian casually checked in with me to see if we had F snowsuit, the answer was no, so back to the house we went. At the house I remembered that I also were not sure if I packed the right boot liners for Christian's boot, so he checked and it turned out that I had packed one of my liners. Disaster avoided.
Finally on the ferry we started to relax, but we decided it was better not to high-five our success just yet. Due to the late start we were not on our skis before 2pm, and didn't really start skiing until 2.45pm, when F was finally ready. Luckily the approach to the Edwards cabin is no more than 7km and minimal elevation gain, so we arrived around 5pm. This time I carried a small backpack with all the overnight gear in it, and Christian carried F and most of the food. The hut was already full, but we managed to rearrange a few mats upstairs and squeezed our mats in.
We had dinner, relaxed by the fire and had an early night. F was quiet all through the night, so she avoided a trip outside with Christian - this sure is getting easier.
In the morning we made a stove fire again and grilled our cheeses for breakfast. Christian then skied up Mt. Steele, while F and I played in the cabin, build a snowman and went for a walk with the toboggan. After we finished the snowman F and Cristian went looking for fixings - eyes, nose, etc. After rejecting several candidate eyes F settled on a piece of wood, poking straight up out of the snowman's head. "It's a heliscope eye!" she declared excitedly.
At the time I wasn't even sure if F was awake, but on the drive up we'd listened to Quirks and Quarks on CBC. They had been talking about a deep sea squid with two vastly different eyes - a "normal eye" that looked down, to see bioluminescent animals, and a large "telescope eye" that looked up to see shadows against the dim sunlight far above. F was clearly paying attention, although even a few months later (we recently got to see Jupiter's moons through a friend's telescope) she still thinks that "telescope" is pronounced "heliscope".
We started skiing out around 2pm. I found the ski out a lot harder than the ski in. My skins were sticking, but I did not feel comfortable taking them of. I felt exhausted - maybe second trimeter is not going to be as easy as I thought. It ended up taking us substantial longer to get out of there than it did to get in. Despite this we decided that it was finally time for a celebratory high-five. No important items forgotten!
On family day weekend we figured it would be appropriate with a family overnight trip. We settled on snowcaving at Red Heather. In the passed we have not had much luck with our snowcaving adventurous, but since our last disappointing attempt, F had been very excited about the possibly of sleeping in a snowcave. As always we tried to convince some other families to come along with little luck, but at least we managed to convince Tim, Michelle and their son, L, to join us for the Saturday.
Like so many other days this winter there were snow on the ground all the way from Vancouver, so we met up at the bottom of the gravel road to chain up. L was interested and followed the process. He checked in with Christian to see if he needed help, and also wanted to know what our chains were made out of. Christian said they were made out of chain, where to L promptly answered: "Ours are made out of decoration". We all laughed, nodding our heads, as Tim finished putting on their cable chains.
All babies/toddlers are different and I am definitely no expert in baby sleep, but we have done a fair amount of experimentation with sleeping the backcountry. In this blog post I will share the phases and solutions we have gone through.
Our very first backcountry trip with F was to Brew Hut in May at 7 month old. At home we co-slept and night nursed, so I expected to do the same on the trip. The hut is pretty warm, but gets colder throughout the night, which is kind of tricky for little once as they can not add extra layers themselves. We ended up dressing her in her normal clothes and sleep sack, and then covered her with my sleeping bag as it got colder. The night was generally pretty rough, there were many wakings and I think F ended up sleeping mostly attached to my breast, which meant basically no sleep for me.
The whole summer we basically followed the same strategy of F just sleeping in her clothes, a sleep sack and then covering her with my sleeping bag if needed. However, during our trip to the Sierras, where temperatures dropped to close to 0 °C we did experiment a bit. I found that zipping a down jacket around F's waist for extra warmth worked pretty well. I liked this solution because it doesn't require any extra gear. The down side is that the feet and arms and hands still gets cold. The feet are easy to fix with a pair of booties. The hands and arms are trickier as a lot of babies prefer to sleep in the star fish position. A pair of long mittens work well if they are tolerated. Luckily F just seems to have way better circulation that I do.
F never really wanted a blanket on, and before she turned one I was still a little bit worried about putting her in a sleeping bag. I don't know if I am crazy, but mostly I worried that putting her in a sleeping bag would increase the risk of SIDS. I did not want anything that could potentially cover her face or restrict her movement to much. However, during her second spring of camping I started to fell better about sleeping bags, so we tried out a stroller bag. There was no way she was getting into it - I think it was to constricting to her movements. We quickly discovered that leaving her in her merino wool, fleece and snowsuit was the way to go, and if it was extra cold we would cover her with one of our sleeping bags. This method has worked great. The only downside with this solution is when F decides that she wants to sleep on top of me. She will now be too warm to wear a sleeping bag and I am therefor forced out of my sleeping bag. Good thing I have a warm down jacket.
Last spring we started experimenting a bit again. F is slowing becoming more tolerant of blankets, so we have acquired a down quilt - just a cheap adult size from Costco. F sleps very warm and often insist on going to bed wearing little clothes and on top of the sleeping bags. The quilt makes it easy to wrap her up little by little as it gets colder.
In preparation for our trip to Alaska this past summer we also bought a new sleeping pad, the Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo. It is a double sleeping pad with synthetic insulation, and it only weighs 800g (~100g more than two Neo Air). It is the best thing that ever happened to family camping! It is warm, comfortable, and I no longer end up half way in between sleeping mats. It has two different valves, so I can turn without worrying about waking up F. I just love it!
I am sure that the sleeping arrangement will continue to evolve throughout the seasons and the years, but I think the Exped and the down quilt get to stay for a little while.
What does your sleeping arrangement look like?
Like last year we decide to join the VOC's Winter Longhike. It is a big party in the mountains. During the day everyone build snow caves, and in the evening everyone have fun cooking in the snow kitchen.
We had a late start leaving the city due to a grumpy wife and a fairly late night the previous night - cause by some tummy problems. Still, F was really excited about the concept of sleeping in an igloo. So, even though it seemed highly unlikely that Christian would have time to finish (or even start) making an igloo, we gathered all our junk (including a backup tent) and drove up the mountain. Vehicular backlog started at km 3 but didn't actually take too long to get up the mountain. Christian carried most of our things and ended up towing or carrying F most of the way as well. I though this was fair, since was carrying the 23g fetus. Eventually we arrived at the general area, but F was becoming more and more upset - complaining about her belly. We set up the tent, then took it back down and started to leave without even really saying hi. At this point F was inconsolable, but it wasn't clear if it was because she was tired, cold, hungry, upset stomach, or bummed that she wasn't going to sleep in an igloo or even the tent (she loves the tent). She cheered up a bit after a brief tour inside a snow cave, but we still decided to call it off. I think this was our first mid-trip bail with her; certainly from an overnighter.
Halfway back home - with F crying out in panic/pain from the back of the car and begging for us to somehow help her - any hint of doubt about calling it off was gone and we re-directed to the hospital, suspecting something serious - maybe appendicitis. It soon turned out that it was just constipation, and she managed to take care of it herself. We asked her if she still needed to see the doctor and she asked "will I get stickers?". The nice traige nurse gave us some stickers and let us make our escape.
While packing up Line and I noted that we first met at VOC winter longhike; I don't think either of us could have guessed where we'd be 10 years later.
December has been special this year in Vancouver. There has been snow on the ground more days than not. It has caused a lot of trouble for the busses and drivers of the city, but it has also been pretty magical for all the kids. Here is a few of the special things we have spend our times doing this December:
VanDusen Christmas lights
It has become a tradition for us to enjoy the Christmas lights in VanDusen. This year was more magical with all the snow on the ground though.
Solstice Party at the beach
Michelle invited us to celebrate solstice with a bonfire party at the beach. It was cold and there were ice on the ground, but it was so cosy with the fire, lanterns and snacks.
Skiing in the parks
One week night Christian and F spend two hours skiing in the cityhall park. They had to stop because Christian got to tired ... can you imagine?
On a later day Michelle and I took the kids skiing in Queen E. I skinned up there along the roads towing F in the sled. It was a big faff, but we did get a few runs in. And then there were of cause also sledding, snow play and rolling down the hills.
Sayward Canoe Route
Pender and Saturna
Sleeping in the backcountry
Packing for a 'solo' overnight hut trip with a toddler