We were both in a slight state of shock as we drove onto the Nanaimo ferry Friday night at 8.25pm. Just two hours earlier Christian had returned home from work finding all three of us sleeping. We had all fallen asleep at nap-time, but just didn't wake up at our usual time as we were all jet-lagged after returning from visiting family in Europe just two days earlier. I was especially tired as I had made a trip to Seattle the previous night to pick up a used cargo bike (yes, we are now a two cargo bike family). Christian woke us up wondering what the plan was. As per usually we had not managed to book a ferry despite knowing that we needed to travel to the island on a long weekend, so our original plan was to aim for the first ferry Saturday morning. However, with a four hour nap it was clear that the kids would not be going the bed anytime soon, so we quickly decided to leave as soon as possible. I had by some miracle managed to pack during the day, so we quickly packed the car, made some dinner and drove to Horseshoe Bay. We were pretty stoked about making it onto the 10.40pm ferry, so you can imagine our shock as we drove straight through the ferry terminal and basically straight on to the ferry at 8.25pm. The ferry wasn't even full. Now we just had to hope that my jet-lagged, pregnancy brain had remembered everything we needed (and wanted) for 5 days of beach camping.
We had a relatively short night on the side of the highway by the Big Cedar trailhead. Kids were up early, so we decided to go check out the big cedar (it was big), before driving the rest of the way to Tofino. In Tofino we stocked up on a few last items before heading out towards Vargas Island in our hired boat with Pascale and her two four-year old kids. Christian decided to paddle out to the beach, since conditions were good. After a 20 min boat ride we arrived at a quiet beach in a calm bay. It looked perfect. The rest of the day was spend exploring the beach, setting up camp and relaxing in the sun. Later our boat came back with Adam, Tracy and their one year old daughter, and shortly after Christian arrived. In the early evening Jeff arrived by kayak with his 11 year old son.
Apparently it's called 'mizzle' - a mix of mist and drizzle - but whatever the name it seems to be the dominant weather pattern here, on the easternmost piece of rock in North America. Although F definitely has her objections I actually kind of like it. It's much more comfortable for hiking with a heavy pack than hot sun, and it even keeps the bugs down somewhat. We saw a lot of mizzle on our trip, along with hot sun, a few icebergs, some world-class scenery, and more whales than I've seen in the rest of my life combined (by at least an order of magnitude, and despite living on the west coast for the past 14 years, with three month-long kayak-based trips in there).
For our daughter F, aged 5, it would also be the longest hiking trip she's done by a wide margin. 75 km over 10 days / 9 nights, with 8 of those nights in a tent. Of course, the same could be said for our almost 2 year old N... but she was carried for substantial portions of the trip. That, combined with Line being 5 months pregnant, made us wonder if we'd actually complete the trip at all... but with the help of another family (Scott and Sandra who have a 7 year old, E, and a 4 year old, H, of thier own) we decided to keep with our plans and at least attempt it, even once we knew kid #3 was on the way.
Our friend Pascale has gotten into the habit of booking a group site on Newcastle at some point in June. This was the first year we were able to join. We have however been to Newcastle before. Last time was in fact N's first camping trip at 5 weeks old. Originally we had planned on just walking on the nanaimo ferry, and walking along the waterfront to the Newcastle ferry. Wednesday night Christian suggested that we try to bring a canoe, since the kids have this newfound joy of canoeing. I have been trying to pack for our trip to Newfoundland next week, so even the thought of finding a canoe and organizing the stuff seemed overwhelming to me, so I told him that he would be in charge. By Friday evening he had borrowed a canoe, removed the roof box from our car, and packed most of our stuff. We were ready to go.
After having taken the basic paddler course with the Beaver Canoe club, I was keen to get out to test some of my new skills, so we decided to join some of our friends on the River of Golden Dreams in Whistler. This turned out to be both a lovely and expensive day. We still don't own a canoe, so we usually rent one. Most of the time we rent close to were we put in as it is more convenient, but often also a little more expensive than renting from MEC for example. We decided on the same strategy for this trip.
Here are five tweaks we've made to our Haul-a-Day cargo bike; some are quicker than others, but they've all made our lives easier. Of course we extended the fenders almost all the way to the ground... but we also did some more creative things like shimming our kickstand to bring the balance point into an easier spot, permanently mounted ski-straps in just the right spot for towing, made a chariot attachment adapter, and added some "wheels" in the back corner of the frame that let you easily push it around when oriented vertically.
This year I managed to book the ACC's Wendy Thompson hut over Easter. That in it self is a bit of a feat. To insure that we could get the spots, I was ready by the computer as reservations opened exactly 6 months before Easter. At that point I didn't have a plan or a crew, but at I had 16 cabin spots - ready to get filled with families.
The winter is well over now, but I've been meaning to type down something about our record-size snowcave from this past January, before I loose the measurements... It was a great trip, with two families and 7 people total in the same snowcave. A combination of prior snowcaving experience and the help of Miriam, our favourite extra-adult, allowed us to dig out what is certainly the largest snowcave I have yet constructed - Final dimensions were 4.1m long by 3m wide, with a ceiling height of 1.2m (in the center of the sleeping platform - standing height in the vestibule). A smooth ceiling ensured not a single drip, and the ceiling thickness of 65cm meant no sagging overnight (at least, not enough to measure with our avalanche-probe ruler). In the morning I could jump on the ceiling and not punch through.
A few years ago I made a pair of crampons for F, and posted about them. I've since made a half-dozen pairs for her as she's grown and for a few other kids we've gone hiking with. I didn't really explain how to make them very well, though. So here are some instructions.
Last weekend the weather was forecast to be beautiful, so we made a last minute decision to go camping, and convinced a few friends to come. After a few emails back and forth we settled on Joffre Lakes. The park website had some serious warnings about ice on the trail. We figured it probably wasn't so bad, but still decided to bring microspikes for all the adults, and Christian stayed up a few extra hours making kid crampons for the four hiking kids. In the end the kids ended up disappointed due to the lack of ice on the trail. One of them still insisted on wearing the crampons on a ice covered mud puddle at the upper lake.
We arrived at the parking lot around 11am and managed to snatch the last free parking spot. Scott and Sandra had to park at the new lower lot. The trail was busy. It seemed particularly busy when you are wearing giant backpacks and have four young kids blocking the way of other hikers. The kids did amazing though and we arrived at the second lake within a couple of hours with very little complaining. Christian had put his new hiking tactic - the "slow down you whipper-snappers you're hiking too fast!" game to good work. We had a long break and only lost a few gold fish crackers and half a bagel to the very aggressive whisky jacks.
The trip sure did not start out relaxing. First I spend two days packing food, sorting gear and trying to squish it all into the car, while N constantly tried to rearrange everything. We picked up Christian straight from work, made it onto the ferry and then spend an hour driving towards Ucluelet with two screaming kids in the back. Eventually though they settled down and we drove most of the way there in silence. We didn't make it passed Kennedy Lake before nightly road closure, so we camped on the side of the road. From here on everything seemed to only get better though...