This post is super-old now... with the second kid we've had troubles both getting out and finding the time to tell the internet about it. I stand by our choice... but am finally clearing out some half-finished posts before our 2-month parental-leave bike tour...
In what is starting to become an annual tradition F and I headed up to red Heather for a fine weekend of snowcaving. It was really great to see a lot of other families with kids up there too - we were going up with my friends Tim and Mirella and their 6 year old daughter T, and meeting my friend/supervisor Jeff and his 9 year old son D. Our coworker Anita would be up there too for her first snowcaving experience. Along the way we met another dad with his similarly-aged daughter, and a large group with sightly older kids, all winter camping in tents. We also met two families towing their kids up wearing harnesses and Alpine ski gear, so that the kids could ski down themselves - it was the first time I'd seen somebody I didn't already know doing that.
The initial plan was for Line and N to join us for the day, but the forecast predicted they would be driving home, alone, in the middle of a full-on winter storm. So it was just F and I (at least from our family). After some digging to create a parking spot (making the steel shovel and pick-axe that live in the car useful yet again) we began towing up the trail. F is now an expert at being towed and overall we had a good time on the way up - she would zig-zag on the trail, try and ski into the fresh snow, and (new to this trip) demand to be towed backwards on occasion. Despite being a better downhill skier T had a bit of trouble, both due to less towing experience and a less comfortable harness system (inspiring me to make this post about F's home-made ski harness). Up at the shelter we met up with Jeff et. al., cooked some grilled cheese on the wood stove, and got digging.
F spent a little bit of time 'helping' me, but for the most part F and T entertained each other with one adult supervising, leaving one digger per cave (but with Tim and Mirella alternating on thiers). I dug my classic snowcave, with standing-height vestibule and a wide sitting-height sleeping platform just higher than the entrance tunnel. See this post for my snowcave digging 'recipe'. After a dinner of bunny-pasta (F's usual choice) we headed to bed. As is best-practice all our gear came into the cave with us.
After getting F all set up and ready for bed came what is usually the hardest part of camping alone with F - leaving her on her own for a few minutes while I go to the outhouse. You see, F doesn't like to be on her own - even just in another room in the house for a moment. And, like many kids, she's afraid of the dark. I helped her put on her headlamp then explained where I was going, how soon I would be back, and that the snowcave was a very safe place. She made me promise to be 'quick as a brick' and 'snowman fast', her standard, which always amuses me since neither bricks nor snowmen can move at all let alone particularly fast. I ran. Imagine my surprise when I can back to find F had buried her headlamp inside her sleeping bag and demanded I do the same, so we could see the faint moonlight glowing in through the door tunnel - progress!
Inside the snowcave the temperature hovered right around zero and it was a bit humid, but our smooth domed ceiling with single vent hole right at the top (over the vestibule) made for a drip-free night. We both got a really good sleep in the silence of the cave.
In the morning we found that we'd been snowed-in by the overnight storm. Since we were in no rush we lounged inside the cave and ate leftover grilled cheese for breakfast. F grabbed a pine needle off of the ceiling that had been trapped in the snow, and pretended to shave me with it. Then she moved on to my eyebrows (which are super bushy). I commented that mom would really appreciate that. F asked why, so I explained that trimming my eyebrows made me look like a younger, more attractive, version of myself. She looked puzzled "But - you'll still look like an old man!". It wasn't until I burst out laughing that F realised she'd made fun of me and started laughing too.
F used the potty that I still bring with us when we do overnight backcountry trips (so much easier than trying to convince her to use the outhouse), but since I didn't bring an adult-sized one we eventually had to make our escape and I dug our way out. I always bring my shovel inside, but it was the first time I had to use it (although, to be fair, mostly I just pushed my way out). The other snowcavers had all already escaped their caves, and the day trippers had started to stream in to ski the fresh snow.
After showing off our caves we collapsed them and skied out; the new snow made for great conditions on the ski down to the carpark.
When I first started towing F whole touring I just tied a rope around her waist and went for it. This worked ok for short distances, but it was clearly a lot of work and uncomfortable for her. So (at 2am the night before a trip, of course) I decided to make something better. It's been through a few tweaks, but at this point I think I the overall design is pretty good so I'd like to share it. Key design features:
To make it you'll need:
Finish the sides of the fabric seat first. You will eventually want the bungee inside the fold you make when finishing the top and bottom of the fabric seat, but the rest of the steps will be a pain with it in there. For now just sew a piece of thread into it instead; later you will use it to pull the bungee through. I sized my fold so it is a snug fit for a double-fisherman knot with the bungee I used. This let me wiggle it into the middle of the bottom, where it is out of the way, and it stays there.
Sew a short piece of webbing to each side near the top for the waist belt. Thread the waist buckle through these so it can be used to keep the harness tight around the waist, like a belt. I sewed mine back a bit from the edges, so it doesn't get pulled loose when the harness is under tension. If your harness is wider than you need you might want to sew it pretty far back.
Sew the two suspender straps to the top edges near the front, and sew the snap-lock buckle to the center of the back. I tied my suspender straps together so they join right in-between my daughter's shoulders, then passed the two of them together through the snap-lock. On-trip adjustability for clothes using just the snap-lock and waist buckle is adequate, and I can move the knot at home beforehand as she grows.
Now thread the bungee through, tie it in a loop (I used a double-fisherman) and arrange the knot so it's out of the way (I put mine in the middle at the bottom).
You're done! Now you can clip the bungee loops for towing uphill, and for downhill get your kid to ski over the rope with one ski so it ends up folding back under their crotch. My daughter claims this is comfortable, and we do it a lot so I believe her. I use an old cordellette for my tow rope and find it to be a convenient length.
I've thought about modifying the design a bit more to put in a crotch-loop, so it can't ride up, but it doesn't seem to actually be a problem for us so I haven't bothered. I've also thought about making the bungee even longer so I can wrap it right around each side to clip on the downhill, but my daughter claims the current method works fine, and it is convenient to be able to switch to the downhill by flicking the rope forward and having her ski over it. Here's F demonstrating the transition to "downhill mode"
There are lots of online guides out there describing how to build snow caves, why write another one? Well, to be honest, most of them are pretty bad. I've made a fair number of snow caves now - often digging by myself to sleep the family - and I think I've gotten pretty good at it.
In addition to food all the other winter camping stuff, for snowcaving specifically, you'll want:
You want to pick a good spot:
Since I came to Canada 11 years ago I think I have only spend one or two New Years Eves in the city. Before kids we usually went into the backcountry to slay the pow. It would usually involve a hut, often some nude running around, and always some great skiing. After kids we have started renting a condo at a ski resort in the interior. It has been great, but you've got to be on it and book that stuff in the summer time. This year I kind of dropped the ball on that - I was kind of busy with having a baby and stuff, so when November rolled around we still didn't have any plans. I spent a few late nights searching the internet and found these great looking huts in Methow valley. The only problem was the drive, so we decided to cut it up by renting a place in Princeton on the way there and in Snoqualmie Pass on the way back.
We arrived at the Cub Creek parking lot around 11am to drop off our stuff. We had ordered at freight haul, so we got all the stuff piled onto the snow mobile sled and send off. After the stuff got send off, we got the kids ready and headed off ourselves.
"Daddy - what's an adventure?"
"It's when you don't know how things are going to turn out."
"Why did you call this an adventure?"
"Well, we didn't really know how things were going to turn out..."
It was the first overnight trip without mom for F and I (sort of - we did go up to Cathedral Lakes for a week this summer, but Mom couldn't stay away and had decided to come up and join us after only a night). The plan was for me to tow/carry her up to the VOC's Brew Hut. We figured it would be our last chance before the snow really closed in for the season and we could no longer drive the first 10 km along the Chance and Roe Creek FSRs. Line and N would have a relaxing weekend at home, and avoid the storm that was supposed to settle in on Saturday night.
After F and I finished grocery shopping Friday night (I've learned that one of the key ways to get F excited for a trip is for her to pick the food) I put her to bed, packed the things, and made some final tweaks to F's towing harness (which had been prototyped while skiing the previous weekend). It was probably 1am by the time everything was set, but we weren't getting up *too* early the next morning, since we'd planned to drive the road and only had to travel ~5 km. I picked up our good friend Norkio who would join us for the trip at 7 am.
Shortly after leaving the highway, at about km 2, we ran into the classic gong-show of multiple cars trying to turn around and leave or park on a narrow logging road. Uh oh. There was snow on the road, and if that wasn't enough to dissuade you there was a downed tree too. I got out and ran up the first bit of road to check the snow depth and the tree. Snow was ~1/3 the tire diameter, all super wet and heavy. It seemed we could drive under the tree at the very edge of the road. The snow was from earlier in the week - just a single storm's worth - that we'd expected should have been rain at this elevation... just like it was raining now. I'm not normally one to risk getting myself stuck... but with 8 km more road and snow that wasn't too deep I figured I should test the waters. With 4-low, real winter tires, and chains on all 4 wheels the vehicle made slow but steady progress uphill. But I didn't feel I had the safety margin to push it for the whole 8 km so we turned around and parked. While sorting ourselves out for skiing some guy showed up in a jacked-up 4-runner and tried to make it up the road using momentum and mudder-tires... it's not really clear to me if he thought he was going to drive the whole road on momentum, or how he was planning to go around the tree at that speed, but he got stuck at the end of our tracks, then un-stuck, then almost slid off the road, then almost slid into a different tree, then almost slid into my car. I held F well off to the side of the road for the display.
We started off with F being carried. Norkio helped me shoulder the load, with an additional small pack strapped to the back of the child-carrying pack. It felt pretty heavy, but manageable. After probably less than a kilometre F wanted to come out and be towed instead so we got her out, clicked into her skis, and started towing. F has actually gotten pretty good at being towed, so we were making reasonable progress... at least whenever she wasn't falling over and laughing about it. Mostly, though, she just sang or talked to Noriko while cutting out of the skin track so she could make her "own track in the fresh snow". A dozen more downed trees made the towing more challenging, and washed away regrets about not driving the road. F shuffled on her skis through the occasional bare patches where flowing water had washed away the snow. A few hours of towing and a few snack breaks later, near the bridge over Roe Creek (km 6) F requested a break, so we loaded her back into the backpack so she could nap while I carried her. This time she felt really heavy. I was having difficulty shouldering the load and keeping up to Noriko. The pack felt like it was stabbing me through the hip belt, and no adjustment could fix it. I thought maybe I was starting to get soft - I haven't hit the gym nearly as often since N was born - but in retrospect I think it was the extra water weight (see the end of the report). We struggled on, passing by a number of parties (mostly daytrippers) on their way back after bailing on their own Brew Hut plans.
At around 1:30 pm, 3 hours from dark this time of year, we made the call to turn around halfway up the R200 branch (km 8.5ish). F had woken up from her nap very wet and a bit cold, and the rain that had been following us all day had turned into wet heavy snow. There was a cold wind. The storm was coming in early, and it was pretty clear that we would get hammered by it in the alpine, in the dark, breaking trail looking for the hut in a whiteout. Now, I've done more than my fair share of alpine-storm-whiteout navigation, but there was no way I could be sure I'd be able to keep F warm and safe. This was the first time (for F) that we weren't going to complete our nominal objective. F was crushed (even though I started trying to prepare her for it the moment we hit snow at km 2). F is often pretty vocal when she's upset, so I didn't realize just how crushed she was until she managed a "get the tears out of my goggles" in between sobs. She had literally *filled* her ski goggles with tears, and the water line had just reached the bottom of her eyes. I was simultaneously heartbroken and stunned that it was physically possible to generate such a large volume of tears. I drained her goggles and actually started heading towards the hut again for a few minutes before I came to my senses.
I got F warm by putting my primaloft sweater (the only spare clothes I was carrying for myself) over top of all her clothes and changing her mittens. Fortunately she quickly warmed and cheered up a lot on the ski back down. Even more fortunately Steve Grant, who I loosely know from all his positive contributions to the outdoor community, overtook us on his own ski back down to the car. We chatted a bit and he tipped us off to the location of an old trappers cabin not too far from the road, about halfway back to the car. The goal switched from making it back to the car in the dark to trying to make it to the cabin before dark. We experimented with a variety of techniques:
With about a half-hour left before dark we came to Steve's unmistakable markings - a little snow wall, and "cabin" scratched into the snow. I ran off on reconnaissance while F and Noriko hung out - the last thing I wanted to be doing was go bushwacking around in the dark with F looking for a cabin of unknown quality/location. But it turned out that Steve had truly saved our day by hiking all the way to the cabin and back - it was easy to follow his tracks straight there. The cabin was small and with some obvious rodent problems, but it was dry inside, it had a wood stove, and there was even some only-mildly-damp firewood. I retrieved F and Noriko and we rolled in just after dark. F was so excited to be in "the secret cabin" and to make the sea-animal-shaped mac' and cheese she'd selected. I was excited to find some soap so we could properly clean up after the rodents. We even managed to (mostly) dry out our soaking wet clothes.
The next day we made some snowmen in the ample slush-rain before hiking back to the road and skiing out. F insisted on walking back to the road herself, and she did, except for the part where all the recent precipitation had turned it into a river. I carried her through that. Then more skiing/towing down the logging road. We only had one meltdown, when F became unconsolably upset/scared that some snowmobiles were going to come and that they would be really loud. Other than that pretty smooth sailing. When we made it back to the car I declared that the weekend had been our first "real" adventure together, and then needed to explain what that meant.
When I got home I gathered all the wet stuff I'd been carrying (as well as F) and weighed it. 97 lbs. I could swear it wasn't that heavy before - it had just soaked up a lot of water (of course, most of the food was also eaten by this point). So, I guess I'm not getting so soft. Line asked F what her favourite part of the trip was. "The slush-rain!" she declared.
I have since invested in a cheap all-plastic adult-sized raincoat for F. It fits over top of all her ski clothes, is long like a trenchcoat in the body, long enough to completely cover her mittens in the arms, and I put little clips on the edge of the hood to keep it from blowing back off her helmet. We tested it rain-skiing at Cypress this weekend - she was bone dry under there, even after standing in the water pouring off the roof. Perfect...
(F: Daddy, we have to hurry up, otherwise we might miss the jellybean station.
Normally I am not a big fan of bribery in parenting, but when it comes to making my almost 4 year old hike, I will do basically anything to make it fun for her. So far I have found that bringing her best friend, who is almost two years older, along is the best. Other kids will also work as long as they are not too fast. Playing a chase game or a hidden game can also help move things along. However, on the away to Harmony Lake, there is no doubt that things could have easily turned out very different without the jellybean stations. Our friend, Scott, would occasionally hike ahead, get out the bag of jellybeans and if the kids showed up within a certain time frame they would all receive a jellybean.
Scoot and Sandra had invited us to spend the weekend with them in Whistler. Sunday morning (Oct. 1st) Scott and Christian had run up the mountain, and Sandra, my dad and I had taken the kids up the gondola on Whistler Mountain. The goal was the Harmony Lake loop. After taking the peak-to-peak back and forth we started the hike, but right out of the gate F declared her legs to be way to tired for walking. We hadn't really explain to her that we were planning on hiking and now we were paying for it. It took Christian a solid 15 min to get her going. The going was slow until Scott broke out the jellybeans, but then the hiking was smooth the rest of the day.
We had a nice lunch at Harmony Lake, did the little loop and then hiked back along the Harmony Meadows trail. A total of 3.5 km and around 150 m of elevation gain. It was a beautiful day, mostly sunny, with a dusting of snow on the mountains and the fall colours starting to surface. We saw a little with of frost, which got F really excited about the upcoming ski season. N slept the whole way and continued to sleep, while I had a celebratory hot chocolate in the chalet.
In late September, after a few successful camping trips as a family of four, I decided that it was time for our first backcountry camping trip with baby N. Before her birth I had not thought that it would be possible for us to get into the backcountry until next spring, but with N being a super easy baby and the weather still summer like well into September there was nothing holding us back. I spend a bit of time surfing the web for a perfect location: low elevation, short hike, nice, but not to crowded campsite. I came across Viewpoint Beach in Golden Ears Provincial park. I had never hear of it before, but it seemed perfect.
We convinced two other families to join us for a total of 5 adults and 5 kids (age 5, 5, 3, 2 and 2 months). On the hike in we followed the Lower Falls trail, that starts at the Gold Creek parking lot. The trail was super easy, flat and strollerable. The kids was often distracted along the way, in particular by all the culverts. I lost count of how many of them they made it through. The last little bit towards the falls, F started to complain about her legs being tired, so we had a long break playing close to the falls.
We followed the connector trail to the East Canyon trail. The Connector trail was a whole other game, but a nice change. We climbed over lots of roots to make it up. The East Canyon trail was an old road with lots of loose rocks.
It took us around 5 hours to hike the 5km, so I guess our speed is now 1km/h when there is minial elevation gain. The campsite was a beautiful river beach with views of Golden Ears and Edge Peak. The rest of the afternoon and evening the kids played by the beach, while the adults relaxed and cooked dinner. There was only one other party at the campsite, but it was a group of 70 cadets. Luckily they stayed on the other side of the river and eventually half of them disappeared up to the alder flats campsite.
After more playing in the morning we packed up and headed out. As Tim had promised the return was faster. I was very proud of F for walking all the way with very little complaining. I guess she is capable of more than I thought - especially with a group of friends.
This was a great hike and an excellent option for a first self-propelled hike for F.
On the second day I got a text on our satellite messenger from Line:
Line: "Part of me wants to come up with the first shuttle tomorrow, but that is probably kind of crazy."
Me: "No smoke or bugs. Bring cash for camp fee, and the big tent."
Line: "You always know just what to say. I can't get hold of the lodge, so can you ask about a shuttle up tomorrow at 10am when you get back from hiking?"
... a few logistic messages ...
Line: "I still can't get hold of them. I will make it for 10am. Camping at base."
And so Line packed herself, our 6 week old baby N, and the additional food/gear they'd need for 3 nights of camping into our car and started driving East from Vancouver, stopped at a provincial park on the side of the road that night, and caught the first shuttle the next morning to join F and I up at Cathedral Lakes.
Matt Gunn had started hustling people together for a multi-family trip to Cathedral Lakes at the end of August since well before N was born. Since it was so close to the birth we had decided that I would go up with F for some daddy-daughter time, and Line would get a chance to "relax" at home with the new baby (as anybody with a young child and a baby knows it *is* in fact relaxing to hang out with just the baby). Matt was quite successful - a loosely-knit group of 11 (? I think... there were so many) families of like-minded backcountry families converged on the park for more-or-less a week. I travelled up and camped with our friends Tim and Michelle and their son L. Other families we knew well and planned to camp with included Scott and Sandra and their kids E and H, and Jen and Jon and their kids L and M. We got to know other families up there too, it was great. But with so many families and so much kids-in-the-woods going on Line just couldn't stay away - she only lasted a day before she got cabin fever and just had to join us. Of course, the smoke and bugs arrived along with her.
It worked out great for me - I still got 2 days and a night "alone" (as alone as you can be with so many families) with F for some quality daddy-daughter time, and later got to spend time with the whole family. Jon and I even snuck out for a day to go get off-route climbing the North Buttress of Grimface; this would turn into 15 pitches of the hardest climbing I've ever done in the alpine, eventually topping out after 10 hours on the wall... fortunately with Jon to lead essentially all the pitches. So I got a taste of adventure in, too.
On our last day we were actually evacuated (at a pretty casual pace) due to worries that a nearby fire on the other side of the border might get too close to the area. Better to be evacuated casually as a precaution than in a hurry. The ranger was a little bit worried, though, when he came by to give the order and asked if all members of our party were accounted for... "Well, Line is out hiking solo with her 6-week old baby... but she'll be back by 1:00, and we're not scheduled to go down until 2:00". I started to get a little worried too as 1:00 drew closer, but our friend (and midwife who helped deliver both F and N) Lena had already run off down the trail to let Line know so I concentrated on getting our gear squared away.
A few things we learned on the trip:
It seems this trip happened so long ago... but as it turns out 2 kids leaves much less time for blog-posting than 1 kid...
In a marriage you divide responsibilities. Line's usually in charge of planning and writing the trip report; I'm usually in charge of carrying the heavy things and taking pictures. However trip reports involving ridiculousness and/or suffering are generally my responsibility. So, with that segue, I present the prelude to our first post-birth, 2-kid, camping trip.
A few weeks after the birth of N, our second daughter, my parents flew in from Ontario to ease my transition back to work. They are real workhorses, so our apartment was in tip-top shape. That, along with a fast postpartum recovery (despite pushing out a 4.6 kg, heavier than the 97th percentile, baby girl at home), had Line thinking we should go on a camping trip the weekend after their departure. Everybody was excited about the idea. My parents were to fly out Wednesday night, with N just over a month old.
The day of their departure my dad called me at work to report sewage was leaking into our apartment. We live in a basement suite, and one of the pipes running across the ceiling in our gear room had developed a crack. I called our building manager and the landlord came by, wrapped the pipe in duct-tape, and promised to return the next day to fix the problem properly. This would involve replacing the whole length of pipe, which crosses the entire length of the gear room, foyer, and F's room (where it's buried in the ceiling).
My landlord generally makes a pretty big mess when he does any work, so I knew I needed to be prepared. After seeing my parents off I set to work on fortifications. I evacuated all climbing gear and most of F's stuff to the living room, and hung poly-tarp over everything else. Since our apartment is small this meant that essentially all space, except for our bedroom, was either a refugee camp for our belongings or a future battle-ground. The whole family slept in our bed.
The next day Line (somehow) managed to keep the kids out of the house all day so the work could be done; I met them in the park for dinner. We came home late to find fresh sewage on the walls, floor, ceiling and door of the gear room, sewage stains all over the inside of F's play area (which they appeared to have at least attempted to wipe up with bleach) and floor. The kitchen, which wasn't even involved, had broken glass and sewage-soiled clothes on the floor as well as debris from behind the drywall (including rat poo) in the sink. I called the building manager to ask when people would be back to finish cleanup... "So, you're saying there are areas that require additional cleaning?" Apparently he was under the impression everything was buttoned up.
Line managed to isolate the kids in the bedroom while I speed-cleaned the kitchen and bathroom (also soiled, somehow) so we could put them to bed (again, in our room). Shortly after F went to sleep N woke up and needed to be changed. As I picked my way across our sewage-stained apartment heading for the change table (which, thank god, I had also covered in poly tarp) N looked up at me, smiled, and cooed. I smiled and cooed back and soon enough we were having our very first cooing conversation, right there amongst the sewage stains. It totally melted my heart, along with all the frustrations of the day.
The next morning Line managed to evacuate the whole family, without F touching anything, to our friend (and frequent saviour) Michelle's house. I knew better to trust that things would be cleaned properly so I left work early to check the place out before the rest of the family would return. I found that the centre ~1m of the obvious sewage-splatters on the door/wall had been spot cleaned away, but that was about the extent of it. I called the building manager, who started the trek over to personally help me return our suite to a livable state while I went to rent a carpet-cleaning machine. The rental experience is worth mentioning:
The clerk filled in the "time rented" field of the paperwork, then started counting with their fingers and out loud... after getting lost in space and restarting like 3 times. I look down and see that the next field is "time due back". It's a 24 hour rental.
Clerk, muttering to self: "6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30..."
Me: "Um, so... what are you counting?"
Clerk: "I'm trying to figure out what time it's due back. It's a 24 hour rental."
I explained how many hours were in a day, that it was therefore the same time as now, only tomorrow, and the paperwork was quickly finished. I'd finished scrubbing the carpet in F's room by the time our building manager arrived. While he cleaned and re-painted F's play area I cleaned the gear room. I was working hard and at max cardio, and I think I was sweating more than during my bike ride home - but we only had a limited time before Line would arrive with the kids. Somehow we got the place sanitary just before their arrival. But this was now Friday night, so after putting the kids to bed it was time to start packing for the weekend.
The actual trip
Saturday morning we were both relieved to have survived the poo situation and we almost high-fived as we drove away from the apartment (close to) on time, but we didn't want to jinx it. There was still a ferry to catch. The destination was Newcastle Island, which seemed like the perfect choice - it's just a few ferry rides and a short stroll through town away, but with no cars on the island it has a really nice feel. Not quite backcountry, but not quite car-camping either. The plan was for us to pile all our gear into our new-to-us double chariot and push it on foot; N would be worn in a sling and F could choose between riding on top of the pile of stuff or riding her bike (in which case I'd chase her on foot). Our friends Ignacio and Pascale, and their twins, would join us by bike.
We made it to the Ferry Terminal with plenty of time for me to drop off the family and drive back to the cheaper parking. At the cheap lot I ran into our friend Pascale where she was attempting to assembled her twins into their chariot solo. Her husband, Ignacio, had just left to go retrieve their forgotten chariot-bike-attachment, thinking they would miss the ferry for sure. Fortunately we accidentally brought ours and it was in the car! Ignacio was called back, they rode their bikes to the ferry and I ran. Everybody made it onto the correct ferry. We even all made it to the next ferry, with F doing a mix of biking and pile-of-stuff-riding - and even having enough time for a few rounds of bouncy-castle and popcorn at a fair we passed along the way.
Newcastle was... perfect. F climbed around on rocks and played in the sand while N lay under an umbrella and continued trying to figure out how her arms and legs work. We cooked dinner on a picnic table by the beach while F and the twins explored together and ran over to the playground.
That evening, on the 'long' walk from the tent to the washroom, F was in charge of holding the headlamp. This made the darkness a lot less scary. We spotted a deer in the dark. On the way back I even managed to convince her to go into the middle of a field, turn off the light, and look at the stars. It was a great night for it - clear and dark (this was a few days before the solar eclipse, so there was no moon). These days she always wants to look for the Big Dipper, because she knows it's a thing. I tried to explain the Milky Way too. Back at the tent, perhaps for the first time, F settled down to sleep quickly. Usually she tries to use the tent as a bouncy castle for a while, something we'd feared with a baby in the tent.
The next morning F and I went for an explore/bike, but (as usual) ended up at the ocean where she popped some rockweed, watched crabs, and poked washed up jellyfish while Line and N relaxed in camp. As I kid I grew up near fresh water... the ocean just has so much going on. In the afternoon we took advantage of the low-low tide (eclipse, remember) and explored the lowest parts of the inter-tidal zone. Barely above water was a myriad of sand dollars. I'd never actually seen a living sand dollar before. If you are a sand dollar the place to be is clearly the intertidal zone between Newcastle and Protection Islands.
The way back was nice too - I ran after F as she biked past a long multi-ferry lineup of cars. Fortunately there is (almost) always room for walk-on passengers. Back on the ferry Line and I finally executed that high-five we'd been saving from the previous day.
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.