The weekend after returning home from two months of bike touring in Europe a big group of our friends were getting together for an overnight trip at Brew Lake. We thought it would be a great way to see everyone again, and get F out hiking with her buddies.
We left town at 8 am and it was already super warm. Our family does not do so well with warm, which is my we tend to pick places like Alaska, the Yukon, Greenland and Norway for our holidays. F in particular does not deal well with heat as she does not like getting sweaty. Turns out that our car also did not like the heat, because as we were driving up the logging road the clutch started failing to engage after changing gears. Luckily it still (almost) made it to the trailhead before we had to abandon it in hopes that it would be better once we got back.
F started hiking up the road with our friend Tim and his daughter, T. I didn't catch up to them before we got to the trailhead, where everyone were busy getting there kids ready for hiking. The trail is more of a route. It is overgrown in the clearcut and goes through several boulder patches. Normally challenging trails tend to keep the kids entertained, but that was definitely not the case for F on this day. Things quickly went down hill on the way up. It seems that everything was wrong if you asked F. I must admit that I also thought that it was way too warm and way too buggy. I think both Christian and I had this expectation that F could easily hike this particular trail, and F was very determined to show us how incapable she was. After a two hour meltdown F had convinced us that it was best to go back home to do the laundry and clean the apartment (it sure could use it). They say that you can't make them eat, sleep, or poop... but I guess you also can't make them hike. We have later determine that there were lots of things that we could have done better in this situation, but I was still impressed with Christian's calmness and compassion. Our main lesson for the next trip was to change our language. We would like to keep it upbeat and positive, and not try to bring any time constraint into the situation (like, we have to keep going to catch up to your friends, or before it gets dark, etc.). We (more recently) did an overnight hike into Conflict Lake which went very well, so maybe we learned something.
I decided to continue the trip with N, so we had a snack and rearranged the gear. I quickly made it up to the lake and not so much later all the families had arrived. The lake provided a perfect, cool swim, and a small breeze kept the bugs away. And despite the heat it was really nice up there. Kids all enjoyed playing, some in the lake and some on shore.
The Nelson family had left their tent pole at home, so Scott shared the tent with N and I, which made me feel better about carrying a four person tent up there. In the morning N crawled over and cuddled Scott, but later woke up surprised that it wasn't her dad she was snuggling.
Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of mosquitos buzzing and although they got better later in the morning the nice breeze never came back to take them away. The heat was also pretty brutal, so I was happy when my ride, Maya and Gili, decided to make it an early departure. I took my time packing, while they started heading down with their three year old. At two we were back at the car driving back towards Vancouver.
July 3rd to July 14th
~250 km, 1600 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part VI: Rallarvegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
We flew from Bergen to Zurich, and my bicycle never appeared in the luggage area. This had us pretty worried as it was the only bicycle we'd have trouble replacing, especially mid-trip, and it wasn't clear to us even we could manage to transport all our stuff and kids without a cargo bike. Still, if they were going to loose a bicycle, this was a good time for it - we had a day of slack and were staying with friends Joanna and Walter. It was nice to feel like we were at home for a change after so long on the road, and have an excuse to hang out for a day and relax. Fortunately my bicycle was later delivered to their house... it looked like the box had been dropped down the stairs and skewered with a forklift, but fortunately there was no damage to the bicycle or any missing parts.
This post - June 27th to July 1st
~82 km, 1000 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part V: Mosquito pass Mjolkevegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
Upon arrival in Haugastøl by train we set out immediately on the Rallarvegen - a beautiful 82 kilometres of closed gravel road, initially built to service the train line we'd just exited. It is immensely popular with cyclists (for good reason), but since it was still early in the season the throngs of cyclists were replaced by rumours that the road was still impassible due to snow coverage.
It seems that we'd saved the best for last. The terrain was breathtaking - the sort of stuff I'm only used to accessing by ski touring. And with the spring snow coverage still present and ice still floating in the lakes it almost seemed like we might have skied there... but here I was with the whole family on bicycles. Our first camp was by Finsevatnet, just past the first snow patch covering the road and across from the massive Hardanger-jøkulen, which sent long glaciated fingers down towards the lake. A german tourist came by camp the other direction and reported that there were many more snow patches, but that we should have no problems. From camp I ran up the nearby Store Finsenuten, which had only 4 entries in the summit register since it was started in 2014 (but was located on top of the summit boulder). There were also words spelled out in dirt with rocks, but I couldn't make them out. The run back down was amazing, with soft mosses that made it feel almost like skiing. It made me think maybe I could get into this running thing...
This post - June 25th to 26th
~ 70 km, 1000 m - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway Part IV - Jotunheimen National Park and Valdresflye Plateaux
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
I've started to develop some very itchy hives on my hands... it's not clear to me if I've become allergic to our sunscreen, or if it was the fibreglass, but I took some antihistamines and stopped wearing sunscreen as a precaution. I picked up some cheap cotton gloves and rigged up a neck flap for my helmet instead.
The climb up from Fagernes was gruelling in the hot sun, but we treated ourselves to a whole watermelon and tub of ice cream at the top. Maybe it wasn't so bad that the grocery stores in the valley were closed yesterday. Then we found ourselves on another gorgeous high plateaux, where we picked up the Mjølkevegen cycling route toward Gol. It's worth mentioning how amazing the Norwegian drivers are when it comes to cyclists. You could have a loaded semi behind you as you slowly crawl up a winding hill, and the driver will wait patiently a respectable distance back since there isn't enough room to safely pass. Only once there is a spot for you to pull over, or a clear view ahead, will the driver pass you with a friendly smile and wave. It suppose helps that we're mostly on back roads - everybody who is in a rush takes the tunnels under the mountains, not the old roads over them - but the drivers are all still very friendly and professional.
This post - June 20th-24th
~190 km, 2200 m - biked with the whole family
440 + 600 + 800 + 1200, extracurricular hiking elevation
Follows: Norway part III: Poopville (Mysubytta)
See also: Our European bike tour: People and Equipment
After leaving Dønfoss camp we didn't spend too much time zipping down the valley until heading up into the mountains again. This time heading up some very steep switchbacks from Garmo towards Tesse lake. I was the only one who didn't need to dismount, and only just barely... we didn't quite make it to the top, and camped near the side of the road in the middle of the switchbacks. The combination of allemannsretten and long days makes for stress-free cycle touring. It was a beautiful forested campsite, and also the last night with Laerke, as she needed to return to her regular life. The next day we bade her farewell and then tried to go the low-elevation way around Tesse lake, but the track became unsuitable for our bicycles and we had to go back and around the high way - almost as high as the pass - before coming back down to a campground in Randsverk. That evening I had my best (running) time yet - 440 meters in just under 21 minutes up, 17 down, to summit Ørnkampen just outside of town. I was pretty excited about it until I realized that this would be a regular (overall) time on skis... but still good since I don't really consider myself a runner.
During the cycle towards the famous Jotunheimen National Park F complained about being itchy and we discovered that both kids were covered in fibreglass shards. We think it was an aging above-ground enclosure they were playing on/around at the last campground... we cleaned them up as good as we could and quarantined the affected clothing, but were pretty worried as this was most of their warm clothes. We rented a very small cabin at Bessheim, just outside the park, both due to high predicted winds, but also so that we could take a proper shower and attempt to wash all the fibreglass contaminated clothes. That evening I washed the kids/clothes while Line ran a loop through the park up to Bessvatnet and over the shoulder of Veslfjellet. Even though the high winds never materialized we thoroughly enjoyed our first non-tent night in a long time.
The next day I got up early, biked over to Leirungsbuin then did a running traverse over Knutshøe and back around the North side before breakfast. I expected to pass a lot of people, but only saw/passed a single German tourist. I think I was too early. I read a lot of warnings about it being a serious mountaineering objective, but as usual you need to modulate the severity of the warnings against the popularity of the route - there were only a few easy scrambling sections, but was important to go the right way. I think the South side is the more popular return route, as I found the trail around the North side to be largely nonexistent in places. Later that day, biking by the regular trailhead with the whole family, I ran into the same German tourist; he had just returned to his car. We chatted a bit and he gave Fenya a lot of gummy candies.
The pass to the South we biked over is a wide alpine plateaux, and unlike anything I'd seen before. We pulled over at a rest stop and watched a herd of reindeer roaming the plains; they moved much like a flock of birds. Beautiful. That evening we camped by the trailhead for the Bitihorn; Line climbed it that evening and I climbed it the next morning. F and N were very exited about the patch of snow beside the tent. Then came the long winding descent to "civilization" at Fagernes, stopping so that F could get an extracurricular climb up Smørkollen on the way. It seems that our planning was somewhat lacking, though, as we came down on the weekend and everything was closed except the gas station. The hot-chocolate powder I ate right from the package wasn't very good, but the only problem with the gas station pizza was that we only bought one of them...
This post - 17 to 19 June
~ 72 km, 600 m - biked with the whole family
~15 km, 1600 m - extracurricular hiking
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
After a quick stop to pick up groceries we headed up the next valley riding up Bråtåvegen, past Liavatnet, to Mysubytta. Eventually the road became a toll road, and Mysubytta at the head of the valley was nothing more than a small cottage community, seemingly abandoned except for a rather large number of free roaming livestock. So we basically had the place to ourselves. Liavatnet was gorgeous, as was the whole valley, and Mysubytta appeared like a postcard dotted with sturdy turf-roofed cottages.
The road was not only steep but also loose, and I had to dismount for the first time after loosing traction. That is when I discovered that, on loose surfaces, I'm actually better off on the bicycle! If I have to get off due to traction loss I can't actually push the ~250 lbs of bike/gear/kids up the hill; since I only weigh ~160 lbs I don't get enough traction with my feet to do so. I just hold onto the brakes and wait for assistance. Fortunately, such instances were rare.
This post - 14 to 16 June
~ 65 km, 500 m - biked with the whole family
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
Line was pressed against the upwind side of the tent, supporting it from the inside, while I ran around on the outside making small rock bollards for the tiedowns. The weather was so nice the previous day that we hadn't even secured the tents properly, having completely failed to look at the wind part of the weather forecast. Now, Line and I are no strangers to weather in the alpine - before we had kids we'd hit the mountains almost every weekend, year 'round, and have been heading out on long self-supported expeditions together since before we were married. The kind of trips where you often spend days in a blizzard on the middle of some glacier. But, for some reason, we hadn't really taken the alpine seriously because we were on a road. I guess it was just a bit of a cognitive disconnect - for us the road has always meant civilization and safety. You get down from the mountains, reach the road (usually in the valley), and drive home inside the warm cocoon of your car. Here we were on the road already... but, of course, the weather doesn't stop simply because there is a road there. That was just our experience from over a decade of car-supported mountain trips. Our warm cocoon now is 3.5 kg of polyester, and it's not driving us home any time soon.
It was still in the wee hours, but fortunately we were far enough North that it never gets dark. I ducked back into the tent to discuss our options. The kids were fast asleep. It was already *pretty* windy, but according to the forecast this was just the tip of the iceberg. We could expect wind speeds in excess of 100 km/h - there was no way the tent could handle it in our current position. We had to move. Line started packing while I ran around the local area looking for a better spot. It started to rain. We carried the kids, still in their sleeping bags, into Laerke's tent (which is at least a real 4-season alpine tent); then we took down our tent and set it up again ~100 meters away on the lee side of some sort of road-maintenance shed. Then we put the kids, now slightly awake but still in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and wheeled them over there too. Finally we took down Laerke's tent and had the whole team crowded into our 4-person tent beside the roadworks shed.
We ended up pinned there for 2 days and nights in a driving wind that often carried a mix of rain and snow. Even in the lee of the roadworks shed sometimes we wondered if tent would be blown right off the mountain. We worked out the details of our backup plan in case of tent failure - piling the kids, in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and pushing them to a hotel just a few km away while we abandoning the rest of the equipment (or flagging down a passing motorist, if possible). We occasionally set up a tarp for cooking, and ripped a lot of holes in it by doing so. I noted how the wind could blow the tea out from your cup if you strayed from the shed and got caught by a gust (if it didn't just plain-old knock you over).
This post - 11 to 13 June
~ 35 km, 1150 m - biked with the whole family
~ 20 km biking, ~ 12 km hiking, ~ 2200 m elevation - extra-curricular
(and a long ferry ride)
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment.
On arriving in Bergen we picked the large outdoor (but covered) public area just outside the airport front doors for bicycle unpacking and re-assembly. We'd taken four hours to pack all four (Line's sister Laerke would be joining us) bikes in Copenhagen, but didn't have very much time for re-assembly as we had a ferry to catch. We needed to be efficient. F's bike was assembled first; this turned out to be a key strategic decision because it meant she could ride around in circles (entertaining herself) while the adults re-assembled the rest of the bikes, changed diapers, re-packed the luggage for biking, and kept the kids fed. Second bike was my cargo bike, which Line immediately took to drop the bike boxes off with the hotel we'd stay at the night preceding our return flight (we hadn't yet figured out we could easily carry them in addition to all our stuff). I had her bike assembled just before she returned, so she could take off to buy fuel and other supplies we'd need for the rest of our trip, and then sort out the ferry. One I'd finished up Laerke's bike (noticing it was in pretty pour repair) we packed all the kids and stuff onto them and headed off. Two hours - we were efficient.
We caught up to Line when she called Laerke's cell... "Hey, there is a bike store attached to the camping store - maybe we should buy enough parts to fix Laerke's bike? What size are her tires again?" "Wait a second - we're also standing outside a bike/outdoors store". Turns out we were meters apart. We stocked up on bike parts too (all the consumables on Laerke's borrowed bike were in poor shape - tires, brakes, cables) and hurried to the ferry. The ride through town was really nice, with lots of bike infrastructure.
The family reunited
I left Vancouver with the girls prior to Christian, and after two weeks he was finally joining us in Denmark to start the first leg of our 2 month long bike trip. We spent a day at my dad's house to get the bikes ready, and pack all our stuff into panniers and dry bags. We were all very excited and a bit nervous. We have gone on a few weekend trips to the Gulf Islands, and one 5 day trip to Vancouver Island previously, but this would be our first long distance bike tour. I always thought that we should save the bike touring for when we had two kids, so here we go...
In the evening of Christian's arrival day my dad drove the family to Freltofte, where we set up camp. I took the train as we didn't all fit in the car. Here we enjoyed our first night at one of Denmarks many shelter spots. Denmark is littered with these small shelter spots, where you can sleep in a small shelter or set up your tent for free (or very cheap). It can be on public or private land. Freltofte Lejrplads just North of Ringe were located at the back of a private property. They had sheep and bunnies, there were an outhouse and water available. Only problem was the many moquitos coming out at dusk encouraging us to set up camp quickly.
The next morning we packed the bikes for the first time. It was definitely not efficient, but we managed to fit it all on. We set off towards Ringe on the country roads. In Ringe we had our first and only bikeshop stop (in Denmark). F's seat on the Haul-a-Day was lacking an essential snacking station and a bell. After a few quick upgrades we joined the railtrail towards Korinth. 16 km of flat trail with no cars. F biked the first kilometer or so, but quickly decided that the Haul-a-Day was more attractive.
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.