Monthly Archives: October 2015

A week in Moab – can’t help but have fun!

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Moab is my second “happy place” (behind Tofino) in North America. I just can’t get enough of the laid back lifestyle and amazing rocks. It doesn’t hurt that when we come in the late fall it is still summer like weather and it’s almost guaranteed that I can wear shorts and swim outside!

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We had planned on spending the week boondocking outside of Arches National Park but decided that with temps in the 80’s it would be wiser to spend the money on a campsite that came with shade and a pool. We ended up at Canyonlands RV, where we have stayed before, and had another great stay. It is right at the south end of main street and within walking distance of groceries, restaurants, parks etc.. The only downside is that it is right next to the high school – while this comes with the benefit of Friday night football in the fall, it comes with the negative of 7am marching band practice Monday – Wednesday.

pool handstandsChoosing the pool was definitely a good decision as we were in it at least once a day and many times twice. The boys spent time working on their headstands, underwater summersaults and playing battle with pool noodles.

In addition to spending two days mountain biking at the Bar M trails we also ventured off to the Moab Skate Park for some fun.

We spent our last day on a Fiery Furnaces hike with Jay from Tag-a-long tours. Tim and I did this on a ranger lead tour back when Hunter was 3 (and we carried him in a back pack) and loved it. While it was more expensive going on a commercial trip ($85 vs $16) the group size and experience made it well worth it. The Ranger led hikes have 25 people in them and are all about managing liability. They can also be booked online up to 6 months in advance so are very hard to get when you just show up in town. We were 5 plus the guide and Jay did a fabulous job customizing the experience for us while still managing risk. It made for a great mix of hiking, canyoneering and education. We would definitely recommend this hike and Jay at Tag-a-long!

Another great week in Moab left us looking forward to our next visit!

Craters of the Moon National Park

IMG_2474Our stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument was a fairly last minute decision – as we were driving eastward from Boise towards Moab Tim asked the simple question of “what else is there to do in Idaho”? Out came the map and we discovered that this National Monument was only 2-3 hours out of the way and fit well into our Earth Science school curriculum!COTM CampgroundWe got there just after dark and camped in the campground, which has no services but is well laid out with sites marked based on size. The skies were pitch black thanks to no light pollution and just filled with stars – something we hadn’t seen for a while and always enjoy. It was really neat to wake up surrounded by black lava piles.

We woke up early and hit the ranger station just after it opened at 8:00. We gleaned the basics of the park and Hunter completed his Junior Ranger/Astronaut badge. We learned about some caving opportunities in the park so signed up for a permit and were headed back out the door to have some adventures!

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First up was a steep climb up the Inferno Cone which seemed to keep going and going. It also afforded amazing views of the rest of the national monument and surrounding area.

A 360 view that just blew us away – definitely not what we were expecting from this National Monument…

Then we headed off to explore the caves & tunnels. We had learned about whitenose bat syndrome fungus two years ago when we went caving on our last trip. It continues to be a concern so we had to ensure that we were wearing different clothes than had been worn in any caves in the past to ensure we were not spreading the fungus.

We spent time playing in Beauty Cave (easily accessible right off the path and no need for a flashlight), Indian Tunnel (some fun scrambling from various entrances to the far exit, lights not needed for most places) and Boy Scout Cave (lights mandatory, scramble in entrance and then pitch black). It’s always fun to scramble and explore and we definitely recommend getting a cave permit if you come to the monument.

Although this National Monument is somewhat off the beaten path, it is very family friendly and highly educational – covering off both astronomy and earth science topics.

Boise Whitewater Park

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After our fabulous late season experience at the Bend Whitewater Park we decided to stop at the Boise Whitewater Park on the way east to Moab.  Unfortunately for us the water level had just dropped from mid fall levels of 400 to winter levels of 243 two days prior.

Boise only has 2 waves that are side by side so they rotate the wave between surfers and kayakers on different days. Kayak = Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday + 1/2 of Sunday, Surfing = Monday, Weds, Friday + 1/2 of Sunday. The wave changes each day at 10:00 am.

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We rolled into town at 7:30pm on Wednesday night, just as it was getting dark, and parked in the temporary parking lot along main street and the greenway. We had hoped to boondock in one of the two parking lots along the greenway but after chatting with someone from the Corridor Paddle Surf Shop that idea was nixed. We then learned about the local ordinance that does not allow overnight parking, which put Walmart and Cabela’s off the list. We checked out Flying J’s but they were jam packed with trucks so ended up at a Cracker Barrel, at 11pm, that had a vague sign regarding RV Parking. Needless to say there was very little sleep had. We definitely recommend getting a campsite if you are coming to town.

We were back at the river by 8am and parked in the temporary lot beside the put in (Pay $5.00 to Corridor Surf Shop for access). Everyone rolled back to bed to try to catch a little sleep as the wave was still set as a surf wave. We wandered out just after 10:00 and met Paul the new wave technician (Ryan, the former wave tech is now the wave tech at Bend). With new low flows at 243 Paul was struggling to get a good kayak wave going so Tim spent the next hour being his guinea pig as they adjusted various gates and the waveshapper.

It was neat to see inside their control shack and check out all the various ways that they can influence the waves. In Bend we saw Ryan standing at the top bridge and manipulating everything via an iPad – definitely the next generation from what they have in Boise as Paul had to go into the shack every time to make changes.

After a quick lunch we all ended up in the wave for an hour in the afternoon. It was fairly retentive and not as forgiving as the Bend lower wave, which made things more challenging. It is a powerful feature that definitely has potential.

I would have to say that our stop in Boise was fun but not the fabulous experience of Bend. It seems to be a very surf centric environment and low flows could have played into that as well as they normally shut things down at this level. Paul is passionate about making good waves for people and wants to find a way to have decent waves for the winter.  Phase Two of the park looks like it will be very family friendly and a great place to spend a few days.

Bend Whitewater Park

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On our last trip we were really disappointed to discover that we had missed the window to catch the whitewater play parks in Idaho and Nevada. When we learned that there was a new play park opening up in Bend we decided to stop and check it out, even if the waters were low! We paddled it at 1080 and 1400 cfs, both of which were still good.

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The Whitewater Park just opened in late September and is still working out some bugs, which is tough to do as the water levels are also dropping. It is located right in town on the Deschutes River and is a phased build, with a larger regional park also being built in the next year. Bend itself has a strong river trail system so there is a lot of activity going on along the river and lots of people excited to see the Whitewater Park come to fruition. This is a family friendly location as one of the channels is a floater channel so beginners can paddle or SUP down it or even float down in an inflatable kayak or tube.

Access to the play park is currently from a residential street just beside the river, right below the bottom wave. To get to the upper waves you take out on the rock island and carry your boat up which is no big deal. We were somewhat worried about parking since we are so large but found it to be fairly easy if we got there before the lunch rush. My guess is that during the busy summer season this will likely be a different experience.

Right now the upper or first wave is geared to be a kayak wave however they are having trouble with it not flushing due to the surging of the water. You can see in the left hand photo that there is an inflatable bladder that allows them to adjust the flow into the hole and they continue to tinker with it (and the others). Tim tried it on our first day but found that he flushed more than stuck so didn’t play much there.

Waves two and three are also works in progress – at the moment they are steep troughs and fairly shallow. They are working on developing them into surfing / SUP waves but they aren’t there yet due to water levels.

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We spent all of our time down at wave four which was a nice friendly consistent wave that allowed for lots of spin practice. It was wide enough for Tim and Hunter to both surf and spin at the same time and flushes out into a slow moving pool so no big deal for anyone if they swam. It was also easy eddy access.

Check out the video at our Facebook page to see Tim and Hunter surfing together!

Overall this is a very family friendly location and I have great optimism that they will continue to refine and improve the park over the coming year. We understand that they will be doing some work on it over the winter months when the water levels are really low. Water levels are expected to be strong between April 15th and October 15th each year. We stayed at the Scandia RV Park as it was under 10 minutes drive away and a decent price for a clean RV Park. If coming during the summer you should definitely book early as they fill up. The other option is the State Park just north of town, which would probably be a 30 minute drive to the park.

Hobuck Hoedown – Take Two…

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One of our favourite experiences two years ago was our unplanned trip to Neah Bay to attend the Hobuck Hoedown. It was a last minute plan and we were blown away by the location, the waves and the incredibly welcoming festival group. The event went into hiatus last year and came back again this year as a non-profit event run by a passionate group of local volunteers. We knew we couldn’t miss a chance to attend a second time and luckily it fit perfectly with our fairly vague schedule!

 

We got to Hobuck a few days ahead of the competition and had a great time surfing and generally playing around on the beach and in the water…

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On our last trip Hunter and Tim were zen surf masters in their kayaks – Tofino, Hobuck and California. I just didn’t find it that fun, mostly because I wasn’t crazy about the cartwheel crashes in my kayak, and opted to stick with my surf board most of the time. Two years later and I’m a stronger kayaker with a smaller boat – WOW… I get it!!! It was sooo much fun that I didn’t want to get out of the water and you couldn’t get the smile off my face. I would only quit each day because I was exhausted.

We have spent the summer talking with Hunter about competition and how it’s about going out and trying your best and just having fun, especially at his age. He has poked at both Tim and I to ask why we aren’t choosing to compete so I decided to enter the competition with Hunter as a fun togetherness thing. We both entered into the “skookum” class which was a mixed boat class for those that were not looking to collect points as part of the race circuit.

All week the waves had been around 2-3 feet and I was having a lot of fun. Saturday morning we arrived at the beach to see 3-5 ft waves in very tight sets. Getting out was the hardest part and probably consumed 80% of the 19 minutes that you get in the heat! My first paddle out I got pummelled twice with waves landing directly on top of me and just cartwheeling my boat backwards and upside down. If it wasn’t for all this “role modelling” stuff I probably would have bailed after the first 5 minutes as 2 other competitors did. I ended up third in my heat but had a fairly low score due to my lack of ability to get out to catch the green breaking waves vs the foam pile.

I got off the water feeling somewhat concerned for Hunter. The waves had dropped a little bit as the tide was coming in but were still quite a force to be reckoned with.  He got tossed around a fair bit but luckily did not end up getting pummelled as much as I did. Hunter had a couple of strong surfs in the last 2 minutes and came in 2nd in his heat. Top 4 went into the finals on Sunday and Hunter made it into spot #4!!!

Sunday was almost the exact opposite of a day. We had an offshore vs onshore breeze and the waves were few and far between, with most being in the 1-2 ft range. The difficulty in the finals was actually finding waves to catch! Hunter was against 3 adult men who were all paddling sea kayaks, which made it much easier for them to get some propulsion going to catch a green developing wave. We came up with a bit of a strategy by watching an earlier heat and decided that his play boat advantage was being able to catch the waves closer into shore just as they are about to break and this worked out well. He ended up 2nd overall which was pretty fabulous and well earned!

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Overall it was a fabulous week at Hobuck. The campground is wonderful with both a general camping area (with washrooms, showers, drinking water & showers) for $20 and an RV area (with full services) for $30, both of which are a bargain. You are right on the beach and have amazing sunsets every night. We were lucky to listen to a Makah Elder storyteller on Saturday night and it was neat to see and hear how similar their culture is to the Coastal Tlingit that we know from home.

Although Neah Bay is fairly out of the way, we definitely recommend it as a stop for any paddlers or surfers that want a low key getaway with great amenities.

A week in Whistler – all about family & friends

DSCN0474We spent the last full week of September up in Whistler, hoping to catch some indian summer days while paddling, biking and hanging with friends. We got a few beautiful sunny afternoons to start and end the week, with 48 hours of torrential rain in the middle. We also ended up with surprise visits with friends from Whitehorse who happened to be down for 2 separate conferences in Whistler – that was a treat!

Our friends Steve and Kim live right on Green Lake at the beginning of the Green River. Thanks to recent rains the level came up a bit and we were able to go for a family run down it. We made the most of the paddle and turned what is normally a 45 minute run into a 2.5 hour run, taking time to play on anything we found. Hunter even taught me how to stern squirt (put the back of my boat down under water on purpose).

We gave Tim the next day off and he did some construction at Steve’s house and then they headed out to paddle the CalCheak, which was low but they still managed to find some fun on their way down.

We stayed at the Riverside Campground which is just north of town and had fun biking on the fabulous Valley Trail system, which has over 30 km of paved biking/walking trails. We discovered the skate park and bike parks in Whistler, which were definitely worth the visit!

The highlight of the week for Hunter was the full 48 hours that he got to spend with his cousin Robin who was up from Vancouver. They spend the first 24 hours living with us in the campground and managed to fit in a round of mini golf, a trip to the Village on scooters to play in the skate park and get ice cream, and lots of time spent running around in the woods. The second 24 hours was spent with Aunt Dawn & Uncle Colin at Intrawest where they played in the pool and the games room, explored the village some more and generally ran around.

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Any time we stop near a major centre it is expensive as you feel more like a tourist and money gets spent on dinners out and ice cream. We try hard to balance things and find ways to explore for free while being open to spending money on great experiences or time with friends and family. It’s a juggle for sure!

Exploring the trestles of the Kettle Valley Railroad

DSCN0398The Kettle Valley Rail Road was first built in 1915 throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region of BC to move mining resources but only lasted fully until 1961, when some pieces were starting to be shut down, and the final section shut down in 1989.  Once shut down people started using the abandoned railway sections for hiking and biking, with them eventually being turned into a provincial park and the trestle section was declared a National Historic site in 2002.

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Tim and I biked the trestles before a lot of the restoration work was done and both ATV’d and dogsledded the trail in 2001 and 2002 before the fires of 2003 that destroyed most of them. Biking the trestles with Hunter was top of our list of things to do in Kelowna as we figured he would love them.

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The main trestle section is 12 km in length, made up of 18 trestles and runs from the Myra Canyon trailhead to the Ruth trailhead, which are just east of Kelowna.

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We rode from Ruth to Myra Canyon and back which made it 24 km round trip.

The trestles themselves vary in length and height depending on the gap that they are covering – pretty amazing engineering from the early 1900’s.

There are also 2 tunnels in the trestle section, both of which were adapted and reinforced through the years.

DSCN0383There are some interesting historical remnants (this is an original stone oven for one of the railway camps) and plenty of educational sign posts to learn more about the railway, the local geography as well as flora & fauna.

DSCN0444Because this was a railway there is never more than a 2.2% grade in the trail which makes for an easy ride or hike for pretty much anyone. There are a number of scenic look outs and benches for resting along the way. It’s a must do for anyone travelling through Kelowna!

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Down time in the Shuswaps – or not…

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After what felt like a nonstop summer of either driving or kayaking, we opted to spend the first week after labour day in the Shuswaps – thinking lazy days at the beach with no one else around as the rest of the world had gone back to their daily lives… Unfortunately NOT QUITE.

We booked into the Blind Bay Resort, whose web site shows water front sites located right on Shuswap lake – private dock, pool, games room etc.. Everything we look for when booking some down time! Rolling into this small town after driving 6 hours was a definite let down – the RV sites are all 2 blocks back from the beach front (where they are in construction of new sites), lake levels are very low thanks to the low water summer so there is no swimming from their beach, the pool had been closed that day and the games room was only open from 9am – noon when the office was staffed. Welcome to the off season!

On top of that the stink bugs arrived on our second day – if you haven’t experienced stink bugs BE GRATEFUL. They were everywhere (camper covered, always trying to get inside, in my hair) but if you kill them they stink so you have to be careful to ensure you whack them outside away from main entrances.

We took a few days to wash boats, vacuum out the trailer, sort gear etc. and then were feeling restless and bored. Some quick google searching found some local bike trails so out came the bikes, which really hadn’t had much use since Burns Lake in mid June.

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Our first ride was just a few minutes up the road and fairly low key. Hunter was somewhat grumpy getting back into the whole “uphill” thing and this got us all off on the wrong emotional foot. 2km in and we were all ready to throw in the hat but we persevered because we all agreed that a 4km ride wasn’t long enough. We pushed on and all agreed to turn around at the super steep part before the peak. It came with a screaming downhill section that put smiles back on everyone’s faces and then settled into a lazy flat section. I was busy watching Hunter zoom by me and completely missed the large tree section sticking out from the side of the trail – not sure if I hit it or my bike hit it but yet again I launched over my handlebars and found myself whimpering in a pile on the ground… Upon reflection Tim chastised himself for taking the photo after he had removed my bike from on top of me! Always looking for learning opportunities, we got Hunter to use his first aid assessment skills, which was a challenge as he was so busy laughing at me. End results was a lot of bruising and strained intercostal muscles on the left side.

With our taste for biking whetted we headed a bit further down the road the next day and had a fun afternoon at the White Lake Bike Park – a small area in the middle of nowhere with some great wood features and trails. I opted for hiking the trails and acting as the family photographer to give my very sore body a bit of rest.

We made a stop at Pebble Beach after our ride and were rewarded with a very fun and refreshing swim. They have a roped off swim area and 2 rafts to play on. I’m sure it is packed in the summer time.

Overall, not the stop we had planned but we tried to make the best of it. I got in a few runs and walks and Hunter had a fair amount of freedom to roam, which is important to him these days. Tim used the down time to get our gear back in working order and ready for the next adventure.