Monthly Archives: January 2016

Ecuador – take two…

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photo credit: Seth Ashworth

One of our goals this year is to kayak as much as possible, both for progression (for me) and fun (for everyone)! Being in southern Florida for December and January we realized that we were closer than we ever would be to Ecuador (a 4 hour flight vs 30 hours of travel) and jumped on the idea of a new year paddling adventure with the crew from Endless Adventure International, whom we played with last January on our first trip to Ecuador.

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Hunter decided to stay in Florida to get to spend some independent time with his Grandparents so this was also our first kidless trip. Always good to double check that we still like to hang out with each other!

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photo credit: Seth Ashworth

Ecuador kayaking is a mix of creeking and mid-sized big volume rivers, both of which are development areas for me and old hand for Tim. It’s all about the BOOF to make the most of the features…

We were in Ecuador for 11 days and paddled 9 days in a row throughout the Quijos corridor and Tena area. We covered off most of the sections of the Quijos River (Bridge one to the Dam), the Cosanga River, the Upper Misahualli, the lower Jondachi River, the Hollin River and the Jatunyacu River. YES we were tired kids by the end!

One of the coolest experiences was getting to the put in on the lower section of the Jondachi River. You drive through the small community of Mondayaku and there is a flurry of people that leap onto the truck looking for work as porters. For $5.00 someone will carry your boat the 20 minutes down a muddy animal track to the river – best $5.00 ever spent! The Jondachi is located outside Tena, which is on the edge of the Amazon Jungle. It’s class III/IV and amazingly scenic.

The other really fun experience was hanging out with the local kids that were out playing in the rivers. Some days they happened to be on a beach during a section and many times they were at the take outs. The happily fling themselves into the water and swim out to grab onto your boat and then ride around.

Last year when we paddled in Ecuador Tim ended up hitting up hitting his head on a misplaced rock when upside down and perforated his ear drum. With that in mind, we both got new full face helmets last summer and this was our first experience wearing them. Based on the scratches they both received, it turns out they were good purchases!

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photo credit: Seth Ashworth

Many thanks go out to the Endless Adventures team (Chris, Andrea, Seth, Ursual & Wilo) for another great visit. We definitely recommend Ecuador as a place to visit – beautiful scenery, amazing people and what feels like endless rivers to explore and paddle!

Travel Note: Ecuador has amazing diversity. Our first trip touched a bit more on non-paddling things and we strongly recommend Ecuador as a family friendly destination – great infrastructure, very clean, friendly people and enough to keep you busy for at least a month between the Amazon, the Andes, the Beach and the Galapagos.

 

Ski Camp – Florida style…

 

the view up the cable

the view up the cable

Just down the road from Aunt Shannon and Uncle Andy’s house in southern Florida is Quiet Waters, an urban state park with everything from walking and biking trails up to a cable wake board park. We missed our ski time at the cottage this summer so thought this would be a fun thing to try…

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It turned out that our friend Malwina from the Yukon was down visiting family in Miami and she jumped on board with the adventure. We signed up for a 2 hour beginner session that SkiRixen holds every Saturday and Sunday morning before the park opens to the public. They slow the cable speeds down and provide coaching and instruction – it was perfect!

The staff start everyone out on a knee board to get used to the cable system and learn how to manoeuvre on the water. The hardest part is learning to corner and minimize the slack so you don’t have a big slow down and then a big whip. It took us a few goes to get the hang of things and make it all the way around the square course.

The next progression is to water skis to let you get the weighting/unweighting and the cornering. They don’t recommend slalom skiing as it can be tough with the cable jerks and the slower speed during beginner time. It felt really weird to start by completely sitting on your skis but it worked – lots of small adaptations between a boat and the cable system.

The staff at SkiRixen were fabulous – very patient, gave lots of tips and suggestions and they even zip around in a golf cart to pick you up so you spend less time walking back to the start after you crash and more time on the water.

The finale for everyone was wake boarding. While it is supposed to be the hardest thing, we all found it one of the easiest, although that is probably because we spent our time on the knee board and water skis working out the system. Big smiles by everyone and lots of excitement for wake boarding this summer at the cottage!

It was a fabulous morning together as a family. Sunshine, water and learning new things – doesn’t get any better than that!

We definitely recommend Ski Rixen as a family adventure. They currently have a 2for1 beginner special which made this an absolute bargain at $25 each for a 2 hour session.

160 km bike down the Florida Keys

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Back in March our brother in law Andy, who lives in southern Florida, shared that one of his bucket list items was to bike the Keys from end to end. Being adventurers, we thought “why not”… without really doing much thinking about the actual details. Fast forward nine months and we found ourselves driving from Fort Lauderdale down to Marathon to get set up for our 3 day biking extravaganza.

DSCN1907We had 8 adventurers on board with ages ranging from 12 to 73. We based ourselves out of Knights Key Campground which is just south of the town of Marathon and about 2/3 of the way down the length of the keys. The plan was to ride 60km day one, 48 km day two and 70 km day three. The night before these distances finally started sinking in to our heads – Ack!

To avoid the heat of the day, day one started really really early – we were up at 6:15 and in the truck shortly after 7:00 to drive back up to Key Largo and start the biking. Andy’s brother Peter joined us as rider and shuttle driver and this was invaluable. Peter rode short distances out and back from the truck and then drove the truck towards our final distance, picking up anyone that wanted to opt out along the way.

The original goal for Hunter was to make it to Dairy Queen, which was about 20km from the start. With such an early start we arrived before DQ actually opened (11:00) and since he was riding so well we pushed onwards. At the 30km mark he was definitely done due to a sore butt. Hunter and I called Peter for a ride and then took a small detour back to DQ for his promised blizzard before continuing on to the finish point for the day to pick up Bob, Andy and Tim.

The first 30km of the ride was mostly side walk or bike paths as we made our way through Key Largo and down into the keys. The second 30km of day one started to see things open up and the last 10km of it was now along the water. The boys took a pit stop at the IslaMorada Fish Company, which is a restaurant and a Bass Pro Shop location with a Tarpon pool out front – neat to see these large fish.

DSCN1987The weather was unseasonably warm (in the high 20’s celcius, 85-88f) and I was craving a swim in the ocean, especially with water temps in the high 70’s. Unfortunately Knight’s Key is more about boats on the water than people in the water so there wasn’t a great place to swim. First Hunter and I tried walking out into the water at a small opening we found in the mangroves. We made it about 8 steps before our feet were so sucked down into the muck that it took a team effort to make it back to shore. Attempt number two was to take the SUP out to get us far enough from shore to be able to jump off and swim. This was hampered by fairly strong winds and the fact that the depths stayed shallow for quite a distance. It was fun but unsuccessful and I was left craving some water time.

Day two was another early morning start – up and in the truck for 7am. It was a shorter drive to the start so we were on our bikes and riding by 8am. Grandma Liz joined us for this leg so Hunter, Grandpa and Tim rode in the back of the truck to make room for her in the truck. Day two was mostly oceanside riding with a few stretches of great bike path in the mangroves. About 15% was along the side of the road. With a sore butt Hunter made it 20km and then had fun touring with Peter in the shuttle truck.

Grandma Liz rode with the group for another 10km and was happy to catch a ride with the shuttle gang while Tim, Bob, Andy and Lee continued on for the remaining 18km.

The last stretch of day two was through the town of Marathon and then over 7 mile bridge. The winds were in our favour which made crossing the bridge much easier than anticipated. I was concerned about any strong cross winds and what it would take to blow me off my bike and over the rather low guard rails into the water. The old rail bridge travels beside the new bridge for about 5 miles on one side and then 2 miles on the other side with a small gap for boat traffic in between. Hopefully they will soon finish refurbishing the bridge so that you can bike on it rather than with all the traffic on 7 mile bridge.

I was still jonesing for some time in/on the water so Bob and I took off in the canoe after some lunch and a rest. We paddled out from the campground and over to check out the bridge and surrounding area. The winds were still decent so we had some bouncy water in sections which made things interesting since we were in his marathon race boat (sleek = tippy). We circumnavigated a few islands, checked out the real-estate and saw lots of birds. Thankfully no swim while in the canoe so I finally gave in and headed to the local swimming hole for a quick dip. It sits right on the edge of the marina and I wasn’t all that excited about the idea of swimming in boat engine water so while it was refreshing it was also quick.

Day three had a slightly later start – 8am vs 7am which was nice. Hunter had set himself a goal of 40km, which would be 4km higher than his personal best from our epic ride in Columbus.We set a slower pace with the goal of getting him to his target. Around the 30km mark we came across a fire station that had their pumper truck sitting out – a perfect place to rest. One of the firemen noticed us lingering and came out to spend time with Hunter… one happy kid!

Once you make it to the 40 km mark the next goal of 65km seems pretty doable so Hunter pushed on. We had an ice-cream pit stop at a gas station at about the 48km mark and that helped provide energy to push on. Hunter did amazingly well and the first tears and strain only showed up around the 60 km mark. We pushed and cajoled and made it to the almost final stop – meeting up with the rest of the gang at Publix/Wendy’s in Key West. The idea was for Peter and Liz to join us for the final 5km ride through Key West to reach the Mile 0 buoy.

It turns out that this is quite the tourist stop and people were lined up around the block to get their photos taken with it. Definitely the end of our peaceful ride… people, tour buses and cars everywhere!

DSCN2176One more DQ stop as the reward for Hunter riding 70km – what an awesome new personal best! While some people went for lunch, a few of us drove around in the air conditioned car and checked out Key West – it was the perfect compromise for Hunter who was not going to move another foot on his bike for a few hours. We finished the day with a short ride back through town to the shuttle truck and headed back to the campground for a big sleep!

About 75 miles of the keys is now accessible via the Overseas Heritage Trail, which is the paved bike trail. They are working on completing the last bits and when that happens this will be a great family adventure. Until that point there are a number of places where you have to ride on the side of the road, which is not great for cyclists under 10. We just rode with someone in front and behind Hunter and felt fairly safe.