Category Archives: General

Paddling the “Yough” or Youghiogheny River system

We spent 4 days hanging out around the Youghiogheny River basin in early September and had a great time exploring the area. It was definitely too short of a visit and we’ll need to come again to really explore all that the Laurel Highlands area provides (paddling, biking, hiking etc.).

The Youghiogheny River has four different sections – the TOP, the UPPER, the MIDDLE and the LOWER (which has a subsection called the FALLS which is within the LOOP). The TOP and UPPER are located in Maryland and the MIDDLE and LOWER are in Pennsylvania. The two sections in Virginia are class IV+, the MIDDLE is class II and the LOWER is a class II/III run (excluding the falls, which would count at III+).

We paddled the UPPER section on our first day – nothing like jumping right back into class IV creeking after being in play boats for three months! Everyone wore their full face helmets and elbow pads and we were pretty glad to have them. Lots of rocks, tight slots and boofs were the general theme. Once you got in the groove it was pretty fun and certainly a beautiful river. This run is based on a dam release so be sure to check the schedule. Total paddle time was about 3 hours, with the put in being at the end of a country road with a nice park and the take out is a spacious parking lot on the edge of Friendsville, MD. There are some great food and beer stands right up the road to be sure to stick around and check them out.

One of the highlights of the weekend was hanging out with a bunch of amazing paddling kids that Hunter met through Keeners this summer. It is so great to spend time with likeminded families and have other kids to support and challenge Hunter with his kayaking.

Our second day we paddled the Lower section, which starts right below the falls in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. It is quite different from the Upper section as this is where the commercial rafting runs primarily go. It was also our first experience with having to pay a river access fee and being given a “time slot” to run the river! It definitely felt a bit overwhelming to start with.

The Falls themselves can only be run at certain water levels and unfortunately it wasn’t in the sweet spot while we were there. This run is not release dependant so you can paddle it on most days.

 

The lower section is a straight forward class 3 run full of fun slots and rock splats – definitely a play boat kind of place!

If you are pressed for time, just run the loop section of the lower run. It covers about 75% of the rapids and the take out is less than a km from the put in so it’s an easy walk – either to do another lap or back to your car.

We definitely recommend this area for paddling and outdoor families. We stayed at the Ohiopyle State Park Campground and definitely recommend it – big clean wooded sites with hiking and biking trails right there and it is half way between the put in and take out for the lower section. There are hiking and biking trails that follow the river and are very scenic.

This adventure brought to you by Desperate for Whitewater in the Yukon…

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Our return to the Yukon has been a fairly abrupt transition. Hunter was out the door within an hour of arriving home to see friends leaving Tim and I a few days to unpack everything and spend a lot of time staring at each other and the “stuff” we were surrounded by. It wasn’t helped by the fact that we were coming off of five weeks of fabulous kayaking and the water wasn’t really running in the Yukon yet!

We spent the month of May practicing in the eddy’s and on the eddy lines of the very cold Yukon river. By early June we were all desperate enough that we organized a one day family trip to get out on some whitewater.

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The O’Donnell River is located just outside of Atlin, B.C., which is a 2.5 hour drive south from Whitehorse. It has a class 3 upper section and a class 2 lower section and is located near the end of a set of unmaintained placer mine roads and fairly remote which makes shuttling more interesting. Overall this adventure took 13 hours (door to door) and broke down as 5 hours of road driving, 3 hours on the water (2 laps of the upper section) and 5 hours of ATV shuttling.

 

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While the road is unmaintained and doable with a 4×4 truck we opted to use 2 ATV’s for the shuttle as this limits the risk of getting the truck stuck and having a very long walk to Atlin to get help…

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Tim jury rigged a very creative rack for one of the ATV’s (because he’s so great at that) and then Hunter and I drove the second ATV.

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As much as Hunter enjoyed the creeking style of the river, I think he enjoyed getting to be the ATV shuttle driver even more…

The put in is right beside an old Placer Mine, which makes for some pretty neat scenery.

DSCN3994 The first few kilometres of the upper section are class II with small riffles you can try to surf. It’s fairly windy and the water is glacier/mountain snow fed so is definitely northern cold.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.48.30 PMAs always, we had fun playing bumper boats on any little surf waves we could find…

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 12.00.55 AMOnce you hit the canyon section there are a lot of blind corners so we practiced eddy hopping to work our way around and through the features. Tim did a great job as trip leader explaining the nuances of the upcoming sections.

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Overall it’s a beautiful wilderness area and it was a great day out on the water, even with it as long as it was. We managed to catch treats at one of the places in Atlin even though it had closed (the town shuts down at 7pm even on weekends so plan accordingly) and that fuelled us through the drive home.

IMG_4380It’s been a long time since we had a kid falling asleep in the back of the truck after a day out so it must of been quite a day!

 

APB – Cops do math & physics at work!!!

 

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As part of the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering we spent an amazing 2 hours in a free workshop put on by the Escondido Police Department. The audience was a mix of homeschool families and high school students and it was standing room only…

IMG_3685The presentation was broken into two one hour sections – Traffic Accident Investigation and Forensics. Both areas were engaging and clearly demonstrated how math and science are used on an every day basis within the police force.

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We learned about all of the tools that the Collision Investigation Unit use – both high tech and low tech to help decode and deconstruct the scene of an accident so they can then replicate it, both to determine cause and to demonstrate the information to others (i.e. in a court room).

We learned how to calculate velocity and what the ideal safe speed is for a car driving at night based upon visibility provided with high beams and human response times (hint… it’s around 28-30 mph).

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We learned about how kinetic energy logic is used to measure the velocity of a vehicle in an accident (what goes in to a force comes out of the force with equal energy – like the balls).

And we learned how you can use math and physics to determine angle and velocity of the vehicles in a crash based upon the angles of momentum and the size of crash damage. I was blown away with how effectively the officers conveyed the information and how they managed to connect it so simply and clearly with the kids in the room!

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The Robbery/Homicide team came in and ran a mock investigation of an incident with blood spatter to determine who’s story was correct between two complainants. It was a little slower paced because the group was so large and they had kids doing some of the work but there were lots of good nuggets of information.

The BEST part of the whole 2 hours was the recommendation that students get a BACHELOR’S DEGREE if they want to become police officers. It was a slam dunk for Hunter that he now needed to shift his goal from college to university – whew… THANK YOU ESCONDIDO POLICE DEPARTMENT!

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.

Roadschooling in Kelowna

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We came to Kelowna for a handful of reasons – to meet up with Hunter’s Distributed Learning Teacher, to find warmer weather and to bike the Kettle Valley Railroad. We based ourselves out of Canyon Farms RV Park and it turned out to be a great road school experience as well.

The RV park is actually 8 beautiful sites that are located at the back of a working organic dalia farm. Lesley, the owner, has raised 4 kids and is passionate about making farming a learning experience. With a simple question of “why did you build an RV park” we learned all about the pine beetles that devastated their forest and the spruce beetles that had travelled into southern BC and are now decimating spruce trees, along with wood worms.

Every morning Hunter goes up and collects the eggs with Lesley. He starts by feeding the chickens, which keeps them distracted and out of the hen house. He then goes and collects all of the eggs from the coops and has learned to inspect them as well to look at shell quality. The egg haul is sold as farm gate every day to Lesley’s local customers, with Timber the dog benefiting from any non-sellable eggs as snacks.

IMG_2189The laying hens are all organic and Lesley takes advantage of having extra kitchens on her property. Everyone gets a bucket to place all of their plant based compost in and then you get to go and feed it to the chickens. It’s fun for Hunter and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to not place our compost in the garbage.

Hunter has also been helping out in the garden with end of season work. They have pulled plants and then moved fencing to allow the chickens greater range to wander and eat. He has learned about how the chickens create great fertilizer for all the plants and that it is a symbiotic relationship.

They also have a net and a variety of balls and rackets to use. Hunter decided that badminton would be fun and we’ve been playing everyday, most times more than once…

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Although it’s a quiet place, filled mostly with “golfers and wine tour folks”, we’ve also found it to be a great road schooling stop. Lots to learn in our surroundings, close access to biking and walking trails and amazing internet access.