Category Archives: General

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.

We’re back on the road… Chasing the Sun Season 3

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We are back on the road again – for eleven months this time… it came about for many reasons, some simple and some complicated, but no matter how we got here – it is great to be wandering again!

It has been a whirlwind the last few weeks and as we get consistent wifi there will be a flow of posts coming. There will also be a new feature this year – Hunter’s Skateboard Park Reviews, a great project that matches his passion with some school learning opportunities.

We are enjoying a down weekend in Canmore after burning out on non-stop mountain biking, whitewater kayaking and visiting with family and friends. Next stop is Revelstoke for more paddling and mountain biking and then off to Chilliwack for the Slalom and Downriver Whitewater Nationals.

Excited for what the next year brings…

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Celebrating 100 Years

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Over fifty extended family members gathered in Edmonton over the Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate the  life of my Grandmother, Addie Manning, who turned 100 last October and passed away on February 1st, 2015. It was quite fitting that our events were based out of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, which was also celebrating it’s 100th year.

The best part of the weekend was the chaos of immersion with family. It was the first time that Hunter, Robin and Justin (a new addition to the family) got to hang out together and they were quickly dubbed the 3 amigo’s as they were always together – basically a 48 hour sleepover. We had an intimate ceremony at the gravesite and a joyful lunch with 50+ family and a few close friends, most of whom had travelled to be there for the weekend. It was a wonderful reminder of the reach and impact that we can all have in our lives.

No trip to Edmonton is complete without a stop at West Edmonton Mall. We ended up doing 2 visits – one with the greater gang to catch an afternoon at GalaxyLand and a second one to experience the rest of the mall and do a little shopping.

Hunter definitely enjoyed the mall – it was a toss up between all the neat things to do and the fact that he was wearing his Heely’s and had so much smooth surface to glide on. It was a fairly hectic whirlwind of a weekend and not our usual style yet still fun to catch up with everyone and make plans for this summer.

Roadschooling through the Yukon

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midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

The Yukon tourism tagline is “Larger than Life” and it certainly lives up to that. While  not very populous in terms of humans, it is full of breath taking scenery, abundant wildlife and living stories of the Klondike Gold Rush. We firmly believe that coming to the Yukon (summer or winter) is a must do for all Canadians! With summer just around the corner we thought we’d start to plant some seeds out there…

We recommend the following adventures to make the most of any visit:

Drive the Alaska Highway:

The Alaska Highway is a historic monument in itself. Also referred to as the Alcan Highway, it was completed in 1942 to create a connection between Alaska and mainland USA for World War II, and is a partnership between the Canadian and US governments. Be sure to pick up the Milepost Guide Book which gives you mile by mile information for the entire highway.

Be sure to stop at the Liard HotSprings in Northern B.C. (between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake) for a soak or two in a natural hot spring. You can camp or stay at the lodge across the road.

There are plenty of provincial/territorial campgrounds along the Alaska Highway and you don’t have to worry about them being full other than on long weekends.

Skagway, Alaska – start at the beginning:

Recognizing the critical role that the Gold Rush played in Yukon’s history, it is best to take a side trip to Skagway, Alaska as this is where most miners started their Yukon adventure. Skagway is a historic town that is quiet 8 months of the year and plumb full 4 months of the year thanks to the cruise ships that show up every day.

Be sure to check out both the Skagway Museum & Klondike Gold Rush National Park centre to get yourself oriented to the region. They are both open year round.

There are a number of hiking options in the area, from and hour or so all the way up to the multi-day Chilkoot Trail (a national historic site). Another fun activity is to ride the historic White Pass & Yukon Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Carcross:

In order to get to and from Skagway, Alaska you have to pass through Carcross. Be sure to take an hour (or a day) to explore the area. It is located on the shores of Bennett Lake and has a nice beach for swimming, world class mountain biking trails, fishing off the town bridge and yummy eats, all surrounded by beautiful first nation’s art & carvings.

Whitehorse – the hub of the Yukon

Whitehorse is the capital city of the Yukon and where the majority of the services and people are located. It has many hotels and campgrounds (both territorial & commercial) to meet a broad range of budgets.

For the more active minded, the best way to see the area is by bike and canoe. We recommend Boreale Explorers for guided bike, canoe and hiking tours of the Whitehorse area. If you want to rent equipment yourself then stop by Icycle Sports for bikes and UpNorth Adventures for canoes/kayaks. Whitehorse was recognized as the top mountain biking destination by Outside Magazine in 2013.

Other fun stops on the living history tour are the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site and Canyon City Historic Site.

Haines Junction/Kluane National Park:

Haines Junction is the entry point to Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is home of Mount Logan – Canada’s highest peak. The visitors centre is very educational and well worth the stop for all ages. Kluane can be enjoyed from the ground but is best appreciated on foot through one of the many trails in the park.

Dawson City:

The heart of the gold rush, Dawson City comes alive in the summer time (June 1st – end of August). There are numerous festivals and a plethora of historic sites to be toured. From the dirt streets and wooden sidewalks, you can’t help but be transported back in time. If you have time, take a side trip up the Demster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park for some rustic wandering.

Going above and beyond:

Epic trips that really allow you to experience the splendour of the Yukon are:

  • Canoe the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City (7-10 days)
  • Explore any river in the Peel Watershed and see some of the most pristine wilderness in the world (10-15 days)
  • Drive the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik (or Tuktoyaktuk when the road is finished) and then head to the Arctic Ocean
  • Raft the Tatshenshini-Alsek River and be in awe of the glaciers & landscape

Home Schooling connections:

The Yukon was home to a number of key historic figures over the past 100 years. They provide a lot of pre and post learning opportunities:

At 483,450 square kilometres (186,661 square miles), the Yukon is larger than California and covers more area than Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It represents 4.8% of Canada’s total land area. That’s a lot to explore so be sure to give yourself lots of time!

Learning is Everywhere

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The below article was published in What’s Up Yukon: http://whatsupyukon.com/family-learning/education/learning-is-everywhere/#sthash.vDOclfV8.dpuf

‘Road-schooling’ is the concept of using travel, either by itself or in concert with a curriculum, to educate a child. It brings learning to life and is grounded in the belief that learning is all around us, waiting to be explored and embraced.

We began our road-schooling journey 18 months ago when we decided to take eight months to travel and avoid winter. We had been on a fairly traditional educational path — our son attended daycare at Yukon College, entered the French immersion program at Whitehorse Elementary School in Kindergarten, and transitioned to Yukon Montessori School for Grade 4.

Knowing that I wanted a different home-school experience, not full of textbooks and workbooks (I envisioned the hell of living in small quarters and having a running battle about doing school work), I sought assistance from Dominic Bradford of Yukon Montessori School to help me design a learning plan that both leveraged our planned travels and met the B.C. curriculum requirements.

Bradford’s assistance set us on the path as road-schoolers, and boosted my confidence in our plan.

The first few months were stressful; I was constantly questioning myself and wondering if we were spending enough time on what I had traditionally thought of as school. By month three I wrapped my head around the concept of measuring how we were doing at “learning” versus the amount of time spent at the kitchen table doing math or spelling.

Our first trip was eight months on the road around North America, from September 2013 to May 2014. We successfully avoided winter, and we spent as much time as possible adventuring. We covered over 36,000 km and played in oceans, forests, deserts, and everything in between.

Using a combination of books, videos, and National Park Junior Ranger programs we dove deeply into American history (Lewis & Clark, War of Independence, Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil Rights Movement), and culture (regional diversity, live music, and imagery, to name a few example). And gained a real-time sense of geography, and how it influences people and places.

The knowledge stuck, since our method of learning brought information to life. The things we learned were real, and relevant; we had a rich learning experience.

It has changed us as parents — we intentionally take advantage of the learning opportunities that are presented to all of us in our daily lives. If our son asks a question and we don’t know the answer, we pause and Google it, and then leverage the curious moment to dig a little deeper into the topic.

When out for a walk, we make sure we talk about the flora and fauna as well as other things we notice, such as a stream that is overflowing or a new type of plant. We have learned our biggest roles are to be learn-facilitators, and curiosity-enablers. This is something that can be integrated into every family, even if it isn’t off adventuring.

– See more at: http://whatsupyukon.com/family-learning/education/learning-is-everywhere/#sthash.vDOclfV8.dpuf

Finding your tribe as a road schooler

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As a homeschooler, a road schooler and only child, Hunter is not surrounded by other kids on a daily basis. Before we hit the road in 2013 we asked ourselves, and others, a lot of questions regarding how they deal with the “socialization” situation as road schoolers, especially with only children.

Hunter was out an event Saturday night hosted by an adult friend of ours. It was a group of 6 people, of various ages (from 11 – 40) that came together to play a multi-player networked computer game called ARTEMIS, whereby you are simulating the flying of a spaceship (think Star Trek). Each person has a role (helm, communication, engineering & weapon control) plus the captain. Everyone has to communicate (lots of loud voices yelling commands) and work together to fly the ship through the different scenarios.

The interesting part was that Hunter came home from the evening pronouncing “I found my people” mom! He had a huge grin on his face and was thrilled with both the experience as well as the new people that he had met, most of which he described as “minecraft geeks like me”. He was invited to access their private server and this has moved his minecraft efforts to a whole new level.

When I reflect over the last 3 months, I can also identify at least 7 people that Hunter has met and really clicked with, building fast and deep relationships… more additions to his tribe. These are people of all ages and from all walks of life. In some cases he only had a few days with them and in other cases, he is starting to build what will likely be a geographically distant yet longer term friendship.

A few months ago I read this great article that was written in response to some homeschool bashing that was taking place in the media… and specifically arguments that homeschooling just shelters children and impedes their socialization.  What really resonated with me, and finally parked the anxiety that bubbles up every once in a while, was the comment:

“A child in school is largely being told exactly what to do and when to do it. Where is their independence again? How exactly are school children out in the world? And tell me again, when in real-life are you in a room of 24 people grouped only by age and neighbourhood?”

Through our travels Hunter has become fairly independent and confident in this independence. He often is the first one to seek out someone for answers or directions, has no qualms about participating in a conversation with a group of adults and is developing this amazingly diverse group of tribe members. Over the last 12 months we can really see how he is starting to grow into his own person and stand within that space with confidence, and that is thanks in part to all the great people he has met along the way and all that they have contributed to his experiences. I am no longer worried about the traditional perspective of socialization…

The Jungle Life in Tena

IMG_1548Tena is a popular launching point for Amazon Jungle adventures, as it sits just on the western edge of the Amazon region. It has grown into a major regional economic centre and was historically known as the Cinnamon capital of Ecuador.

IMG_1564For us, Tena meant meeting Abby Dent, aka “Jungle Jane”, whom Hunter and I spent the week paddling with. She was a perfect match & a great coach- she made everything fun, gently pushed Hunter and the end result was some fabulous paddling progression for Hunter during this trip. She was also a great resource to help our learning about Ecuador.

DSCF8231For our first paddle in Tena the boys paddled the Upper Misahualli (class IV) while Hunter, Abby and I did an intro to creeking for Hunter and paddled the low volume Middle Misahualli (class II+) to get used to the technical skills needed for creeking. The water was definitely warmer that in the Quijos Valley and we got away with swim shirts and life jackets. Fun times had by all.

IMG_1606Day two in Tena had the boys paddling the Upper Anzu (class IV) while Hunter, Abby and I shifted gears to introduce Hunter to “big water” paddling – we paddled 18km on the Jatunyacu (class III) on big rolly wave sections with holes you needed to dance around. It was fun to see the grin on his face and to watch his confidence grow moment by moment, to the point where he and Abby co-lead the way down one of the rapids. We had fun playing with all the rafters near the end of the run.

We took a pit stop mid way through the run to visit a small village that sits on the side of the river. Abby gave us a “plants of the jungle 101” course and we got to see and experience:

  • how termites and termite wood are used as natural bug repellant: put your hand in the termite nest, have them crawl all over you and then shake them off and wipe the remaining residue all over yourself. Burn the termite nest and it will ward off mosquitos from your camp just like a citronella candle will.
  • pineapple plants – in nature you get one pineapple per plant and they take over 6 months to grow & ripen
  • hot pepper plants – Yep, they were hot!
  • lemon grass – according to Hunter it smelled just like Fruit Loops – it was definitely lemony!
  • cacao pods – super cool… the pod is about the size of a football and grows WAY up on the tree. Depending on the type of plant, the pod is ripe when it is either red or yellow and will fall to the ground. You break it open and it is full of what look like white alien balls. The slime on the alien balls is actually a treat and you suck it off, leaving the cacao seed, which is then cracked open and dried in the sun before being ground into chocolate powder

Day three and everyone was back on the Misahualli again – the boys busy boofing on the Upper section and Hunter stepping things up by guiding Abby and I down the middle section. It was yet another confidence booster for him, and great to continue to build his river reading and decision making skills.

Before we hit the middle Misahualli, Hunter and I got a guided tour from Abby through a local animal refuge facility. It was another example of the Endless Adventure team creating the best possible experience for their guests. Hunter was thrilled and we learned a lot about both indigenous and non-indigienous animals at the facility.

The boys had their own wildlife adventure and found these cute guys at the resort where they took out of the river.

We stayed at a nice family run hotel called the Hostal Villa Belen. Tucked behind a large wall a short walk from downtown it had a wonderful garden area in the centre with cinnamon, avocado and lime trees. The rooms were fairly simple but clean and the staff were wonderful. We ate dinner and breakfast there for two days and the food was worth the stop – flavourful and plentiful.

Wandering the streets of Tena, both during the day and at night, we had absolutely no concerns about safety. It was clean and the people were very friendly. Taxi’s are easy to grab, except when it’s pouring rain, and are very affordable ($1-2 US) for a ride within town. If you are looking for a local company to do rafting or jungle adventures, we recommend River People, which is run by Abby’s family.