Tag Archives: mountain biking

12 years later…back in Alberta

mineral springsIt was 12 years ago this August that Hunter launched himself into the world at the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff. We left Alberta for the Yukon a year and a half later and have not really been back since.

As part of our “Summer of Paddling” we have spent over a month in Alberta spread through out July and August. In between all of our time spent at the Kananaskis River (playing, training, competing) we managed to fit in some visits with family, connecting with old friends and some general fun days…

Our first visit to Calgary came over the Canada Day weekend. We camped out at Calaway Park (medium RV park rating) and then drove into Calgary each day to hang out at family central – aka the Murphy house.

mark and hunter cookingHunter had a fabulous time hanging with Uncle Mark every time we landed in town – they cooked, they golfed, they went for ice cream, they walked the dog and Hunter even bought into the mental math lessons!

murphy poolLots of time spent playing pool in the basement with anyone that Hunter could talk into a game. The other upside was meeting Spencer, a new “cousin”, and they had a great time hanging out doing boy stuff. Big thanks to Uncle Paul for taking them for laser tag, skating and ice-cream…

canoe meadowsWhen not in Calgary we were mostly based out of the Kananaskis region. Lots of time spent at Canoe Meadows as it is so great to be able to just walk to and from the river rather than load up shuttles etc.

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We also spent time at the Bow River Campground, the Bow Valley Campground and the Willow Creek Campground and give high ratings for all three with respect to hanging out in nature, great sites, amenities and cleanliness plus reasonableness of price.

One of the pleasant surprises of the summer was getting to connect up with old friends. Tim ran into two former colleagues from Banff during the first day of kids kayak camp in early July as it turns out their boys, of similar age as Hunter, are also into kayaking. We even ran into and old friend on the street in Banff when she was taking her garbage out! We ended up with visits on and off the river throughout the summer with many people, with one of those visits being Hunter getting to go for a trail ride with Heidi in Canmore – it definitely made his week!

tim hunter kan biking 1We had a family bike ride on the paved trails around Kananaskis Village as we enjoyed the sunshine and told “when you were little” stories to Hunter, who loves that stuff. Out and back to the ponds made for a great 20km ride.

hunter ice cream kan village

This is a re-enactment of where he had his very first ice cream cone, thanks to Great Grandma. We had come up to visit her at Kananaskis Village where she was attending an IODE conference and we all went for ice cream. Much to our dismay, she decided to share hers with Hunter – months earlier than he was supposed to have ice cream according to all the feeding charts! I guess that’s the privilege that comes with being a Great Grandma…

hunter chester pokerOver the course of the summer we have “run into” Chester and Anne six different times across BC and Alberta and they have been great paddling partners. They went to Kananaskis for KanFest and stayed for a week after so we joined them and had a fun week of paddling and general hanging out. Hunter finally found someone to play poker with him!!

hunter pelly climbingOur last non-paddling adventure was our day trip into Canmore to check out Elevation Place, where they have a workout centre, full climbing wall, pool and library as well as SHOWERS to get clean and INTERNET to stay connected. Hunter and Pelly had fun enjoying all of the amenities. What a great resource for the town.

tim hammockOur month in Alberta was an interesting mix of hecticness, paddling/activity frenzy and downtime. We are grateful for getting to see so many friends and spend the time with family. It was fun to be back and I’m sure it won’t take us another 11 years to do it again.

Burns Lake – what more can I say…

lee's travels 1 - 034It was never a question in our mind that we would hit Burns Lake again on our way south. It didn’t even matter that we were going 2 hours out of our way based on our decision to come all the way down the Alaska Highway vs the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

lee's travels 1 - 031It’s always tough to return to somewhere that you had an amazing experience. What are the chances that you can replicate it or will you just find disappointment? When we stopped there in the fall of 2013 we equally loved the trails and the biking community, lead by BLMBA and Burnt Bikes. There is literally something for everyone – beginner to advanced and you can stay amused for days. Rustic campground facilities on site make this such a simple choice.

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With a lake right at the base of the trail network, and right beside the campground, it can be a tough decision what to do each day… bike the amazing trails, walk the boardwalk around the lake or set out on the SUP or in a canoe for a peaceful paddle.

While we were a bit set back by the rain, bugs and the cool temperatures, the trails and the community did not disappoint. Our first afternoon Pat and Susan just happened to be driving the shuttle van up the mountain just as we were set to head up – WOO HOO!!! Pigs Fly on fresh legs – what a way to start our riding here! Hunter had such an amazing run that he actually  wanted to ride back UP (never heard of before) to ride again. It was a bit gruelling due to the fact that you are riding up a mountain, even if it is a fire road, and the bugs that come before dusk. The ride down was still fun.

On Saturday we made the most of the weekend shuttles – an affordable $4 per person per ride up thanks to Burnt Bikes- and got in four runs, with only one variation off of Pigs Fly as it is Hunter’s favourite. It’s perfect for kids of all ages as it’s like a vertical pump track – incredibly flowy and you can get as much or as little air as you like.

On Sunday we sent Tim off for a Father’s Day ride with the local club (a good 20+km ride on their epic trail) while Hunter and I did yet another Pigs Fly run with some other local kids in the campground.

Smiles all around and fingers crossed that the snow will be melted when we head back up the highway so we can catch this on our way home again. The local group continues to do trail development and we can’t wait to see what new trails they add to the system over the summer.

Roadschooling through the Yukon

midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

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!

You can do it MOM!!!

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I always knew that Hunter would pass me as an athlete. I knew that he would turn into a 16 year old boy that eats a horse and goes faster, higher, farther that my comfort zone. What I wasn’t prepared for was when this started to happen at 9!

 

one of the few times I was ahead of Hunter

one of the few times I was ahead of Hunter

It all started with snowboarding, which he learned when he was 8. By 9 he had me beat for speed – his “tuck and go” approach to the hill leaves me in the dust. Now, I believe that I’m still a better snowboarder as I can turn on demand but I’m sure that he will conquer that this winter.

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The confluence of Mountain Biking happened last summer (Hunter turned 10) when Tim built a bunch of wooden features in our yard and Hunter just launched himself into them. Thanks to the great coaches at Boreale Biking, he has learned all of the technical foundational skills and has super natural balance, which it seems that I don’t! He can ride a curb for blocks without falling off. His zero to 60 speed acceleration is really picking up and he can beat me in campground lap races. At the moment I’ve got him hands down for endurance, downhill steeps and jumps.

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I am falling behind in kayaking thanks to the great job that Tim is doing as Hunter’s coach. Last summer Hunter learned to front surf and that gave him so much confidence. Tim’s throw bag technique let him get the feel of the waves and he just whizzed through the learning curve. This summer his goals are back surfing, spins, enders and cartwheels. During our month in Florida last winter, Hunter was in the pool everyday as part of Tim’s “rolling for dollars program”. It started with him having to do 25 rolls and then he was paid $1.00 dollar for every roll after that. This quickly became too easy so Tim taught him to do an offside roll. He got that so quickly that you couldn’t tell which was his onside or offside when he rolled. He topped out at 125 rolls one day! I should acknowledge that I used the pool time to learn my offside roll, but had a totally different experience and never reached mastery! Similar to biking, I am still ahead of Hunter on drops, but we’ll see if that lasts through our paddling trips this winter.

 

Hunter moved into the more advanced Kayak Club program this summer, which is full of teenagers. With him being 10, we weren’t sure how this was going to go so we watched the first 2 sessions rather than head off paddling ourselves. I had a major ah-ha at the 2nd session when the group was sitting in the eddy at the local spinwave and the teenagers shouted out “Hunter, show us how it’s done!”. Hunter had never gone in the spinwave before and I knew he had some anxiety about the feature. What I saw was him peel out of the eddy and into the wave without a moment’s hesitation. He side surfed, back surfed, flipped and swam but came up with a massive grin on his face. 2 weeks later and he is really comfortable in the wave, has been window shaded 3 times and just keeps going back for more.

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My ah-ha was that if I didn’t do anything different in my kayaking, he was going to be light years ahead of me very quickly- UGH…

As I sit and write this I am coming off of a weekend long women’s Downhill Mountain Biking camp with Lorraine Blancher. Thanks to CMBC, our local mtn bike club, we were able to bring Lorraine up to the Yukon and run a camp for 12 women that were looking to take their skills to the next level. I was excited but anxious going into, yet knew that I needed to do it to keep pushing my comfort levels and skill progression. It was fabulous, amazing, challenging, uncomfortable and overall exhausting AND I learned a lot, improved my skills and moved myself back out front of Hunter until next summer (I think).

 

I am also heading off to Nelson, BC on Thursday to spend a week kayaking with the great folks from Endless Adventures. In addition to strengthening my creeking skills, I am going to learn to playboat. This is exciting and scary as I spend so much of my time avoiding the need to roll, and playboating is about controlling the chaos of the water feature and immersing yourself in the foam. Very much in line with Lorraine’s mountain bike teaching – be a pilot not a passenger on your bike, I will be working on being the pilot of my kayak as well!

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One of the best things about Hunter is his humanistic nature. He is my biggest cheerleader and supporter, which is lovely and frustrating at the same time. He is the one to say “you can do it mom” when I’m debating some new feature on my bike or in my boat. He’s also the one to say “Great job!” when I have a good surf or a big jump. He’s also very generous with sharing of tips and tricks for how to do something… really? I’m getting instruction from my ten year old??? How can you get annoyed with the kid that you are working so hard to keep ahead of when he is so supportive??

I am happy that as a family we are very active and outdoor adventure oriented yet there are some days that I am exhausted by the constant pushing of my comfort zones, both at the physical and emotional level. We have a running joke called “get better” and I often contemplate the fact that better is an endless state of improvement, and I’m always there yet never there! I wonder if there is a maximum threshold that my system can take??? At the same time, I am so grateful to be living a full life. At 43, I am not ready nor willing to be left behind. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines and live vicariously through anyone else.  I’m sure that there are more epic crashes and fabulous bruises in my future but I’ll take them if it means more shared memories and family time together.

Season Two is launched

do what you love

After lots of research, and then more research, we are really excited to share that our plans for the coming year are coming together… and we are really excited! The theme continues to be active adventure and sunshine.

SUMMER 2014:

Based out of our home base here in Whitehorse, we will spend the majority of our time out Mountain Biking, on our world class trails, and whitewater kayaking on the local rivers (fingers crossed that the water levels come up).

While it is looking like our anticipated day trips and overnight camping on the Wheaton may not come together in June, we are planning for 2-3 trips up to the Ross River area to camp and paddle the Lapie River during late June and July.

Hunter and I will also head east to Ontario to do the “cottage thing” with family  in August – nothing like endless days of swimming, waterskiing, boating and heading into town for ice cream with your cousins. This year we will be celebrating my grandma’s 100th birthday, which is certainly extra special. We will also tack on some time in Ottawa to do some exploring and  canadian history work.

FALL 2014:

Heading back to my happy place with a quick trip out to Tofino on Vancouver Island. A week of surfing and hanging out on the beach and at Hunter’s favourite skateboard park. Our visits to Tofino keep getting better and better so I’m looking forward to what new things this trip will bring.

Mexico – we’re coming back!!! After having so much fun in February, we are happy to be able to head back down to Texas to join up with our new friends Ben, Kelly, Phil & Nejla to go paddling in North Eastern Mexico for a week over American Thanksgiving. The only part I’m not looking forward to is the 14 hour drive (down and back). It will be fun to paddle at Rio Vista again as well, maybe even under the lights!

WINTER 2014:

We will be rushing out the door shortly after Santa lands at our house for a 2 week adventure in Ecuador. Nine days of whitewater kayaking with Endless Adventures International and then another 5 days exploring the countryside (still deciding between an Andes or an Amazon adventure – anyone with experiences should chime in!).

Fingers crossed that the weather mid-January to mid-February will be temperate so we can get out and enjoy snowboarding at our local hill here in town.

The beach is calling – we had so much fun down in Oceanside last year (fall and spring) that we are heading back down for just over three weeks from mid February to mid March. We are renting a beach house with Grandma Lynne and will have various other family coming to hang out. Looking forward to lots of surfing, biking and skateboarding, along with some down time in the sun.

We will make it back just in time to catch peak snowboarding at the White Pass Summit. Late March – mid April are still winter here in the Yukon but the bluebird skies and above freezing day time temps, coupled with lots of snow, make for a fabulous back country experience. We squeezed in one trip in late April this year after we got back and it reminded us how much we enjoy being out and playing in the mountains.

I’ve been driving Tim nuts with all of the research and logistics work over the past month but it is really worth it financially. I was able to get almost all of our flights on points, which I figure saved us over $8000.00. We are working within Tim’s vacation allotment this year, which is what has us taking this approach. It will be a learning experience, and another opportunity to identify what works best for us as a family. There is definitely some hesitation about travelling without our great big gear locker.

I’m excited to see what the year will bring, how we can optimize it for homeschooling (we are all going to be tackling spanish lessons this summer) and balance some work in between all the fun.