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Archive for the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Category

Solstice Ski: the longest ski on the shortest day, is my latest article in Adventures Northwest magazine. Last winter break, we were able to go on a terrific trip with another family, where we rented a base camp cabin in eastern Washington and nordic skied from it each day for four days. On the solstice, we skied into Winthrop and back, Christmas lights illuminating the way because of course the darkness came quickly that day.

The article also includes a few impressions written by my daughter. Which makes me smile. Like me, she not only enjoys the adventure, but the writing about it later.

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The second half of our return to Mexico involved adding two more teenagers to our travel group, and heading for the ocean. We were so happy that our kids’ Mexican friends were willing and able to join us. The first adventure was driving from Leon (we rented a van at the airport) to Barra de Navidad via Guadalajara. Many board games were played in the back seats.

Once we settled into our budget hotel, we played in the ocean everyday (big waves at Barra, gentler at La Manzanilla), swam in the lagoon and the hotel pool, and wandered the area.

In fact, the teens had the pool to themselves. Many handstands and water-logged hours later, we headed back to Guanjuato – just in time to see the last Harry Potter movie on opening night.

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Previously, we divided our adventures into his, hers, and ours (the whole family). As the kids get older, and now that one set of grandparents has moved to town, we can parent adventure as well. The kids can stay home for swim team or cross country practice if they choose, and we can grab a little window of outdoor time.

We had two nights and 3 days to work with, so headed out on our bicycles early, were in Anacortes 3 hours later, and on the state ferry soon after. We rode on San Juan Island to our favorite hiker-biker site at the San Juan County Park, from which you get amazing sunsets and almost always see whales.

Except we saw no whales that evening. But then we spent the next day at Lime Kiln State Park, and there we were lucky enough to see thirty-some whales slowly passing by for almost four hours. I love hearing people ooh and ahh like they’re watching fireworks each time an orca’s huge dorsal fin breaks the surface.

We bicycled on Lopez Island on our third day and wandered some roads we hadn’t traveled on previous trips. We were lucky to have a simple parent bicycle venture with great weather, spectacular whale watching, and a personalized ferry pick-up from my parents. Pretty decadent to now have that option.

We loaded our bicycles onto the back of their boat, padded them with a couple towels, and bungied them in place. Then we watched little clear jellyfish by the hundreds as we made our way across the water towards home.

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Our beloved tandem bicycles have carried us on thousands of miles of family adventures. We’ve loaned them out for a few hours to various other families to try (resulting in three of those families getting tandems of their own), but this coming week friends from Colorado will arrive to head out on our tandems for a 5-day tour.

The adults are active, outdoorsy, and up for adventure, but have never bike toured with their first and third grade sons. It looks like they’ll have a good weather window, and we’ll help them with their itinerary and outfit them with our gear. I think they will love bicycle touring together, and I’m excited for them to try it.

But we’ll start them with a short ride to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Here’s to the start of summer adventures, ours and others’.

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We did it. We not only did it – completed the 90-mile Ski to Sea race car free – we were able to be competitive with the car-using teams. I am so proud of our team!

Since the race, we’ve gotten lots of comments. Many people just didn’t think it was possible to do well and go green. Others hadn’t been aware that there was one car-free team last year, and were amazed that there were four this year. We hope that even more folks will be inspired, like we were by last year’s Hub team, to work out a car-free Ski to Sea team for 2011. Why not turn the race into a much longer endurance event? We had a great time – though yes, were extra tired post-race.

Hope our kids (almost everyone on the team are parenting kids under 16) are inspired too.

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Our community’s Memorial Day Ski to Sea event has been raced by my husband and I for many years. Eight-person relay teams start on Mt. Baker with cross-country skiing and downhill skiing, head down the mountain running and bicycling, take to the river canoeing, mountain bike into town and then cross the bay kayaking. The kids variously come along and cheer, or stay in town with friends and meet us at the finish.

This year, we’re doing it all car-free. That means the folks who have mountain starts will bicycle 50 miles the day before and camp out, before getting up early Sunday to bike the remaining 10 miles to their starting positions. Tom’s our cross-country skier, and will be using our bike trailer to tow skis up and the runner’s bike down to her finish. There are lots of entertaining logistics – like bicycling the canoe 25 miles to their start – but we’re going to have fun with this.

I’m mountain biking this year. That means 14 miles to the start on race day, 14 miles of racing, then a few more to the kayak finish. And on Saturday, I’ll be helping get the kayak into position which will include walking 3/4 mile from my house down to the water, and retrieving our kayaker by tandem bike after she paddles it to the start.

We may even have the kids help with the logistics, biking between the in town legs with support gear. And in a few more years we can think about entering the family division. Or maybe they’ll have a car-free division by then.

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My San Diego niece has a first grade teacher who believes in adventure. After reading her class the picture book Flat Stanley, she had her students color miniature versions of themselves and send them in an envelope to friends or family living elsewhere.

We received the flat version of my niece and wandered around town taking photos of her with boats in the harbor, tulips towering over her, and meeting friends in front of the kids’ middle school. Next my daughter wrote a letter explaining her flat cousin’s adventures, and we that flat girl back with tourist brochures of our area.

I love thinking about those sunny first graders looking at photos of our area and noticing how the plants are different and the weather is different and the buildings are different. Maybe if they adventure in envelopes now, those kids will be interested in traveling by plane, bicycle, or foot in real life later. I hope so.

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Spring break has one child heading for urban adventure in Washington DC, and the other headed to outhouse and campfire cooking on an island west of us. Two backpacks, two slightly different packing lists.

Usually we write out a list (4 pairs socks, polypro underlayer top & bottom, warm hat, etc.) and the child collects their choices into a pile on the floor. Then a parent takes a quick look for adjustments (“How about choosing some of your older t-shirts?”), adds equipment, and the child packs it into their backpack. We have been practicing this method since they were pre-school age – though then we helped fit the items into their packs or ours.

Now that they are teen and pre-teen, the packing goes quickly and I can appreciate all those little gear management techniques that have become second nature over the years. They know that the sleeping bag goes in first, to roll up their pants and shirts, to stuff their socks and underwear into the little crevices, and to put their book and journal in a sealable plastic bag for weather protection.

Launching ourselves out the door is becoming easier, but the self-reliant also have a lot more opinions on where they want to pack for. Thus, some different directions for us. Begun by school schedules that don’t have all of us on the same spring break, family adventuring this week means everyone is adventuring, just not in the same places. Wonder what memories everyone will pack to bring back home.

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We’ll be presenting our Go Local Bike Tour at the Bellingham REI on Thursday, February 25 at 6:30pm. Also being presented that evening is a bike tour from Bellingham to San Francisco.

Last summer we pedaled away from our house, and focusing on using bike trails and ferry links, two parents and two pre-teens pedaled 400 miles in a circle tour from Bellingham, Washington to the Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver Island and back home.

While we have a few tips for thinking local, and a couple funny stories to relate, mostly we want to encourage other families to cycle tour. It is an amazing way to travel an area, meet interesting people, and spend time together as a family. We find bicycle touring to be incredible do-it-yourself family adventuring. Hope you’ll try it!

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While the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is probably a well argued list, my daughter discovered sevennaturalwonders.org‘s list this week. She was surprised and delighted to discover she has experienced two of the seven: the Grand Canyon (USA) and the volcano Paricutín (Mexico).

I say “experienced” because we didn’t just take a look, we hiked them for hours and days, got dirty with their rocky dust, and marveled from many angles because we were involved for many hours.

Oohing and ahing outdoors together is an aspect of family adventuring you can experience almost anywhere if you look and listen. Try your neighborhood and region for easier access, as there are many wonders beyond the supposed Seven. In fact, the organization has sublists by continent as well.

What do they name as the Seven Natural Wonders of the World? In addition to the Grand Canyon and Paricutín, they cite the Aurora Borealis, Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, Mount Everest, and the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. My daughter thought our family ought to try for the Aurora Borealis next.

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