Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Kayak Artwork

Dana & her dad kayaked 4 hours to pick me up on Orcas Island, and I think at that point she was pretty happy to hang out in the center of our triple while I took over paddling. We headed north to camp on Clark Island, which put us in position for paddling to Waldron the next day.

Since Dana would have plenty of non-paddling ride time, she became chief dolphin counter and eagle spotter. I also gave her a grease pencil, which other kayakers would use to mark compass bearings on their deck for glancing at easily. She had free reign to decorate our kayak, and used her creativity to document our journey. If you look carefully, you’ll see she’s noted “awesome person” with an arrow to herself. Her dad got “primate” with a similar arrow pointing at him.

She mostly wrote while we were paddling, but she did write “paddle mom” and a few other comments in front of me before we launched.

The grease pencil was well worth it, and the illustrated kayak makes me smile. I wonder how long we can leave it on before it becomes permanent. On the other hand, perhaps the artist needs a clean slate for her next thoughts.

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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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My daughter and I journal. My husband writes factual trip notes. My son takes video. Each of us is thinking about what we’re experiencing through these methods, and creating a reference to look through later and bring the experiences back to us.

I have said, “How about just one notebook?” as my daughter packs her bike pannier or backpack. But when I got the answer that she needed two, one for her trip journal and one for writing stories, I just smiled. I have said to my son, “Could you leave the tripod?” as he packs his bike pannier or backpack, and sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it is no.

When packing I try to be weight conscious, but they make the final decisions in notebooks and film equiptment. I love that we have these records of our adventures. My son just managed his footage of our winter road trip into “The Grand Canyon” parts 1 through 5, with rap music tracks added. It certainly brought back memories to view his work. And gave me insight into how he saw our adventures. Write on and film on, I say.

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The Sign for More

mail-3This incredibly cute bicycle traveler is my friend’s son, Alden. Funny how I just wrote a Family Bicycling article, and was remembering my own family wearing out our bike trailer. All the photos of my own kids at that stage aren’t digital – times change. But I think introducing kids to bicycling at a young age is a timeless good idea.

Think of how much more fun bicycling is for kids then riding a in a car. Kids get to see the world at a pace they can notice the color of leaves or the pedestrian’s fedora. They can smell the blackberries, and lately, apples. They can feel the breeze or the raindrops. They will get smiled and waved at by other people, see their parents modeling fitness and healthy activity, absorb safety lessons about helmets and looking before turning. They will likely be excited about riding their own bike in a few years, and family adventuring by bicycle. Fun and fitness for everyone.

Start young, and you will likely see the sign for more – even literally like Alden is giving it. See him touching his hands together in the American Sign Language sign for “more?”

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The Well Filmed Trip

P8300746Once upon a time, my kids journaled when we went adventuring. We have notebooks of their words and drawings on our shelves, and I love how those can take us back to a trip as the kids experienced it. Nowadays, my son is completely into filmmaking, so it is camera and tripod, not pencil and paper, that travel with us.

On our last weekend-long backpacking trip, his equally into filmmaking friend came along. This led to the rest of us feeling rather well documented, as the boys each had a camera. And they spent a great deal of time with one filming, and the other calling out director notes.

This backpacking trip, on the heels of our 12-day bicycling trip which also included the son’s video camera, are getting me used to adventuring with a film crew. I suppose I need to modify our packing lists now, to include his video equipment. Or maybe I don’t. I doubt he’ll ever forget to pack it.

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mail-1The fall issue of Adventures Northwest magazine is out and about now, chock full of inspiring writing and good looking photos. My article on family bicycling, Smiles Per Hour, details how we’ve been cycling together over the years – starting with one kid and a trailer of diapers, but eventually becoming a family of four on parent & child tandem bicycles. We have pedaled thousands of miles, a number of different countries (USA, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg), and up to six weeks on a single trip (the US Pacific Coast). We sure have had amazing experiences together.

You can even read the article right here if you don’t live where you can pick up a copy of the magazine. Let me know what you think, or if you have questions.

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The Weighty Truth

P8300759The kids’ backpacks were packed and weighed while I was at work. Then the parents not working on Friday hit the trail first with the girls and the two of us who worked that day came later with the boys.

Thus I did not know until I met up with my husband at camp that my son’s backpack only weighed 16 pounds. Funny that the son did not volunteer this information. Knowing that, I gave him the tent (another 6 pounds) to carry on the way out, bringing him up to 20% of his body weight.  Looks like we need to buy him a bigger backpack so he can take on a share of food and group gear. After all, he weighs 110 and is growing fast.

At age eleven, Dana carried 12 pounds, again lighter than I’d expected. She doesn’t weigh 90 pounds yet, but could still carry 17 pounds, if we stick to the 20% guideline. More important than the numbers however, is the fact that they didn’t seem weighted down. They picked blackberries, moved well on the trail, didn’t seem tired, and hiked for over an hour with water breaks but no pack-off-sit-downs.

Two families plus a friend, weather that held, great swimming, beautiful mountains. What a weekend.

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PB162499We’re planning a little backpacking venture this weekend. We’ll hike 3-4 miles in, set up camp, and then swim in the alpine lake and scramble the ridges above for a day or two.

This is a place we return to almost every summer, so I know the kids are very capable of the trail. But I wonder how much more of our gear those very capable kids can help carry. Of course, I googled it. Looks like there are percentages like 10-15- 20% out there, mainly in regards to carrying backpacks to school. For backpacking specifically, I found 25% of their weight.

I know my kids carried heavy packs in Mexico, walking for short periods as we traveled on and off buses and set up camp in different regions. At that time they carried everything they had: clothes for a week, a book, souvenirs. No way do I want them to carry that much on the trail. I want them to still be smiling even after an hour of hiking.

This week, we’ll watch the weight. And I’ll find a scale and weigh those packs, and report back here.

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Tenting Togetherness

P8040578While we’re riding more separately, with Noah on his own bike, we’re still sharing the family tent. I love our conversations at night, and we’ve worked out a sleeping arrangement that works for us.

The kids sleep on the sides, with the parents in the middle. And every night Tom and I trade places. So one night I sleep next to one child, and the next night the other, and I always get to sleep next to my husband. It works great and allows for varied snuggles and back rubs from the person next to you.

I love tenting as a family. I think we’re close to teenagers preferring their own tent, but meanwhile I’m savoring the fun of all being together.

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P8030564The new bicycle configuration, with Noah on his own bike, means that he’s quick on the uphills but the loaded bikes get far ahead of him – or need to brake a lot – on the downhills. This makes for interesting riding if it is very hilly, as it is hard to keep the group together.

We rode about 120 miles in the first 3 days. And then Noah was really tired. Even with Dana occasionally trading places with him, that was too much too fast.

So we’re feeding him much more (above he even has a lollipop in his mouth), scaling back the mileage, and planning some rest days.P8020553 There have also been a few unplanned rest stops. We’ve had a flat tire every day, with two for me in one hour, until we figured out I actually needed a new tire. The tube was bulging out through a thin spot in the tire sidewall, and when I applied my brakes it was just enough additional pressure. Next came the unpleasant pop that signals another flat.

Tom patched the tire with the largest patch we had, even left the backing on for more strength, and we bought a new tire at a nice shop in Sequim, Washington. We’re now hoping for more planned, rather than unplanned stops, although the one in the photo was a good spot – even had a little bench to sit on.

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