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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Once again, we stowed clothing layers, food, and water bottles in our backpacks, and headed into a big city instead of a nature area to adventure. Vancouver is still in the Olympic spirit, only there are the crowds are less dense for the Paraolympics.

After wandering Robson Square and the waterfront, we caught an incredibly packed bus for the UBC ice arena and picked up our tickets for USA vs. Czech Republic in sledge hockey. The weather had turned rainy, and so the bus ride was pretty steamy as we all stood pressed together swaying with the articulated bus’ motion.

Once inside the arena, we were in our seats minutes ahead of the game – and what a game it was. Sledge hockey players move with a double-poling motion using the spikes on the ends of their sticks, making swooping turns with one hand when they are carrying the puck with the other, and play as aggressively as stand-up hockey players. They move their individualized sleds with a lot of hip action – I bet they are good kayakers as well. We were impressed, the kids were awed, and we got to cheer a USA victory. The Paraolympics are inspiring.

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When I advocate family adventuring, I mean outdoor adventure involving nature. What a surprise it was to apply our outdoor adventuring to an urban setting and find that we all really liked it.

Of course it wasn’t just any city, but Vancouver during the Olympics. Backpack of snacks, clothing layers, and water (just as we’d take hiking) – check. Sense of readiness to play I-Spy-Something-New – check. Willingness to walk many miles – check.

Not many trees did we see, but it was inspiring people-watching. We saw a couple women in Netherlands team jackets, whole families faces painted and dressed in Canadian flags, a juggler in checkerboard pants. We smelled the Olympic cauldron burning, heard spontaneous renditions of the Canadian anthem, felt the chill emanating from the Robson Square outdoor ice rink.

While driving to and from the SkyTrain (public transportation into the city core), the kids noticed the purely Canadian species they’d been exposed to while watching the Olympics on a Canadian television channel, like Tim Horton’s. We didn’t stop there, but we did at Petro Canada to buy some commemorative Olympic glasses. Now we can drink orange juice in glasses adorned with the Olympic inukshuk, and remember how great it was to have the Olympics next door.

Oh wait, they aren’t over yet. We’re ready to get tickets to some Paraolympic events. How could we not want to cheer sledge hockey players, and Paraolympic skiers?

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Weathering the Weather

Whether the weather is “good” – do we get outside anyway?

The morning of our Grand Canyon hike it was snowing. The visibility was not good, and it felt bizarre to know that those amazing striated canyon walls were there, but unseen. I tried to focus more closely on the trail, the near walls we could see, helloing the few people we met, and talking as we hiked.

As we stepped to the side to let the mules pass, I hoped we were doing the right thing to continue on trusting the weather to improve. The snow was wonderful, beautiful, but I knew by the bottom it would be rain since you gain about 20 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature between the rim and the river. Were we doing the right thing to go into a potentially chilly wet night in our tent? I never want to stretch the kids so far that they have a bad experience adventuring.

As we lost elevation, we ended up below the clouds. The rain was light, the visibility much better, and after we set up the tent we warmed up with hot chocolate in the Phantom Ranch cantina. Having brought extra sleeping pads and layers, we slept warm, and then we were lucky.

The next day was beautifully clear.

It doesn’t always work out that way of course. We had calculated we could live with a wet night and a six-hour hike out if it came to that, and chose to go knowing it might be uncomfortable. Whether the weather would have looked good enough to others – maybe not. Sometimes the adventure you plan for is different than the adventure you get. Maybe even often. But that’s also part of the fun of being active outdoors.

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P9130783Getting outside with my now teenager seems to involve a little more cajoling to interest him in an adventure. The weekend of the Mt. Baker Hillclimb (his sister and his dad tandem bicycled that), I proposed a mother-son overnight on a little mountain above where the hill climb would finish.

He was skeptical. Complained some. But eventually packed his backpack.

I made sure I had cider mix and good breakfast food, back up warm clothes, and enough water since it is a dry camp. But this time I made sure that he was carrying his share of the weight. And I promised him it was a short hike, but a supercool spot.

And it was.P9130789

Due to dropping off the hillclimbers to camp at what would be their start the next morning, we hit the trail after sunset. This turned out to be a highlight. Hiking with a headlamp makes a simple hike into an incredibly different experience. We felt our way, reached the top appreciating the trail with our remaining senses, and searched for a tent site by arcing the headlamp in circles around us. Did I mention I’d only brought one?

We saw millions of stars, I listened to him chatter in the tent while he skimmed Popular Science, and we awoke to a beautiful sunrise the next morning. Headlamp hiking is definitely to be repeated and the mother-son overnight was a success. He thought so too.

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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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p40100121With the kids at school and spring break for one parent, we decided the adults should get out for a rare without-the-kids hike. The weather was a bit gray, so we started in fog and rain, and got snow as we gained elevation. Oyster Dome looked windy, and we knew there would be no view today, so we snacked at the Bat Caves and talked about how all this would be a great setting for a northwest hobbit.

We also felt like we had a moment of hiking solidarity with our friend Mary, who began her 5-month trek on the Appalachian Trail today. I figure we and she were hiking at the same time, just across the country from each other. We wish her well and we’re hoping she was having better weather than we were. When I got home, I googled the weather in northeast Georgia and found 67 degrees. Nice.

While a good fitness hike for us, this would not have been as good a family hike. Cold drippy weather and sloppy slushy footing might have made this frustrating for the kids. Spring is coming though, so I hope we’ll be hiking more as a family soon. 

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Catching up mailwith these friends, I got to hear about their family hiking plan. With their less-than-a-year-old kiddo in the backpack, they’re hitting the local trails every weekend. The goal is to hike all of every trail in a particular area, one peice at a time. What a great way to get outside as a family, in increments that work for them. Mom and dad can stretch their legs, and their son is getting introduced to the outdoors at an early age. I bet by summer, he’ll be walking some of those trails.

Whatever your kids’ ages, pick a goal that works. I’m tempted to get a trail map and copy my friends’ plan. Their little guy has been out hiking more than I have this year, now that’s inspiring. Here in the gray northwest, we may need to set goals like this to remind us to get outside even if spring weather hasn’t found us yet. If my kids don’t vote for this plan, we can at least open the discussion of what goal would inspire us to hit the trail together.

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