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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Our 5-day backpacking trip was a challenging mix of water and trail. Like the more famous West Coast Trail, we got to climb ladders, cross boardwalks, navigate tree and suspension bridges, pick our way through bouldered beaches, and camp on sandy beaches (Mystic Beach, Chin Beach, and Sombio Beach). The last night in the woods at Payzant Creek wasn’t as interesting, although watching the waves crash onto the rock seemed very Hawaii-like.

We learned that the 19K day including the most difficult portion of the trail was a few kilometers too much, that we should pack extra extra food for the teen guy in the group, that the kids are strong hikers, and that our tried and true tenting and camping methods still work well.

We also love our new MSR Hyperflow pump, a recent birthday gift from my in-laws (thanks!).

Highlights included this amazing waterfall. The water has carved smoothly into the rock and the light on the green moss was amazing.

Another highlight was beach engineering and artwork. The sandy beaches were favored for these activities, which involved rerouting streamlets, building castles, and carving into the sand.

The surprise on day 5 was an octopus in the tidepool at Botanical Bay. He or she was quite large, at least 4-5 feet with tentacles extended, and swam right out of the kelp bed and around in front of us. We were amazed, having certainly never seen an octopus in the wild before.

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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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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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A friend and I carpooled to Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act talk, taking our combined 11, 12, 13, and 15-year-olds. Not many others in the audience brought their children, and I had a moment part way through where I thought, “am I being a good parent?” We don’t usually talk about some of these issues with our kids: the Iranian widows and mothers grieving their loved ones killed in the Iran-Iraq war knowing Iraq was funded by the USA, the results of the Netherlands’ marijuana policies compared to the USA’s, or the price of braces vs. providing a well to a community that has to walk to their water source.

I cringed at a couple of Steves’ generalizations, but mostly admired his willingness to speak up on issues, suggest we can learn from other cultures, and get involved in improving our own. The two younger kids in our group felt his presentation was a little confusing, but the discussion with all of the kids since hearing the talk has been worth taking them. Policies and politics are confusing, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them. I used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Think – it’s patriotic.” If I want my kids to think, I make need to make sure they have access to real info to think about, just like if I want them to be savvy in the outdoors, I need to give them opportunities to navigate or put up the tent.

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Rick Steves feels like a neighbor, since we both call this corner of Washington State, USA home, but he’s also a neighbor with a global heart. While I’ve used his Europe Through the Backdoor books for trip planning, I’m particularly interested in his more recent speaking out on travel as a political act.

I know our family’s international travels – bicycling in Europe and Canada, backpacking in Mexico –  have added meaningful experiences to my kids’ becoming adults engaged in their world. I didn’t set out to make them political, just thoughtful, and with more information than they might get in school. Now my son is taking Spanish in middle school and has facebook friends in several countries, while my daughter is a sixth grader involved in her school’s social action club. I’m proud of them.

Rick is speaking in our community later this month, and my family will be there. After discussions of Haiti lately, thinking globally means also admitting to my kids that travel is complicated and political. Travel has shaped our worldview, and should shape our action as well. We’ll hear what Rick has to say, and continue those family discussions.

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