Archive for June, 2011

Canada Day 2011

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful long weekend.  I hope that it is spent with family and friends in the great outdoors.  Happy Canada Day!

Me, soaking in the scenery

The Maple Love Forever

For years, we rented a canoe for our family trips. It was more cost-effective, and let’s face it, where do you keep a canoe in the city?

algonquin 2008 - hiding spot

By and by we purchased our first home and the “extra” money went to fix-ups. There were a lot of those. We always rented from the same place, and we always rented the same boat. It was a green Evergreen Maple. A 17′ 1″ Evertech beauty that has been featured in many a family photo album. Boy did she ever steal the show. So easy to steer, always keeping her course. The kids napped in her, gear was stowed safely beneath her, she had carried us through torrents and wilting heat. With each subsequent trip she began to show her age more and more.

killarney 2009 - rinsing off

One day, as fate would have it, I saw her up for sale. The old girl was being put out to pasture after a long and storied career. I couldn’t bear to have her go to any other home. The time had come to make a big commitment. I got on the horn to Fraser and he agreed immediately. She would come and live with us, the family whom had loved her as their own for all these many years. We would construct a cradle for her in the backyard. We patched up her holes and scrapes and gouges. We reinforced her worn skid plates. Whatever measures we took, she was a boat that only her family could love. She was no longer a beauty.

Today that all changed. Today we treated her to a few coats of McNett UV Tech Protectant and Rejuvenator, and I almost cried at the unexpected results. She is simply glowing! Her badly scarred underbelly, a dusty kind of white at this point, became a beautiful green again. She looks like a new boat and you can feel her pride. No longer the shy wallflower, I’m sure that her next spin around the lake circuit is going to be a dazzling victory lap, for her AND for us.

our beauty after the uv treatment

Bike Rodeo Roundup – Bikefest 2011

Wow!  What a venue for this years Bikefest.  The Distillery District is absolutely gorgeous and served as a wonderful backdrop to the festivities.  The rain held off and the conditions were ideal for a good old-fashioned block party.  Tonnes of shiny, happy people and shinier, happier bikes.

Instructors, techs, reps and attendees were in high spirits and fun was had by all.  The workshops were well attended and a special shout out to Bicycle Commons and Bike Sauce who I think must have recruited every bike tech in the city to come out and provide free service and minor repairs. 

I was also blessed with the best cappuccino I have ever had the pleasure of consuming thanks to our proximity to the incomparable coffee shop, Balzac’s.  To top it all off, there was live music courtesy of the Toronto Jazz Festival.  What a day.  Thank you to everyone, and we’ll see you next year.


Wrapping up at bikefest. Full post soon!

Bikefest in Toronto’s Distillery District

Bikefest 2010

An exciting day for the Toronto cycling community is coming up tomorrow.  It’s Bikefest, a family cycling festival being held in the Distillery District at Parliament and Mill St.  Rain or shine, all festivities including clinics, free-rides and demos will run from 11am-5:30pm.

There are so many things happening tomorrow, I can’t possibly list them all.  I would be remiss not to mention that proceeds from the event are being donated to the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation, and that our friends at Bicycle Commons along with Bike Sauce will be offering free basic bike repair and tune-ups.  There will be free safety and helmet checks by Thinkfirst! and bike valet parking by Toronto Cyclists Union.  Don’t miss the booths by local bicycle retailers and free bike demos.

Although registration for clinics has closed, any available spaces can be filled free of charge on site and there are plenty of free activities.  There is so much to do, come on down and enjoy the day!

a few words of advice and a little push

a few words of advice and a little push

literally the first independant pedal...and freedom

literally the first independent pedal...and freedom

On a personal note, last years Bikefest was a special day for Zach.  Lets just say that Zach was a “late-bloomer” when it came to cycling.  I’m no master instructor, and I had been unable to shed light on how to conquer the much desired two-wheeler.  Our collective efforts had produced nothing but a whole lot of frustration.  My wrench had gotten quite a workout removing and reinstalling training wheels over the years.  Luke got on a two-wheeler when he was barely three and never looked back.  No instruction required.  I was baffled.  Fast forward to Bikefest 2010.  We brought Zach’s bike and there was an instructor from a local bike training school.  I promise, no word of a lie, he gave Zachy one piece of sage advice and wouldn’t you know it, Zach took off riding.  He marched his bike straight over to one of the bike techs (thanks Shuaib) and had his training wheels removed for the last time.  By the end of the day, he was riding the bmx ramps!

Bikefest is a welcoming, friendly place to learn new skills and meet like-minded people.  For some though, it is so much more.  For some it is a place where a new world of freedom, independence and pride opens its doors.

Kids on Parade – Portaging and Pack Fitting

Okay so enough about my portaging experience this past weekend. It’s time to talk about the kids.

zach and the canoes

like a well oiled machine, luke and zach load up














I was so proud of them all.  Boy did they ever carry their share.  We even packed a little bag for Charlotte.  At first she seemed skeptical when we broke the news that she too was going to participate.  Soon enough though, she was lamenting the fact that her bag was so much smaller than Luke and Zach’s.  Don’t worry sweetie, next time we’ll make up for it with a nice big pack of your very own.  She’s gonna need a pack too.  Where else is she gonna  sew that “I paddled

luke’s drybag pack isn’t fully adjustable, but fits fairly well

Frontenac” patch that Steve bought her at the park office?
Experienced guys like ours want to show how helpful they are by begging bigger and heavier loads with each subsequent trip.  Although they would haul whatever we packed for them, there is a safe limit to how much weight a kid should carry.

This begs the question, how much is too much?

Unfortunately there is no consensus on this number.  For everyday school bag use, specialists advise not allowing children to carry more than 20% of their body weight.   Portaging is slightly different in that it is for a short period of time and happens only periodically, not on a daily basis.  I think that a 20% limit is a good place to start though.  If your child is big and strong and has experience, you might try venturing a little bit heavier, but it only takes one misstep with a heavy pack to pull a muscle.  Err in favor of going lighter.  Having said that, how the weight is carried and the backpack you choose as well as how it has been fitted is of paramount importance.

this pack is a little bit big for zach, but is adjusted well

that’s charlotte portaging like a pro













Here are some tips, but you should really have help fitting the pack properly at your local outfitter.

  • wide padded straps reduce pressure points and make things more comfortable (less whining)
  • a padded back will prevent gear from poking against the back (owie), provides back support and helps prevent bad posture
  • padded hip belt transfers the weight load to hips instead of carrying it with the shoulders
  • a sternum strap helps hold the shoulder straps in the right place
  • the pack must fit the back length (not based on height), look for an adjustable back system for a better fit and to get more than a seasons use out of the bag!
  • pack the heaviest items closest to the child’s back to help with balance, and the lightest item (eg. sleeping bag) at the bottom and mid-weight items at the top to avoid a top-heavy pack which is what makes them fall over and get stuck like turtles on their backs
  • compression straps reefed down nice and tight keeps gear close to the body and helps the load from shifting around

Now that you know how to load them up, go ahead and do it.  They are going to love contributing in a tangible way, and you’re going to love being able to bring the bigger Therm-a-Rest again 😉

My Measurements 923-856-974

view at the beginning of portage one

We’re back from our weekend jaunt to Frontenac Provincial Park. It’s a lovely little park

fraser helping me balance before i shove off for the first time

and we did a short circuit of three lakes. As promised, or rather threatened, I followed through on portaging a boat for the entire trip. I’m very proud of myself, and while at the time I cursed every painful step, I’d do it all again. In fact, I AM going to do it again…and again, and again. This was just the beginning of what will prove to be a long portaging career.

We started out at Big Salmon Lake and paddled into Little Clear Lake. The first portage began with an uphill climb. Great. It was pretty muddy and there were some short bridges. All in all, it was fairly level with just a few inclines and a downhill at the end. For a total of 923 meters,

uphill after the bridge

I slogged it out. The entire time, with every step, I cursed my decision to carry the canoe. One of the bulkheads had taken on water and it was much heavier in the back then the front. We hung the throw rope and bailer on the front to help balance it out, but the sloshing water kept throwing my balance off at the most inopportune moments, like while dodging rocks and climbing over felled trees blocking the trail. Fraser strolled behind me with his own boat like a pro all the while shouting out encouragement (you’re awesome, you’re kicking that trails butt!). I love Fraser.

working on my balance

maybe there were more than a couple of hills 🙂

Day two was a paddle into Little Salmon Lake followed by an 856 meter portage. This one almost broke me. Let me put it this way…at the end I desperately shouted at Fraser to get the boat off of me because I was going to throw-up. I wanted to cry and laugh and puke all at the same time. My face was red and I was dizzy. I sat down with my head between my knees. It was fabulous. It’s really great sometimes to push yourself to the very edge of your capabilities.

the end of my first portage!

Day three, the portage out was a 974. The longest yet, and the most technically challenging. The trail was narrow and had little room for walking around the huge mud puddles that came half-way up my calf. At one point, there was a rock-face to my left and dense trees to my right. In an attempt to walk around a jumbo rock smack dab in the middle, I managed to bump the front of the canoe into a tree which threw me backwards. I tripped over said rock in reverse and fell over with a big thud. I laughed myself silly and waited for Fraser to come and rescue me. Near the end of the trail, there was an unmarked fork. Go ahead and guess if I made the right choice. Of course not. Zach went the other way and I heard him call out that he had reached the end. I think I was halfway back to the parking area!

day three - looking pretty with my pfd and fleece wrap with pack strap topper

What I figured out on this trip, is that I am nowhere near being able to pull multiple portages in a day. I also figured out that my bony little shoulders take the brunt of the canoe weight on one tiny high spot, that coincidently turned black and thankfully didn’t fall off. I used a yoke pad of course, but by the third day I triple folded my fleece jacket sleeves to further pad my sore spots. It was on this day that I also wore a pack for the first time while carrying the boat. This was not in an attempt to earn bragging rights. I saw those padded shoulder straps and was desperate to add ANYTHING to further protect the growing bruises on my shoulders.
I’m happy to say that my attempts were successful if not fashionable. Believe me, I threw any semblance of cool right out the window.

In conclusion…portaging a boat is hard. I need a lot more practice and stronger thighs. I must quadruple pad the yoke BEFORE my shoulders get bruised. I hate portaging a canoe. I love portaging a canoe.

Frontenac Tomorrow


Just finishing up the packing for our fathers day trip to Frontenac tomorrow. Can’t wait! I won’t be able to post again until next week. Look for a trip recap, site and portage reviews and pics of my first canoe carry. Wish me luck! Oh, and keep your fingers crossed that my niece loves the experience.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

zach and luke entertained by the scenery in algonquin (ages 2 and 5)

So you wanna take your kids on a canoe trip?  I’m talking about a real trip

look at our paddles

here, not just a day paddle.  Day paddles are pretty straight forward.  You can take whatever you want, including your time.  But what if you’ve packed for a multi-day trip and can’t afford the space to bring juniors collection of beach toys?  As a general rule, Luke and Zach are only permitted to bring a couple of toys on trip at all, but even these stay packed tightly away while in the boat.  The last thing you want is to lose any favourites overboard.  This will result in whining and tears for the duration of your trip.  Not fun.  If there is one special something that MUST come and it absolutely isn’t up for debate (I’m referring to Lambie here), you can tie said object of affection to the thwart.  My suggestion would be to use those multi-coloured plastic baby chain links.  Something about having a cord that little ones can get tangled up in, in the unlikely event of a dump makes me nervous.  It makes me think of why manufacturers

stopped putting drawcords in kids hoods.  They are a choking hazard.  If you insist on using cord, at least make it short.

first trip with kiddie paddles (ages 7 and 4)

You are going to want to set out some in-boat rules, and they must be laid out days in advance of your departure.   They will need to be firmly deposited in your little ones memory bank.  Examples?  There will be no toys in the boat.  There will be no electronic devices including but not limited to cell phones, iPods, portable DVD players and handheld game devices.  Sunhats and sunscreen are a must.  For safety, children must respond to all instruction immediately and without fail.  I realize this sounds strict and like a bummer of a trip, but it makes the time more relaxing in the end.  If you’ve laid down the law well in advance, it heads off most arguments.  I get it.  You’re thinking to yourself, “This chick’s crazy.  What kids will agree to, let alone follow, these rules?”.  Or maybe you think your little one is, well, too little.  This harkens back to an earlier post about how toddlers are tricky.    You can reinforce how one of their jobs is to stay in the middle of the boat.  It’s their job to help keep the family safe.  If they veer over to the edge, they can feel the boat listing to that side.  This tippy feeling can in and of itself spook them into staying put.   Cause and effect.  “Oops.  Help Mommy keep us safe by staying in the middle”.  I honestly never had a problem with my boys in the boat.  Never a complaint, never a restless moment, never a fight.  And my boys are normally quite crazy.  For older kids that can’t be finessed into compliance, it’s simple.  Don’t make me turn this boat around.  No cooperation, no trip.

Let’s talk kids and paddles.  You can buy amazing quality paddles in kids sizes, and they

zach opts to sit in the bow

make for such cute photo ops, but also make for pain in the butt boat companions.  I thought that these would make my kid’s early trips more special and they would feel like they were contributing.  In reality, they were too small to reach over the edge and touch the water, so they leaned out further and further  to make contact.  Ahhhh!  This was a disaster waiting to happen and it made steering awful.  I put the kibosh on kids paddles until they were big enough to actually help out.  In fact Zach still doesn’t paddle during the actual trip, just during day outings.  Even then, with four of us in one boat, there is never enough room, or dexterity, to coordinate paddling in unison.  I have found myself sitting in the bow with teeth clenched tightly, trying not to freak out at the unsteady rhythm and the constant jostling.  That is something that I’m not going to miss.

zach and lambie take a turn (massasauga 2010)

So what do you do to entertain the kids if they don’t have paddles or toys?  My answer is simple.  Nothing.  How did you entertain YOURSELF before you ventured into the realm of family tripping?  You listen to the sweet sounds of paddles dipping and loons calling.  You keep a keen eye on shore in hopes of spotting a moose or maybe even a bear.  You laugh and talk

a bear seen from our boat in killarney

and dream.  Don’t rob your kids of a true wilderness experience by bringing home along with you.  With our over-scheduled lives filled with classes and lessons and late-night meetings, canoe tripping is an opportunity to connect

a deer seen from our boat in algonquin (pondweed lake)

with your kids.  Slow it down a bit and enjoy the time with each other.

Toronto Paddlefest 2011 – Reflections in Photos

safety first

It was an ominous forecast.  Thunderstorms and 100% chance of rain for the better part of the

lookin' for an adventure

day.  It seems though, that our collective hopes turned the tides.  The rain held off on Saturday and the cool overcast weather made for perfectly comfortable paddling.  Admittedly the water was a little (read: a lot) cool, but there were still smiles all around.

early morning day two

Sunday was picture perfect.  As the clouds passed over the sun, the air see-sawed between chilly and warm.  It couldn’t have been better weather.  Very few sunburns and even fewer blue lips.

zach enjoys the sand

The instructors were top-notch

lambie tags along

and the enthusiasm was infectious.  Unsuspecting passersby on the boardwalk were sucked into the party and many were in boats before they knew what was happening.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing many of them back next year.

zach in it up to his neck

luke chillin'

It all seemed to go off without a hitch due to the meticulous planning by a crack team from Mountain Equipment Co-op.  In attendance was a strong contingent of vendors, instructors, volunteers, staff and participants.  The whole paddling community came out to support this wonderful event.

Thanks again for another unforgettable year everyone.  No matter where in the world our family may end up, we will always make time to come back for the best paddling event in North America.  Yay paddling!

helping clean up garbage after the festivities

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