Archive for July, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Muskrat?

I just read a cool tweet a couple of days ago and I feel inspired.  I follow Parks Canada on Twitter and they announced that they have a new app.  It is called “Parks Canada Heritage Gourmet”.  It is Parks Canada’s first official app and my first impression is that it is a good one.

screenshot of Canada Parks Heritage Gourmet app

It’s sort of an historical Canadian cookbook.  The recipes in one way or another represent or were influenced by, one of Canada’s national historic sites.  They are arranged by course, menu, region or period and each recipe is accompanied by the story of its inspiration and a link to the site that it represents.  There is one that I’ve already got the ingredients for and I’m definitely going to make this weekend.  Corn bread…mmm.  My mom used to make corn bread for breakfast, although she called it Johnny Cake.  I can imagine us all digging into this warm delight on cold fall and winter mornings, having drowned it in maple syrup. Sounds pretty Canadian to me!

There are other less familiar offers like the fried muskrat and eel stew.  Who knows though, maybe I’ll make it a mission to work my way through the more than 70 recipes.  I’ll try to hold back my scepticism at the more obscure fare, as the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Algonquin College has tested all of the recipes and revised them as necessary to make it possible to achieve tasty results.

I think that maybe I’ll concoct some recipes of my own inspired by Ontario Provincial Parks.  I’ll keep ya posted on the results of both. Oh, I almost forgot.  If you don’t have an app friendly device, Parks Canada has a bunch of the recipes on their website and promise to have all of them soon.  Happy eating!

File Under F for Fun

I’m sure everybody’s post trip routine is different.  Ours goes a little something like this… unload the car and put some, but not all of the gear away.  Who’s got enough energy for a full clean up?  The rest lives in the dining room for a few weeks.  We all just pretend not to see it.  Next, I rush over to my computer and plug in the memory cards from my camera.  I love taking pictures.  I usually have at least 600 of them. Yeah, I know… it’s a tad bit excessive.  Then the best part, I troll through the pics and select the best of the best.  I don’t always choose the most beautiful.  I pick out the funniest and most memorable moments and I take note of the number that has been assigned to them.  Finally, I go to one of those photobook websites and I upload all of the keepers.

i think this one is a keeper – killarney mini island

We have a lot of book shelves in our house and when those all got filled up, books began piling up on dressers and desks and even the floor.  But our trip photo books have a special home in our coffee table alongside our collection of Kevin Callan’s wisdom.  It’s fun to show them off to guests, but we get the most pleasure out of poring over them ourselves.  Reliving past trips in the down time between them keeps all of the memories fresh in our minds and inspires future conquests.  We sometimes stumble on the kids giggling over the pictures, having pulled out the books in lieu of staring at the tv.  You can’t beat that.

So having just arrived home and characteristically dumping some gear next to the dining table, it’s time to go and make this years book of the family trip to Killarney.

some of our family photo books

Silver Peak or Bust

I can smell it.  I can taste it.  The air is thick with anticipation.  The calendar conspicuously hangs on the kitchen wall taunting me

beautiful clear lakes

with its highlighter scars.  Monday creeps ever closer with its promise of peaceful moments and fretful challenges.  The boats are ready, the Jeep is ready, we are ready, but is Killarney ready for us?

classic killarney

The family is taking over Killarney Provincial Park all next week.  If you’re there too, chances are good that you are going to see us.  We’ll be on the lakes, on the portages and hopefully at the top of Silver Peak.  At 539 meters, Silver Peak is the third highest “mountain” in Ontario and is almost as tall as the CN Tower.  Interior access is from Bell Lake along the aptly named Silver Peak Trail and the hike to the top is about 6km.  I’m hoping that the beauty of the place and natural features like the waterfalls near the last section, will be enough of a distraction that the kids won’t balk at the distance or the elevation.

As long as the weather cooperates, I’m determined to take some beautiful pictures.  Beautiful pictures and even more beautiful memories.

a storm rolling in

Fit By Numbers

Fitting a bike helmet is one of those things that we all feel we can do well enough.  This however, is completely untrue.  All day long one can see examples of poorly fitted helmets pedalling past.  Most often it is perched too high, or is sitting too far back.  At Bikefest Toronto this year, we were lucky enough to have a trained professional from the organization ThinkFirst, fit Zach with a new helmet.

Have you heard of the 2-4-1 rule?  Here’s how it goes…

TWO – hold your first and second fingers together and place them just above your eyebrow.  This is where your helmet should sit.

helmet fit - two

FOUR – make two V’s with your first and second fingers.  Place the V’s starting under your ears, your fingers flat along either side.  This is where the straps should sit.  They should not run over your ears.

helmet fit - four

ONE – place one finger under the chin strap.  Tighten the strap so that no more than that one finger can fit underneath.

helmet fit - one

Easy peasy, right?  I think it goes without saying the size of the helmet itself should also fit.  They can be purchased in different sizes and are somewhat adjustable with thicker or thinner padding.  Some have a dial in the back that when turned adjusts an internal band.  The helmet shouldn’t be able to rock back and forth and shouldn’t slide to the front or back.   It can only save your noggin if you put it on, so WEAR IT.  Go forth, ride on!

I See London, I See France


I’ve got my knitting and a big old coffee. Fraser and I are in the Jeep on our way to London, Ontario. Those in the know, know why. What is our destination today? It’s not for a paddle or a hike. Stay tuned 🙂

Stern But Not Angry

I’m embarrassed to say that Fraser left me in his dust.  He was miles ahead of me and was eating a sandwich at the time!   My first attempt at sterning a fully loaded boat was a disaster.

can you see fraser and the kids eating their sandwiches?!

I was in the rented prospector, a sixteen foot model with a lighter load than Fraser’s.  I struggled.  It seemed like with every stroke I was correcting the last one.  I was so frustrated and discouraged.  How am I ever going to be able to stern a three-week trip?!
Fraser suggested that we switch boats on the next lake.  I took our Maple and my goodness, it was like night and day.  She was like putty in my hands.  To have a side by side comparison like that was invaluable.  I am not a prospector girl, who knew?
The model of canoe you choose is very important.  What will you be using it for?  Where will you be paddling? Will it be a solo venture or will there be a (capable) paddler in the front?  How much cargo do you plan on hauling?

fraser in the maple

Canoes styles generally fall into one of three categories, although specialty canoes can push this number up (for example expedition and racing canoes).  Recreational canoes are super stable and tend to be made of heavier materials.  They don’t feel tippy and the price won’t break the bank.  These are perfect for the cottage.  Tripping canoes are usually longer and have a higher load capacity in order to accommodate all of the gear necessary for longer trips.  They track well for easier handling and have clean entry lines.  Whitewater canoes are made of heavier, more durable materials to withstand run-ins with rocks.  They are designed with extreme rockers to allow for enhanced maneuverability and while they may feel tippy, they are in reality very difficult to actually turn over.

What do I mean by “tracking”?  That is the ability to maintain a straight line while paddling.  Rocker?  The curvature of the keel line.  Keel line? The center line of the boat running from bow to stern.  It’s like learning a different language isn’t it?  I could go on like this for pages!  Let’s see if I can make this more simple to understand…

You need to decide what is most important to you.  Here is an example of how I would choose a new boat for long-ish trips on flat water with me in the stern and Luke in the bow:

I need to be able to haul heavy loads (long-ish, fairly deep)

I need to be able to portage the boat (light-weight materials)

I will need to be able to get from point A to point B in an efficient manner (tracks well…clean entry line, moderate rocker, possibly a keel)

I need to be able to steer it well and not feel too tippy as well as not tip over (moderate rocker, a shallow arch hull)

that's me struggling in the prospector

Now take everything I say with a grain of salt.  Manufacturers, paddlers, retailers…everybody has an opinion on how each design aspect affects the performance of a boat.  These recommendations are a good place to start, but no amount of advice can substitute a good old-fashioned test run.  Before committing to a boat, ideally you will paddle a bunch of different models.  See if your local shop or outfitter has a demo night, or if a model you have your eye on is in a rental program somewhere.  Take ‘er for a spin and find the boat of your dreams.

Fortitude to Spare

Some are born with fortitude to spare, like my little Zachy.  He’s had a fever for four days and when he couldn’t shake it, I took

zach's x-ray, a broken index finger

him to the doctor who pronounced that he had a raging throat infection.  “Does your throat hurt?” the doctor inquired.  Nope.   Not the hint of a complaint.  It’s like the “shovel incident” of 2009 when Luke almost chopped off two of Zach’s fingers.  Yes, there were some tears, but mostly due to the surprise and fear.  At the hospital the doc gave Zach’s hand a shake by the fingers, “does this hurt?”.  Nope.  He had the cuts scrubbed out with a stiff brush and glued back together.   He was sent home only to discover a week later that the bone was snapped through and through.
Meanwhile, I’ve caught Zach’s cold and I’m simply dying.  I am a totally useless drippy, sneezy, wallowing mess.  Some of us were better built for “roughing it”.
On trip,  how do you prepare for, and how do you deal with illness when it strikes?

I’m not talking about wilderness first aid.  That is a whole other ballgame.  I’m talking about tummy aches and headaches and toothaches and all over body aches.  When planning your first aid kit, along with the essential bandages and ointments, think about taking some useful medications.  Don’t forget to pack any medications that your family members use for special ailments, such as inhalers for asthmatics.  In addition to these, bring some pain and fever reducers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen.  In case of an allergic reaction, bring along the antihistamine  diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl).  This will help provide temporary relief of seasonal and perennial allergy symptoms as well as insect bites (even if there is no allergic reaction).  Be careful though, this medication can cause drowsiness, so take adequate precautions.  Toothaches?  oil of oregano or oil of cloves on a bit of cotton ball packed in the tooth will take the edge off.  Is camp cooking giving you a not so happy digestive feeling?  While there are medications to help relieve diarrhea and nausea (bismuth compounds aka. Pepto-Bismol), that isn’t necessarily the go-to solution.  Your body may be trying to purge itself of something.   Keep some rehydration salts in your first aid kit, maintain a steady intake of fluids and rest.  Medicate  if necessary.

For the kiddies, bring a children’s version of pain relief and fever medication as well as children’s Benadryl and After-Bite for the inevitable mosquito bites.  This sounds like a lot, but you only need to pack a few of each of these in a waterproof container and pop it into your first-aid kit.  Depending on how far from civilization you are, you may take more or less.

You are unlikely to need most of what you pack for emergencies, but it is much better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.  Like Robert Baden-Powell so eloquently put it, be prepared.

If a Girl Pees in the Forest…

Does a girl pee in the woods?

hot, stinky, buggy (though surprisingly clean) outhouse that i did not love in frontenac provincial park

Of course she does.  Does she do it without getting her pants or shoes wet?  That’s a different story.  Peeing successfully en plein air is all a matter of technique.  This is something that I perfected years ago when my dad used to take me fishing.  We used to go night fishing in the middle of nowhere.  If there had been a washroom, it would have been locked up tight hours before our arrival.  I took to peeing where I could and I learned to do it quickly (in order to sustain the fewest mosquito bites possible) and efficiently (in order to avoid being stumbled upon by a stranger).  As an adult, I’ve taken this expertise for granted.  I was reminded of its importance when on our latest trip, my brother asked if aunt Jenny had any tips for my niece Charlotte on how to accomplish this feat.  At first I thought he was yanking my chain but I gave a full description and demonstration (shorts over long johns) anyway.  I was rewarded for my efforts with big smiles and sincere thanks after Charlotte’s next trip behind a tree.  So here goes,  this is the girls version of how to pee in the woods successfully every time…

How to pee outside:
I’m gonna do us all a favor and not include “how-to” pictures for this post.

  1. pick a spot a reasonable distance from your water source and camp, one that protects you from being seen
  2. look for a bit of a slope and stand at the high-end of it (so as not to find yourself standing in a growing puddle)
  3. drop drawers, but only to your knees DO NOT DROP YOUR PANTS TO YOUR ANKLES
  4. squat down as far as you can
  5. bunch up your bottoms and underpants and pull them forward (and out of harms way)
  6. keeping your feet as far apart as you can, let loose
  7. keep your eyes on the prize…make sure that you aren’t missing your target
  8. ta da!

This should have achieved your end goal without incident.  I hope this provides years of angst free backcountry bathroom breaks for all the ladies in your life.

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