Posts Tagged ‘bucket list’

National Parks In Ontario: Pukaskwa…Our Kids Try to Set a Record!

This is our inaugural BIG trip year. We feel that the kids are ready to take on some serious expeditions and we’re milking this coming of age for all it’s worth. 2012 is chocked full of back to back awesome trips. Come the end of January though, it felt like we were just killing time until the fun would begin. The spring looked lean and long. I opened our complimentary 2012 Ontario Outdoor Adventures calendar and started flipping through the pages, counting the weeks until our first trip of the year was planned. It hit me like a slap in the face. Right there on the square reserved for May 23rdwas the answer to our spring tripping drought. Hike Pukaskwa’s Coastal Trail, it read. Yeah baby, let’s do it! With only four months until our departure, the race was on to prepare ourselves for what some people spend years planning for.

Pukaskwa National Park © Klaus Rossler Photography 2011

The Coastal Trail in Pukaskwa Provincial Parkis Ontario’s answer to B.C.’s West Coast Trail. Rated as an advanced hike, my husband Fraser and I had put thoughts of it on the back burner after our boys were born in favour of short hikes, canoe trips and winter camping. Well, we dusted off the dream this spring and put it back on our plates. With Zach and Luke a strong and well experienced 8 and 10 respectively, we felt confident that we could tackle the challenging terrain and unpredictable weather that Pukaskwa is notorious for. Perched on the edge of Lake Superior’s wild north shore, it is Ontario’s only wilderness national park and the trail includes suspension bridges, river crossings and boulder fields.

courtesy of Parks Canada

I began researching our chances of a successful expedition. I lucked out and made quick friends with Lyn Elliot, a super friendly kindred spirit from the Parks office in Pukaskwa. What a wealth of information! We talked weather, trail conditions, bugs, packing considerations…and then the clincher. She mentioned in an early email that if we completed the entire trail, we were most likely the “youngest” family to have done so. By all accounts, our boys will be the youngest hikers to complete the trail end-to-end. That was it, we were thoroughly hooked. It was like a first accent and a World Record rolled into one ambitious but doable hiking first. We were going to be the first to realise this achievement, the perfect motivation for a firm commitment. We are going to Pukaskwa, we are going to hike the whole 60km Coastal Trail and because of other commitments, we only have seven days to accomplish it in. Hikers, start your engines!

There are only two options for approaching a hike on this single access point trail, the “double-back” method (hike in and then turn around and hike back) and the boat shuttle. We waffled on which to choose. The double back meant that the pressure was off. If we didn’t make the progress that we hoped for, we could just turn around when half of our time had been eaten up and safely assume that it would take an equal amount of time to get back. Other points in the “pro” double back column… the first half of the trail is well travelled, better maintained and technically less advanced, plus we could avoid the added expense of the boat shuttle. However, and most anyone who knows me can attest to this, I have an aversion to the easy way. To me, only hiking half of the trail would mean that someday I would need to return and complete the entire thing in order to check it off my list. If I’m going to drive 14 hours to get to the park, there is simply no way that I’m not doing the whole trail and so we are going with longtime water taxi operator Keith at McCuaig Marine Services. Luckily for me, Fraser is always willing and more than able to entertain my tripping whims. The question then remained, what about the kids? Will they want to go? Are they capable? Will the frustration of a trip too far above their abilities sour them for all future crazy proposals? Well they certainly want to go, they couldn’t be more excited and it’s not just because they will be missing a week of school! As for the other concerns, I suppose the answers to those questions await us at the end of this journey.

courtesy of Parks Canada

If you want to start planning your own visit to Pukaskwa, check out the AMAZING trip planners that the park has just come out with. They really are the most comprehensive, helpful and easily navigable trip planners that I have ever had the pleasure of using. There is the Coastal Paddling Route Trip Planner and the Coastal Hiking Trail Trip Planner. Every single question that we had was answered in this document. Everything from driving distances between major cities and the park to hiking distances in kilometers and hours between camp sites, weather conditions and sunrise and sunset times. And you don’t have to be crazy like us as there is car camping in Hattie’s Cove (with free WIFI at the visitor’s centre) and you can do day trips on the hiking trail or any number of shorter overnighters. They offer tons of interpretive programs, a junior naturalist program for the young and young at heart as well as an Art in the Park series. Really fabulous. No, really. Check it out. Really

Stay tuned because our trip is in two short weeks! You can watch our progress real-time on a Google map by way of our SPOT Connect (satellite GPS messenger) and I will be tweeting and updating Facebook from the trail…you gotta love technology! Here is a link to the SPOT map page. Of course there is nothing much to look at right now, but starting on May 26th I’ll be doing regular location check-ins. Also look for a complete trip report and some spectacular pictures when we get back. Wish us luck!

A Bucket List For Kids…

I’ve been making reference to the National Trust’s list of “50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4” kid’s bucket list a lot lately. Everyone wants to know what’s on the list, but to see it you have to sign-up on their website and quite frankly it’s a bit of a hassle. So here is the list for quick reference. Try to check off as many things with your kids as you can before the warm weather is gone again. Enjoy!

1. Climb a tree

2. Roll down a really big hill

3. Camp out in the wild

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone

6. Run around in the rain

7. Fly a kite

8. Catch a fish with a net

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree

10. Play conkers

11. Throw some snow

12. Hunt for treasure on the beach

13. Make a mud pie

14. Dam a stream

15. Go sledging

16. Bury someone in the sand

17. Set up a snail race

18. Balance on a fallen tree

19. Swing on a rope swing

20. Make a mud slide

21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild

22. Take a look inside a tree

23. Visit an island

24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind

25. Make a grass trumpet

26. Hunt for fossils and bones

27. Watch the sun wake up

28. Climb a huge hill

29. Get behind a waterfall

30. Feed a bird from your hand

31. Hunt for bugs

32. Find some frogspawn

33. Catch a butterfly in a net

34. Track wild animals

35. Discover what’s in a pond

36. Call an owl

37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

38. Bring up a butterfly

39. Catch a crab

40. Go on a nature walk at night

41. Plant it, grow it, eat it

42. Go wild swimming

43. Go rafting

44. Light a fire without matches

45. Find your way with a map and a compass

46. Try bouldering

47. Cook on a campfire

48. Try abseiling

49. Find a geocache

50. Canoe down a river

Free Bird

I’ve been sitting around all afternoon trying to schedule the trips planned for this year. I keep having wonderful opportunities drop in my lap lately. I am well aware that this is an embarrassment of riches and a true blessing. The problem is there are not enough weeks in a year and every once in a while, we do still have to show up for work or our lives will become one long vacation from earning an income!

Every day, our bucket list becomes longer and longer. There are just more beautiful, remote and challenging destinations than can be fit into a lifetime. With our boys creeping ever closer to independence, our family tripping years are at a peak and my heart aches to think that there will come a day when our crazy birds will fly the coop.

My sincere wish is that we have instilled a genuine lasting love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the beauty that exists all around us. The way I figure it, we have about five or six solid years of family tripping left before the boys would rather spend their time with yet unfound loves and passions of their own. I don’t doubt that we will continue to trip together until Fraser and I have to turn in our paddles for walkers, but they will be fewer and farther between.

At a rate of one BIG trip a year, we have to narrow our list to just five awesome, super spectacular, unforgettable, inspirational journey’s of discovery. How in the world do we choose?! Man I wish we could just trip full time…step out our front door and never look back. While I’m working on that, what I need are suggestions from all of you. What is the must-experience trip that I would forever regret missing? We’ve already promised the West Coast Trail to our B.C. loving boys, but what else? Weigh in and I might just owe you a BIG thank you and a lifetime of indebtedness.

While I know that it is our job to eventually push them from the proverbial nest, I can’t help but hold tightly onto our little birds while I still can. So back to scheduling…I’ve got to figure out how to squeeze blood from a stone and stretch our time and resources a little farther. It’s a good thing I was so good at Tetris in my day…I might just be able to make this puzzle of trips and time work out after all. Wish me luck and don’t be shy…I want to hear what trip I should be manipulating to fit in just right.

Now is the Winter of Our Content

I work in a place where on a daily basis people pass through our doors on their way to far-flung exotic destinations. I have to admit that I feel like I’m shirking my duties as a Canadian and a member of this industry not to harbour similar dreams of my own. There still remain a couple corners of the globe that I’d still like to see. I mean, who doesn’t want to go to Lapland and see herds of reindeer roaming the frozen landscape? Did you know that there is fabulous canoeing in Lapland? Just saying. But the truth is that the majority of my travel dreams land squarely within the borders of Canada. Call me a homebody, but Canada has enough special spots to peak my interest and fill my dreams for the rest of my days.

photo: GETTY

Right now I’m working on my newest big adventure idea. In a few weeks we will be heading up to Killarney to stay in one of their yurts. I can’t wait. To fill the seemingly endless days between then and now, I’ve been googling “yurts”. I stumbled across the most amazing thing! While checking out the yurt rental listings in Quebec park sites, I found listings for some alternative abodes. Have you ever rented an IGLOO! Yes, you’ve read correctly. Igloos are available in Parc national du Bic between December 16th and March 18th and Parc national des Monts-Valin between December 26 and March 25th, conditional on weather. A minimum of two adults are required for safety reasons, but the igloos sleep up to four people. That is just perfect for our little family. Put it on the list.

Photograph by: Handout photo, SEPAQ

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Fraser’s dad was born and raised in Quebec. His family had/has a farm where they produce maple syrup. That’s the coolest thing ever. I have a wonderful memory of when we moved back from Vancouver and stayed at the folks place for a couple of weeks while we waited for our belongings to catch up with us. George (that’s Fraser’s dad) planned a little welcome back to the cold weather surprise. He cooked up some of the family syrup until it was nice and thick and hot, then he took us all out back and poured it onto the snow. Stop me if you’ve heard this one… We rolled the quickly hardening syrup onto sticks and gobbled down the candy. This was not my first maple candy experience, but the kids were amazed and delighted. They also adore what we refer to as “squeaky cheese”, or cheese curds. They’ve already got the basis for some serious Quebec love.

Algonquin yurt February 2011

And so the subliminal coercion begins. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves in one of those igloos before this season is over. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and my hints hard. Wish me luck!

%d bloggers like this: