Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Lead Me To An Outdoor Adventure and I Will Follow

This past Saturday I grabbed the kids and headed over to the Outdoor Adventure Show here in Toronto.  What an inspiring day!

Our first stop was to watch a presentation by Lyn Elliott on the Top Ten Adventures in Ontario’s National Parks. Loved it!  While I proudly thought to myself, “done that, done that”, there were a number of things that have been added to my “must do” list…namely visiting the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. The kids took one look at the new oTENTik accommodations that are being offered and their eyes lit up.  If you haven’t seen one, picture a soft sided rustic cabin.  Truth be told, after our amazing trip to Georgian Bay Islands last year and the cozy cabin we stayed in there, it wasn’t a hard sell to get me to agree that we must go and try an oTENTik…and soon!

oTENTik accommodation available in St. Lawrence Islandsphoto: Parks Canada

oTENTik accommodation available in St. Lawrence Islands
photo: Parks Canada

As we made our way up and down the aisles of the show, I picked up maps and planners for all sorts of dreamy places, the kind of places that I’ve pictured exploring since I was a kid.  Gros Morne National Park out in Newfoundland looks absolutely gorgeous and I guarantee we’ll make it there some day. But the most intriguing and bucket list worthy destinations (because of distance and exotic local) are the National Parks in Northern Canada. Wild, breathtaking and untouched, the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut seem so out of reach to the average “southern Canadian”.  Getting there is possible though if we put our minds to it.  With some planning, saving and training, Fraser and I have every intention of making it there with the kids.

In the meanwhile, there are oodles of fabulous places in my beloved Ontario that are calling out to me.  I walked away with an Ontario Parks Guide and a pamphlet listing the National Parks Historic Sites and Marine Conservation Areas here. Now I’ve got a couple more maps for the house and we can start checking off all of the places that we’ve visited.

The show was a great way to spend a day and inspiration for how to spend a lifetime.  And to that woman who looked skeptical that I was going to run out and buy that yogurt after she gave me a sample…I did.  It was good yogurt.  Reeeally good.  Thanks for another great show!

Seasonally Challenged?

The air is cool and full of the damp smell of decay. I’ve spent the morning digging through my basement in search of the sock bin that’s been snubbed for the last four months in favour of sandals. In my humble opinion, the best time of year has finally arrived. It’s fall and along with all of the fabulous smells and sights comes the best time for getting outside.

Don’t let the cooler wet weather keep you and the family inside. With the right gear and clothing, the “off-season” out-of-doors has so much to offer. Pumpkins and apple pies, a couple of wheels rolling over crunchy colourful leaves, evening thunderstorms and early morning misty paddles, these are a few of my favourite things. It’s time to triple up friends with a base layer, mid-layer and wind/rain jacket combo. These will keep you covered from the cold break of dawn through the warm sun breaking through in the afternoon and then back again. Light gloves and a cute hat are invaluable for keeping in the cosy and take up almost no room in your pack or pockets, so be sure to bring some along on your adventures.

Whatever your excursion of choice, be prepared with the right gear. Whether running, cycling, or just walking the dog, remember that night is coming sooner these days and even your commute home could get a little dark. Bring your lights and reflectors and make sure that you can be seen. Staying out overnight? Bring a tarp, a cozy sleeping bag and a full-fly tent and be prepared to fix hot meals and drinks to keep up your comfort level and your spirits.

Now that you’re ready for the weather, get out there and enjoy the changing seasons. And don’t forget to find those socks…you’re gonna need them.

Pukaskwa Wild, Winsome and Wonderful

Our boys are always up for a challenge, especially if it involves the outdoors. But we tripled checked that they really wanted to go and hike the Coastal Hiking Trail in Pukaskwa National Park. We tried our best to paint a realistic picture of just how difficult it would be.  Little did I know that even I had underestimated the challenges that lay ahead.

After a 14 hour drive north we pitched a tent in Hattie Cove for the night and woke at a painfully early hour to catch our boat shuttle with Keith and Melissa from McCuaig Marine Services. We were dropped at North Swallow River in a steady rain to start our hike back. Note to self, the end of May is black fly season.

The trail was a very rugged constant gain and loss of elevation. It was rocky and dense and we relied heavily on our hiking poles for balance and grip. There was a substantial amount of rock-hopping to avoid any number of hazards, and felled trees to climb under and over and around. There was never a moment of tedium as a constant stream of obstacles kept us on our toes at all times. We were rewarded for our efforts with some of the most beautiful and breathtaking backcountry that I’ve ever seen. Lake Superior stretches on forever and truly resembles the sea. The sandy beaches sweep out like private playgrounds to explore and enjoy at the end of a long day. Almost all of our campsites landed us smack dab in the middle of a gorgeous beach with sunset views to die for. Even after hiking an eight-hour day, the boys ran out into the sand to dig and build and explore.

I admit that at times the terrain was so demanding and exhausting that witty banter fell by the wayside and was replaced with rhythmic pants of exertion and the sounds of heavily weighted boots drumming against the rock. There were a couple of tears of frustration and “somebody” collapsed at camp one night leaving the burden of set-up and cooking to the others (yes that was me). But with the effort, we could see the confidence growing in the boys. Their steps became less timid and their placement more precise. They called out warnings of upcoming hazards to the group and held back branches and offered a steady hand to each other. They leaned into headwinds and wiped the rain and bugs from their faces. Despite the formidable demands there wasn’t one whine or complaint or outright tantrum. Still they ended every day with hugs and kisses and smiles and thanks.  For possibly the first time in their lives our guys faced real adversity. They learned that by not giving up even when things got exceedingly difficult, they could achieve their goals. They proved to themselves just how strong and capable they really are. It also made it impossible for me to complain. If they could do it with such grace, then so could I.

Our original plan was to hike the trail in seven days. In the beginning we found that our family took about one hour longer to hike each section than was suggested in the Coastal Hiking Trail Planner. The further that we went on the trail though, the better time we made. On the sixth day we completed our section one hour ahead of schedule and the kids asked if we could push on and finish our journey that day instead of making camp. We decided that it was doable and agreed.

After more than 16km on that sixth day, we made our way back into the Hattie Cove campground giddy with the exhilaration of our accomplishment as well as the prospect of a fast-food dinner with all of the fixings. After gorging ourselves on poutine and root beer floats, we rolled back into camp and were treated to a night in gorgeous teepee courtesy of Bonnie Couchie from the Pic River Guest Suite. Even though we arrived earlier than planned, Bonnie had our night’s accommodations waiting for us and we had the warmest and most comfortable night’s sleep in a week.

Before we left on our adventure the possibility existed that we might not be able to finish and that someday we would need to return and give it another go. I know now that regardless of having realized the goal of hiking the entire trail, we will definitely be returning to Pukaskwa.  Not out of an obligation to complete unfinished business, but rather for the love of a newfound gem.  One visit to this magical park simply isn’t enough. Our Ontario Outdoor calendar didn’t steer us wrong when it suggested that we visit. That leaves 11 more months of inspiration hanging on my wall.

To see more of our trip pictures, check out the Pukaskwa National Park set on Flickr!

A special thank you to Mountain Equipment Co-op, Pukaskwa National Park and Ontario Outdoors.  Your support allowed for a successful and memorable trip.

Our Pukaskwa Family Adventure

We are an adventure loving family. We’ve tripped here, we’ve tripped there, we’ve tripped just about everywhere. But never have we been to a place quite like Pukaskwa National Park. While we’ve always been outdoorsy, the kids are old enough now at 8 and 10 to allow the family to challenge ourselves with some more advanced fare. On May 26th we launch our year of great Ontario Outdoor adventures by making the long drive north from our home in Toronto to Ontario’s most remote national park to take on the Coastal Hiking Trail.

Hiking with the kids is nothing new to my husband and myself, but this particular trail is gonna be a doozy. Its sixty rugged kilometers stretch along the north-eastern coast of Ontario’s inland sea, Lake Superior. The terrain is rough and remains relatively untouched and the weather can be strong-willed. Those who choose to make the journey here do so for the beauty, the experience and let’s face it, the bragging rights. Trekking this trail is certainly more difficult than a simple walk in the park.

By all accounts our boys will be the youngest hikers to ever complete the trail end-to-end. We did not plan it this way. That revelation was an eyebrow raising hint at the complexity of the feat before us; a not so subtle cue to come well prepared. And we will not be taking any aspect of readiness for granted. With the trip just a few days away I’m confident that we are well practiced and that we are equipped for almost every potential predicament. As parents we are role models and what better lessons are there to impart to our children than to dream big, train hard, come prepared and follow through.

Sure we do trips like this for the fun and adventure, but there is another side to getting into the backcountry with your kids. Not every classroom has walls. Spending time in a wilderness classroom teaches more than survival skills, it teaches life skills. Spending time in the outdoors with your family is valuable for fostering a meaningful connection to each other. Each member is able to rely on the others and kids feel empowered when they know that we trust and believe in them. Tripping allows kids to push their limits and discover physical and mental strength. They learn to problem solve and to trust their instincts. And they find that there is an abundance of ways to occupy their time without all of the gadgets they’ve left at home. They use their imaginations.

Taking your kids on a big adventure takes a ton of planning, preparation and sacrifice. It’s all worth it though to demonstrate that the most rewarding experiences are earned through hard work and perseverance, the best memories are the ones created with family and friends and the best rewards are the ones that reveal a deeper understanding of ourselves, the world and our place in it. Pukaskwa is going to be our greatest challenge to date, but with all of us doing our part it is sure to be our greatest success.

Blogging Award Nomination

Mrs. Sparkly’s Ten Commandments Award.. Thank You!

Very cool!  Family Outdoor Adventures has passed this award on to me.  Thank you!

The rules for this award are that you must answer the following ten questions and nominate ten blogs that you think deserve the award.

 

1. Describe yourself in seven words. 

Family, funny, crazy, adventurous, persistent, awkward, content

2. What keeps you up at night?

A million little things running through my head…the peace and quiet at bedtime allows my mind to run when it should be resting

3. Whom would you like to be?

Nobody but myself.

4. What are you wearing now?

Jeans and a t shirt, no socks.

5. What scares you?

Standing still.

6. What are the best and worst things about blogging?

The best: Trading ideas with like minded people and broadening my perspective with those who aren’t like minded.

The worst:  Time suck! I’ve got a very busy life and blogging requires a time commitment that I wasn’t prepared for!

7. What was the last website you looked at?

www.mec.ca

8. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I’d like to able to lift small cars with one hand and also to read minds.

9. Slankets, yes or no?

What’s a slanket?

10. Tell us something about the person who nominated you

I was nominated by Family Outdoor Adventures. I love reading about a young family trying to get outdoors!

Here are the blogs I’d like to pass this on to!

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

Let Them Roam Free

My sincere hope is that camping is not seen as “old-fashioned” and therefore passe. Camping doesn’t have to be about the stereotypical plaid shirts and bushmen (although I’ve always fancied both of these things). Getting outdoors is a form of escapism just as movies and the internet can be, only it offers a whole host of additional benefits.

With the proliferation of technology, traditional skills that were once passed on from our parents are being lost. Once upon a time parents took their kids camping and fishing and on endless road trips for entertainment. It seems that more and more now, kids are plunking themselves in front of the flat screen and passively staring at reruns rather than being engaged with others and their environment. Gone are the days of riding bikes, climbing trees and road hockey games stretching far into the night. Gone too are those camping trips with the folks.

If media reports are true, kids are increasingly sedentary, overweight and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. I’m not knocking the advances that have been made in technology. The internet and educational programming on television can be great resources. Why not use them to ensure that our kids reverse those scary statistics? Research how to take the family into the great outdoors if you don’t already possess the necessary skills like signing up to participate in a “Learn To Camp” seminar at a Provincial or National Park. Connect with others that are participating in the activities that interest you. Or forget technology and simply get back to basics with a stroll around the block.

I’ve found the outdoor community to be a very friendly one. Join a club that organizes outings to get you started. Try car camping for a night and work your way up to longer and more involved trips. If you’ve ever thought, “someday I’ll take the kids camping. Maybe when they’re older”. Make today the day that you start planning that trip for real.

There are so many benefits both physical and psychological, to getting away from the noise of the city and the walls that cut us off from world around us. Exercise, fresh air, room to roam…peace, time to reflect, time to think without distraction, space to dream.

Living in Canada, we have been blessed with the ultimate outdoor playground. So take advantage of our good fortune and give your kids the greatest gifts you can…healthy habits for life and time spent together. Take your kids outside.

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