First week in Victoria, BC, and the Hartland Island Cup

 
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Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Pre-riding the Hartland Island Cup course. Quite a change from the AZ courses!

Checking out the lines.

Checking out the lines.

Practice, practice, practice!

Practice, practice, practice!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

There is still snow on the ground. It’s very unusual in Victoria!

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

The view from our beautiful campground - Pedder Bay RV Resort and Marina.

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Look at that water!

Look at that water!

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.

The girls were pretty excited and nervous to race the first Island Cup of the season (it’s their first time here). Mara had a great start and was keeping up with the strong girls until she got a flat, Aisha’s and Mathilde’s timing chips got mixed up, so they didn’t have their results, which wasn’t acknowledge before podiums (Aïsha was waiting for her turn on the podium and someone else got called because of the mixed results, even if she really was third…). They all acted with such maturity and positive attitudes, it was very heartwarming to see. Mathilde said she had her worst race ever (they rode a lot this week and their legs were shut), but that she had fun and was proud of herself. All in all, a success! And this community is simply amazing.


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Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

Mathilde and I when on a paddling date. It was so beautiful, seals were playing hide and seek around our kayak, a trumpeter swan landed beside us and a bald eagle took flight nearby. We could even see the snowy peaks of Olympic National Park in the US in front of us.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times! It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

JF and are celebrating our 20th anniversary (well, as you know, we’re not married, but that’s 20 years from our official dating date) and it is my birthday in a few weeks as well, so he treated us to a guided tasting flight in the cellar of Bear Mountain Resort. Every Friday, there is a different theme and this week was Italy. How perfect! The sommelier led our group down to this incredible room with a huge table covered with canapés prepared with local cheeses and charcuteries, and guided us through a tasting of 8 different wines. When they brought out the lobster cakes, I looked at JF with big round eyes and asked: How much was this thing? He said: well it said from 40$ per person… So we laughed imagining cameras looking down on us to see how much food we ate from the decadent spread and charging accordingly! It turned out to be just a little over that and I kept bugging him that it was because he went for the prosciutto 3 times!
It was so fun to be with him in such a different setting. It really felt like we had traded life with another couple for an evening, in a weird but cool way.

 

So much fun at Equinox Adventure Camp!

Collecting wood to cook bannock over the fire.

Shelter building.

Practicing t-rescue. First: tip the boat!

Then, proceed with rescue mission by sliding the tipped canoe over the rescuers canoe.

Pond exploration. 

Learning the parts of the paddle

We built rafts with the canoes and went on an adventure on Chadburn Lake. We found a cabin where we had lunch, made a fire and cooked banana boats, and then went on an island where we found a geocache.

The girls are setting up the routes with me before the camp children arrive at the site. Ava taking the "hanging upside down" challenge.

Doing one of the GPTeaming activity

Another challenging GPTeaming activity

Hiking along the Yukon River and learning about plants and trees as we go.

My colleague Megan and our 3rd week of camp kids!

Preparing bannock

Cooking bannock over the fire

Making chocolate-orange bombs to cook in the fire

What are these kids doing with balloons on their heads? Sticking them on top of the route they climb. On their next climb, they can pop one if they make it to the top again!

The full-time summer camp is on now and it is such an incredible learning opportunity for both the girls and I. We rock climb, canoe and kayak, do GPTeaming (teams use a GPS and to locate activity based initiative caches) and learn lots of outdoor living skills.

When I take the children on plants and trees identification hikes, I tell them to stop us anytime they have something to share about a plant or a tree they know. One First Nation girl told us about how her grandma used to say that when soapberries turn red, the salmons are running. Another First Nation kid showed us how to gut and eat minnows.

In the last few weeks, I've learned to use an Atlatl (a spear-thrower), improved my paddling strokes and have become better at teaching all sorts of skills. I have rubbed sunscreen on many many kids and held hands with little five year olds who were scared of falling in the outhouse when peeing. I've wiped tears and noses.

The girls are now all proficient belayers and help me set up the routes on the rock climbing days before the camp children arrive (they bring the ropes up, install the ground anchors, carabiners and grigris, and tie different knots), they've made new friends and are learning a lot about group dynamics, teambuilding, communication skills and so much more!

I've had moments when I wondered what I was doing there, but many more where I was in complete awe that I was actually paid to spend a day paddling on turquoise lakes and rock climbing with my girls. 

My hands are full of scratches and cuts, my body is sore from carrying big bins of ropes and bringing canoes up and down a trailer. I'm getting stronger and more confident by the day. 

I've learned that this is right along my alley and that it combines my love for the outdoor with my love of people, my natural leadership and organization skills and my sense of compassion. 

It's truly an incredible experience for all of us.

We come back home tired and dirty, smelling of smoke and bug spray. I love that we spend 8 to 10 hours a day outside in nature, learning and playing and being active. 

And by the way, if you think the girl in Eat, Pray, Love has it hard to meditate with mosquitoes swarming around her in India, imagine what it feels like to belay someone with mosquitoes biting you everywhere. That, my friend, is a lesson in mindfulness.

Camping and playing in Pine Lake, Haines Junction, Yukon

We tried a different technique than the cone for Java (he got fixed last week) to keep him from licking himself... He wasn't impressed...

Cooking bannock over the fire.

Harvesting spruce tips to make a medicinal syrup.

Collecting spruce pitch to make salve.

Kayaking on Pine Lake

We just love Pine Lake campground! It's far enough from town (90 min North of Whitehorse) for us to feel off the city hook and close enough to so many great hikes that we never get bored. There is a nice beach for warm days (and a clay pit!) and the lake is simply amazing! Paddling on a turquoise lake while being surrounded by the Kluane Mountain Range is high on my list of "how close to perfection can you get?".

Pine Lake is a territorial campground that is located only 10 min from Haines Junction and Kluane National Park. It is actually a nicer (and cheaper) campground than Kathleen Lake's (in Kluane National Park). If you are in the area, don't miss the amazing Visitor Center in Haines Junction.

Last days at Boer Mountain

Fall is well on its way here. During the time we stayed at the campground, we really saw nature going from summer to fall. The colors are amazing now!

This place is one of the most amazing camping spots we have ever been to. Boer Mountain has left us many unforgettable memories... and a few scars.  Seriously, what are the chances to find world class bike trails out your door, a beautiful lake to paddle on, a free peaceful campground (and free firewood!) five minutes from a friendly town with everything you need? 
Boer Mountain, we will be back.

La Jolla Cove

Mara and I kayaking in La Jolla

La Jolla Cove is San Diego’s most desirable spot for kayaking, snorkeling and diving. The water is calm and ecologically protected, providing a safe home for colorful garibaldi, yellowtail, rays and even leopard sharks. The harbor seals came very close to the people swimming on the beach. There was a little boy that even felt it was a little too close for comfort!

Actually, I wasn’t surprise to read that the small number of sea lions that swimmers used to enjoy watching frolic some years ago has turned into a colony of as many as 300, ranging in size from 100-pound females to 900-pound bulls, which have been mounting, biting, charging, and baring their teeth at swimmers and beachgoers.

Lately, the increasingly territorial animals have started blocking swimmers from getting into the water, forcing people to walk back and forth on the beach until they can find a safe opening to enter the ocean… Of course, people are exacerbating the problem by tossing fish, potato chips, and leftover food off the cliffs and over the sides of boats. While we were there, we saw a few people jump over the fence to take pictures of the seals and sea lions.


The other big disadvantage is the foul odor of sea lion and bird poop. And I mean, cover-your-face-with-your-t-shirt-or-scarf-exclaiming-OMG-this-is-awful foul. It is actually driving locals and tourists away from area restaurants and hotels.

Kayaking in the waves

We sure made the best of that last day at the beach with our friends!

There were pelicans skimming over the water, a big puddle that became a lake for the little ones, hand-clapping games, Christmas songs thaught in French and English and a bonfire under the full moon by the ocean.

It was hard to leave this wonderful camping spot (Faria County Park, near Ventura, CA) and say goodbye to some of our friends who were continuing their adventures on different routes.