Archive for Outdoors

ONP 18 Day 1 – Victoria to Pony Creek

We woke at 4am (though neither of us really slept much past about 2:15am). We were out the door on time at 4:50am, and at the ferry by 5:10, all according to plan. Once onboard MV Coho, we got hot drinks and  “breakfast sandwiches”, and shared a table with a lovely retired couple from Langford who were enroute to their cottage in Tucson AZ. It was here that we started getting some actual information about getting food across the US Border. Our plan initially was to pack and bring all the things across. As we started diving into the CBP website, we started seeing the list of restricted items, to the point where we finally abandoned most of what we were going to bring in favour of buying once we got to Port Angeles. Courtesy of our tablemates on the ferry, we figured out that we were probably a lot more cautious than was actually required. We docked in Port Angeles on time at 7:40, and sure enough, Customs was a breeze, even as I told them we had “camping rations” in the back. No questions were asked, we were waved through without issues by 8am. We went to the Country Aire Grocer where we picked up some sandwiches and some higher-end snacks (salmon jerky!). Next was a stop at the Safeway for basic groceries and gas ($2.98/gal, or about $0.80/L!). US grocery stores are a riot, especially with Kristy. We got some fun finds that made our trip grat – foil pack tuna, freeze dried fruit, etc. We then stopped at Swain’s (the local outdoor store) where we got bear spray and impulse-bought the new silicone sink. Kristy gets this gleam in her eye in outdoor stores; it’s quite something to see! Finally we stopped at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center where we grabbed our permit and got information about where we were headed. The counter agent was incredibly helpful and very thorough, and both of us felt very comfortable with our level of planning and the depths at which they were checking to make sure we were ready for this experience. Our wilderness passes came to a total of $64, and we have the option of upgrading to a yearly pass if we come back within that timeframe for more backcountry adventures. Once done with the agent, we took a little time in the parking lot of the WIC to divide up our groceries and finish packing the BearVault so that we were ready to step off once we got to the trailhead at Graves Creek.
Dividing meals and packing the bear canister in the ONP WIC parking lot
On our way to Graves Creek, we stopped for lunch with a view at Ruby Beach. We ate our sandwiches while looking out over the sea stacks. We made it to the Graves Creek Trailhead after passing through the lovely town of Quinault, and we stepped off at about 3pm. We got some information from a departing hiker that they’d left Enchanted Valley that morning (with kids) at about 8am, so the possibility of a one-shot exit was entirely plausible (more on that in a future post).
We made it to camp at Pony Bridge by 4:20pm, having hiked 2.4 mi (3.86 km). My left hip twinged the night previous and was extremely sore for this portion of the journey. Lots of deep breathing and adjusting as my muscles and my brain were trying to figure out how to work around the pain. I didn’t want to think that we’d come this far only to be stuck a couple of miles in. I did a pile of self-massage and munching of Advil to try and counteract what I was feeling. Once at Pony Bridge, we scouted out what was available for sites, and from talking with the other party that was in camp, there was a lovely cliff location overlooking the Quinault River just to the left of the bridge as we entered. We took this as our accommodations for the night.
Supper was Irish Shepherd’s Pie made by Nomad. The portions were tasty, but small. We hydrated, I fetched water from the river, and we played cribbage and drank whisky to end our night.

Olympic National Park ’18

Kristy has been staring out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the Olympics for as long as she’s been here. On clear mornings when I’m riding to work, I get glimpses of Hurricane Ridge and the vast expanse that is the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve driven through a couple of times in the last year and knew that it was absolutely spectacular and that there was some good hiking to be had over yonder, so with summer leave plans set, we set our sights on some trails in Olympic National Park for a week of backpacking.

Birthdays are great, and this year, I got Kristy a Silva compass and maps to the North Coast Trail (next year’s adventure?) and Olympic National Park. We both did a lot of reading about all the various trails and opportunities available – Hoh Valley, Sol Duc River, Enchanted Valley, Pacific Coast, and after some research and discussion, we decided that the last two were where we wanted to spend most of our time.

The trip plan ended up being fairly simple – three or four nights in the backcountry up Enchanted Valley, a night or two in some front-country camping, then an out-and-back down the coast to close off our journey.

I have to say, backpacking is probably my favourite mode of camping. I can be ready for adventure in just a couple of hours with everything I need to last me for days. For this trip, we had a couple of extra pieces of gear that both aided us and added some wrinkles to planning. This was also our first foray into backpacking in the United States, which brought along its own set of challenges. I should add the disclaimer that anything you read here is just our experience and shouldn’t be construed as official advice for crossing international boundaries.

Kristy and I are both systems people and list-based folks. If it doesn’t go on a list, we tend to not remember or do it. We did the bulk of our planning through a shared Google spreadsheet, each of us having our own personal sheet for what we were bringing, plus common equipment, and our meal plan. This allowed us to keep tabs on what we were each responsible for, and checking things off the list as they were completed.

In the “extra gear” department, we picked up a MEC Silicone Scout Tarp, a Sea-to-Sky Clothesline, a BearVault BV500, a Sea-to-Sky packable sink, and at last, some bear spray.

I have to say, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) isn’t exactly the most helpful organization I’ve ever come across. Their website is detailed in some aspects and vague in others. For instance, we couldn’t find out a clear answer as to whether or not it was okay to bring bear spray across the border (in the end, we decided against it). Or to what degree we were allowed to bring food (barring obvious things like fresh fruit, meat, nuts). Their 1-800 number went pretty much nowhere as for answers to the questions I had, and it seemed like there was no way to get to a live agent through their phone menu.

We bought a pile of dehydrated meals – Chicken and Rice, Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken with veg, etc, and then went back and re-read the CBP website about importation of food, especially as it related to meat. Of course, this reading was done the night before we left. As I went to try and return the meals to MEC, the lovely salesperson let me know that she could take the returns, but that the food was essentially going in the trash. We kept them – they have a 30-year shelf life, so if nothing else, they’ll end up in an emergency kit, or consumed on a future hike). We had to scramble to find some vegetarian and vegan options locally to fill out our menu.

The BearVault was the biggest investment for this trip, not only in terms of size and price, but also weight. At 1.2kg (2 lbs 9 oz) empty, that was a lot of weight to be adding to my pack. Park rules for Enchanted Valley and the beach trail were that bear canisters were required. There was talk of canisters being available at the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles, but we didn’t want to take the chance on the canister being too small or not working with our gear, so we opted to just buy the BV and be done. Besides, there aren’t going to be any food caches on the North Coast trail when we go there next year.

The vault is huge. It’s rated at food for one person for seven days, and I’d buy that. We got four days of food for both of us in there, although it was tight. The vault makes it a little challenging to maximize space – when we did the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, the bag we had our food in could be packed around all the other gear in my pack, whereas the vault is just that, a vault. After watching some videos and playing around with my pack, I found that the best method to carry the vault was in the main compartment of my bag, opposite the front-access zipper.

We booked our ferry trip late in the game, so the only time available to cross was the 6:10am ferry, which meant a 5:10am arrival at the terminal downtown. In the end, this worked well for us as we had a bunch of shopping and prep-work on the US side to take care of prior to heading to the trailhead.

The plan was simple:

  • 24 Aug – pack/prep
  • 25 Aug – Victoria to Graves Creek Trailhead to Pony Creek
  • 26-27 Aug – Enchanted Valley (possibly an extra night)
  • 28-29 Aug – Kalaloch Campground (front-country beach camping, resupply/repack)
  • 30 Aug – Third Beach to Strawberry Point
  • 31 Aug – Strawberry Point to Third Beach, then return to Port Angeles to see Hurricane Ridge, then back to Victoria

The night before departure, we did one last cross-check of all our equipment, sealed up our bags, set our alarms, and got one last night’s rest in a bed before a week of adventures. The following posts are taken from my field notes, edited and augmented with the benefit of being able to look back on the experience. We absolutely loved this trip, and I hope you get some enjoyment out of reading about our experience.

If you, gentle reader, have any questions about our hike, feel free to use the comments section or send me an email.

DIY on a Saturday

It’s nice to get to the weekend and take care of a few things that you’ve been meaning to get to.

I’ve been playing around with earlier wake-up times lately. This week, I did a couple of 5:30am wake-ups and found that the extra hour in my day didn’t have a negligible impact on the state of my affairs during the later parts of the day. If anything, I was actually *more* ok than most days (I tend to suffer from energy dips at around 10:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm). The energy dips I used to chalk up to those being times when a) breakfast runs out; b) when lunch lands in my stomach; and c) my brain quits because it’s 4:30 and it’s naptime). The 5:30 wakeup seemed to negate all of that. I didn’t have to back my bedtime up that much — I racked out at 10:45 or so, but 5:30 really seems to solve a lot of my inertia problems during the day.

But that wasn’t today. Today, with no alarm, and with a head full of shit that’s happening at work, I woke at 6:30. Spent part of my morning just laying in bed, finishing off the book I’ve been reading, and then getting on with my day. Saturdays can be busy, but I took advantage of things right off the bat. Levi and I took care of some yard work, and then made a couple of pit stops. First one was to Salvation Army, where we got a pair of ski poles, and then to Canadian Tire for some ABS pipe, machine screws and street hockey balls. More on that in a minute.

T has art class out in Langford for two hours right around mid-day, which isn’t really worth the trip back in to View Royal, so after dropping her off I decided to grab a coffee and go for a walk in Havenwood Park. A nice walk, and I spent a little time talking with one of the ladies who resides near there. She tipped me off to the best vistas in the neighbourhood.

Once we got home, Levi and I got down to some serious business – the manufacture of two bike polo mallets.

Thanks to teh interwebz, we had a really easy guide to follow – Remove the handles from the ski poles, cut the bottoms off, cut 4.5″ of ABS pipe, drill through, make a pocket on the inside of the pipe for the ski pole head, drill a screw through the side of the pipe and the shaft of the ski pole, bolt in, plug the ski pole end (no core sampling!) and tape like a hockey stick. Repeat with the other side.

Levi worked on a little bike maintenance on his ride while I put the mallets together, and then we headed for the tennis court at our local rec centre.

Now, I can get pretty excited about stuff, and when I find a new obsession, I tend to go all in. Think commuter cycling. Or brewing. Or hockey. I tend to not do half-measures. Bike polo, I’m afraid, is going that way. I think I’m in love.

Levi and I figured out pretty quick that bike polo ain’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but at the same time, it’s so RIDICULOUSLY fun. We hit the court around 2:45. Levi was hooked right from the start. We even got to show our neighbour, Geoff, what it was we were doing. The look on his face said “you’re crazy, but I see where you’re going with this”, and after a while longer, I headed back to the house. I urged Elijah out the door, put him on his bike, gave him the mallet, and he took to the game like a fish to water, too. His comment was that bike polo was “weird” but that he liked it.

I headed back to the house to start to get dinner ready, but Levi stayed out on the court for over two hours in the light drizzle, just working on his shuffle and his shot, not to mention trying to keep his feet off the road. Tomorrow, he plans on eating breakfast and getting on the court right away.

This week might be the first week I head to Victoria Bike Polo.



2018 Preview

So while folks are off recapping what they did in 2017 (and my list is, by all measures, fairly epic in what I did), I’m going to spend a couple of minutes talking about a few things I intend on doing for 2018.

Music. Lots and lots of music.

Kristy and I had several long talks as 2017 came to a close. New Year’s Eve was no different, but we both expressed again our interest in creating music together. We had a couple of moments over the dying days of 2017 when we were both laid up with the flu where we made music. Some of the results were epically hilarious (such as the moment when I questioned my abilities as a professional musician while we tried to play melodica Christmas duets), and another where she got her hands on my Wurlitzer and we improvised together for a short span. We both have a deep love of a lot of music, and a lot of that coincides with what we do. We’ve talked about it before, we’ve even gone so far as to jokingly have a band name together, and now, I think this’ll be the year where we go out and actually perform music together. I’m pretty excited.


It’s something I’ve talked about a lot, and it’s something that I need to both make time to do as well as commit to doing. So I’m going to volunteer. The two likely targets are Recyclistas, siding well with my love of bikes and bike culture, and the other is with Victoria Tool Library, which appeals to my side of all things DIY and wanting to fix all the things using my own two hands.


2017 taught me that I need to spend more time seeing things. 2018 started things off right by spending a couple of hours on my feet at a time when my body was so weak from being sick for so long. The results were nothing short of magical – being in the trees close to the water, feeling the sunshine on my face, this is what helped bring my life force back into being. I’ll be going into this year with the intention of traveling and spending much more time in the outdoors. So far, Kristy and I have plans to go camping in January, a trip to Tofino, going back to Whistler, she’s off to Japan, and we now also have long-range plans to head over to Port Angeles for a week of adventures this summer. On top of this will be plans to do even more camping with the kids, more trekking about local hills and paths, and generally finding ways to spend all the time outside. It’s totally doable, and it’s time.

The rest, like usual, I’ll make up as I go along. A lot of it will involve wanting to lead a simpler life, to spend more time with my kids, and to do more of the things that matter to me. It’s not new years’ resolutions – these are just acts and actions I’ve been working towards that I’m actually seeing through to completion this year.

Time to get moving…