Friday, April 24, 2015

My #100dayproject of photography, storytelling, travel, and outdoor adventure life

It sure has been quiet here on the blog lately but do not think for one second that the OTBP crew has halted outdoor adventures.  Oh no, not the case.  What has happened is an Instagram project called #The100DayProject has taken up a large portion of my blogging time. 

What Is the 100-Day Project? It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.  More information on this project and where it originated from can be found at The Great Discontent.

I was hesitant to jump aboard a 100 day project.  Sticking to something for 100 days and sharing through Instagram felt like a huge commitment so I thought if I was going to go ahead with it, I needed to come out of the project with something learned that I can benefit from in some way, shape or form.  I thought long and hard about what I could "make" in 100 days.  For me, creativity is expressed through photography and storytelling so that what my 100 day project is.  


My project involves getting back to using the Canon Rebel and Nikon1 cameras rather than my cellphone.  As well as working on capturing GoPro photos that are unique and fun.  My goal will be to take notice and use the settings, composition, lighting, and color in a photograph that will tell a story with as little words as possible or to set a scene or mood to tell a story.  Some photos will fall short of my expectations but will trust the process and learn along the way.  During the 100 days, I will share my artistic impressions of nature, objects, people, places, and creatures that contribute to the outdoor adventures of the OTBP crew.

This project has two purposes.  

1. Improving my photography skills and storytelling will help capture amazing moments during our next unique travel experience.  We will be travelling to Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany and visiting places that have great meaning to our family.  Our journey will take us to family property dating back to the early 1900's and visit places we have been told stories about.  We will stand on cobblestone streets that generations before us have stood and feel close to those we have lost. Together, with extended family, I want to capture these moments so my kids will have stories to tell for generations to come.  There will also, of course, be time for outdoor adventure.

2. Not everyday is full on outdoor adventure in our house.  This project will tell a story, behind the scenes, of how a family makes outdoor adventure a priority.  Everyday is a mixed bag of who is doing what where but at the end of it all, outdoor adventure had touched the lives of at least one of us.  It is a bit more of a personal look into my life but in order to tell stories that have more meaning and impact, I will have to practice telling my own stories.

Here is a quick look at Days 1 - 16.  Hope you enjoy!

1/100: Weathered barn, with its warm tones and inviting presence, welcoming us to Burgoyne Bay Road [Salt Spring Island, BC] Local knowledge brought me and a couple friends here to find an elusive trailhead that leads up to Mt. Maxwell.  Since this is the photo I choose to share from that adventure should indicate how that turned out.  It's OK though, because to follow adventure means doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.  And what an adventure it was!

2/100: So, I went with go big or go home for day 2.  Probably not the best choice.  Shooting directly into the sunlight not easy, certainly not with landscape shots.  Point is though, when out adventuring, most often I am forced to take photos without controlling what time of day it is.  So I need to adapt. Lesson learned - use manual mode to control aperture, iso, and shutter speed.  Bring a tri-pod (that's why we have it!) Try different lens to capture lens flare. Even though the photo did not turn out as expected, it does have a soft dreamy feel to it.  Misty air, sunbeams, and waterfalls. Still need to work on the picture telling the story. [Not pictured, muddy kids.]

3/100: Spent an hour facing the coast, testing multiple settings, changing the angels, using natural light with the Nikon1 camera only to have a small voice keep asking if she can take some pictures.  So, with my cell phone, this is what I captured.

4/100: Here is where my desire to photograph a story rather than tell it and using an actual camera become my greatest challenge.  Not much of a story to see but plenty to share.  Spontaneous adventure date with my favorite person, exploring a new area, full on embracing this mountain biking passion he has and getting in my daily dose of fitness.  As for the photo itself, kinda boring and how the hell do I ride with camera gear? This has become the number one reason why my cell phone has taken over the role of camera on our adventures.  Many days left in this project to figure out a way to change this. Regardless, it was super fun afternoon of riding with my love and NO picture could make that any sweeter. 

5/100: Photo not so much about the adventure but rather who I adventure with.  Pretty happy with the result of this photo.  Back light, exposure and composition all captured with spontaneous expression a bonus! Her smile shines on every outdoor adventure and never get tired of taking her photo.  Happy to share one of her beautiful smiles today, taken while exploring the shores of the Salish Sea.

6/100: Large part of why we maintain outdoor adventuring as a family is to keep fit and be active.  Not always does it require hiking deep into the forests. A grassy field works well too.  Get your game on...Soccer Time!

7/100: Why don't we stop and take in the coast more often? Do we really lose sight of how beautiful and important they are because we are near them everyday? New routines have me in Nanaimo once a week for kids spring soccer practices and to pass the time I have been visiting the local beaches and coastlines near the soccer pitch.  The hour spent strolling along the beaches and losing myself in its vastness recharges my energy and lifts my soul.  On this particular day, when arriving back at the field to collect children, another parent commented to me on how I must find it great to travel to the north end (we live south) and be able to get a Costco run in while kids at practice.  Not once had that entered my mind and when I said, "Oh no, I went down to Pipers Lagoon for a quick stroll and explored Shack Island.  It is such a beautiful day out." Their response was, "Why would you do that?" and my only thought was why wouldn't I?
8/100: Only eight days into my project and I already realize that with every different outdoor adventure we pursuit, a different lens is required.  i had hoped to get back to using the Canon and Nikon cameras but perhaps exploring the different functions of each "digital" camera (be it a cellphone or GoPro) will work too.  Quick afternoon ride on trails somewhere along Nanaimo Lakes Road, where the trails are a mix of second growth, old growth, new growth, and newly logged.  No matter the terrain, the mountain bike shall go.

9/100: Borrowed this shot from another OTBP crew member because he is the only one that had an opportunity to do some adventuring today. Using his GoPro shot from a mountain bike ride to *undisclosed location ties into my project because quite often I use his photos from our outdoor adventures as well as my own.  We both have our own unique style and perspective which adds variety to my blog and other social media outlets. 

10/100: Today I had to make an effort to work in some outdoor time.  Yes, I opted to seek some outdoor time rather than shop at Costco...yet again. (see day 7 story) Today the challenge was advancing my photography skills since I only had my cell phone with me.  I took the opportunity to sharpen my "selfie" shot.

11/100: Often in my blogs I talk about how important it is for us, as a family, to maintain an active lifestyle.  A huge reason why we make family outdoor adventure a priority in our life.  I am a firm believer that not only should parents encourage physical activity be a part of their kids life, parents should role model that lifestyle as well. There are so many ways to work in these moments when spending time outdoors.  For example, when going for a light hike thru a park with your kids and you encounter stairs like these... do you walk up slowly, take two steps at at time, race up or try to squat jump all the way up?

12/100: When I started this project, I knew some days were not going to allow me to fulfill my goal, at least not with outdoor adventure photos.  That is when I realized telling a story of what happens behind the scenes of an outdoor adventure family is just as important, and often overlooked, as the adventure itself.  Today was that day.  My "desk" is an eclectic mix of what I do before most adventures and what this project is forcing me to take on in the hopes of improving my storytelling and photography skills.  Today I am researching waterfall photography skills and settings on multiple cameras in preparation for a weekend hike to...you guessed it...waterfalls! When that tires me, I move on to world family travel preparations we will be taking soon.  Then I flip back to the Van Isle map to make sure I know where I am going to find these waterfalls.  Take notes on what shutter speed does what with each camera because I have not decided which one I am bringing.  Of course coffee is required.  Distracted by the tiny KEEN sandal keychain, I check out Keen Footwear online because summer is almost here...sandal season! And then I dive back into dreaming of alpine peaks in the Salsburg Alps.  Oh, and in all this chaos I dyed my hair with blue highlights??!!?? That is a story for another day.

13/100: Thought I was going to work on my shutter speed skills today and instead found myself shooting in aperture mode.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some.  When shooting waterfalls, the most important lesson learned today was go alone.  4 kids, 4 adults, and 1 dog move way too fast! I had wanted to take some waterfall shots, you know, the kind where the water is all silky looking...and the Nile Creek Trail has plenty of waterfalls to practice with.  But as mentioned, my adventure partners for the day were far too busy catching frogs, climbing stumps, chasing birds to try and identify, grab snakes out of the grass, and walk across many makeshift bridges like this one.  I finally gave up and switched "modes'. Gotta go with the flow.
14/100: What was to be a quick photo shoot turned out to be a friendly game of who could tally up the most rock skips...and he won.

15/100: The photo may not be the greatest capture but the story that goes with makes for a post worthy to share.  Met up with three riders on the trail who were forthcoming and eager to share their local knowledge of the trails, and by local I mean builders of the trails we were seeking.  Happy to point out their best route, we took their advice.  As we said our thank yous and rode away, they made a point of mentioning we stop and water the pots...whatever that meant. Turns out, the trail they sent us on runs alongside a small old grow op turned garden.  We stopped, watered and continued on our way.  Yet another item to cross off my outdoor adventure list - water daffodils while mountain bike riding.

16/100: A bit of fun with color, texture, and the mini effect that adds to the anticipation of crossing the finish line.  Watched the boy run fast today at the district qualifying track and field. Finished top in all his heats.  Mom did not too bad either...cycled 13km there and 13km back...beat the school bus back to school.  Oh yeah, I rock! (still counts even if I left before the bus)

nique travel experience for those who are eager to know more about their family history and ancestral origins. Envision the fullness in your heart as you share photos with family you never knew existed or walk the cobblestoned streets through your ancestors’ village to the church where your great-great-grandfather was married. Enjoy visiting with local townsfolk in a beer garden, taking historical tours, and viewing lectures that enhance your knowledge of your ancestors’ lives. - See more at: http://familytreetours.com/#sthash.7DQ5JcOQ.dpuf
nique travel experience for those who are eager to know more about their family history and ancestral origins. Envision the fullness in your heart as you share photos with family you never knew existed or walk the cobblestoned streets through your ancestors’ village to the church where your great-great-grandfather was married. Enjoy visiting with local townsfolk in a beer garden, taking historical tours, and viewing lectures that enhance your knowledge of your ancestors’ lives. - See more at: http://familytreetours.com/#sthash.7DQ5JcOQ.dpuf

Monday, March 30, 2015

Open letter to all outdoor adventurous parents – Start family adventures ASAP

I write this open letter to all adventurous parents with small children and urge you to start taking outdoor adventures with your kids now.  Take them into the forest and explore a whole new world with them because if you think you are going to start doing that as a family when they are 10, 12 or 14 years old, you will be disappointed.  Take them hiking or backpacking.  Watch them learn along the trail.  Take them kayaking.  Watch them become aware of their surroundings.  Take them biking on trails.  Watch them become stronger and gain confidence.  Take them rock climbing.  Watch them challenge themselves and accomplish new things.  Take them when they are babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  DO IT NOW!

Exploring local trails early. Photo taken in October 2008.

Often I hear parents say, “When my kids get older, I will start taking them on hikes and other outdoor activities I used to do.” My response was always a polite, “You would be surprised how well they would do, but yeah, it takes some work to hit the trails with young kids.” That was back when my kids were both under the age of 6 and as a family we were adventuring in a wide variety of ways every second weekend.  Inspiring others with our family adventures was one reason why I shared our stories.  Multi day adventures included hiking, backpacking, bike backing, kayaking, canoeing, mtn. biking, caving, rock climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, surfing…you name it, we tried it.  These outdoor adventures have proved to me that nature is the greatest classroom you and your child will ever experience.  Something I am thankful to have realized sooner rather than later.

Today my kids are 8 and 10 and if I heard a parent say that now, my response would be a whole lot different! “Do it NOW! Don’t wait till you think they can handle it, they can. You need to convince yourself YOU can handle it.”  A bit more of a direct response but experience has taught me that if I had waited until they were older, our family adventures would never have started and we all would have missed out on some amazing learning opportunities, outdoor experiences, and family moments.

August 2010, already a couple backpacking trips under our belt and way back when Sammy the dog used to adventure with us. He has since retired and prefers to take care of the house while we continue our adventures. Always happy to welcome us back home.

Life the past 4 -5 years has been pretty straight forward.  Our older child had just entered the school system.  We were settled into life as parents and had our mom and dad roles perfected.  Having moved to a new province 4 years prior to kids entering school meant taking on a whole new way of life and friendships, work, and extra-curricular activities outside of the family were growing. Yet we still had the flexibility to take our family adventures every second weekend.  Things have changed since then.

Weekend adventure to show Liv the west coast of Vancouver Island for the first time, Dec 2007.

Both kids are fully embedded in the school system.  By this I mean school work, projects, homework, events, fundraisers, friends, and schedules.  Throw in soccer a couple times a week x2 and music lessons x2.  I fit in work from home or in office 2 – 3 times a week, coordinate schedules, shuttle kids from point A to point B, manage the household, and maintain fitness level (and sanity) with weekly trail runs and bike rides. Dad has the craziest schedule of all – full time work which involves weekends 2 out of 5 weeks, is an active volunteer firefighter which consumes quite a bit of his spare time as the Training Officer/Asst. Chief, and squeezing in the odd trail run and bike ride when it allows.  And to top it off, add in social events and outings with family and friends.  Sound familiar?  It probably will soon.  So where does outdoor time fit in let alone outdoor family time?

Outdoor adventure and learning opportunities go hand in hand when kids are younger.

If I had to fit outdoor adventure into our life today, it would never happen.  It happens now because I am determined to continue this tradition and ensure outdoor adventure is a priority in our lives.  It may come at the expense of another event or activity but I know what joys, memories, and learning opportunities comes with outdoor adventure, for my children as well as for myself, and that is why I will always seek refuge deep in the west coast rainforest.  I look back fondly at our family adventures and am grateful to have had so many amazing experiences in nature with Ben and Liv.  Never has there been a time in my life that I felt so alive, passionate, loved, and complete.

Up close and personal look at the 1928 Pesuta Shipwreck. A family travel adventure backpacking across Haida Gwaii that sparked future international travel.

Spending time outdoors and adventuring with your children serves more than just feelings and memories.  It sets up the framework for your children to live and maintain an active healthy lifestyle.  It is so incredibly important to be active with your children and if you start this habit early, it will be so much easier to continue.  Outdoor adventures have built a foundation for my family to be active together and it does not need to come at the expense of pursuing a certain fitness level.  I can trail run with my kids and still work up a sweat.  Dad can head out for a couple hours of mtn. biking with the kids and still have to hustle to keep ahead.   Ben and Liv have never limited our desire to explore the outdoors or try new things.  In fact they enriched the experience.  Win win for everyone.

A few months ago I realized life was taking over and our family adventuring every second weekend was slowly slipping away.  Not getting out and experiencing nature as often was eating away at my adventure heart.  I tried a couple adult only hikes and some other outdoor adventures with friends that fit into my schedule, hoping I could feed my outdoor addiction, only to find I felt emptier.  What was supposed to bring me happiness left me with sadness.  It was not the lack of outdoor time or exploring new places that left me feeling empty, it was who was not by my side. No one was asking me for rest breaks or more food.  No one was running ahead yelling to come see what they found.  No one brought a smile to my face or warmed my heart as they overcame an obstacle or realized their capabilities, finally.  The only ones who could do that are my children and husband.

Yes, they are special and all mine. <smile>

Today I am content with my personal outdoor time on trails, be it running or mtn. biking, and small outdoor moments with Ben and Liv in between schedules.  As a family we have made adventuring together a priority and will continue to work in one multi-day adventure a month.  My heart can hold out that long in between adventures.   Being a parent is a constant life changer and making sure your child has all the necessary tools to grow up and become amazing adults means fine tuning the mom and dad skills constantly.  We may not be enjoying outdoor adventures every second weekend but I still have those moments tucked away and can dig out whenever I want.   We are adding international travel to our outdoor adventures which have and will deepen our life experiences.  As long as we keep moving forward, I am a happy adventure mama.  Plus, I have a whole crew of other outdoor parents to support and adventure with in spirit.  My heart was never really empty, it was waiting to be filled.

Sincerely, Jill Collins

The OTBP crew today.  All grown up and riding xc and downhill mtn bike trails with big smiles.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Keep it simple - Basic essentials to family backpacking

In 2009 I had won a photo contest and the prize was a $500 gift card to Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).  We (hubby Joel and I) decided to use it towards purchasing backpacking gear.  Namely tents, sleeping bags and pads, camp stove and the other essential items specific to backpacking.  We pretty much started from scratch and had to outfit two adults and two small children aged 2 and 4 years old at the time.  Needless to say…we went a tad over budget but managed to purchase all the gear without depleting the pocketbook entirely.  Over the years some of the gear has been replaced.  We switched from blow up type sleeping pads to the Therm-a-rest type, which are much warmer.  Replaced hard metal dishes with plastic bendable snap together type dishes.  They fit anywhere and take up no room.  Then we added an axe, tarp, and backpacks for the kids plus backpack covers.  Other than that we are pretty much still using the bulk of gear purchased from MEC back in 2009.

The gear is quite simple.  Nothing fancy but meets our needs.  It facilitates us doing what we love and to be honest, I don’t measure the quality of my outdoor time on what I am sleeping in or eating from.  Who thinks back on a backpacking trip through pristine backcountry and says, “Hey, my tent looked absolutely beautiful or those dishes made the meal so much better.” In fact, before writing this blog post, I had to scour through hundreds and hundreds of photos to even find a photo of our tents and backpacking dishes to no avail.  So I made a point of taking a few photos of our gear while out on our last backpacking trip.  They turned out terrible because I was so distracted with the ocean views, rope swing near a cascading waterfall and exploring sea caves.  Even as I write this I can’t focus on gear!

FOCUS Jill! As I started to work out the details and ideas for this blog post I thought about who my readers may be.  I am very cautious about claiming to be an expert on anything as I just do what works for me and the family.  I certainly am not an expert on gear and am happy to use whatever I have or rely on the gear Joel researches and buys.  Part of the appeal to backpacking is how empowered I feel with less.  That is what I want to share with my readers.  Perhaps you have never backpacked before, perhaps you want to bring the family along, maybe you are looking for the “what to buy” or maybe you are just curious how we do it. Whatever the reason may be, if it gets you inspired and out backpacking then I am happy.

A quick look at how we set up camp...in 17seconds

I consider our backpacking gear to be a modest collection.  There is still a financial commitment required to build up an inventory of backpacking supplies but it can be managed.  We certainly do not have the most expensive gadgets or top of the line gear.  Of course the proper gear can make the experience more enjoyable and easier but it should not deter you from backpacking at all.  There is a wide range of products to suit everyone’s pocketbook.  What we find important and value is that it works and facilitates us getting into the backcountry and spending time together.

Back in February we were able to sneak in a quick backpack adventure along the Juan de Fuca trail. It was an overnight backpack trip (day 1 hike in and stay overnight, day 2 hike out).  Pretty simple and basic as far as backpacking goes.  But it will give you, the reader, a look what our adventure family uses to make it happen.

Backpacking gear (most of it pictured here)

2 tents (with footprints) - MEC Camper 2
4 sleeping pads – Therm-a-rest 2-lite, MEC Reactor Explorer 2.5, MEC Kelvin 3.8, and Therm-a-rest Pro Plus Women
4 sleeping bags – 2 Chinook Thermopalm Mummy 32F, Chinook Microloft Hooded 23F, and Outbound Hike Lite Mummy 26F
MEC Integral Designs Silttarp
4 Backpacks – 2 MEC Brio (older models and think they are 60 – 90L sizes), MEC Deuter Junior, and MEC Aria 30L plus 3 MEC backpack covers
MSR Dragonfly liquid fuel stove (fuel canister and lighter)

MSR Base 2 Pot and a GSI Outdoors Halulite Minimalist mug
2 Guyotdesigns Microbites cooking utensils, 2 GSI Outdoors Pouch Spoons, and 4 Sporks, 2 Pocket knives, and assorted Fozzils bowls and plates

Gerber Gator Combo Axe II
2 large and 2 small Tektowels
2 LED Cree headlamps and 4 Black Diamond Spot Headlamps
First Aid and safety supplies (would include maps and guide books when applicable)
Toiletries (mini versions)
The extra stuff:
Gopro Hero 3 with a few attachments and a Nikon camera plus extra lens and battery
2 cell phones
The Life Saver III battery pack
Charging cords – (enough to get tangled in…pet peeve)
1 stuffed animal, a deck of cards, 2 books, and a KEEN journal and pen
Luxury items:
Bottle of red wine in a Platypus Platy Preserve wine bladder.

3 Firelogs – we brought ONLY because of the short hike and being February, a fire was an option.  Normally Vancouver Island experiences fire bans due to dry conditions so this was a first for us, having a fire while backpacking.  Other times we are hiking in the backcountry and fires are not permitted.
Footwear and clothing:
Men’s KEEN Marshall WP

Women’s KEEN Gypsum

and Boy & Girl KEEN Chandler CNX.  Being the WET-coast, kids also wore rubber boots because they both have outgrown their KEEN hiking boots - time to go shopping.

4 Raincoats (MEC, Patagonia, and 2 North Face)

4 pairs of extra socks (kids always get wet feet) 

4 toques, pairs of gloves, under armour wear (shirt and pants)and light sweaters

We all wore hiking type pants (mostly MEC brand) and non-cotton type short and long sleeve shirts.

We are pretty basic with our cooking and food is always a hassle, namely how much we have to bring because the kids are constantly hungry. Being only a quick overnight hike, I was able to keep them somewhat satisfied this trip.  That is not usually the case.

Supper was one of our 1 pot wonder meals - 2 Mac & cheese, pre-cooked chicken and fresh cauliflower.

2 Backpackers Pantry strawberry cheese cakes for dessert 

Breakfast – I pre mix oatmeal and brown sugar in a bag, 2 small vanilla yogurts, 2 apples, 2 oranges, instant coffee and cream packed in a small container.  (risky, I know)

Lunch and endless snacks - bag of mixed munchies, 8 Oreo cookies, 8 granola bars, peperoni sticks, 8 bagels, cream cheese spread, 1 bell pepper, salami, 2 apples, 2 oranges, bag of babybel cheese, 2 Gatorades, 4 water bottles, and water purifying drops.

For us, this is what works.  There is certainly room to improve the gear as far a weight and size are concerned but as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Monday, February 16, 2015

West Coast Winter Backpacking

Winter backpacking has been on my list of adventure things to do for a few years now.  I want to experience a pristine winter wonderland and take in the snowy landscapes, cold air, freezing temperatures, sunsets and sunrises all from the comfort of a tent.   

This year I finally was able to fit in a weekend winter backpacking trip with my family.  Problem is winter on the West Coast of British Columbia has not arrived.  It is early February and the mountains that are usually covered with white peaks are bare, the ski resort on Vancouver Island has halted operations due to lack of snow (not that there was much to start with), temperatures are above normal, and a Pineapple Express x 2 came a rolling across the Pacific Coast and has washed away the little snow there was on the higher elevations.  Bummed at missing yet another opportunity to winter backpack I realized a winter backpacking adventure was still possible.  I just had to trade snow for sand.

Enter the Juan de Fuca Trail, a rugged 47-kilometre wilderness hiking trail along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island.  This trail is special to me.  We have hiked and backpacked along several sections of the trail over the years and back in 2010, it was the first location for us to backpack as a family.  Liv was 3 and Ben was 5 years old.  Neither of them remembers that adventure.   So I decided to make a special trip back to the Juan de Fuca Trail and Mystic Beach to celebrate our west coast winter.

Mystic Beach is the ideal location to try backpacking for the first time or as an introductory family camping adventure.  The trailhead is easy to access, hiking distance to campsite/beach short, amenities like outhouses and bear caches are available, and the scenery is stunning.

Then there are the special features that make Mystic Beach so darn memorable.  On one end of the beach there are small sea caves that are accessible at low tide.  Tall enough to stand up in and with multiple entrances, the sea caves are pretty cool to explore.

On the other end of the beach is a waterfall cascading off the cliffs on to the beach.  When tide goes out one can walk around (or under) the waterfall.  Just for an added bonus, a rope swing is set up close by the waterfall giving some pretty cool vantage points of the whole scene. 

Check out the video of the OTBP crew swinging from the rope swing.  Fun for the whole family.

Like all coastal hiking trails camp life offers ocean front views and a five star dining location.  Bonus was being able to have a camp fire, something that is not usual because Vancouver Island becomes very dry in the summer.  Often there are island wide fire bans from May til September.

The West Coast version of winter camping may not have been the snowy landscape I was looking for but it certainly was every bit as magical.  Like every adventure, there are lessons to be learned.  I learned that not all adventures need to be long, epic hikes into the backcountry.  Sometimes it can just be a quick jaunt down a coastal forest trail, pop up a few tents, explore the area and let the adventure of spending time with the people you love most take over.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

68 hours of Hawaii – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 5 Going out with a Splash PLUS our GoPro video

I had the great pleasure of becoming one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros.  With this privilege came the task of filming our story and experiences at one of Fairmont’s North American resorts for three days.  I choose Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii and armed with a GroPro Hero 3, our whirlwind adventure to Hawai’i and “My destination story” begins.

A quick recap of the blog series so far:  Part 1 Fairmont Orchid and luxury travel.  Part 2 A cultural and historical journey.  Part 3 Outdoor adventure.  Part 4 Helicopter tour.  All this travel, adventure and experiences in 68 hours! And we are not done yet.  Part 5 Going out with a SPLASH!

During our short trip to Hawaii, we certainly covered a lot of ground and air.  Now it was time to get wet and explore the beautiful warm ocean surrounding Hawaii.  The choices are endless.  Hawaii waters are warm, clear, full of sea life and easy to access.  The perfect combination for a morning swim and snorkel with Adventure X Boat Tours.  Highlights of this tour was swimming with wild spinner dolphins and snorkeling on a beautiful reef with a variety of fish and turtles.

To be able to swim with the dolphins, the boat travelled just off the shoreline to where these resident spinner dolphins hang out.  Then we put on our snorkel gear and jumped in.  Immediately I felt as though I entered a new world.  The clear waters allowed us to see the sandy ocean floor mixed with lava rock.  Then the spinner dolphins would swim around and underneath us.  To be swimming in the waters with such beautiful creatures was pretty amazing.  I could hear the spinner dolphins make their high pitch squeaks and clicking, watch them twirl and spin around each other, and feel them move around me.

After a few hours of swimming with the dolphins, the boat then took us to snorkeling on a beautiful reef known for the colorful coral, variety of fish, and turtles.  I could get used to “morning swims” in Hawaii.

Throughout the blog series, I have mentioned “My Destination Story” and filming our story at Fairmont Orchid.  What happened was, I won a video contest through Fairmont Hotels and became one of 42 Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Heros.  The task of being one of the Go Pro Heros was pretty simple.  Travel to Hawaii (for 3 days), enjoy our stay at Fairmont Orchid, take in as much of our destination as possible, film it all with the GoPro, and then create a 90 second video to be entered in a contest for a week-long trip for two to a Fairmont Hotel of my choice.  Even though I did not win the grand prize, winning a three day trip to Hawaii was pretty wicked.  And we have a pretty sweet video we produced to show for it! 

Friday, January 30, 2015

68 hours of Hawai’i – The Big Island [Blog Series] Part 4 A Bird's Eye View

Being one of Fairmont Hotels Destination GoPro Hero’s and given the opportunity to film our story at Fairmont Orchid was a once in a lifetime experience.  In Part 1 of my blog series, Joel and I were introduced to luxury travel.  Part 2 took us on a cultural and historical journey that exposed us to the many different traditions, agriculture, and landscapes that make up and define the people of Hawaii.  Part 3 was where we experienced some good old outdoor adventure with a beach run, valley hike, ocean swim, and trail run.  What’s next?  There is no better way to view the diverse landscapes and sheer size of Hawaii Island than from above.  Bring on the helicopter!

For me, travel means explore, adventure, and experience.  When traveling and adventuring as a family, our preferred method of exploring would be human powered.  Unfortunately, to explore as much of Hawaii as we possibly could in 68 hours and film a kick ass video of it all meant looking at other modes of transportation.  We considered renting a vehicle.  This would have given us the freedom to discover hidden gems and allow for spontaneous travel experiences.  However, the distance covered would have been drastically reduced and time was not on our side.  While planning our trip, the wonderful concierge staff at Fairmont Orchid suggested we go on a helicopter tour.  I will admit that a helicopter tour was not on my radar.  Not for a lack of interest, excitement, or even affordability.  Simply put – it is not something we usually think about and work into our travel and adventure plans.  Once the option was presented though, it made perfect sense.  Half a day in a helicopter meant Joel and I could explore 70% of Hawaii by helicopter while capturing some pretty sweet footage for our video.  SOLD.

Our thanks to Paradise Helicopters for an amazing adventure!  The experience is described on their website as follows: A premier air adventure.  Experience Hawai‘i and explore all five volcanoes, hidden white and black sand beaches, lush waterfalls cascading down 2,000-foot valley walls, breathtaking coastlines and 11 different climate zones.  It is exactly as it sounds plus more!

At the end of Part 2, I wrote “Does Hawaii really grow rock?”  It does.  A large portion of Hawaii’s landscape is lava flow, easily seen from land but the scope of size and power becomes obvious when flying over it.  Our trip to Hawaii was when Kilauea was active and witnessing the volcanic smoke, hot burning lava, and lava flowing (growing rock) added to the dramatic fly over the crater. 

Our tour in the helicopter came after our cultural experience with Kona coffee and hiking the Pololu Valley.  Being able to fly over the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai, where Kona coffee beans are grown and along the lush rainforest and valleys of the Kohala, Pololu being one, really helped put the landscapes previously explored into perspective.   It provided a greater appreciation of the vast contrast of landscapes Hawaii holds.  An added bonus was combining these two experiences with the helicopter landing on top a valley and enjoying a fresh cup of Kona coffee, brewed by our pilot, Mark, who knows coffee.  Talented guy!

The excitement of flying in a helicopter, touring Hawaii, taking in breathtaking waterfalls, coastlines, and even a lone humpback whale swimming in the Pacific Ocean was enough to fulfill my desire to “explore, adventure, and experience”.  Of course Paradise Helicopters knows how to make the experience even better.   Wearing the stylish headphones for safety also meant being in total communication with our pilot, Mark.  He provided great information during the entire tour and delighted us with humor.  Pilot Mark and Joel had a great comedy routine going and at one point I really wished I could have tuned them out.  They seemed to think everyone on board enjoyed their humor as much as they did. (I tried to warn them but they didn’t believe me) But I knew if I did I would miss listening to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Hawaii’s very own Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole.  When Mark flew over the crater, through the valleys, and beside waterfalls the humor stopped, music increased ever so softly, and it felt as though I was flying through the air.  I can close my eyes and listen to that song and instantly I am back in the helicopter, truly a magical experience.

I learned from this travel experience that sometimes it is ok to step outside of my usual adventure style and embrace the moment.  I will always seek out ways to outdoor adventure under my own energy but am now open to try other methods.  I will say one thing for sure.  The footage from the helicopter was pretty darn sweet!  And when can the video we produced be viewed you ask?  Soon, very soon. 

Coming up on Part 5 - The final adventure on Hawaii and we go out with a splash!

P.S. I was able to cross two things off my bucket list with this adventure.  (One a bit more glamourous than the other.) Helicopter ride & Requesting a pit stop (mid-flight) to a helicopter pilot (Thanks Mark)