Thursday, June 18, 2015

Adventure chat with kids - Travel Journals

Everytime we travel, I encourage Ben and Liv to write in a journal to capture their prespective of our travel experiences.  Liv, who is eight, faithfully writes in her journal every day and every night I look forward to reading her take on what we have done.

I asked Adventure Girl if I could share a section of her journal that I found humurous.  It offers a glimpse into our adventures, what we do, how we get places and details only an eight year old would notice. She agreed. I have typed out her journal exactly as she has written but have corrected her spelling.

"Jen Jones drove us to the airport and drove the car back home. We got a flight to Vancouver. In 15mins we got to the airport in Vancouver. And then Vancouver to London it took about 8 hours to get there. We also took the next plane to Brussels in 2 or 1 hours and then we ran through the airport where we thought that we would be late. But we were early. So we ran for nothing. From Brussels to Prague and then we stayed in a hostel for one night and I did not 100% like the bed because it creaked.

Then we took a train to Turnov in Czech Republic. It took 2 hours to get there. Then we got off and went to the grocery store to get some food. When we were done we got a taxi. The taxi only had 4 seats but there was 7 of us so we dog piled. I sat on my moms lap, Bella my cousin sat on her moms lap and Ben sat on my dads lap. And uncle Marc sat in the front. To the Hruba Skala Castle. We stayed there we went hiking. We got ice cream and stayed another night. This bell went off and woke up Ben then we went to a restaurant and ate. Then we went up to our rooms and went to sleep.

The next day we got up and went on a subway to pick up Ama, my grandma and then got a taxi. You remember the dog pile. If you do not know it is the 50th word. And then dads went to get Ama and we went to get food."

Her accuracy is spot on. She captured our 'dog pile' taxi ride perfectly and was indeed a memorable ride! Last but not least..she is aware of when we eat and buy food. I am amused and impressed with her noticing this enough to write about it....because if you know Liv...she is always hungry!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Turnov, Czech Republic - Bohemian Paradise Adventure

An hour and forty minutes by train, north of Prague, is the oldest protected landscape in Czech Republic. Near Turnov, Bohemian Paradise or Ceský ráj is a nature reserve and UNESCO Geopark. The landscape here is scattered with dramatic rock formations, valleys, lakes, rivers and castles.

Our travels brought us to this paradise for many reasons. The natural beauty, the travel experience, to stay in a castle, and to climb some rocks.

Our journey to Turnov was a typical European one. From Prague we jumped on a train with backpacks in tow. From Turnov we travelled another 8km by taxi to an area called Hrubá Skála. Perched high above the unique rock formations that make up the Bohemian Paradise is an original Gothic castle founded around 1300 by Hynek from Valdstejn. This is where we called home for a few days. Yes, hostel life is not so bad. The OTBP crew can do castles if they must. (castle pictured behind us)

As beautiful as the castles was it was time to get our adventure on. Climbing Paradise, a rock climbing guide company, is owned and ran by Vaclav. I had made arrangements with him prior to our trip to pick us up from our castle and take us to the Bezdecin area for a day of rock climbing. What a day it turned out to be!

The whole experience of rock climbing in Czech Republic is the best one we have had to date. Vaclav was a great guide. He was positive, encouraging, fun to be around and answered any and all questions we threw at him about life in Czech Republic. I know the power of local knowledge and how much better travel experiences can be if you veer off the ususal tourist attractions.  
Vaclav gave us just that. After our climb and while we were helping pack up the gear he asks us, "Go for a swim, yes? I take you to a lake near the castle." I can't recall exactly but am pretty sure we all said yes instantly!

I will leave wih you some candid shots of our adventure to Turnov. We are off to Prague for a few days and are looking forward to taking in the rich history and beautiful buildings.

Monday, June 1, 2015

High five to Trail Builders!

Over the years I have come to appreciate and value the endless array of trails on Vancouver Island. I have even taken note of people, groups, businesses, and organizations that help build and maintain them.  What would Cumberland, BC be without the River Rats? This group of misfit retired mtn biking enthusists not only build trails; they build jumps, berms, bridges, and even a teeter totter to ride on! Then there is the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association who are working hard to build a 700km multi use trail that connects the southern and northern tips of the island. Countless others are doing the same just so people like me can get out and enjoy our wild spaces. That is exactly what the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society has done with Maple Mountain on Vancouver Island.

Approx. 14km of hiking trails, built and maintained by the municipality of North Cowichan, have been around for many, many years. What the Cowichan Trail Stewarship Society has done is add value to the outdoor space by building sustainable trails for mountain biking and hiking. Now that I have had the pleasure of riding Maple Mountain, I can tell you these people mean business.

First off, they built a climbers trail for both hikers and bikers that has instantly become my favorite trail to climb. Sure beats the slog of riding a bike up a logging road. I really liked the fact that the trail winded thru a mixed variety of forests. Some second growth and some recent cut blocks which offered something new to look at while huffing and puffing your way 5km or so to the Maple Mainline Rd. From there its a mere 1.5km ride on the logging road to the top. Quality of trail pretty impressive as well. Love the smooth ride up with a few bridges and rock gardens to ride over. 

One can easily spend hours riding on Maple 
Mountain and the OTBP crew did! Roughly 4 hours to be exact. From the top, Ben and dad rode down Maple Syrup trail. Liv and I started down on this trail but it was a bit too steep and technical for adventure girl so her and I rode back down the climbers trail. It was a wise choice.  I am told that Maple Syrup is a technical xc, freeride, flowy, and downhill trail that requires endurance because not all of the trail is down! Well done, Ben. Sounds like he was able to ride most of it.  
(Check out a sweet video of Ben riding one of the bridges on Maple Syrup via facebook page, twitter & instagram)

So next time you are out hiking, trailrunning, or mtn biking be sure to high five a trailbuilder in spirit. They devote their hard work and time to trails so people like us can enjoy them. Can't wait to get out and explore more of Maple Mountain!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Outdoor Adventure Destination - Cumberland, BC

If Vancouver Island had a contest to declare the Outdoor Adventure capital of the island, my vote would be Cumberland, BC.  The setting alone screams adventure: along the foothills of the Beaufort Range and minutes from glacier fed Comox Lake. Cumberland is best known for its world class mountain bike trails and builders.  I bet every resident there has a mountain bike.

I used to think Cumberland was all about mtn biking but recent exploring and adventures have shown me there are plenty more ways to get your adventure on. Hiking, trail running, kayaking and canoeing to start. Downhill skiing, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing a short distance away.  Then I stumbled upon some information about rock climbing along the bluffs around Comox Lake.

I packed up all our gear, threw the family in the car, and headed north to Cumberland for a weekend of camping, rock climbing, and mountain biking of course! The best part about the whole deal was we could camp at Comox Lake and still be within minutes (walking) to the climbing area, bike to trails, and take full advantage of the local eateries and micro brewery Cumberland has. Yes, a new micro brewery has just opened up.  Another reason to check out Cumberland!

Majority of the climbing routes are about 5.10 with some bouldering sections as well.   We top rope climb and found some ancors at the Main Wall that suited our needs. Liv, adventure girl, is a huge fan of climbing.  Joel thought he found her a route that would challenge her but she managed to monkey her way up with ease. 

For me, climbing is not a high priority but I absolutely love watching both Ben and Liv push themselves to new heights.  I humor them by climbing as well, which they get a kick out of. Quite often the setting around the crag is stunning; lush coast forests, steep rocky bluffs, and if lucky great views surrounding the area. Cumberland has all of this.

What makes Cumberland a candadite to be Vancouver Island's Outdoor Adventure Capital is the fact there is something for everyone. Truly. Mountain bike trails for all levels, a great lake to play in, rivers to explore, mountains to hike, snow to play in and rocks to climb.

p.s. This post was written and published on my phone as a test post for some upcoming travel adventures.  
Plan to post as we go and share our outdoor travel experiences with you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ever wonder what your kids find annoying on outdoor adventures? Adventure Chat with Kids - Parent Pet Peeves

As parents, we all have them.  A list of irritations caused by our children that we cannot control - aka Pet Peeves.  Being an outdoor enthusiastic adventurous parent, there is a separate list of pet peeves our children provide while adventuring as a family.  You may know them. My Feet are tried! I'm Hungry! Are we there yet! Even after numerous statements explaining where we are, how much further we need to get, why we can't eat (again) and solidifying the fact that feet do not get tired after 10 minutes of hiking, these irritations continue! But honestly, these are hardly irritations.  More comical now because it has become repetitive year after year, adventure after adventure.  More like a habit now.

Then I wondered, do Ben and Liv have pet peeves about Mom and Dad while adventuring together? What is it we do, as parents that may cause irritations they cannot control?  The whole conversation turned out to be a great learning experience.  I can see now where a few things that Ben and Liv find annoying can easily be remedied by Mom and Dad...and some that are just plain to fun to stop.

Mountain Biking

Ben - Can a pet peeve be that my bike is not full suspension?

Mom - You mention it so often, can that be my pet peeve? (wink wink) I am more curious about the things that Mom and Dad do that you find irritating.

Liv - My pet peeve is when you guys don't wait for me on the trail.

Ben - When I want to hit a jump or stunt you're all like, "NO! I don't want to see you get hurt!" I never get hurt, you know.

I trust his ability and will try to bite my tongue more often because he is right, he has never gotten hurt...yet.


Ben - I know a pet peeve you have of us while hiking. We are always hungry!

Mom - That one tops the list for sure!

Liv - Yeah, and when I say I'm hungry and Dad replies, "Nice to meet you Hungry, I'm Dad." I hate that!

Ben - Also when Mom stops every two minutes to take pictures which get us nowhere fast.

I am always saying, "But we won't see this again so I have to take a picture."

Rock Climbing

Ben - When you yell up to me to use my strength and then when Dad gets up there he says, "Wow, this is pretty tough dude."

Liv - I love rock climbing.

At Camp

Liv - Waiting for the food to cook when I'm hungry.

Mom - Nice to meet you Hungry, I'm Mom.

Liv - MOM! RRrrr!
Contrary to what they think, there is always plenty of food available during adventures.


Ben - Grandpa is always telling me to get on the board.

Mom - Well, at least that is not a pet peeve about Mom or Dad.


Liv - You splash water on me when you paddle.  I don't like that.

Mom - Not on purpose! I thought you figured out a way to solve that?

Ben - Now that I am older, you have me paddle by myself.

Liv making sure I don't 'splash' her while paddling because she does not have eyes on the back of her head.


Liv - Losing my ski while on the chair lift.

Mom - Yeah, that was not cool and even worse it happened three times!

Ben - Definitely a pet peeve that you don't take us skiing more often.


Ben - I don't like snowshoeing very much.

Liv - Me neither.

Mom - Let me guess...because I stop and take way too many photos of anything and everything?

Ben & Liv - YES!!!

But it was an awesome looking pumpkin tart I made while camping!

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)

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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