Monday, July 21, 2014

Behind the scenes look at what it takes to be the first family to travel the Spine Trail

We have officially begun our 4 year long journey to become the first family to travel the entire Vancouver Island Spine Trail, all 700 km of it.  It is an ambitious goal but one we hope will help bring awareness to the trail building efforts and inspire people to get out and enjoy parts of the trail that are already there.  Our plan is to tackle sections of the trail and travel by foot, bike, and canoe.  We may even horseback some of it but that requires horses, something we do not have. (No Liv, we are not getting a horse.)

A blog post/article about the trail and our intentions is set to be published Aug 1 so I will wait til then before I post it here. So instead, I thought I would share with you some photos from the first leg of our adventure.  So often, us outdoor bloggers get all caught up in showing off the highlights and amazing moments that happen while out on the trail.  Guilty as charged.  I am here to tell you that it is not all sunshine and lollipops, especially when adventuring as a family.  There are moments of fatigue, injuries, and the odd case of silliness.

I first want to mention that adventures do not always turn out the way they were planned.  This is part of the appeal of adventuring.  You have to be willing to expect the unexpected and this adventure was chalked full of them.  Our first adventure along the Spine Trail involved backpacking three trails that are now connected and part of the Spine Trail and trail run along one other.  

For those who wish to know what trails, they were the Tseshaht Runner's Trail, stage 3 of the Alberni Inlet Trail, the CNPR Historical Inlet Trail, and stage 1 of the Alberni Inlet Trail.  We traveled from Francis Lake to Port Alberni.

I knew the trails we were backpacking on were not as well used or maintained as the trails we were used to, which is part of the reason why we opted to tackle this lofty goal - To get more people aware of these trails and increase trail use.  Well folks, if  you want to check out these trails, now would be the time because we have cleared the path of overgrown bracken fern, salal, orange huckleberry and salmon berry bushes.  We now wear the term Trail Blazers proudly!

Now you see them, now you don't.

Joel clearing the trail with our measly 8 inch saw. We are now shopping for a machete.

Backpacking with kids requires a lot of effort from mom and dad to ensure the needs of the kids are taken care of.  We have learned to arm ourselves with plenty of food, proper gear, safety supplies, and trail activities to entertain them along the way.  Apparently our choice in trail clearing tools was not up to there standards. 

"Seriously? What am I going to do with this?" Liv asks.

They still managed to clear a few big trees out of the way with that nifty 8 inch saw.

Unlike any other adventure we have been on, this one resulted in the most scars, bug bites, and minor injuries.  We hope this will be as bad as it gets.  Knock on wood.  Regardless, we came out of it smiling and can joke about it all now.  It did however, open up the opportunity to talk to the kids about the what ifs.  What if dad had a more serious injury other than a sprained ankle?  What if he were unconscious? What would they do?  It was a great conversation and Ben and Liv learned some valuable outdoor skills on basic survival, rescue and first aid.

Darn thorns.  But we are thankful the trails were not overgrown with Himalayan blackberry bushes.

Repeated scratches makes for tender ankles. 

It takes grit and toughness to be the first family to travel the entire Spine Trail and our leader is fearless.  Sprained ankle has nothing on this guy. #followyourfeet #myKEENadventure

I would be lying if I said this adventure was a piece of cake.  Not only did we face miles of bushwhacking and minor injuries, but we also had to deal with scorching temperatures.  +30C everyday is not the type of weather we like for hiking.  That is when you go swimming in the river.  Hiking under the forest canopy kept us out of the hot sun but there were times when we had to hike around old cut blocks and on logging roads which meant no tree cover.  That drained our energy level fast.  

Taking a quick cat nap waiting for Dad to clear more trail.  Too tired to even swat away the mosquito's.
Don't worry, we still found time to swim in the +30C temps.  Francis Lake is amazing.

Let me be very clear.  This photo will lead to believe that Ben had an epic fall and the trail is dangerous.  I assure you that he did not get hurt, in fact, he is laughing during the whole stumble.  The kids like to play "mini man" when the trail gets steep. (Squat down and slide on two feet, bum slightly off ground, and gentle slide down the trail)  They never do this is there is a drop off or any other dangers on the trail.  Joel captured a series of photos of them sliding down the trail right when Ben's feet stopped sliding but his body kept going.  It was very slow motion and he decided it best to just fall forward and start mini man all over.  I will admit though, the photo looks very different.  This was followed with several re-enactments of the stumble. 

Mini man down!

There are a whole lot of skills, determination, toughness, and passion required to do what we do.  It takes effort to backpack as a family and is hard work.  We have to all be committed, trust each other and be willing to step into the unknown.  But the most important thing you need is silliness.  Silliness allows everyone to check out, take their mind off the heat, the tried legs, the endless walking and have some good old fashioned fun.

Trail side goofiness with some old cooking supplies from a log camp long gone.


  1. Like!! Thanks for reporting the pros and cons of adventuring with kids!

    1. Always a pro side to adventuring with kids! Thanks for the "like"

  2. This so doesn't look like fun. Good on you guys for being some of the first people ever to do the trail! And the first family. Let me know when there's an established trail and I'll be there with you. :)

    1. Oh Tanya, the further in the wild you go the funner it is! (we think so)

  3. Nice report. Living in a semi-arid, Mediterranean climate (very desert like) I am always amazed how green it is in other parts of the world. Francis Lake looks amazingly clear. And your daughter's look...priceless (I've see that look on my girls faces before. :).

    1. Thanks Traci! We are spoiled with clear lakes and lush greenery but your area has beauty as well! Love the looks of little adventure girls. I could post a whole album of her!

  4. Most excellent, adventure of the finest kind!