Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Camping" by Theo

This past weekend I went on my first camping trip to Lincoln Rock State Park. Mom and Dad were a little afraid to take me for fear I would be a slight pain-in-the-butt at times. They were somewhat right! I was very good at times, and not so good at others. But I had a blast and I can't wait for my next camping trip!

Here I am all packed and ready to go!

This is the view from our campsite. Somehow Mom managed to score us the best site in the entire campground!

Dad and I went exploring that night.

Then when it got dark we watched the wildfires burning nearby.

The next day I went for my first swim! Complete with a lifejacket to make my paranoid mommy feel better. When I got to the small and rocky beach near our campsite, I jumped right into the water...and then quickly swam out when I realized I couldn't touch! I loved splashing in the water and zooming around the beach, but I'm not so sure about the whole swimming thing!

After I had dried off from my water adventures, I spent the afternoon lounging in Dad's chair, drinking my water, and enjoying the shade. :)

That night, after I'd eaten all the extra graham crackers from the smores we made, I snuggled with Dad by the campfire.

The next morning I was rested and ready to greet the day!

We walked around a bit and then we came back, where I "helped" to pack up camp.

What a weekend! I loved camping, but it was exhausting. I slept on the way home...until the curvy roads and the french fries Dad fed me caught up with me. I then urped up straight into Mom's purse! Then I heard them both yelling "sick!" a lot. Oh well, I went back to sleep (though later I did have the punishment of having to get a bath). I can't wait for my next camping trip!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


In June, David and I were able to take a trip up to Whistler for a few nights with his brother Jeff and sister-in-law Jessica. It was lots of fun...we had a couple of adventures, ate some yummy food, and had a good time just hanging out! It was a pretty good time of year to go because it wasn't very busy, so there were no huge crowds and no waits for restaurants (David says during the winter weekends it's just insanely crowded). Thanks to some timeshare points from David's parents we were able to stay in a nice lodge right in the middle of the village. It's such a fabulous location because you can pretty much walk anywhere! David and Jeff stayed there when they went snowboarding in April and I can see how awesome it would be then...it's right near both of the major lifts up to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The only thing I didn't like about Whistler was the drive up there! It's narrow and curvy and basically my worst nightmare (though they are in the midst of a huge road project to expand it to mostly four lanes because of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics). It's a beautiful area and worth the drive though!

Here is the beautiful view from our room...

The first night we had dinner and drinks (bellinis!) at a fabulous restaurant called Milestones.

Our first full day there, David and I walked around the village a lot, while Jeff and Jess went mountain biking (brave folks). Then we all went on an ATV tour up Blackcomb mountain. I was sooo stinkin' nervous, but it wound up being really fun. Though I was secretly glad when we got put in a group with an older couple, because I figured they wouldn't be too speedy. In reality, I was the slowest one...slow being relative. Driving up to 40 kilometers an hour seems pretty fast to me when you're on an ATV! Anyway, we saw a bear on our way up and the view at the top was really pretty. Excuse how dusty and grimy we all look in the pictures!

After our ATV trip we de-grimed and went out to dinner at an Irish pub that had some live music that night.

After dinner, we stopped to take a picture. I look like a freak here, but you can see the totally awesome bike park in the background!

The next day is where things got a little more interesting for us (Jeff and Jess were doing more mountain biking that day). It started off nice. We slept in, then David and I walked around the village and got some lunch at a little pizza place. We had decided that our activity for the day would be to do a nice easy 7-mile paddle down The River of Golden Dreams. I had called a canoe/kayak outfitter earlier in the morning to make a reservation and asked whether they would recommend a guided or un-guided tour based on our paddling experience. The guy said "oh, it should be no problem for you both to do an unguided tour. The river is at the perfect level." I thought good, this should be no problem. Plus, it's cheaper to do an unguided tour.

We get there that afternoon and they didn't have any double kayaks, so we were told we'd have to paddle a canoe. David and I, along with 3 other people, then got in a van to be driven to Alta Lake, where we would be dropped off with our boats (The River of Golden Dreams connects 2 lakes, Alta Lake and Green Lake...the outfitter is on the banks of Green Lake). In hindsight, I should have thought there was something amiss when I saw four little old people getting out of some boats on the bank of Green Lake looking like they'd just been through a washing machine. But hindsight is 20/20.

We were the only unguided people being dropped off, so once we got to Alta Lake they got our canoe out, pointed in a vague direction and sent us on our way. We paddled across Alta Lake and it was really pretty. We had a great view of the mountains.

We tested out our steering a bit on the lake and even though we had a few little waves, we didn't feel too unstable. We got to the mouth of the river and paddled into it, thinking how nice and peaceful it all was. The river is pretty narrow, but the water was calm.

Preview of things to come...this is the last picture that my almost brand new camera ever took.

We paddled on for a little bit, enjoying ourselves. Then we had to stop and portage our canoe around this teeny tiny little dam. One of the guided groups got there a little bit after us, and this lady who I could not understand tried to explain to us what we needed to do when we started paddling again. See, a little ways after the portage, there is an area where 2 rivers meet and the water gets faster. She told us we needed to paddle up into the current and then let our boat get carried around to the right and facing downstream again. I was a little nervous, but we got back in our boat and actually made it through this part just dandy. I thought to myself "we're doing pretty good here, this doesn't seem so bad." Then the river started to get faster and more narrow. Instead of nice lily pads and tall grass on the side of the river like before, it was mud and super thick vegetation with lots of trees that stick out and caused you to have to duck so they didn't stab you in the eye. We paddled the way they told us to, with no backpaddling, just using forward paddling to steer the boat (looking back I should have known better). Instead of helping us steer, all it made us do was go faster and faster in an already quickly moving river.

About 150 yards from where the two rivers joined, we lost control of our paddling in the fast current, rammed into the vegetation on the sides and got dumped into 38 degree glacier water (me, headfirst no less). I thought I was going to die! It was sooo freaking cold that I could feel my breath shortening and my limbs starting to stiffen. I called out for David to help me, but he was too busy trying to stop the boat from going downstream. I will say that the river was probably about 5 feet deep at this point, so thankfully we could touch, but the current was so strong that it wasn't easy to get anywhere. My concern wasn't really drowning, but more the fact that when you fall out of a canoe, you ain't getting back in it while you're still in the water (unlike a white water raft, where it's easy to get back in), because canoes are often pretty heavy, they're very tippy, and the sides are usually pretty high. And initially I saw no where on the side of the river that was conducive to climbing onto, because the vegetation was so thick. I floated downstream a little bit, consciously trying to slow down and lengthen my breathing, and finally I found a place where I could climb out. I had to grab onto branches and haul myself up a mud bank (losing one of my brand new Teva flip-flops in the process), then climb over a bunch of tree branches to get to a larger section of river bank. David was still in the water just holding onto the canoe to keep it from going downstream (though luckily he caught it at a shallow point that was maybe 3 feet deep). He wasn't sure what to do because it was full of water and too heavy for him to lift and dump by himself (and I sure as heck wasn't going back in, hero that I am).

Finally, after 5 minutes or so, a different outfitter guide and his client stopped by in their canoe. The guide was able to help David dump the water out and eventually set the canoe up partway on the river bank. Poor David was in the water for about 10 minutes and his feet and legs were just numb. The guide and his client went on their way and we decided to wait for our outfitter's guides and their clients to come by so that we could ask them what we should do. We waited and waited and waited, getting divebombed by gigantic mosquitos in the process, and they didn't come. Probably 30 minutes later they eventually floated by. Every single one of the clients had flipped over as well!! And all three of them were on guided tours (with two girls from England being in a double kayak and their two guides being in a canoe, and another guy was in a single kayak with his guide that was also in a single kayak). What the heck! I had thought this was supposed to be a calm, family-friendly paddle trip. Not a hypothermia-inducing nightmare! The two girls from England that had flipped over refused to paddle by themselves anymore, so they got in the guide's canoe, while one of the guides paddled their double kayak down the river. She is the one who we wound up stopping. While very nice, she had an extremely thick Japanese accent and neither David nor I had any idea what she was trying to tell us we needed to do. Basically we had no idea how much longer the river was going to be going that fast, and neither of us had any confidence in our steering abilities at that point...so we were terrified of tipping over again. But a little bit of luck was with us and where we wound up getting to shore was not that far from a bike path, which led to a parking lot.

Yep, you guessed it, we decided to be weanies and throw in the towel. We were extremely cold and I was caked in mud and hopping around with only one shoe. David was covered in scrapes and future bruises. So we had the lady call and the outfitter came and picked us up and drove us back to our car. I told him everyone had tipped over and asked if the river was unusually fast this time of year. He said "no, that's just the river we run" and then went on to say "that's why we recommend you go with a guide." I could have smacked him!

I'm just peeved that they advertise it as being great for families and seniors. I'm sorry, but if a family was paddling down that river and tipped over, a little kid could easily be swept downstream in all the commotion. Not to mention that the sheer shock of the cold water could give some little old person a heart attack!

That was a very long story, but I suppose our paddle adventure could be summed up something like this:

Cost of canoe trip - $110
Cost of ruined cell phone - $100
Cost of ruined camera - $180
Memories of 38 degree glacier water - PRICELESS!

We went on to recover and have some well-earned and very yummy appetizers at Earl's Bistro, and then a late dinner that night with Jeff and Jess. The next day we left beautiful Whistler and drove back home, picking up our exhausted puppy from his grandparents house on the way.

It was a fun trip and we have some good and eventful memories to look back on!