Outdoor Memories

I remember when I was young, and my parents would entertain. Company would come over for dinner, and after supper the slide show would begin.  Everyone would head to the front room, Dad would turn out the lights, the projector would whir into action and he'd enthrall the audience with the captured images of places he'd been and things he'd done.

Recently, I've been going through those old slides.  Dad was a prolific photographer! I had no idea he had taken so many great pictures in his many years with his 35mm SLR Pentax. I still have years of scanning ahead of me, but it's going to be a labour of love, and I task I am really looking forward to completing.

As I began to scan the first few slides, I started to see pictures of myself in his collection.  Memories started to flood back, I found myself thinking, "Oh, I remember that hiking trip", and "that's when we went winter camping at Sunset Lake" and so on.

I guess I'd been there for a lot of his life too, I'd been adventuring in the wilderness since I was just a little guy. Dad used to joke, that I was an outdoorsman even before I was born, as he would go off with my Mom (who was pregnant with me) to explore the hills, right up until a few weeks before I was born. I'd always just taken it for granted, I grew up in the woods, it is part of me, but seeing these pictures, really put it into perspective.

I've always been so comfortable in the outdoors, even more comfortable than in my own home town, and so much more comfortable than in the city.  It's not surprising now, looking back, I've been experiencing nature for so long, it's part of who I am.  Living in the Okanagan Valley, in BC, so close to the wilderness, every spare evening, every weekend, my father would take me out and show me the things he loved about the mountains and the lakes, the backroads and the bush.  I have the greatest appreciation, now, for all that he did for me then.


Video: Mule Deer Bucks Sparring

A few years ago now, just after Christmas, the kids were feeling like they needed a good hike. We headed over to Knox Mountain in Kelowna, to do some Geocaching and stretch our legs.  It hadn't snowed that year, so there was easy access to the more remote sections of the park. We were fortunate and spotted some deer and then these two young bucks started having a sparring match.

They start out a little slow, then they really get into it, and finally one of the bucks takes off.  It's a little unusual, as typically, bucks fight during the rut in the fall, not the winter.

It was great for the kids to see, and a neat treat for a walk in the park.



The Joy of the Micro-Adventure

I grew up in the outdoors.  My Dad used to say that I was an outdoor adventurer before I was born, as he and my Mom were out enjoying the woods, hiking, camping and fishing while she was pregnant with me.  They didn't waste much time after I was born either, they would take me with them every time they would head out into the wilderness.

My Dad's style of getting out was pretty fanatical.  He'd pack up the night before, hit the road before the sun was up, and then spend all day doing what he loved in the woods.  I grew up thinking that to enjoy the outdoors, it had to be an "all-in" experience.  The whole day or "no way".

As I matured, and started having kids of my own, I tried to emulate those days with my Dad and Mom, full day outings, all the time.  It became challenging.  The kids weren't always up for spending a whole day in the woods, sometimes they'd get tired, or cranky.  Sometimes, they would have homework to do, or other plans.  My wife, Gen, wasn't always thrilled about being away from home either, when there were important things needing doing at home.

I began to wonder, is there a better way? Am I doing it wrong? Why are these full day excursions becoming a problem? I started to get out less and less.  My wife took me aside one day while I was lamenting my fate, while I was feeling grumpy that I couldn't be out enjoying nature as I wished to do.  She said something to me that I didn't quite understand at the time, but I have learned to comprehend and even embrace.

She said "you don't always have to go our for the whole day, you know, you could go out for the morning, or the afternoon, or even just a couple of hours."  This was crazy talk!  I was incredulous, she was mad, out of her mind!  Who did she think she was!? If I couldn't be out for the whole day, I just wasn't going to do it! 

Months passed, years passed, my struggle to get out for the whole day, resulting in less and less contact with the mountains and the lakes that I love.  Contact I needed to recharge my batteries and clear my mind.  One Sunday afternoon in August, I was again feeling upset that I was sitting at home when there were beautiful lakes and stunning vistas to explore.  Gen came to me and said those words again "you don't always have to go our for the whole day, you know, you could go out for the morning, or the afternoon, or even just a couple of hours.  In fact, why don't we just throw a picnic lunch together, grab the fishing rods, and see what we can find out there."

I gave in, "Sure, fine, whatever, you'll see, we'll get out there and everyone will be on the lakes, forest roads will be crowded, we won't have any fun, because we won't be out there long enough."  Gen just smiled and said "let's try it, this once, maybe it'll work out OK."  I gave in, we packed up quickly, I was sure we were missing all the things we needed, but we went anyways.

Because our time was limited, I picked a quick route up into the mountains, via the highway, and an easy access point to the forest.  Because we were so close to town, I was sure the woods would be littered with people, and we weren't going to be able to have any space to ourselves.  We took an off shoot road, and another turn, pretty well driving at random, but I was starting to relax.  I'd been here briefly before, I was sure there was a lake around here somewhere. In a few more minutes, we'd found a clear stretch of shore, where we could cast out into a pretty little lake, and have a campfire for some hotdogs.

"Well, I'll be..." I though to myself, Is it true, was Gen right? Is it possible, that we could just go out for the afternoon and still have fun?  I made a little fire for roasting the hotdogs, and while Gen and my little guy, Kyle, started to make supper, I tied on a fly and made a quick cast.  Kaboom! I was so surprised by the big fish that hit my fly so quickly, in the still water, I missed setting the hook, and he got away. Kyle say something surface 8' to the right "Daddy, there he is, get him!", and sure enough, with a quick 2nd cast, I had a beautiful 1 1/2 pound rainbow trout!  Gen grabbed the camera and took a picture, we put the fish in the cooler, and ate our hotdogs as the stars began to poke out of the clear sky and the sun set over the lake.

Soon we were on our way home again, having been out for only a few hours, but having had a wonderful time, enjoying some nature and each other's company.  Feeling content and satisfied, and a little surprised that such a thing as a quick adventure, was actually possible we were carrying along the dirt road heading back to the hightway.  There was still a surprise in store for us. All of a sudden, a cow moose lept out of the bushes ont he side of the road and started running directly ahead of the truck.  She was beautiful, but completely oblivious to the 2 tonnes of metal bearing down on her.  I slammed on the brakes, we skidded for 60 or 70 feet as she carried on loping ahead.  We grabbed the camera, but it was so dark the flash only highlighted our windshield, and we never did get a picture of that wondrous creature.  It was the first time Gen and Kyle had even seen a moose, and they couldn't stop talking about it the whole way home.

I look back now, and realize, that was a changing point in our lives.  I fully acknowledge and accept now, what I could not before.  Any adventure, whether it is grand excursion of multiple days hiking in the mountains, or a micro adventure, a quick afternoon jaunt in the woods, is a good adventure.

Please comment and share, what was your greatest micro-adventure?


Emergency Preparedness: The Grab 'n Go Kit

Having lived through the 2003 Kelowna Firestorm, and now, with the recent forest fire devastating the Alberta community of Fort McMurray, I thought it might be prudent to remind myself and others about an important emergency preparedness item, the Grab 'n Go kit.

In emergency situations, you will more than likely need some basic supplies. You may have to get by without electricity, running water or the things you need on a daily basis. You should be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours if an emergency occurs.

You probably already have some of these items on hand, such as food, water and a flashlight. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find. For instance, would you be able to find your flashlight if the lights went out?

Your kit should be portable and easy to carry. Everyone in your household should know where it is kept, and this spot would ideally be near the main entrance of your home, perhaps in a closet by the door. Use a duffle bag, wheeled suitcase, a backpack or even a strong plastic tote.  Depending on the number of people in your home, your emergency kit might become unwieldy. Ideally, each person would have their own personalized emergency kit in their own separate backpack, with a shared kit for those resources that everyone uses.

The following list of items is based on recommendation from the Red Cross, with some additional suggestions from my experience, but the contents may vary with your particular needs and comfort level.

Basic emergency kit

  • Water – at least 2 litres (1/2 gallon) of water per person per day; include small bottles that can be carried easily in case of an evacuation order
  • Water filtering system and/or purification technology
  • Food that won't spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried foods
  • A means to heat food, boil water, ie. fire starter, alcohol stove, white gas stove etc.
  • A utility knife / multi-tool w. knife, screw driver bits, can opener, scissors etc.
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Crank, battery-powered radio (and extra batteries) or Weatheradio
  • First aid kit (your requirements will vary with your skillset/experience)
  • Extra keys to your car and house
  • Some cash in smaller bills, such as $10 bills and change for payphones
  • A copy of your emergency plan and contact information
  • Important papers and ID, birth certificates, passports etc.
  • If applicable, other items such as prescription medication, infant formula, equipment for people with disabilities, or food, water and medication for your pets or service animal (personalize according to your needs)

Recommended additional items

  • Smartphone chargers, 120V (wall plug) and 12V (cigarette lighter)
  • 2 additional litres of water per person per day for cooking and cleaning
  • Candles and matches or lighter (place candles in deep, sturdy containers and do not burn unattended)
  • Change of clothing and footwear for each household member
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each household member
  • Toiletries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Utensils
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdrivers, work gloves, dust mask)
  • A whistle (in case you need to attract attention)
  • Duct tape (to tape up windows, doors, air vents, etc.)
  • Wire and electrical tape for repairs
You should review your kit every year, replacing all food, water and batteries, and checking on the working condition of all items.  Replace/repair as necessary.

In a disaster or regional emergency, always check with your municipal authorities before drinking tap water. If there is any doubt, do not drink it, without filtration or purification.  (This can be a complex topic and I will go into further detail in another blog post later.)

Do not rely on debit or credit cards.  Keep some cash on hand in small bills, as bank machines may not work during an emergency.

Pre-packaged kits

Pre-packaged kits are available from the Red Cross in Canada and the US.  I have not seen these kits in person, but they do appear to be of decent quality and reasonably priced.  All proceeds go to help those in need at the times when they need help the most.

Other kits are available online or in store, but many of the reviews speak of poor quality contents and the contents not necessarily matching the product marketing material. I have purchased a few kits in the past and echo these concerns.  I know this is not true of all vendors.  I will be researching this topic more thoroughly in the near future.  Stay tuned!

I have heard good things about the quality of products in UST survival gear. I hope to be able to review some of their products soon.


Quick Gear Review: Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 4000 Backpack

Snowshoes & poles easily attach

Fantastic pack for a great price!


I'm very impressed with this pack and I love using it!

It's a modern, innovative, well designed and lightweight backpack made with extremely durable material and strong zippers. It's comfortable for short and long trips and fits me very well as a stocky shorter man.

There is easy access to the interior from either the back, top or side. It has enough straps and length of webbing to allow attachment of larger gear, like snowshoes, to the outside, The neoprene gear pouches are quite handy.

The included poncho is a great idea, and can even be used as emergency shelter or to keep you and your pack dry in bad weather.
Poncho / Tarp included
The sleeping bag compartment is designed for lightweight bags, and is a little too small for a normal (say 4lb) bag.  Some of the outside straps could be a little longer or perhaps extension straps could be included or an accessory add-on.

I'm quite happy with this purchase. It's a very good value!
You can buy the this pack on Amazon... TETON Sports Mountain Adventurer 4000 Backpack

Stay tuned for an in-depth long term review...