Monday, May 25, 2009

Adventure Previews

I had the chance of a cool adventure this weekend but ended up not taking it. We were at Horne Lake, where you can do caving, kayaking and canoeing, but we decided to simply hike and leave the caving for some other time, when my buddy Andrew (who's a cave tour guide at the park) is free to take us there and not busy in training.

Anyway, we had a chance to walk around the Lake and take some amazing pictures. We love it here so much that my wife and I have started a company to do outdoor events and team building activities on Vancouver Island. The company is called BU Group, and you can check out the Web site here.  

We are partnering with several awesome venues on VI to take groups of people and do cool outdoor stuff. Horne Lake is one of those places, so I'll give you a preview of that with some pictures below. 

Another place is Wild Play Element Parks, where you can do Bungy Jumping, and some amazing things in their Tree Course. You'll feel like Tarzan (or Jane!)

So in the future, I'll have something to tell about my adventures in those places, but for now, this is just a preview of what's coming. Hey, and if you are planning to come to Vancouver Island just let us know and we'll take you in some wild outdoor adventure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Adventure 06: Mount Benson

We didn’t really know what we had signed up for.

Our friends Jason and Charity, the ultimate outdoor couple, wanted us to come along for their Victoria Day outing. A hike to the top of Mount Benson? Sure, why not? That sounds like fun.

I thought about it, placed in my mind the picture of the green mountain that serves as Nanaimo’s backdrop (Mt Benson is the one in the center of this blog's header). It looks tall but if there are trails…

“And what about our kids?” I asked Jason.

“Bring them. There are some parts where you have to use a rope,” he said, “but we can find a way around them.”

I guess that in part because I feel obligated now to post something adventurous to this blog, and in part because this outdoor stuff is getting addictive, I said yes.

Here we are at the beginning of our hike at Westwood Lake, fresh like baby powder…

The weather forecast called for a rainy day, but we set out optimistic anyway, under a gray sky.

You know how it goes, the backpacks full of water and snacks, the heart full of hope, and the legs full of energy. 

We walked a few hundred meters on the lake trail and then veered out through a logging road, eating apples, thankful for the lack of rain, a bunch of happy campers. As we departed from the trail, we got immersed into a deep forest of Douglas firs, oh the nature in Vancouver Island ever so beautiful. 

We passed over a brook and made a quick stop for a picture. Then the road began to ascend until the trail met with the first steep slope of the climb--and the first rope.

Jason, ever so honest, quickly noted that this was an easy one. Worst would come. Well, we made it and had no need to worry about our little ones. The fact is, my youngest son was usually the first to climb the slopes and had to wait for the rest of us...

An hour or so into the mountain I felt like asking my wife to carry the backpack, but we macho gentlemen don't do that, right? So I kept it, even though my sedentary legs were starting to tingle. Ignore the whining muscles and keep going, I said to myself, and so I did...

And I mean, my kids were doing great, I couldn't complain. We were warming up for the hours of climbing ahead, for the breathtaking views that awaited above. So let me show you more...

The hardest rope.

The logging road.

Nanaimo from above.

1 km from the top, a bit of snow surviving its way through the spring.

The last part of my ascent felt glorious; the moment of truth that would be written in history (or at least in my blog) stating that I did it, that I climbed to the top of Mt. Benson, even if it took me 6 hours and one agonizing calf. I felt like Rocky Balboa!

The magnificent view of the coast and of the city of Nanaimo was only rivaled by a view I had never seen before, the other side of the mountain: a range of undeveloped mountains with pine trees as numerous as Abraham's descendants, the beautiful monotonous green of the pine trees only smothered by brown clearings where the loggers made their circles.  We felt so great, resting at the top...

But it all soon vanished.

Clouds and more clouds. Rain clouds surrounded us as we boggled the tea and the crackers we had managed to improvise from our bags.

Whoever said the way down was the easier one was so wrong, so wrong. The boys were exhausted. The energetic toddler who climbed up happy wanted to be held all the way down. Now the pain in my feet followed the strained legs in a tortuous parade that could end up in a nasty cramp at any given moment. Every single pebble in the road felt like a sting in my soles and I could only try to distract myself with friendly conversation, while gravity pulled me down the slopes.

But we made it. I've been sore for some days afterwards, but it was worth it. The sense of accomplishment is there. And so are the photos and the videos and this long post, that may be tiring you as much as the hike tired me, so I'll just go to sleep...

Thanks for reading!  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Between Adventures

I didn't go on an adventure this past weekend, other than taking our kids to a birthday party. I did learn a lesson about buying mountain bikes, though. We had bought a bike at a general retail store (Canadian Tire) instead of going to a specialty bike shop because they had some good brand bikes at 50% off.

The bike, however, broke down within a week. We took it back, they couldn't fix it, so they gave us a new one. This one broke too. Since I'm not a bike expert, I asked my friend Andrew to take a look at it. Apparently, whoever assembled the bike at the store did a pretty poor job with the gears and the chain, and that was causing the problem. We ended up returning the bike. Next time, I'll go to a real bicycle shop and take Andrew with me.

Although there was not an adventure this week, I still want to share a bit of beautiful Vancouver Island with you. Here are some pictures that my wife took during a recent business trip to Victoria.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Adventure 05: Qualicum Beach

A friend told me that I had to go to the Fire & Ice Street Festival in Qualicum Beach. 

"Fire and ice? What is that? A circus?" I said.

"No," my friend said. "They have ice sculptures and a chili cook-off."

Ice carving sounded kind of cultural and cool-ish. But chili cook-off sounded more like my old Texas thing. I mean, chili in Vancouver Island? I had to see it; I had to try it!

So, I huddled my family into the mini-van on a rainy day and drove up to Qualicum Beach.

For a mere $3, you could buy a chili cup and then go from stand to stand trying all sorts of chili. 

One had to keep track of the number of the stands to vote for the best. 

I guess my years of Tex-Mex food prepared me well for this event, because my taste buds didn't burn and my stomach didn't complain afterwards. 

My favorites were those that gave you chips and other goodies, not just the brownish soup. One came with cheese, sour cream, and chips. Very nice, eh?

Oh, yeah, and the ice sculptures. Look at this guy, who turned this...

Into this...

Okay, so here's the real shock. Remember the horror movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I saw the old one as a kid and never forgot about it. Nasty thing. Now, there are these guys with chainsaws at the festival, using them as chisels!

I've always been proud of the ice cubes I can make, but these carvers are at another level. Check these out:

Very cold, I mean, cool. But what is a street festival without some senior tap dancing? We enjoyed this and I bet you will too...