Monthly Archives: July 2013

Cliff jumping in the Canadian Rockies

The first time we hiked up to Silver Spring Lakes near Elko, B.C., I thought I wasn’t going to make it. The sun beat down relentlessly; the children (then ages six and three) complained and the youngest needed to be carried; and to top it off we took a wrong turn and had to backtrack up loose shale to get to the “cliff” side of the lake. We were rewarded with a pristine alpine swimming hole with a rocky escarpment on the east side that’s perfect for launching off into the clear, cold water.

A teen jumps fearlessly off the highest cliff, plungng some tk feet intot he clear water below. Pristine Canadiana.

A teen jumps fearlessly off the highest cliff, plunging some 25 feet into the clear water below. Pristine Canadiana!

Two years later, on Day 3 of our B.C. road trip, we knew the trail and the hike seemed to take no more than 15 minutes (the kids now have longer legs). We staked out a spot on the rocks and then took turns jumping into the ever-so-beautiful lake. I even dove head first (though it should be noted I flung myself from a height of maybe five feet).

Diving into the lake. My reaction upon surfacing? "Brrrr!"

Diving into the lake. My reaction upon surfacing? “Brrrr!”

High: Avery jumped in this year without a life jacket — twice! And Bennett jumped too, holding Blake’s hand.

Low: Why, oh why, didn’t we bring Crocs? The shale in the shallows and lining the shore is sharp, and it’s loose as you climb back up. Without sport sandals your options are slicing a toe going barefoot, or taking your hiking boots off and then making another in your party ferry them down so you can put them back on before scrambling up again. I also worried Bennett would at any moment loose his balance and tumble onto the sharp rocks everywhere.

Outcome: Mamas, forget about your squeamishness over heights and slippery surfaces and simply enjoy this beautiful place. Your kids have better balance than you think, and will never forget jumping from a cliff into a postcard-perfect piece of wilderness.

Avery lets loose with a holler before making a big splash.

Avery lets loose with a holler before making a big splash.

Hiking Fernie’s Coal Creek Heritage Trail

Fernie, B.C. is the kind of place that people come to for the powderful winters but end up staying long-term for the amazing summers. Even though Day 2 of our B.C. road trip was cooler and rainier than our first day, we had just the kind of July adventure that you’d expect in this outdoorsy mountain town.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping on part of the the Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie, B.C.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping on part of the the Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie, B.C.

We hiked part of the Coal Creek Heritage Trail, stopping to pick plump Saskatoon berries, ripe raspberries and tart thimble berries. Blake and the kids did some rock hopping, then we got down to the serious business of ascending through a pine forest to walk along the trail toward town. An approaching thunderstorm sent me jogging ahead to get our car from the trailhead and pick up the family just before the rain hit.

High: Dangling feet into a freezing mountain stream beneath a small waterfall.

Low: Realizing we’d gone hiking without dog poop bags (faux pas!), which meant I had to skewer Piper’s poop on a stick and toss it into the bushes. Ewww! (And also, bad pet owner!)

Outcome: We only hiked maybe four kilometres of the 9.3 km trail (and I never did see any of the 12 interpretive signs, or the old ghost town or even the old coal mine, though we were walking sloooowly), but we enjoyed taking the time to eat berries, look under rocks for salamanders and dip hot heads into a mountain waterfall.

Day on the water

Day 1 of our B.C. road trip summer holiday was all about water. We started the morning teaching Piper how to swim in the Elk River (with many opportunities for the kids to wade), and then carried on with the water theme at Surveyor’s Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park, home of the western painted turtle. There we swam, kayaked and looked for crayfish under logs near the shore.

Bennett and Avery get wet while teaching Piper how to swim and fetch floating sticks.

Bennett and Avery get wet while teaching Piper how to swim in Fernie, B.C.

High: Avery finds and captures the first of many crayfish.

Low: Bennett refuses to go kayaking to look for turtles, but makes up for it by jumping off the dock and swimming until his lips turn blue.

Outcome: Fun! We love Surveyor’s Lake. With no motorized watercraft allowed, it’s perfect for families. It’s also usually five degrees warmer than Fernie.

B.C. road trip

It’s official — our family is on the road. We’ve loaded up the SUV and pointed it southwest to Fernie, B.C. We’ll stay there a couple days, then drive west to Osoyoos, on to Vancouver, and end our holiday in Vernon.

I love the journey when the scenery is gorgeous! Pictured here: hay bales, canola fields and the Rocky Mountains in the distance en route from Calgary to Fernie, B.C.

I love the journey when the scenery is gorgeous! Pictured here: hay bales, canola fields and the Rocky Mountains in the distance en route to Fernie, B.C. from Calgary.

Leading up to our summer vacation I kept coming across stories with headlines like, How to survive family road trip hell. I read stories urging parents to involve children in the trip planning and others suggesting a ban on electronic devices (a return to the good old days of license plate alphabet). Curiously, all of these advice-y columns include the word “survive,” as if the act of driving from one place to the next with tots in tow is something to suffer through and hopefully come out of intact (or, at least, sane).

We’ve been driving to Fernie regularly with the kids for four years now and while at times I just want the drive to end, there’s a certain comfort in the familiarity of it all: turning west at Nanton, the hills and cows along Highway 22, the huge windmill after turning on to Highway 3, and of course, the World’s Largest Truck in Sparwood. But what I love about a driving holiday somewhere different are all the new sights to see and places to discover along the way. We’ll be breaking new road trip trails driving through Kokanee and Sasquatch country near Creston, and on through Castlegar and Grand Forks. Will the kids get car sick? Will the dog?  Will we, ahem, survive?

Of course, we bring tons of snacks and all the electronic devices to stem off boredom: DVDs, LeapPads, iPhone music and iPad games, but the kids spend a lot of time looking out the window like I did on the annual summer trip from Colorado to Kansas when I was little. Plus, our puppy Piper is a passenger with us this summer and that helps entertain the kids in the back seat.

We did a version of this trip two years ago, when the kids were six and three and it went surprisingly well. I am curious to see how we’ll fare this time. I will, literally, keep you posted. My aim is to upload at least one photo a day that encapsulates our adventures, with a couple of graphs describing the day and its high and low. Will we survive the family road trip? You be the judge.

Drink of the Week: Coco Loco

Some years ago on vacation in the Dominican Republic we discovered the tastiest of cocktails at the swim-up bar: the Coco Loco. The bartender whipped up a bunch of booze and, presumably, coconut milk, and served it to us in a fresh coconut with a straw poking out of a hole in the top. The drink was so yummy — and free (hello, all-inclusive!) — the next thing we knew we’d ordered a couple more and were “loco” (Spanish for crazy) from the coco in no time.

This is how they serve them in the Caribbean. In Canada, a wine glass works fine.

This is how they serve them in the Caribbean. In Canada, a wine glass works fine.

I had no idea what the other ingredients in a Coco Loco might be, but I guessed rum was involved. So when I received a bottle of Malibu’s original coconut flavoured rum I decided to try and replicate the DR’s deliciousness at home.

I discovered that Coco Loco recipes vary widely. Some call for vodka in addition to rum (for a Coco muy Loco), others include creme de bananas and still more omit the pineapple altogether. I settled for a recipe featuring  amaretto, hoping to capture that sweet, slightly nutty flavour I recalled.

While my version is pretty good — sweet, tart pineapple and creamy coconut with a hint of almonds — I liked the DR Coco Loco better. Must be the coconut cup!

I liked the Malibu in theis drink -- it adds an extra coconuttiness and makes up for the fact I didn't use coconut cream.

I like Malibu in this drink instead of regular light rum. It adds an extra “coconuttiness” and makes up for the lack of coconut cream.

Coco Loco

  • 1-1/2 oz Malibu
  • 1/2 oz amaretto
  • 2 oz coconut cream (I used canned coconut milk)
  • 1 oz  simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple (or 1 oz pineapple juice)
  • 6 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth and frothy. Pour into a wine glass (or hollowed-out coconut) and garnish with a pineapple wedge.

It’s someone else’s baby, people. Get over it.

I, for one, have not been waiting expectantly for the last week for Kate to give birth to the royal baby. But thankfully, the little prince has arrived so now I can stop seeing inane headlines like, Top 10 parenting tips for Prince William and Kate (It goes by fast — enjoy it!), David Beckham’s parenting advice to Prince William and Kate Middleton (name him David), and my personal favourite, Snooki’s advice for Kate on new motherhood (as if Kate would take advice from someone who refers to her baby as a “royal golden nugget”). Where, oh where is the tongue-in-cheek column urging the new parents to dangle the wee nugget from the balcony for fun?

Will and Kate introduce the royal golden nugget, named after David Beckham, to the world.

Will and Kate introduce the royal golden nugget, named after David Beckham, to the world on Fakebook. Why a blanket on his head? Perhaps to hide the red hair.

I’m not sure if I’m getting my point across so I’ll rephrase: Why do so many people care so much about someone else’s bawling, drooling bundle of joy, to the extent that there’s ridiculous online speculation about what he’ll be named, how his parents will raise him and whether he’ll have a “normal” upbringing (e.g. turn out more like Harry).

I know as a culture we tend to obsess about celebrities’ kids, talking about Apple and Moses with friends as if we actually know them (and Gwyneth, natch). And tabloids now dedicate a two-page spread to tracking the fashions and playdates of stars’ progeny, sinking so low as to pit these wee tots against one another in Who Wore it Better? It’s all so… weird. One tweet summed up Royal Baby Watch perfectly: BREAKING: Millions of British Have Nothing to Do, with a photo of the throng waiting outside the hospital for news of the birth.

Poor Kate. I’m sure all she wants to do is sit in her housecoat and cry while the wee prince turns her fun bags into tender no-go zones, but instead she has to look fabulous when leaving the hospital. And Will is probably dying to sneak out to the  pub with Harry for beers, but no. He has to change his first diaper.

I mean, c'mon. Who looks like this the day after giving birth? Must be one of the royal impersonators.

I mean, c’mon. Who looks like this the day after giving birth? Must be one of the royal impersonators.

It will go on now for days, months, years. He-who-at-some-point-will-be-named will make front page news when he attends a polo match with Dad, turns a week old, pretty much every time he burps and sharts (watch out for the poonamis, Kate — they’re messy). And people will eat it up and feed the monarch media machine. So please, let’s all get over it, stop speculating and do something practical. Send Kate some baby wipes… and a Diaper Genie.

Drink of the Week: Blackberry Margarita

I will never tire of twists on my favourite cocktail, the margarita. I like them with prickly pear syrup, grapefruit juice or a splash of O.J., and last year I was  particularly enamoured with the Pineapple Ginger Margarita from Earl’s. Today I bring you a Blackberry Margarita, whose star ingredients are tequila, blackberry liqueur or Chambord, and lime juice.

Pretty in purple, the blackberry margarita tastes good too.

Pretty in purple, the blackberry margarita tastes good too.

Blackberries are just coming into season and I figured their sweet-tart taste would complement the bite of tequila and tang of lime. The colour is lovely too. We have loads of fresh mint in several containers just waiting for a mojito party; sadly, with a flood-ravaged basement, that summer day may never come. Instead, I am  looking for different ways to add mint to cocktails. With tequila, it’s a bit unorthodox, but what the heck (if I’d had fresh blackberries on hand I would have muddled some in as well). In this cocktail the mint flavour is subtle, but as a garnish the aroma is enticing on the nose. And it makes for a pretty picture, no? Altogether this drink is good and just gets better as the ice melts.

You can't go wrong with fresh mint, either muddled in the drink or as a pretty garnish (or both).

You really can’t go wrong with fresh mint, either muddled in your blackberry margarita, or as a pretty garnish (or both).

Blackberry Margarita

  • 1-1/2 oz reposado tequila
  • 1/2 oz blackberry liqueur
  • 3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar
  • 6-8 mint leaves plus mint sprig for garnish
  • Salt for rim

Rim a margarita glass with salt and fill with crushed ice. Muddle the mint leaves in the base of a cocktail shaker, then add the tequila, blackberry liqueur, lime juice and agave nectar. Add ice and shake, then strain into the margarita glass and garnish with the mint sprig.