Quinte: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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There were some good Canadian Q words/things.  Quebec and Queen came to mind.  Then someone suggested Quinte and I had to write about it.

 

Do you have that place that you always remember as a place that represents youth and adulthood at the same time?  The Bay of Quinte Region is that place for me.

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Growing up in Kingston, Ontario, The Bay of Quinte was about 45 minutes away from our hometown.  The bay itself is a zig-zaggy bay and the region hosts great Walleye fishing, wineries, golfing and sand beaches.  In Canada, having sand beaches nearby is something not to be taken advantage of.  Basically it was our version of living by the sea!  So where would we go on weekends, or on Fridays during the last couple of weeks of high-school (Shhhhh)?  Specifically – Picton Beach! And the best way to go was along the lake, taking the ferry over.  What an experience!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Picton Beach is actually Sandbanks Provincial Park, but we call it Picton Beach.  The park hosts the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation – 10,000 years in the making – created when the massive Lake Iroquois receded, at the end of the last ice age leaving the puddle called Lake Ontario. The sand from the larger lake blew up, creating the dunes that rise almost 200 feet from the lake and stretch for 12 kilometres!

Sandbanks - Shoreline

 

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Jasper: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

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Out of all the places in Canada, you would think that Jasper, Alberta would be a rather random place for me to highlight – but not after I show it to you!  When people think of the Canadian Rockies, they often think of British Columbia.  But how many people consider the eastern slope of the range? Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, Kananaskis, Jasper are all stunning Canadian destinations in the Alberta rockies!

Jasper can refer to Jasper National Park or the Town of Jasper. People often say “Jasper” when they’re referring to that whole area in the Athabasca River Valley. The Town of Jasper was originally an outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company (hey! My “H” #AtoZ!) and then was formally established as a town as the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Canadian Northern Railway developed their lines through the region.

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Jasper was also used as an internment camp for six months in 1916, holding Ukranian men (and some women and children) under the terms of the Canadian War Measures act while Canada was at war with Austria-Hungary. This internment across Canada of about 4,000 people left a scar on the Canadian Ukrainian community – which I’ll likely talk more about when I talk about Ukrainian culture in Canada on the #AtoZ “U” day.

Today, Jasper is a Canadian mountain town known for its recreational tourism.  People come from all over the world to visit Jasper National Park and to experience the nature and wildlife in the region.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Canada.

Enjoy some of my photos from my time in Jasper!

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Subscription Boxes for Outdoors Aficionados? Yes Please!

I’m a bit out on the loop on anything new or cool.  I don’t have cable TV, and I rarely listen to the radio, so the latest craze is sometimes lost on me.  Earlier this spring, I found out there’s such a thing as subscription boxes when we got an opportunity to have an online chat with the Social Media manager for Birchbox. I was intrigued.  It’s like a birthday present every month!  That you pay for!

So, me being pretty lo-maint, I wasn’t interested in getting boxes of makeup or craft supplies each month and I started googling for subscription boxes for the outdoors.  I was actually thinking I should start one up. Don’t know why I thought I could pull that off with full-time work and part-time school, but hey, I’m a dreamer.

This is where Cairn comes in. It’s a monthly subscription ” of carefully curated gear [that] will show up at your door”.  It’s the only subscription service for us outdoor nerds that I could find.  And it’s just getting started!

So I watched the company for a while and read reviews online.  The boxes were arriving with one awesomely cool piece of gear, and a collection of smaller items.  People were getting Hydro Flasks, and hammocks, and LifeStraws! The subscription cost $25/month with free shipping, but you were always getting at least $35 worth of outdoors items, so I signed up!

** Right now, Cairn only ships to U.S. addresses until they grow**

Here’s my review of Cairn’s August and September Boxes!

AUGUST BOX

This was my first box, and when it arrived in the mail, it was so light, that I thought they forgot to put stuff in it!

August Box

Here’s why. The August box had a Gosamer Gear Q-Ditty storage bag in it!  This thing weighs .02oz and is super strong! My thoughts were that if your entire storage system was made out of this stuff you could cut some serious weight from your pack. For me though, I don’t know if I would spend that kind of dough on an entire system. The Q-Ditty small is worth about $16 by itself.  But yay!  I have one.  Of course I was going to use it!  Here’s what I did with mine on our recent hike to Kroenke Lake, Colorado:

What I carry in the Q-Ditty

What I carry in the Q-Ditty

Spare paracord, matches, spare batteries, a spork (not shown) and my trusty Canada flag for picture taking!

Also in the box were a pair of Sea to Summit accessory straps, which were great for attaching the air mattress to DH’s rucksack, a Paleo Eats Cro Bar and a tube of Sunsect Sunscreen & Insect Repellant Combo. Both in one tube! Used by the U.S. military!  Total worth in August: $38.50.

SEPTEMBER BOX

My September box arrived this week! It was heavier!

What's in the box September Box!

Check it out!  Our big item was the new insulated Stanley Vacuum Pint with bottle opener. I am sure I still have my classic green Stanley thermos with insulating carrier in the basement somewhere.

So here’s the thing about this item. It’s supposed to keep your drinks cold or hot for a very long time, but there’s no sealing lid, so it’s for nursing a beer around a campfire, not for carrying your drink anywhere.  It also weighs quite a bit, so I wouldn’t bring it with me on a 4 mile hike up 2,000 feet of elevation when I’m trying to minimize what I have to carry.  BUT, this will be my backyard, car-camping, bonfire pint glass from this point forward and I’m excited to get to use it! Oh, and Miracle Loki the Siberian Husky also seems to really like it:

Loki loves her Stanley Vacuum Pint!

Also in this month’s box were two samples of Skoop A Game drink mix, which holds the equivalent of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables in a powder, and two samples of Sierra Sage organic outdoor first aid balms. One for muscles pains and one for stings, itches and healing.

Bring your A Game!

Bring your A Game!

Apparently, the salve smells good enough to eat!

Mmmm salve....

Mmmm salve….

The September box contains a worth of $42.20!

SWEET DEAL FOR YOU!

So, when I ordered my first box, I was able to use a $5 off coupon code provided by a fellow outdoor adventure blogger, Val in Real Life, making my first box only $20!

I would like to pay it forward to my followers.  If you liked what you saw (and here’s a list of all the boxes they’ve sent out so far and what was in them), I would like to offer you a $5 off coupon code for a new subscription as well!  Yay!

Just go to http://www.getcairn.com/products/cairn-subscription-box, use the coupon code JENNYRIGHTSIDE and Cairn will grant you $5 off your first box! Also, be sure to tell them when you sign up that Jenny Right-Side referred you with the email address jennyrightside [at] gmail [dot] com!! This offer is good through November 30, 2014!!!

** Right now, Cairn only ships to U.S. addresses until they grow**

ENJOY!!

** Disclaimer: I paid for both of these boxes, and did not receive any free products from Cairn or Cairn’s affiliates. This review is completely based on my experience subscribing to this service**

B is for Belize!

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My husband and I had our first date in Cyprus.  We were talking about how we both loved to travel, but often ended up traveling alone.  So I, shyly suggested that the next time he planned a trip, if he didn’t have a travel buddy, he could call me. He said “how about at the end of the month when we’re back in Canada?” We did some researching and decided to head to Belize and then Mexico for three weeks.  This started our relationship.  We figured out that we do well together on planes, in jungles, while hiking, and in planning. All good combinations for a couple!

There are a lot of great things about Belize.  I had heard that it was an expensive place to visit, especially near the world class diving locations.  We had decided to conduct our adventure inland slightly and opted for some exploring in the jungles and caves of the country.  Belize hosts the longest network of caves in Central America, and if you know what you’re doing, or have a good guide, there is a neverending amount of exploring you can do.

 

Cave Tubing

Along with the caves, Belize also has a system of rivers that run right through them. We spent a whole day floating through various tunnels and caves, often popping out into the jungle, and then descending back into the darkness!

So, if you’re looking for things to do in Belize, here are my recommendations:

1. Take a day and head over to Tikal in Guatemala, which is one of the largest sites of Mayan civilization.

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2. Rappel into a 300 foot deep jungle sinkhole.

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3. Then spend the night in a hammock, in said sinkhole.

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4. Explore the many cave systems, especially the ones that used to be ancient Mayan sacrificial caves.  You might find pots and utensils calcified to the cave floors, or possibly the remains of those who belonged to this civilization.

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5. Hike and climb underground waterfalls and rivers!

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6. Slide down underground mudslides!  Don’t plan on your clothes ever getting clean again though!

7. Visit the coast and relax.  We decided to go to Placentia, on the southern part of the coast, and enjoyed food, walking around, listening to the sound of the sea, pretty much doing about nothing.  It’s a nice, calm town, and very relaxing.

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Travelling with Pets: Part I

As a whitewater kayaker, I often travelled across the US with fellow paddlers who had dogs.  Living off the grid, near whitewater is a lot easier to do with a pet than visiting cities and towns. Sleeping in the back of your van or truck and paddling through the wilderness has created a pet-friendly living environment.  Some rivers, the dogs would follow us along the shore, while others, we left the dogs in the campground or RV.

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Me watching Black Dog in Vail, Colorado while her owner competes in a down river race

When we discovered that we would be unable to travel for a while due to work and courses, we bit the bullet and adopted a sweet little Siberian Husky named Loki.  When Loki was almost a year old, we decided it was time to bring her along on some of our excursions!

The May long-weekend was the first test to see how well she could travel with us. I did a lot of research online to see what we could do for one weekend with the dog.  My husband was away on a course, so I would be picking him up on the way.

We decided that the Bruce Peninsula would be a great option. Hiking, camping and relaxing for a long weekend would work well as a first trip.  We didn’t have our camping gear readily available, and since DH was at school, we decided to do it in some form of luxury.  We ended up staying at the KOA in Owen Sound, owned and run by a lovely German couple.  We rented a small “Kabin” with a double and bunk bed and brought along Loki’s bed and food.

Loki made friends with everyone, and we were amazed at how well behaved she was when kids went running past our site or other dogs started barking. Lucky for us, we don’t have a “barker”!

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Loki resting in the shade after a long hike!

There were a lot of sections of the trail nearby for hiking, so we spent our days away from the campsite, exploring nature.

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Hiking the Bruce Trail

Loki got her first experience with water (she was born in July last year and too young to learn to swim before it got cold); we let her play in a stream, and then on the second day at Kincardine, a dog-friendly beach.  The water in Lake Huron was still very cold, so the swimming part would have to wait until later.  Loki just didn’t like it at all.

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Loki playing in the stream.

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Not liking the cold water so much.

We cooked on the firepit in the campground and spent the evenings drinking beer, sitting outside, and chatting with neighbours.  The cabins were great for us. Loki’s bed fit nicely in the corner and after each day’s activities, she was out like a light!  It was a great first experience travelling with her and now we’ll have to find some other ways to bring her along.  Next time, we’d like to do some hiking camping with our tent and sleeping bags and bring the dog along.  After a full day of hiking, our normally rambunctious Siberian Husky is pretty subdued! We thought about Algonquin Park and do some real hike-camping, but DH is worried about wild animals and how she might fare in a tent.

It was a great weekend.  We got to spend our time outdoors, and got to bring the dog along.  We don’t feel comfortable staying in hotels with a dog, and know that many don’t even allow them to begin with.

I think Loki was the most pooped after the whole weekend and she completely crashed on the 6 hour drive back to Ottawa!

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One pooped puppy!

I hope to do this much more often in the future.  It makes for an inexpensive vacation, and the whole family gets to come along! Does anyone have any great resources for travelling with pets?  I’ve found a few websites that list “pet-friendly” hotels/motels/parks etc, but I’d be interested in knowing how others fare.