Winter

Winter has been slow arriving this year. In a lot of ways it is hard to complain. The warmer weather is easier on our energy bills and makes for an less stressful commute, especially as a transit strike since October still has me driving when I’d much rather be reading, listening to music, or doing a better job with my gumboot posts. But at the same time there are a lot of parts of winter that I’ve been looking forward to that as a result of the warmer weather I’ve put off. But in the last couple of weeks winter has shown up in Toronto, the air is crisp and there is snow on the ground. I want to share a few things that make the dark, cold, snowy (or rainy) months something for me to enjoy and hope you too find positivity in the months ahead.

Getting (and Sleeping) Outside.

I wasn’t always a fan of spending time outside in winter until I started running a few years ago and kept on running right through winter.  (Check out Jim’s past post on the lonely community of winter runners).  I then realized that being outside in winter makes those dark vitamin D deprived months a lot better. Sure there aren’t seemly endless hours of sunshine and instead there are layers of every type of clothing imaginable, but there also aren’t sunburns or mosquitoes.  This year, Jim and I are taking our quest to embrace winter a step further with our plan to complete a whole year of camping every month.  And after sleeping outside on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24, with temperature dipping close to -20C the first night and waking up to a white Christmas the next, I can say that I’m looking forward to more outside time in the months ahead.

Seasonal Hobbies (and hobbies that adapt to the season).

When I’m not outside in winter I enjoy being curled up on a coach with cat on my lap, watching TV, which I do way more of in the winter (I’m re-watching The Wire right now).  Two additional hobbies make this better, knitting and beer.  I’m a seasonal knitter and it wasn’t until last week that I picked up the needles again, which coincided with Toronto’s first substantial snowfall.  It means that when my tendency is more towards hibernation than outside, I end up with something cozy coincidentally makes winter better.  Beer, which I’ve recently started brewing, had to undergo some adaptations for winter, which we’re still working out.  The brewery has moved from friends’  backward to our apartment for the winter, where our back deck’s overhang and ground-level bathtub (for the beer chilling) means we can brew through the cold months.  And as long as we figure out how to adjust for the higher evaporation rate in winter we’ll keep ending up with amazing beer.

Tomatoes, Endings and Beginnings

And finally, what would one of my lists be without a reference to tomatoes.  I’ve just cooked my last fresh tomatoes a couple of days ago. That’s right, tomatoes that I grew on my back deck that have been slowly ripening wrapped in newspaper in the months since they’ve been picked in the fall.  They were delicious.  And while that should make me sad, it is only a mere month and a half until I plant tomato seeds again.  In the meantime, I have cans of crushed tomatoes, homemade salsa, pizza sauce, and ketchup for the down-time in mid-winter.

What makes you happy about winter? 

Remembering Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

How many times have you heard those three words repeated?  And how much have those three words translated into action?

It isn’t easy.  We live among disposable products.  From the plastic bags in grocery stores, to the mop heads used for cleaning, to the printers we buy every two years just after the warranty runs out.  I’m sure we could all write a list longer than this post of the disposable items in our everyday lives.  Sure, there is a convenience factor with all the stuff we use for a short time before tossing.  But I would bet most of the time the benefits from convenience are far outweighed by the many negatives to our environment and many lost opportunities for our community.  I’ve been thinking about the 3Rs a bit more in the past few week , both at home and work, and thought I’d share (and hope that you do the same).

Reduce.  There are at least few sides to this equation, owning less and making sure the things you do buy are durable and come in minimal packaging.  There are a lot of ways to own less stuff, whether through borrowing, leasing, or renting.  Libraries are a great example of this; when I know I only need a book for a short time I’ll borrow it rather than buy.  Since I don’t expect I’ll be doing too much winter camping, when I do go (since I’m trying to go camping every month for a year) I’ll rent the extra equipment I need.  This is an approach that is best suited when there is only a short term or occasional use.  When it is something you need in the long term it makes more sense to find durable items that will last, can be repaired, and are multipurpose.  I accumulated a lot of cheap kitchen gadgets as a student and not that many of them have stood the test of time.  As I now replace them I look for things that I hope will last longer.  (My current project is to find an all stainless steel French press when my current Franken-French press – a combination of two broken French presses – inevitably breaks).   The other main approach I use is to try to avoid over-packaging.  I find one of the easiest ways to do this is to go local.  The farmers we get food from each week don’t even have plastic bags, they’ve made us bring our own from the start.  And it isn’t just food when packaging can be avoided.  A couple of years I had a commuter cycling bag made for me by a Toronto-based bike store.  I not only got exactly the bag I wanted when I picked it up a week after ordering it but it also didn’t come in boxes, plastic bags or anything else that I would toss as soon as I got it.

Reuse.  One of the things that made me think about the 3Rs was the huge numbers of ziploc-style bags that we took canoe camping last week, to store food and keep everything dry.  As part of the post-camping chores, I washed all these bags and hung them out to dry for the next canoe camping adventure.  Again, there are a couple of ways to achieve greater reuse including reusing your own stuff or buying/selling used stuff.   I find food an easy area to practice reuse, whether from shopping with reusable bags to preserving tomatoes and other veggies in reusable mason jars.  Jim and I have almost eliminated the use of paper towels by having a lot of dishcloths and dishtowels on hand that can just get tossed in the wash.  Buying used goods rather than buying new or selling used goods rather than recycling or land-filling has been a popular approach for a while.  Yard sales, newspaper classified, charity thrift stores, and flea markets have been around for a while.  Newer options include online searchable classified like kijiji and craig’s list, community swaps, and freecycling.    These alternatives to buying new mean a more affordable way to get stuff, a chance to find something unique and an increased likelihood of interacting with your community during the exchange.  And by being a seller, there is a chance to make a bit of cash. Or, if you are unmotivated to sell like I am, Toronto has a culture of leaving out reusable items a few days before garbage day for others to pick up.  I’ve scored a lot of great pots for my tomatoes this way and have left a few things on the curb as well that quickly were picked up.

Recycle.  Most places are getting pretty good at offering recycling as part of curb side pick up and I’ve been lucky enough to live in places with decent recycling programs.  This is likely the side of the 3R equation we’re all best at (I know I am).  But this is the lowest on the 3Rs hierarchy.  Reduce and Reuse are considered better.  The reason for this is even though the materials themselves might be diverted from landfills, a lot of energy and water can be used to transport the materials and remanufacture them.  And since most manufacturers don’t design their products with recycling in mind, a lot of stuff still ends up in a landfill.  Plus, recycling programs don’t come cheap.  They cost local governments money to run that I doubt they often recover because the operating costs would be greater than the price they’d get for the materials once they are sorted and sold (since so many of us are doing in now supply is likely outpacing demand).  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discourage recycling, we’ve come a long way and I think we should be pushing for more to be diverted from landfill.  But the best way to get a higher diversion is for something to not need to be in the waste stream in the first place.

Community on the Juan de Fuca Trail

47 kilometers of West Coast awesomeness!

Last week, John and I went on an adventure in the wilderness. After weeks of accumulating supplies, preparing menus, going on test hikes, and becoming far too acquainted with the staff at MEC, we set out on the Juan De Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. Mentally – and somewhat physically – prepared for the 47 km, 5 day hike, what follows is a daily synopsis of the ups and downs (literally and metaphorically), our observations about community we found on the trail, and some stories and anecdotes that are just, well, funny.

Bear Beach looks good early in the morning.

Day 1: China Beach to Bear Beach

Filled with excitement and anxious to get started, we threw on our packs and headed towards the trail from the China Beach parking lot … only to be stopped in our tracks by a number of minor, let’s say, incidents. Incident #1: John realizing his water bladder, attached to his backpack, is empty … which subsequently made sense when we noticed that the back seat of the car was soaked. Incident #2: Michelle checking her pocket for the map to give it one last look, only to realize it’s nowhere to be found. Good thing it turned up … in her father-in-law’s pocket! Incident #3: Backcountry camping fees? Strictly enforced and payable at the start of the trail? Needless to say, we knew nothing of backcountry camping fees. To add to the confusion, we received five different answers from five different people about how we could pay and how much it was – luckily, the parents-in-law come to the rescue, making up for the near-fiasco with the map. Despite the multiple incidents, we head out on the trail (half an hour later than expected), arriving safe and sound about 4 hours later at beautiful Bear Beach.

This was one of the 15 or so times that Michelle walked up during the Day 2 experience. Also, love the pink!

Day 2: Bear Beach to Chin Beach

By 10am we had packed up our wicked awesome camp site – complete with giant table – and were striking out on the trail behind a group of Japanese tourists, Team Texas and a hardcore young man who was, apparently, doing the entire trail in three days. The kid was moving fast.

For seven hours – over about 12 kilometers – John and I hiked up and over about 15 different headlands. This basically meant walking up for about 150-200 meters, looking around at the gorgeous, lush and spectacular scenery, and then walking down for about 150-200 meters. And then we crossed a creek. And then we did it all over again. Other than expelling a combined 30 liters of sweat and starting to feel our packs weighing on our shoulders in achey new ways, this part of the trail was an achievement of epic proportions with very little collatoral damage to our bodies, minds and/or souls. By 7pm we settled into a delicious meal of quinoa next to a modest little fire and watched seagulls feast on shellfish under a misty sunset.

The 16 kilometer marker was a long, long, long time coming. Mostly because we either missed marker 15 or it's missing along the trail. Needless to say, we stopped for lunch here.

Day 3: Chin Beach to Sombrio Beach

MICE! That’s right. Focusing a lot – perhaps too much – on nefarious bears and cougars, we underestimated the chewy vigour of some other four-legged creatures who live on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. During the night, a gang of wild mice gnawed through our packs in search of delicious treats. Luckily, no trail mix or my candies were harmed.

This hike was similar to – but not the same as – day two. We went up, up, up a lot right away, but there wasn’t as much repetition. Also, a kilometer of the hike took place along about a flat and groomed old logging road. Quite a nice respite!

Arriving at Sombrio Beach, John and I learned a lesson about “maps” and “distances” at Sombrio. The 20.7 kilometers listed on the map got us to Sombrio Point, not the beach itself. No, to get to the beach we hiked with our tired legs (in utter silence, which says a lot) along a sheer cliff, through some slippery, smelly muck and up, over and around two coves. Though the trail wasn’t actually all that technical, this is the place where – because of sheer fatigue – we could’ve died quite easily because of one little misstep (or perhaps because we let our guard down against the roaming packs of radioactive ninja mice that the Juan de Fuca Trail might possibly yield).

Oh, and Sombrio is the place where we started having deeper conversations with our new friends, the Texans, who were particularly impressed by the awesomeness of our campsite and my very pink hiking attire.

John relaxes by our very awesome campsite and even more awesome fire at Sombrio Beach.

Day 4: Sombrio Beach to Payzant Creek

Before leaving Sombrio we stumbled across a family of sea otters.

Waking up to the sound of crashing waves might be the best sound. Ever. Follow that with a delicious Spanish Frittata breakfast (thanks, MEC!), coffee, and a flawless pack-up, and we found ourselves setting out happily for an apparently “moderate” (according to aforementioned “map”), albeit long (13 km), day. The day was, actually, quite moderate – if one were to compare it to the gruelling terrain of the previous two days. Compared to day one, it was definitely harder and almost twice as long.

The hike itself was gorgeous. We left the comfort of the coastline for the more mysterious woods, finding ourselves surrounded by old growth trees and cooler temperatures. Setting up camp in the middle of a rainforest, mist and sunshine streaming through the myriad of trees, was one of the memorable moments of the trip. Team Texas wandered in a few hours after us – we felt a bit better about how incredibly sore we were after seeing them limp and drag themselves into the campsite. As we weren’t allowed fires in the woods, Day 4 was an early night – we were asleep no later than 9:30pm (which was probably a good thing, as it allowed our bodies to recuperate from the pain we had inflicted upon them).

The towering trees around Payzant Creek!

Day 5: Payzant Creek to Botanical Beach

A bittersweet day – a mere 7 km and we would be back in the real world! While we were looking forward to a homecooked meal and mostly, well, not smelling, it was sad leaving the calm, relaxing and awe-inspiring wilderness. This short four hour hike out, with lots of boardwalks and more and more hikers as we got closer to Botanical Beach, included a permit-check by a BC Parks Ranger/Warden/Guide/Hero as well as many fun chats with our Texan friends as well as Jonathan, a lone hiker from Winnipeg who was just downright delightful.

 Final Reflections

Since monkeys jumped down from trees, crossed the svannah, killed all the dinosaurs, and turned into people we’ve had a very interesting relationship with nature. We’ve worshipped, groomed, destroyed, restored, protected, developed, and celebrated the Earth during our time here. And that might be the coolest thing about getting out into nature and away from so much urbanity – a simple and fun five days in the woods is enough to remind any city dweller that people are a part of the natural environment and it’s a part of us. Taking time to appreciate this relationship is as important as it is enjoyable.

Thanks, Juan de Fuca Trail for being so darn enjoyably natural!

 

Canoe Baby

Over the weekend Jim and I went canoe camping with a group of friends, which included an 18 month old.  Summers over the past 5 years for us have been centered on weddings so it isn’t surprising that there are an increasing number of infants and toddlers in our community of friends.  We were understandably a bit skeptical about how this trip would go.  It seemed ambitious of his parents to propose such a trip, which included an almost kilometer long portage.  I’m happy to say that it went well and since I promised a report back on how it went to others hoping to do similar trips in their future, I thought I’d share my findings here on the Gumboot.

Practice Before You Go – In the weeks leading up to the trip it is a good idea to get out in the canoe for shorter trips, which can be a good indicator for whether or not such a trip is a good idea.  It also helps sort out things like the best place everyone should sit and if old enough what activities can occupy the young passenger.  It is likely also a good idea to pull out the tent early to get used to a new space for quiet time and napping.

“Special Jacket” – A PDF is a must on these trips and not always the most comfortable for little ones.  From what I learned from my friends, PFDs are fine for when infants are so small that they don’t move much and also fine for when fuller mobility is gained.  But there is definitely a period in between when a PFD makes babies with partial mobility really unhappy because they can’t move, meaning that a trip might not be an option.  Making sure that a PFD fits and is comfortable is essential to a successful canoe trip.

Tethered Paddle (or whatever else might be the object of play) – It sounds like infants will just sleep in the canoe, which means entertainment isn’t much of an issue.  But toddlers need an activity to keep them occupied.  Our friends got a small paddle for their son to play with and quickly found on their practice trips that he liked throwing it in the water.  Rather than constantly turning around to retrieve the paddle, they drilled a hole in the handle to tie it to the canoe, making it easily retrievable.

Keep the Schedule – napping, eating and whatever else is essential for daily good moods should be maintained on the trip.  It meant leaving really early so that we could arrive at the campsite for lunch and the early afternoon nap, as well as eating dinner by 6.  But the rigour of his parents knowing and maintaining the schedule made it a more pleasant trip for everyone.

Be Prepared for Learning – While you might think that your little one is secure in a tent because they haven’t yet mastered zippers that changes quickly.  By day 2 of 3, our friends’ son had figured out the zipper well enough to escape the tent when he was done his afternoon nap.  A possible solution we though up was a carabineer to attach the zippers on his side of the tent to make sure he didn’t go exploring that night.

Flexible Adventures – this goes for both parents and fellow canoe campers, since the terms of the trip are dictated by the youngest traveler.  Having a little one along might mean sticking closer to the base camp or setting off on adventures of different scales.

Hiking is Awesome

This past weekend, John and I went on an awesome hike in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. After parking our car at the trailhead, we hiked 5.5 kilometers and about 250 vertical meters to Greendrop Lake. We encountered many different types of terrain and many different kinds of hikers. Here are our observations about what we recommend as a pretty darn fantastic overnight camping experience:

John & Michelle’s Favourite Things About the Hike

1. Diverse Terrain. The trail literally had it all. From typical Pacific Northwest muddy rainforest to rockslides that we had to scamper across to raging creeks that washed out the trail to a harrowing rocky pathway to Mordor or wherever the Gunslinger is headed, the trail really ran the gamut of sensation. It was listed as an intermediate hike, and you never knew what to expect.

2. Path-Plotting Creativity. As mentioned above, much of the trail – especially the half-hour before arriving at Greendrop Lake – was washed out by an overflowing and raging Post Creek. This inspired some pretty creative trail navigation, which invariably involved scurrying across logs acting as makeshift bridges, leaping across rapids and, one time, going about 300 meters in the wrong direction before serendipitously finding the path back to the lake.

3. The Destination (See Photos). Clearly, John and I had a really, really awesome campsite. It was secluded (until a really nice couple and their dogs arrived nextdoor), was a meter away from the icy blue lake, and had a gorgeous view of a cascading waterfall that fed the lake from the top of the mountain. In spite of our tent being pitched on an angle – which made sleeping fairly hilarious – it was the perfect campsite.

John and Michelle’s Observations of the Hiking Community

Garbarge-Throwing Partyers. John and I picked up our fair-share of litter along the trail. Shame on you, “hikers” – and we use the term loosely because camping and hiking should involve an instinctual love for and appreciation of nature, which you just don’t seem to have. Judging by the cans and wrappers that we saw along the way, what you do have is a love of beer and candy.

Danger Family Nature Awesome! Should an eight-year-old boy be balancing three feet above raging water on a wobbly and slippery log? According to some families (and, for the record, John’s dad would’ve been on this list back in the day), absolutely! For this is a fantastic way to build character and an appreciative respect for Mother Nature (or absolute fear)…either way, no one in this group is littering!

Team Hardcore. Maybe you walk across boulders in barefoot running shoes. Or perhaps you bushwhack your way past the end of the trail with hopes of finding “Hicks Service Road.” Or perhaps you get a bit lost, but intuitively know that a creek comes from a lake, so you just walk in waist-deep water up the creek until you arrive at your destination. And maybe you arrive at your destination, only to realize that all the camping spots are taken, so you eat your dinner and then hike all the way back to the first lake, Lindeman, only to return the next day so that you can find some fish in Greendrop. #hardcoreawesome

Friendly Folk. Most people we met fit into this category quite nicely. Nearly everyone said “hello” as we past, sure. But it’s the Friendly Folk who stopped to chat a bit. During the big incline at the beginning of the trail, a young lad encouraged us with a nice “you’re almost there!” Very friendly.

Jeans in the Wilderness. You read on the Internets that the first leg of the hike – to Lindeman Lake – is a “day hike” with a few camping spots. This informs your wardrobe choice as well as your decision to hike sans-eau. Also, when juxtaposed to people hiking in gear to Greendrop Lake (The Bornks!), it makes the latter folk seem so much more hardcore.

What John and Michelle Learned About Each Other

John: Michelle Bornk! is a good camper with a ton of spirit and mettle. What I learned about her is that she cannot yet read my mind during camping experiences. There were a few times when, for example, I would be holding the tarp or tent fly and then would look at her. She would smile and say, “Hi!” What I was thinking about and hoping for, though, was for a silent acknowledgement that it was time to shake out and fold up our campsite. These little nuances will take care of themselves following future forays into the wilderness. Exciting!

Michelle: John is an experienced camper, whom I can learn a lot from. He also has a lot of hilarious stories from childhood camping expeditions, which give me a hilarious glimpse into his past, his family, and who he is today. I also learned that John Horn is a man on a mission. There would be numerous times when I would have to ‘remind’ John that I was not directly behind him (usually by yelling or throwing things), as he would be so focused on making it to our destination. Perhaps, at the end of the day, I have learned that I should bring a whistle!

Exploring Parks

Like thousands of others, I spent the past May 24 weekend camping.  It was my second time to Algonquin Provincial Park in as many months.  My return to camping after almost a decade of only “car camping” coincided with Park Canada’s 100th anniversary, rumours about Rouge Park (in Toronto and Markham) becoming Canada’s first urban national park, and a conference I attended on Farming in the Park (that looked at a model of National Park in Ohio that is encouraging commercial farming).  This got me thinking about the reasons that we have national and provincial parks, what they contribute to community, and how the role of parks might change in the future.

Algonquin, the park where I just spent my weekend, was the first park the Province of Ontario established in 1893.  But it wasn’t until the 1950s that a parks department was created with the mandate of new and aggressive program to create more parks, primarily on the Great Lake and northern tourism highways.  But the early 1980s there was a comprehensive land use planning system to identify new parks, leading to 155 new park designations in 1983.  By 2002 there were 280 provincial parks encompassing 7.1 million hectares or almost 9 percent of the province’s area.

To help me understand the history of parks, Jim recommended a great open source ebook called A CENTURY OF PARKS CANADA 1911-2011 edited by Claire Elizabeth Campbell.  The follow excerpt from the introduction captured my attention.

We prize our national parks because they are places of physical beauty, snapshots of the incredible diversity of the Canadian landscape. We may also think of them as ecological sanctuaries that protect nature for us and, increasingly, protect nature from us. But national parks are not “islands of wilderness” saved from history: they are the work of human hands and records of our history. They document our relationship to nature, not just as we wish it could be, but as it has been. Public demands, political strategy, environmental concern, cultural symbolism, and scientific debate have all been inscribed in our parks.

This excerpt (and the rest of the chapter, which I encourage you to read) confirmed my initial thoughts that park building in Canada reflected a range of our values, including the emergence of conservation and environmental movements as driving forces.  But just as important was the increasing ability to access parks through private car ownership and the increasing demand to have places to go as we (sub)urbanized.

There are many implications of provincial or national parks on community.  An excursion into a park will test the immediate community of people that share the experience.  My three hikes through Algonquin’s back country trails included trusting the small group that I was with and our common experience of swarms of May black flies and mosquitoes or the April wade through icy waters.  There is camaraderie amongst park visitors as well.  In an urban or suburb setting it would be rare to start up a conversation when passing a complete stranger on the sidewalk.  On a trail (in our case our chosen campsite basically had the trail going through it so we never really left the trail) we chatted with every other group we encountered.  I also think national and provincial parks are integral to our common identity, whether from family trips, scout (or guide) camps, or just the generic Canadiana images we associate with our country.

I have no doubt that our national and provincial parks will continue to change over time.  If nothing else, there are strategic planning documents that the parks departments have.  For example, while there are already 42 national parks, the parks system is only considered 60% complete and new parks are already in the process of being designated.  But there are more than just new park additions that will change our parks.  The conference I attended last week is a good example, where the Cuyahoga Valley National Park has developed a focus on farming.  The park was initially formed in mid-1970s with a natural heritage focus.  The farms were mostly expropriated and gradually went fallow and started to re-naturalize as farmers retired or sold their land.  But since 2002 farming has started to be reintroduced into the park through long-term leases of rehabilitated farmsteads and associated fields to private citizens through a competitive bid-process. The reason behind this move was to make the park accessible to a more diverse audience and to respond to the growing demand for locally grown and sustainable foods.  I imagine that many of our parks, especially those that are near-urban, will make similar modifications to their planning and programming as our demands change.  As we becoming increasingly urbanized, as the price of oil makes trips to more remote parks increasingly expensive, and as our priorities for non-urbanized spaces change (like our current interest in local and sustainable food) our parks will continue to adapt, grow and shape the communities that use them.

Backcountry Mojitos Done Right

It’s summer, and with August long weekend nearly upon us I thought it time to share a camping tip that’s near and dear to my heart.

Eating and drinking well is one of my primary concerns when attacking a wilderness adventure. Actually, it’s one of my primary concerns in life.

Whether I’m camping with a big group of friends in a nicely groomed federal or provincial park or trekking in the backcountry, good food and drink is right near the top of the list of priorities.

wide mojitoIn the city, sipping a mojito on a patio is a fantastic way to enjoy sunset, and it’s no different when you’re out camping.

Mint tastes cool, so regardless of whether there’s any rum or not you get a tasty treat even if you don’t have any ice left in your cooler, or a stream/lake/glacier to cool your bevies in.

Here’s a trimmed-down trekking version of this patio-classic. It makes 4 mojiots and only adds about 750g to your pack.

Set aside 20 minutes at home to the mint syrup get the lime juice ready.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • ½ cup torn-up mint leaves

What to do with them:

  1. Add sugar and water to a saucepan, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until reduced by about half. I really like ginger so at this point I chop up a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger and drop it in too, but be warned, it’ll make your drinks spicy, which may not be so good on a hot evening.
  2. Juice a couple of limes into a little container like this, or just pack the limes with the rest of your food – the lime juice comes in handy for cleaning greasy dishes too!
  3. Remove from heat and add the chopped mint. Let it steep for a few hours or overnight in the fridge, then strain with a sieve or coffee filter into a container you can pack for your adventure.
lucy in the wild

My daughter's first caping trip - just because.

Finally, get two cans or a bottle of sparkling water or soda water, and if you’re of-age and responsible, some good rum.

I use cans because one can make two nice drinks from each can, and then use the cans for candleholders to up the romance factor after the sun sets. Rawr!

Plus, they crush down so they’re easy to pack out.

That’s it – once you’re out there it’s as simple as splitting the sparkling water between two cups or glasses, adding the juice of half a lime each, and syrup (and optional rum) to taste.

Stir with a twig, and enjoy.

Olympic Neighbourhoods: The North Shore

As a key media outlet for the 2010 Olympics, the Daily Gumboot is excited to bring you our “Olympics Neighbourhoods” series. Here’s how it works: each week, Managing Editor, Kurt Heinrich, and Editor-in-Chief, John will profile a different Vancouver neighbourhood with a specific focus on things that might interest out-of-town visitors who arrive in The Couve for the Olympics. We will do this between now and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and the story will be told be the Gumboot’s editors asking and answering the five questions below. These are the straight goods that you can’t get from VANOC, the Ministry of Tourism or the City of Vancouver. Let’s get to it!

Your Olympic Neighbourhood this week is…The North Shore!

1. Where is this neighbourhood exactly and how do I get there?

JOHN: Do you like boats? I hope so, because getting from Downtown to the North Shore means crossing one of two bridges or, if you go car-less, taking the Seabus to Lonsdale Quay. Here is an interactive map that really ties it all together.

2. Why should a tourist/traveler be interested in it?

JOHN: People from the North Shore will tell you that this community represents the pinnacle of a “West Coast” lifestyle. Truly, no other place in the Lower Mainland possesses the combination of nature, suburbia, urban-chique, and small-town-friendliness. This is the place where a traveler can realize the purest of West Coast experiences: catch a gorgeous view of the cityscape over a steaming cup of fair trade, locally roasted coffee and then move on to a day of skiing, golfing and kayaking or mountain biking and then wrapping it all up with a micro-brewed pint of delicious beer. It’s a beautiful thing.

3. What good and/or unique things are there to eat?

JOHN: I defer to Kelly White’s performance for this one. But, if you’re like 72% of our readership and sneak peaks at the Gumboot during free moments in your cubicle at work, then you might not be able to watch the video. If this is the case, there are, allegedly, super-popular, must-try cheese sticks at the Queensdale Market and the mysteriously fantastic sandwich makers at La Galleria in the even more mysterious Edgemont Village.

4. What can I do for fun in this neighbourhood?

JOHN: Ummm…everything! Again, I encourage you to watch this in-depth video about the secrets of the North Shore. Of all the places that Kelly took us, the Lynn Loop was the most inspiring. It reminded me of being back on Vancouver Island (where I grew up) and the idea of being able to do everything from a two hour round trip to an overnight camping excursion where, according to the locals, “you need to know what you’re doing” is what makes Vancouver an absolutely unique urban experience.Check out trails and a full list of other west coast activities here.

5. What are your three favourite things about the North Shore?

KELLY:

1. Being so close to trails and forest so that anyone can get away from the hussel and bussel of city life and enjoy the fresh air on weekends.

2. The friendly community-feel of the North Shore~ residents care about their community and it shows.

3. My favorite outdoor summer festvial, Caribbean Days! Every late July, Waterfront Park hosts a Caribbean Days event with music, a parade, food, and a beer garden. It’s the one event I never miss every year, it is awesome!

JOHN: I wholeheartedly agree with Kelly’s answers above (although I didn’t try the pizza at Taylor’s Crossing), but will just add that my Aunt Julie Ann lives in North Vancouver, so I’m always happy to visit her and get up to some shenanigans.