Trip Delayed….

Well, we just got home from a long day at the hospital. While many people worry about the dangers of travelling,  accidents at home are actually much more common. We were preparing ourselves for the rough and challenging Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island and the wave and wind pounded exposed western coast but what ended up being the most dangerous was a rotten inner-tube in a neighbour’s dolly cart.

Bryan was helping out a neighbour move a new fridge. First, he was inflating the tires on an old dolly with the air compressor. The wheel said it was good until 90 psi but not even at 50, the tire exploded. The metal rims struck both of his hands, cutting deep until white was exposed.

Luckily, we live only minutes drive from the local hospital and Bryan was on a bed in the emergency room within 10 minutes of the event. The nurses and doctor at Ladner Hosptial were wonderful, skilled and to be commended but it was still a very, very long and painful afternoon. Both of his hands needed stitches, a tendon was nicked in one hand and severed in the other. He also fractured bones in the hand with the severed tendon.

Needless to say, hand injuries do not bode well for kayaking. Bryan will be ok but it will take time to heal and plans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island by kayak are postponed. However, I’d like to emphasize that plans have been delayed rather than ended. We will probably still have a month or so at the end of summer and while it won’t be enough to go around the whole island, we will still be able to do an awesome trip… in practice for attempting to complete a circumnavigation next summer! The big bag of dehydrated chili will go into the deep freeze, where it will keep longer since there’s meat in it, and we will continue to dream of the blue.

Dehydrating 101

Dehydrator city!
Dehydrator city!

In these last two weeks before heading out, I have been dehydrating up a storm. On the downstairs counter is four dehydrators lined up in a row pumping out dehydrated food for us to take with us on our expedition. We try to have about one week of dehydrated meals as back-up in case we’re not able to forage for food (bad weather, surf beach, provincial and/or national park are just some of the reasons). However, in the DIY spirit, we dehydrate our own meals instead of buying camping freeze-dried meals…and it’s easy!

Dehydrating food makes it light, pack so much smaller and lasts a lot longer. Last week, I was dehydrating a lot of fruit (so tasty to munch on as a snack or to flavour porridge!) , fruit leather (ground up fruit and dried like a fruit roll-up from when you were a kid!), and veggies (broccoli, peppers and corn OH MY!). We also made our own beef jerky and it dehydrates so easy that you’ll never buy expensive store bought jerky again! This week, I am simply making dinner and dehydrating the left-overs. I currently have a big pot of chili simmering in a slow-cooker, which is a favorite back-up camping meal for us.

The secret’s out: YOU CAN DEHYDRATE (ALMOST) EVERYTHING!

A few simple rules:

  1. Fat does not dehydrate so try to minimize it. Yogurt can dehydrate but it never re-hydrates the same.
  2. Big chunks take longer to re-hydrate so chopping things really small or shredding is great, blending soups is even better! Chili using ground beef works well but I made another dish with chunks of chicken that took forever to re-hydrate.
  3. Dehydrate like with like. If you have one tray of peaches and another of broccoli, you’re going to get broccoli infused peaches (maybe ok?) and peaches that taste a bit like broccoli (not as good…)
  4. Mark the quantity you dehydrated so you know how much liquid to put back in. Add liquid conservatively….you can always add more water but you can’t take it out once it’s in!

That’s it! Have fun dehydrating! If you’re looking to get a dehydrator, the ones with fans in them are the best.

Here are some dehydrating tips and ideas our experiences:

Dehydrating Fruit

dehydrating peaches
dehydrating peaches

Fruit is amazing to dehydrate and it’s so tasty to munch on. It’s great in oatmeal and to supplement granola/trail mix. I chopped up apples, peaches, bananas and strawberries and also dehydrated some raspberries and blueberries too.  With fruit, really anything is possible.

** With fruit that turns brown when left out (i.e. apples, pears, peaches), soak it in a little lemon juice and water for about 5-10 minutes before putting it on the dehydrator.

FRUIT LEATHER

A fantastic way of preserving fruit is to puree it and then spread it out on the dehydrating tray. Some dehydrators have fruit leather inserts but you can also easily make your own with parchment paper (not wax paper). You want to be careful to not over dry fruit leather or else it cracks. Once it is not sticky to touch anymore but still a bit pliable (like leather, who would have guessed?), peel it off carefully then cut into the size you want and roll it up in wax paper for storage.

Some of my favorite combinations are:  raspberry & strawberry, blueberry & applesauce* with a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, and the all time favorite, blend up all the fruit I have in my fridge for a kickass mixed fruit leather!

*Apples are a great filler and give a little extra sweetness to sometimes tart berries. Applesauce is really easy to make. Just boil up four roughly cut and peeled apples with about 1/2 cup of water, add a little honey/brown sugar/ maple syrup as you like, optional cinnamon. Boil for about half an hour and then blend in a food processor or blender after it’s cooled a bit. Presto! Delicious homemade applesauce!

Dehydrating Veggies

Dehydrating broccoli
Dehydrating broccoli

Veggies also dehydrate well and it really reduces the weight and space of carrying delicious veggies. A large ziplock bag of broccoli turned into half of a small ziplock bag of broccoli. Six full sized carrots turned into something I could hold in the palm of one hand. Dehydrating veggies separate means you can be versatile with your meals, coming up with meals on the fly or jazzing up other meals. This is new for us and thanks for backpacking guru, Lauren, for her suggestion! Now, we will have our freshly caught fish plus a side of quinoa with some dehydrated veggies tossed in while its cooking for an awesome dinner!

Some tips dehydrating veggies:

  • Soak broccoli in salt water for 10 minutes before throwing it on the dehydrator. This will help it keep its green colour
  • Bell peppers (all peppers actually) dehydrate well and really keep their flavour. Chop it up in small squares for better dehydrating.
  • Mushrooms soak up flavour so you can make little mushroom “bullion cubes” by soaking them in beef or veggie stock for about 10 minutes before dehydrating
  • Frozen veggies work great. Throw frozen peas and corn straight onto the dehydrating trays
  • Carrots can take a long time to re-hydrate. Some ideas for quicker re-hydration is to shred the carrots or cook them first. I tried cooking them this time and they dehydrated so small!
  • Leafy greens dehydrate well including kale, Swiss chard, spinach and more. You can also dehydrate herbs quite well too

Dehydrating Meat

Meat can re-hydrate kind of tough and use a higher heat on your dehydrator to make it safe. Many dehydrators have a meat setting.

Ideas for dehydrating meat include:

  • Deli cold cuts such as ham, turkey, chicken, lean roast beef –  Cut into strips to dehydrate. This can be a great addition to mac and cheese!
  • Canned tuna – Screw the heavy metal can! Make sure you get the tuna in water rather than oil
  • Similarly, canned chicken! – the key apparently is that canned chicken is pressure cooked. If you have a pressure cooker, you can do it yourself. See this website for more details: http://www.backpackingchef.com/pressure-cooking-chicken.html
  • Ground beef apparently dehydrates best with some breadcrumbs added in – 1/2 cup for every pound of beef, make sure you use lean beef. Bread crumbs allow more liquid to penetrate the dried meat when you re-hydrate it so it turns out more tender!

Honestly though, I don’t dehydrate meat separately all that much.  I have ground beef in my delicious dehydrated chili but I don’t normally have a bag of simply dried ground beef. The BEST WAY  to dehydrate meat is beef jerky!

BEEF JERKY

Beef jerky is so easy to make that you’ll never buy expensive store bought jerky again! First get a big hunk of beef roast then slice it. If you have a slicer, that’s great. If you don’t, a tip is to put the meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing and it will make it easier to cut. Cut the meat into about 1/2 inch slices – too thin will make the jerky really crispy while too fat will be hard to dehydrate. Use only lean meat for dehydrating and cut out fat parts as fat will go rancid and spoil faster.

We made a simple teriyaki sauce for the beef with soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, a bit of garlic powder and cayenne. Some other things you can add in include liquid smoke,  black pepper, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s hot sauce and Tabasco. Play with the different amounts and see what tastes good for you. Just make sure there is enough to cover all of the meat.

Leave the meat to soak in the sauce overnight and then put it on the dehydrator. Like fruit leather, you want the meat to be completely dry to touch but still pliable and bendy.

 

Enjoy and comment below on any dehydrating thoughts!!

 

 

 

The famous Tilley hats and more!

Bryan and I infront of all their hats!
Bryan and I infront of all their hats!

Last Thursday, we visited the Tilley Vancouver store right by Granville and Broadway (technically, Granville and 8th ave) . As we walked in, we were greeted by Yukiko, the assistant manager of the store who has been working there for 15 years and can list off the different variations of endless models of clothing and hats by heart, and by Nikki, the store manager whose’s been associated with Tilley all her life.

Nikki’s last name is Tilley if that gives you a better idea of her association with the brand!

It was Nikki’s uncle who made the first Tilley hat, which is now known for its amazing durability for adventure and its rock-solid warranty. It is a hat for life, literally, because you go back to the store and exchange it for a new one if it gets  worn out.

The back wall of the store is filled with hats of all different sizes and styles. The hats are partially hand-stitched so the sizing is sometimes a bit unique to the hat. Nikki brings out a stack of hats of the same marked size for me to try on as she critically evaluates how it fits me.  I ended up choosing the T4MO Tilley Organic Airflow hat, which has a mesh crown for ventilation and is made from organic cotton!

Once we were finished with the hats, we went onto some pants. Bryan got a pair of Legends Zip-off Pants, which is guaranteed not to wear out for life! If it gets a hole from wear, he can just go back and exchange it for a new pair!

I got pair of Venture Trek-4-in-1 Zip-off Pants,  which is like the one pair of pants to rule them all. There are four options to wear these versatile adventure pants with two different levels to roll up into capris and then it also zips off into shorts.

Bryan and I with Yukiko and Nikki
Bryan, me, Yukiko and Nikki with our proud Tilley hats

After our trip, we will post gear reviews of these items. We are so excited to have these on the trip!

Eager to use them in as much outdoor adventure as possible, we headed out to camp with our friends at Harrison Lake over the weekend. The sun was shining, the lake was cool and wonderful to swim in, and our Tilley hats and pants were marvelous.

Our kayaks

IMG_0041Bryan paddles a Seaward Chilco named Honeybee (for the black lines across the yellow top fyi). It is 18.5 foot long, 22.5 inches wide and 14 inches depth. It has total storage of 346 liters! The Chilco is multi-chine. Well defined chines allow for more stability. IMG_0039 I (Maggie) paddle a Necky Arluk I, so says the writing on my boat. There’s not much info that can be found about my boat because she is so old…*ahem* experienced. Wavedancer was built in the late 1980s. She is named Wavedancer because she is like a 19 foot needle in the water, slicing through waves.  She’s narrow and has a rounded hull making it super responsive (I just have to think of turning and usually my body language moves the boat in that direction) but is less stable than the Chilco. Both kayaks are kevlar (bullet proof vest material!). We invested in kevlar because it is much lighter than polyethylene (plastic) but tougher than fiberglass (lots of barnacles on the rocks and beaches in the Northwest coast). We both got our kayaks used off Craigslist.

My Necky Arluk I on the right and Bryan's Seaward Chilco on the left
My Necky Arluk I on the right and Bryan’s Seaward Chilco on the left

Vancouver’s Kayaking Gem: Indian Arm

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Our kayaks at Granite Falls beach near the end of Indian Arm

Kayaking up Indian Arm is probably one of Vancouver’s best kept secrets where locals flock to on a sunny evening or weekend. It is close to Vancouver (transitable!), has a kayak rental place right at the beginning in Deep Cove (accessible for those who own or don’t own kayaks!) and it is a wilderness paradise (roads end soon after Deep Cove). Indian Arm is a steep-sided glacial fjord close to the city of Vancouver extending north for about 20km from Burrard Inlet.  It was an easy choice for us for a practice paddle up Indian Arm last weekend with a couple friends in preparation for our larger journey around Vancouver Island this summer.

Map of Indian Arm
Map of Indian Arm

Indian Arm is at the heart of indigenous Tsleil-Waututh Nation since time immemorial. Since 1995, much of Indian Arm has been made into a provincial park named the Say Nuth Khaw Yum Heritage Park (aka Indian Arm Provincial Park), which is co-managed with Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Fun fact, a rough wilderness hiking trail goes around the perimeter of Indian Arm, created over many years by Don McPherson who also created the Grouse Grind!

Launching at Deep Cove
Launching at Deep Cove

We started at Deep Cove near the entrance of Indian Arm. Burrard Inlet and the opening of Indian Arm was mapped first by Captain George Washington and then Indian Arm was fully explored later by Dionisio Alcala Galiano in 1792. Kayaking out of Deep Cove, we followed the western shore past gorgeous homes and old family cabins nestled into the cliffside.

Getting some help putting on my sprayskirt! I don't remember it being THIS tight!! haha
Getting some help putting on my sprayskirt! I don’t remember it being THIS tight!! haha

Talking to another fellow who comes up here regularly, he said that there are two types of people who live up around Deep Cove and Indian Arm – the hippy, live off the land type and the independently wealthy. Well, after about 3km of paddling, we get up to Lone Rock Point where there is a small “lighthouse” beacon by a gorgeous home with its own helicopter perched precariously on wooden landing pad that pulled up from the beach. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm6vV6rPwgE Lone Rock Point is the closest crossing point to Raccoon Island. On hot summer days, a wind picks up in the afternoon whipping up the channel causing a bit of chop to the waves and lots of little powerboats, sailboats and yachts zipping around. However, the crossing is not long and soon we were at Raccoon Island. Raccoon Island is day-use only and apparently should be named Goose Island because it is invaded by Canadian Geese. As we paddled by Raccoon Island, a couple Canadian Geese trumpeted their dislike of our arrival.

Camping at Twin Islands
Camping at Twin Islands

Twin Islands are about another kilometer further.  The two islands are very close to the mainland and seem to detach themselves as we paddled closer and depth perception increased. The smaller southern island is day use only while the larger north island has five wooden tent pads nestled in the forest.

Trails on Twin Islands
Trails on Twin Islands

There are little trails all over the small island that we wandered around in the afternoon all the way out to the northern tip of the island where there is a small “lighthouse” beacon and then trails south over the rocky hill and down to the small beach between the islands and a quick trail there back to the dock on the northeastern side of the island. The north island is covered by tall evergreen trees and a thick underbrush that is almost completely edible! Hardy green salal carpets the forest floor with delicate little white bell flowers hanging in a row. Huckleberry bushes already have plump red berries on them and a salmonberry bush welcomed us onto the island right off the dock ramp. Around dusk, a deer timidly wandered by very close to camp.

It was about 5.5km paddling from Deep Cove to Twin Islands. About 5km further north following the eastern shore, we came up to two old BC Hydro powerhouses built in the turn of the century where Gothic stone architecture made them look like an old castle. We paddle by Buntzen No 2. first, built in 1914 and then around the corner is Buntzen No. 1 built in 1903 to power Vancouver and upgraded in 1951. Penstocks direct water down from Buntzen Lake about 150 metres up the hill. The lake is in turn replenished though a tunnel from Coquitlam Lake, which was completed in 1905.

Approaching Buntzen No. 2 powerhouse
Approaching Buntzen No. 2 powerhouse

Though Buntzen No. 2 looks a little like a setting from a horror movie with broken windows and only the only sign of life is one fan high on the stone wall spinning away, they are still functioning. One unit at Buntzen No. 2 was shut down in 1972 but the two remaining units can still produce 17,800 kW. Both plants are remotely monitored and operated at a facility on Burnaby Mountain. On Buntzen No. 2 is a small sign that cautions people from getting to close as there can be sudden outflows of water. Ironically, the writing is so small that you need to be close to read it! Fun fact, Buntzen Lake and powerhouses is named after Johannes Buntzen, a Dane who was the first general manager of the BC Electric Railway and was called “the grandfather of electricity” in British Colombia!

Granite Falls 1887
Granite Falls 1887

After the long Buntzen Bay where Buntzen No. 1 is located, Croker Island comes into view in the middle of the channel and Granite Falls is tucked in behind. Granite Falls today is a beautiful wilderness boat-access-only campsite with about seven gravel tent pads and extra camping on a grassy field south of the falls. Though many people love Granite Falls for its wilderness, it was actually the site of a huge rock quarry as early as 1891. Stone from Granite Falls was used to construct grand new buildings in the young city of Vancouver around the turn of the century.

Granite Falls Quarry circa 1925
Granite Falls Quarry circa 1925

The Granite Falls Quarry bunk-house and cook-house were completely destroyed by fire in September 1946. Throughout the 20th century, the Indian Arm fjord was a popular destination for day-cruises, including a daily steamship up to the posh Wigwam Inn, originally opened as a luxury German resort and fishing lodge in 1910 located at the north end of Indian Arm (currently owned by the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club as an outstation for club members). In 1965, Granite Falls was the site of an ambitious resort project with a marina, lodge, dinner and dancing facilities, beer garden, roller skating pad, picnic area and horseshoe pitches.

Brochure of the Granite Falls Resort from 1965
Brochure of the Granite Falls Resort from 1965
Picture of Granite Falls Resort 1965. The Galley is probably sitting right where we camped this past weekend!
Picture of Granite Falls Resort 1965. The Galley is probably sitting right where we camped this past weekend!
All that's left today of the busy industry here in the past!
All that’s left today of the busy industry here in the past!

A view of the falls now….much different from the previous pictures from the past: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSgRDCvo02c Today, it is a tranquil place with its campsites filled with paddlers. Boats come in for the day to splash around in the waterfall but then leave to anchor with other boaters in different areas.

The
The “Waterslide” at the base of the waterfall. The middle portion is the place to slide down rather than from where the water comes out. There is a bit of a drop from the first tier to the other which tilts people forward so they land headfirst into the shallow water. This is also the perfect water level…any more or less is dangerous. There is apparently a rock that sticks out if there’s less water that cuts people (a regular to the falls told us to look for the iconic 4 inch scar on the left shoulderblade on other visitors to the falls).

There is a lovely shallow pool at the base of the waterfall including a cool waterslide down the lower part when the water level is right (see picture for more info). However, the secret is to climb up to the second tier where the views are gorgeous and there is an emerald green pool deep enough to dive into. There is a beautiful cascade tumbling into the pool and more cascading down onto the ground. Follow the dried creek-bed on the south side of the waterfalls and then ironically, follow the dangers of climbing up the waterfall signs. It is a steep climb using roots as handholds and only go up to the second tier if the conditions are good.

Cascade into the lovely swimming hole up at the second tier of the falls
Cascade into the lovely swimming hole up at the second tier of the falls
Bryan taking in the gorgeous view from the second tier of the waterfall
Bryan taking in the gorgeous view from the second tier of the waterfall

However, the swimming fun is not just limited to the day. We went for a midnight dip in the bay where every movement sparkled with bioluminence. These glowing sparks are plankton that produces their own light through a chemical reaction when disturbed. It was very surreal to swim in the dark waters where each of our movements was followed by a swirl of light.

Perfect conditions in the morning leaving Granite Falls
Perfect conditions in the morning leaving Granite Falls

There is a mass exodus from Granite Falls early Sunday morning. We all wanted to paddle out early when the fjord was calm. The water surface was like a mirror and fog curled out of the mountain sides. As the day heats up, the wind picks up and is channeled down the fjord into a challenging headwind. We crossed over to the western side of Indian Arm and stopped at Silver Falls about a third of the way back to Deep Cove. You can hear Silver Creek before you see it. The roaring sound leads us to a little nook with beautiful translucent green water and a waterfall behind some rocks. There is a lovely pool for some refreshing swimming.

Leaving Granite Falls at around 8am, we were back in Deep Cove by around noon after a leisurely 17km paddle. It has been a great paddle to get ourselves back onto the water and hang out with friends, Mike and Lauren!

Great times with great friends!! Thanks for all the fun, Mike and Lauren!!
Great times with great friends!! Thanks for all the fun, Mike and Lauren!!

How to paddle up Indian Arm:

  • You can launch your own kayak at the beach in front of Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Center. If you have a vehicle, you can rent a kayak at MEC (cheapest) and bring it there. If you want really easy and/or don’t have a vehicle, you can rent at Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Center and launch right there!
  • Paddling to Twin Island – best route is to kayak up the west side of Indian Arm up to Lone Rock Point for the shortest crossing to Raccoon Island and then Twin Island is only a little farther away. About 5.5km
  • Paddling from Twin Island to Granite Falls – stick to the east side of Indian Arm. You’ll see Buntzen No. 2 power plant from Twin Islands, which is about 5km away. Buntzen No. 1 is around the point in Buntzen Bay. After crossing Buntzen Bay, you’ll see Croker Island and Granite Falls is behind the island. About 12.2km
  • Paddling from Granite Falls to Deep Cove – cross to the west side of Indian Arm via Croker Island. Silver Falls is after about 6km and just before the first dock on the trip south.  About 17km

Wicked Weekend Paddling in Indian Arm Video

Kayaking up Indian Arm from Maggie Woo on Vimeo.

A short just over 2 minute video of our kayaking trip up Indian Arm this past weekend. As you can tell from the video, it was a great little trip that was tons of fun and great practice for our expedition around Vancouver Island starting in just a couple weeks from now!