Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Paleo Power

My friend Russ inspires me. He was the one who had the courage to choose to live life with out alcohol, and gave me the support to make the choice as well. It was the best decision that either of us has made, and it has allowed us a connection above and beyond our already strong friendship. So when he started talking about the Paleo diet, I was quick to listen. While I am by no means an expert, or professionally trained dietitian I wished to share some of the things I have found while researching this lifestyle change.

The Paleo diet's roots are bedded in the vision of what our ancient ancestors would consume. Agriculture has only been with mankind for the last 10,000 years, where humans learned to cultivate grains and other plants. Before this we as a species were a hunter/gatherer culture. We moved with the prey. We only ate seasonally available foods. Our diets consisted of free-range wild game, fish, and eggs. These animals only ate their natural fodder, instead of being force fed corn or animal products. Ancient man would also gather nuts, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and other wild edible plant materials. The Paleolithic man's diet was very low on carbohydrates, sugars, and nothing was processed. The only carbs came from the fruit and veggies they were able to eat.

Proponents of the Paleo lifestyle argue that the modern diet of grains, processed foods and meat from un-healthy animals has contributed to our epidemic-like rates of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, auto-immune diseases and obesity. Since the age of agriculture our diets have changed from one based mainly on protein and fats, to one of cereal grains. The seeds of grasses have built the basis of our diet, and seeds in an unprocessed state are un-digestible to humans. We must process them to make the parts usable to our systems. These parts of the grain when eaten are turned into glucose by our bodies, which is sugar. Our blood sugar surges, causing our pancreas to work to balance it out, and store the glucose in our fat cells. Within a couple of hours our blood sugar crashes, making us feel famished, and grumpy. All this sugar intake is addictive, some say as addictive as nicotine or heroin. This might seem crazy, but does your mouth water when you see a puffy, sugar coated cinnamon bun or donut, and you suddenly feel ravenous. That is an addictive response, your endorphins release while eating these sweets, similar to opiate based drugs. It seems so crazy but it is true.

I used to finish the my day at work and on the ride home I would get so un-believably hungry, I felt absolutly empty, I could eat everything and anything. It would make me miserable. I felt terrible. This went on for months on end. I could eat an entire bag of potato chips and still feel the urges. Finally when I began experimenting with the Paleo lifestyle, this urge has calmed. My addiction to glucose was so strong. I used to eat up to six slices of bread a day, sometimes add in oatmeal, pasta, quinoa, rice or cold cereal. That is most of my daily calories coming from carbohydrates. I had a bloated, distended stomach, that would get worse as the day went on. Gas pains and embarrassing flatulence would follow. All because of these dietary choices. Beans were also hard on my system, and now I know why. Beans contain lectins, which are carbohydrate binding proteins that are toxic and inflammatory. Inflammation is a root cause of much of our digestion issues, which in my research, goes hand in hand with the most common serious diseases. Gut health is number one in keeping us at optimum health. On the topic of beans. I should touch on oils. Healthy oils from plants should come from plants that have naturally oily characteristics. Coconut, olive and nut oils are good. Canola, corn, cotton seed and soy bean oils are no good. They are manufactured from the seeds of these plants, the same seeds that are not easily digestable, and these oils aren't recognized by our bodies as real food. Butter, animal fats and the above oils are the ones to use for cooking. Coconut oil is especially great for frying. It has a high smoking temperature, is flavor-less(the extra virgin) and is solid at room temperature. I really like it and am happy to be turned on to it.

Paleo eaters should choose to eat grass fed herbivours, free range chickens, pastured pork and wild fish. These protein sources contain the correct balance of Omega3/Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory and Omega 6 is inflammatory. The balance in beef from a common super market meat display comes from a C.A.F.O., a feed lot where young steers are brought to fatten on a mix of corn, grain and antibiotics, living in terrible conditions. If you have watched the movie Food Inc, you know what I am talking about. This diet has no grass in it, and the animals fats get out of balance from this un-natural feed. Instead of a 1/2 ration of 3 to 6, it changes to a ratio closer to 1/10, which again may cause more inflammation.

These factory farmed animals are not only un-healthy for the consumer, it is also bad for the planet. The high input of fossil fuels to make fertilizers, transportation, and the mono-culture annual crops that strip the land with no natural fertilizer or compost to re-build the soil., making the majority of the planets farm land soil nutrient deficient. The plant will grow, but when we eat it, there is very little in it to actually fuel our bodies. That is a reason that super market produce may have less flavor than an organic local equivalent  The C.A.F.O.'s are enormous places of concrete and waste. No shade or cover from the elements. Hundreds of cattle packed in an area that a grass fed, free range cow would have all to itself. Eat, shit, get sick, and get slaughtered with in days of naturally dying because of the horrible food and conditions. It is a sad state and try to picture this when you order a fast food hamburger or a pack of steaks from the big grocery stores.

Healthy sleeping patterns are essential to good health. Shutting down the screens in you life, laptop, ipad or T.V. well before bed is a good move. Reading before nodding off, to me anyways, is a large part of my sleeping routine. I rarely am awake past 10 pm and if I am, a book is in front of me, not a screen. Trying to get into the natural rythms of sleep cycle is not easy, but if you can wake before your alarm and get out of bed, it will help get you day off with less stress. Waking every morning to an obnoxious sound, even if it is your favorite song, will begin the day with a high stress level. You may have to forgo some of your social life to meet your bodies demands for more sleep. Believe me it is worth it. Exercise is also vital. A strong body needs to be worked and if your job has you sitting all day, getting an exciting workout is key. My preferred sport for this is mountain biking. It challenges my heart, my legs, upper body and mind. It is explosive and anaerobic, intermixed with slow and sustained movement. I am not one to talk about different exercise programs, I have never been to a class in my life. I hear great things about Cross-Fit style of fitness. What every you prefer, just actually get out and do something.

My life has changed because of Paleo. Besides the ailments in my digestive system that I explained before, I also suffered from a problematic knee injury. It was brought on from cycling, running and work, activities that are pretty hard on my joints. I also had some un-explained ache in my shoulder that would come on and go away with no warning or noticeable injury. I did physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic, as well as pharmaceutical western medicine treatments. Since reducing the inflammatory causing foods in my diet these ailments have been greatly reduced. I can now push up stairs with that knee that would previously give me grimacing pain. I feel like I have been freed from a depression causing prison. Not being able to participate in the activities that I love so much was very tough.

So it all comes down to the food. What do I eat? Well, pretty simply, what ever I like. As long as the food doesn't contain grains or beans. I have been off of dairy for the most part for a few weeks. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Looking at labels has never been so important in my shopping routine. If it has a corn product, it goes back. I have really made an effort to eat whole foods, cooking and preparing basically all components of my menu. The grass fed vendors at my local farmers market have been very happy with my decision the past month, spending a decent amount with them on my protein. I am enjoying the dishes that I make. Omelets for breakfast, and usually a salad for lunch with some leftover protein from the dinner before, and then some sausages, or chicken for dinner with either roasted veggies or another salad. I feel full and content after I eat. The meal lasts easily until the next one. I have pretty much eliminated snacking. I still enjoy sweets, like ice cream or chocolate covered almonds, and I do allow myself to indulge in them once in a while. The carbohydrates that I used to like so much are not interesting to me anymore, as they make me feel crummy. A feast of popcorn a couple weeks ago left me with uncomfortable gas pains that evening while trying to sleep.

The Paleo lifestyle is something interesting to educate oneself about. I have never been one to diet for weight loss, more interested in the health benefits and how our bodies react to different inputs. The internet is chock full of information on the subject and several great books are available. My biggest tip would be to avoid highly processed foods with names you can not pronounce. The less it looks like food, the less your body will recognize it at food. If you eat crap, you will feel like crap. That is my outlook on this ideology. Have fun and support your local farmers.

Have a look at these links to visit some of my favorite sites about Paleo

The Paleo Diet: Loren Cordain publish one for the first books on the Paleo lifestyle

Paleo Plan: This site has a large selection of recipes

Robb Wolf: A former research scientist turned personal trainer who uses the Paleo lifestyle to change peoples lives with weight loss and fitness. Author of the Paleo Solution and host of a podcast of the same name.

Paleo 101: an easy how-to, so one can get the idea behind the lifestyle.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Adventure 21- Canoeing the Salish Sea

Perfect day on the water
So the title may be a little deceiving. We did paddle in the Salish Sea, but try as I might, I could not convince my ship mates to cross the north end of the formerly named Strait of Georgia bound for Savory Island. Finally I got my canoe out to Merville where it will be close to the ocean and easy to pack down the rocks and launch. The chances of using it are much better than it sitting in Cumberland in the back yard of my house. The canoe isn't fancy, it weights a ton, but it floats and since it isn't fancy we can bump it along the rocks and driftwood to get it into the sea. I have been wanting to use the canoe for the last two years and never found the time to do so. This year I decided it better get used or it might as well be sold.
King of the castle
Saturday after lunch we brought the canoe to the water, zipped up life jackets and set off for a paddle. It was such a great day. Major sunshine, not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Natalie had not been in a canoe before, and Sheena hadn't for many years. We were a little rusty at first with our paddling. The feeling of a boat rocking left and right can be somewhat unsettling. Every time someone shifted and the canoe tilted, Natalie got nervous. She would gasp and grab the gunnel. It was pretty cute. She was sitting in her inner tube that we brought in case she wanted to get out of the canoe and float out in the deeper water. Marshall and Sunny swam along side of us as we worked towards the giant rock in front of Coho Drive. Willow was in the boat with us between Sheena's feet.
Pretty girls
We made it to the big rock and Sheena and Marshall got up on it. The biggest trick was for Sheena to slip out of the canoe and into the water, without tipping our craft. Successful, but got Natalie a bit worried. There was about four feet of the rock exposed above the surface, and it is a tricky spot of get up on. It is steep and barnacle covered. It is really neat at this rock. At high tide it is completely submerged and is next to impossible to find by paddling around and looking for it. Sheena and Marshall both jumped off the rock. Marshall is a real pro at "super man" jumping off of high things into the water. Once last summer I brought him to the rock and he got up on jumped off the rock about ten times in a row. He loves it!
Alley Op
After the excitement Sheena managed to get herself back into the canoe, without tipping us. This time it really made Natalie scared. She almost started crying, but soon was fine. She was in the bow and had a paddle in her hand, and a great view of all things underwater. She was thrilled by everything she saw. I remembered that she had not had the chance to spend very much time in her life in a boat. There are so many more interesting things to see riding above the water. We saw cool seaweeds that were like trees. We normally see them at low tide and they are laying down on the sand. Schools of various species of small fish were roaming up and down the shore. I assumed that some of the smaller ones were salmon fry, plus herring, needle fish and perch. The shimmering scaled skin could be seen from a distance as they darted to and fro. We witnessed hundreds of sea stars, sunflower stars and bat stars, red rock crabs, sculpins and one large fish that I couldn't be certain of what it was. I think it was a cabazon. This fish was probably about 18 inches long and just laid on the bottom in the sand, probably ambush hunting. Really cool.
We made our way back to the shallower water and we practiced standing up in the canoe and rocking it about. I decided to roll myself out of the canoe, to see if I could with out capsizing it. Success. I then convinced Natalie to make her way out of the boat to join me in the water. She made it and soon was in her inner tube playing around. I climbed back into the canoe and then stood up and jumped over the gunnel. We almost had a tip over, but the canoe has a wide beam and it settled itself down. We played in the water for a while longer. I helped Willow out of the canoe and placed her in the water. She swam herself to shore! A 12 week old puppy swimming. So cool.
Dinner time
We all retreated to the driftwood up the beach for a break for reading and a snack. Soon we hiked back up the hill to the house to prepare for dinner. A fire and dozen and a half sausages that I purchased from my favorite meat vendors at the Comox Valley farmers market. We had turkey, bison, pork and venison sausages, cut up veggies and chips. Oh and we were cooking on a fire back down on the beach. Mom, Mandy, Brian and us had a nice time eating and eating. Natalie went back in the water and the dogs chilled out. Willow and Sunny were exhausted from so much activity. Marshall never rests when he doesn't have a comfy bed to lay on so he kept going back to the water to swim and wade around "fishing".
Big day for the little girl
We had a great day. It was so neat to see Natalie excited about seeing all the creatures under the water. Spending 10 hours on the beach is something that doesn't happen everyday, but it is a really nice way to have some relaxation. Find Adventure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What can we do?

It was lunch break at school today, and I looked at my Facebook, to see what was new and going on in my friends lives. The first three or four posts I saw were four separate people sharing links to stories about environmental and food related issues. The first one was referencing an item under review with the provincial government where farmed salmon can be classed as organic.(scroll about half way down the article to read the transcript) I almost flew through the ceiling. I am not a fan of farming salmon in ocean pens, and it is not unusual for me to fly off on a rant about the practice. All the things that are controversial about this industry and now trying to pull the wool over consumers eyes about it being "organic" is appalling. The second post linked another issue before the provincial government in which it would over ride the Freedom of Information law banning reporting on farm disease outbreaks. One would face stiff penalties for releasing this information. So would a fish farm worker be potentially jailed for talking to the media about a sea lice outbreak or an investigative blogger fined for reporting about a chicken farm having an outbreak of an illness where the animals have to be destroyed. Shouldn't our food producers be transparent with what is happening at their operation. Do you want to buy sustenance for your family from such a hidden process? I then read about other changes and cuts that the federal government are implementing to Environment Canada and there budget for research and development. This letter from an ex- Environment Canada employee who had lost her job due to budget cuts. It is a great read from someone who has inside information. Finally I read a article prepared on behalf of Elizabeth May, the leader of the federal Green party, as well as the only Green Member of Parliament in Canada. It breaks down the hidden budget changes that are going to reduce the amount of environmental concerns when regarding resource development and extraction. It includes changes to the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act and the Canada Seed Act, which transfers the responsibility from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to a "authorized service providers" eg Monsanto looking to see if any farmers are using their patented G.M.O. seed without buying it (even if the seed has blown or transfered by animal from an adjacent farm)

I lost my mind and I wanted to write this blog, swearing and cursing about what our government is doing to us, supposedly in our best interest. I absolutely do not trust what the government is doing in regards to our food system and our environment. I believe that the two highest levels of government are using the "economic downturn" as leverage towards the interests of multi-national corporations in the name of job creation. Now that the Harper government has a majority, they seem to be systematically wiping out all that stands in the way of "progress" and "economic growth", whether it be a wood duck, cutthroat trout, chinook salmon, humpback whale or sage grouse. Our opinion doesn't matter and any National Energy Board decisions can be reversed by cabinet. I am all for job creation, economic prosperity, good health, debt reduction by a smaller government. I am not is favor of selling out our country, ruining our environment, polluting our water, spending tax dollars subsidizing oil, gas, Big agriculture, and mining.

I decided that a positive spin on this frustration would be more productive. What can we do? How can we change? How can we trust what our elected officials are doing "for" us? I am by no means an expert. I can rant and blog about the "right" way to do things, but I am not living a "no impact" life. I drive, I buy food from around the world, I do not have a large garden. I do wish to use this blog and some of my research to help expose someone who may not know about these issues. I think a lot of people do not know the facts, not because they don't care, they just might not have the time or the venue for such exposure.

I did see a positive link on Twitter today. The city of Richmond is banning G.M.O. crops from being grown in the city limits. G.M.O. crops have been laboratory modified to create plants that have genes that are disease resistant, produce bigger yields or mature faster. These plants also may have unusual proteins that are not digestible to humans and animals, making them less of an actual food. This is a great step, and I wish that more municipalities would adopt this mentality, especially in area rich with agriculture. The Comox Valley should take note.

I would suggest starting small in making changes away from an industrial food system. You can start by reading labels at the grocery store and note the ingredients in the processed foods. Something like 80 percent if all processed foods contain some ingredient derived from corn, not just the whole grain, but something that has been chemically processed and separated form the kernel. High fructose corn syrup has been commonly linked to obesity, and it is used as a sweetener in an amazing amount of products, from soft drinks to salad dressing. The fast food industry has fattened their pockets on the backs of this tax payer subsidized mono-culture farming of corn. Learn about it.

Locally grown food may be limited at certain times of the year, in my area tomatoes, for example, are not readily available in the winter unless they come from Mexico. Local food that is fresh in my area during the winter isn't that exciting looking when shopping at the supermarket. Learning what to do with a cabbage, a turnip, kale, and potatoes can be kind of boring. Try taking one day a week to make a local only meal. It will allow for some research to find a good recipe, a trip to the farmers market, and a wonderful weekend evening meal. Make it a family event.

Plant a garden. A garden doesn't have to be on an acreage, teeming with towering corn plants, squash vines, bean and pea tripods, and vast beds of greens, berries and root vegetables. Just because you can't grow enough to sustain yourself completely doesn't mean you shouldn't grow something. A couple pots of soil on a deck can grow tomato plants and some herbs. A 4X8 raised bed can be filled with your favorite seeds and produce quite well. Put a fruit tree in the back yard. A tree can take a few years to establish good fruiting, but once they get growing, they will perennially produce delicious edibles for eating fresh or preserving. Find out if your municipality will allow one to have a couple of laying hens in the back yard. Fresh eggs are great, and hens are pretty easy to keep. Learn to forage too. Depending on your location, wild berries, shellfish, mushrooms, and greens are available. I forage for stinging nettles in the spring, oysters in the winter, berries in the summer and mushrooms in the fall. If you are not sure of what to pick, find a mentor to show you the ropes, especially with wild mushrooms. Foraging is a satisfying hobby, kids love it and will get your family out into nature and away from the T.V.

Buying meat from anywhere but a local farm should be avoided. The majority of grocery store meat is from C.A.F.O's or confined animal feeding operations , where the animals are fed an un-natural grain based diet, laced with antibiotics to fatten them quickly, kept in confinement standing in the excrement of dozens of other animals. These are horrible places and I have a hard time eating grocery store meat with out picturing these conditions. Even if the package says organic, it doesn't mean it is right.  Again, the farmers market is usually chock full of meat producers all year long. Talk to the farmer, ask questions. Look for words like "grass fed" and "free range" and ask if they do farm gate sales. This would suggest the producer is open to guests and run a transparent operation. Also, commercial fishers are a great source for local, sustainable, healthy wild food. Salmon, halibut, crab, prawns and shellfish are readily available in coastal areas, they are a wonderful ingredient to build a feast around, and have great nutrient and calorie content. I would also class farmed fish in the category of C.A.F.O. animal, and I personally avoid it all together.

When I first got interested in where my food was coming from, I read a pile of books. I will include a list of some of my favorites at the bottom of this blog. I truly believe that self education is essential in figuring out the best way to feed your kin. Based on what the government is pulling, do you really trust what the are telling us to eat? The food industry is a multi-billion dollar lobby to the governments of both Canada and the U.S. I worry about the links between our collectively failing health and what we put in our mouths. But that is not for me to tell you about. I am full of opinion, and while I would be happy to share those, you need to figure out what works for your situation. Eating locally and sustainable can be more expensive than buying your ingredients from a box store, the box store doesn't include the true costs to the environment and the subsidies of your tax dollars to fund a unhealthy food system (which include the oil industry. Read about it). Incorporate a non-fiction book about food into a book club or share one with a family member. The more on board with bucking the corporate trend, the better.

Home preserving is something that I wrote about before, and it is a fulfilling way to keep fast spoiling fruits and vegetables, as well as meats. You can enjoy local homemade apple sauce in January, or summer caught salmon smoked for a Christmas open house. Canning, smoking, and properly freezing is an enjoyable past time. Do it as a group effort, with friends or ask to learn from someone who is more experienced. You could also barter with someone who has the time and equipment to smoke some fish that you purchased, in trade for some of the product. I have done this myself, smoking and canning for family members. It works really well for me, and I want to do more of it.

I hope that I put a more positive, simple way that an individual can make a difference and not to support the things that "the man" is pushing on us. Do your due diligence and learn the fast, make informed decisions, and share with others who may not have been exposed to these issues. Walk, read, talk, share, love, be a good friend and neighbor, leave your car at home once in a while and get involved. Thanks for reading this long blog. I had a lot to say. Enjoy the links at the bottom. (I own several of these book and would be happy to lend out, it interested contact me.)

Omnivores Dilemma by Micheal Pollan.
A perspective from the industrial food system, organic farming and hunter gather. A true must read.

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Explains the rise of the fast food industry and its influence on our food system. Also see the film version

Food Inc by various authors
A compliation of essays from a number of authors, best know from the movie of the same name.

Don't eat this Book by Morgan Spurlock
Spurlock famously ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days for his documentary "Supersize Me" This is the book of his voyage into unhealthy.

The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
Lierre Keith was once a vegan for 20 years and her spiral into poor health was reversed once she introduced animal products back into her diet. A great look at how the body utilizes the food we eat and how the government food pyramid isn't necessarily the best way. (nothing against vegetarians or vegans)

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
Robb Wolf is a proponent of the Paleo diet and he explains how your body uses different proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Similar to Vegetarian Myth, but lighter and easier to read.

The Survival Podcast
covers preparing for system collapse and talks about farming, permaculture, shelter, preserving and alternative fuels. Not for everyone, but I really enjoy it. Catch the Lierre Keith interview.

The Edible Valley
A podcast featuring yours truly and Chef Jonathan Frazier. We cover the food culture of the Comox Valley. Content is limited at this time, but follow along for what the future holds.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventure 20- Merville trails

"Lets go Dad"
This long weekend was wonderful. Saturday the weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm. We began the day with a early morning trip to the Comox Valley Farmers Market for some tasty morsels for dinner. I purchased some free range chicken, grass fed bison, wild tuna and spot prawns. These wonderful gifts of our beautiful valley are helping me to follow along with the Paleo lifestyle that I have been researching and adopting. My grocery bill has increased because of it, but my conscious is clear, knowing that the animals that give their lives for my consumption are living a happy life. Eating the food they themselves were meant to eat and being given fresh air and room to roam and act as the critters they are. I will be writing a post about Paleo and why I chose this ideology at a later date. We made plans for my sister Mandy to come for dinner and a bike ride. Our choice for an adventure this week was to ride our bikes out on a trail in Merville. I won't go into detail on where this trail is, since it is on private land and would rather limit the amount of traffic in the area.

The trail
We left from the house and had to ride along the paved road for about a kilometer. Natalie has not had much experience at all with riding around cars, so I was particularly cautious. This section of road was also void of a paved shoulder, as with most rural roads in this area. The road was unusually busy on this long weekend because of a function that was happening close by. Natalie did great, staying close to the edge, not swerving out into the lane and not being nervous or skittish. We turned into a subdivision of acreages and follow a mostly flat route to the trail head.
The trail has been now opened up into a road again. I had never taken this route before and Sheena had said that it was a really nice double track trail before. Unfortunately, this is the case with private timberland and the road, although running in a beautiful forest, it was covered in ruts and loose gravel from the construction. It was still good riding, just not quite as perfect as it would have been before. Natalie was doing so well. Her attitude had returned to the happy, brave rider that I had before. She only had one crash when her front tire got stuck in one of the aforementioned ruts on a down hill, and it pulled her over. She suffered a bit of a scrap and some tears. I got her back on the saddle rather quickly, and with drops still running down her cheeks, she carried on and got braver. We got to the end of the trail and it forked. One way is washed out and has large lose boulders. I find this section really exciting, so we split. The girl ride went the dirt path. I missed out on some fun by the sounds of it. Natalie was riding over logs that littered the way. How cool! Mandy was getting more comfortable as well, and I think she is also falling in love with the sport. We met up again and traveled together back to the house.
Upon arriving, Natalie mentioned that she wanted to go swimming. Well it is decently warm out, not swimming weather by my measure, but sure why not. Down to the beach we go, three dogs, three grown ups and one eight year old who wants to go in the water. Marshall heads right in with no hesitation and swims circles around and around with no care in the world. Natalie slowly worked her way out to a boulder, falling down once and getting completely soaked. She didn't care to much. Brrrr. But I guess I was the one who did the polar bear swim this New Years day. It was a great end to a supreme day, and soon we were munching on a dinner made from delicious local ingredients and good company. Find Adventure.
Willow, the new addition

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Galloping Goose

Beautiful trestle
I was given a surprise day off of school today. We are having half a dozen plumbers join us for the last five weeks of class, so my teacher needed a day to bring them up to speed. We were told to self study. Well, I chose to take a personal day. It was a needed move. I have been having a hard time concentrating on the school work, dreaming about other, more fun things to be participating in. So with a whole day to myself in a new place I decided to do a big trip. The Galloping Goose Regional Trail was to be my destination, an out and back ride. The terminus of this trail is in the Sooke Potholes Regional Park, 56 kilometers from the starting point, which is located off Douglas street close to downtown Victoria.
This dude is METAL!! Blenkinsop Lake
I began my voyage from the house where I stay in Sannich, a suburb community of Victoria. A short, zigzag route called the Royal Oak trail takes me down to the Lochside trail, which runs north/south from Sidney to Victoria. The Lochside is a rail to trail that takes one from a rural agricultural area, crossed Blenkinsop Lake, fringes on Swan Lake Regional Park, crosses Quadra street, and a few smaller roads, including one somewhat busy and not very well laid out for cyclist, intersection. Before long I was at the whye, one side to Victoria and the other to Sooke. I hung a left to begin my unknown journey to places alien to me.
Lochside Trail
The Galloping Goose was once a a gasoline powered railway that operated on an abandoned CNR line. It passes through 7 communities in the Greater Victoria area. From urban, rural, and semi-wilderness, the trail sees a little bit of everything. I was happy with the low amount of people that I met. The ones I did were really courteous with their dogs. I met several other cyclist with whom I chatted with and gave me directions and local information. I helped on lady to find her dog, that had taken off into the woods. I passed her and shortly there after, I heard the dog down the bank. I called it and he came running up, and was soon re-united with his owner. I was able to plug in and listen to podcasts on my iphone, since I didn't have to be concerned with vehicles creeping up behind me. The only close call I had all day with an accident was having an issue unclipping from my pedal at an intersection, and for a brief, but terrifying second, thought that I was destined for the asphalt.
Sooke Basin
The first ten kilometers of the Goose is parallel to the Island Highway. How nice to see car commuters stuck in traffic while I cruise along at 25kph. The path is paved asphalt, two lanes about six feet wide each. Lots of room to pass pedestrians or slower cyclists. Being an old rail bed it is basically flat, a couple of ups and downs to get past road crossings and to approach bridges. Soon I was past the Burnside interchange and into a quieter place. A rest stop, complete with an outhouse and nice bike rack was a welcoming spot for me to lighten the load. Back in the saddle I set a quick pace and covered some terrain. Fast. Soon I was at the first big road crossing, with no intersection or crosswalk. I talked to another cyclist and he suggested jaywalking, so I just blasted across 4 lanes when it was clear. Now the trail turned to hard packed gravel. Not as fast as the paved parts, but the gravel is very comfortable and smooth. The trail was like this for the rest of the way out to Leechtown.
Leetchtown info
The trail now was running through more rural areas, smaller road crossings and less people on the trail. I was surprised by the amount of shade along the way. Good sized trees lined the route most of the way. That kept it cooler and my skin from being exposed to UV rays. I wore a long sleeve Merino shirt today to protect my arms. I passed Glen lake, and Luxton fairgrounds, where dozens of amusement park workers were setting up a large carnival. What a crazy business! The trail went through lots of green space including the impressive park, Matheson Lake Regional Park, which carries on into Roche Cove Regional Park. Roche cove is a small cove off of the Sooke Basin. It looks like a lake until you see the tide lines on the exposed rock on the shore. Just beyond this the trail skirts the ocean for a gorgeous kilometer, where one rides perched on the edge of the trail, 30 feet above the ocean. I passed through Sooke and was on my way out to the Sooke Potholes Regional Park. The Goose has several re-decked trestles that cross over deep canyons too. I didn't stop to look down, but they are neat, curving structures and fun to cruise over.
The train station
Sooke Potholes park included the last 10 kilometers of the route, and gradually turns into an incline. I was working pretty hard to keep up my speed. It stretches out past the viewing areas of the potholes and a campground to follow the Sooke River to the site of a town called Leetchtown. Leetchtown is now gone, torn down and reclaimed by nature. It was originally a gold rush town with gold being discovered in 1867 and mining continued until the 1930's. At it's heyday, Leetchtown had a bigger population than Victoria! A saw mill was constructed in the '30's and it ran until for 30 years. Some trails exist to bring you around the area, in the forest. I didn't venture to have a look, as I had another 60+ kilometers to ride home.
Sooke potholes
Chimney and column from some strange structure
I made it to the terminus of the Goose, took a picture of my odometer and turned around. The slight downhill made the return trip faster and I stopped along the way to take pictures of the river. I turned into a parking lot and found a picnic table for lunch. I took a quick look at the potholes. I think there are better places to grab a glimpse of the wonderful geographic formations but I needed to eat. Beside the parking lot a curious structure is viewable. It looks like it was once supposed to be a castle or a get away. Stone columns, a huge chimney and a stone foundation were all that remained, or all that was actually constructed. Very curious? I ate my lunch of cheddar cheese, apple, sardines in tomato sauce, and nut mix. I was joined by an elderly couple from Sidney who were out exploring the area by car. Well nourished with my Paleo inspired meal, I bid my company fair well and needed to get moving. It is really easy to stop, and getting going again could be tough. If I was touring, I most likely would have had a nap or read my book. But I wanted to get home to cook dinner and I had a liter of chocolate milk sitting in the refrigerator that was making my mouth water. A year and a half ago it would have been a cooler full of ice and beer. My how tastes have changed.
Curious deer
Pretty vista, I was looking for T Rex
I cycled at a good pace to get myself back to civilization. I saw a few quail and two curious deer before I left Sooke. The trip was nice and the views were amazing in places. I was still in the shade and a little wind had blew up, cooling me. I was surprised with the "rush hour" of cyclists along the last stretch on the highway. We were moving much faster than the cars heading out of the city to the burbs, with time to chat between lights and smiling faces. I returned home at 4:30. It was a good day of work for me. I was pleased that I had completed what I had set out to do, and the day was as big as any I had before this. I had a great day finding adventure in a new place, by myself. I would suggest the Goose for a day ride, but I would caution that pedaling for 120+k is really hard work, even if the trail is basically flat. There is no opportunity to coast, so you are turning the cranks constantly. I was on my road bike too. A mountain bike would be slower too, with a greater resistance in tires. Many points of access are available so riding for a couple hours is very do able and I would encourage giving it a shot. Find Adventure!
Love this sign

Monday, May 14, 2012

Adventure 19- Happy Mothers Day bike ride

Happy and ready to go
My sister, Mandy, called me early last week to ask if I wanted to take our mom out for an outdoor activity for Mothers Day. Mandy and I both enjoy exercising and being active, as does my mom. It was a no brainer for me to agree and plans were hatched to round up the family and go do something. Mandy's first suggestion was to get out for a bike ride. Of course that, again, was a no brainer as far as Natalie and I were concerned. Where to go? Well how about the Bevan trail? It is a pretty easy trail. No mountain biking skills required. So we hammered down the plan and a meeting time was set. Sheena, Natalie and I were to meet them out at the Puntledge River recreation area at the Comox Lake diversion dam.
Looking good Mandy
Of course the Bevan trail was the same one that Natalie and I were on last weekend. I figured that it would be a nice place for Mom, Mandy and Brian (my step dad) to work out the rust as neither of them had been on a bike very much in the past decade or two. Mandy borrowed my hardtail Marin. She had tried it last spring but thought it to big for her. This time, with the seat lowered it was no problem. Mom and Brian were comfortable on their respective wheels. Sheena and I were already warmed up from a break of day ride that morning in Cumberland. Natalie seemed like she was excited about going, but that became a different thing all together.
Bike gang
We left the parking lot, slipped down a short path onto Comox Lake main and made the 200 meter ride to the trail head. I decided that we would park at the picnic area, since we had a nice lunch packed in the Element that Sheena graciously prepared the evening before. I rode back with Natalie until the bottom of the first hill, then I rode ahead to let her have some riding time with Grandma. I think she got nervous about riding with someone else besides me, because she lost her groove. My usual happy, daredevil riding partner turned into a nervous, scared, wimpy little girl. I was frustrated. Here we were, all the grown-ups wanting to ride with her (they hadn't watched her yet), on a trail I know she can do, at a pace that isn't too fast. So her and I ended up hanging back and stopping for pow wows several times to try to motivate her. It didn't really work all that well, until almost the end. I had enough, that was hard. I want to be supportive and positive, but she knows how to play me for sympathy. I don't know how much to give and usually give to much.
Where are we?
Mandy realized that she had forgotten to lock her pick-up, so Sheena offered to ride back to the parking lot and take care of that for her. She took off and shortly after Natalie and I needed to stop to talk again, so the other three took off ahead. Three who had not been on the trail before and not familiar to the area. I asked them to stop at Palm Beach and wait for us. I though the trail was marked. It was, on the opposite side of the post. So they went right on by. Now we have three groups all riding away from each other. Natalie and I stayed put. Luckily I knew Brian had his phone, so I sent him a text message to turn around. Shortly after Sheena arrived. Then the other came, and we were all reunited. Okay, it is time to go back. I was very grumpy, not having fun at all, having to deal with Natalie's attitude.
Too big of a hill
We rode back and I stuck with Natalie, trying to help her along, so we could get back. Sheena's new puppy was at home and we couldn't be away for two long. We arrived back to eat a feast of Natural Pastures cheese, veggies, my smoked salmon, crackers, and some chocolate cupcakes. We also had some delicious soda that we purchased from the Farmers Market on Saturday. It is made by a company called Island Soda Works. Check them out when you visit the market.
Lunch time. What happened to the salami?
I think that everyone had a fun time, aside from me and Natalie. We will have to try again, and I am sure that she will feel much better next time. It sure was a beautiful day. Find Adventure! with your family.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Adventure 18- Bevan Trail

Too cool for school
The trend continues. This the third cycling adventure in a row. It may be short in text and long in photos. I am feeling pretty run down today. Waking at 3 am, then not sleeping very well after, springing up as my alarm sounded at 4 am, then driving to Victoria and doing the school thing, it takes it's toll. The first day is always the hardest, and I am excited for exploring down here and getting out running and cycling on some of the islands finest trails.
She is getting braver

Still brainstorming more and more ideas, I am wanting to take Natalie on as many double track trails as we can find to practice riding her new wheels. As her confidence builds we can move on to progressively more challenging areas, and more adventures. The Bevan trail is a wonderful place for these kinds of opportunities. Kind of like the little sister to the more popular River trail/Bear Bait section on the west side of the upper Puntledge river, the Bevan trails and the River trail east are just as beautiful and for the most part forgotten about by many outdoor seekers. The Bevan is less "mountain bikey" than Bear Bait, with less elevation change and technical rooty sections. Nary a log pile or tight quick turns, just a fun double track that meanders about 4 kilometers to the Puntledge river diversion dam.
Mining history
Dusty comes everywhere. This bear was born to bike:)
This area at the turn of the century was home to the Number 7 coal mine and the complimenting village. I wish I had done more homework of the history of Bevan. It was at one time a stand alone community with its own store, church, and school. Present day Bevan includes a small cluster of rural homes and a hostel. Very little remains of the once busy mine site, aside from many concrete structures still standing. I am unsure of what these were utilized for, there are possibly dozens of such structures around the Comox Valley, either from coal mining, energy creation or sawmills. The Bevan trail appears to my novice historical eye to follow either an old rail bed or road, most likely the former. The grade is very pleasant, with a couple of climbs and descents, nothing to challenging. Natalie had to do some walking, and I got to do some climbing. Marshall came along for the ride, and was very happy to go for a swim at Palm Beach, a small sandy cove on the Puntledge. We were out for about three hours on a gorgeous Sunday, and we encountered two horseback riders and two walkers. Incredible. How many folks were at Walmart..... Just saying. I spied a few mushrooms along the way. I have not exactly decided the species, I believe it to be a type of false morel.
False Morel?
Puffball when immature
Natalie continued her habit of riding through all sorts of puddles, and some were very sticky, thick with a viscous black ooze. Remnants of the mining days. We explored the concrete structures. It is really amazing that trees probably 40 years old were growing in amongst these long forgotten relics. The entire area was once completely cleared of timber, and now the second growth is probably close to 80 years old, healthy and strong. Amazing how fast the good Mother will change a once scarred area and make it beautiful again. I love these biking adventures with my best friend. She is gaining so much confidence in herself from the cycling, and it really shows, on the trail and at home. She is more sure of herself, the way she talks and acts. She is more prone to helping out, less asking to watch t.v. Next weekend I am sure we will find ourself venturing out to find adventure on two wheels. Go find some for yourself.
The Crew having a break.