in the woods

Oh May. You are jammed packed with action – it’s hard to keep up.

Two weekends ago was the Eco-Endurance Challengean exciting and challenging eco-adventure hosted outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. The E2C is physically and mentally demanding, with an event area of more than 100 km2 of thick forests, wet bogs, fast flowing streams and miles of backwoods trails and cart tracks.

It’s a 24-hour event (from noon to noon) and I have done it with my mom (and sister Jill / cousin Kathleen / and mom’s hiking friend Alice) more times than I can count. You use your map and compass and have only a few hours prior to the start to decide a POA. What’s cool is there are all sorts of teams including trail runners, orienteers, mountain bikers, military, SAR, competitive, recreational, young, old and even a few dogs.

Here are some pictures from this year – we had great success. Success being measured for us not by winning, but by surviving… finding every checkpoint we searched for, no epic fails (unlike 2013) and injury free. EcoChalleng_16.1 EcoChalleng_16.2 EcoChalleng_16.3 EcoChalleng_16.4 EcoChalleng_16.5 EcoChalleng_16.6 EcoChalleng_16.7 EcoChalleng_16.8With my excellent search and rescue skills, I managed to find some old, older and really old pictures from past years. As I was once reminded… “it’s not a fashion show out there”!

2015: (cancelled because we had TOO MUCH SNOW)

2014: Jill, Alice, Mom and I had a great year. It was wet but we did well. We heard coyotes and persevered. EcoChalleng_14.1 EcoChalleng_14.2 EcoChalleng_14.3 EcoChalleng_14.42013: Jill, Alice, Mom and I had an epic fail. This happens when you get so lost that you are actually no longer on your map. We literally kissed the trail when we found it. EcoChalleng_13.1 EcoChalleng_13.2 EcoChalleng_13.3 EcoChalleng_13.4 EcoChalleng_13.52012: Alice, Mom and I on the goEcoChalleng_12.12011: My cousin Kathleen joined us one year – she was such a treat to haveEcoChalleng_11.1 EcoChalleng_11.2I can’t recall how many years it goes back for me but here are some more shots from other years.

2007:EcoChalleng_07.12006:EcoChalleng_06.1 DSC02210.JPG DSC02215.JPG2005: This was the wettest and worst weather ever. It poured all night and we stopped at 2:30 amEcoChalleng_05.1 EcoChalleng_05.2 EcoChalleng_05.3 EcoChalleng_05.4

-EcoChalleng_old2 -EcoChalleng_old4 DSC02211.JPGTrust me, it is truly an adventure! I strongly encourage you to polish up on your compass skills and meet us out in the woods next year. After all, it’s for a good cause – Halifax Ground Search and Rescue. So If you do get lost, they’re great to have handy!

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want to go for a walk?

Who likes snow, long walks in the woods, a winter adventure, hills, maps, orienteering, cold hands, cold feet, getting lost, then (hopefully) finding your way out?

Who doesn’t?

Early spring every year (almost) my mom, alice and sister Jill embark on a 24-hour eco-endurance challenge in the woods somewhere near Halifax. Throughout the 24-hours I go from dreading it, to loving it, to hating it, to loving it, to hating it and then loving it again. It pushes you and tests your limits both physically and mentally plus you get to orienteer yourself out of bogs and swamps with only a map and compass (Suri does not work well in the middle of nowhere. Trust me, I tried). I could go on and on about how fun it is and how it’s all for a good cause but instead, read my post here.

So, why am I talking about this in January? Well, good news!!! The Pugwash chapter of Search and Rescue is hosting a winter event: Storm the Mountain Adventure Challenge:

Have you ever been to the E2C and wished that someone would invent a winter version? Well our fellow Search and Rescue volunteers on the Pugwash team have answered your call! Pugwash GSAR are running their own adventure challenge this winter, in Wentworth, and we’re encouraging past and present E2C folks to sign up. It’s on February 7th, 2015 so you can expect snow and challenging conditions! There are 4-hr and 8-hr challenges available, with special rates for youth participants.

Now first, when they say Wentworth, know it’s the other side of the road. Not the ski hill. There won’t be chairlifts to ride folks. The good news is that the other side is beautiful and has great views. The bad news is there are hills and it won’t be easy. (If anyone has done the Sunofa Gunofa Trail run you will know what I mean by challenging) but if you are up for it, it will be worth it indeed.

Now that I have enticed you in with these sweet words or promising fun… Anyone interested in forming a team? Mike says he’ll do it but the problem is neither of us are great with a compass. I can get by but without my mom, I would be nervous. My team contribution is usually punch card holder/control runner and my nickname is Eagle Eyes – both have nothing to do with orienteering skills. That being said, I was born reading a map and I have been up there a dozen or so times plus, if we’re lucky and there is snow, we can benefit from tracks. So, if anyone out there is interested in joining us and knows a compass as good (or hopefully even better) as me, let’s do it! Even if we get lost, my mom is a member of Pugwash GSAR so I am quite confident they’ll look for us.

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Photo taken last winter of me having FUN in the snowy woods at my parent’s house.

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when the going gets tough

Over the weekend it was my annual mother-daughter Eco-Endurance Challenge. What’s this you ask? A fundraising event for Halifax Search and Rescue.

Here is their description of the event:

There are four exciting Navigational Competitions available, offering eight and twenty-four hour options. All challenges have the same full course open to them and use the same competition map. The Eco-Endurance Challenge 2014 will be an exciting and challenging eco-adventure hosted outside Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The E2C will be physically and mentally demanding, with an event area of more than 100 km2 of thick forests, wet bogs, fast flowing streams and miles of backwoods trails and cart tracks. It will challenge your navigational abilities as well as endurance in the backcountry of Eastern Canada.  This fundraising event promises to be equally fun and challenging for the seasoned adventure racer or the first time participant. The E2C is a hybrid of classical orienteering, ultra-distance running and the navigational training practices of Search and Rescue Emergency Responders. Good physical conditioning is necessary to push one through the tough terrain, but accurate navigation skills are key to finding controls and minimizing the distance traveled. The 24 hour challenge is mentally exhausting as team members must always be aware of their surroundings. Teams of two or more have a fixed time (8 or 24 hours) to visit as many of the 60 checkpoints as possible. The winner of the event is the team that obtains the highest point total within the specified time, or is the fastest to return to the start after visiting all the markers on the course. All profits from the Eco-Endurance Challenge are used to support the life-saving activities of Halifax Regional Search and Rescue and provide assistance to the Orienteering Association of Nova Scotia.  Revenues are used to support: Search and Rescue Operations, Children’s Hug-A-Tree Program, Training and Educational Programs, Medical Equipment and Supplies, Capital Asset Purchases.

Sounds fun, right? It must be, we keep going back.

My mom is a true veteran – she’s participated at least 13 times and has brought me and my sister into it. I am not sure how many times I have gone, but I do know I have been participating since at least 2005 and have gone every year with the exception of 2009 (David was born 3 weeks before the race). What’s cool about this event is anyone can participate – and you will see all kinds of people at the starting line: Orienteers, trail runners, the army, a few dogs, young people, old people, fast people and slow people. Yes, some teams do run all through the night, but I have learnt not to compare my team to them. Our team’s basic goals are to get as many points as possible, try to get all of the points we are looking for, challenge ourselves, stay warm and not to get lost. There have been epic fails, epic falls and moments of great compass-glory.

This year our team included my Mom, my sister and my mom’s friend. There is about a 35-year age difference between the youngest and oldest member but we worked well and did well. We were certainly not the fastest, nor did we get the most points but we had a great time. We got every point we went for and didn’t get lost once. There were even a few point we landed right on the marker! Basically the race starts at noon. You receive a 1:50 scale map a few hours before the start and decide a route. The harder the point, the more its value. The terrain consists of ATV trails, logging roads and lots and lots of messy woods. Bushwhacking at its hardest! You get wet, you get muddy, you get scratched, you fall, you climb, you crawl, and you walk many miles. When it gets dark, you turn on your headlight and flashlight and move forward. And, when the sun comes up again, you slowly make your way to the finish.

I encourage anyone to give this a try (as long as someone on your team can read a compass). It feels great to get outside and you get to use skills that are not needed daily.

Until next year, join the David Suzuki 30 x 30 Nature Challenge, find a trail or make a trail and have fun. Spring is finally here!

IMG_0380Items to pack: compass, headlight, flashlight, extra batteries, gloves, snacks, pain medication, whistle, map case, knife, jacket, bear bell and gators.IMG_0391Mapping our route.IMG_0393Starting line ready.

IMG_0396Team NorthboundIMG_0399Spring thaw was happening big time.IMG_0401Road block. IMG_0402You can’t go over it, you can’t go around it, you can’t go through it…
IMG_0404… You’ll have to go under it!
IMG_0405Knee deep in a bog.IMG_0406I spy a soaker
IMG_0408Supper time at the bridge.IMG_0410Finding flags is the best!

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