family, life

Tiny House Escape: Pender Island

We planned to take our tent trailer over to Pender Island for a couple of nights, until we heard the forecast. When we saw it was supposed to pour rain the whole time, the thought of driving an hour west to pick up the trailer then an hour south to get on the ferry, made camping significantly less appealing.

So two days before our trip, I looked on AirBnB and found a tiny house available for rent. Like many people, our daughters are fascinated by the tiny house movement and the minimal lifestyle so it seemed like kismet that it was the only detached accommodation available.

And boy, did we have fun!! Hiking on the nearby trails, getting caught in a cloudburst, playing cards (Cheat – such a hilarious game), watching the random movies left in the tiny (Mermaids – Cher and Winona Ryder= bizarre movie), playing tetherball and just enjoying being together away from regular life.

The bridge between South and North Pender

This sign on Mt Norman cracked me up. I didn’t see at the time that someone had scratched out Steep Trail and wrote ‘falling zombies’. It was very steep, we didn’t get to the top because we were just scoping it out on our morning walk. Next time…

We love going to the playground at the community school to play tetherball. It’s the only ball sport I’ve ever enjoyed – probably because the ball’s attached! It brings back great childhood memories at the same time as creating hilarious new ones with our youngest; we end up laughing so hard we can hardly play.

Not so into tetherball. 😴😴😴

The most incredible thing that happened was that this Prairie-born girl finally saw whales on the ferry! Despite the ferry running late, the captain was kind enough to slow down when he saw the whale watching boats congregating.

After 30 years living here, never seeing whales on the ferry (off the ferry? 🤪), I was skeptical and didn’t spend too long looking. For whatever reason, at the last minute I decided to stand on the edge of the truck so I could see over the edge of the ferry and – oh my! Humpback whales!

So small and insignificant in my little photos, but there is something so magical about the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. When we are blessed enough to see them, even for a second, it’s an important reminder about the magic and beauty of this world, and our place in it.

So even though we were disappointed to not use the trailer (grateful after the cloudburst!!!), it ended up being a great trip in a completely different way.

Life is funny that way.

❤️ Amanda

life

Walking on the moon – Gabriola Island

Instead of camping in the very wet rainforest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, I took my second camping trip of 2019 on beautiful Gabriola Island, one of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The landscape was incredible, sandstone rock formations and erosions all over the beaches and a beautiful, dry forest to tent in.

I didn’t bring our new trailer because it hadn’t been safety inspected yet so I wasn’t going to drive it up-island to Nanaimo where I met my camping partner-in-crime and we caught the short ferry to Gabriola. Good news – the trailer checked out beautifully, all she needs is a new set of tires! We’ll get that done next week before our upcoming trip to Saltspring, another Gulf Island.

It really did feel like walking on the moon in some places.

Do you see the face in this photo? 😑

Unbelievable sunsets!

Of course, a wonderful visit with one of my dearest friends was the biggest highlight. I’m not sharing details about that though – the less said the better. I’ll just say we earned our camping battle scars. 🤕🤣 😏

I’ve decided to stop being a sugar cookie (you should listen to this if you haven’t yet) and push myself beyond the very careful parameters I’ve been living in since my diagnosis, out of anxiety of causing a flare or exacerbating symptoms. I’ve been reluctant to make plans, to put too many things on the schedule, always feeling the monster lurking in the background, waiting to attack.

Truth is? Since I’ve been pushing myself to get my butt out of bed in the morning despite the pain and fatigue, I’ve felt better and better. Once I get going, I’m distracted from the awful ache and I get focussed on getting things done. I tell myself to get out in the garden just for half an hour every day, to do some light weeding and pruning, seeding or harvesting. Almost always I end up out there for at least a couple of hours, getting steps in, bending, stretching, reaching and using this body of mine. It may be a tad defective, but it still works! Use it or lose it, right?

I may have overdone things by going on three rides at the fair with our youngest – the monster didn’t like that and symptoms have creeped in again. Whatever. So worth it.

Like Nike says – just do it.

❤️ Amanda

life

Our Happy Place: Our portable, compact vacation property

We finally took the plunge and joined the RV world. Ever since I had my first panic attack while tent camping three years ago, we’ve been trying to decide the best way to make the leap. Yes, we’re both overthinkers, and as I mentioned in my bathroom series we’re also very debt-averse, so it wasn’t a decision we made lightly. Obviously, since it took three years!

But seriously, a trailer, a fifth wheel or a motorhome, a truck camper or a tent trailer, there are so many factors to consider. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t want to deal with another motorized vehicle and the added expense and headache that could create. A truck camper is too small and not my kind of thing so that was easy to nix also. So then we waffled about a trailer, not wanting to store it away from the house but not having enough room to store it behind the front of our house. The bylaws, and some neighbours in our municipality are pretty rigid, so parking it on the driveway is not an option. Not really our thing, either.

Searching Facebook marketplace, a 1996 Jayco tent trailer came up for a decent price not too far from our house. Living on an island we don’t have quite the same access and availability as people on the mainland, so you have to move fast. This seemed the perfect solution, small enough to park in the driveway, but large enough for us to use as a family.

It’s in beautiful shape for a 23 year old camper, so despite assuring each other we would walk away and think about it overnight, we made an offer right away and drove it home the next day.

After a minor Griswold moment that our awesome brother-in-law came and helped us out of, we realized the tent trailer is much bigger than we thought – yes, we measured but that doesn’t give the visual impact that having the actual thing sitting there does, we decided storage was the only option. Oops.

It’s worked out beautifully though, because the storage place is out of town right near where we’ll be mostly using the trailer and we don’t have to haul it through town every time. It’s very affordable, as was the tent trailer, compared to if we had gotten a larger trailer or fifth wheel. Most RVers seem to think a tent trailer is the perfect way to see if you will actually use an RV as often as you think you will, especially if you buy privately and don’t mind a retro look. We can use our trailer without worrying about things getting damaged, or any depreciation – this puppy can only get better!

There are many impressive pop-up camper makeovers on Pinterest, and as much fun as that could be, that won’t be happening to ‘Happy’. I intend to spend my time camping and hanging out with my family and friends, not redecorating a camper that’s just going to get dirty anyway. Life’s too short, and that’s what my home is for. I go camping to get away from all that.

Anyway, we took Happy out for a test night with our youngest last week and she performed beautifully! We thought towing and backing up would be stressful because neither of us has done anything like that before but after researching some tips online (important!), and taking things slowly, it was not a big deal at all. Set up was a breeze, we used a curved leveler that made it so easy, and again, benefitted from the tips I read online beforehand.

We were so pleased with how easily everything went the first day but of course you don’t really know until you sleep in it. What surprised us most was how sturdy and stable the trailer was. With the ends sticking out, I always thought pop-ups looked a bit precarious and wobbly, but it didn’t move at all or make any sound as we moved around. We were all so comfortable and slept so well, we were sad we could only stay one night.

We already had three other camping trips planned but we came home and booked three more, including 5 nights in August which is the longest we’ll have camped since we travelled through Europe together in 1994. We’re excited to do some spontaneous camping too, at some of the first-come, first-served sites.

Now when we head out of town to pick up the trailer, we say “okay, let’s go get Happy.” 😊 On second thought, maybe we should call her “Happier’ -? La vie est belle! 😊

Okay, finally here are some photos.

❤️ Amanda

Raising the roof!

Easy enough for our ten year old to do!

life

Wild West Coast

View of the beach emerging from the private trail from our campsite.
View of the beach emerging from the private trail from our campsite. Photo: M. Cockayne

I am so incredibly fortunate to live on Vancouver Island. As I said in my last post, I was off camping last week at Pachena Bay Campground which is on the west coast near Bamfield, BC. The drive is an adventure in itself, two and half hours on dusty, bumpy logging roads from Port Alberni. Every teeth-chattering, slow-going minute is worth it once you arrive, though.

As it turned out, the first day was the nicest weather we had so it wasn’t exactly the tropical vacation we hoped for. When you’re camping in a coastal temperate rainforest, you take your chances. Instead of sweltering in the heat wave the rest of the island and most of North America it seems, was suffering, we were in our layers of fleece, toques and rain jackets.  Like most MSers, I’d rather a bit of fog, wind and misty rain than having the carnival of symptoms start when my body temperature rises.

Fog descends into the trees, creeping in from off the ocean.
Change in the weather, the fog rolls in.
Fog obscuring the tops of trees at the edge of a sandy beach with driftwood.
Fog is a regular occurrence but often blows off later in the afternoon or early evening.

When the tide is out, the enormous beach triples in size, impossible to capture in a photo. One day, we walked far out along the beach exploring tide pools towards the beginning of The West Coast Trail. We were going to walk a bit of the trail until we got to some of the ladders, which we have done in the past. Almost there, I looked down and saw this:

Fresh bear tracks on a wet sand beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Would you turn around or take your chances? Photo: M.Cockayne

Fresh bear tracks leading down a wet beach on the west coast of Vancouver IslandThe beautiful patterns in the sand with the fresh bear tracks leading away made the moment magical. And sped up our pace on the way back! Photo: M. Cockayne


We knew we were in bear and cougar country but seeing fresh evidence that we were right on the heels of Baloo? Yes, we turned around and headed back towards the main beach. ☺️ (Photo credits to Miranda Cockayne as my dinosaur of an iPhone died.)

Four days and nights of living in the forest, sharing secrets and too many laughs with one of my longest (not oldest, see what I did there? 😉) and dearest friends, building fires on the beach, watching the ospreys and eagles diving into the ocean, unplugging from the world (for the most part, they have wifi at the main office now), and plugging into the inspiration I always feel when I remove myself from the manmade and reconnect with the natural world.

Old growth cedar trees, ferns, bridge, west coast trail

It’s even worth the week of recovery from not sleeping and just being out of my usual routine. No matter how careful I am about eating well and hydrating, I never sleep well when camping or away from my own bed, actually. Are other MSers and chronically ill people the same? Does a change in your routine inevitably exacerbate your symptoms?

One thing I will make sure we do next year, is go on a Kiixin Tour.

“Kiix̣in is the site of a 19th-century village and fortress that exhibits evidence of occupation dating to 1000 B.C.E. Today, it remains a sacred site to the present-day Huu-ay-aht First Nations.”

Thank you to the Huu-ay-aht First Nations for sharing your amazing piece of paradise!

Have a wonderful week everyone!

❤️ Amanda