We recently drove 40 hours across the United States to take part in the ultimate summer activity – August Family Camp hosted by the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Attending summer camp is an amazing experience. Sleeping in tents, swimming in the lake, singing songs and participating in activities with fellow campers. Now add in the joy of doing all of this with your family and you get the magic that makes August Family Camp a return destination for families every year.
The Hulbert Outdoor Center is part of the Aloha Foundation which operates six camps on the shores of Lake Fairlee and Lake Morey in Vermont’s Upper Valley Region. August Family Camp takes place at Camp Aloha and is staffed by counselors from the foundation’s other summer camps including Lanakila, Aloha Hive, and Horizons. The very talented staff come from several different countries and all have a passion for creating a camp community based on fun activities and new experiences.
Our family of five was overjoyed to be part of the August Family Camp community. From the moment that we arrived and settled into our tent we felt welcomed by the counselors and our fellow family campers. Throughout the week we made new friends, had great experiences, and challenged ourselves while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding lake and hills.
While we made many long lasting memories throughout our week at camp there were a few that definitely stand out such as the evening square dance, the ropes course, and learning how to sail. We really loved that Family Camp allowed us to be together, but also provided an environment where the kids could participate in an activity on their own. Five of Hearts could head off to the waterfront and we felt comfortable knowing that a top-notch staff of lifeguards was watching out for her. When we did split up for activity blocks it was always great to come back together at meal times and share our experiences.
Hulbert Outdoor Center’s Family Camps (they also offer a winter family camp) are a rare treat in today’s busy world. Televisions and cell phones are replaced by board games and great conversations as participants of all ages spend the week playing and relaxing with new friends and old. This was one experience that our whole family will agree was worth a 40 hour drive.
There’s been no shortage of snow here in Western Montana, and we’ve been eager to introduce the Younger Fives to skiing. As a first step we decided to begin with cross country skiing to give everyone a feel for moving through the snow in a new way. After looking into our options (and there are plenty here in the Flathead Valley), we found the following to be ideal for learning to Nordic ski as a family.
Learning to surf together has been a priority of ours for several years now, but the timing never seemed to be right. At first glance, learning to surf on a February day on Vancouver Island might seem like the last place anyone would pick, but we had done our homework and knew it was just what we were looking for. Tofino, on the west coast of the Island, has been steadily developing its surfing reputation due to its consistent, year-round breaks and 35km of sandy beaches. Wetsuits are a must (even recommended in summer), so we decided to take the plunge and catch some waves.
There’s no shortage of surf shops offering lessons (even in winter), but we settled on Tofino Surf Adventures. We liked that they were a smaller operation, and their laid-back yet passionate approach to surfing was apparent from our very first contact with them. After meeting at the shop and getting fitted with wetsuits, gloves, boots, and head covers, the sun came out in full force as we followed our instructor Antonio to Chesterman Beach. He did an absolutely amazing job accommodating our wide range of ages, and we appreciated that he kept the out-of-water instruction to a minimum in order to give us the most amount of time in the water getting a feel for the waves.
Five of Hearts and Five Ball took to surfing like pros and got a ton of personalized instruction on getting into a good position, popping-up to ride the waves to shore, and much more. High Five was content to try out a few waves and then charge in and out of the surf on foot, surfing on shore as it were. Knowing that the Younger Fives were in good hands, Five Spice and Five String were able to really focus on getting comfortable on their boards, all the while getting tips and feedback from Antonio as we went. The wetsuits kept us surprisingly warm (with the added bonus of helping us float), and our three-hour lesson (with a few snack breaks on shore in between) flew by in no time.
Long story short, we are definitely hooked on surfing. The feeling of watching a wave slowly getting closer and then riding into shore is incredible, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather or a more family-friendly instructor to share the adventure with. Canada’s surf capital may not have the massive waves of other destinations, but for a family looking for an afternoon on a surf board it would be hard to imagine a better place 🙂
Skimboarding is a popular pastime here on Vancouver Island, and Parksville in particular is building a reputation as a hub for the sport. Its long, wide tide pools play host to a variety of skimboarders of all levels, from teens participating in a day camp to professionals visiting for the OSBC Pro-Am Skimboard Competition. After snatching up a skimboard we found at our local second-hand shop, we thought it was the perfect time to ride the tide pools ourselves.
There might not be many advantages to skimboarding during the winter months, but one is that we had Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park to ourselves and didn’t have to contend with others for the best spots in the tide pools and along the water’s edge. Rain gear and rubber boots were a must, but they also gave some extra padding in the case of the inevitable fall.
We managed to remain mostly dry in the end, and despite some numb hands and feet we stayed out in the sun to enjoy the beach’s other bounty, driftwood. All in all, we found skimboarding to be a perfect family activity that provided all of us with a fun challenge. If the fleece lining of our boots ever dry out, we might even give it a try again before the warmer weather arrives 🙂