Friday, July 12, 2019

5 Family Highlights from our Summer Trip to Whitefish, Montana

We launched the summer camping season in Whitefish, Montana this year, heading south as soon as school was finished at the end of June. We thoroughly enjoyed 5 special things about the area that I hope you'll check out if you make it down to Whitefish with your active family.

5 Family Highlights from our Summer Trip to Whitefish, Montana 


5 Family Highlights from our Summer Trip to Whitefish, Montana 



Finding a campground where a child could never be bored


We only have one child, so he often gets bored at campgrounds unless one of us offers to throw a football around with him, take a walk or a bike ride with him, or play a board game with him.

Boredom was not on the table though at the KOA of Whitefish/Kalispell North

Go carts that you could pedal around the Whitefish KOA campground

Below are just some of the many activities you could enjoy at the campground (all included with your stay at no extra cost:)

Indoor/Outdoor Pool at the Whitefish KOA
  • Mini golf

  • Go carts (they had tiny ones for little kids, tandem ones for parents/kids, and then larger ones for youth or adults)

  • A indoor/outdoor swimming pool with a shallow wading pool area and a separate hot tub

  • Paddle boats for little kids in a small pond

  • Horseshoes, a basketball court, and a beach volleyball court

  • A petting farm (and if you showed up at feeding times you got to help feed the animals)

  • A disc golf course

  • A playground with a tetherball pole and other outdoor games (giant jenga, connect four, etc.)

  • A free buffet breakfast every day of your stay
Mini golf included with stays at the Whitefish KOA

There was also a games room with video games and pool tables but I'm assuming there was a cost for this.

Would we Return:

While we loved this campground, we likely wouldn't return though because a full service campsite for trailers or RVs costs over $100USD per night!

That's a lot of money for camping when many campgrounds have swimming pools included at a much more affordable rate. I'll pay for mini golf if I can save at least $40 per night staying elsewhere.

The campsites were also very close together, and some were absolutely dreadful (a tent site sitting right beside the communal hot tub for example on the tiniest patch of grass.)

If you stay here, make sure you find out in advance what site number you are getting and check a map online.

Playground and tetherball at the Whitefish KOA


A rad bike park with all the berms!


Flowy riding on Legoland
I saw somebody post about a visit to the Whitefish Bike Retreat last summer and I immediately bumped it to the top of our travel list for this summer.

Just seeing a map of the bike park alone convinced me that I wanted to camp here (or at the very least, spend a day biking here.)

And we wanted to camp here, but there was no availability for our dates so hence staying at the KOA above, and day-tripping to the Bike Retreat.


What we loved about the Bike Retreat:


  • We loved the downhill flow trails with all their gentle berms (perfect for beginners and novice bikers,) easy rollers, and features that were great for bringing your skill to the next level. Legoland and Terraflow were two of the most fun trails I've ever ridden!

  • The Ridge Trail was a well-designed climbing trail and perfect for teaching kids to climb uphill at a gentle grade. I still had problems on it, but my son could crush it like a machine.

  • My boys had a lot of fun on the wooden features found on the Berm Trail, in the skills park, and on the giant circle (an elevated circular wooden boardwalk.)

  • We liked the Whitefish Trail which you can access either from the Bike Retreat or from the nearby Beaver Lake Trailhead.

  • The Bike Retreat would be a fun place to camp with friends, the kids running around the campground on their bikes, trailer or tent sitting right beside the trails... 

Wooden feature on Berm Run

What you'll want to know before you visit: 


First, there are only 8 campsites here so book well in advance if you want to camp here. Also know that the sites are quite small (best suited for tents or small camper vans,) and that they are basic campsites with no electricity or water. (Fill your tank before you come if you want water in your trailer.)

If you don't want to camp, there is also a lodge with rooms available inside.

Campsite right beside the pump track

Second, know that as a day user, it will cost you $10 per person to use the trails and facilities at the bike retreat. This was steep for us because we've become spoiled up here in Canada and generally don't have to pay to use bike parks unless there's a chairlift involved.

Wooden practice features at the bike retreat 
Don't be discouraged though by the day use fee. I highly encourage families to visit the Bike Retreat at least once and we enjoyed the property. The ultimate experience that we missed out on would definitely be camping right at the retreat - an experience you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Cruisy riding on Terraflow 

Discovering new mountain bike trails


We tried out a couple of sections on the Whitefish Trail between the Lion Mountain and North Beaver Trailheads. Definitely the loop we enjoyed the most started from the Beaver Lake Trailhead near the Bike Retreat.

From the Beaver Lake Trailhead we climbed up a short connector trail to reach the Whitefish Trail. We turned left on the Whitefish Trail and rode to the intersection with the Beaver Lake Overlook Trail. Riding the Overlook Trail and returning on the Whitefish Trail back to your starting point creates a loop called the "Angry Beaver" which you'll ride in a clockwise direction.

Easy riding on the Beaver Lake Overlook Trail

The climb up the Beaver Lake Overlook Trail was never very steep and my boys were able to ride the whole thing. I was the only one walking sections. Once we reached the high point, it was a fast flowy ride down with many gentle berms that we all enjoyed. I'd do this ride again any day!

Fun riding down the Beaver Lake Overlook Trail

The other ride that the boys did was from the Woods Lake Parking Lot back down to the Bike Retreat on the Whitefish Trail. It started with approximately 150 metres of climbing but then was all downhill back to the retreat where I was waiting.

Evening riding on the Whitefish Trail down to the Bike Retreat 


Paddling the Whitefish River


I've said this many times since our trip: We went for the biking, but I'll return for the paddling.

We've become spoiled by the great bike trails that we have close to home in the Canadian Rockies, but a nice gentle river is harder to find. Enter the Whitefish River, the perfect float-trip river where an absolute novice paddler would be perfectly safe and comfortable (even on a stand up paddleboard.)

We spent two days exploring different sections of this river, and I'd return to Whitefish in a heartbeat to spend a day paddling here.

Lots of scenic bridges to paddle under on the Whitefish River


Whitefish City Beach to Riverside Park (with a shuttle)


This first option can be done with a bike shuttle and is the perfect length for children with short attention spans. This section could even be done with tubes or floaties if you walk around to the start of the river. (Note it does not flow very fast though so plan for a long float trip if you don't have paddles!)

Starting from City Beach (google maps link,) paddle over to the start of the river (heading left from the beach.) There's a very short section with rapids as the river leaves the lake that you could walk around if you had to. Otherwise, just get down on your knees if on a paddleboard and you'll be fine. After that, it's 100% floating all the way down to Riverside Park  (google maps link where it shows up as River Trail Park) where there is a parking lot just off Baker Ave.

Paddling across Whitefish Lake towards the river

There's a nice playground across the street from the parking lot where you can hang out with the kids while somebody bikes back for the vehicle. (and there's a bike trail right beside the river.)

This was the first paddle we did and it took us an hour at most on two stand up paddleboards and a child's sit on top kayak.

Gentle floating down the Whitefish River

Riverside Park to Whitefish City Beach return (no shuttle required)


If you don't want to set up a shuttle, just start at Riverside Park, at the parking lot mentioned above, and paddle up river towards City Beach. Go as far as you have energy for and then float back down to your vehicle.

Paddling up river from Riverside Park 

We tried this our second day and my son wasn't having much fun trying to paddle up river (even though the current is very gentle.) Adults will have no problems though (even on paddleboards, the vessel of choice for this river.)

First time on a paddleboard on a river was a piece of cake on the Whitefish River

Riverside Park to the Highway 40 Bridge (with a shuttle)


If you have two vehicles, or a willing partner who agrees to pick you up 10 kilometres down the river, you can paddle from Riverside Park all the way down to the Highway 40 bridge crossing. It took me 2 hours on a stand up paddleboard and I had to paddle the entire time because the current was barely moving.

It was an extremely enjoyable trip though and I counted 30 painted turtles sunning themselves on various logs along the edges of the river as I made my way down. You also get to paddle through a culvert under one of the road crossings - which was a lot of fun!!

You can see the route here if you were to drive down to the Highway 40 bridge crossing from City Beach.

The perfect barefoot adventure in Whitefish, Montana 

A brewery with trees for the kids to climb


We took a drive down to Kalispell and Flathead Lake one afternoon and discovered the most amazing brewery, The Tamarack Brewing Company

The brewery had a large outdoor patio right beside a creek with gorgeous climbing trees. A large group of kids was running around playing in the creek, climbing the trees, and having a great time while the adults relaxed on the patio. It was absolute perfection!

Patio with kids climbing the trees beside the creek

The brewery had great food, a children's menu, flights for sampling the different craft beers they produce, and I wish I would have brought home some of the Apricot Wheat Ale. (It was so good!!!)

This will go at the top of our list for things to do again if we return to Whitefish.

The Apricot Wheat Ale was amazing!!! 


Disclaimer: This story was not sponsored, we paid for our camping and entertainment, and all opinions are entirely my own.


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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Beach Style that Starts with a Merino Wool Skirt

When I was asked if I wanted to try out and review a merino wool skirt, for summer use, I was skeptical to say the least. Sure, we all wear smartwool hiking socks and we love our Icebreaker wool base layers, but a skirt? A wool skirt for the beach?

Merino Wool at the Beach - and it works!!


Conquering the First Myth: Wool is Itchy


I received my Icebreaker Yanni Midi Skirt in the mail, put it on the dresser beside my bed, and proceeded to look at it for two weeks because I was scared to try it on! I hate itchy fabrics and was terrified to put a wool skirt next to my skin with nothing but bikini bottoms underneath.

The temperature finally cooperated for our first beach day of the season and I reluctantly tried on the skirt - to discover that it wasn't itchy. At all!!

The Icebreaker Yanni Midi Skirt is 61% Merino Wool but honestly, it could be made of cotton for how comfortable it feels.

First day in my Icebreaker Skirt and it was nothing but comfortable


Conquering the Second Myth: Wool is Hot!


When I think of wool, I think of a fabric that you wear to stay warm (not to stay cool!) Again, I was pleasantly surprised (blown away in fact) by how cool this Icebreaker Skirt keeps me feeling.

Straight from the Altitude Sports website:

"Made from our Cool-Lite™ fabric, the skirt blends merino with TENCEL®, nylon and LYCRA®, making it naturally lightweight and silky with a touch of stretch. 
In a 160gm weight, the technically advanced fabric is great for summer, as it’s breathable, odor-resistant and quick-drying. The side-split detail allows freedom of movement and the below-the-knee length provides added coverage."

We just spent a long weekend camping in Whitefish Montana, and I lived in my Icebreaker skirt. I wore it paddling down the Whitefish River, I wore it all around camp, I wore it to and from the pool at camp and lounged in front of the pool in it, and I wore it all over the area as we toured breweries, and went into town for ice-cream.

I also loved the skirt as a "driving skirt" because of the side splits that kept me nice and cool in the truck as we drove the 5+ hours home from camp.

Side splits and cool-lite fabric make this skirt a great choice for hot weather

Conquering the Third Myth: Wool is NOT Sexy or Attractive


I am not a fashion model but I'd like to think that I look semi-attractive at least in my Icebreaker Yanni Midi Skirt. I especially love that the skirt covers up and hides many areas of my lower body that I'm less than fond of.

I'm never especially "comfortable" in shorts, bikini bottoms, or short skirts. This long skirt is perfect for me because I can still wear a sports bra or athletic bikini top for paddling and swimming, but remain covered up on the bottom.

I wear swim bottoms under the skirt so I can quickly jump into a lake or pool to cool off, but while paddling, lounging by the pool, or driving to and from the beach I enjoy having my lower body covered by this flowy skirt.

Add a tank top and you can easily wear this skirt out for dinner, to a beach-side cafe or restaurant, or tour wineries/breweries on your summer road trip. It's fashion that's even appropriate at the grocery store on the way home from the beach.

Attractive but practical fashion for the beach

Conquering the Fourth Myth: Wool is Not a Fabric You Wear to the Beach


When I think of beach clothing, I think of fabrics that can get wet! Fortunately we all know how great wool is at retaining its warmth, even if you get wet feet hiking. This skirt is no different at the beach.

I got my skirt thoroughly soaked while paddling but it stayed comfortable, dried quickly, and was the perfect choice of fabric to wear near water.

Wet or dry, this merino wool skirt is comfortable on the water 

Overall Opinion of the Icebreaker Yanni Midi Skirt 


I've been wearing this skirt for a few weeks now and have no complaints. I've put it through the washing machine and dryer and it came out looking as good as new.

It hasn't faded at all in the sun, and stains come out easily (this I know because I lived in it for 4 days while camping and traveling!)

It's also been great for traveling, and even if it gets wrinkled in your bag, it doesn't take long before the wrinkles come out while wearing it.

This skirt will be the first item I pack this summer on every one of my camping trips, on all of our road trips, and on every beach day.




For more information on the skirt, please visit the Altitude Sports website 

You can also order your own Icebreaker skirt off the Altitude Sport Website. Canadians receive free shipping on orders over $49, and returns are fast and simple.


Disclaimer: I was given this skirt for review. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

First Summits - Pigeon Mountain, Kananaskis

Continuing with my "First Summits" series, we've reached the top of another mountain as a family and this one was a great hike with no technical scrambling or extreme experience required. Pigeon Mountain will crush you though if you don't work up to it (So don't use it as your first training hike of the season!)



Why You Need to Add Pigeon Mountain to your Hiking List 


Wildflowers on the Pigeon Mountain Hike
  1. If you time your visit for early summer you'll be rewarded with an amazing display of wildflowers blooming in the meadow you'll climb to the summit (something I appreciated as a distraction from the steep hike.)

  2. It's hard to find summits without technical scrambling that still offer a good challenge in terms of distance and height. Pigeon is an ideal choice for a long day hike for families who don't want to have to worry about bringing a rope, helmets, or other safety gear.

  3. Route finding is minimal on this hike.

  4. This trail rarely feels crowded. The distance is long enough that everybody spreads out and we even had the summit to ourselves (on a Saturday in the peak of wildflower season.)

  5. The trailhead is close to Calgary so you won't be driving more than you actually hike.

We had the summit all to ourselves on Pigeon Mountain

Stats for the Hike


Distance: approximately 15 km round trip 

Height gain: approximately 1000 metres 

Time it took us to complete the hike: 6 hours round trip 

Rating: Technically it is easy. For distance + height I'd rate it as a more advanced hike. The trail is also very steep as you climb to the summit

Best Guide Book: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 3, Gillean Daffern - Amazon affiliate link

All Trails Link - Pigeon Mountain hike 

Climbing the steep trail up to the summit of Pigeon Mountain


Trailhead Information and Finding the Trail for Pigeon Mountain 


The parking lot is at the Skogan Pass Trailhead at Dead Man's Flats off the TransCanada Highway. See the Google Maps Link here. 

From the parking lot, start hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail following the powerline. If you climbed all the way to the top of the pass, you'd be able to descend the other side to Kananaskis Village around Troll Falls. (for reference.)

The Skogan Pass Trail quickly comes to a junction with the Centennial Ridge Trail but you want to stick to the Skogan Pass Trail which weaves in and out of the trees, often following right under the powerline. 

Hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail from Dead Man's Flats 

There is one other junction on the Skogan Pass Trail where you'll see a sign directing hikers to the left rather than following the powerline straight up (which is where service vehicles would go.) 

Other than those junctions, it is straightforward hiking up the Skogan Pass Trail until you reach a side trail on your left with a sign that says "Living with wildlife means respecting their space." This is the turnoff for Pigeon Mountain. The sign also reminds hikers that the trail is closed to human use from December 1st to June 15th.

The Pigeon Mountain Trail where it leaves the Skogan Pass Trail

Hiking to the Summit of Pigeon Mountain


Forest trail from the Skogan Pass junction
It took us 1.5 hours to reach the actual Pigeon Mountain Trail and then another 2 hours to reach the summit for a total of 3.5 hours up. 

By comparison, it only took us 2.5 hours to hike down.

From the junction of the Skogan Pass Trail you have another 2.8 km to hike and still have 535 metres of height to gain. This is where you also start hiking very steeply uphill.

The trail starts out through the forest but you quickly come to a wide open meadow with a dirt trail heading straight up. This is your life for the next hour or two (depending on how fast you hike.)

I was struggling with blisters and legs that didn't think 1000 metres of height gain was fun for a second hike of the season. Without me, my boys could have easily conquered the hike through the meadow in an hour I'm sure. 

Fortunately, the hike through the meadow is beautiful, the flowers are incredible if you time your hike right for late June/early July, and there are many rounded grassy bumps to rest on.

Rest break while climbing through the meadow to the top of Pigeon Mountain

The grade levels out as you reach the ridge until the final summit push where you turn left towards the double pyramids. The summit is the second one. 

The Summit as seen in the background from the ridge
Hiking along the ridge towards the summit
It gets steep for the final summit push but you're almost there!

The Summit! 


We enjoyed that we had the summit to ourselves but didn't stay very long because we knew we still had at least 7 km of walking ahead of us before we'd reach the car. 

My mighty hiker, age 10 

Hiking Down 


It still took us another 2.5 hours to reach the parking lot on the way down and I realized how steep the trail was as we descended the meadow. (I couldn't walk down the stairs in my house the next day.)

I took a lot more photos on the way down since I wasn't forced to concentrate all my effort on breathing!

The trail is exceptionally pretty 

A look back up the steep trail through the meadow

Lots of rest breaks
One tired hiker by the time we reached the Skogan Pass Trail again

Recommended Reading 




Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hike, Paddle, Walk, Bike - in KEEN Flip Flops! Kona Flip II Review

I could write a love story about my beloved Keen Kona Flip Flops. I started out in the first version of them back when my son was a toddler 8 years ago, and I'm pretty sure I walked most of the city in these flip flops while he napped - once walking up to 7 kilometres (because they were that comfortable.)

Fast forward many years and I'm now wearing the Keen Kona Flip II sandals, an updated version of the original Kona flip flops, but as far as I can tell, they are identical to the first model I used to have (which is good news when you saw nothing that needed fixing or improving.)

KEEN Kona Flip II Sandals 


My Journey with Keen Kona Flip Sandals


My original Keen Kona flip flops died after I decided that wearing them on a kick scooter would be a fun idea. This was after wearing them for a few years though, so they had a very long life for flip flops. The problem was that Keen had discontinued these sandals - finally bringing them back just this year! Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic when I saw them listed on Keen's website - and requested a pair to review immediately!

I've started testing out the new sandals, wearing them on city bike rides, walks to and from school, and on light hikes. So far so good - and they perform 100% the same as the original Kona Flip sandals I fell in love with so many years ago.

Flip flops you can ride a bike in


10 Reasons to LOVE the Keen Kona Flip Sandals



  1. No blisters.  I often get blisters if I wear my regular Keen sandals for long walks or if they get wet while I'm wearing them. I've never had a single blister though in the flip flops - even after wearing them for hours on end (and after getting them wet.)

  2. They fit true to size. I might have weird feet, but I often struggle to order shoes online because I never know what size to order. With the Kona Flip sandals though you can order your normal size and they should fit. (In the odd chance they don't, Keen has great return and exchange policies that are super easy.)

  3. No toe imprints! You know the imprints you get in your cheap department store flip flops (part of the reason you can only wear them for one season?) - Yeah, that won't happen with the Keen flip flops. The footbed of the sandal is super supportive and rigid.

  4. You won't get holes in the soles. I can't count the number of flip flops I've had to retire because the soles would wear out by the end of one season after my toes would punch holes right through the soft footbed. That won't happen with these ones because the footbed is solid and built to last!

  5.  Molded Footbeds. These flip flops are designed in the same way Keen designs all their shoes, with molded insoles (or in this case, molded footbeds for your bare feet.) Lovers of orthotics might just find they can wear flip flops for the first time ever. - and again, remember I said I once hiked 7 kilometres in these flip flops (and not because I forgot my hiking boots!)

  6. No sprained ankles - I can't even hike a cute little creekside trail without wearing hiking boots (and orthotics!) I sprain an ankle at least once a season and as a result have very weak ankles. Put me in Keen's Kona Flips though and I've never sprained an ankle! I have no scientific reason behind this but it means I can confidently go out for a hike around our campground, knowing I won't be twisting an ankle on a stupid root.

  7. They have amazing grip for a pair of flip flops. The outer sole of the flip flops has a very grippy base so you'll be comfortable hiking through the forest, riding a bike, or even chasing the kids around the playground. These are sport sandals in the form of flip flops.

  8. Free toes!! I love all Keen sandals, but enough with the covered toes! I want my pretty little manicured piggies to wiggle free in the summer. - especially on a hot day!

  9. They are perfect for urban life. Nobody feels attractive in athletic sandals that cover 80% of their feet. The Kona Flips on the other hand are something I'd wear to the beach, to the grocery store, to school, or even to church. Flip flops are an acceptable footwear choice wherever you go (and for me that would even include weddings.)

  10. You'll have to try really hard to separate the toe piece from the sandal. Face it, we've all had the thin rubber toe piece separate from the base of our flip flops and rip out - leaving it virtually impossible to walk the rest of the way home!

    As you can see from my photos, the Keen flip flop sandals have fabric straps connecting to a solid footbed (and not thin rubber that pulls out of the base as soon as you run or stretch them too much.)

    Just don't use a kick scooter while wearing them and you should be good! (trust me.)
Molded footbeds and flip flops with actual grip! This is an athletic sports sandal


Buy your own pair of Keen Kona Flip II Sandals 


I haven't seen these sandals for sale in any stores yet, but you can order them online off the Keen website. They fit true to size and the exchange/return policy is great if you choose the wrong size.

They come in 3 different colors and I chose the Majesty/Shark Color because I have an obsession with all things purple. The duck green/Wasabi color is very pretty too.

I should mention that these sandals also come in a version for MEN

Hiking in my Keen Kona Flip II Sandals 

Disclaimer: I was given a pair of these sandals to review from KEEN Canada. As always, all words and opinions are my own.







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