Friday, November 25, 2011

My winter bucket list

Every year I make a list of goals; divided up by season, of the trips I want to do, places to visit, and the adventures I want to share with my family.   I can't help it but I love making lists.  I was delighted when I discovered another kindred list-maker the other day on the Nature for Kids blog. 


Shawna inspired me to write a story about my "bucket list" for the 2011-2012 season.  While I'm not sure I'll actually write my goals on clothes pins and clip them to a bucket as she did, I do have them logged in my master life spreadsheet.  (yes, I'm way too organized!)

One - Get 15 days of x-country skiing in this winter
Last winter my goal was 20 days and I really struggled to get in the last 5 days come spring.  There was still snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre last year into April but with the warmer weather and the sticky snow, I was never able to get my wax perfect and struggled with clumping.  If I went light on the wax I couldn't get up the hills.  This winter I am hoping to get a second pair of wax-less skis specifically for spring skiing and sticky snow days.


Two - Enjoy my favorite ski tours in the Canadian Rockies
  • The Goat Creek Traverse from Canmore to Banff
  • Boom Lake, Banff
  • Paradise Valley, Lake Louise
  • Skogan Pass, Kananaskis
  • Chester Lake, Kananaskis
We did all of these tours last winter with the exception of  Paradise Valley so it's got priority on this list.
We also learned last winter that ski touring through soft powder while pulling a Chariot isn't advised.  We'd like to avoid some of the flip-overs we had last winter.  We bought a ski pulk and are hoping it will work better for taking our toddler skiing with us.  Otherwise, Grandma might be recruited for a couple Saturdays of babysitting and I might join a meet-up trip or two with  the Calgary Outdoor Recreation Association (CORA).

I should note if you are planning to do any of the trips above that the bridge is currently out on the Goat Creek traverse so check with Parks Canada before heading out.  Also, I highly recommend reading the book. Ski trails in the Canadian Rockies book by Chic Scott if you are unfamiliar with ski touring.  It is a sport with potential avalanche risk and most of the trails above are at least partially unmaintained for x-country skiing.  Sections might be groomed or track-set but certainly not the whole trail.  If you plan to do ski tours with children you will need to be very confident on your skis and even use light touring skis with metal edges for increased control.  I like the Madshus skis from Mountain Equipment Coop and prefer BC bindings for additional support when coming downhill.


Three - Take Noah on his first overnight back-country winter adventure
We have already reserved one of the Alpine Club of Canada's huts for a Saturday night this winter and plan to take our toddler on his first overnight adventure.  We've taken Noah into the Elizabeth Parker Hut in summer but this time we are going to take him in to the Elk Lakes Cabin.  We are going to make the journey on snow shoes and Uncle John is coming with us.  Noah loves his uncle so we are hoping for a great weekend with family and friends.   Staying at this cabin in Elk Lakes Provincial Park had become an annual winter tradition for us so I'm very happy to be returning after several years of missing the trip.


Four - Fully explore the ski trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis
My favorite place to ski when I'm looking for perfect grooming and track-set trails is in Peter Lougheed Park.  It's free to ski there with almost 100km of maintained ski trails, and there's lots of variety from narrow trails following creeks still flowing with water, to big hills leading up to amazing viewpoints over Upper Kananaskis Lake.  I also like that you can start skiing from either the Pocaterra Warming Hut or the Visitor Information Centre.  Both options are great for kids because you can have a snack before heading out, dress the kids up, change diapers and go to the bathroom all from the warmth of a cabin or beautiful visitor centre complete with fireplace and picture windows looking out over the mountains.  Many families set up home base at one of the two facilities and take turns doing short loops while one parent skis or plays with the kids.  It's a good idea for groups of families that want the kids to play/ski together while groups of adults also take turns on the trails.
We are also hoping that perhaps we can get our son on a little pair of skis this winter.  We'll see.


Five - Go sledding
Wow, something not related to skiing!  We get very addicted to skiing each winter so sometimes we neglect the simple pleasures of sledding and playing in the snow.  Last winter we only tried sledding with Noah once so I'm hoping we can improve upon that this year.


Six - Go skating - lots!
Maybe all those figure-skating lessons paid off as a kid because today I still love skating.  I especially love it when we can go outdoors and we are fortunate to have one of the largest outdoor skating lagoons in Calgary located within a five minute drive.  Bowness Park is very close to us and not only does it have a large lagoon complete with fire-pits in the middle, but it also has a creek that you can skate down.  It's the next best thing to skating in the mountains.  Last year I took Noah there at least once a week and pushed him around the ice in his Chariot.  We are getting Noah his own skates this year for Christmas and are hoping to teach him to skate a little bit on his double blade Bob Skates.


Seven - Be generous and let my husband have a couple weekends off for back-country skiing along with a couple other day trips
Back-country skiing isn't my thing because honestly I'm just not good enough at skiing downhill through waist deep powder.  I'm also terrified of avalanches.  However, I realize that every trip my husband does on x-country skis is just practice and conditioning for the "real thing" which means lots of powder and vertical.  Hopefully when Noah is older he'll learn to back-country ski with Dad.  For now, it will continue to be Dad's time out.


Eight - Do at least a few snowshoe trips
Snowshoeing isn't my favorite thing because I can't justify walking up and back down a trail when there's snow on the ground.  I'll "walk" up on my skis but then I want to slide down.  There are times though when snowshoeing is justified.  Some trails just aren't ski-friendly on light touring skis.  Spring also brings good conditions for snowshoeing when you can no longer ski.  The same can be said for early winter like right now.  We are in fact thinking about going snowshoeing this weekend at Highwood Pass before the road closes for winter. 

There is a new book out devoted to snowshoe trails in the Canadian Rockies and I am very excited to hopefully get it for Christmas.  It's called Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara.  I'm not very familiar with the trails we have for snowshoeing and as I mentioned before I'm scared of being in avalanche terrain.  I'm hoping this book can teach me to appreciate the sport more and show me some amazing places to explore this winter.

For the moment, my favorite trails I'd like to possibly explore this winter are:
  • Rummel Lake, Kananaskis
  • Chester Lake, Kananaskis
  • Rawson Lake, Kananaskis
  • The Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit to the Point Campground and back, Kananaskis
  • Lake Agnes, Lake Louise

Nine - Ski into Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park for tea with my girlfriends
I put this one on my list just for my friend Jackie.  I know how much she wanted to do it last year and we couldn't coordinate weekends.  This year I am determined to make a girl's trip of it.  (my husband has sworn he'll never ski up the road to O'Hara again)  It's not an exciting ski going 11km up a road to reach a frozen lake with rare views because it always seems to be snowing when I go there.  However, the Lake O'Hara Lodge serves the most amazing lunch for $20 I believe (verify their website or call the lodge to confirm).  You get three courses of soup and bread, salad, and dessert, along with your choice of coffee or tea.  The price might seem steep but they do have to get all the ingredients into a back-country lodge in the middle of winter.  If you are going to go into the lodge for lunch make sure you phone ahead and confirm they are open.  Last year we got there too late in the season and had to ski back down with nothing but the granola bars in our pockets to eat.  Also bring cash for the lunch as they don't accept other forms of payment.


Ten - Take a trip into a catered back-country ski lodge
Last year my husband and I took an overnight trip into the amazing Skoki Lodge in the heart of Banff's back-country.   I've been into Skoki Lodge a number of times and it still isn't enough.  It's such an amazing experience to be able to ski into a lodge carrying nothing but a few extra pieces of clothing, some snacks, extra layers of warm clothing and a toothbrush.  Then to arrive at the lodge and have gourmet meals prepared for you including afternoon tea and snacks is a true luxury.  Add real beds, blankets, pillows and a private cabin should you wish to spend a little extra money and it is my perfect  idea of a weekend away.

I'm not sure we'll be going into Skoki again this year but a friend is trying to organize a trip into another back-country lodge called Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.  I've also been into this lodge and find it another amazing destination deep in the wilderness of Banff National Park.  Wherever I go, I do hope that I get to spend a night at one of the amazing lodges in Banff.  I have hinted to my husband that the one remaining back-country lodge I haven't been into is Sundance Lodge so maybe that's an option.


I've had a lot of fun writing this story and I hope it inspires you to get out there and really enjoy this winter with your family.

If you would like to partner with our family in our winter adventures we are always looking for new friends and families to join us.

What's on your bucket list for this winter?  I'd love to know.

Here are some photos that show why I LOVE winter in our glorious Canadian Rockies.

My 20th day of skiing last winter - The Canmore Nordic Centre in April

Lake O'Hara in winter - the Alpine Club of Canada's Elizabeth Parker Hut

Skoki Lodge, Banff

My husband and son snowshoeing at Upper Kananaskis Lake

Looking out over Upper Kananaskis Lake

Ski tour on the Boom Lake Trail, Banff

Paradise Valley ski tour, Lake Louise

Skiing to Elk Pass, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Noah sledding last winter at the Kananaskis Village

Snow shoe trip last winter
Pulling Noah up to Chester Lake last winter


Skiing at  Nipika Resort, BC

Skating on Johnston Lake in Banff this November

Chester Lake, Kananaskis

Friends skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Soaking up some fresh spring air at the Elk Lakes Cabin

One of my favorite ski tours ever - the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park

Monday, November 21, 2011

X-country skiing with toddlers - November at Lake Louise

It was -23 C in Lake Louise with the wind chill on Sunday but the sky was clear and it was a lovely day for our first x-country ski trip of the season.  I have to confess we did ask Grandma if she wanted to babysit but alas, she was working.  We love skiing with our son but the temperature was a little cool for his first trip out this year.  We wanted his re-introduction to skiing to be a fun one.  Unfortunately, I think Noah's favorite part of the day was running around the Chateau Lake Louise before heading home.


Stats for the day
Temperature:  -23 C with wind chill
Ski trail:  Moraine Lake Road, Lake Louise
Distance skied:  10km return
Conditions:  Awesome.  Lots of coverage, poles didn't touch pavement, trail groomed and track set
Toddler Equipment used:  Kindershuttle ski pulk by Wilderness Engineering
Toddler happiness:  2/10
Parent happiness:  5/10


Starting the trip off right
One of the biggest challenges of skiing with a toddler is finding a warm place to take care of the pre-ski snack, diaper change, and clothing change.  We headed to Laggan's Bakery and Deli in the Lake Louise Village to buy a muffin and feed Noah some of the snacks we had brought.  They don't have change tables in their little customer bathroom but there are public bathrooms right next door we could use and Laggan's was deserted which if you've been there is a very rare treat.  Their fresh baking is so good that many people start every trip to Louise with a requisite stop at this bakery.



Downhill from there
You know it's going to be a bad ski trip if your child won't eat before you start out, is already grumpy, and doesn't want to put his clothing on.  Speaking from past experience I'd also add that if your toddler is a morning regular, you want to make sure he/she has already filled their diaper and been changed or gone to the toilet before starting out on the trail.  It's also an indication that the day might be bad if your child is coming down with something or already sick.  Apparently Noah has the Flu according to Grandma who just phoned me.  That explains a LOT about yesterday; the crying and over-all lack of enthusiasm.

I also suggest doing a dry run with new equipment.  We took the pulk out for its maiden voyage without trying Noah in it at home first.  We easily figured out the safety restraint system but couldn't figure out how to tighten it correctly so that he was sitting up and not lying down the entire time.  I really hope there is a way because Noah wasn't comfortable at all!  We kept trying to prop jackets behind him and he was still lying back in this awkward position.  If his head would have been leaning against something it might have been relaxing and conducive to sleep but his head just hung back in the air with his poor little neck unsupported.  When we tried to really get him upright the plastic windshield was right on his face and I know he did not like that!

To top off a less than ideal trip, the plastic windshield cracked on the sled.  It might have been -15 C but unless I'm mistaken on a sled's purpose, they are designed for cold weather.  Am I wrong?  -40 C is one thing, but it was only -15 C and that's pretty average for winter temperatures in the Canadian Rockies.  I tried contacting the company that makes Kindershuttles and their response was to fix the windshield with clear packing tape so I guess we'll try that for the season.  We bought the sled used off Kijiji and it's always hard to know the quality of something you buy.  I was assured that the latest sleds use a plastic that will never crack but it's possible ours is older and not as durable against the elements.

We finally got Noah sitting up more or less and almost straight though still leaning slightly to the side.  He told us he was cold but he also told us he was happy so I'm not sure his "yes" could be trusted when we asked him questions and I'm not sure how he could have been cold with his multiple layers on and down jacket he was wrapped in.  We turned around at the 5km mark instead of continuing to the end of the road and wouldn't you know, but Noah finally fell asleep about ten minutes before reaching the parking lot.  Grrr...

All's well that ends well
We needed a warm place to head to after skiing to have second lunch so we went to the Chateau Lake Louise Resort.  We found a quiet couch and pulled out all our snacks.  We let Noah climb up and down all the stairs in the hotel and we explored the property.  I learned a few very interesting things while there I thought I'd share with you.

First, the Lakeview Lounge takes kids of all ages and you can go in if it's not busy to just order coffee and hot chocolate.  In summer they like you to order food but when it's quiet you can treat the beautiful lounge as a coffee shop.  There's picture windows looking out over the lake and Mt. Victoria all along the side of the lounge so it's an amazing place to go post skiing. 

Second, the Glacier Saloon in the basement takes kids!!!  We didn't stop to eat there but I did go in and ask if they took kids for our next visit.  They have children's menus and everything.

I did inquire while there if the resort had child care services but sadly, they don't.  They offer paid babysitting for guests of the resort but there is no day care.  If somebody from the resort is reading this, I know a lot of people that would pay to use a day care there.

Overall review of the day
Skiing on the Moraine Lake road isn't very exciting as you are just following a road that goes slowly up, up, up, and then back down to the parking lot.  You don't actually get to Moraine Lake itself and views are limited.  However, it is always the first trail to be track-set and groomed each season and you can usually ski there by Remembrance Day.  As soon as I see snow starting to fall I start itching to get on my skis so being out in November is always a treat, no matter what trail you are on. 

We had one bad day with Noah last winter that made us reconsider the notion of skiing with a toddler so I'm hoping this was the day for this season.  Hopefully he'll enjoy our future trips and we'll even get him on his own little skis that we hope to buy for Christmas. 

I also remembered that I love the cold!  I really do like feeling the burning on my face when I'm going downhill, I like the bite in the air and I like how wonderful it feels to get a chinook come in the next day and to actually appreciate that it's 3C instead of -15 C.  My faith in our winter clothing was renewed as well and I know that even if it hits -30 C, we'll be warm enough and still be able to enjoy our winter sports and recreation.

Mark pulling Noah up the Moraine Lake Road


Finally asleep in the parking lot

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting out Vs. getting outside - does it matter?

I was driving home tonight from another amazing Zumba class, reveling in the fact that I'd just burned between 700 and 1000 calories in an hour while smiling the whole time, when a shocking thought crossed my mind.  I hadn't been outside yet today and I didn't care.  My son also hadn't played outside today and that was ok with me too.

It seems like my more controversial articles are most read (confessions of a less than perfect mountain mama for example) so let's make this interesting again, shall we?  Below are five things I honestly believe about getting outside. 

One:  It's important to get some exercise every day but I don't think it matters if you do it indoors or outdoors.  I feel amazing right now in my post-zumba bliss and am pretty sure I wouldn't feel as good if I had only taken a 15 minute walk instead.  I actually struggle weekly with my conflicting loves for Zumba and hiking.  I can be euphoric after only one hour of Zumba.  Hiking usually requires a greater time commitment for the same joy.  I don't want this article to become all about my obsession for zumba (that could be another blog in and of itself) but the point here is that I enjoy exercise that is typically done indoors.  Yoga is perhaps the best example there.  Not many people in Calgary are doing outdoor Yoga in the winter.  No explanation needed there.

Playing in the basement
Two:  It's important for children to get playtime every day but I don't think they have to play outdoors every day.  I took my son to the mall today to visit Grandpa and we went to the indoor play park.  My son ran around for half an hour and had a blast.  It was really cold here today, -6 Celsius and windy, and there is no way my son would have enjoyed going to an outdoor playground as much.  Perhaps your children are hardier than mine but it just isn't all that important to me where my child plays.  I just want him to play; to climb, to crawl under things, to run around, and to interact with other children.

At the mall's playpark

Three:  I  believe it's important to choose your battles.  I have gone cross-country skiing when it was -30 Celsius and we took our son.  I've gone hiking when it was so windy we almost fell off the ridge we were on.  I've climbed in Nepal and trust me - I know what cold is!  I actually enjoy hiking in the fall when it's cool and your throat burns.  I love snowshoeing and I don't care how cold it is on a Saturday because rarely will I pass up an opportunity to go skiing.  However, if it's a Tuesday afternoon, my husband is working, it's cold, cloudy, windy and gray outside, and there's other things perhaps more interesting to do than take another walk around the neighborhood, I'm going to jump on those other activities.   Maybe I just lack creativity and we could have found an amazing thing to do outside this afternoon, but our visit to the mall was pretty fun.  We didn't see any frogs, worms, bugs or wild life but we saw hamsters, puppies, fish, and colorful birds instead.  Not such a bad trade-off.

More fun at the mall

Four:  I think it's important to get out of the house every day when possible.  I understand when illness confines you to the house but putting that aside, we always get out of the house.  We go to play classes, we go swimming, we go to the gym together, we go shopping, and often we also go for a big walk.  For us though, it is less important that we get outside than it is that we get out. Be it shopping or walking, we just have to get out.

Indoor gym

Five:  I think it's very important to get outside every week.  I would go as far as to say that for us it's very important that we get to the mountains every week.  On a daily basis however, I am a little more relaxed and I don't feel we are harmed by not being outside in contact with nature.  I'm hoping my son will still grow up with a love for nature even if we skip some days connecting with it.


Yay for Gymboree!
The zumba bliss is wearing off and I'm feeling very sleepy.  I also promised my husband the computer for at least half an hour before bed.  I'd just like to leave you with the invitation to please comment on my story and let me know what you think.








Monday, November 14, 2011

November in Banff

I don't know about you but November has never been my favorite time of year to go to the mountains.  Everything is gray, the flowers are gone, the grass is brown, it's getting cold, and the days are short.  This year however, we have discovered a whole new appreciation for the month of November normally referred to as shoulder season.  We aren't using it as down-time and we actually renewed our park pass so we could use it all month.  We are enjoying the quiet streets in Banff, the empty trails, and the over-all solitude.  We've gone to Banff the last two weekends and had very pleasant days with our toddler in tow.  The early snow has made for lovely hiking and we got to participate in a November ritual for many Bow Valley residents that was unknown to us until just a week ago.

Two weeks ago we went out to Banff after church on Sunday for a half day fresh-air break.  As is becoming the routine, Noah had his nap en route to Banff and we stopped at Tim Hortons for lunch.  How exciting to find out that Timmies has added lasagne to their menu.  Noah's favorite food in a coffee shop setting made me practically dance.  After lunch we took an enjoyable walk along the Fenland Trail right in the town of Banff.    It's a beautiful trail through a quiet forest that follows along 40 Mile Creek and crosses a couple bridges.  It's short and makes for the perfect toddler hike.  We even got our Halloween photos of Noah finally because his costume was really warm and we figured it made for a nice snow suit.


Daddy, Noah and Grandma on the Fenland Trail


Cookie Monster looking up at a squirrel - the highlight of the day


Mommy and Noah taking a rest along the creek


Still walking with a bit of coaxing


Daddy up!


40 Mile Creek
After our hike along the Fenland Trail, we took a drive around the Minnewanka Loop Road.  The full loop closes sometime soon but it was still open for us.  We stopped first at Cascade Ponds which I am horrified to admit I'd never visited before.  What an amazing spot if you wanted to have a picnic!  Write that down everybody for next summer.  Much nicer than the famous Elbow Falls everybody seems to go to.  There is a nice path that circumnavigates the pond area with cute little bridges for the kiddies.  I've heard that you can swim there in the summer though I'd prepare for a very chilly dip.  It also looks as if people have started sledding there so bring your sled if you take a trip over the next months.


Snowy Visit to Cascade Ponds




After the Cascade Ponds visit we continued around the loop towards Lake Minnewanka.  What a surprise to see this heavily visited tourist area extremely peaceful and almost deserted.  Noah had a great time throwing rocks in the lake with Daddy.  I've heard that you can skate on this lake in winter but it certainly wasn't frozen yet when we were there.


Throwing rocks with Daddy



Mommy and Noah

This past weekend we returned to Banff again on Remembrance Day.  This time our agenda was to hike and skate with a slight break in routine.  We ate lunch between the two activities.  And Noah napped en route to the skating lake.  We started with a hike up Tunnel Mountain.  Grandma stayed home this time so it was just the three of us for the cold windy venture.  A snow storm was coming in and there was little to no visibility.  Never the less, it was still good to get out and just be in the mountains.  It's a short hike up Tunnel Mountain right in the town of Banff and from the top you can look down over the whole valley.  On a clear day there's no place I'd rather be. 


Noah and I on top of Tunnel Mountain



Hiking down with Daddy


After the ascent of Mighty Tunnel Mountain and lunch we headed out to meet friends on Johnston Lake.  To quote the Parks Canada website:  "It doesn’t take much to find solitude in Banff National Park. Just a ten minute drive from the townsite, you can find natural gems like Quiet Pond. And if you time it just right, you can bring your skates and explore this magical November scene for yourself. “Skating Season”, as the locals refer to it, happens when cold temperatures arrive before the snowfall. It doesn’t happen every year, but when it does, be sure to get out to one of the lakes and ponds in the Bow Valley. It’s an activity steeped in canadiana, a surreal experience you will never forget. " 

Now, I don't know where this "Quiet Pond" is so if anybody knows, please comment below.  Johnston Lake  however was absolutely perfect for our November skate and apparently the whole Bow Valley knew it was "skating season."  Johnston Lake is on the Minnewanka Loop Road just outside Banff and is very easy to find.  We've hiked around the lake in summer  before but never skated on it.  To hike around the lake takes a good hour and a half.  To skate across it takes maybe 15 minutes. 
It was such an amazing experience to be able to skate clear across a mountain lake and share in a local's paradise.  I had never heard about November skating before until a couple friends who live in the Bow Valley started talking about it.  Yay for inside information!  To skate on Johnston Lake felt like I was gliding across an old Coca-cola bottle.  It was perfectly smooth and green.  Very very green!  You could look down in some spots and see logs or air bubbles  below you.  It was a little freaky to be able to see clear to the bottom of the lake in spots but I always figure there's safety in numbers.  Given the number of people on the lake, I felt pretty confident it was well frozen.


Skating on Johnston Lake


Pushing a very sleepy Pook


Our family

Our skating party

Hopefully this has inspired you to get out to the mountains and enjoy shoulder season wherever you live too.  Ski season is upon us already so we are hoping that our next outing will be at Lake Louise trying out the new ski pulk with Noah.  I become very addicted to cross country skiing each year so you can expect many ski stories over the next several months.

Question for my readers:  What is your favorite way to spend the shoulder season months between summer and winter?

Saturday, November 05, 2011

More confessions of a far from perfect mountain mama


Ever since writing  my Confessions story I keep thinking of more funny stories and reasons why I feel I'm a very average parent who enjoys taking her child to the mountains.  I'm certainly not Super Mom and I'm no triathlete.  I thought I'd share five more confessions with you in hopes of encouraging more parents that it takes passion above all else to pursue family adventure. 

Confession six – Not that strong:
I confess to being jealous of any mom out there that is able to carry her child hiking.  I’ve carried Noah in his child carrier a grand total of 20 minutes en route to a back-country hut because it meant one trip to the hut instead of two with all our gear.  My situation is unique in that due to complications following my son’s birth I am not allowed to carry more than about 20lbs for an extended period of time and Noah currently weighs 39lbs.  That challenge aside though, I’m still not sure I’d be strong enough or want to carry my son.  I’m happiest when I’m hiking with nothing but a water bladder and a granola bar on my back.  I also struggle to pull the Chariot when skiing.  I’ve seen my friend pull her son in a pulk and I’m hoping maybe it’s lighter than the Chariot brand ski sled we have.  To date though I pulled my son once in his Chariot, on a flat easy trail, and I felt like I was climbing a mountain!  I have found however that I excel at pushing the Chariot in summer up the craziest of hills and love that extra challenge.  I have grown to really love my Chariot because it allows me to contribute more in our trips and gives me options for hiking even when my husband can’t come along to carry Noah.

My one time carrying Noah into the Elizabeth Parker Hut at Lake O'Hara

This is what backpacking with toddlers looks like for us




My friend Ingunn pulling her son in a pulk
Back-country freedom with my Chariot

My friend Greta and daughter at Lake O'Hara
 
Confession seven – One child:
Yes, we have one child and it’s worth mentioning because I know it’s a lot easier for us to get to the mountains with our one toddler than it is for our friends with multiple kids.  I can’t even imagine the effort required to get two kids ready at the trail head in the middle of winter.  Add the challenge of requiring one parent to carry each child if they are both small and then still needing to find a way to get your gear to the back-country campsite if you choose that adventure.  Often when we do group family trips, we will make them Chariot-friendly so that parents are able to carry packs and push the kids at the same time.  This is how we have managed to still go backpacking with a toddler and a mom (me) who can’t carry a heavy pack.  

Our small but mighty family

Confession eight – Danger, danger:
Our family doesn’t really stick to the “family friendly” trails.  We find them too busy, often less scenic, more maintained, and less wild.  Usually it isn’t a problem and we have a lot of experience on back-country trails to keep Noah safe.  We love scrambling and have taken Noah up a few mountains now but have always chosen scrambles that resemble a difficult hike and require little to no hands on rock.  All this being said though, there have been a few trips where we shake our heads and admit that maybe that wasn’t the brightest choice for the day.  The trip that comes to mind first is one we did in Washington this past summer.  The snow hadn’t melted from the winter yet despite the fact it was August and we came to this steep snow slope that we had to traverse.  There was a sign recommending not crossing the slope without an ice-axe.  Normally that would have been the end of the hike for us since we didn’t have ice-axes on us and were carrying Noah.  However we were doing a loop and this was well past the middle point of the loop so we decided to keep going.  There were good footsteps in the snow and we are experienced on this terrain so it was fine but I do admit it was dangerous and risky.  I am proud to report that when snow shoeing last winter we turned around when we came to a similar slope that also possessed avalanche risk.  There have been many interesting days in the mountains though with Noah.  My husband has fallen while carrying him after slipping on snow (again in Washington when we lost the trail in the heavy snow), we’ve done mild bush whacking with Noah in his child carrier after getting off trail in the Bugaboos of British Columbia, and we’ve taken him into crazy mosquito infested meadows (again in the  Bugaboos).  We also had the misfortune this past summer of taking a hiking trail up a ridge called Old Baldy in Kananaskis that we’d done several years before and had remembered as being a pleasant hike.  Not so pleasant really with a toddler.  There were slippery narrow sections of eroded trail we had to traverse and it was about twice as long as the guide book led us to believe.  We finally had to leave Noah with Grandma in order to reach the ridge top.  Incidentally, Grandma fell on the way down and walked out with many bruises and gashes up and down her arms and legs.  Oops.

Off trail hiking in the Bugaboos
Should we continue?

And so we did
One of Noah's first summits
On the summit ridge of Old Baldy after leaving Noah behind with Grandma

Grandma making her way down the Old Baldy Trail shortly before the fall
 
Confession nine - We skip naps:
I know many families who plan their trips to the mountains around their children’s naps.  I think that’s great.  For them.  Our mountain adventures though take the front burner on Saturdays and naps have to fit around our hike, ski day or camping trip.  If I waited until my son no longer needed naps we’d never get to the mountains.  We are blessed with a flexible child I must admit and I know that skipping naps doesn’t work for all families.  Noah will often cat nap on the way to the mountains, sleep in his carrier or Chariot, and then nap on the way home again in the car.  He’s also generally happy when he’s outside in the mountains and so gets less fussy than if we were in the city.  All in all, we figure it’s once a week that we are putting our needs first and he will survive.  Hopefully when he’s older he’ll even thank us for taking him to the mountains instead of making him nap.

Noah won't remember this summit
Tired little Pook
If he's really tired, he'll sleep anywhere
 
Confession ten – Adult trips:
Last confession – We still like to get out without Noah and do our mountaineering trips, back-country ski trips, scrambles and long day hikes.  Sometimes we take turns and join meet-up groups with one parent on Noah-duty at home.  Most of the time however, we take advantage of Grandma and her willingness to babysit.  She’s been great at giving us a day off at least every month or two and even giving us a weekend a couple times a year.  We believe it’s important to our marriage to get away together, even if we are with other friends, to do the things we were passionate about before we had Noah.  I love toddler hikes but at least once a month I need to get out and do something that physically and mentally challenges me.  I also love connecting with my husband in an adult environment on a difficult mountain adventure.  When we can’t take time away, we take Noah with us on our adult adventures and soften them a bit.  It’s not always easy to find other families to join us in the mountains so a lot of our hikes are adult hikes that Noah gets to join.  We try to stop and let him out on occasion and there was a trip recently where Noah was faster than the slowest adult (yay Noah) but we know he would have more fun if there were more kids joining us on hikes.  (That was my plug for please come hiking with us.)

Noah along for the ride

Noah comes everywhere
Our ski trip to Skoki Lodge last January (Noah stayed with Grandma)

July Mountaineering trip while Grandma once again babysits

Once again, I'd love to hear your funny stories and confessions.

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