Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our First Anniversary - We're a year old!

September 29, 2011 I sat down to write my introduction for what would become Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies.  I'd already started a Facebook Community called the Calgary Family Adventure Community and a blog seemed like the next logical step towards creating a vibrant community here in the Calgary area.  My goal right from the beginning was always to unite local outdoor families.  I wanted to be approachable (my personal contact information isn't hard to find), to make new friends, and to welcome my readers into our family's life.  My passion was - and is - to share the love I have for our Canadian Rockies and to help other families in that quest too.

The mountains we love!

So, where are we today?

The Calgary Family Adventure Community on Facebook has 375 friends and we actually hit 100 likes in the first two weeks.  We had our first group adventure this June with a camping trip to Bow Valley Provincial Park when 18 families came out for the weekend.

Family Camping  Trip

Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, the blog, has had 85 posts, is averaging 300-500 page views per day, and has had over 64,500 visitors in the last year. Topics covered have ranged from camping to backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, paddling, women's adventures, family hosteling, to outdoor play.

We took up paddling this year as a new family sport (Photo:  Jen Sollid)

The most popular posts this year with over 1000 page views each:
Family Camping Made Easy - Backcountry Adventures, Preschool Adventures, and Baby Adventures

Guess I know what you all want me to write about more next year - Camping!!

My son spent hours and hours in our hammock camping this summer! (Photo:  Jen Sollid)

Calgary Outdoor Playgroups

One of the coolest things to have happened this year was the creation of the Calgary Outdoor Adventures Playgroup in January, 2012.  The Facebook Page for Calgary Outdoor Playgroups has 126 friends now from Calgary and the surrounding area.  We average 20 children per playgroup and we meet outside in all weather.  We have three outdoor playgroups running now in the city and I can honestly say that most of our  best friends have been made through the Outdoor Playgroup Community.  As a community of outdoor families we camped together all summer long and look forward to skiing as families this winter.

Outdoor Play - Pure and Simple

Other fabulous opportunities that have happened through this blog 

I've made a whole community of outdoor friends around Canada and the United States as a result of my blogging.  We support and write for each other, collaborate on joint projects, share ideas, and promote the heck out of each other's blogs.  I love you all (you know who you are) and I wouldn't have gotten through this year without you.  Check out my blog roll (Our Outdoor Friends) on the right hand side of this website to find out more about the fabulous community of outdoor families I belong to.

I've had the opportunity to write for some amazing magazines and websites.  I recently had a story on family hostelling published with Outpost Magazine (grab a copy of their September/October 2012 issue to read the story) and I've been contributing stories to Women's Adventure Magazine over the last few months.  Both magazines were at the top of my list for magazines I wanted most to write for.  Explore Magazine is next!!  (should anybody from Explore be reading this)  For more information on my published writing this year, check out the Contact Me tab at the top of this page. 

I've come to develop relationships with many great companies such as Piggyback Rider, Keen Canada, and Hostelling International Canada.  If you haven't seen the review I did for Piggyback Rider, please find the review here, The Piggyback Rider Saves the Day.  And if you haven't seen all of the stories I've been writing about our adventures with family hostelling, please click "hostelling" from the drop down menu under Categories - right hand side of this website.  I'll have a review for Keen coming soon so check back next week for that!  I just hiked over 15km in my new Keen Sandals and am in love!

Family Hostelling in the Canadian Rockies

Where do I hope to go in the next year?

  • Contests and more gear reviews - that's right - we might just give something away soon so keep reading!
  • More book reviews - I have three great books to tell you about in the near future.
  • More community events and planned group adventures!  So if you're in the Calgary area and haven't "liked" the Facebook Page - what are you waiting for?  
  • More outdoor playgroups across the city.  Want to lead one?  We need YOU!  :)
  • More guest posts!  Let me know what topics you'd like to see covered on this blog and I'll find you a family expert in that field.

Writing has been an awesome adventure for me and I've discovered that I want to write every day, all day, and could easily do little else.  When you don't see a post for a while it means we've definitely been out in the mountains playing and that there's big stories coming!  I hope you will continue to follow our adventures over the next year and I can't wait to see where 2012-13 takes us!  This year we took up biking and paddling as a family.  We're open to suggestions for our next family sport.  :)

I'd love to hear what your favourite story or blog topic was this past year.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Being a mom doesn't cramp my lifestyle

My son's in preschool for the afternoon and it feels like my weekend has already started as I sit on a sunny patio with my laptop and coffee.  This is a preview of what I expect my whole weekend to be like as I leave later today for a mom's weekend away.  Four of us moms from my Outdoor Playgroup have decided to get away and enjoy one of the last warm weekends available to us to do some paddling in the sunny Invermere Valley of British Columbia. 

I love these chances to get away but as I was on my way to drop my son off at his class I thought about how I would react were our plans to change suddenly.  How would I feel if my husband got sick suddenly and I had to stay home?  Or if us moms all got sick - something that actually did come close to cancelling the weekend as two of us are in fact sick with different viruses threatening to contaminate the other two healthy moms.  (Sorry girls.  Hope your immune systems are strong.)

Sickness aside, because it would really suck to have plans cancelled for that reason, I would actually be ok with having to stay home and spend time with my family instead.  I say "have to" but the truth is, I love my family and I love family time!!  I can't get enough of it.  Our weekends are sacred and we always plan fun things to do together as a family.  If our girl's trip would have been cancelled we most likely would have planned a family hike instead or packed up the canoe and paddle board for a trip out to one of our aqua-coloured lakes.  Heck, it's warn enough we could have spontaneously packed up to go camping for one final time this season.  I love my girlfriends but what I love most is just doing something.  Anything!  If I'm in the mountains, I'm happy. 

Mountains = Happy

I know not all moms feel this way and I think it's particularly challenging for hard-core adventure moms who are driven to pursue their  hobbies at a skill level way beyond what their kids could come along on safely.  I get that.  Really I do.  I used to be like that.  Even last summer I had a list a mile long of scrambles and adult adventures I wanted to do on my own.  This summer I still had the list but nothing got checked off.  Not one scramble!  I did my annual mountaineering trip with my husband but that was it for adult adventures.  Every hike I did this summer was with my family and our three year old son.  He got carried on occasion but for the most part, he was walking - which should clearly give you an idea of how hard our hikes were (not). 

Hiking with my Little Buddy

Despite the fact that I hiked at the pace of a three year old this summer, I don't feel like my son has cramped my lifestyle - at all!  In fact, I am blessed to have him along on our journeys.  I like hiking with him.  I like paddling on my board with him in the canoe watching me.  We took up canoeing this summer just so the three of us could enjoy getting into the backcountry more easily.  I also took up biking again for the first time since I was a teenager - again so I could join my husband and son on more adventures.  The bike attachment  for our Chariot was getting dusty waiting for me to get a bike.  Being a mom has definitely not slowed me down or cramped my lifestyle.  I've had a blast this summer with my family and wouldn't give up our family time for the world!

Sunday Afternoon Paddle with my Son

I'm going to enjoy this weekend away with my friends but next weekend we're off on a big family adventure at a wilderness hostel and I'll enjoy that weekend hiking with my son just as much. 

To read more about my journey to become happy as an outdoor mom, read my post:  My Journey to Become an Outdoor Mom.  I wrote it this past Spring as I was discovering the simple joys of outdoor play, riding my new bike and camping with my family.

Being a mom is not an easy journey but it's a rewarding one!  Have a great weekend moms with your children - young and old. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Two Campsites and Eight Families

I figured I'd  better get my Labour Day Camping story posted soon before I get too engrossed in writing about autumn hikes.  It was our final camping trip of the year and we had gathered all of our best friends we'd been camping with this season for one last trip together.  There were 8 families in total - and yes, we essentially had 2 campsites to share.  I would have made a large group booking had I known how much interest we'd have in this camping trip but by the time I made the reservation early summer there were no group sites left unless we wanted to drive to Northern Alberta.  The best option we found was two double sites backing on to each other.  With few trees and a very open concept at Little Bow Provincial Park's Campground, we would have a small group area to ourselves.  What we didn't realize is that the double sites, designed to accommodate two units plus even a third, were about the size of a single site in most parks.   The saving grace was that we had corner sites with lots of grass surrounding our sites.  We managed to fit 4 trailers and 3 tents on our area.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Seize the Day and Colour it Golden - Autumn is Here!

It's really hard to believe fall is here.  It feels like only yesterday that I was planning out our summer, making campground reservations, and worrying about the big annual climbing trip.  Now I need to get myself organized and start making some plans for winter.  I can't even begin to think about snow right now when it's in the high 20's and gloriously sunny!

That being said, I was on Global Morning News here in Calgary this morning talking about my favourite fall hikes to do in the Banff area and my Top Autumn Hikes Story just appeared in the fall issue of Calgary's Child.  If you live in the Calgary area, you can pick up a copy everywhere around the city.  Otherwise, click on the link above to read the full story on Calgary's Child's Website.  To watch my interview, follow this link to the Global News Website.

September at Sunshine Meadows, Banff

In preparation for the change of seasons, I've also updated my Spring Hikes Page.  It is now called Spring and Fall Hiking and can be found as a tab at the top of the website.  Many of you have told me how much you like having the Spring Hikes up year round so rather than remove the page for winter, I added a few Autumn favourites and the page will be a permanent feature on my blog.  Most of the hikes are good shoulder season trips that can be done in either spring or fall when snow persists after a long winter or has started to fall higher up in the Rockies.

October at Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

Two other stories I want to draw your attention to are my previous ones on Life After Summer in the Mountains.  Part One focuses on the clothing you'll need for fall hiking and Part Two focuses on great hikes you'll enjoy through November until you transition to skis or snowshoes.  I also talk about why you should continue to get out to the mountains in October or November when everything is getting dark, the grass is brown, and snow is starting to fall.  We've enjoyed some fabulous hikes in the shoulder season and it was my aim in writing these posts that you'd find the same enjoyment.

Larch Valley in September, Lake Louise

Finally, if you're up for more reading over your Sunday coffee, here are some other favourites:

Autumn Family Trip to Lake O'Hara
  • Our Backcountry Trip at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara in September, 2012
Lake O'Hara in September

A Stress Free Day in the Mountains
  • Hiking Sundance Canyon in October
The Paved Trail leading to Sundance Canyon

November in Banff
  • Hiking The Fenland Trail
  • Exploring Cascade Ponds and Lake Minnewanka
  • Hiking up Tunnel Mountain
  • Skating on Johnston Lake
Skating Season in Banff on Johnston Lake

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Recipe For Great Family Memories - Just Add Water!

We love living on the doorstep of the Canadian Rockies and Kananaskis is our playground.  We hike, we camp, we climb, and we explore.  This summer we added biking to the mix and shortly we'll be pulling out our skis again.  Something was missing though and until this summer I don't think any of us realized it.  We had land, rock and snow covered but water was somehow missing from the package.  How can you be a true multi-sport family without diving into water sports?

Our son has always loved water.


Our journey to become a paddling family started on the August long weekend this summer.  We used canoes to access a backcountry campground in Kananaskis.  You can read the full story here, How to Fit 7 People in a Canoe:  Backcountry Adventures in Kananaskis.  We discovered how much easier it is to travel by boat into the backcountry when you have young children.  Our past trips had required Chariots and Ski Pulks, which though great for carrying kids and gear, don't carry nearly as much as a tripping canoe.

Canoeing in Kananaskis (Photo:  Jen Sollid)

To our surprise we discovered that our son likes canoeing, loves being on the water, and is able to sit still without falling out of the boat.  He does have a short attention span though so trips longer than an hour definitely need to be broken up!  - and here is where I beg for comments at the bottom of this post with suggestions on how to entertain kids in a canoe.

The best part of canoeing for a child - the breaks!


A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to be able to try kayaking for the first time on our trip out to the Kootenay Rockies in British Columbia.  You can read that story here, Mama Loves Glamping.  I've wanted to try kayaking for over ten years now so it was pretty epic for me to finally get the chance!  Even better was getting to take our son with us on our first paddle.  He apparently loved the experience because "go kayak" was called out from the backseat the whole way back to Calgary afterwards.  Every lake we passed was a reminder to him that we should be out on the water.  And I couldn't agree more!

First Time in a Kayak

We came home and within a week had purchased our own canoe.  It's been out 5 times already and we've only had it a week.  I'd call it a successful purchase!  We really wanted to buy kayaks but with our paddling experience level as it is and our son still being so young, figured canoeing was the safer option for now.

Canoeing last weekend in Little Bow Provincial Park

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The final step on our journey to becoming a paddling family began in the Okanagan as part of our vacation in British Columbia.  I had two things on my list when we headed out on vacation.  One -  Find a kayak to rent or borrow, and Two - Find out what all the fuss with Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) was all about.  I've heard so much about SUP that I've grown curious by the sport and really wanted to try it.  I figured if there was any place I could rent a board, the warm lakes of the Okanagan would surely be the spot!  And sure enough - we got to Kelowna and there was a rental shop set up right on the Rotary Beach next to our motel.  It wasn't cheap but for $20/hour I got to at least stand on a board, paddle around the roped off swimming area, and try paddling with Noah.  I was pleased to find the learning curve for the sport non existent.  If you can paddle a canoe, you can paddle a stand up board. The board I tried was really wide and long (at least 32 inches wide and over 11 feet long) making it excellent for beginner paddlers.  It was also plastic as opposed to fiberglass and after trying a fiberglass board in Penticton, I can say that I prefer plastic for increased stability.

First time SUP'ing in Kelowna on Okanagan Lake
Noah and I paddling together

I rented another board on Skaha Lake in Penticton and again got to paddle around the swimming area.  It was a bit cheaper at $25 for two hours but the experience left me wanting to get out past the roped off "safe" area.  What would it be like to paddle out across the lake, to go touring on the board with my lunch to a little island or secluded  beach?  What would it be like to paddle a river or channel?  I was hooked and a two hour rental experience wasn't going to be enough.

SUP'ing in Penticton on Skaha Lake

So, how hooked was I?  Hooked enough that I've now bought my own board and it's hanging in my garage right now.  I have a paddle, a life jacket, a wet suit for the cold Rocky Mountain lakes, and tears in my eyes as I type and think about my new board.  I knew I couldn't justify buying a new board as a beginner but I was very blessed to find a local store, Undercurrents, selling off used boards at the end of the season.  I picked the board up yesterday and already have a girl's trip planned in a couple of weeks to the nearest and warmest lake I can find. 

I'll be writing a whole post in the future about my not so secret love affair with SUP but for the moment, let me just say that I've never really liked paddling until now.  Standing to paddle and being able to use your whole body as you do it is a whole new experience.  I also love the feeling of balancing on water, I love looking down on the water as I paddle (something you can't do as easily from a canoe), and I love the sound my paddle makes as it cuts through the water.  I've always wanted to find a water sport I loved and I've finally found it.  Canoeing is a great family activity but SUP is my new passion and chosen individual sport.  I've never tried a new sport before and gone out within the week to buy all the requisite gear.  That should say something I imagine.

Check back soon for our latest September long weekend camping adventures.  I rented a  SUP board from Mountain Equipment Coop for the weekend and along with a lot of canoeing, it was a fabulous paddling weekend.  (and I only fell off my board twice.)

Paddling on the Travers Reservoir in Little Bow Provincial Park

It's always good to paddle with friends


What's your family's favourite water sport?