Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pedalheads Bike Camps - From Training Wheels to Trails

It was 8:00pm a couple of nights ago and my son was crying because he wanted to go ride his bike.  Again.  For the FOURTH time that day.  And his other three rides weren't exactly little excursions either.  He had spent the day with Grandma and she had taken him out on his balance bike all over Bowmont Park and then all around Edworthy Park later in the afternoon for what was probably 5km+ of riding in total.  Then in the evening, Daddy took him out again on his pedal bike (Dad is the only one that can run fast enough to keep up) and they did another 3-5km loop.  How could Noah still need a fourth ride?!

This is my unstoppable child in  LOVE with biking.  I  have nobody but myself to "blame" really because I've pushed hard to get him out riding every day and you'll likely hear me screaming at him to go faster, to fly, and to pick his feet up so that he can really pick up some speed on the hills when on his balance bike.  I take him mountain biking with his Strider bike and he's already doing trails that I know I couldn't do on my own bike.  I am raising a machine.  And it's going to be scary when he gets older.  I'm a little bit worried.  (read, a LOT worried.)

Noah on his new Spawn Cycles Bike

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Revised Look at Summer 2013 in the Canadian Rockies

Readers and followers of my blog will know that we have had our entire summer planned out for months now.  We've had campground bookings made since February and have several adventure projects on the go for the 2013 summer season.  Then the rain came and didn't stop for three days.  In the mountain town of Canmore alone, more than 200mm fell in a 36 hour period leading to flooding such as the province has never seen before. As the rivers and creeks rose in the mountains, the water travelled east to Calgary causing a rise in flow of both the Bow River and Elbow River with up to 5 to 10 times the average rate for this time of year.  Approximately 75 000 people were placed under a mandatory evacuation order in Calgary spread across 26 neighborhoods and a total of 27 states of local emergency were declared across Southern Alberta.

A photo of the Bow River claiming one of my favourite walking paths in Calgary


The flooding washed away parts of Canmore and Banff as benign creeks became angry raging rivers and parts of the Trans-Canada Hwy were washed away leaving Bow Valley residents stranded in their communities.  Needless to say, the current state of affairs in our mountain parks isn't good and the latest MCR Report says that 80% of the bridges along the eastern slopes of the Banff backcountry are gone.  That's going to affect outdoor plans this summer for many folks!

We all rejoiced today when the Trans-Canada Hwy finally opened again to private and commercial traffic between Banff and Calgary and while a permanent fix has not yet been made, a temporary solution is in place with reduced speeds and single-lane travel in each direction for a 12km distance east of the park gate.  Beyond Banff though, Kananaskis is still closed to all vehicles along Hwy 40 with 250 people having to be rescued from the area's campgrounds and resorts.  The following highways are all currently closed making it pretty much impossible to access 90% of Kananaskis:
  • Hwy. 40 in Kananaskis Country
  • Hwy. 66 west of the Elbow River
  • Hwy. 541 west of the Kananaskis Country boundary
  • Hwy. 940 south of the Highwood River
  • Hwy. 742 (Smith Dorrien Spray Trail)
  • Hwy. 546 west of Sandy McNabb campground
  • Hwy. 532 west of Hwy. 22
  • Hwy. 68 between Hwy. 40 & Powderface Trail
  • McLean Creek Trail 
For a good look at why all of these highways are closed, check out the following map that Alberta Parks has provided on their website.  On the stretch of Hwy 40 from the Trans-Canada Hwy to Kananaskis Lakes alone there are currently 2 washouts, 4 slides to be cleared, and 3 bridges completely destroyed! The Spray Lakes Road has 7 washouts, 14 slides, and 2 damaged bridges.  That's a lot of work to clean up! 

Road work on Hwy 40 still continues in an effort to provide temporary vehicle access so that the people evacuated from the Kananaskis Village area down to Peter Lougheed Park can return to retrieve their personal belongings.  Beyond that though, there is absolutely no word on when we will be able to access Kananaskis again.  While slides and debris should be cleaned up soon, bridges could take the better part of the summer to rebuild.  I am hopeful that temporary fixes will be in place within a week or two but there is no guarantee.

For a full list of road closures, please consult the AMA Road Reports website.

A look at my beloved Bowness Park under water in Calgary

So, where do mountain lovers go from here?


If you are in the camp that believes we shouldn't go anywhere, that we should stay home and help rebuild the community, you may be disappointed in the following paragraph.  While I strongly believe that our communities and cities will only get rebuilt if we work together as a team, I also believe that we as families owe it to our children to carry on with life as normal for at least a weekend here and there.  You can't spend every waking moment for the rest of the summer cleaning out basements and looking down at mud.  And while it may look bleak right now, Banff National Park is OPEN for business.  And Kananaskis will open again too.  I actually heard a rumor today that Hwy 40 might be open within a week in fact.  In  times of disaster, the worst thing you can do is to give up, to let depression set in, and to stop living.  
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”  John Muir
We will continue to spend time in the mountains seeking their good tidings.  We will continue to go camping this summer.  We will climb mountains.  New trails will be hiked and biked, and new lakes will be paddled. This is how our family will find hope in the midst of the sadness around us. 

Playing in the mountains just a few days before the rain started

How will the flooding affect our plans and adventure projects?


The Camping Project

Our Camping Project will continue as planned with our goal still in place to camp 40+ nights this summer.  Safety of course will be a high concern and we will be modifying our campground choices as necessary throughout the summer.  Last weekend's backpacking trip to the Quaite Valley had to be cancelled since the entire park was closed with very limited highway access.  This weekend's plans however are going to proceed with no changes at all.  We are spending the long weekend in Waterton Lakes National Park and have even adopted two extra families because of the situation in Kananaskis.  While Waterton has seen damage due to the rain as well, the park is definitely accessible along with all of the trails that we would plan to do open.

Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, we will have to play things by ear week to week.  Trips in the National Parks should be good to go.  Trips in Kananaskis may need to be cancelled for the next few weeks.  One of the awesome things about living in Calgary though is that we have 6 different national parks located within a half day's drive.  We also have provincial parks in abundance spread out all over Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.  For the determined family, there will always be a place to go camping!!

Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park last month (I imagine that creek is a LOT higher now)

Biking

While we won't be heading out to Kananaskis to do any mountain biking in the near foreseeable future, we will be spending a lot of time in Calgary on our bikes.  Nose Hill Park is one of our favourite places to hike or bike in the city and as the name would imply, it's high up on a large hill, untouched from flooding as far as I know.  There is still a lot of beauty left to enjoy within the city limits and we will be getting outside daily for our regular dose of sunshine.  Noah starts bike camp in a little over a week with Pedalheads and we are excited to see what the summer has in store.  He's already doing loops through our community that I hadn't expected him to be doing until the end of summer - if that! 

Biking in Confederation Park (the park is in great shape right now)

First Summits

While I haven't talked much about this one yet, we started tackling Noah's first summits last year with an easy walk to the top of Sulphur Mt via the Banff gondola.  Noah had achieved many summits already as a baby and toddler but they don't technically count because he was carried up all of them.  We are focusing on self propelled summits now where Noah has to at least walk from the top of the gondola or tramway terminal to the top of a mountain.  This summer's first summit was the mighty Tunnel Mountain in Banff, which we climbed back in spring.  We will now be moving on to finish the rest of the summits covered in the story that I just wrote for Calgary's Child:  Go Climb a Mountain! Family-Friendly First Summits.  While it has been a concern to at least one reader that I would be sending families off into flood affected areas in the wild and dangerous backcountry, please know that every one of the summits featured in that article is doable right NOW.  Today.  Tunnel Mountain may need to dry out a bit, but you could still climb it today if you were desperate to get out and couldn't wait a week or two.  Also, none of them are located in the backcountry.  ;) At least two are accessible via gondola or tramway, and all of them are located inside or very near the actual town limits of Banff, Jasper, or Waterton. 

Old Fort Point Summit in Jasper

Paddling

Fortunately, most of our paddling trips should be unaffected by the recent flooding.  We aren't planning any river trips until the August long weekend and I'm seriously hoping water levels will be down to normal by then.  The soonest paddling trip within Kananaskis falls at the end of July and we are fairly confident that Hwy 40 will be open by then.  Other than that, it is my goal to SUP my way from Waterton to Jasper this summer on every mountain lake I can find!  That goal has not changed!  Gosh no!  I have a new paddleboard to prove it along with the kayak we just got for my husband and son to assist me in my paddling project.

SUP'ing on the Columbia River - on the list again for this summer

Hiking

For a family that has always been so hard core into hiking, we really didn't have any hiking goals made for this summer.  The focus has been on camping, biking, and paddling.  We will hike while we are camping and we will do pleasant family day hikes when we have a chance, but it just isn't a priority.  We've done a lot of spring hiking already as a family and are kind of happy with the distances that Noah has already logged so far this year with the aid of his balance bike.  As of the moment, he's up to 9km and we are over the moon proud of him.  We will be checking trail reports religiously this summer and will be sticking to easy front country trails.

Hiking in Sunshine Meadows last summer

And You?

Whatever your plans hold for this summer, I wish you blessings, joy, and peace.  Please check the National Parks or Alberta Parks Websites EVERY time you plan to go out.  Trail reports will be vital  this summer.  You won't be able to just head out on a whim this year assuming for good conditions.   Check your campground bookings before you go as well.  Many campgrounds are closed right now in places that I would never have thought would be affected by the flooding.


For more information:







And for a complete comprehensive list to all advisories, trail reports, and conditions - check out my buddy Ken's website:  Big Grey Rocks - Flooding in Banff and Kananaskis:  Where to find up-to-date information on road and trail conditions.




Monday, June 24, 2013

Go Climb a Mountain – Family Friendly First Summits

There’s nothing like climbing a mountain to teach a child perseverance, build self-confidence, and drive home the message that “Yes, I Can!”  After all, think of the beloved Children’s Classic with the little engine that pulls the train over the mountain for her first time ever to the mantra of “I think I can, I think I can…”  Well, you can climb a mountain too!  And so can your children!  There are many summits, ridges, and viewpoints in the Canadian Rockies with less than 400m of height gain from top to bottom and many of them are quite do-able by children as young as 3-4 years old.  Some of them even have support to help you access the summit via gondola or aerial tramway.

First Summits in Jasper National Park

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Family Biking Interview With Charlene Belanger

 I've written many stories in my Kids on Wheels family biking series and so far have mostly focused on the children with topics ranging from making bike riding fun to choosing a good first bike.  One topic I haven't covered in depth though is family dynamics, why it's important to ride as a family - together, and why your kids need to see their mom and dad on a bike too.

Knowing when I'm in way over my head, being the novice cyclist that I am, I have chosen to bring in a more qualified expert on the subject of family biking.  Charlene Belanger is a local Calgary mom and I first met her when I moved to this city 10+ years ago.  We lost touch over the years but I was thrilled when we met up again on a family hiking trip with the Alpine Club of Canada and I've been following Char's adventures on the Bike Pirate website where she is a guest blogger.


I asked Char if I could interview her and pick her brain a bit on how to introduce children to biking (mountain biking in particular), how to raise up kids who would love biking, and how it all worked to pursue this sport together as a family.  Fortunately for us Char agreed to answer a few questions and so I'd like to share her answers with you today.
  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Join Me in Supporting The Axel Project

The Axel Project is a brand new non profit organization in memory of Axel Charrette, a lovely 2 year old boy who was killed in Mexico this past winter.  Axel loved riding his Strider balance bike as he tagged along following his parents and older brother on road trips and mountain biking adventures across North America. 
Strider has partnered with the Charrette family and the project is dedicated to providing balance bikes to Children in need. 

Below is the press release that I wanted to share with you because I very much believe in this project and hope you will join with me in supporting a great cause that aims to bring hope out of great tragedy.  All words are directly copied from the press release issued by the Charrette family and reprinted here with permission from the family.

Photo used by permission from Jen Charrette


 Introducing the Axel Project

Ridgway, Colorado (June 7th, 2013) The Charrette family has announced the launch of the Axel Project. The Axel Project was created in honor of 2-year old, Axel Charrette, who was killed in Sayulita Mexico in February 2013. The organization’s mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families.

Axel’s love for all things bikes, clearly instilled by his family’s passion for cycling, and his particular affinity for chasing his brother around on his Strider bike, led to the creation of the Axel Project, and its natural corporate partnership with Strider Sports International, Inc.
 
Randy Charrette, Axel’s father and Project co-founder, expressed his passion for the endeavor,
“In the months after our loss we wanted to come up with a way to honor our son’s memory. We decided to set up the Axel Project. Axel loved his Strider and we loved watching him gain
confidence and enjoy life as he rode around. By getting more children and families on bicycles
we are helping build healthier communities and a better world.”

The Axel Project’s immediate goal is to provide balance bikes to children in need. Organizations can apply to receive Strider bikes, for a nominal fee which includes shipping, as well as instructions on teaching children the basics of riding, by filling out a simple online application on the Axel Project website: http://axelproject.com/apply.

Jen Charrette, Axel’s mother and Project co-founder, explains,
“We believe biking not only builds confidence in young children but also improves health, is an outlet to express pure joy, is a foundation to a lifelong appreciation of nature, and helps strengthen family bonds because it’s an activity the entire family can do together. The Axel Project was an obvious way for us to forever memorialize Axel and everything we came to love about riding together as a family.”
Photo used by permission from Jen Charrette

Ryan McFarland, founder of Strider Bikes, had only two words when he was asked if his
company would be the founding sponsor of the Axel Project. “We’re In,” was his immediate, and
indelible response.

Donations to the Axel Project can be made at www.axelproject.com. All donations will be used to
fulfill the organization’s mission. 

In addition, for every Strider bike sold on the Axel Project
website, one will be donated to a child in need.

 



About the Axel Project

The Axel Project is Ridgway, Colorado-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the fundamental principle that a productive, happy life begins with bikes. Our mission is to introduce and nurture a lifelong passion for cycling to children and their families. While our goal is broad, our first project is aimed at providing balance bicycles and instruction to children in need, ages 18 months to 5-years of age, to teach the basic skills necessary to get them riding on two wheels—with their friends, their family and forever. For more information or to contact the Axel Project, visit www.axelproject.com.
 

About Strider Sports International, Inc.

Strider Sports International, Inc. designs efficient, no-pedal balance bikes that encourage toddlers to ride, learn, and explore the world on two wheels. Founded by Ryan McFarland in January 2007, Strider Sports is a company full of passionate riders of dirt, mountain, street, and road bikes. The goal of Strider Sports is to simplify a bike to its essence, so that proper size, lightweight and simplicity combine to eliminate any fear of riding and instill confidence in young new riders. The patented STRIDER™ No-Pedal Bike is now distributed in over 35 countries. To learn more and to find a retailer in your area, visit http://www.StriderBikes.com.

 
About Strider™ No-Pedal Bikes

If your toddler can walk, your toddler can rider a STRIDER™. STRIDER No-Pedal Balance Bikes were developed specifically to help toddlers and young children learn balance and coordination BEFORE pedaling. The simple, no pedal design allows toddlers to learn to ride on two wheels, avoiding tricycle tip-overs and training wheel wobbles, and instilling considerable confidence and stellar bike handling skills sure to last a lifetime. Strider No-Pedal Balance Bikes encourage the development of spatial awareness, balance and basic motor skills so that all children can reach their maximum riding potential faster, better and safer. Available at http://www.StriderBikes.com.


What can you do to get involved?
  • As mentioned above, if you buy your next balance bike off the Axel Project website, a second bike will be donated to a child in need. 
  • You can make donations to the project from the website above as well.
  • You can tell your friends about this project so that they can make their own donations or purchase their next bike from the Axel Project.
  • If you are an organization that works with children in need, you can apply to receive bikes through the project as mentioned above.  To apply visit this link:  http://axelproject.com/apply

Let's show the Charrette family our support and help raise awareness for this memorial for Axel Charrette.  To visit the blog for the Axel Project, visit Jen's Velo Mom website

 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kids on Wheels - Choosing a good bike!

If you've been following my Kids on Wheels Series you should know that I am absolutely passionate about getting kids on their first bike at an early age and that I believe in choosing a good bike!  I have never been a crazy mountain biker flying down mountains  but I loved riding my bike when I was a kid and the memories carry with me into adulthood.  I remember riding around my neighborhood with my brother seeking out new playgrounds, riding to the store, and even decorating my bike for neighborhood parades with crepe paper woven through the spokes. I want my son to have  those memories too! - with a bit of extra challenge of course.  :)  I am hoping he'll take his bike places I'd never dream of riding and we're off to a good start because he's already done more mountain biking on his little balance bike than I've done in my entire life.

My four year old on his first pedal bike

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Backpacking in STYLE - no tent, no sleeping bags, and no cooking!

Can you really call it backpacking if you don't sleep in a tent, don't have to carry sleeping bags with you, and don't have to lift a finger the whole time to cook, set up camp, fetch water, or build a fire?  Personally, I choose to think that backpacking refers to any overnight journey where you have to hike, ski, or ride your bike to camp on your own steam carrying at least a few items - and if you have kids, guaranteed you will always be carrying a lot of gear to ensure that you are prepared for everything from snow to rain!

Arriving at Sundance Lodge - our backcountry luxury destination

A Bit of Our Backcountry History

We started our backcountry family adventures when my son was just a year old and we travelled the old fashioned way on foot, carrying everything we'd need for a night at Elbow Lake in Kananskis.  We pushed Noah in a Chariot and used it to carry a lot of gear too.  Once at camp, it was your average backcountry camping trip complete with tent, boiled water for drinking, and fire for warmth. The next year's backcountry trip in Yoho National Park followed in the same style except that we ventured further from the car, hiking a total of 4km to reach our campsite.  Again, we brought the Chariot to help with gear and child transportation, but this time we stayed for two nights.  It was fun and we definitely knew we had started an annual tradition.

A typical backpacking trip for us

Last summer our son was three years old and we figured it was time to up the challenge a bit.  This time he would hike his own way into camp.  No Chariot.  We chose to camp at the Point in Kananaskis for two nights and we had all of the preschool aged kids marching the 3.5km to our overnight destination on Upper Kananaskis Lake.    However, we discovered something important on this trip that will be repeated for years to come - choosing a campsite accessible by canoe makes things a whole LOT easier when it comes to hauling gear in with small kids!  We used two canoes to ferry gear to camp and did shuttles on the way out so that none of the kids had to hike back to the cars.  It was glorious!  We will be doing another similar trip this summer in Kananaskis and have booked the entire Jewel Bay Campground for our group.  Some families will hike in to camp with their gear transported by boat but the majority of us will paddle to our scenic spot on Barrier Lake.

Mom, Dad, kids, the dog, and gear - the BEST way to travel
The final way we've explored the backcountry has been by skiing and snowshoeing into backcountry huts.  We've done this twice now as a family pulling Noah in a ski pulk.  Of all the trips, these have been the most brutal and we are absolutely nuts to even consider repeating this kind of adventure next winter - yet you know we will!

Winter Snowshoeing Adventures


Last Weekend's Epic 20km Return Trip Backpacking Adventure

Now, it's 2013 and our son is 4.  Time to add more challenge to the summer trips I figure.  (see if we can make them as hard as the winter ones) And what better way to do that than to jump from 3.5km of hiking all the way up to 10km  to reach camp! Yes, we are crazy! - but you probably already knew that if you've been following my blog for a while now. Last weekend we completed 20km of hiking round trip as a family over two days with ankle deep mud, rain, hail, and cheap department store running shoes on Noah that were falling apart with every step on the trail.  (We had to put plastic bags in his shoes for the hike out in a desperate attempt to keep his feet dry - which didn't work)

There were three key things that lead to our success in actually pulling off a 20km two day backpacking trip with a four year old: 

One - We let Noah bring his Strider balance bike and he rode about 50% of the distance on the bike

Two - We brought the Chariot along for rest breaks

Three - We all knew that we had a cozy lodge waiting for us at the end of the trail and that knowledge alone kept us going!!  (In fact I told Noah that if he rode right up to the front door of Sundance Lodge, he would get extra cookies!)

Negotiating a rocky section of the trail that had gotten very muddy with the rain


Our Backcountry Home for the Night:  Sundance Lodge, Banff National Park

Holiday on Horseback is a well known Banff company that specializes in trail rides and backcountry trips to cozy lodges or tent camps in the heart of Banff National Park's wilderness.  Cowboys supplied by Warner Guiding and Outfitting accompany you on your journey and ensure you have the trip of a lifetime in the Canadian Rockies!

While I haven't done a horseback ride with Holiday on Horseback (yet), I have skied into their most accessible backcountry destination, Sundance Lodge, twice now and knew I wanted to return in summer as a family.  To read about our winter adventures at Sundance Lodge should you be planning a visit to Banff this coming winter, please follow the next links to Sundance Lodge - Home in the Backcountry and The Secret Backcountry Ski Lodge in the Canadian Rockies

To read my informative post on Sundance Lodge in the summer, please follow the link to Kids in the Backcountry - Escape to Banff's Sundance Lodge.  I've covered everything you need to know in this post if you are a family that might want to travel into the lodge with the kids OR if you would like to go on a trail ride with Holiday on Horseback.

Sundance Lodge, Banff National Park

Hiking to Sundance Lodge

Sundance Lodge is easily reached from the Healy Creek Trailhead on the Sunshine Village Road.  From there you follow the Healy Creek Trail to the junction with the Brewster Creek Trail which leads you to the lodge in approximately 10km total one way distance.  We chose to take a short cut trail signed for Fatigue Pass but the name says it all and I can't recommend this way in.  At all.  Possibly on the way out it might be a good way to go if you're on foot because it cuts off a kilometre and is fairly steep so you could definitely save some time.  If you are on bike though, as our son was, you want to stick to the main Healy Creek Trail all the way to the normal junction which then joins the wide, well travelled Brewster Creek trail, switch-backing its way up the steepest part of the trail.  Noah rode his bike the whole way down the Brewster Creek switch backs on the way out but he would have had to walk the short cut trail as he did on the way in.

Making sure he knows where he's going before we set out
The short cut trail we took on the way in - not so bike friendly

The Healy Creek trail is a pretty little trail that would make for a nice day trip to the junction with Brewster Creek and back.  It's very bike friendly and has a nice bridge crossing at the start.  And when I say that it's bike friendly, I mean that even I would ride it and I am the greenest mountain biker out there!   The only challenge we had with this section of the trail was that the creek had overflowed at one low point of the trail requiring a short ford.  Fortunately it was only ankle deep on us and we pushed our son across in the Chariot.

The Healy Creek Trail
Fording the creek at the washed out section
The bridge at the  beginning of the trail

The Brewster Creek trail is great for two groups of people:  Competent mountain bikers making their way into the lodge overnight or people on horseback making their way to Sundance and Halfway Lodge as part of a four day ride.  As a hiking trail there is really little to recommend as it gets muddy with any amount of rain, sees enough horse traffic to create rutted sections through the mud, and isn't especially scenic.  You'll see lots of trees but that's about it until you reach the lodge and can see some mountains poking up behind the lodge.  The Good news - if you have children over 9 years of age, you can make use of the company's guiding service and travel on horseback.  You would then be able to go beyond Sundance as well to Halfway Lodge - which is way way in the Banff backcountry and on my list to visit.

One of the narrower sections of the Brewster Creek Trail - and Noah taking a break

MUD!
Easy riding on the Brewster Creek Trail

Why Stay at Sundance Lodge?

Trail aside, there are many reasons I would highly recommend Sundance Lodge as your next family backcountry destination:
  • It is reasonable in price to stay at the lodge compared to other backcountry lodges.  No helicopter access required and if you hike instead of riding it's even more affordable. 
  • While it's 10km to the lodge, this is one of the easiest trails your family can find.  We pushed a Chariot into the lodge afterall! 
  • There are not many backcountry lodges out there accessible by bike!  And how many accessible by balance bike?  Definitely very few!!
  • The lodge is not usually booked full so you have a good shot at enjoying a quiet night with few other guests.  We were blessed to be the only guests in  the giant 10 room lodge on our night - and it was a Saturday night!  (While it's no guarantee, for a better shot at having the lodge to yourself go early or late season, or go mid week)
  • Unless the lodge is booked 100% solid full, you'll have your own room for your family which comes with a large comfortable bed for mom and dad, and a bunk bed for the kids.
  • The Meals!  Good country home cooking with food your kids will eat!  We're talking chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner (we even got to choose our veggie to go with), fresh  baked cookies and muffins, pancakes and sausage for breakfast, and all the lemonade you can drink!
  • This is as classic of an experience in the Canadian Rockies as you're going to get!  Whether you hike, ride your bike, or ride a horse into camp, you are staying in the backcountry of Canada's first National Park at an authentic wilderness lodge. 
  • If you choose the four day riding trip to both lodges you will definitely be able to check something off your bucket list because really, who doesn't dream of doing a multi-day horseback trip into the backcountry?  If I can figure out how to make my knees happy with the idea of riding a horse for hours at a time I will definitely be signing our family up when Noah turns 9!
  • Sundance Lodge is a great destination for your next family reunion or gathering. With 10 bedrooms there's room for everybody, and each member of your group can choose their preferred method of getting to the lodge so that while some might want to arrive on horseback, others could hike or ride their bike.
  • At the end of the day, who wouldn't rather stay in a cozy lodge  after hiking 10km instead of having to sleep in a tent?  Come on, raise your hands!
 
Our backcountry paradise
The lodge living room
Checking out the corrals
Enjoying our private lodge in the evening


Glampers and Mountain Princesses - Sundance Lodge is Your Access to the Backcountry - in Comfort! 

Sorry if I offended anybody with the term "Mountain Princess" but I'm one of the biggest ones out there so I point a finger back at myself!  I love camping, love to plan to go camping, and love it when I'm at camp - but I really don't want to do any work while I'm camping.  And my husband would agree that I'm telling the truth there.

When you stay at Sundance Lodge you have to do the work to GET to camp.  But then it's all done and you can relax in complete comfort and luxury!  I mean check out these amenities:
  • Running water
  • Solar powered energy for the light switches found around the lodge - and in your bedroom
  • Showers!!
  • Indoor plumbing (yep, you don't have to use the outhouse once!)
Add the awesomeness that you won't have to do any cooking, you'll have fresh baking and coffee when you arrive, you'll have to carry very few things for your overnight stay, AND if it rains you'll be warm and dry!

Seriously, are you on the phone yet booking your reservation??

The original lodge - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Evening at the lodge

For More Information on Sundance Lodge and Holiday on Horseback: 

Check out the last post I wrote, Kids in the Backcountry - Escape to Banff's Sundance Lodge,  which highlights everything you'll need to know from how old your kids have to be to stay at the lodge to minimum ages for trail rides or backcountry trips with Holiday on Horseback.  

Also, visit the Holiday on Horseback website for more information on:

Some final photos of our trip out:  

We ordered REAL hiking boots today so that Noah is set for his next trip.  These shoes are done!

I had to go buy new tires for his bike today - we are seriously riding this Strider into the ground

Happy Camper who did AMAZING on this huge trip!

 Do you have a favourite backcountry destination in the Canadian Rockies that you like to visit as a family? 


Disclaimer:  Holiday on Horseback graciously covered my stay at the lodge.  As usual, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



Thursday, June 06, 2013

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Here it is, the much anticipated sequel to my last post, "Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park" that focused on camping in the park.  (humour me and just nod your head that yes, you have been on pins and needles waiting for these photos...)

As with the last post, I have way too many photos to share with you and am trying to choose the absolute best ones that will make you want to jump in your car and head south immediately.  And again, I'm not going to focus on the text but am merely going to showcase why we LOVE hiking in Dinosaur - through photos.  Consider this a photo essay if you will.

Hiking on the  Badlands Trail

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park

If you've been following my blog it should come as no shock when I say that I LOVE camping.  Absolutely love it, dream about it, plan months in advance for each trip, and eagerly anticipate that first spring camping trip!  What you may not know though is that I didn't used to like camping very much at all.  I enjoyed an annual backpacking trip or two each year and loved overnight stays at wilderness cabins and huts but car camping didn't hold much interest for me.  Driving to a campsite and spending the night served for one purpose only and that was for creating a base camp for weekend adventures too far from home to easily drive out for. 

So, what changed?  How did I end up becoming the girl who actually started a camping project to camp 40+ nights in one season?  I camped at Dinosaur Provincial Park last May and fell in love!  I discovered my camping style and realized that for years I had been doing it all wrong!  All wrong for ME that is. As much as I love mountains, I prefer to camp where it's warm, open, and not closed in by big trees.  I like to camp with friends in large double sites and I like destination camping where you can hike, paddle, explore, ride bikes and play - without ever leaving camp. This is my definition of camp paradise and it is Dinosaur Provincial Park in a nut shell.

Wild About Dinosaur Provincial Park

Monday, June 03, 2013

Family Camping Made Easy - Winning the Bedtime Battle

Last spring I wrote a series of stories on Family Camping Made Easy.  Judging by the popularity of these stories, I know that families are not only eager to get their kids out camping but to make it FUN.  Nobody wants to go camping if it isn't a pleasant experience for everybody involved.  Last year we managed to get out camping at least a couple weekends per month and enjoyed it so much that we are embarking on a Camping Project this summer to camp over 40 nights! To read about our Camping Project follow the link to my recent story.  

In last summer's Family Camping Series I tackled the following subjects related to Family Camping and I encourage you to revisit any that apply to your family:                                                                                 

Warm Sleepers are happy sleepers

This year, I would like to continue the series with an informative post on getting the munchkins to SLEEP at night.  We all know that if Mama's not happy, nobody's happy -  and it's true!  At least for this mom it sure is.  I value my sleep and that includes when I'm camping.  Accepting that I just might not get any sleep while camping isn't good enough for me.  There has to be a way to get the kids to sleep without having to drug them on kid's Benedryl or Gravol.  (although I confess we have resorted to that in the past and all I can say there is don't judge until you've had to try it.  If you've never had to try it - yay for you.  I move on.)


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