Friday, September 26, 2014

Magical Autumn Hiking on the Bow Valley Highline Trail

It's late September and the larch trees in Banff have turned a magnificent golden yellow! Their needles glow when the sun shines on them and if you haven't gotten your annual "larch hike" in yet, go now!  The needles won't last long before wind and snow remove them from the trees.

Autumn Splendor at Gibbon Pass

We always set aside at least one day near the end of September to take a hike in Banff to see the golden larches and this year was no exception.  Except, we decided to do a three day backcountry trip instead and go in search of "hidden" larch trees a little more off the beaten path.  It was a total success and we only met one other couple the entire time we were hiking in our magical meadow high above Shadow Lake.

Climbing up to Gibbon Pass


This Year's Larch Hike - Gibbon Pass

We started our incredible hike to Gibbon Pass last Saturday from our backcountry home for the weekend at Shadow Lake Lodge.  We'd hiked in to the lodge Friday on the Red Earth Creek Trail, and planned to hike out again on Sunday.  This left us all of Saturday to explore the meadows above the lodge. 

Hiking across open meadows to Gibbon Pass

We knew it would be a bit of a climb to reach Gibbon Pass with 500 metres of height gain from our lodge spread out over about 3km.  Noah surprised us through and was a strong little hiker the whole time.  He ran up the switch-backed trail and it took us less than 2 hours to reach the pass.

Gibbon Pass at 7500 FT, High Above Shadow Lake


Deciding to go Climb A Mountain!

We easily could have stopped at Gibbon Pass and called it a day.  Noah was bordering on being tired and we still had to hike back down the 500 metres to the lodge which would take another hour.  However, we looked up and thought, hmmm, what if we went just a little bit higher...

On our way up Copper Mountain
From Gibbon Pass, we looked up at the closest summit on Copper Mountain and thought, what would it look like if we could just get above the trees?  We won't actually climb the whole thing, but we can at least go up another 100 metres to get a better view, right?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ha Ling!! My Baby Climbed His First Real Summit!

He did it!  My 5 year old, and always my baby, climbed his first real mountain.  And we are one happy family!

How do I define "real" mountain?  It's something I would climb on my own for training, for enjoyment, or with a group of women or friends - sans kids.  It has height gain!  700 metres for this one.  That's almost 2300 feet.  And it's no walk in the park!

Standing on the col. with the Summit behind us. (and we made it to the tippy tippy top)

I climbed Ha Ling Peak in Canmore earlier this summer with some girlfriends and the idea that Noah would climb the same mountain with me later this year was unfathomable!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crimson Lake Provincial Park - Hidden Gem in Alberta Campgrounds

Crimson Lake Provincial Park is located near Rocky Mountain House in Central Alberta.  We spent a long weekend here at the beginning of September after hearing how amazing the area was.  The verdict:  Annual Trip Baby!!

Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Choosing your Campground in Crimson Lake Provincial Park

The campgrounds in the Crimson Lake area are all fabulous and you have choices from group camping to lake-front camping right at Crimson Lake where you can make reservations, to non reservable "natural" camping at Twin Lakes nearby.

Natural Camping at Twin Lakes

While there are no sites at Crimson Lake right "on" the beach or with actual lake views, you are within a short bike ride from the swimming beach and you'll find 107 power sites so that you don't have to bring your generator if you require your air conditioning, microwave and coffee maker.

Playing at the Crimson Lake Beach

Families who enjoy fishing will want to camp at nearby Twin Lakes with several docks that border the small lake.  I don't know if anybody caught anything, but we saw people fishing all weekend at this campground from sunrise to sunset.  This is also a good campground for families who want to enjoy peace and quiet for canoeing or paddling without the noise of motor boats found on the bigger Crimson Lake.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All Aboard for Winter Adventure - Are you Ready?

Let's start with a winter-themed pop quiz!  Ready?

  1. Where is the best place to go snowshoeing with kids near Calgary?  How about near Edmonton for you folks up north? 
  2. How does one go about choosing a good safe trail for the family that doesn't enter avalanche terrain?
  3. What kind of snowshoes are the best for those wanting to get into this sport as a family?
  4. At what age can you introduce snowshoeing to children?  And how do you find snowshoes for tiny feet?
Snowshoeing is a great winter sport for the whole family

This fall, Campers Village in both Calgary and Edmonton wants to make sure you have all the knowledge required to safely get your family out snowshoeing this winter.  We've had our son on snowshoes since the age of 3 and it's been a great way to spend quality outdoor time together as a family.

You can't tell me this doesn't look fun!

Campers Village will be holding information sessions on Snowshoe Expeditions in both Edmonton and Calgary this October.  For information on the Calgary session and to register, click on the Calgary link.  For information on the Edmonton session and to register, click on the Edmonton Link.  In the sessions, you will get tips for the right gear to get started, get suggestions for destinations near your city, and get valuable information on what you'll need for your next snowshoe trip.

Snowshoeing is a LOT of fun! Seriously!

And bonus - the snowshoe classes are FREE!  You can even bring the kids with you!

Never too young to start snowshoeing

Let's continue with our pop quiz and see how much you know about embracing the cold and staying safe outside in the winter:

  1. How can you convince reluctant children to actually fall "in love" with snow and cold weather?  Is it even possible???
  2. What are the best ways to stay warm outside, avoid hypothermia, and stay safe when playing outdoors in freezing temps?
  3. Do you know how to tell when you are in avalanche terrain?  And do you know how to stay safe when you are??
My child used to hate winter with a capital H.  He has grown to love it.  For real!

Again, Campers Village wants to help you and your family get prepared for the upcoming winter season. They will be hosting information sessions on embracing the cold, geocaching, insulation and layering, and avalanche safety this October in their Calgary and Edmonton stores.

Kids can learn to love snow.  Really!

For me as a parent, raising a child who would love winter and embrace the season didn't come easily.  However, with a bit of perseverance and help from other outdoor families we have succeeded in creating at least a fond appreciation for snow and the fun activities that you can do in snow.  In fact, off the top of my head, I can think of 10 fun things to do in the snow with kids.  Can you?  If not, you definitely need to check out the "embracing the cold" sessions at the Calgary and Edmonton Campers Village stores. And, for those in the Calgary area, if you come to the Embracing the cold session, you just might get to meet little ol' me - cause, guess who's teaching?!!

Biking is on our list of top ten fun things to do in the snow.  Is it on yours?

For a complete list of all the info. sessions that Campers Village is offering this winter with dates and times, check out the poster below and visit the Campers Village website to register. 

As mentioned earlier, all sessions are completely FREE, including the Avalanche safety session where you'll hear from experts who have seen and experienced avalanches in action, and can tell you some amazing stories!

Snowshoeing in an incredible place - that I wouldn't go near without basic avalanche awareness training

I hope to see you out at some of these sessions and while you're on the Campers Village website registering for classes, check out the Outdoor Guide Blog which is updated with fresh new stories twice a month. Recent stories include:
Get Prepared, Get Educated, Get Out There, And have FUN this Winter!

This story was sponsored by Campers Village but all photos are my own and clearly show that we love winter! I hope you'll join us on the trails and in the snow banks this winter.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Best Autumn Day Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

There’s so much snow outside my window as I write, it’s hard to believe it’s actually early September and not December! However, the snow will melt, the sun will come back, and autumn is going to be glorious – just as always! So, seize the day folks and color it golden!!

The Best Fall Hikes in the Canadian Rockies - Lake O'Hara's Opabin Plateau

In my newest story for Campers Village I've listed all of our favourite fall hikes in the Banff and Kananaskis areas.  Including this gem below.  Know where it is?

The BEST Family Fall Hike in Banff for Golden Larches - Larch Valley, Lake Louise

To read my story and find out what our favourite hikes are, please follow this link to The Best Autumn Day Hikes in Banff and Kananaskis

Autumn Scenery doesn't get much better than this at Sunshine Meadows, Banff

Happy hiking and I hope to see you on the trails this fall.  Remember that the golden larch trees are at their peak the third week of September and it's coming up!

Autumn Perfection at Lake O'Hara in the Opabin Plateau
Views from Saddleback Peak above Saddleback Pass at Lake Louise
September at Highwood Pass, Kananaskis

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Finding Balance as an Outdoor Family

Camping, mountain biking, hiking, paddling, stand up paddleboarding, mountaineering, rock climbing, backpacking, skiing (cross-country, downhill, backcountry...,) skating, snowshoeing - and... did I miss any?? These are the sports we pursue as a family.  And it gets a bit exhausting trying to fit it all in!!

Just another multi-sport weekend for us

I once said that as a family we would try to focus on one sport for summer, and one for winter.  HA!  When did I ever think that would work for us?  I've even encouraged other outdoor families to keep it simple and choose a few outdoor sports to keep gear costs down.  Meanwhile, you should see my basement!  And garage.  And backyard.  We've actually had to start selling stuff because we just can't store (or use) it all.  Hence, bye bye canoe that we never used.

Bye Bye Canoe.  Hopefully we found you a good home.

So, how does a family balance a wide range of interests?  And how do you balance the individual passions and hobbies within your family?   In our family for example, my husband loves rock climbing while I hate it.  I tried it when we were first married and bought all the starter gear, only to discover that I really didn't enjoy it as a sport.  I preferred climbing to the top of a mountain rather than going up and down the same canyon wall for "fun." 

Meanwhile, I love stand up paddleboarding and it's safe to say my husband is not going to be jumping "on board" this sport! And young Noah, yeah well he doesn't exactly love some of the same sports mom and dad do.  Cross country skiing for example is mostly torture for him and he would rather ride his bike most days than go for a hike.

Dad teaching his little buddy to climb

Here is how we "attempt" to find balance.  

One - We try to find a way for each member of the family to participate in an activity - at their interest or ability level. 

For paddling, this means that while I ride my board, my husband and son paddle in a tandem kayak.  They enjoy kayaking and I enjoy SUP.  Win win for everybody.

Finding a way to all paddle together

When we plan a ski weekend, we try to make sure there will be opportunities for everybody to do something they enjoy.  We'll go for morning snowshoe hike or x-country ski tour, spend the afternoon skating, and then go downhill skiing the next day.

Discovering that Noah LOVES downhill skiing

Two - We compromise!

In an ideal world, Noah would spend a winter day downhill skiing, my husband would be skiing down a mountain in the backcountry and I'd be off cross country skiing or snowshoeing.  And we could arrange our weekends this way.  Or we can compromise, take turns, and spend time together.  We choose to play as a family. This means that sometimes Noah has to go cross country skiing when he'd prefer to be at a ski resort.  My husband agrees to go snowshoeing for a day and I slap on a pair of downhill skis to accompany Noah on some easy runs.

We enjoy snowshoeing together

Three - We learn when to move on and say goodbye to former passions and hobbies

This summer I went on my annual mountaineering trip with my husband and friends, and realized that my heart just wasn't in it anymore.  It's not that I was scared, worried, out of shape, or unhappy on the trip.  However, I was sad that we weren't together as a family and I missed Noah.  I regretted leaving him for a whole long weekend while we ran off to have fun - without him.  And I knew in my heart that we should have taken him camping, all together as a family.

The annual summer mountaineering trip

I still think there's value in taking some "rest" time away from the kids but for me, it's not going to be in the middle of our shortest most glorious summer season anymore for a whole weekend.  I'm hanging up my climbing harness and crampons for now.  I'm sure I'll pull them out again in the future but for now, I'm moving on.  And I'm ok with that.

Bye Bye Crampons.  I'll see you again some day.

Four - We do a LOT of multi-sport weekend trips

When we go away camping in summer, we bring our boats, our bikes and our hiking boots. In winter, we'll bring snowshoes, skis, skates, sleds - and everything else that fits in the car!  We'll never be professional skiers or advanced paddlers practicing so many sports but we have fun.  And that's what matters.

I started mountain biking for Noah - and now it's my favourite sport in the world!
Every summer we do bigger and better hikes together!  I can't wait till next year.

Five - We keep a very well scheduled calendar

People are always astonished that I can have our whole calendar already planned out 6 months in advance.  In my defense though, it's the only way to make sure we schedule time for all of our passions and outdoor pursuits.

Our overnight paddle trip wouldn't happen if we didn't schedule it in!

We sit down with the calendar in January and start plugging trips into weekends from May through October.  Overnight paddle trip - check.  Family backpacking trip - check.  Mountain biking weekend in Banff - check. And on it goes until we've found a spot for every type of trip we want to do and have made room for all of our sports and hobbies.

Overnight hut trips are very important to me - so they get scheduled early!

Then again mid-summer we start over again planning out next winter's trips to make sure we get to all of our favourite huts, hostels, lodges, and ski resorts.

The annual Hilda Creek trip - that gets planned at least 6 months in advance (if not earlier)

How do you find balance as a family with different hobbies, interests and passions?  Do you head outside together or do you split up so that everybody does their favourite thing all of the time? And please tell me I'm not the only person who plans way in advance, trying desperately to fit it all in.  ;)

Whatever we do, we do it together. 

Whatever we do, we do it together as much of the time as possible because in Noah's words, "We're a family!" and in his mind, that's what families do.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Rocky Mountain Style Spin on "Girls Night Out"

Earlier this spring, I sent out an email to a dozen girlfriends suggesting the idea of a weekly girls’ night out. I explained that I didn’t want to go out for coffee, start a book club, or watch movies together. I wanted to climb mountains and figured we could catch up on the week’s gossip and parenting challenges on the drives out to the trailhead.

What resulted was this:

Lisa climbs her FIRST mountain ever.  While pregnant.  Yay Lisa!
New Friends Were Made.
A New Group of Friends Was Formed! 
We discovered that climbing mountains was so much more rewarding than going out for coffee!
We Grew Stronger With Each Hike We Did!!
We Perfected the Mountain Selfie!
We found some pretty sweet places to hang out and chat!
We Worked on Team Work!  A lot of group effort was required to get to this viewpoint!
We got a break from kids, families, work and life.
And somehow we always got back down by dark. 

Pretty Awesome Way to Spend a Summer Evening!