Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 10 Posts of 2014 - Did you miss any?

I like looking back at the year before I jump into the approaching new year.  It helps me reflect on what worked, and what did not work.  I can look back on trips we enjoyed and perhaps ones that were not as memorable.  I also like to look back on the posts that you most enjoyed reading.  This helps me know what you might like to see more of next year.  Therefore, I have looked up all the numbers, and below are the top ten most popular posts from 2014.

1.  Comfort Camping in Banff National Park

Imagine going camping with nothing but your sleeping bags, food, a stove and some dishes, maybe a lantern, add a couple lawn chairs, and of course your clothes.  The big thing missing though - the TENT.  Because it's taken care of for you.  And you won't be sleeping on the ground.  Instead, you'll be sleeping in complete luxury inside a heated, furnished A-frame cabin in real beds!  Welcome to comfort camping!! (read more...)

Comfort Camping in Banff National Park (photo:  Paul Zizka)

2.  Waterton Lakes National Park - In Winter (A Whole Different Experience)

We go camping in Waterton Lakes National Park every summer and it's one of our favourite places to visit near Calgary.  When we go in July, we are always able to go biking, hiking, paddling, and explore this lovely park full of wild flowers, waterfalls, and wildlife in abundance.  On the down side though, there is little solitude unless you go for a long day hike or overnight backpacking trip, the popular tourist places are crawling with people, and you'd be hard pressed to get a family photo without at least 5 other families in it.

Since we've always loved Waterton so much, we wondered what it would look like in winter.  With no tourists, very few people at all, (the town has about 40 permanent year-round residents), and very few amenities.  We decided to head down for a visit in January this year, one of the coldest months in the Rockies, and see what life is like in this sleepy winter town. (read more...)

Waterton Lakes in Winter

3.  The Best Family Campground in Kananaskis

What do you look for in a family-friendly campground?  Myself, I look for large campsites that border on a wide open meadow where children can run around and play.  I love it when we can camp right beside a playground and I especially love it when we're camped in a quiet loop that kids can bike around - if they are in sight the whole time it's a real bonus!  Add a hiking trail that's right in the campground (in our loop even,) and bike trails that start right from camp so that we don't have to drive to find adventure - and that's my definition of a GREAT family campground.

Let me introduce you to the Canyon Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  Chances are you've never heard of it because everybody seems to favour the much bigger Boulton Creek and Elkwood Campgrounds.  (read more...)

Canyon Campground, Kananaskis

4.  So,You Love the Outdoors But Don't Want to Camp...

Love hiking, biking, being outside and enjoying warm summer nights outside on your patio?  Hate (or strongly dislike ) camping though?  You aren't alone.  Not everybody likes camping and it doesn't mean you aren't outdoorsy or that you're soft.  I admit that I wasn't enthralled with the idea of camping for "fun" until it became a family activity.  Before that, it was just something we did when we needed a base camp for bigger and better adventures. 

Things have changed for me though and I can now say I LOVE camping.  But it comes down to discovering your style and preferences.  And sometimes that style means using a cabin, wilderness hostel or backcountry lodge. (read more...)

Comfort Camping at Shadow Lake Lodge

5.  Nakiska Mountain Resort - Raising the Bar in Family Excellence

Until recently, it had been over 5 years since I'd been at a ski resort.  My husband and I used to ski all the time in the Rockies until our son was born at the beginning of 2009.  After that, a combination of factors lead us to give up downhill skiing in favour of sports we thought would be more family-friendly.  Resort skiing seemed frightening and we weren't sure how to tackle a day at a ski hill with a baby or toddler in tow.  

Even as our son got older, he's almost 5 now, we thought maybe we'd wait a few years before introducing him to downhill skiing.  Neither my husband or I learned to ski until we were older and we just didn't see a hurry.  Hence, we focused on cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and other "easy" winter sports that we thought were safe and fun to do together. (read more...)

Nakiska Mountain Resort

6.  Small Feet, Big Land - Book Review

Our summer adventures are winding down and I'm finally taking some time to slow down, to catch up, and to share some very overdue adventure stories.  Today's adventure is a little different from what you'll normally read on my blog because for a pleasant change,  I'm not writing about my family and we're going beyond the Canadian Rockies.  In fact, we're traveling to Alaska today.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Erin McKittrick and her family who live in the tiny village of Seldovia in Southcentral Alaska.  I've long been intrigued by this family ever since discovering Erin's blog, Ground Truth Trekking, and her incredible photography showcasing the realities of raising small children outside in a very big (and wild) land.
(read more...)

Small Feet, Big Land (photo:  Erin Mckittrick)

7.  My Personal Top 10 List of Cool Things to do this Winter

 Last month I was speaking at Campers Village on the topic of learning to embrace the cold and how to fall in love with winter.  It got me thinking about my favourite things to do in the cold months and so I made a top ten list of awesome things to do from November through March.  Below is my personal list of COOL things to do this winter.  I hope you'll join me in checking some of these things off your list over the next few months. (read more...)

Embrace the Cold!

8.  10 More Cool Things to do this Winter (for a total of 25 awesome ways to embrace the cold)

Originally, I published the first 10 cool things I recommend you try this winter as a family.  Then I published a follow up piece titled:  5 More Cool Things to do this Winter (for a total of 15 awesome ways to embrace the cold.)

And now, I bring you the third piece with ten more cool things to do this winter!  That's a grand total of 25 super awesome ways to get outside as a family this winter, to embrace the cold, and to learn to love winter. 
(read more...)

Winter is Awesome

9.  Jura Creek - the Best Winter Hike in Kananaskis

Best?  Really, the absolute best?... - Yes.  The very very absolute best, most fun for all ages hike in Kananaskis award goes to Jura Creek!

While there are other good hikes in Kananaskis that can be done in winter, Jura Creek is something special because it's a hike that can not really be done in summer.  The canyon through Jura Creek can only be tackled in winter when the water is well frozen under a layer of ice and snow.  (read more...)

Hiking Jura Creek

10.  Kids on Wheels - Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks 

Last summer we found ourselves driving through the mountain town of Fernie on our way home from a camping trip and I remembered that the town had a little dirt jump park I'd been curious about.  Our son was 4 then and still on his Strider balance bike but I was fairly confident he'd be able to handle a few bumps and fun obstacles on his bike.  We stopped at the park for an hour or so and Noah definitely took to the idea of circling the dirt track on his little orange bike.  He just needed a bit more courage to truly commit to the jumps and bigger bumps - courage that would come with practice. 

It's now a new summer, Noah is a year older, and he's riding an incredible 16" Spawn Banshee pedal bike.  It was high time we try the whole pump track experience again!  And, I'd found us a track only 45 minutes from our house.  Canmore has the sweetest little pump track by the river and it's perfect for beginners working on their mountain biking skills.   We've already spent a couple afternoons at the track but I foresee many trips out to Canmore this summer when we're not camping. (read more...)

Canmore Pump Track