Tuesday, June 27, 2017

First Summits - Heart Mountain Family Scramble

Heart Mountain is a classic summit that many hikers tackle as one of their first climbs in the Canadian Rockies. Located close to Calgary, it is largely just a steep walk up to the top of the mountain and there is no approach. Park on the side of the highway and start walking. Up.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Heart Mountain Summit, Kananaskis

Introduction to Heart Mountain 


The Trailhead for Heart Mountain is the same as for the popular Heart Creek trail (but many people park right beside the highway to cut off a bit of distance at the beginning and end - as we did.)

Heart Mountain is located in the Heart Creek Provincial Recreation Area and is easily found right beside the TransCanada highway 8 km east of the Hamlet of Dead Man's Flats. (opposite Lac Des Arcs)

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Heart Mountain as seen from the far ridge on the Horseshoe Circuit

While many (or most) people hike straight up and back down again, we decided to do the full Heart Horseshoe circuit, ascending and descending different ridges. This put us roughly a kilometre away from where we'd parked our car at the end but it made for an easier descent on a trail that is not quite as steep. (It's still plenty steep, but not "as" steep.)

As a bonus to hiking the full horseshoe circuit, we got to summit two peaks instead of just one on our long ridge walk, hiking up and over Grant MacEwan Peak, actually higher than the Heart Mountain summit.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
You'll get beautiful views down over the Bow Valley from the summit of Heart Mountain

Stats for our Summit of Heart Mountain (with the Horseshoe Circuit)

Height Gain: 911 metres total height gain with Heart Mountain and Grant MacEwan Peak

Distance: 9.6 km circuit (if you start beside the highway.) 11.1 km circuit from the official Heart Creek Day Use Area.

Time that it took us: 7 hours to complete the full circuit. And if you want a good idea of  how long the circuit really is, it only took us 2.5 hours to get UP. The remaining 4.5 hours were spent on the circuit and the descent.

Age of kids we hiked with: 2 eight-year old boys

Best Guide Book: If you're just climbing up and down Heart Mountain, you'll find the information you need in Alan Kane's "Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies" guide book.

If you want to do the full horseshoe circuit, you'll want to read Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 3

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Rest break on the ascent of Heart Mountain

Hiking up the Ascent Route to the Summit of Heart Mountain

I'm not a guide book writer, so I encourage you to do a couple of things before you set out to climb Heart Mountain with kids.

  1. Get one of the guide books mentioned above or head out with a friend who's already done this hike. While there is a very well beaten down path to the summit, one can still take a wrong turn here or there. And wrong turns on Heart can be very dangerous. It is important that you find the correct way up the cliff bands on the front side and that you don't stray too far off course.

  2. Hike Heart Mountain with your partner or a friend first (without the kids.) If you find your way up, have no problems, enjoy the hike, and think your children would enjoy it, then by all means - take the kids. But don't head up this trail thinking it will be a nice pleasant little day hike. It is a scramble on an rough unofficial trail, with hands on moments, one moderate step at a cliff band, and much loose rock. The trail is relentlessly steep and route finding skills are required. 

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
The moderate step that you'll have to scramble up to reach the summit

What to expect from the ascent up Heart Mountain:

  • Very loose rock (worse on descent.) The last time I descended the main route, I swore I'd never go down this ridge again - and we've done the horseshoe circuit ever since.

  • A relentlessly steep hike where you'll gain roughly 800 metres of height in 2.7 km.

  • Plenty of excitement for kids who get bored hiking. Seriously, my son LOVED this hike because there was no boring plodding through the trees for hours on end. There is virtually no approach for this hike. Get on the trail right from the highway and start climbing immediately. You stop climbing when you hit the summit.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Fun scrambling on the way up Heart Mountain

  • No switchbacks. This is a "climbers" summit - short, quick, and dirty. The trail does not waste time with cute little switchbacks so that your trip is easier or more pleasant. If you want switchbacks, you should hike up Ha Ling Peak instead.

  • One moderate step at a 3-metre high cliff band where you'll have to use your hands, find hand/foot holds, and pull yourself up. A fall here could result in an injury.

  •  Lack of shade. This slope is very warm and dry on a hot summer day so start early. You don't want to be climbing up in the mid-day heat.

  • Rocky slabs near the top that kids will find fun. Parents might not find them as fun because a fall could result in serious injury and kids will be using their hands to scramble up the rock.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
More scrambling before the summit

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Lots of fun moments en route to the summit of Heart Mountain

If I haven't lost you yet, you've reached your first summit, Heart Mountain. You'll stop here for lunch and a well deserved rest break before continuing on to Grant MacEwan Peak.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Summit number 1: Heart Mountain
Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
The Summit Star

Going Further to Grant MacEwan Peak

If you've made it to the summit of Heart Mountain, the rest of the trip is a "walk in the park" more or less. You'll enjoy open ridge walking (never alarmingly narrow,) constant views, a breeze (refreshing after the hot ascent up the front side of the mountain,) and plenty of small bumps that beg for candy and snack breaks.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
There are constant views as you walk the ridge on the Heart Horseshoe
Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Ridge walking around the Horseshoe

The only crux in continuing on to Grant MacEwan Peak is that the kids will be tired by this point, feet might be getting sore, and you'll have to go up and down over multiple small bumps on the ridge. (Each one feeling like another summit!)

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Easy Ridge walking on the Heart Horseshoe Circuit
Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Easy ridge walking and constant views

From the Heart Mountain summit it is another 1.5 km of walking until you reach the summit of Grant MacEwan Peak. Beyond this, it is another 1 km (over another bump) before you begin your looooong descent route. (Trust me, each of those "o"s is warranted!)

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
We're going up there to Grant MacEwan Peak and beyond
Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Grassy meadow section of the ridge walk en route to the final bump
Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
I think I wanted to cry at this point - more UP on the never ending ridge walk

The Descent to the Quaite Valley Trail

There is nothing technical about the descent and it is much easier than the ascent route. There are no cliff bands and the rock is much more stable under foot. However, this doesn't mean it is easy or that it's not still very steep.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
The descent ridge (steep at the top)
The descent always seems to take forever and you'll be taking many breaks if hiking with kids. (Remember, it only took us 2.5 hours to get up Heart Mountain but it took us 4.5 hours to do the horseshoe and descent!)

My best advice for the descent is to bring bike gloves for the kids (and even adults.) The rock is loose at times and there is the occasional short step where you'll have to put a hand (or bum) down. Gloves save the skin if somebody slips. I've even been known to bring pants for the descent (if hiking in shorts on a hot day) because the more skin covered, the better!

Once you get down to the bottom of the ridge, you'll turn left and follow the powerline back to where you started from. We had intended to leave kids and moms at the highway here, sending dads back for the cars, but in the end, we all just hiked back to the parking lot.

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Rest break on the way down the circuit

Suggested Family Summits before Attempting Heart Mountain 

I'm not going to suggest a recommended age for this hike because the reality is that I know some 5-year olds who could tackle this hike, and I know plenty of 8-year olds who couldn't. Many adults could not do this hike!

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
Rugged hiking along the Heart Mountain Horseshoe

Recommended summits to try first:

- Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

- Lady Macdonald to the platform, Canmore

- Nihahi Ridge to the ridge (or beyond to the South Summit), Kananaskis

- Mount Fairview, Lake Louise

- Mount St. Piran, Lake Louise

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
My boys on the Heart Mountain Horseshoe Circuit

Other Family First Summits

Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

First Summits - Forget Me Not Ride, Kananaskis

Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak 

First Summits - Table Mountain, Beaver Mines Lake

First Summits - East End of Mount Rundle Summit

First Summits - Tent Ridge Horseshoe, Kananaskis

First Summits - Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise

First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise

First Summits - Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore

Heart Mountain Family Scramble, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
I hiked up there and around the entire Horseshoe circuit to get here!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park

We've camped at Dinosaur Provincial Park many times, already hiking every interpretive trail in the park, biking the public loop road, and paddling down the Red Deer River. This year when we made our annual trek south to camp here, we wanted to try something new.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park

On our quest to do something new and adventurous this year in Dinosaur Provincial Park, we still hiked the public trails, biked around, and floated down the river, but we also signed up for a guided tour with a parks interpreter. We wanted to access the private reserve and we wanted to do some "off the beaten path" exploring through the badlands.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
The private reserve that you'll only see with a guided tour

Our Centrosaurus Quarry Hike in Dinosaur Provincial Park

There are many tours that you can sign up for in Dinosaur Provincial Park, but we wanted to choose one that was adventurous. We wanted to go for a decent hike and to really do some exploring. We chose the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike because it was aimed at families with kids 7+ and because it sounded like a rugged hike (which is right up our alley!)

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Exploring the private reserve in Dinosaur Provincial Park on the Centrosaurus Quarry Hike

The Alberta Parks website describes the tour as follows:

"Hike through rugged (dry) streambeds and over sandstone and mudstone ridges to reach a bone bed that contains the remains of hundreds of horned dinosaurs! The Centrosaurus Quarry Hike is your best opportunity to see the unequalled concentration of dinosaur fossils that makes Dinosaur Provincial Park world famous. This former dig site is one of many horned dinosaur bone beds found in this UNESCO World Heritage Site."

I don't know about you, but I thought it was super cool that we were going to hike to an actual bone bed and that we'd get to see fossils out in the wild (rather than seeing them in a museum.)

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Following our Parks Interpreter to the Centrosaurus Bone Bed

Details on our guided hike:

Our hike was 2.5 hours long and we reserved in advance. You can either make a reservation on the Dinosaur Provincial Park website or you can book your tour in person at the Visitor Centre when you arrive (though they sell out early so I recommend booking in advance.)

We took a shuttle bus to get into the reserve and then started our hike. The hike itself was only a couple of kilometres but we took many stops for interpretive lessons on the landscape around us and the history behind the area. Our guide involved the kids in all of the lessons, getting them to act out situations, and making it always interesting for them.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Interpretive guided hike through the badlands

The hiking was generally quite easy but we were fortunate to be doing a morning tour when it wasn't too hot yet. In the summer I imagine the tour would be much more challenging with the heat. And I wouldn't want to do an afternoon tour in the summer!

More information can be found here on the Alberta Parks website including pricing, times, and availability for tours.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
The Centrosaurus Bone Bed on the Quarry Hike

Our Experience at the Centrosaurus Bone Bed

When we arrived to the Centrosaurus bone bed, we quickly discovered a giant covered box area. Once the lid was removed, we could see an excavation site and the remains of the Centrosaurus horned dinosaurs. We were given a short introduction to the area, discussed theories behind why so many bones would all be found in one spot, and were given some instruction on how to go find fossils and bones on our own next.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Centrosaurus bone bed

After looking at the bones in the excavation bed, we got to walk around the area, set up on a bench, where there were seriously hundreds of bones everywhere! We'd find them embedded in the rocks around us and we'd step over them as they sat there, right under our feet, lying all over the place on the ground.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Centrosaurus bones we found in the bone bed area on our quarry hike

The bone bed area was also a lovely place to just explore, take photos, and gaze at the badlands scenery all around us. Even without a bone bed, it was worth the hike to this beautiful bench.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Surveying the Badlands from the Centrosaurus Bone bed location

Other Guided Tours in Dinosaur Provincial Park

There are other tours for families with younger children including the Explorers Bus Tour.

"Experience the stunning views of the beautiful badlands from the comfort of a park tour bus and during short excursions off the bus (4 stops). You will visit an in-situ Hadrosaur dinosaur display plus you will experience the unquie geology while you learn about the explorers who have travelled to this special place over the past 100+ years."

This tour would be enjoyable in the summer months when it gets crazy hot in the badlands.

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Guided tours are a great way to get off the beaten path in the badlands

The Fossil Safari is another "all-ages" tour I recommend for families.

"Get a feel for what makes Dinosaur Provincial Park so special. Join us on a safari through the badlands for a chance to observe plants, animals, and dinosaurs! Visit an "in-situ" fossil site where you can discover fossil material on the surface; no digging in this protected area! Take a close look at micro (small) fossils and learn about the diversity of animals that lived here 75 million years ago in the late Cretaceous. All ages are welcome and will enjoy this safari."

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Find the best places to explore on a guided tour of Dinosaur Provincial Park

Please visit the Alberta Parks website for information on all tours.

And you can visit this following link for more information on Dinosaur Provincial Park.

For More on Dinosaur Provincial Park, check out the following stories I've written: 

- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf

Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Camping in the Alberta Badlands 

Wild about Dinosaur Provincial Park

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park  

- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf
- See more at: http://www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com/p/camping-super-guide.html#sthash.LOGRzHeA.dpuf

Fossil Hunting in Dinosaur Provincial Park (Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies)
Alberta Parks Ambassadors get to explore the coolest places!

Disclaimer: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador and was given a complimentary tour for myself and my family. All opinions and words are my own.

Friday, June 16, 2017

25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit (Book Review with GIVEAWAY)

With summer around the corner, I'm always looking for travel books that I can leave in the trailer for quiet afternoons at camp, or that I can browse through while driving between destinations on our road trips (as a passenger of course!)

Get out and Explore Canada! Photo: Dinosaur Provincial Park - one of the 25 places to visit with your family

While I enjoy a good fiction book to read on a summer vacation, I also look for lighter reading that I can enjoy for 20 minutes at a time here and there (and where I won't be completely lost if I don't pick the book up again for another week or two.)

This summer, my travel book of choice is Jody Robbins' new "25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit," just published and available at book stores across the country. Jody is a Calgary based mom and author with years of travel experience under her belt. (She's actually visited over 50 different countries.)

While there are many great travel books out there, Jody's book should be number one on your list this year as we celebrate our country's 150th birthday. There's no better time to read up on traveling across Canada, and to add a new destination to your family's summer calendar.



What to Expect from "25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit" 

Chapters divided up by specific region or area for quick research when planning a vacation. This way you can choose to focus on the chapters that will address upcoming trips, or read about areas that hold a specific interest for your family.

Travel tips at the back of the book addressing topics from how to survive a road trip to money-saving tips, or even how to make camping easy.

A great resources section that includes information on tourism boards across the country, tour operators (broken up by province,) suggestions for where to rent baby equipment across the country, and even some handy apps to help you in your travels.

Colorful photos for every region and destination

Photos that draw you in and make you want to travel across Canada (photo: Parks Canada and Paul Zizka Photography)

Recommended places to eat, stay and visit for each region (with recommendations for campgrounds, hotels, and resorts - something for every budget)

Fun facts for each destination

Books recommendations for family reading before visiting your chosen region to get the kids excited about the trip

A variety of activities and sports for each area to suit all styles of travel and energy. Go for a hike, take a guided tour, head out on the water, or just chill at a local park. There's also a good blend of nature-based activities, urban jaunts, and thrills for the adventure seeking family

A good assortment of "popular attractions" and off the beaten path suggestions for the more adventurous

Suggestions for how to get around at each destination

Suggestions that cover all four seasons in Canada from the ski hill to the beach

Sunshine Meadows, Banff -  one of the 25 places in Canada every Family Should visit

10 Places I Added to My Family's Travel List after Reading this Book


  1. The Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver - I didn't know they had a treetop adventure park with hanging bridges!

  2. The Sea to Sky Gondola, Vancouver - They have a Via Ferrata that takes 8 year olds!!!

  3. The Forks, Winnipeg - Going to Winnipeg! - Seriously, the playground is one of the best in Canada and is huge!

  4. The Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg - I want to see polar bears swim over my head! The outside park also looks amazing (another fabulous playground!)

  5. Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, Toronto - I love aquariums and this is Canada's largest indoor one

  6. The Toronto Zoo, Toronto - Yes, I like zoos, but this one also has a big splash park with small water slides and animal figures in it. How awesome is that for kids?!

  7. Canada's Wonderland, Toronto - Do I want to ride Canada's longest wooden roller coaster? Um, heck ya!

  8. Niagara Falls, Ontario - I've always wanted to go and now Jody has me wanting to do the "journey behind the falls" tour.

  9. Blue Mountain Resort, Niagara Region - Ropes courses, a zip line, a mountain coaster, and a bag jump free fall - FUN!

  10. The Rideau Canal, Ottawa - I read in Jody's book that on Sundays throughout the summer season you can bike along the Rideau Canal and other scenic roadways - without traffic! They close the roads! Sign us up for this one!

And that's only BC through Ontario! There are many more places yet that I'd like to visit with my family on the east coast or in northern Canada.

Tourism Vancouver/ Capilano Suspension Bridge Park Tourism Vancouver/ Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
On our List now! Treetops Adventure at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (Photo: Tourism Vancouver)

Overall Review

Great summer reading, light and easy to pick up when you have a free minute here or there. Read the chapters that most interest you and keep the book on hand as a reference book. This is not a "borrow from the library" kind of book. You'll want to own it so that you have it in your collection for future planning.

For more information or to order a copy of Jody's book, visit her website at Travels with Baggage.

Enter to Win a Copy of "25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit"

Enter below to win your own copy of this great book. Contest is open until June 23rd. A winner will be contacted by the 24th. If I don't hear from the winner I will choose a new winner on the 26th.

The contest is open to all Canadian residents and includes free shipping (within Canada.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks Jody for providing me with a copy of the book to review. All words and opinions are my own and I was not paid to write this review.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

5 Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time

Many of us didn’t grow up camping and it can be very intimidating to get started.  Questions might include:  “Do I have to go out and purchase a whole bunch of gear for just one camping trip?”  “What if a bear tries to get into our tent?”  “What do we do if the kids are still awake at midnight or if one of them wakes up in the middle of the night?”  And the questions go on to form a very long, and overwhelming, list.

Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time

I myself didn’t grow up camping but have grown to love this popular summer activity over the past several years.  I can assure you that every trip gets a little bit easier and that you’ll become a pro in no time.  First though, you’ve got to get started.

Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
You'll know you have it made when your campsite looks like this

One:  Try Comfort Camping

Parks Canada has started placing tent style cabins called O’TENTiks in some of their more popular campgrounds.  These small cabins offer sleeping for up to six people with comfortable mattresses and a heater to ensure your first camping experience is a pleasant one.

Two Jack Lakeside in Banff is the closest location to Calgary where you can try comfort camping, and it’s one of the best campgrounds in Banff with lakefront camping, showers, and nearby amenities in the town of Banff.   While you’ll still need to bring sleeping bags and food, you won’t need much else so this is a great way to ease into camping without investing in a lot of equipment.

Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
O'TENTiks on Two Jack Lake, Banff

Many Alberta Parks Campgrounds also offer comfort camping in the form of cozy yurts, wall tents, or even cabins.

There are also many private campgrounds in Alberta offering comfort camping options. Sundance Lodges near Calgary is a great local option with wall tents and tipis for families wanting to ease themselves into the whole camping experience.

To read more about comfort camping, check out this popular story I wrote: Alberta Comfort Camping Destination Guide.  

Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
One of the yurts at Pigeon Lake, Alberta Parks (Photo: Alberta Parks)

Two: Book an “Equipped” campsite

If you want to try traditional tent camping but lack the gear, Parks Canada offers a service called “Equipped Camping.”  Together with Mountain Equipment COOP, Parks Canada has equipped 32 campsites at the Two Jack Main Campground in Banff.  Each site comes included with a 6 person tent fully set up, 6 sleeping pads, a stove with propane, and a lantern.  You’ll also get an orientation session upon checking in. Bring your sleeping bags with food for the weekend and you’re ready to go.

5 Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time (photo: © Parks Canada / S. Gignac)
Equipped Camping in Banff National Park (photo: © Parks Canada / S. Gignac)

Three:   Rent Gear for Your First Trip

If you enjoy camping, you will want to slowly invest in the best equipment that you can afford because nothing is worse than a tent or sleeping bags that leave you wet and cold.  First though, you want to make sure you actually like camping!

Mountain Equipment COOP and the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre are both great places to pick up tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads to get you started.  Once you try out a few different brands and sizes of tents, you’ll get a better idea of what you eventually want to buy as well.

To further simplify your first trip consider bringing food with you that doesn’t require cooking for breakfasts and lunches. Eat out at a local restaurant for dinner and you won’t need to bring a camp stove at all.

5 Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
Rent or borrow tents and camping equipment for easy camping

Four: Start Close to Home

There’s comfort in camping close to home in case you need to bail and pack up in the middle of the night.  Many families with young children also recommend camping close to a town such as Banff or Jasper.  If camping doesn’t work out, you can always find a hotel room for a night and salvage the trip.

Finally, if you don’t feel up to cooking all of your meals at camp, you can retreat into town for breakfast or for a pizza at dinner time.   The Tunnel Mountain Village Campground is great for this in Banff as it’s located beside the Banff Hostel and Cougar Pete’s Kitchen.

5 Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
Our hammock town at Tunnel Mountain

Five:  Camp with More Experienced Friends 

We regularly invite newbie campers to come and join us on our group camping trips. It makes us feel good because we get to share a passion and favourite hobby with a new family who hasn’t had this experience before, and it helps the new family out greatly.

Camp with experienced friends and they will send you their packing list, they’ll give you suggestions for what to bring, and can maybe even loan you some gear that you are missing.

Other benefits of camping with friends include communal meals, the option of sharing items like camp stoves, and learning the basic skills of camping without having to pay for a guided trip. Friends will happily teach you the tricks of the trade from starting a fire to setting up the tent that you rented. You can also learn cool things from your friends as you watch and learn in preparation for the first solo trip that you’ll take.

To make new "camping friends" if you don't currently have any experienced friends you could go camping with, try joining an online community. On Facebook I always recommend the Calgary Outdoor Playgroup or the Happy Campers Group, both predominantly based out of Calgary.

5 Easy Ways to Try Camping for the First Time
We like to book group campgrounds with friends - and novice campers are always welcome

Camping doesn’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming. Start small with one planned weekend trip for this year and work your way up to bigger, longer trips. Invest in gear gradually and always bring a friend or two to hang out with by the campfire.

Disclaimer: This story is being re-shared for a fresh camping season. It was originally published in a local magazine, no longer in print.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mark's Clothing Store - Shambhala Activewear Feature

When I think of "Mark's," the Canadian clothing company, I still think of the classic "Mark's Workwear House" that  we used to find in every small town across Alberta. At least, that was until a recent trip took me down to Mark's to check out their women's athletic clothing line. The result, I have a new favourite clothing company!

I've been living in my Shambhala leggings from Mark's

I was given a rather cool opportunity to go shopping at Mark's and to pick out some items that I wanted to review. Looking around the store, I was quickly attracted to the Shambhala Clothing line, a company I'd never heard of before. I started trying on leggings, pants, jackets, tank tops, and realized I was looking at a new potential favourite clothing line.

Hiking in a Shambhala Skort - and I love it!!

The Shambhala Yoga Skort 

Truthfully, I'd never liked skorts and never saw a purpose for them. I owned one once and just didn't find it to be all that attractive. I also didn't see them as something I'd hike or bike in!

Enter the Shambhala yoga skort and I am wearing this magnificent piece of clothing for both hiking and biking! I love it and find it to be very attractive. (Hopefully you do too!)

The Shambhala Yoga Skort from Mark's


Why I love the Shambhala Yoga Skort 


  • It falls fairly straight down and doesn't have this big "a-shape" that just makes you look big around the middle.

  •  The fabric is very flowy and moves well, making it extremely comfortable when hiking or walking (even biking)

  • I feel feminine and athletic at the same time! (and many of you have seen photos of me skiing or hiking in a down skirt, so this is something that's kind of important to me.)

  • It's very cool when it's hot outside, just like wearing shorts, but much more attractive for those of us who don't exactly "love" our thighs! - and it's so much sexier than the longer walking shorts that do cover the thighs.

  • The skort fits above my belly button! Something I always look for in pants or shorts.
Yes, I'm biking in a skort!

The Shambhala Space Dyed Leggings 

OMGosh, if you've seen me in the last couple of weeks, I was probably wearing these leggings. I love them SO MUCH that I bought a second pair! I now have the blue ones and the black ones, and I wear one of them daily!

I'd never really been much of a "wear leggings everywhere you go" kind of gal and even rolled my eyes at the thought of hiking in leggings. I was always joking about how women needed to put on a pair of pants. Well, sorry girls who love leggings because I have seen the light and I now love them too!! All it took was a GOOD pair of leggings!!

Yes, I am now "that girl" who hikes in leggings!


Why I love the Shambhala Space Dyed Leggings 

  • They are so soft!! I swear they have silk or something in them. They feel good against my skin and aren't itchy.

  • They actually fit! With most leggings I always felt like I was wearing a saggy diaper because they keep sliding down. With the Shambhalla leggings, I feel like I'm wearing nothing! (and that's a very liberating feeling.)

  • They are the perfect length!! Not quite ankle length but not knee length either. Somewhere in the middle

  • Control top waist! They cover my tummy which is important because "mature" women wear their clothes on their waist with their belly buttons covered. Gone are the days where I can wear pants on my hips. (I mean, do you really want to see my muffin top hanging over my leggings?!)

I wear my Shambhala leggings daily! They go on every adventure I do.

The Shambhala Woven Active Rouched Capris

Ok, so occasionally you have to take your leggings off.  Maybe you're going out for dinner, hanging out in the city, or visiting relatives that would want you to be wearing a more traditional form of pants.

I've been searching for a nice pair of capris pants for two years now and could never find anything I liked (other than my beloved Lulu ones, now discontinued.) I was thrilled to discover the Shambhala ones and to find that they fit my body well.

Out for a casual walk in my Shambhala Capris Pants

Why I love the Shambhala Woven Active Rouched Capris

  •  Like all of the Shambhala pants, skorts, and leggings, they ride above my belly button on my waist (and not on my hips.) I appreciate that!

  • They are flattering, comfortable, and stretchy enough for any activity I might wear them for

  • They look nice enough that I could wear them out for dinner and not look like I just hopped off my bike or walked off a hiking trail 

Loving my Shambhala Capris

The Shambhala Active Fleece Anorak Jacket

I'm kind of partial to my Lulu tank tops so I chose to focus on bottoms with Shambhala clothing. I was however drawn to the fleece anorak jacket because let's face it, it's Canada! You're going to need something warm to wear in the morning if camping in the mountains. I've even been wearing this jacket when I walk my son to school every day.

Why I love the Shambhala Active Fleece Anorak Jacket


  • It's lightweight, cozy, and perfect for chilly mornings.

  • It has finger loops (something I look for in every jacket!)

  • It looks great with the leggings!

Staying warm at camp in my Shambhala Fleece Jacket

Visit the Mark's website to view the full Shambhala clothing line up where you can also check out their tank tops and sports bras. They also carry plus sized tops and bottoms.

Disclaimer: I was given these items to review for Mark's but this post was not sponsored or paid for. All opinions are my own and I definitely like the clothing because I have since gone back to buy a second pair of leggings.