Thursday, October 12, 2017

First Summits - Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass

I'm going to have to start a series on "winter summits" because our September hikes often end up as intro mountaineering ascents. At least this year I got smart, and dressed my son in real winter boots (and brought enough clothing to keep a bus-load of kids warm.)

First Summits - Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass (Rockies Family Adventures)
Little Arethusa Summit, Highwood Pass, Kananaskis

We wanted to see golden larch trees at the end of September but instead, we had a snowball fight, climbed a very snowy mountain, and enjoyed some interesting hiking along a narrow icy ridge. Somehow though, it was a lot of fun, and I actually think the snow made our ascent easier without the scree we normally pound our way through in the Rockies.

First Summits - Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass (Rockies Family Adventures)
Ridge walking on Little Arethusa

Introduction to Arethusa Cirque and Little Arethusa & Trailhead

To ascend Little Arethusa, you first have to hike up to Arethusa Cirque, the next cirque over from popular Ptarmigan Cirque on the same side of the highway.

Arethusa Cirque is located just over Highwood Pass on Highway 40 (and the highway is open through the end of November. Then it doesn't open again until mid-June.)

To reach the Arethusa Cirque parking area, follow highway 40 until you reach the main parking area for Highwood Pass at Highwood Meadows. Use the bathrooms here because you won't find any at the Arethusa Cirque parking area.

Drive past Highwood Meadows for approximately 1 km, and park in an unofficial parking lot on the left hand (east) side of the highway. It will be the next parking area you come to after the official Highwood Meadows one.

From the parking area, you'll follow an unofficial trail through the trees, climbing 120 metres in 1.5 km to reach the cirque. Beyond that, you have the option of hiking up to the summit of "Little Arethusa," the name given for the easy peak to the southwest of main Mt Arethusa.

Hiking up Little Arethusa with the Cirque below us in this photo

Stats for our Summit Ascent of Little Arethusa

Height Gain - 576 metres to the top of Little Arethusa from the highway (roughly 450 metres above the Cirque)

Distance - 2.7 km one way from the highway

Time that it took us - 4.5 hours return

Age of kids we hiked with - We reached the summit with two boys, ages 8 and 10.

Best Guide Book - Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 5 by Gillean Daffern

On top of the world above Highwood Pass on the Summit Ridge of Little Arethusa

Hiking to Arethusa Cirque

This is an easy peasy 1.5 km hike, but I would recommend previous hiking experience on unofficial rough trails. There is no sign at the trailhead, and there are no signs along the trail. If you want something more "official," neighboring Ptarmigan Cirque is a better choice.

We stopped often to throw snowballs and play along the trail

We were lucky that other hikers had gone ahead of us because otherwise, we might have had route finding challenges on the unofficial trail up to the cirque. Nobody in our group had ever hiked up to Arethusa Cirque before so we were all in unfamiliar territory.

There was one creek crossing that we helped the kids across, but otherwise, the hike was very straight forward and we stopped often to throw snowballs.

Creek crossing on the Arethusa Cirque Trail

Hiking up Little Arethusa

We took a break in meadows (at least I think they were meadows under all the snow) and then headed towards the summit in the distance. See photo below so that you know what you're aiming for. If you're looking straight towards the Cirque, Little Arethusa is to your left.

Little Arethusa as seen from Arethusa Cirque

From the Cirque, we hiked cross country, heading for the lower slopes of Little Arethusa (shown in the photo above.)

Hiking up from Arethusa Cirque to the Lower Slopes of Little Arethusa

It was a very straight forward climb up to the ridge of Little Arethusa and I'm sure the snow helped us because it didn't feel as steep as I'd anticipated it to be. I had heard that we should be expecting a steep slog, but the ascent went by quite quickly and painlessly.

Hiking up snow and grass to reach the Little Arethusa Ridge

In normal conditions there may be a trail of sorts up Little Arethusa, but for us, we just headed straight up the grassy (now snowy hillside,) following the path made by others ahead of us. Thankfully, it did switchback its way up and we've done a lot of steeper hikes this summer. (nearby Pocaterra Ridge felt much steeper.)

Steep but very beautiful ascent up Little Arethusa
So, maybe it was a "little bit" steep and slog-ish

Little Arethusa Ridge Walk and Summit

We topped out on the false summit and took a short break while we contemplated the ridge ahead of us. Fortunately the trail does not travel along the top of the narrow ridge but traverses below it to the left. It was never especially scary, and with ice cleats on, we had good traction on the slippery trail.

Traversing along the left side of the summit ridge

A very short walk led us to the first cairn, and a small rocky area large enough for a handful of people. It's still not very big though so this isn't where you stop to have lunch. And it wasn't the true summit yet. The true summit was just beyond, accessed via the narrowest section of ridge we had to walk on. Fortunately, it was only 5 steps across this narrow section and we were at the official summit.

Hiking up the ridge to the staging area before the true summit
The Summit of Little Arethusa - with just enough space for two to three people

The summit is very small with room for a few people at most. Take your photos and then hike back along the ridge if you're going to have lunch up here. There's just not room for crowds on the summit or on the ridge at all.

Boys on the summit of Little Arethusa
Resting on the summit ridge of Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass and the highway below us

Hiking Back Down the Ridge

The hike back down the ridge was short and within 5 minutes, we were back at the plateau, looking down on the slope we'd climbed up from the cirque.

Hiking along the narrowest part of the ridge off of the summit

And if you want to "see" how narrow the short section is between the final rocky area at the end of the ridge, and the official summit, just look at the photo above. My foot is at the edge of the ridge - and it drops off there.

Resting on the summit ridge of Little Arethusa
Hiking down the ridge top of Little Arethusa

Safety Tips! Climbing Snowy Mountains with Kids

Below are a few guidelines/suggestions to keep in mind if you want to attempt a winter summit or snow hike with your kids.

  • Waterproof hiking boots (or even winter boots) are imperative. Last year my son was wearing low cut hiking shoes on a snow hike, and his feet got very cold/wet. This year, he wore his actual winter snow boots (the same kind you'd wear snowshoeing) and he was much happier!

  • Bring layers of clothing, mittens or gloves, extra mittens/gloves, and warm hats. We also had Buffs to keep our necks and faces warm. And then make sure you have backpacks large enough to fit all of these extra layers and clothing items. With winter hikes, more is definitely best! So don't skimp on the warm clothes.

  • Think emergency and ask yourself if you'd have enough warm clothing/supplies if you had to spend the night outside waiting for a rescue. We carried an emergency blanket and a small bivy sack with us. Other essentials would be extra food and supplies to start a fire.

  • I recommend choosing a trail you've actually done before in summer so that you know where the trail is supposed to go. We figured we wouldn't get lost since it was only a 1.5 km hike to the cirque, but for a longer hike, I'd want to make sure we were experienced with the trail before attempting it in snowy conditions.

  • Ice cleats or Kahtoola Microspikes are vital. And if you can find an XS pair of Microspikes for the kids, they are truly the best product for traction on the market. We are lucky that my son has a pair, and so he can climb snowy mountains as well as we can.

  • Make sure there is no avalanche danger for the summit you are climbing, or for the area you will be hiking through. If you're not sure, check with a visitor centre. We always do our snow hikes in late September or early October before there is avalanche risk.

  • Allow yourself extra time and plan for reduced daylight hours. A hike that might regularly take 5 hours, could take 7 if there's snow on the trail. And as it gets later in the season, days get shorter.
I highly recommend ice cleats or spikes if you're going to do this

And, in the end, we saw a few larch trees.

Hiking back down out of Arethusa Cirque

Overall Opinion of this Hike 

We have done a lot of summit hikes this summer that I called "Oncers." Too steep, too rugged, too much scree, too loose... - or we had perfect conditions and I don't feel like we need to go back up again.

Little Arethusa is a mountain I'd happily do again though. I'd love to compare our winter hike with a summer hike. And I'd love to go mid-week when we could have the summit ridge to ourselves (and maybe have lunch on the ridge.)

This was an easy outing (for us) and we'll definitely be back.

Very happy camper on top of Little Arethusa
Parting shot on Little Arethusa

Disclaimer: There are a few links in this story, all meant to help you with additional resources and information. I am not sponsored by Kahtoola and received no financial support for linking to their website. I also get no money if you choose to buy a guidebook for Kananaskis off Amazon. If you want to buy a hiking book for the Kananaskis area, buy it wherever you'd like.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter (2021 Update)

While many hear the "s word" with dread, my family loves snow and we are very excited to get back on skis - and to have a very snowy winter! My son has even decided that winter is his favourite season!

Just over a month till we're back on skis!

5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter

My son has a gigantic list of ski hills that he wants to visit this winter but we always choose Nakiska Ski Area as our "local ski hill" (and have for 8 years now.) We'll take several road trips to visit other resorts, but we plan to spend our home weekends out at Nakiska, our chosen "close to home" mountain ski resort for another year. I might even brave the slopes mid-week on my own while my son is at school.

Winter wonderland at Nakiska Ski Area, Kananaskis

Read on below to find out why we choose Nakiska for a local Calgary hill

1. Affordable Skiing

Ski as a family for as low as $700.00 (approximate price per year if you take advantage of early season pricing) for the entire ski season with a family season pass at Nakiska. 

This kid skied for $20 last winter!
And I've done the math for you. As an adult, you have to visit Nakiska 4 times to have fully paid for your season pass. After that you are saving money. Ski once a month from December through March and that's already 4 times. Ski more, and you're really saving.

Don't want to buy a season pass? You'll still find Nakiska to be one of the most affordable ski resorts near Calgary with lift tickets costing roughly $20.00 cheaper than most other resorts.

You can also buy an RCR Rockies discount card (or ask for one as a Christmas present) which gives you your first, fourth, and seventh ski day free at any of the four RCR (Resorts of the Canadian Rockies) hills. 

This would include Nakiska Ski Area, Fernie Alpine Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort, or Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. 

The other days are highly discounted (up to $30 savings per day,) and you typically receive other deals with your card at local hotels and restaurants.

The discount cards are usually available for purchase at stores around the city by late October.

My boys cruising down the easy groomers at Nakiska


Other affordable perks at Nakiska

For families with kids in grade 2 - here's what you'll want to know: Your child can ski at any of RCR's four resorts for $20.00 all winter long! The Grade 2 Fun Pass is available on the RCR website.

Children 5 and under can ski all winter long at all four RCR resorts for $20.00 with an RCR Rockies Tiger Pass, available for purchase on the RCR website. Families can also buy the Super Pass Tiger (which includes Lake Louise) for the same price.

Note as well in case you've heard that it's actually free to ski if you're 5 and under:
"Kids 5 and under are technically free at all RCR ski resorts. To get them on the lift they need to have a lift ticket to be picked up at the ticket window for free each day they are there.  The Tiger pass however allows parents to skip going to the ticket window each day to get a free ticket and allows them to go straight to the lift all season like a regular pass."  

Students and seniors also receive discounts. 

And, FREE skiing in the Beginner Area at Nakiska!

Children and adults alike have generally been allowed to ski for free in the beginner area at Nakiska serviced by the magic carpet. (Note you will still have to get a magic carpet pass from guest services but there has been no cost for this beginner pass in previous years.)

For all other passes and for full information, visit the Nakiska website.

Practicing in the Beginner Area at Nakiska (which is free for adults and kids)

Also, Did you Know about The RCR Advantage?   

"As a season pass holder at any of the RCR resorts – Receive free skiing at any RCR resort when your resort is closed! Which means, come December and your home resort isn't open, head to one of the other 3 resorts and still get those ski days in! Receive $20 daily discounts ($15 at Nakiska) on lift tickets at other RCR resorts when your resort is open."

And while Nakiska is generally one of the first RCR resorts open, we did have the opportunity to ski for free at Kimberley last winter when Nakiska was having problems with one of their chairlifts. It's also good to know that if we visit Fernie, Kimberley, or even Kicking Horse, we will receive $20 in daily discounts per person - just for having a Nakiska season pass.

Other Winter Member Benefits (including discounted friends and family lift tickets) can be found here.

November skiing at Nakiska

2. Nakiska is GREAT for beginners

If you didn't see it in the previous paragraph, it bears repeating: Children and adults alike have generally been allowed to ski for free in the beginner area at Nakiska serviced by the magic carpet.

You will still have to get a magic carpet pass from guest services but there has been no cost for this pass in previous years.

Hopefully beginners will always be allowed to ski for free in the learning area because if you've ever tried running alongside your child on the bunny hill (not wanting to buy a lift ticket just to help a 2 or 3 year old learn to ski off the magic carpet run,) it's a lot of work. It's much easier to chase after a child if you, the adult, also have skis on rather than running down the hill in your boots.

Also, most kids who are just learning to ski will have a very short attention span and will only last at the hill for an hour or two. It's nice if you don't have to pay for skiing until they can manage half a day of skiing off the chair lifts.

My husband teaching our son to ski in the beginner area at Nakiska

Other Great Features at Nakiska for Families with Beginner Skiers 

One. The Nakiska Tube Park is conveniently located right next to the beginner ski area. Yes, the kids will beg to go tubing, yes, it's a lot of fun, and yes, you should try it at least once. If you think you'll be doing a lot of tubing, you can purchase a family tube park pass as well for the season. (Note that children must be 42" tall or 3+ years old with an Adult. Also, kids under 5 can get a free ticket with a paying adult)

Two. The hill is easy to find your way around on. There is no back side and the resort is small. You'll feel quite comfortable your first visit. (which I wouldn't say for bigger resorts)

Three. The Bronze chair is a great place to start with novice skiers who are ready to progress past the beginner area. Every run off this chair is green and the runs are short so little legs won't get tired half way down. As an adult who's spent many days skiing with a young child, I've always found it comforting to know that we can't ever get into trouble on this chair. There's no "accidentally ending up on a blue run," or "getting lost and having to guide a child down a black run."

Know in advance however that the Bronze Chair is not always open in November when the resort officially opens for the season. It is often one of the last chair lifts to open as the lower runs don't get as much snow as the ones higher up do. Also, once kids progress past the Bronze Chair, they will have to be ready to ski intermediate terrain. 59% of the hill is intermediate terrain with only 13% dedicated to beginner runs.

Four. New skiers will appreciate the quality and amount of grooming at Nakiska. For me, an intermediate skier, I love Nakiska's smooth groomers and am often scared at resorts that focus on more "natural" terrain. Moguls and powder may be awesome for more advanced skiers, but beginners will appreciate the perfect Nakiska corduroy. 

First visit to the Nakiska Tube Park -and it was a blast!

3. Location, location, location!

Nakiska is Calgary's closest mountain resort and I can be parking my car in front of the day lodge within 45 minutes of leaving my house. This is great news for families who don't want to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to Banff, find parking at a big ski resort, get on a gondola before the resort opens, and be ready for first lifts - by 9:00!!

This winter I'm also looking forward to getting out to Nakiska on PD Days or school holidays. And,I just might start visiting the hill mid-week with a girlfriend or two while my son has to go to school! (fresh untouched corduroy for mom on a quiet hill!)

We can't wait to get out skiing LOTS this winter!

Other perks for having a mountain that's close to the city:

  • It's easy to return home for a mid to late afternoon nap if you have younger kids

  • You can master the art of the "relaxed start" - especially if you have a seasons pass

  • You'll never spend more time in the car than you will skiing

  • You'll definitely be home for dinner (even if you leave after the chairs close for the day) and won't be driving in the dark

  • It's easier to justify a half day of skiing with younger kids (something you wouldn't do if you had to spend 3+ hours driving to and from the hill)

  • You'll appreciate the proximity of Nakiska on snow days when roads are icy and you wonder if you should even be out on the highways
Learning to ski at Nakiska Ski Area

4. Nakiska is EASY

Access and Parking:

There is no gondola that you must first ride to get to the ski area.

You'll never struggle to find parking. And no matter where you park, you're never far from the day lodge and the lifts.

The Day Lodge: 

The day lodge at Nakiska is cozy and comfortable. It feels like home and we often just throw our hockey bag of gear/lunch/extra clothes under a table in the lodge. It's that casual!

Skiing with Young Children:

Kananaskis Village is conveniently located just down the road and is a great place to spend time after skiing or to hang out with younger kids who tire easily while the rest of the family is still at the hill. We like to get a coffee at the cafe in the Delta Lodge and then we go hang out by the fireplace in the main lobby. (and they never seem to mind our crazy kids running around there)

There is on site day care offered for families with children as young as 19 months. (and season pass holders get a 10% discount) - Note there is no day care for 2020.

Snow School: 

The kids snow school at Nakiska is fabulous! And it's a great way to ease into your day. Drop the kids off at their lessons, go hang out in the lodge and grab a coffee, slowly bring all of your adult gear in from the vehicle, go out for a warm up run, and just relax for an hour or so. (or maybe that's just me as my husband would be out on the hill as soon as our son was dropped off at his lessons.)

This is the "peaceful way to start the day at Nakiska - kids in snow school!

Equipment Rentals:

Save time by reserving rental equipment ahead of time online.

Rent ski equipment for the kids for the season for $179.00 and then return the gear at the end of the season with the Wings Leased Ski Program. For this price, you'd be hard pressed to find new gear for the kids for a season. (And you know that their feet are going to grow again for the following year or that they'll need longer skis.) Avoid the hassle of buying new skis each year with this program aimed at kids 12 and under.

Non Skiers in the Group: 

Finally, there are plenty of options nearby for the non-skier in your family. There are cross country ski trails that leave right from the Nakiska parking lot, there are snowshoe trails located at Kananaskis Village or at the Ribbon Creek Trailhead down the road, and there's an ice skating pond at the Village along with a small sledding hill. You can also rent cross country skis, snowshoes, and skates at the Village. With all these options, you just might have to spent the weekend!

Cross country skiing at Kananaskis Village below Nakiska

5. A Family Can Plan an Affordable Ski Weekend at Nakiska

My husband would be the first to tell you that "affordable" is a relative term but if you compare options, a weekend in Kananaskis doesn't have to break the bank.There are three main options that families can look into if you'd like to make a mini-vacation out of your ski day at Nakiska.

The Super Affordable Option: The HI Kananaskis Hostel is located down the road from Nakiska and offers reasonable rates in either private rooms or dorm rooms (divided by gender.) Kids have to be 6+ to stay in a shared dorm room but can be younger in the private rooms. For more information, check out the HI Kananaskis Hostel's website or read my previous blog post: Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies.

The "affordable" option: Not as cheap as the hostel above, but you get your own hotel room with this one.  The Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino is more family-friendly than one would think given that there is a casino on site. It's also less than a 15 minute drive away from Nakiska and has an indoor pool with waterslide. There are often great deals on the RCR website that include lodging at the Stoney Nakoda along with lift tickets for Nakiska.

The "fancy" option:  For those with a larger budget (or if you just really want to treat yourselves to a nice weekend away) there's the Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge. We love staying here and relaxing in the pool with outdoor hot tub after a day on the slopes. And even if we don't stay overnight, most of our ski days end up here for at least coffee, drinks, or dinner.

Visit the RCR website for more on ski vacations, packages, and hot deals.

Winter at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge

Additional Reading

To read about one of our early season ski weekends at Nakiska while staying at the Delta Kananaskis Lodge, read my post: Off to a Great Start at Nakiska Ski Resort.

To read about one of our first experiences skiing at Nakiska, and why we fell in love with this small resort, read: Nakiska Mountain Resort - Raising the Bar in Family Excellence

To read about our experiences with ski school at Nakiska, read: In Support of Ski School - Quality Training and Fun 

Tips and Tricks for Downhill Skiing with Kids

Looking forward to the start of ski season in just over a month!

Visiting other RCR Ski Resorts this Winter

We love the  Fernie and Kimberley Alpine Resorts and can't say enough good things about these two resorts for families.

Read about our First Family Ski Trip to Fernie Alpine Resort here.

And read about our First Family Ski Trip to Kimberley Alpine Resort here.

You can also read this story from last winter: The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort.  

And, 5 Reasons for Families to Love Fernie Alpine Resort

Kimberley Alpine Resort has awesome tree runs for kids

Want to visit one of RCR's other resorts this winter?

Purchase a Nakiska season pass and choose the Ski BC add on option.  You'll receive 2 Ski Days at either Fernie, Kicking Horse or Kimberley. The option is valid all season long but you must purchase the pass at the same time as your Nakiska Seasons Pass.

Alternately, buy a RCR Rockies Discount Card (more details to be released soon for winter 2020/21 and you'll get your 1st, 4th, and 7th day free at any RCR resort. I've found that these make great Christmas gifts!

And when the time comes to book your vacation with accommodation, you can search for packages, deals, and vacations on the RCR website. You can also sign up for last minute deals that you'll receive via email.

Fernie was our first big mountain resort that we skied at as a family in 2015

Tentative Opening Weekend for Nakiska is November 11th for 2021 and we're very excited for that!

Disclaimer: I have partnered with RCR over the past several years. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

There's No Such Thing as Bad Weather - Book Review (and Giveaway)

"There's no Such Thing as Bad Weather" by Linda Akeson McGurk's is hot off the presses and officially now on book shelves for purchase! I was fortunate enough to receive my own copy a few weeks ago, so that I could provide a review for you, my readers.

"There's no such thing as bad weather" book review

About Linda's Book - What You'll be Reading

Linda summarizes her book with the following sentence: "A Scandinavian Mom's secrets for raising healthy, resilient, and confident kids (from Friluftsliv, open-air living, to Hygge, the coziness and simple pleasures of home.)"

Linda's Parenting Experiences in the United States

The book starts off explaining about Linda's Swedish background and her experience moving to small-town Indiana with her American husband to start a family.  She quickly realizes that her outdoorsy ways are not the norm and then goes on to entertain the reader with numerous stories of her first years in Indiana as a parent. In one of my favourite stories, Linda talks about taking her two young daughters out for walks in the winter, and of people pulling over to offer them rides (for surely she must not have a car, must be in "need," and would benefit from the charity of her kind neighbors.) Alas, Linda was just trying to get fresh air and exercise, and wanted to be outside. She had a car, but chose to walk around town (through snow, sun, or rain.)
"There's no such thing as bad weather" book review

Linda paints a humorous picture of herself and how she imagines her community and neighbors must have viewed her, as this eccentric strange lady who walked everywhere, loaded down with a stroller, two kids, groceries, and other items picked up while running errands, on foot.

Linda's Parenting Experiences in Sweden

The book then goes on to contrast Scandinavian culture where kids are allowed to run free, raised by a large neighborhood of supportive families in a "village" type environment. (Behavior that would have kids picked up by Child Protective Services in North America.)

Linda contrasts the parenting philosophies of her native Sweden with her new homeland in the United States as she sets out on a 6-month trip to Sweden with her daughters.

The stories Linda shares while in Sweden  set this "nature parenting" book apart from anything else I've read on the market. Linda's stories, often hilarious in tone and nature, make her book read as a fiction tale rather than a heavy non-fiction piece that one labors through for educational purposes.

And yet somehow, in all its lightness for a parenting book, I learned more in Linda's book than I would have through reading a more serious manuscript on the necessities of getting our children outside. (a message that let's be realistic, we've all heard before.)

Linda Akeson McGurk and daughters ("There's no such thing as bad weather book review")

Preview Video of Linda's Philosophy of "No Bad Weather"

Check out this fun video that Linda created to explain a bit more about her philosophy behind the "There's no such thing as bad weather" message. It's a short video so you can still finish reading the rest of this review after.

Why Buy Linda's Book? And Who Would Benefit From Reading It

As I mentioned earlier, we've all heard the message that kids need to be outside, and that there's no "bad weather" (just bad clothing.) And we "know" that raising kids in a village would ideally be beneficial to their development.  Yet somehow, "knowing" and "doing" tend to look quite different in reality.

I recommend Linda's book for...

  • ALL parents (whether you'd call yourself outdoorsy or not.) - Linda's book has lessons we can all benefit from.

  • Those of you who already have it ALL going on. Your kids are registered in forest school, you play outside daily, you encourage risky play, and you go outside in all kinds of weather. - You'll love Linda's book and you'll be able to read it with your coffee, while shouting, "Preach it sister!"

  • Those of you self described "sun goddesses" who hate rain, snow storms or wind. - and yes, I'd be pointing at myself here. (And I'm sure I'm not alone!)

  • Educators, teachers, child care workers, day home providers, and anybody who regularly works with children

    "There's no such thing as bad weather" book review


What I personally got out of the book

I've already told Linda that this is the first "nature parenting" book I've managed to finish. Usually I get a chapter (two max) in, get bored, and put the book down. My house is full of nature themed books that I just haven't been able to motivate myself to finish. Therefore, you can take my word for it, that Linda's book is actually "interesting," "entertaining," AND "educational" - all at the same time!

Linda's book actually made me want to move to Sweden! It made me unsatisfied with the way I interact with my neighbors, and it made me long for a village in which I could raise my son. We have a lot of great outdoor friends, but play dates always involve driving, planning, and scheduling. I'd love to live in a place where my son could run out the door, find his tribe, and go play. Linda's book inspired this dream. (Now to do something about it!)

"There's no such thing as bad weather" book review

Where to Buy "There's no such thing as bad weather"

The book is available at all major book sellers, on, and on
And, Christmas isn't that far away if you're looking for gift ideas.

Enter to Win A Copy of "There's no Such Thing as Bad Weather"

Enter to win a copy of Linda's new book below. The giveaway is open to all residents of Canada or the United States and includes free shipping.

The giveaway closes on October 11th. A winner will be chosen that morning. If I do not hear back from the winner by October 15th, I will choose a new winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


All photos were provided by the author.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this review and as always, all words or opinions are my own. I was given a free copy of the book to provide this review.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Gotta do THIS - October 2017 Edition

Summer is officially behind us now with October ushering in a "shoulder season" that can be challenging to always appreciate. I personally love the month of October though as we slow down a bit, celebrate Thanksgiving, and seek out early season snow. And then, of course, there's Halloween!

October's not so bad! Gotta do THIS - October 2017 in the Canadian Rockies

Let's be Realistic, October does bring certain challenges!

I've been known to drive out to the mountains with at least three different jackets or coats for each person in the family, multiple pairs of boots and shoes per person, and a bag filled with mittens, toques, and other accessories. You just never know what you're going to get until you reach your trailhead. (and we often switch between multiple seasons on the drive out to the mountains, and back to the city on a fall weekend.)

Add the loss of leaves from the trees, fall cloud cover, wind, and rain, and it can be hard to get inspired to go outside at times.

Challenges aside, read on and find out what my family loves to do in October to make the most out a great month.

Put on a happy face and make the most of every season!

Gotta do THIS - October 2017 Edition

1. Plan a Thanksgiving Road Trip (and bring the bikes)

Thanksgiving is around the corner and it's not too late to plan a weekend away! Check out last year's story on 5 great destinations for a fall bike weekend or day trip. The story even has suggestions for where to stay (and has been freshly edited for 2017)

Also, give this story I wrote for Calgary's Child Magazine a read: Autumn Getaways your Family Will Love.

Fall Biking in the Columbia Valley

2. Go Camping one Final Time for the Season

Due to a record breaking camping season experienced in Alberta campgrounds, several Alberta Parks Campgrounds are staying open through the end of October this year! This is great news for families who want to get out one last time. Load up the RV or trailer, reserve a site with power, and take full advantage of the warm days for some autumn hiking or biking.

Read more here about the extended camping season in Alberta parks

There are still many great weekends left to camp this coming month

Suggestions for fall camping:

1. Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis - open through Thanksgiving

And note that Willow Rock Campground, across the road from Bow Valley, is open through October 22nd (non reservable)

Read about shoulder season camping in Bow Valley here.

Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

2. Gooseberry Campground, Elbow Valley, Kananaskis - open through Thanksgiving. (non reservable)

Camp close to Calgary without having to make a reservation. And note that there are some power sites in the campground as of this year.

Fall camping and biking in the Elbow Valley, Kananaskis

3.  Crimson Lake Provincial Park, Central Alberta - Open through the end of October (reservations accepted through Thanksgiving)

Read more about autumn in the Rocky Mountain House Area here.

Autumn biking and camping at Crimson Lake, Central Alberta
 4. Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, Southern Alberta - This campground is open year round (reservations not required after September.)

Read more about camping at Beauvais Lake here.

Beauvais Lake Campground, Southern Alberta

5. Dinosaur Provincial Park, Southern Alberta - This campground is open year round (no reservations required after Thanksgiving) and it's one of the warmest parts of the province - making it an ideal spot for a fall camping trip.

Read more about camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park here.

Hiking and Camping in the Alberta Badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park

3. Plan an Outdoor Halloween Party and Costume Hike

This has been one of our favourite things to do in October each year! We plan a ginormous outdoor Halloween party complete with a costume hike, pinatas, a bonfire, hot dogs and marshmallows. Add candy, snacks, and everything else that arrives for the pot luck affair and it's a great afternoon spent in Kananaskis.

Outdoor Halloween Party in Kananaskis

Not up for "crowds" or don't want to plan a big party? That's fine! Gather a few family friends then and plan a smaller costume hike in the city or on your favourite hiking trail. Just make sure it's an "easy" hiking trail because those princess dresses get caught on roots and tree branches very easily!

Halloween Costume Hiking

We've also done costume bike rides near Halloween which has been super fun. I like assigning a "super hero" theme because everybody has a cape (or can make one out of a pillow case) for creating an easy bike-friendly costume. Near Calgary, I like Troll Falls as an easy Halloween bike ride. It's even appropriately named for a spooky ride.

Super Hero Themed Fall Bike Riding

For more on how to plan an outdoor Halloween party, check out this story I wrote on how to Plan an Outdoor Halloween Bash

Who doesn't like dressing up in costume and running around in the woods?

4. Take a Fall Hike (Our Favourite Shoulder Season Hikes)

Here are a few picks for hikes that we love in October: 

Cat Creek Interpretive Trail, Kananaskis. This 1.3 km trail ends in a beautiful 6-metre tall waterfall and passes through a delightful little canyon. I find the hike to be a bit small for a summer day hike, but in fall when days are short, it's the perfect half day outing. We like to drive down Hwy 40 over Highwood Pass from Calgary and then return via Longview and Black Diamond.

To plan your return drive, visit the Cool Little Towns website and choose a restaurant or coffee shop to visit after your hike.

Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

Prairie View Trail, Kananaskis. The Alberta Parks website lists this trail as 6.6 km one way but that is the full distance to the intersection with Jewel Pass and you likely won't be going that far with your kids. Hike to the scenic viewpoint on the ridge overlooking Barrier Lake and Mt. Baldy across the way for a pleasant 4.6 km hike one way. Turn around when you reach the rocks and lookout site or continue up to the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout in an additional 0.7 km. Total height gain if you were to hike to the Fire Lookout is 616 metres with a total of 10.6 km return distance.

To read about our fall hike up to the Fire Lookout last year, please read First Summits: Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis

Hanging out at the Prairie View Lookout above Barrier Lake

Sulphur Mountain, Banff. This strenuous hike gains 655 metres of elevation gain in 5.5 km and takes you to the Upper Terminal for the Banff Gondola (from where you can hike a short ways further to the summit of Sanson's Peak on a lovely boardwalk trail.) Honestly though, unless you really need the exercise or want to save the money, skip the climb and enjoy the 8 minute gondola ride.

Kids LOVE this gondola ride and while it's definitely expensive, it's also something I can justify as a once-a-year treat. Let the kids enjoy the ride,  hike up the boardwalk trail to the old weather station, and then check out the amazing interpretive centre inside the gondola building. The views are stellar and the experience is extremely pleasant if you go between the months of October and May (outside prime tourist season.)

NOTE if you want to hike up and ride down for FREE: Straight from the Banff Gondola Website: "During the winter season it is FREE to ride the Banff Gondola down. Hikers need to be aware that the trail will be covered in snow/ice and need to have appropriate hiking gear suitable for winter conditions." - and the winter season begins on October 10th (though mid May.)

Fall on top of the Banff Gondola

Tunnel Mountain, Banff. This is another short hike that I find hard justifying in the middle of summer as an actual "day trip." In autumn however, it makes for a pleasant half day hike when the kids get off school early on a Friday. Combine it with a trip to the hot springs or dinner out in Banff for a longer day trip.

The hike is only 4 km return with 300 metres of height gain. For many children, this will be their first summit that they tackle on their own little feet and it's a proud moment for many families when the kids reach the top of this peak for the first time.

Hiking up Tunnel Mountain in autumn

Get more suggestions for fall hikes here on my Spring and Fall Hiking Page (with 25+ suggestions for great fall hikes)

You can also get some suggestions here from the Born to Be Adventurous blog: 10 Fall Hikes to do Around Calgary with Preschoolers/Toddlers!

Hiking the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

5. Climb a Mountain (Fall Favourites)

It may be autumn but you can still get out and climb mountains before the snow falls. And even after it does start to fall, there are many easy summits that are quite doable with a pair of ice cleats or spikes (even for children.)

Hiking along the ridge on Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Suggestions for a fall family summit:  

Forget Me Not Ridge, Elbow Valley - My son loved the Forget Me Not Ridge hike at age 6 but I'd recommend it for children that are perhaps a little bit older unless you have a very strong 6 or 7 year old who's done some other big hikes this summer.

En route to the summit trail you'll have to cross the Elbow River (very braided and easy to cross) so we like to save this hike for fall when the river is lower. Our feet barely got wet.

To read my full trip report, please follow this link to First Summits - Forget Me Not Ridge, Kananaskis 

Forget Me Not Ridge in October

Prairie Mountain, Elbow Valley - This trail is accessible for hiking year round, and is relatively easy as long as you bring a pair of ice cleats or spikes if it's snowed recently.

Note that the highway closes past Elbow Falls on December 1st but that you can still access Prairie Mountain year round by parking at the road closure and just walking around the gate to the trailhead (which starts right from the gate.)

Read about our hike here: More First Summits: Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Prairie Mountain Summit, Elbow Valley

Mount Lady Macdonald (to the platform,) Canmore - This is a great summit that can often be done year round when wind blows snow free from the trails in the Bow Valley. Bring a pair of ice cleats or spikes with you for early season snow if hiking this trail in fall. And choose a nice clear day so you can enjoy the views from the platform (first photo in this story)

We did the hike last October and loved it as a fall summit.

Read about our hike here: First Summits - Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore

Hiking up the Mount Lady Macdonald Trail in October

6. Seek out Early Season Snow at Highwood Pass, Kananaskis 

This will come up again in "Gotta do THIS November" as I talk about early season snowshoeing at Highwood Pass in Kananaskis. In the meantime, if you'd rather hike without snowshoes on your feet, visit Highwood Pass now - Located on Canada's highest paved highway which closes at the end of November.

Bring ice cleats or spikes for slippery sections.

And kids LOVE hiking through snow because it means they can throw snowballs, build snowmen, and make snow angels. Just don't expect to get too far quickly.

September snowball fight at Highwood Pass

Best Family Hikes at Highwood Pass:

Ptarmigan Cirque - Hike up an easy and official trail to this beautiful little gem of a location in a short 4.5 km round trip hike.

Note that as of September 30th, there is a bear closure for this trail. Check conditions before planning to hike here. If the trail is still closed, choose one of the other two cirques below.

Read about our hike here: Our Favourite Hike in the Canadian Rockies - Ptarmigan Cirque.

Ptarmigan Cirque Trail in autumn

Little Arethusa and Arethusa Cirque - an unofficial trail leads to a pretty cirque and access for the easy summit of Little Arethusa. Round trip distance to the cirque and back is similar to neighboring Ptarmigan Cirque.

Read about our hike here: First Summits - Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass

Standing on the snowy summit of Little Arethusa in late September

Pocaterra Cirque and Ridge - Great hike on an unofficial trail starting from the main Highwood Pass parking lot. Go as far as you want towards the cirque and the pond, or hike farther along the ridge. This hike is further than the two cirques above but the pond can be reached in 5-6 km round trip.

Read about our hike here: Pocaterra Ridge - Family Hiking in Kananaskis.  

Pocaterra Cirque and tarn late September

7. Plan Fun Activities Close to Home

Every month I make a bingo-grid fun list to put on the fridge, and it inspires us to get out as we try to check off as many of the activities on the list as possible.

Samples of things that you could put on your October Family Fun List:

  • Go geocaching in the city after school

  • Visit a new playground

  • Visit a pumpkin patch or corn maze

  • Enjoy a quiet afternoon at the zoo without the summer crowds

  • Take one last trip to Heritage Park or Calaway Park (both open through Thanksgiving weekend)

  • Bike or hike a new pathway in the city

  • Visit one of our awesome recreation centres for a day (We like visiting Vivo for Healthier Generations because we can go ice skating, swimming, and rock climbing all in the same visit.)

  • Play indoor mini golf, visit a trampoline park, go inline skating at Lloyds one last time before it closes in the new year... - the possibilities are endless.

Indoor Monster Mini Golf anybody?

For more inspiration, check out these stories:

20 Autumn Outdoor Adventures for Families - Backwoods Mama

Create an Autumn Magic List - A story I wrote on my monthly family fun lists

Discover a new favourite trail in your city this month

8. Seize the Moment, and Make it Count on those Exceptional Warm Days

Go rock climbing, climb a mountain, go mountain biking...Just get outside and proclaim madly and excitedly that you are still rock climbing, that you actually did get out to ride that trail that's been nagging at you all summer, that you got out camping - in late October!

I have spent warm October days hiking in a tank top (after hiking in a winter coat in late September.) And last year we were still rock climbing in November (which is crazy!)

Possibilities are limitless. Just get outside and enjoy the last warm weather days.

Get out and enjoy the last warm fall days

Sorry for those who like even lists with 5s or 10s. This one only goes to 8.



Future Planning for November

Much as I'd like to stick with just the "Best of October" in this post, one has to plan ahead or you'll find that there are no hotels, cabins, hostels, or resorts left when you want to travel. Below is one key event to keep on the radar. Book your hotel room now if you want to spend the night in Banff.

The Santa Claus Parade of Lights in Banff returns on November 18th. It's an annual highlight for us each year and we usually try to spend the weekend in Banff.

Banff Santa Claus Parade

Last year we skated on frozen Vermillion Lake, attended the parade, and visited the Banff Gondola to see Santa Claus. This year we plan to return, and already have reservations at the Banff Hostel (where as it turns out, they have private cabins for families.

Christmas at the Banff Gondola

Have a great month!