Friday, January 05, 2018

Top Ten Highlights of 2017

2017 was another busy year for us as we explored our mountain parks across Alberta and British Columbia, and spent our weekends perfecting the art of becoming "master weekend warriors."

Top Ten Highlights 2017, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

In January I started a list on my phone simply titled "2017 highlights" and I added to it monthly with careful notes every time we did something that I had to admit was "honestly, a lot of fun!"  I added trips that I felt were unique, out of the ordinary, super cool, and special. I also added moments where my heart smiled at the pure awesomeness of what I saw going on around me. (Even if it was something as simple as a beach day with great friends.)

Below are "some" of the highlights from this past year that I feel represent what made us truly happy in 2017.

Simple fun was often the best fun in 2017

Top Ten Highlights of 2017 

One - Emerald Lake Weekend, Yoho National Park 

The first highlight of the new year was definitely our trip to Emerald Lake Lodge last January.

You can read about the full trip here: Family Weekend at Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park.

Cross country skiing at Emerald Lake

Special highlights:

 -  Hiking to frozen Hamilton Falls (something I've wanted to do for years)

-  Hiking under the Natural Bridge (normally a raging river in summer)

-  Skiing the Alluvial Fan (Some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen on a cross country ski trail, and a new favourite for sure!)

-  Hanging out in the Emerald Lake Lodge lounge after skiing (I remember drinking Irish coffee while playing a family game of Carcassonne by the fire, and it is just a simple, happy memory.)

-  Staying overnight at Emerald Lake Lodge (I remember playing crib by the fire in our room with a bottle of wine while Noah slept. Again, a simple, happy memory.)

-  Relaxing in the hot tub after snowshoeing for hours. (Always fun, right?)

Standing under the Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park 

Two - Skogan Pass with my Ski Bestie 

My girlfriend Greta is going to be thrilled that she gets an entire number all to herself, but she deserves it because she truly is my ski bestie and I always look forward to our mid-week ski days when the kids are in school.

Of all our ski days last winter, our Skogan Pass day in Kananaskis stands out for a few reasons:

-  The grouse!! (Greta was flying down a hill and nearly hit this stupid grouse sitting in the middle of the trail. I made a joke about almost bringing dinner home with her, and that was it. I was laughing so hard I was in tears and could hardly stand up. I can not remember the last time I laughed so hard.)

-  The Descent from Skogan Pass! (I will forever remember the screams of pain at the bottom of every big hill after snow plowing down the steep trail with a total loss of 600+ metres on the way down.)

Word for word from my notes: The pain, the glory, the friendship, the victory, the falls, the spring weather, skiing with no jackets, and glorious sun.

Skogan Pass, Kananaskis 

Three - Fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort, BC

I'd been wanting to try fat biking for some time, and finally got the opportunity (twice) last February at Nipika Mountain Resort, outside Radium Hot Springs, BC.

Getting to try Fat Biking  was a highlight for 2017

My goal was to "try it." Once.

Since then, I have "tried it" 5 times over the past year (Three times at Nipika.)

And interestingly enough, of all the activities I could have chosen to do on the final day of 2017, it was fat biking - at Nipika where it all began.

I don't know that I'll be buying my own bike anytime soon, but I've added fat biking to my big list of sports that I want to make time for over the winter months (along with cross country and downhill skiing, ice skating, hiking, and snowshoeing.)

Read more about our experience fat biking at Nipika Mountain Resort here: Our Newest Winter Obsession: Family Fat Biking.

Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort, BC 

Four - Alpine Ski Weekends at Resorts across Alberta and BC 

I have a lot of downhill ski highlights from 2017. So many, we decided resort skiing would be our primary focus for winter 2018 - with most of our upcoming weekends devoted to downhill skiing.

Somebody really learned to LOVE downhill skiing this past year

Special highlights from our ski weekends in 2017:

- Skiing big mountain terrain at Lake Louise (it was our first time skiing here as a family, and I was reminded that I LOVE the big mountain resorts.)

- Watching myself get better at downhill skiing (I had stopped downhill skiing after becoming a mom, and after getting a total hip replacement in the birthing process, which is a long story, but I am slowly working my way back into this sport. I am now able to ski full days, to ski a wide variety of terrain from green to black, and my confidence is increasing each time I go out.)

- Skiing down my magical Falling Star Run at Fernie (and trying it from the very top of the mountain for the very first time since returning to skiing post hip surgery and having a child)

- Watching Noah get better at skiing (I love watching our son Noah fly down the ski hill, even though I can't keep up to him anymore, and it's amazing to watch him ripping through the trees, attempting jumps, getting more confident with powder and steep terrain, and being fearless. He's a blast to ski with because he has so much fun - a big reason we've chosen to focus on downhill skiing this winter.)

- Watching Noah absolutely fall in love with skiing at Fernie (I loved watching him take off to ski the bowls in deep powder and realizing we had an absolute ski lover on our hands)

- Learning to ski powder at Kimberley (and realizing that I kind of like the fresh stuff before it gets tracked out)

- Conquering my biggest ski goal of the year (working up to solo ski trips with just Noah and I. We've since enjoyed multiple solo ski days at Nakiska this fall and I'm loving the quieter time on the hill as opposed to always skiing weekends.)

Ski Weekends Rocked in 2017!

Read more about our adventures here:

The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort

Family Guide to the Lake Louise Ski Resort

Five Reasons for Families to Love Fernie Alpine Resort

My rad boys at Fernie Alpine Resort

Five - Camping and the New Trailer

We bought a new trailer this spring, our first fully hard sided trailer, and it was AWESOME!  I really fell in love with camping this year. (Purely for the sake of camping, and not just because it's a base camp for greater adventures.)

Read more about our new trailer here: A New Camping Season and a New Trailer!

A new camping season - and a new trailer!

Camping was so much more comfortable (and easy) this summer and we got over 40 nights in between April and October (a longer camping season than we normally enjoy.)

Special Camping Highlights this past Summer:

A two week August vacation with perfect weather every single day. No mosquitoes, very few wasps, we never once pulled out a rain jacket or a long sleeved shirt, or ever had to wear pants. I lived in tank tops and shorts every single day. (The only downside was the ever present smoke from forest fires. We tried not to let it bother us and chose lake days on the smokiest days.)

Spring Camping. We realized how comfortable spring camping is with the new trailer when we camped in Bow Valley Provincial Park in late April, and in Radium Hot Springs in May. We'd never camped as early as April before but it was a lot of fun with a hard sided trailer for added warmth and comfort.

Evenings at camp playing games. I totally fell in love with a new game called Mexican Train and it goes everywhere with us now. (Thanks Kim and Sheldon for introducing us to this amazing domino game!)

Read more about our first camping trips with the new trailer here:

April Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Why we LOVE Camping at Red Streak, Radium Hot Springs, BC

Spring Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park 

Six - July Long Weekend Camping at Writing on Stone Provincial Park

We spent two days floating down the Milk River, playing in the mud, and trying to stay cool in summer scorcher conditions. It was so much fun and definitely a favourite camping trip of the summer! I can't wait to visit again so we can float down the river on tubes, pool noodles, and a wide assortment of boats.

Read more (and see my fun photos showing the variety of ways we found to float down the river) at the story I wrote:  Find us in the River - Camp Life at Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

Floating down the Milk River on pool noodles 

Seven - Beach Time at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, BC

We travelled to the West Kootenays on our summer vacation and were very excited to spend time playing at the beach and sand spit in the Kokanee Creek PP campground. The water on the sandspit is ankle deep, which made for super fun play time in the middle of Kootenay Lake.

Beach time at Sandspit Beach, Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, BC 

The only thing missing was a friend for Noah (because parents can only go so far as beach buddies for their kids.)

Enter the Navratil Family from Cranbrook, BC, and the trip got a whole lot better! Noah and their son became quick friends, instant besties really, and it became a highlight of our entire summer vacation.

We hope to meet this family again so Noah and Kyus can enjoy more beach time together.

Read more about our adventures in my story here: Family Touring around Nelson and the West Kootenays, BC

Noah and his new friend playing on the sandspit in the middle of Kootenay Lake

Eight - Mountain Biking in Fernie, BC 

Two words: Lazy Lizard! The bike trail we most wanted to ride this past summer in all its easy downhill flowy glory!

I've written all about our favourite bike trails in Fernie here: The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia - and I've updated the story, adding a bunch of new favourites to the list for 2017.

I am convinced now more than ever that mountain biking is Noah's favourite summer sport (downhill biking in particular.) I'm also starting to get more comfortable with it myself and hope to upgrade to a full suspension mountain bike this coming year. My husband is happy that we have a sport we all LOVE, and he also upgraded to a better bike this past year. (Gotta keep up to the 8 year old after all.)

Riding Lazy Lizard in Fernie, BC 

Nine -  Chasing Summits with Noah

We tackled ten summits and ridge walks as a family this past summer according to my notes, and had a few very big (awesome) days!

Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis

Summit Highlights:

Realizing that I have a true adventure buddy

I loved the thrill of being able to do the big stuff again, starting to get into the realm of type 2 fun where you really have to push through at times and persevere through challenging moments. I especially loved that I could do this together with my son and that I didn't have to take solo days off to go climb mountains. Even better, Noah and I were able to go climb mountains on our own with friends, even if Daddy was working.

I also love that my kid is as fast as me now (if not faster than me!) On Ha Ling Peak I honestly couldn't keep up (both up and downhill - and the kids had to keep waiting for me.)

Hiking with Noah is so enjoyable that I pretty much stopped doing adults-only trips this past summer, and we even allowed him to come hiking with us for our anniversary rather than leaving him behind.

Little Lougheed Summit, Spray Valley Provincial Park

All of the amazing families we met through my Big Kids Hiking Group

I planned several family summit days this past summer and we met a lot of cool families, and great kids through the online communities where I promoted these trips. One family stands out in that our kids clicked like nothing I've ever seen on our Ha Ling Peak Day. Noah, Alex, and Xavier became the best of friends this day as they chased each other down the trail, laughing and making up games as they went.

The three boys clicked so well, we followed up the hike with some beach time at Quarry Lake in Canmore. Again, super fun and great connections between the three boys.

Since that day in July, we've met up with Lori-Ann and her family many times for beach days, rock climbing trips, outings in and around Calgary, and most recently, New Years in Radium Hot Springs where we rang in the new year together.

New friends on our Ha Ling Peak Hiking Day

Checking four brand new summits off our list as a family!

Usually when you go out to do a family outing, you choose a trail you've already done. This summer though, we tackled four new summits that we'd never done before, even just as adults without kids.

Grizzly Peak Summit, Kananaskis
Below are some of the stories I wrote this summer of our summit adventures:

Heart Mountain Horseshoe, Bow Valley 

Little Lougheed, Spray Valley Provincial Park

Grizzly Peak, Kananaskis Valley 

Sarrail Ridge, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Pocaterra Ridge Traverse, Highwood Pass

Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass 

My boys on top of Little Lougheed, Spray Valley, Kananaskis

Ten - Every Minute We Spent in the Columbia Valley

The Columbia Valley is our happy place and we spent a lot of time playing in the valley this past year. And, I believe I actually spent 19 nights in this part of British Columbia between Golden, Radium Hot Springs, and over to Kimberley in the past year. (16 as a family)

Our happy place in the Columbia Valley

Below are some of the stories I wrote this past year of our adventures in the Columbia Valley:

Our Newest Winter Obsession - Family Fat Biking at Nipika Mountain Resort - January adventures

The Ultimate Family Ski Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort - February ski trip

Panorama Mountain Resort  (much more than downhill skiing) - Fat biking and nordic skiing in February

Why we LOVE Camping at Red Streak, Radium Hot Springs - May camping trip

The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley  - updated with new trails ridden this year

Epic Climbing on the Kicking Horse Via Ferrata in Golden, BC - An adult adventure I had in July

And as usual, we just spent New Year's in the Columbia Valley.

Mountain biking in the Columbia Valley

Honorable Mentions

Rock climbing and gathering big groups for family crag days

My boys LOVE rock climbing and so I try to plan a family crag day at least once a month over the summer months. I've even started climbing a bit myself because it gets boring just sitting around watching.

We especially loved meeting up with two families that I've gotten to know through social media and blogging. We spent a day climbing at Skaha in Penticton, BC with Josee (The Backwoods Mama,) and family, and we spent a day climbing in Kananaskis with Bryanna and Craig (Crazy Family Adventure,) and family.

One of our larger family crag days in Kananaskis

The Golden Via Ferrata

My initial post on instagram read like this: "Climbed a mountain today!! And I mean "climbed" a mountain! Absolutely epic with delicious exposure and vertical cliff faces we got to scale! This is the second Via Ferrata Climb I've done in the Canadian Rockies and it made my first one seem like a walk in an alpine meadow. Kicking Horse really knows how to kick everything up a notch!!! I've never been so terrified and happy at the same time."

Kicking Horse Via Ferrata in Golden, BC

Stanley Mitchell Backcountry Hut Trip, Yoho National Park

This really should be in the main highlights because we hiked into a backcountry cabin with 5 other families, spent two nights at an Alpine Club of Canada hut, and spent three days hiking some of the most beautiful trails in Canada, including the world-famous, Iceline Trail.

We also got to meet the Curren Family, (Instagram link) visiting from Idaho for a month, which was awesome because Jess and I have been friends for a few years now thanks to our outdoor blogging connections. Jess and her family hiked into the hut with us and our boys really hit it off over a shared love of Minecraft.

Read more about the adventure here: Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids - Stanley Mitchell Hut, BC.

Family backcountry trip in Yoho National Park

The Bravery of an 8 year old boy

Honestly, some of my favourite moments came from watching my son try new brave things for the first time.

I especially loved being there for Noah's first upside down roller coaster ride, his first alpine lake plunge (in his undies,) and his first time rolling in snow in a swim suit.

I will never tire of watching him jump off bridges, rocks, and cliffs into lakes below, and it's been amazing watching  as he gets faster and faster at downhill skiing and biking (and better than me!) Watching his skills progress at scrambling and rock climbing has been equally inspiring.

First real roller coaster ride

Mountain Dad Additions

My husband would like to add his personal favourite trips and highlights. Fortunately most of them were already mentioned so we are generally on the same page in terms of what made us happy last year.

Boys Mountain Bike Day on Moose Mountain 

Mountain Child Addition

Noah wanted to add that he loves our annual family road trips in the summer and that he wants to continue doing this again in the future. He especially liked going to the Okanagan region of BC again and enjoyed biking on the Kettle Valley Railway.

He also said that he loves our annual Mexico trip, which happened twice in 2017 since we chose to go in December for the 2017/2018 winter season. (and if you never saw any of my recent Mexico photos, make sure you're following me on Instagram.)

Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan, BC

Happy New Year everybody and I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store.

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