The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Includes our favorite gear!

The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

1-4 km hikes less than 1 hour from Calgary!

Keeping Warm in Spring

Have the best spring gear, keep moving, and keep hydrated and fueled!

3 Family Hikes in Northwest Calgary

Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, Nose Hill Park

Family Friendly Walk-In Campgrounds Near Calgary

Find out where to go, then take the Camping Readiness Test!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Staying Active With Allergies

While trees, weeds and flowering plants are putting out pollen faster than you can sneeze it out, it is possible to stay active with allergies. Here are my top 12 tips for dealing with seasonal allergies. 

Please note that I am not a medical professional, but I am a lifelong allergy sufferer. What works for me may not work for everyone, so please speak to your doctor if you think you have allergies or would like to alter your treatment regiment.

12 Tips for Staying Active with Allergies

1. Get tested so you know what you are allergic to. 

2. Now that you know what you're allergic to, avoid allergens when you can. 
  • Drive with your windows closed and A/C on.
  • Sleep with your windows closed and limit early morning outdoor activity. Tree pollen counts are usually highest between 5 am and 10 am. (Source)
  • Change activities as needed. Road riding may be preferable to mountain biking when trees are pollinating (if you're allergic to tree pollen). On an exceptionally bad day, work out indoors. 
3. Don't exert yourself when pollen counts are high or you're feeling awful. Save that big workout for another day - your body's already working hard.

4. Check the local pollen forecast and plan activities accordingly. The Weather Network has a handy pollen forecast for many cities.

5. Check the weather. Dry, windy days are the worst for allergy sufferers. Pollen that has dried on the pavement gets recirculated into the air when it's dry. Rainy days wash some of it away and essentially clean the air (temporarily), so opt to do weights indoors on a breezy, sunny day and do your long run on a calm or rainy day.
6. Maintain good air quality in your home to give your taxed system a break when you are indoors.
  • Change the air filter on your furnace regularly. Use a high quality filter! 
  • Keep a HEPA air cleaner running in your bedroom at night. For best results, turn it on a couple hours before bedtime (purchase a timer from the dollar store) so the air is clean when you go to sleep.
7. Reduce contact with pollen, then wash it off! 
  • Tie up long hair and wear a hat.
  • Cover up so pollen stays off your skin (it can cause rashes for some people).
  • Change your clothes! Leave footwear and jackets in the entrance way. Put outdoor workout clothes straight in the wash - do NOT bring them into your bedroom. 
  • Shower when you get home to remove pollen. It makes a HUGE difference in how you feel!
8. For mild allergies, consider topical allergy treatments as they tend to have fewer side effects and do not make your drowsy (several "nondrowsy" medications may cause drowsiness).
  • Rinse your nose several times a day with saline spray. Removing pollen from your nasal passages reduces allergy symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. Avoid sprays with additional ingredients (herbs, menthol for example) as they can cause irritation. I like Hydrasense saline spray.
  • Feel like scratching your eyes out? Anti-allergy eye drops can work wonders. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for brands that will help without causing a rebound effect (some brands can help for a short period, then worsen symptoms). 
9. If over the counter topical treatments aren't providing much relief, consider antihistamines and prescription nose sprays and eye drops. Your doctor can make recommendations for you based on symptoms (certain medications are better for certain symptoms) and benefits coverage. Prescription nose sprays and eye drops are quite costly, but very effective for severe allergy symptoms. 

10. Look into immunotherapy (allergy shots). This involves getting shots on a regular basis for a few years to desensitize your body to allergens. According to the American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology, allergy shots reduced symptoms by 85%! (Source)

11. Avoid foods that cause cross reactions. Certain foods can cause cross reactions also known as Oral Allergy Symptoms. For example, people with grass allergies may react to melons with an itchy mouth or facial swelling! Apples may irritate people allergic to birch pollen. Please see this page for a table that shows pollens and foods that cross react.

12. Get out of town! Pollen tends to break down in rural areas rather than settle on pavement until the next dry day. Allergens in the country may also be vastly different from city allergens. I know I feel great when I head to the mountains - no grass or ragweed pollen! 

What are your secrets to staying active with allergies?

Related Post

Staying Active With Exercise Induced Asthma

Friday, May 20, 2016

Top 5 Spring Things to Do In Kananaskis With Your Family

Spring is a wonderful time to visit Kananaskis. The peaks are snowcapped and stunning against blue skies and the longer days mean more exploring! If adventuring with kids, stick to lower elevation trails so you won't have to posthole (i.e. sink in to deep snow) and seek out south facing slopes as these dry out quickest. Paved bike trails also melt quickly, but expect snow patches in the shade until late April.



1. Bike the beautiful paved Bill Milne Trail from Ribbon Creek to Wedge Pond (18 km return, mostly flat). This trail easily rivals the Legacy Trail and sees far less traffic. If you need a pick-me-up along the way, Mount Kidd Campground has ice cream and a concession. Check park advisories before you go as there have been several closures this spring. An early season alternative is the Bow Valley paved biked trail.

Bill Milne Trail, Kananaskis Valley
2. Hike Troll Falls and Hay Meadow. Get a bite to eat in Kananaskis Village after! We like the authentic Japanese beef bowls at Moose Family Kitchen (next to Kananaskis Outfitters) and the Fireweed Grill at Delta Kananaskis Lodge.

Hay Meadow, Kananaskis Valley
3. Bike the Peter Lougheed Bike Trail. This paved and rolly trail connects the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park campgrounds and lakeside picnic areas. Stop at Boulton Creek Trading Post for an ice cream! Usually snow free from May onwards.
Lower Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
4. Go fishing! Several ponds including Mount Lorette Ponds and Grotto Pond have been stocked. For more information, please see the 2016 Stocking Report and Alberta Fishing Regulations.
    Mount Lorette Ponds, Kananaskis Valley
5. Take a hike in Bow Valley Provincial Park! Flowing Water Trail, Many Springs, and Heart Creek are short and easy hikes perfect for little hikers. 

Flowing Water Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Bonus: Grassi LakesWest Wind Pass and Black Prince Cirque are great higher elevation options once most of the snow has melted. Grassi and West Wind Pass have been dry for a while, but Black Prince still has snow patches near the top. Note that Rawson Lake has deep snow & Highway 40 is closed until June 15.

Hike Finding Tool: For more great hikes in Kananaskis, check out the Dafferns' Trailfinder page. There you can sort hikes by difficulty and region (which part of Kananaskis). It's an amazing resource!! For complete trail details see Gillean Daffern's Kananaskis Country Trail Guides.

Black Prince Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
West Wind Pass, Spray Valley Provincial Park
Chiniki Village is a great stop on the way home with a restaurant and well stocked convenience store.

Feel free to share photos of your adventures with me on Facebook or Twitter. I love seeing what other outdoor families are up to!

Related Posts

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May Long Weekend Family Fun in Calgary

Rain or shine, there is always something fun to do in Calgary! For this weekend's roundup of things to do in Calgary, I've teamed up with Dana from Calgary Playground Review and Sonja from Sonja's Super Suggestions for YYC Families. If you don't already follow them, you should!

Outdoor Fun

(because it can't rain all weekend)
  1. Take a Golf Cart Tour at nearby Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Available May 21-23 and throughout the summer. The Paws & Claws family program looks like fun too!
    Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
  2. Bike from South Glenmore Park to Weaselhead (#9 in 10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary) and explore the dirt trails on foot. There are lots of wildlife viewing opportunities and two playgrounds at South Glenmore Park playgrounds. Afterwards, ride to Glenmore Landing (2 km east of South Glenmore) for a bite from Good Earth, Starbucks, McDonald's, Pizza Bank, or Booster Juice!
    Glenmore Reservoir
  3. Take the Skyline Luge at Winsport. Once is never enough! Did you know Calgary's luge track is the world's longest?
    Skyline Luge, Winsport
  4. Let the kids bike off some steam! At the Trailblazers Kids (Mountain Biking) Race on May 20 at Shaganappi Park. $5 per rider.

  5. Explore Nose Hill Park. Find the Medicine Wheel, pond, and watch airplanes! 
    Nose Hill Park
  6. Explore Fish Creek Provincial Park's Artisan Garden, Visitor Centre and caves, then have tea at Bow Valley Ranche or ice cream at Annie's Cafe.
Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, Fish Creek Provincial Park
Fish Creek Provincial Park Visitor Centre
Sculpture at Fish Creek Provincial Park's Artisan Gardens

 Indoor Fun 

  1. Escape to a tropical paradise at Devonian Gardens and Playground.
    Devonian Gardens
    Image Credit: Dana Wheatley, Calgary Playground Review
  2. Visit Shakers Fun Centre - It's fun for all ages with laser tag, arcade games, climbing, and an inflatable village!
    Shaker's Fun Centre
    Image Credit: Dana Wheatley, Calgary Playground Review
  3. Check out Canada's Sport's Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park. There are interactive exhibits where you can learn to ski jump and wheelchair race, but my kids' favorite is the soccer simulation. 
    Canada's Sport's Hall of Fame
    Image Credit: Dana Wheatley, Calgary Playground Review
  4. Explore Bow Habitat Station's Discovery Centre, take a fish hatchery tour, and experience the rush of thousands of trout surfacing as you feed them! For more information on Bow Habitat Station and nearby Pearce Estate Park, please see this post.
    Fish Hatchery at Bow Habitat Station
  5. Youthlink Calgary Interpretive Police Centre. Open Fridays and Saturday 10 am - 4 pm and FREE, the centre is a huge facility with hands-on exhibits and a massive collection of police artifacts. Walk down Police Street, learn Street Smarts, and find out more about forensic science and crime labs.
  6. Aero Space Museum of Calgary, Calgary's first aviation museum, has several beautiful exhibits that airplane fans and history buffs will appreciate.
  7. Skate 'til you drop at Lloyd's Roller Rink - Did you know they're open 'til midnight on Friday and Saturday?
  8. Shop and dine at a Farmer's Market: Symons Valley Ranch is convenient if you live in the north, Crossroads Market is the biggest and is centrally located, Blackfoot market is centrally located, and Calgary Farmer's Market is in the sought (also known as Blackfoot Farmer's Market). Get fresh and local eats and gifts!
Thanks Calgary Playground Review for suggestions 1-3 and the comprehensive writeups! Thank you Sonja's Super Suggestions for YYC Families for recommending 5-8!
Bonus:

Top 5 Things To Do In Banff This Weekend

Rain or shine, Banff has adventures of all sizes for any budget. Here are my top 5 things to do in Banff this weekend.


  1. Warm up in the hot springs! Upper Hot Springs is a wonderful spot to relax and rejuvenate after a day of exploring Banff. If you will be driving the Icefields Parkway, visit Miette Hot Springs in Jasper.

  2. Escape the rain at Cave & Basin and learn about the birthplace of the Canadian National Parks system. Visit the springs that inspired the creation of Banff National Park, then check out exhibits and interactive displays. Admission is free with your National Park Pass! 
    • Afterwards, walk the Discovery Boardwalk Trail (400 m) to see bubbling springs, colorful algae and endangered snails. 
    • Look for birds and wildlife along the Marsh Boardwalk Trail (500 m) below Cave and Basin.
    • For a longer adventure (8.6 km return), bike or hike to Sundance Canyon! Enjoy the river views before going to the canyon.
      On the way to Sundance Canyon
  3. Ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain then hike the Sanson Peak Boardwalk (1 km) for an unforgettable outing. The panoramic views from the top are simply stunning! Be sure to pack a snack/drink as the Upper Terminal is still being renovated. During peak season, take the complimentary shuttle from downtown to the gondola! (Leaves from Banff International Hotel and Evelyn's Coffee Bar every 15 minutes from 10am-6pm. Last shuttle leaves the gondola at 6:15 pm.)
    Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park
  4. Check out the Banff Children's Festival at the Banff Centre on May 21st! Ticketed and free events are available including a bouncy house festival, family dance, performances, free climbing and free swimming!

  5. Take a hike! Cloudy days make for soft lighting and dramatic skies. Don your rain gear and head to Johnston Canyon, Johnson Lake, Tunnel Mountain, Fenland Loop and Vermilion Lakes, or Hoodoos Trail (9.2 km return). All of these hikes, except Hoodoos Trail, are less than 6 km return, so you won't have to be out long if it starts to pour. Bring an umbrella and Goretex jacket just in case! 
Johnson Lake, Banff National Park
Look for the old Hermit Cabin at Johnson Lake

Tunnel Mountain, Banff National Park
Bonus: Bike the beautiful Legacy Trail. For a pleasant 8 km return ride, bike from Cascade Ponds to Banff. We like biking from Valleyview Picnic Area (south side of Hwy 1, inside the park gates) for a 24 km ride. For a longer ride, bike all the way to Canmore (40 km return).

Update: Thanks @lilideluxe for the heads up about bears on the Legacy Trail! There's no official bear warning but black bears and grizzly bears have been seen on the trail. Carry bear spray and make lots of noise if you head there and stick to the Banff side as there are fewer bears where there's a fence between the forest and the trail.

Legacy Trail
Have a great long weekend and give me a shout on Facebook or Twitter to let me know where you went!

Related Posts

Stoney Squaw Peak, Banff National Park

Monday, May 16, 2016

Black Prince Cirque Trail


Black Prince Cirque is a family-friendly trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park that takes you to a cirque and pretty tarn. Start out along the crystal clear waters of Smith-Dorrien Creek, cross the new bridge, and continue uphill on an old logging road. About half the trail is on an old logging road; the second half is a forested trail.  At the fork, take the right hand trail to visit the interpretive posts in order and go with the flow of traffic (the trail can be busy in summer and ski season). 

NEW Bridge Over Smith Dorrien Creek
Old logging road
Take the right hand trail
As you approach the lake, you will find evidence of glaciation - gravel and large boulders perfect for climbing. Don't miss the tree rock! It's not every day you see full grown trees growing on a rock! Keep an eye out for adorable pikas too; many of them call these rocks home. 

Tree Rock!
Hanging out on tree rock
Soon you get glimpses of Mount Black Prince, and before you know it, you're at Warspite Lake. On a calm day, you can see perfect mountain reflections in the small tarn (tarn: mountain pond carved by glaciers). On our visit, the water was rippled by a steady breeze, but the view was still fantastic. We clambered on the rocks for a good hour before heading down and the kids are already asking when we'll go back!
Warspite Lake

Warspite Lake

A good place to put your feet up
Heading Back - lots of snow in sections, but some is avoidable.

Mount Black Prince Cirque At a Glance 

Distance: 4.3 km
Elevation Gain:  90 m
Time: Allow 2 hours if hiking with small children
Washrooms: Outhouses at the trailhead
Stroller Friendly? Yes, but some parts might be tight for a double Chariot.
Geocaches: There is one small geocache near Warspite Lake. Download and store cache data at home as there is no cell service on the trail.

Directions: From Calgary, take Highway 1 west to the Highway 40 South turnoff. Continue for 50 km. Turn right onto Kananaskis Lakes Trail, then after 2.2 km turn right on Smith-Dorrien Trail. Continue for 8.2 km until you reach Mount Black Prince Cirque Day Use Area.

Trailhead: The trail starts to the right of the outhouses (there is a trailhead sign and map).

Black Prince Cirque Trail Map
Map & More Information: Available from Alberta Parks hereDownload the interpretive brochure before you go to learn about the forces that shaped the land, both natural and human. 

Fun Fact: Mount Black Prince Cirque is named after a World War 1 Battleship that took part in the 1916 Battle of Jutland. But just who was the Black Prince? Edward of Woodstock, an "exceptional military leader", was known as the Black Prince for the black armor he wore. (Source)

With its proximity to campgrounds, short distance and moderate elevation gain, Black Prince Cirque is a good choice for a family hike in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Just be prepared for snow and mud in spring!


More Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Hikes

For more dramatic scenery, be sure to try Ptarmigan Cirque once the winter gate on Highway 40 opens.

If you'd like to do a longer hike, Rawson Lake is our favorite mid-distance hike in the area (8 km return).

For minimal elevation gain, but nice views, try the Lower and Upper Kananaskis Lakes lakeshore trails.

More Great Short Hikes

West Wind Pass Trail, Spray Lakes
The BEST Short Hikes Near Calgary (less than 4 km and 1 hr from Calgary)
Ptarmigan Cirque - The Best Short Hike in Kananaskis (opens June 15)
4 Springs Hikes in Banff: Johnson Lake, Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain, Fenland Loop
Bow Valley Provincial Park: Middle Lake, Montane, Many Springs
Flowing Water Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Friday, May 13, 2016

Your Weekend Planner: It's Spring in the Rockies (May 13-15)

Is there anything more beautiful than snowcapped peaks and blue sky? While we may have to hold off on mountain biking for a bit so the trails can dry out, we can still do some road riding or front range hikes with spectacular views. Sunlit trails in Bow Valley Provincial Park and the Canmore area should be in pretty good shape by Saturday. Expect snow in shaded areas and at elevation. Peter Lougheed and Lake Louise continue to hold a lot of snow, but Banff and Kananaskis Valley have several options and Spray Valley is opening up.

I've done my best to check conditions, but please check trail reports and advisories before heading out as things change from day to day. Here's to a fun weekend!


Calgary

My bike ride of the week is Edworthy Park to Shouldice Park (#7 in 10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary)! I would bike to Shouldice, have a picnic*, bike back to Edworthy and play at the river and/or hike the Douglas Fir Trail! If you need a treat, visit Angel's Cappuccino and Ice Cream at Edworthy Park. She has your kids' favorite ice cream flavors at very reasonable prices and lots of homemade goodies.
  • Picnic sites in Calgary Parks cannot be reserved until May long weekend (exception; some sites in Bowness Park are reservable year-round), so pack a picnic and enjoy a free picnic site!
  • For more picnic places, please see this post (#2).
  • For fun beach itineraries in and around Calgary, please see this post.
Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park
Look for ducklings and goslings near the river (Bow River Pathway, Prince's Island Park, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Eau Claire), but give them lots of space as it's their parents' job to protect their young. 

Breezy days call for kite flying at Nose Hill Park! Have you found the Medicine Wheel at Nose Hill Park yet? Might be worth checking out at the same time!

EVENTS

May 13-15 Day Out With Thomas at Heritage Park. Ride your favorite tank engine, meet Sir Topham Hatt, get your face painted and more! Tickets required.

May 14 Free Thule Tune-up Day at Bow Cycle. Get your Thule Chariot tuned up for free!

May 15, 2-4 pm More Rocky Mountain Fairy Tales at Mount Royal University Bella Concert Hall. Follow a young girl's journey through the mountains with her fairy friends. Set to jazz music played by some of Canada's best jazz musicians! Tickets required.

Heading to the Mountains? How to Avoid the Hwy 1 Construction

Avoid the big paving operation on the Trans Canada by taking Highway 1A to AB 133 X / Morley Road. You'll come out by Chief Chiniki Restaurant / Gas Station / Store, which is 13 kilometres east of the Highway 40 exit to Kananaskis.

Banff

There's nothing prettier than snowcapped peaks and blue sky! Hike, bike or take a gondola or boat to experience the mountains at their prettiest without the cold of winter.

Family-friendly Spring Hikes in Banff include: Tunnel Mountain, Johnson Lake, Johnston Canyon, Fenland Trail & Vermilion Lakes Dock (Mount Rundle viewpoint). Bow River/Hoodoos Trail is another nice one on Tunnel Mountain. Stewart Canyon and Sundance Canyon should be in good shape next weekend (they're kind of wet right now).

Tunnel Mountain, Banff
Vermilion Lakes Drive, Banff
For amazing views, take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain then hike the 1 km long Sanson Peak Boardwalk. Warm up at the Banff Upper Hot Springs when you're done. During peak season, take the complimentary shuttle from downtown to the gondola/hot springs! (Leaves from Banff International Hotel and Evelyn's Coffee Bar every 15 minutes from 10am-6pm. Last shuttle leaves the gondola at 6:15 pm.)

Sulphur Mountain
The Banff Lake Cruise on Lake Minnewanka is also open now. Be sure to stop at Two Jack Lake on the way there or back - the view is amazing! 

Lake Louise

Many Lake Louise trails still have early season conditions - snowy, or wet and mucky - and there is considerable avalanche danger at elevation.

If you MUST go and want to experience fantastic views, I recommend taking the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola (opens May 13). Tea/lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro is a must! Unreal mountain views and delectable appetizers. Read more about our experience here. **The gondola is open rain or shine!**

Kicking Horse Viewpoint, 1.7 km from top of Lake Louise Gondola
Lake Agnes Trail (7 km, 400 m elevation gain from the Chateau) is finally open, but you'll have to wait until June 4th for tea at the teahouse. Please stay on trail to avoid trampling sensitive alpine vegetation. Dine at the Chateau or Deer Lodge after your hike. For more casual fare, try Laggan's Bakery or Timberwolf Pizza at Lake Louise Inn (both in the village).

Lake Agnes, Banff National Park

Bragg Creek

Fullerton Loop (7.1 km return, 200 m elevation gain) is a nice hike to do this time of year. It's not as muddy as Sulphur Springs and just the right distance for young hikers. It should have less snow than Prairie Mountain as it isn't as high, but Prairie is still a good option for this weekend.

Saturday, May 14 is your last chance to bike Elbow Falls to Forget-Me-Not Pond without cars! The winter gate on Highway 66 opens Sunday, May 15th. For a longer ride, start at Allen Bill, Station Flats, or Bragg Creek. Elbow Falls to Forget-Me-Not is a beautiful 18 km ride with a big hill in the middle, so it's best for bigger kids on bikes with gears.

Highway 66
West Bragg Creek received a lot of precipitation over the last two days, so Alberta Parks is asking that riders stay away until the weekend and avoid muddy sections. Please check trail conditions before heading out!

Kananaskis 

Bow Valley Provincial Park is always a great choice in spring due its lower elevation. The recent precipitation means trails may be wet and muddy, but most of the snow should melt by the weekend (except at higher elevations). 
Bow Valley Paved Bike Path
Canmore Area: Grassi Lakes (3.8 km) has slippery sections, so take the "easy" trail if you go. Be sure to use the "facilities" (outhouse) at the parking lot as the upper outhouses are temporarily out of commission. If planning on hiking Ha Ling Peak, check trail conditions before heading out as the trail can be sketchy above treeline if snow covered.

Ha Ling Peak Summit

Kananaskis Valley: Hike the Troll Falls and Hay Meadow loop (~3 km), then stop at Mount Lorette Ponds for a bbq/picnic! For sandy, splashy fun, stop at Barrier Lake Day Use. It's a short walk to sandy beaches! Note that the Kovach Pond area is temporarily closed due to carnivores feeding on a carcass.

Beach next to Hay Meadow, Kananaskis

Peter Lougheed and Spray Valley received 8-10 cm of snow on May 11/12, so trails are snow covered at elevation and many lower trails will be wet and muddy into the weekend. Be aware that Chester Lake is closed until June 29, Kananaskis Canyon Trail is closed due to construction, and Rawson Lake has deep snow.
  • Family-friendly choices for this weekend: Upper Lake Trail between North Interlakes and Palliser Rock Slide and Lower Lake InterpretiveWest Wind Pass (4.2 km) should be ok by Sunday if the snow has melted. Mount Black Prince Cirque (4.3 km) is another option, but expect snow near the top and some muddy sections. Planning to bike? The Peter Lougheed Bike Trail is in great shape - no snow or ice! Bike to Boulton Creek Trading Post for a popsicle or Interlakes Day Use.
Upper Kananaskis Lake
Have a wonderful weekend!! Give me a shout on Twitter or Facebook to let me know where you ended up and how it was (or leave a comment below)!