The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

These scenic hikes are all 4 km or less round trip and less than 1 hr from Calgary.

The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Everything you need for an awesome camping trip!

Tips for Fun Family Backpacking

Family Backpacking 101 - what to pack, where to go...

Discover Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site

Go back in time and live like a trapper at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, only 2 hours from Calgary.

Why you should visit Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Hoodoos, beaches, and paddling! Need I say more?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Potable Aqua PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier - REVIEW

When you backpack as a family, a large supply of drinking water is necessary. On our recent backpacking trip, it was 93 degrees (34C), and we required more water than ever. Over three days, we treated over 40 litres of water and had the capacity to quickly treat water for our friends too, thanks to our Potable Aqua PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier (PURE).

Getting ready to treat some mountain lake water with
the Potable Aqua PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier.

How It Works

The Potable Aqua PURE Electrolytic Water Purifier uses a brine solution (table salt and water) and an electric current to create a powerful mixed oxidant disinfectant (chlorine and peroxide) that kills 99.9% of all micro-organisms. My Chem teacher hubby explained sodium chloride solution electrolysis to me and it sounds legit. Most importantly, the products of the reaction are are safe for use in water purification and highly effective.

No pre-filtering or pumping is required, even if water is cloudy, so it is possible to safely treat large volumes of water (up to 20 litres) in a short amount of time. *Note that you must wait at least half an hour before drinking the water, 4 hours if Cryptosporidium is suspected.

On a super hot day, it's great to be able to treat LOTS of water at once!

What We Liked

  • The PURE is small and compact! It fits in the palm of my hand and even with the accessories (chlorine test strips and brine solution bottle), it could fit in a jacket pocket! It weighs only 3.8 oz including batteries.
  • Treating some glacial runoff in a very turbid river. No pre-filtering required!
  • It was easy to use. Fill up the salt compartments before you go, and when you need drinking water, mix up some brine (salt from one compartment, fill water to top of brine bottle), pour it into the treatment reservoir, select the volume of water you want to treat, and press the start button. 
We treated 10 litres at a time for our family,
but could have treated 20 litres at once if need be.
  • Fast, scalable treatment: We prepared disinfectant for 1-5 L of water in seconds. Disinfectant for 10 L took about 30 seconds. No pre-filtering was required, so our friend opted for PURE treated water over her Steripen when we obtained water at an extremely turbid river. 
  • Fairly idiot-proof: If your brine solution doesn't have enough salt, an indicator light will turn on prompting you to add more salt. 
  • I need to keep these munchkins safe & clean drinking water is a big part of that. 
  • Ultimate safety: While most micro-organisms  - including viruses and giardia - are killed within half an hour, if you are concerned about Cryptosporidium, wait 4 hours and virtually everything (99.9%) will be killed. You can further ensure your family's safety by disinfecting the threads and lids of your drinking containers when you treat your drinking water (instructions on how to do this are provided with the device). I always struggled with keeping untreated water off the threads when filtering or treating with UV light and don't have to worry when using the PURE. 
  • The device also comes with chlorine test strips, so you can check the chlorine levels of the water if you suspect Giardia, Cryptosporidium, or the water looks very cloudy or dirty. If the chlorine level is too low, make another batch of disinfectant and treat and test the water again. I like being able to test the efficacy of treatment as I have a very sensitive stomach (after contracting acute gastroenteritis in Thailand, my tummy hasn't been the same!).

  • We brought a collapsible water container (left side),
    so we could treat several litres of water at once.
  • Solar rechargeable: I love that there is a mini solar panel on the back of the PURE for recharging in case the batteries die. Although the device can purify 150 L on a full charge, it is always nice to have a backup charging method. Allow 1 hr solar charge, to treat 2 L of water. 
  • Durable: The PURE has been designed for military freeze/thaw, drop and load bearing requirements. I saw a crazy video on Youtube where someone drove over a PURE device and it still worked! I don't want to try it, but can tell you that I have dropped it a few times and it is good as new.
  • No bad taste: If you've ever used iodine to treat your water, you know how bad that can taste. The disinfectant that the PURE  had a slight chlorine taste and smell, but it wasn't much stronger than that of city tap water. 
  • Great value: The device itself is about the cost of a good filter, but is very inexpensive to maintain. The device is rechargeable and no parts need to be replaced (such as filter cartridges). The only items you need to replace are table salt and chlorine test strips.
The Verdict

We have used water filters (base camp, compact, and individual use), chlorine drops, iodine, and the Steripen, but like the scalability and effectiveness of the PURE. The PURE kills the little stuff filters can't remove (viruses) and inactivates the big stuff the Steripen cannot treat in discolored/murky water (the Steripen requires unclear water to be pre-filtered; the PURE does not). It is ideal for individual or group backpacking/travel as you can treat 1-20 L at a time. We also liked the safeguards of chlorine test strips, being able to disinfect bottle lids and threads, and knowing if the brine solution had enough salt to make strong enough disinfectant. Also, the disinfectant is made "fresh" each time so there is no risk of the solution weakening (something I was concerned with when I used chlorine drops - the solution discolored after a few years and I didn't know if it was still working!). 

The luxury of clean water with no hassle, means more time to play outside and that's what my family loves best! 

You don't have to go IN the water to treat it, but I highly recommend it! 

For More Information

For more information, or a list of vendors, please visit www.potableaqua.com.

Disclosure

As a Potable Aqua Ambassador, I received a free PURE device for review purposes. No compensation was received for the review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Inglewood by Bike - Day Trip Itinerary

For a unique daytrip, take your family and bikes down to Inglewood. With its central location, you can access parks, playgrounds, Harvie Passage, Bow Habitat Station, the Calgary Zoo, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, and a fishing pond! There are opportunities for birding and trainspotting too! The excellent network of flat bike paths ensures that cyclists can ride safely off road to most destinations, and since most trails are paved (all except some trails in Pearce Estate Park), even baby can come along in the bike trailer. 

River Passage Art Installation at Harvie Passage

Recommended Route

This 4.4 km return fun-filled route is balance bike and Chariot friendly. A detailed itinerary follows.

Image credit: Google Maps, Edited by: Karen Ung

Itinerary

  1. Park at Bow Habitat Station / Pearce Estate Park Interpretive Wetland and have a picnic under the towering cottonwoods. (Note that picnic areas may be reserved; bring a picnic blanket just in case.)
  2. Once everyone is fueled up and has used the facilities (public washrooms are adjacent to Bow Habitat Station, in the park), visit the playground, and explore Pearce Estate Park Interpretive Wetland. The wetlands on the south side of the park are full of birds! On our visit, we were lucky to see Mallards, Ruddy Ducks, and Red Winged Blackbirds. (For a birding app tutorial, please see this post.)
  3. Go around the park and head west on the river pathway. Be sure to stop at Harvie Passage to check out "River Passage", a beautiful public art installation completed in October 2014. There are benches at the top to sit at. Watch the rapids, but keep kids close!
  4. Carry on to Nellie Breen Playground. This playground is one of my girls' favorites because of its newer, unique structures. Hubby and I appreciate the comfortable seating and shade! *You will have to ride on the sidewalk for 4 blocks.*
  5. Save time to visit the Discovery Centre, join a Fish Hatchery Tour, or feed the fish at Bow Habitat Station / Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery. It is thrilling to see thousands of fish jumping for food as you toss it in! 
  6. For fishing, go to the Kids Can Catch Trout Pond! Please note that it is a catch & release pond, there is a bait ban, and only single, barbless hooks may be used. Kids under 16 may fish free; 16 & over must have a valid Alberta fishing license. If you have you own equipment, fishing at the pond is free. Equipment rentals ($) are available during business hours.
All directions point to fun!

Inglewood Photo Tour

Pearce Estate Interpretive Wetland Park

Pearce Estate Park
Playground at Pearce Estate Park
Marsh at Pearce Estate Park

Birding at the Marsh at Pearce Estate Park
Harvie Passage
River Passage Art Installation at Harvie Passage
River Passage Art Installation at Harvie Passage
River Passage Art Installation at Harvie Passage
Harvie Passage - Keep kids close, those rapids are powerful!

Bike Path


Trainspotting along the river pathway
The bike path is paved and flat - perfect for new cyclists or towing a bike trailer.

Nellie Breen Park

Nellie Breen Park
Relaxing in the comfy chairs at Nellie Breen Park
Nellie Breen Playground
Nellie Breen Playground
Bow Habitat Station


Fishing at Kids Can Catch Trout Pond,
Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery / Bow Habitat Station
Feeding the Fish at Bow Habitat Station
Bow Habitat Station

Other Family Attractions in the Area

For a longer ride, continue west on the river pathway to Fort Calgary or Eau Claire, go north to the Zoo, or head south to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. 

Calgary Zoo - It is a pleasant 2.3 km ride to the West entrance of this world class Zoo (from Bow Habitat Station). Note that the West Gate is only open during peak season. It is about 1.5 km further to the North Gate.

Fort Calgary - Journey into the past, only 2.7 km from Bow Habitat Station. (For a longer ride, continue on another 2.3 km to Eau Claire for dining, a free wading pool and spray park, large playground, lagoon, and park.)

St Patrick's Island - Just past Fort Calgary, on River Walk/Bow River Pathway, go north on the George C. King bridge to St Patrick's Island. There is a cool, new playground on the island as well as one near the junction of the river trail and bridge.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary - 2.1 km from Bow Habitat Station. The grounds are closed until mid-2016 for flood repairs, but the Nature Centre is open and Guided Tours are available. Check the parks website for hours.

Spolumbo's - Visit Spolumbo's on 9th Avenue SE for an amazing Italian deli sandwich and cold drink!

Did I miss any special spots in Inglewood? Let me know!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Exploring Dinosaur Provincial Park

Every time I visit Dinosaur Provincial Park, I am astonished when the prairie gives way to badlands. The landscape suddenly changes from flatland to a world of whimsical hoodoos, striped hills, and sculpted coulees that looks it came from a Dr. Seuss book! Take a walk at sunset and the hills come alive with vibrant shades of red. Between the spectacular scenery, epic dinosaur tours (participate in a guided excavation!), and warm weather, it's easy to see why Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top places to camp in Alberta.  

Big POG LOVES Dinosaur Provincial Park!

Things to Do

  • Hiking (info below)
  • Paddling on the Red Deer River (Bring your own boat - no rentals available)
  • Year round RV & tent camping: from early October to early May there is no firewood sales, no water, no showers and no flush toilets
  • Comfort camping: $130 or $105 per night, each unit sleeps 4 people
  • Self-guided hikes & outdoor displays (free)
  • Geocaching: The park currently has 3 geocaches and 1 Earthcache.
  • Fishing - Fishing is permitted in the Red Deer River. See Alberta Fishing Regulations for more information.
  • Free presentations in the amphitheatre
  • Guided hikes & tours including photography tours ($) include: Centrosaurus Quarry Hike, Explorer's Bus Tour, Fossil Safari, Sunset Tour, Fossil Prospecting, Great Badlands Hike, Guided Excavations (1, 2 or 3 days)
  • Children's & Family Programs ($) include: Palaeo Lab Program, Palaeo Puzzlers
  • Dinosaur Digs ($)

Hiking

Coulee Viewpoint Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
There are five self-guided interpretive trails in the park. Our children (3 & 5 at the time) had no difficulty with any of them! Here's a trail summary:
  • Stroller-friendly / wheelchair accessible trails: Cottonwood Flats (1.4 km), Prairie (0.3 km), and Trail of the Fossil Hunters (0.9 km)
  • Easy trails: Badlands (1.3 km), Cottonwood Flats, Prairie, and Trail of the Fossil Hunters
  • More challenging: Coulee Viewpoint (0.9 km)
  • Shady trail: Cottonwood Flats
If you only have time to do one hike in the park, I would recommend the Badlands Trail (easy) or Coulee Viewpoint (moderate). Both are particularly beautiful at sunset.

Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Coulee Viewpoint Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Please note that bikes are not allowed on the interpretive trails. You can, however, bike on the 3 km ring road. Bike racks are available at each trailhead if you would like to bike from camp.

Biking at Dinosaur Provincial Park
To explore other parts of the park, sign up for a guided tour! *To avoid disappointment, book your tour before you go!

Sunset Color along the Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park
See 200 year old cottonwood trees on Cottonwood Trail

Camping

Most tent & RV campsites were large and shaded. There is a power loop as well as an unserviced area for tents and many amenities (see below) including showers, a nice playground and boat launch.

For more privacy and premium riverside locations, book a premium Comfort Camping unit.

Our campsite at Dinosaur Provincial Park.
This creek flows through the park and is accessible from the campground.

Park Amenities

  • Dinosaur Visitor Centre: Visitor Information, Gift shop, washrooms, ticket pick-up and pick-up/drop off location for tours, Exhibit Gallery ($) - admission includes free family theatre programs, Free wifi
  • Free amphitheater presentations
  • Campground Office
  • Cretaceous Cafe
  • Convenience Store
  • Playground
  • Showers - take $1 coins
  • Laundry
  • Pay phone
Dinosaur Provincial Park
John Ware Cabin, Dinosaur Provincial Park

Know Before You Go 

Mosquitoes

At certain times of year, the mosquitoes can be really bad. When we were there, they were swarming constantly and no amount of Family Care Off! could keep them away. We love the park, but were only able to stay one night last August due to the bug situation. My advice regarding mosquitoes follows:
  • Bring strong bug spray (the stuff for kids/families is not strong enough) & mosquito head nets. 
  • Cover up as much as you can.
  • Bring a bug screen shelter.
  • Consider Comfort Camping if you do not have a bug screen shelter so you can have more space to relax away from the bugs. 
  • Visit the park earlier or later in the season when there are no bugs. May long weekend and late September are particularly lovely! 
  • Check TripAdvisor reviews to see what the bug conditions are like before you go. 
Rattlesnakes

There are prairie rattlesnakes in the park. They are usually not active during the day, but keep your little ones close and don't let them poke sticks (or hands or feet) in holes!

Guided Tours and Family/Children's Programs

The tours and programs are very high quality and as a result, book up quickly. Plan ahead and book your tour/program early to ensure you get spots. We enjoyed the Fossil Safari program and have heard the Explorers Bus Tour and Centrosaurus Guided Hike are fantastic. If you have the time, sign up for a guided excavation!

Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park

Insider Tip

Allow at least two days so you have time to explore the park, take a tour, and visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller on the way home. The museum houses the largest collection of dinosaur bones in the world and is a must-see.

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller

Where Is It?

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located 220 km south-east of Calgary, about 50 km from the town of Brooks.

For More Information

Alberta Parks - Dinosaur Provincial Park
Canadian Badlands
Travel Alberta - Canadian Badlands

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Get Rid of Shoe Odor (and Amare Terra Shoe Deodorizer Giveaway)


Summer for us means long days for adventuring, sweaty feet, and stinky shoes. It doesn't matter that we have many pairs of shoes; the ones that get used the most are our runners and hiking boots, and those get used hard. The stench emanating from the shoe rack is a distasteful cost of an active lifestyle that I've struggled with for many years. Here are some tips for dealing with stinky shoes! 

Scroll down for the Amare Terra Shoe Deodorizer Review & Giveaway! 

How to Get Rid of Shoe Odor

I've tried various methods to remove the reek with varying levels of success:
  1. Febreze / Bounce dryer sheets - Spray Febreze in your shoes or put a dryer sheet in each shoe to get rid of smell fast. These products mask the smell well, but must be used frequently to keep smell at bay. As soon as my shoes get wet and warm again, the smell comes back. I stopped using these products due to chemical sensitivities.
  2. Cornstarch / Baby powder - Sprinkle some in your shoes and on your feet. Cornstarch and baby powder absorb moisture to make your shoes a little less friendly to odor causing bacteria. This works if your feet aren't super soakers when it comes to sweat.
  3. Baking soda - Sprinkle baking soda in your shoes when you get home and shake out the excess before wearing the shoes again. This is a simple and effective deodorizer to use periodically. Frequent use could lead to skin irritation due to a higher pH than your skin.
  4. Odor Eaters Insoles - These work if you can fit them in your shoes and if you put them in brand new shoes. Once you've stinkified your shoes, good luck getting the stench out. I tried them in a particularly ripe pair of shoes and didn't notice any reduction in odour (but on the plus side, the smell did not get worse). I have read that silver shoe inserts work well as silver inhibits bacterial growth, but have yet to try this.
  5. Wash Your Shoes - Running shoes can go in the wash on gentle cycle with mild detergent and baking soda. This usually gets rid of most of the smell if you are careful to let the shoes dry completely before wearing them again. Tumble dry them on low heat for 20-30 minutes, then put them in the sun to dry (don't dry completely in the dryer or you'll ruin your expensive runners!). The issue is time - can you make do without your runners for a day?
There are several other tricks you can try, but the best is to wear technical socks, alternate shoes so they can dry out completely between games/workouts/hikes/shifts, and wash them periodically. Between washes, use natural shoe deodorizers that help eliminate the source of the odor rather than just mask smell or absorb moisture.

Be Stink Free! 

I recently received a free sample of Amare Terra Shoe Deodorizer to try and the timing couldn't have been better. My 1 year old runners were getting a bit too funky for my liking even though I often let them sunbathe (to kill bacteria and dry them out). 



The guarantee on the bottle seemed too good to be true - Stink Free Guarantee or Your Money Back! Really? After a good run in my favorite, raunchy runners, I gave each shoe a few sprays, then took a whiff to see if  there was any improvement. Immediately after spraying, I could smell a light lemon mint smell. The shoe odor was noticeably reduced, but I wasn't sure if the smell had simply been masked. I decided to let the shoes dry, then check the smell level. The next day, the shoes had no stink, so I went for another run and promptly stuck my nose in a shoe to see if the smell had returned (as it usually does when the shoe is warm and damp). No smell! I kept wearing the shoes day after day as I always do, and 10 days later (shoes worn 7 times), the shoes were still stink free! I'm curious to see how long the effects of the spray will last and will update when I know! 

EEWWW! Stinky shoes!
Spray 3 sprays of shoe deodorizer in each shoe.
Yay for #StinkFree shoes!

How does it work?

This all natural, biodegradable solution contains natural fragrance and probiotics to get rid of shoe odor and prevent it from coming back! 

What I Like

The thing I like most about Amare Terra's Shoe Deodorizer is that it works! I also like the fragrance; it isn't chemical or overpowering. I have a lot of allergies and chemical sensitivities, so have to be careful with products I put on me or items I wear. At least 99% of ingredients are naturally derived, so I feel comfortable using this product on my shoes, my hubby's shoes, and my children's stinky shoes. (Soccer season = stank-ass trainers!)

Further, I feel the product is good value for the money. For $15 US, you get 2 bottles, and each bottle contains >500 sprays. I only used 3 sprays per shoe and have been stink free for over 10 days, so 2 bottles will last a long time! 

Last but not least, I always love a company that gives back! 

A Company That Gives Back

10% of all sales go back to helping others. Currently, Amare Terra is supporting The Water Project Inc. to build wells in Africa. Why are they doing this? Amare Terra loves Earth and people. : )


Where to Buy

Amare Terra's Shoe Odor Eliminator spray is available here and on Amazon. (Update: As of December 2015, the company has rebranded as Simply Earth.)

Enter to Win! 

3 winners will be randomly selected from qualified entrants.

Criteria: Complete Rafflecopter entries below. Open to US Residents only (Sorry, fellow Canadians).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure

I received a free sample of Amare Terra Natural Shoe Odor Eliminator to review and was not paid for this review. All words are my own and as always, this review contains my honest opinions.