The Best Spring Hikes in Kananaskis

Where to hike now!

Keeping Warm in Spring

The best spring gear plus proper fuel and hydration will keep you warm.

4 Great Spring Hikes in Banff

Try one of these family-friendly spring hikes in Banff!

The Top 5 Spring Things to Do in Kananaskis

Bike, hike, or go fishing in Kananaskis this spring!

5 Tips for Spring Hiking

Gaiters and microspikes for the win! Learn more.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays even though it usually marks the first snowfall in my part of the world. We have put snowsuits on under costumes, or layered long underwear under princess dresses - anything we need to do to ensure the kids can trick or treat comfortably and safely. This year, we planned a little scavenger hunt to burn off some sugar. Wanna join us?


Halloween Scavenger Hunt Instructions: Hide random Halloween items around your yard (or nearby park) and let the kids find them with flashlights after dark! Get scarecrows, plastic spiders, skeletons and bats from the dollar store or print them on construction paper and cut them out. Make your scavenger hunt as spooky as you wish, and have fun! To simplify matters, you could make it your mission to find these items as you trick or treat! 

FIND
  1. Spider
  2. Skull
  3. Monster head
  4. Bat
  5. Witch
  6. Scarecrow
  7. Skeleton
  8. Cobwebs
  9. Pumpkin
  10. Black cat
COLLECT
  1. 3 Autumn Leaves
  2. 3 Glowsticks 
  3. 3 Treats

Happy Halloween!!!!

Related Posts

Monday, October 26, 2015

Here We Go 'Round The Medicine Wheel

There is something mysterious about a Medicine Wheel. Whether it's the name, or the sense that you are in a sacred place, it is difficult not to feel some connection with the past, other visitors, and your surroundings when you visit one. Nose Hill Park's Medicine Wheel (est. October 2015) gives you that feeling even though it isn't ancient like its brothers and sisters scattered across the province. Interconnectedness is, indeed, what the medicine wheel is about.

While visiting a medicine wheel, you are to leave offerings and be blessed by the Creator1. An offering can be a prayer or song, or physical thing you leave on the central cairn. Your time at the medicine wheel should be a time for gratitude and positive thoughts. Intrigued? Here are some more things you should know when visiting a medicine wheel.


What Is A Medicine Wheel?

Constructed of rocks, a medicine wheel usually consists of a rocks set out in one or more circles, with a rock cairn at the centre, and two or more spokes radiating from the centre2. While some medicine wheels have several spokes, many have four as four is a sacred number to several North American aboriginal peoples3.

The Medicine Wheel represents the interconnectedness of all things as well as the circle of life.

Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel

What Are They For?

Since medicine wheels are so ancient, no one knows for certain what their original purpose was. A few have been found to mark the graves of famous warriors4. Larger ones have been found to align with certain stars, or sunrises during significant celestial events such as solstices5. It is speculated that medicine wheels may also have been places for rituals such as Sun Dances.

In more recent times, Medicine Wheels have been places to pray and give offerings to the Creator or Sky Beings. Artifacts up to 4,500 years old, including bones and arrowheads, have been found at some sites.

Who Made Them & Where?

The majority of medicine wheels have been discovered in "traditional Blackfoot Territory mainly in Alberta, but also Montana and Wyoming [and] Saskatchewan".6 Two thirds of all known medicine wheels have been found in Alberta7, the most noteworthy being The Majorville Cairn and Medicine Wheel, near Bassano, which contains artifacts 4,500 years old making it one of the oldest religious monuments in the world (older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids).7

What Offerings Can I Leave?

Offerings can be prayers, songs, or physical things such as cloth, colored ribbons, or necklaces. On the day I visited, someone had left fresh cut flowers (not wrapped in plastic). Traditional offerings include the four sacred medicines: sweetgrass, sage, willow, and tobacco8. 

Place your offering on the central cairn, being careful not to disturb any stones or others' offerings.


Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel at Sunset
What Is the Correct Way to Go 'Round the Medicine Wheel?

It is recommended that you walk around a medicine wheel in a clockwise direction9.

Topics of Discussion

Why do you think the number 4 is significant to so many First Nations?
(see how many your friends/family can come up with)
  • 4 directions – north, east, south, west 
  • 4 seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter 
  • 4 aspects of a person – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional 
  • 4 elements – fire, earth, wind, water
  • 4 stages of life – childhood, youth, adulthood, old age10
  • 4 kingdoms - animal, mineral, plant and human
  • 4 sacred medicines - sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar and sage11.
Have you visited a Medicine Wheel before? How did it make you feel?

For More Information

For more information on Calgary's Medicine Wheel in Nose Hill Park, please see this post. 

References

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

That Time I Threatened to Eat Someone (Hiking With Idiots - Part 1)

"If anything goes wrong, I will cut you up and eat you!" I had never threatened to eat someone before. In fact, the thought had never crossed my mind. I'd always pegged myself as one who would forage wild edibles and catch fish (or frogs, snakes, snails) with my bare hands in a wilderness survival situation. While others panicked, I would be the voice of reason - the sane one. What culminated in this brutal threat?

Carmanah Point Lighthouse
You need to go back to the beginning.. the beginning of the trip (not my life, fortunately).

Tension. Awkwardness. Puppy dog eyes. It's inevitable when you travel with an ex-boyfriend who is still in love with you.  Resisting the urge to pat him on the head, I shifted slightly to gaze at the moss-laden trees, rocks, other hikers, anywhere but him. It was going to be a long seven days. Most of me exulted in finally being on West Coast Trail, a trail I'd be preparing for and reading about for months, but I lamented my present company. Nothing untoward had been said, we were getting along fine, but I felt irritated by the glimmer of hope in my ex's eyes.

As I watched wind and rain lash the forest and crunched on a granola bar, I gave myself a silent pep talk. "You've got this. You can do this.  It won't be so bad. He can't smother you if you keep the walls up." I didn't need encouragement to continue hiking; I needed encouragement to stick with the group and not run screaming down the trail. 

My secret whinging was abruptly interrupted with, "Where's my snack?" What happened next is a bit of a blur (as I kind of lost it), but the general conversation went something like this:

Me: You have your own!
Ex: No, I don't.
Me: I packed you a whole bag of food! Where is it?
Ex: It's not here.
Me: What do you mean it's not here? I packed it for you to bring!
Ex: I thought it was too much food, so I left it.
Me: And you thought now would be a good time to tell me?! Seriously?! You don't have it?? What the f*ck? We passed a f*cking grocery store on the way here. Would've been a good time to tell me you left our food at home. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! We NEED that food! That's why I f*cking packed it! 

The rest of our group was now eardrum shatteringly aware of our plight. If I felt awkward before, now they did too. The rage emanating from my body was palpable; all of hell's fires could not compete with what was happening in my brain. When I could finally speak without shouting, I hissed,  "If anything goes wrong, I will cut you up and eat you. I am so mad at you right now."

West Coast Trail
Thanks to buddy's incorrect assumption on how much food two hikers need for a week, we were now obliged to make do on half rations. Not ideal when one person is hypoglycemic with a tendency to get viciously hangry, but we managed. All we had to do was make it 45 kilometres to Chez Monique's, an oasis for hungry travellers. There, we would get a burger and beer, raid the give & take box, and stock up on snacks. Turning back was not an option after all the preparation that had gone into the trip (though I admit on any other trail, we would have turned back).


In a strange but wonderful twist of fate, a woman came to our fire that night seeking to offload extra food. We ate our new friend's leftovers the next two suppers and made it to kilometre-marker 45 in good spirits with all body parts intact. The awkwardness, which had transformed into resentment, melted away after the first bite of a juicy cheeseburger. I didn't exactly forgive my ex for his stupidity, but let him know I didn't hate him.

Chez Monique's!
Thirty kilometres later, the trip was done and I felt relieved. He could go back to the city life he preferred and I could return to backpacking without babysitting (or threatening to eat someone). Being prepared takes the angst away and makes for a much more enjoyable trip!

Has a hiking buddy ever put you in a potentially dangerous situation? How did you cope with it?

Related Links

10 Tips for Hiking the West Coast Trail

Sunday, October 18, 2015

3 Family Hikes in NW Calgary

If you need your daily dose of nature but don't have time to drive to the mountains, try a local park! There are several natural areas in Calgary that offer great views, a workout, and an escape from pavement. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly trails in northwest Calgary.

1. Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park - A short, but sweet favorite with the younger set complete with stairs, boardwalk and a small waterfall. The view from the lookout is quite nice! See our trip writeup here.
  • Distance: 1 km round trip to the falls with options to go further (there's a large network of trails, but the slope uphill from the lookout is very steep and there is a large dropoff from the escarpment. Use caution.). 
  • Geocaching: Yes - one cache and one earthcache.
  • Sports Stroller Friendly: No.
Waterfall Valley Boardwalk
Waterfall Valley Lookout
View from the Lookout
2. Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park - This is one of our favorite urban hikes as you can walk through old growth forest (some trees are 500 years old!) and it's feels like you're far from town. The trail is shaded, but pretty (especially in fall!) and the lookout offers fantastic views of the river. Children will love the racing to the lookout! UPDATE: As of September 2016, the Douglas Fir Trail is closed until further notice because of slope failure.
  • Distance: 2.2 km roundtrip from Angel's Cafe in Edworthy Park (Bowness Road parking lot) to the lookout.
  • The route: From Angel's Cafe, cross the bridge and follow the paved path. When you cross the railway tracks, keep left on the paved path. The trailhead will be on your right hand side shortly. Take the trail to the lookout! (Note that the trail continues for a few kilometres but due to slope instability, travel beyond the lookout is not recommended until trail repairs are made.) 
  • Geocaching: Yes - various caches in Edworthy Park, and one earthcache.
  • Sports Stroller friendly: The first 750 metres is stroller friendly, but the actual Douglas Fir Trail is not (narrow and has stairs).
The trail has a microclimate that allows different plants to thrive.
Beautiful fall colors on the Douglas Fir Trail
View from the Lookout
3. Nose Hill Park (14 St NW Parking Lot Entrance)

Nose Hill Park, one of the largest parks in Calgary, offers endless options for exploring, but our favorite places to take the kids are the 1) teepees*, 2) intermittent pond, 3) boulders and cliffs, and 4) medicine wheel. The latter three are all easily accessed from the 14th Street Parking Lot. See them all in one day or plan to see one feature each visit and do a little geocaching while you're there. Nose Hill Park has over 50 geocaches! (*The teepees are accessed from the Edgemont Blvd NW entrance.)

Map by Google, Landmarks added by Karen Ung
The Medicine Wheel is the newest feature in Nose Hill Park and has cultural significance to Aboriginal Peoples. Visitors are encouraged to leave an offering to the Creator and be blessed. I love the sentiment and how this landmark fits with the natural landscape. For more information on the Medicine Wheel, please see the City of Calgary blog post at:
www.calgarycitynews.com/2015/10/new-cultural-landmark-in-nose-hill-park.html.

Want to know more about medicine wheels? Check out this post.

To get to the Medicine Wheel, head northwest of the parking lot approximately 500 metres. If you can see the ham radio tower, aim for it; the medicine wheel is just south of it. GPS coordinates: 51 06.073, -114 05.923.

Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel
Radio Tower
The intermittent pond is different every time we see it. Sometimes it's completely dry, other times it's quite large, and occasionally it's the biggest mud puddle in the world. We enjoy checking it out and talking about why it looks different from last time. About 850 metres from the gate or 1 km from the parking lot, it can be a little tricky to find. See the map above, or enter 51 06.324, -114 04.594 into your GPS.

The pond in April
If you have airplane fans in your family or would just like a pretty vantage of Calgary, head over to the cliffs and big rocks. It's the perfect spot to watch planes land and take off or capture a sunset shot of downtown. The big rocks and cliffs are 650 metres from the gate. Go around the gate and walk straight up the access road, then turn right onto the first major path.  GPS coordinates: 51 06.324, -114 04.594.
Plane watching from the big rocks
Cliffs & Boulders
Parking: If heading south on 14 St NW, the 14 St entrance is on your right, just past North Haven Drive NW. Depending on your destination, you may turn in and park on the side of the road (just be sure not to block the gate or you might get towed!), or follow the road around to the official parking lot.

Geocaching: Yes, various.

Sports Stroller Friendly: Yes, but be prepared to start your walk with a big (up)hill!

What are your favorite urban hikes in Calgary?

Related Posts


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Urban Hiking Safety Tips

The girls and I regularly go on microadventures in nearby city parks and are often asked incredulously, "You went by yourself?!" As much as I love a group outing, I love special time with my girls too. Yesterday, as brisk morning air kissed our cheeks, golden light filtered through the trees and squirrels scampered across the forest floor, my daughter and I hiked hand in hand without a worry in the world. Chattering furry and feathered friends aside, the trail was peaceful. Around the next corner however, we met up with two runners who exclaimed "You're so brave to be out here all alone! Didn't you see all the tents down by the river?" I thanked them for letting me know but wasn't too concerned as I have never had problems on that very popular path. While I usually feel quite safe in our city parks and worry most about not having enough trail snacks, I take precautions such as carrying mace, sticking to well used paths, and not walking forested trails alone at night. Other safety considerations for urban hiking follow.


Urban Hiking Safety Tips

  1. Watch the Time: Go when there are lots of other people around. It's a good sign if the parking lot is full! Don't be the caboose (last on the trail will be last off the trail unless you're extremely fast). Good times to go are late morning until early evening. Don't walk after dark alone!
  2. Safety in Numbers: Bring a friend, or a few friends! Start or join a walking group if need be. 
  3. Avoid Confrontation: Sometimes you might have to change your plans to avoid an unpleasant encounter. Sure, the shifty-looking guy cussing you out and talking to himself could be harmless, or he could suddenly pull a knife on you when you ask him what his problem is. If someone creeps you out, go back the way you came, or towards safety (a store, residential area, etc.). Don't engage him/her in a debate of any kind. 
  4. Avoid Trouble Hotspots: That trail that passes by abandoned buildings in Gangville might not be a great place to go alone, or ever. We all know where the "bad" parts of town are, but we don't need to frequent them.  
  5. Respect Wildlife: Animals that are habituated or used to being fed by humans can become a nuisance and a health risk. Look, but don't touch, and never feed wildlife! Stay away from aggressive animals, big or small. Squirrels, raccoons and other animals carry worms (e.g. raccoon ringworm can cause severe illness in humans1), and critters such as bats, foxes, and skunks are known to carry rabies. Wash your hands before eating to avoid ingesting worm eggs. If you are bitten by a wild animal, get medical attention immediately as rabies is fatal if not treated immediately. While very rare, an Alberta man died of rabies in 2007 after being bitten by a bat2, and an infected bat was found in the province this summer3. For tips regarding wildlife higher up the food chain, please see this bear safety post (bears and cougars have been sighted numerous times within Calgary city limits).
  6. Beware of Offleash Dogs: Offleash dogs can pose a danger, especially to young children who are at many canines' eye level. Pick up small children if an offleash dog is being aggressive, try to get the owner's attention, and be prepared to use your mace/dog repellent. My husband was injured by an offleash dog while cycling, so I encourage you not to be too trusting of dogs you don't know.  
  7. Keep Your Shoes On: Back when I was a Geography student, City Parks staff told us to never walk barefoot in urban parks because of the risk of being jabbed by a dirty needle. Apparently they're everywhere! While I have yet to see one, my friends have. Please stay on the trails and keep your shoes on! Advise your children not to touch any part of a syringe if they find one.
  8. Carry a cell phone and hiking essentials: If hiking with children, a small first aid kit always comes in handy for scrapes and slivers. I like to carry lots of food, water, hand sanitizer and extra clothes too. Basically the same kit as for mountain hikes, but with maybe a little less food.. (but not much).
  9. Have a plan: What will you do if someone tries to rob you or harm you? Run? Fight? Spray them with mace? Tae Kwon Do the jerk's butt and conduct a citizen's arrest? Some mental preparation and mace are a nice insurance policy, but your first priority should be to get away and call the police.
All activities involve some level of risk, but I consider urban hiking to be quite safe as I avoid known problem areas, travel in a pack, and stick to popular trails during daylight hours. Honestly, my biggest fear is not having packed enough snacks to appease the munchkins until their next feeding time! We go out several times a week and have only had to deal with rambunctious offleash dogs.

Do you feel safe in your local parks? What do you teach your children to keep them safe?

References

  1. Raccoon Roundworm. BC Centre for Disease Control. (2015, May 15). Retrieved from www.bccdc.ca/dis-cond/a-z/_r/RaccoonRoundworm/overview/Raccoon+Roundworm.htm
  2. Alberta has First Human Case of Rabies in Two Decades. CBC News. (2007, March 2). Retrieved from www.cbc.ca/news/canada/alberta-has-first-human-case-of-rabies-in-2-decades-1.631654.
  3. Alberta Confirms First Case of Rabies This Year. CBC News. (2015, August 25). Retrieved from www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-confirms-first-case-of-rabies-this-year-1.3203638.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

First Time Scrambling Tips

One of the greatest thing about the girls being a bit bigger, is that they can do bigger hikes! We were thrilled to bag a few peaks this year!! While most could be considered hikes, Ha Ling Peak was the most challenging as it is very steep (741 metres/2431' elevation gain over 2.4 kilometres/1.5 miles) and there is slab and scree above treeline. It's graded a Class 1 scramble for its steepness and possible need to use your hands.

As we made our way up, slowly but steadily, we saw many hikers having a harder than time than us due to poor footwear and technique. It was worse on the way down... At one point, a woman looked at Little POG and burst into tears because our 4 year old was skipping down the trail while she was struggling. While you can't do much about the elevation gain or steepness except get in better shape, there are many things you can do to make scrambling easier and safer starting with the right footwear! Scrambling is so much fun if you do it right!!


  1. Stay on the trail. Going off route is one of the main ways people get injured scrambling. It's easy to lose the trail when you're above treeline and there aren't many landmarks, so pay attention to your surroundings. Missing a chimney (column-like break in a cliff band) could mean a dangerous downclimb. I heard of many rescues this year because people lost their way and weren't able to find a safe way down the mountain. (There were also some fatalities close to home, sadly.) For tips on how not to get lost, please see this post. 
    Pack a map and know how to use it!
    Compass or GPS highly recommended.
  2. Invest in proper footwear. I recommend mid-cut (height) hiking boots for superior traction, ankle support, reduction in blisters, and protection from debris. Those may sound like big claims, but if your boots fit well and are laced up properly, the extra height on the boots prevents your ankles from lifting and rubbing, and reducing friction prevents blisters. Higher tops also help keep rocks and pine needles out of your boots, but if you will be bushwhacking or heading into deep scree, you should also wear gaiters. Most importantly, hiking boots give you superior traction on loose rock and slab so you will not slip and slide as much and thereby reduce the risk of injury. All the folks sliding down the slope on their bums were wearing the wrong footwear! Shopping tip: Look for mid-height hiking boots with Vibram soles. Backpacking boots are heavy and overkill for scrambling, while trail runners will not give you the traction you need on loose rock. I prefer synthetic, waterproof boots for comfort, but leather boots will last you much longer if you can tolerate the heat (they don't breathe as well as Goretex).
    Hiking boots are a scrambling must-have
  3. Wear the right socks. Technical socks are the way to go for comfort and blister prevention. I like Smartwool and Teko socks, but less expensive socks such as the Kirkland Merino hiking socks (from Costco) are also great. In warmer weather, running socks work well to wick moisture. Just don't wear cotton socks!
  4. Lace up your boots properly. I learned more than a decade ago to lace my boots up moderately for the ascent and snugly for the descent. If your boots are too loose, you risk blisters on your heels (going up) or toes (going down) and can even lose toenails (been there, done that). It's also important to pay attention to the tension at different parts of your boot. Lacing the top properly is also important - too loose and your heel will lift, too tight and you will cut off your circulation. Adjust your laces as needed throughout the hike for comfort. On steeper ascents, I don't like the tops of my boots too tight as I need to be able to bend. 
  5. Don't kick rocks down on people! A rolling rock gathers speed and cause considerable injury. Watch your step and if you inadvertently loosen a rock, holler "ROCK!" to hikers below so they can get out of the way.
  6. Learn basic scrambling techniques. Lean forward when ascending, and lean slightly back and dig your heels in on the descent if there is a lot of loose rock. If there is deep, fine rock, you can use this method of digging in your heels to boot ski on scree. It's so much fun and easy to master! Big POG (6 years old) nailed it on her first attempt! Alternately, where the trail surface is more packed and there aren't huge rocks to trip over, try jogging down using small, light steps and zigzagging back and forth. I love flying down the mountain this way and it warms me up too!
    Boot skiing on scree
  7. Pay attention to the weather. If nasty weather is moving in, head down the mountain. The mountain will still be there next time, but you may not if you get lost in a snowstorm and fall off a cliff. This sounds severe, but it happens all.the.time. in the Rockies. Please be safe! 
  8. Stayed fueled and hydrated. Your stomach is your furnace and it needs fuel! A well known fact among mountain people is that being hydrated also keeps you warm. Being hydrated also forestalls exhaustion, so sip water frequently even if you aren't thirsty. For more information, please see this post. 
  9. Stow the hiking poles. Save hiking poles for nontechnical or long, flatter stretches. For safety's sake, collapse and pack poles where it is steep. Poles should not be used going down very steep sections either. I've seen hikers snap their poles and then tumble downhill because they were relying on their poles and not their own balance (the same can happen when poles collapse unexpectedly). Experienced hikers and scramblers can use poles on some scrambles, but newbies can get a false sense of security. If in doubt, stow the poles and rely on your hands to stop a fall.
  10. Bring extra layers! It can be quite chilly above treeline due to wind and altitude. A windproof and waterproof layer should always be carried, but a midlayer, toque and gloves are also a good idea. Mittens and handwarmers are great on really cold days. For more information, please see this post. 
    A soft shell jacket provides warmth, wind and rain protection.
    I also keep a down sweater in my pack.
    Do you remember your first scramble? What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet Stormy Kromer, a True American Heritage Brand

When I heard of Stormy Kromers, wool caps that won't blow off your head, I had to get my hands on one. I've always been a hat girl, but since I'm outside in all weather, every couple years without fail, a hat is unwillingly sacrificed to the wind.  Imagine my joy and surprise when my application to become a Stormy Kromer Brand Ambassador was accepted in August! Since then, I've been able to learn more about the company and test their amazing products. 

Button Up Cap in Harris Tweed and Canvas Carryon Bag

The Legend

George "Stormy" Kromer was a real person, the driver behind the brand, and trains incidentally. After having many a hat blown off while working on a windy locomotive, he asked his wife to make him the ultimate cap that would stay on his head and keep his ears warm. No small task, but in short order, Ida Kromer hand sewed a 6-panel wool cap with a pull-down earband! It was similar to a baseball cap - perfect for Stormy, who was a former semi-pro baseball player - but better as the higher brim, snug fit, and earband ensured it would stay on in any weather. The year was 1903. 

Original Stormy Kromer Cap and Wear Weather Jacket for Him
(Image Credit: Stormy Kromer)
The caps became a railway symbol as the local railway outfitted all their staff in Stormy Kromer six pointers (named such as the cap's 6-panels met in a point at the back) and the trend spread across the American Midwest. Cotton caps were added to the mix in the 50's and were a hit, but in later years, sales declined to the point that the company was going to close. Fortunately, Bob Jacquart (owner of Jacquart Fabric Products) bought the company in 2001 and revived it with the help of talented family members, staff, and advisers.

True to Stormy Kromer's roots, products continue to be hand made in America with only the finest materials. The new management has, however, expanded the product line to include clothing, outer wear, bags, and women's hats with narrower brims and decorative features. If you need proof that everything is made by hand, see the Stormy Kromer factory tour video here. While you may pay a little more, you can easily see the quality in workmanship and materials. I love knowing that my garments were made by people and not pumped out by machines! 

What I Love

I love the luxurious fabrics, classic styling, and fit of the Stormy Kromer line. The hats fit as if they were made for me since the sizing is so exact. Instead of small, medium and large, hats come in sizes of 1/8" increments! 

Gatsby Cap and Highland Vest
After 112 years making caps, Stormy Kromer has perfected the art and most of their hats look good on anyone! Since I ordered my caps online without trying them on, I was worried whether or not they'd look alright, but I love them! After trying two different caps (the Gatsby and Button Up), I feel you would be hard pressed to find better made or better fitting hats anywhere! The exact sizing is a huge factor in comfort and appearance. The materials used for cap construction are attractive, sturdy and durable too.

Caps come in solid colors, two tone, tweed, plaid, camo or blaze orange and certain styles are embellished with hardware, buttons, or a flower.
  • Cap Buying Tip: Be sure to measure your head circumference and read the sizing chart before you order! If you do not require a really snug fitting hat, or prefer your hats to fit a little looser, go up one size (e.g. If the size chart says you are a size 7, order 7 1/8). Cap sizing instructions are available here.
When it comes to clothing, at 5'3" and size 4, I found Stormy Kromer's size small fit perfectly. Clothing has been cut so different pieces may be layered together comfortably. The woolover for example, has a closer fit than the vest, so you can wear them together. Jackets also allow for sweaters to be worn underneath; something I appreciate in the cold climate I live in. The poncho is one size fits all, and is easy to put on and remove thanks to buttons on the left shoulder. And did I mention the poncho is a gorgeous wool blend? So warm for its weight and so gorgeous! The mittens are so warm and cozy too and will brighten up a winter day. The leather strip on the palm allows mitts to be worn when driving. For full leather palm, look at the Tough Mitts.


Huron Poncho and Canvas Carryon
Highland Vest, Button Up Cap in Harris Tweed, Ida's Mitts
Button Up Cap in Harris Tweed, Woolover for Her, Highland Vest
I wish I could have all the bags, but was happy to receive the Canvas Carryon. The bag is just the right size for travelling with or even day use as a gym bag and its rugged construction will last for years. Stormy Kromer also makes totes, a messenger bag, backpack, and just started offering purses this year! Pretty sure I know what I'm putting on my Christmas wish list (hint: see picture below).


Companion Purse in Harris Tweed
Image Credit: Stormy Kromer

What I Would Like to See

I would love to see a wider selection of apparel, and clothes for all seasons (right now, it's geared to fall and winter) and it seems my wish will come true! Stay tuned for the 2016 Spring/Summer line!

Fingers crossed more kids' stuff will be available too! For now, you can order adorable hats for toddlers and children!

Little POG couldn't resist trying on my Stormy Kromer kit.
Looks like I'll have to order a cap in her size!

Where to Buy

Buy Stormy Kromer online at stormykromer.com or at these Canadian retailers.
In the U.S., try the select retailers listed here including Cabela's and L.L. Bean.

FROM OCTOBER 7 - 9, 2015, GET 20% OFF AT STORMYKROMER.COM 
WITH SPECIAL PROMO CODE SAVE20KU.

Disclosure

As a Stormy Kromer Brand Ambassador, I received a collection of free products to test and review, but the views and opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Path to Happy Hikers

Little kids' moods are mercurial. One moment, they're singing and skipping down the trail and five minutes later, they're throwing a fit because they've lost their hiking sticks (and only *those sticks* will do).  While partly par for the course with little ones, with patience and preparation, most other disasters can be averted. Here are some tricks to help outdoor parents keep little hikers happy.



1. Pick the Right Trail

This step is critical to trip success! The most important considerations for our family include the following:

  • Distance: If your child can easily hike 6 km, looks for hikes in the 5-7 km range. Consider going further if the trail is pretty flat or you can start early. If your kid was dying the last 2 km, try something shorter so you can complete the hike before your child hates it and she can go home with a sense of achievement! 
  • Elevation Gain: Huge elevation gain or rapid elevation gain over a short distance will greatly affect how far and how fast anyone can hike. Ease into larger elevation gains and allow a lot of extra time. Although Ha Ling Peak and Sulphur Mountain have roughly the same elevation gain, Ha Ling peak took longer as the gain was over 3 kilometres vs. 5.5. It's a LOT steeper! 
  • Trail Features: Most kids will enjoy include hiking over bridges and boardwalks as well as hiking to viewpoints and observation decks. Interpretive trails are also fun as there tend to be signs to read and benches to sit at.
  • Shade: We always seek trails with lots of shade in the summer and vice versa in the shoulder season. 
  • Water: Trails that end at lakes or waterfalls are not only pretty, but fun to play in! Bonus, you can refill your water bottles too (but be sure to treat or filter before drinking)!

2. Bring ALL.THE.THINGS. 

A good day out requires extra clothes, plenty of food and water, sunscreen, bug spray, and safety gearI can't stress enough the importance of adequate food and water. Many a meltdown can be avoided by bringing enough to eat and giving kids time to eat it. As a rule, you should drink before you're thirsty and eat before you bonk. 

For staying hydrated, I highly recommend hydration packs as people drink more from them when they can drink on the go (kids included!). If you're worried about running out of water, carry a filter or water purifier/purification tablets.

Layers are important for temperature regulation. No matter what the weather man says, always pack a waterproof and windproof layer. In cooler weather, base layers and midlayers may be required.

For more details on what to bring, check out the following posts:
  • My go-to Day Trip Pack List is here.
  • Family hiking essentials for hiking are here.
  • 10 pieces of wilderness survival gear every child should carry may be found here.
  • Quick and healthy snacks for on the go families are here.
  • How to Keep Warm in Fall/Spring is here.
Down vests and down sweaters are warm and highly compressible!
3. Take Breaks

The younger the child, the shorter her attention span and smaller her tummy, so take a break every 1-2 kilometres (or less if the terrain is really challenging). Have a few sips of water, snap a photo, have a granola bar, or just rest! Breaks don't have to be long, but to a child, four 1-kilometre hikes feels shorter than a 4-kilometre hike.

Since most children are grazers, break time is a great time to load them up with nutrient-dense foods: foods that contain a lot of nutrients. My kids are big fans of trail mix, chocolate zucchini muffins, and apple slices.

Too cold to stop? Have an on-the-go-snack. Offer something easy to eat while moving such as cheese sticks, muffins, or wraps. Avoid hard foods that could pose a choking hazard.

The makings of an amazing trail mix!
4. Keep It Fun

When it's time to get moving again, think of a game or activity that will keep everyone moving. We like the following:
  • Geocaching:  Geocaching is one of our favorite “carrots” as we can entice the girls to hike another few hundred metres to the next cache and then have a snack. To learn how to geocache with your smart phone, see this post.
  • Hiking songs: Singing is not only amazing for morale, but also for your safety (the sound announces your presence to wildlife). 
  • Scavenger hunts: If you don't have time to print one out, make it up on the fly... How many different colors of flowers can you see? Try to find a heart-shaped rock, nest, pine cone midden, animal tracks.. Older kids could do a digital photo hunt!
  • Red light, green light
  • I Spy
  • Follow the Leader
Geocaching is fun for all ages! 

5. Let Your Children Take the Lead

Anything goes! Kids are good at finding their own fun if you let them. Big POG and Little POG like to:
  • Ride log horsies.
  • Climb rocks.
  • Have a water fight! 
  • Skip stones.
  • Make temporary rock art (Dismantle it when you're done unless it is low-profile. A hiker looking for camp at night might not appreciate a rock cairn that leads nowhere).
Climbing the "Big Rock"
Low profile rock art we found
Giddyup horsie!
6. Find Teachable Moments. 

The great outdoors offers so many teachable moments! For some ways to Raise Nature Lovers & Little Scientists, see this post.

If you hike and backpack regularly, it's important to know some wilderness first aid and wilderness survival skills and share this info with your kids. For the past year, in preparation for backpacking, I've been teaching my girls basic wilderness survival skills in case they are accidentally separated from us. Some basics that everyone should know include:
  • Emergency signalling: Make three blasts on your whistle if you are lost or in trouble. If you need to signal with your mirror or flashlight, remember that the universal distress code (SOS) is signalled by 3 short flashes, followed by 3 long flashes, then 3 short. Wait a minute, then repeat.
  • Common edible plants: Get a field guide for correct plant identification and be sure to teach only easy to recognize plants that don't have poisonous lookalikes. Good ones to start with include wild strawberries and raspberries since they look like what you buy in the supermarket! 
  • How to start a fire: We let the kids help every time we make a fire as this is such an important skill!
  • Shelter building: Have fun looking for natural shelters - rock overhangs, caves - and practice building shelters with branches and a tarp/poncho (you do carry those, right?).
  • How to find and treat water: Bushcraft or wilderness survival books have whole chapters on this that are well worth a read. Basically, remember that water flows down. Animal trails will often lead to water, but not always. In low spots, if there isn't a pond or river and you are desperate, you can dig a deep hole and wait for it to fill and for the dirt to settle out. There are lots of methods, so research then practice finding water as a family! We like to carry a water purifier or filter and drops/tablets to treat water and prevent illness
Rich Johnson's "Guide to Wilderness Survival" is a great reference if you are interested in learning more. It contains a lot of valuable information but isn't overly wordy or technical.

One way to avoid a survival situation is to avoid getting lost! Learn how to avoid getting lost here.

Collecting drinking water the fun way!
7. Stay Positive

It's easy to ask “What's the matter?” and incite a deluge of complaints when the going gets tough. Instead - to turn frowns upside down - suggest a break, get out some treats, and make sure everyone is hydrated. An empty tummy or dehydration can make anyone feel crummy and is dangerous too! Tell jokes or funny stories to keep the mood light rather than shame your child for lagging behind (I've seen the latter and it is not effective). Kids are surprisingly resilient and recharge much quicker than adults. Usually within 20-30 minutes, they are ready to hike some more, but if not, don't be afraid to call it a day. It's best to quit while you're ahead, so your child remembers the good time she had (instead of the struggle). That's how you get them out again and again! 

Happy Hikers!

What do your children like most about hiking? 

#FollowYourFeet With KEEN

The KEEN philosophy that adventure is "anywhere without a ceiling" really resonates with me. While my happy place is at the top of a mountain, I am truly happy just to be outside! I squeeze in microadventures during the week until I can get to the mountains. Any outdoor time is good for my body and soul. 



 To encourage adventures big and small, KEEN is awarding #FollowYourFeet collectible patches to those who complete an assigned adventure. Tweet KEEN Canada (@keencanada) with #MyFeetAreWaiting to get your mission! The adventures are fun for families too (no Everest climbing required)!!


Have fun! I can't wait to see your adventures!