Camping with Doggo

Both Zach and I are incredibly outdoorsy and we knew that we wanted whatever dog we adopted to be adventurous too. But that is unfortunately not something you can exactly screen when you’re looking for a dog to adopt. With Dahlia, we got lucky. So, so lucky. She seems to take everything in stride and is happy as long as she is with us.

Long car rides? No problem. We have converted the back seat of the truck into a giant dog bed and she alternates between napping in the back or hanging out with us by leaning on the center console.

Within our first month of getting her, we took her on her first camping trip. Since it was October in the rockies, the conditions were a mix of sun and snow, with overnight temperatures dropping down to 0.

We had a pretty awesome set up with one big mattress and a huge pile of blankets, and Dahl slept pretty peacefully snuggled inbetween the two of us all night. I can’t wait to get her out for more camping trips next year!

Below are some of my favourite pictures from the camping trip. Drop any ‘camping with dogs’ tips you happen to have in the comments 🙂

This was our campsite in Kananaskis ❤

39 Days on the Chuckegg Creek Wildfire

This summer was an incredibly active fire season for Northern Alberta, one that I got to see up close and personal. I spent almost 40 days working on the Chuckegg Creek fire near High Level. The entire experience was incredible, mind blowing, life changing… I don’t even know how to explain it. I learned so much, met so many incredible people and so saw many incredible things. There is no way that I can even touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to writing about what it was like to be deployed to that fire, but I would like to share some of my favourite photos from the experience. I will caption each one to give you a glimpse into what it was like to be there.

I found out I was headed to High Level only a couple of hours before I left. Of course I knew about the fire, but it didn’t look like it was in the cards that I would go. Then all of a sudden I was asked how soon I could be ready. My partner for the trip up left Calgary around midnight and picked me up in Edmonton at ~3am,
We stopped in Whitecourt on our way up, fueling the truck up as the sun rose.
I made it to High Level on the day that my fiance was leaving on days off. He did come back while I was still up there, so we actually got to work on the same fire, however many many kilometers apart.
I spent my first day in High Level hot spotting around the town of High Level
By the point that I got up to the fire, the threat had shifted from High Level to a small town called La Crete, so to La Crete we went to set up structural protection on threatened homes there.
For the first week that I was in La Crete, the town was under an evacuation order, so it was inhabited basically just by police and firefighters
A large portion of our days in La Crete were spent patrolling our area, and during our patrols we fed and watered the animals left behind by the evacuees.
The evacuation order for La Crete was lifted just before Canada Day, so the Canada Day parade was a celebration for many reasons. The fire crews working to protect the town were invited to participate in the parade, so we decorated our trucks accordingly.
I got to see and work with some incredible equipment, like these bad boys.
I even got to drive this one!
I was blown away by how beautiful the area was up around La Crete and High Level.
This is the Peace River
Hot spotting is the art of locating deep burning fires and dousing them so they don’t pop up unexpectedly, re-igniting the fire. It is messy, messy work.
Did I mention it was messy?
The smokey sunsets were incredible
Helicopters were our eyes and ears for fire behavior
Due to the catastrophically dry conditions, and some crazy weather, we got to see some very extreme fire behaviors, including fire whirls and raining chunks of embers, and even charred debris, like this leaf.
Our very last day in High Level, it finally started to rain. After months with nothing, the raid felt incredible.

Visiting the Bomber Command Museum

Back in June, I was lucky enough to go on a little road trip with my grandfather and his good friend Jack.

My grandfather spent most of his working life in the Canadian Military. Back in the day, when he went to flight school, Jack was actually his teacher. Together they worked on the Lancaster aircraft. Decades later, after both working and living all over the world, the two men re-connected when they both found themselves living in Edmonton. The two now meet every Sunday morning for breakfast at a restaurant called Alberts, trading stories and news with eachother.

The opportunity to travel with these two men, along with my uncle, to visit a museum that housed one of the few remaining planes that they had worked on decades ago was too good to pass up.

Here are some of my favourite photos from our trip to the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB.

Watching these two men, who both served their country for most of their lives, walk around and take it all in, was an incredible moment. Both men remembered so so much about these planes. Not many people can say that they got to tour the museum with people who lived the history.

The Kananaskis Nordic Spa

The Kananaskis Nordic Spa, a brand new (and very welcome!) addition to the Kananaskis Village opened its doors couple of weeks ago.  Set to open in stages, the first stage of the spa includes a series of outdoor heated, and one chilled, pools, as well as eucalyptus infused saunas and cedar steam rooms.

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Sleek and modern, this new build looks like it belongs on the landscape and it is almost impossible to believe that it popped up over the last months. I recently had the opportunity to test out the spa, and I wanted to share photos and a bit of narrative from my incredibly relaxing night there.

The spa is nestled in behind the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis, accessible by an elevated board walk. Once inside, warm woods and warm accents help to set the mood the second you walk through the door. I love the logo for the spa; it is simple and sleek, yet suits the setting.

More than just a spa; the K Nordic spa also offers a licensed restaurant with luxurious couch seating (even a patio for summer!) as well as an adorable boutique, stocked with a great selection of Lululemon and an assortment of Canada tartan accessories for you to recreate the spa feeling at home after you leave.

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Upon check in, guests are given a robe and slippers, as well as a waterproof fob bracelet that electronically lets you into a locker.

The change rooms were some of the most luxurious I have ever seen in a fitness or wellness facility; in the ladies there was an entire room with counters and hair stations to ensure you leave the spa looking as great as you feel.

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Once through the change rooms, outside you go! The gathering pool, a two leveled warm water pool, awaits. This large pool is the perfect way to start or end your spa experience (or do like me, and go a couple of times 😉 )

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My favourite pool by far was the hot pool; it once again has two levels, but a much cozier and more intimate feel. Bonus: has a waterfall.

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You’ll notice the glowing red lights over the robe hooks? Those are heated robe shelters to ensure your walk between pools is cozy even in the winter.

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This fire pit was a wonderful addition to the spa; there are few scents more relaxing than a camp fire, and the muskoka chairs and hanging fire pit make it both medieval and sleekly modern.

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This is the pool I was only brave enough to go in once. Very briefly. The cold pool. But it is a part of the process, so you need to try it 😉

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Cedar sauna and coming soon, heated hammocks!

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Can’t say that I have ever sat by a camp fire in a bathrobe, but I loved it.

Not pictured, due to adverse camera conditions, are the eucalyptus steam rooms. There are two of them located in one cabin, both rooms spacious enough for large groups. Sleek dark tiles, mixed with cedar make for an incredibly aromatic experience. I also loved that there was a self-filling bucket of cool water with which you can douse yourself when you get too warm in the steam room.

My night spent at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa was exactly what I had needed to cap off an incredibly busy and physically strenuous week. It was such a relaxing environment, with great amenities. The staff were warm and welcoming and the entire facility was spotless. I will definitely be back very soon. I am also excited for the upcoming phases of the spa which will include massage treatment rooms, yoga/fitness studios and much more.

Have you visited yet? Let me know what you thought!

 

Skinny Skis

When you talk to someone about skiing in the Rockies, their mind undoubtedly goes first to downhill. And yes, downhill is fun. Obviously. But I also have a deep love for cross country skiing. I love cross country skiing for the lack of lineups, the ability to find solitude or to actually spend quality time with friends. One of my most memorable winter nights was spent xc skiing behind a lynx and watching the aurora dance overhead. These are the kinds of quiet, serene moments that you will never find on a ski hill.

I can remember my first time on cross country skis. I was AWFUL. It was in my grade 10 outdoor gym class, and I was skiing on a pair of wooden skis with three pin bindings that I had picked up at the local thrift shop just for my class. Those skis are probably still in my parents shed back in Ontario (sorry Mom and Dad!). All I remember was not being able to go up hills and how cold my feet were in the leather ski shoes that came with the set. I tried hard to love it at that point, but it wasn’t until moving out to the Rockies (and working for a ski shop) that I really fell in love with the sport. Since moving to Kananaskis, I have skied pretty extensively on the incredible network of (free!) trails that are groomed and maintained by Alberta Parks.

Right up until yesterday, when this damn Chinook blew in, the winter conditions out here in Kananaskis were spectacular. The snow was plentiful and all the ski trails were perfectly groomed. I wanted to share some photos from last Wednesday, where I was the first person out on the trails after they were groomed and track set.  This was all along the Bill Milne trail here in Spray Valley Provincial Park in Kananaskis, which while not overly exciting (its valley bottom, so pretty flat but gorgeous views), literally runs through my backyard so its super easy for me to hop onto it.

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Winter at Lake Louise

15894331_10211741346078863_1974805463283532724_nLake Louise is an icon of beauty in the Canadian Rockies; however, most people only know it for its turquoise waters of summer. What about the other 6 months of the year? Lake Louise is actually a winter paradise for people who love being outside in the cold. Here are my favorite things to do outside at Lake Louise in the winter:

Ice Skating

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10273657_10205924590583611_1615214933484312362_nOn the lake, there is a hockey rink cleared for playing shinny, as well as a large cleared ice surface for families. Just prior to the Banff Ice Magic Festival every January, a large ice castle is built on Lake Louise, in the center of the family ice surface. In years past, there has even been a throne in the heart of the castle, allowing everyone to be King or Queen of Lake Louise, even if only for a minute. Don’t have your own skates? Not a problem! Ice skate rentals are available in the Chateau. Click here for more details on rentals. Pro tip: bundle up, it’s usually quite windy on the lake.532960_10205924589943595_3971908337049268020_n

XC Skiing

15965954_10211741364279318_6684802578801199510_nI have wanted to XC ski at Lake Louise for as long as I’ve known there was a trail to ski. I finally got to check that item off my bucket list last week. I skied a couple laps of the lake and with it being my first real xc ski of the season, I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t fall, my technique was solid and I was in a good rhythm. It was a pretty chilly day, sitting around -20 with the wind chill. I have never had my eyelashes freeze before. I should try to pass it off as the latest winter look 😉

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15966051_10211741350358970_3789058929670861280_nThe XC ski trail on Lake Louise starts at the boathouse and is flat groomed and trackset all the way to the waterfall at the far end. I skied through powder so I could come back on the other side of the lake and to do it as a loop instead of a linear trail.Parts of the trail were severely mashed due to snowshoers and people walking on it, but the vast majority of the trail was in great shape.

The frozen waterfall at the end of the lake is definitely worth getting to and then hiking up to the base of.

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Snowshoeing

If you’re not big into xc skiing or skating, then give snowshoeing a shot! There is a snowshoe trail that cuts across Lake Louise, as well as many kms of other trails around the lake and surrounding area. Always make sure to check that you are not going into avalanche terrain; check the reports and know what areas are safe. It’s pretty amazing to be able to snowshoe out into the middle of the lake, and to look back at the Chateau: the opposite of what most people see when visiting.

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Other winter delights:

10410712_10205924594223702_4465359955072810482_nGo during the Ice Festival and look at magical ice carvings, have a drink at the outdoor ice bar, take a sleigh ride around the lake or enjoy a bonfire hosted by the Lake Louise staff.

My absolute favorite winter activity at Lake Louise is stargazing. The stars are always fantastic (as long as its clear) and you can set up a long exposure and skate around while you wait, or better yet, play with lights through a long exposure!

 

 

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Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

While I have not posted on here a lot over the holidays, it does not mean that I haven’t been super busy writing: I wrote this post last week for Kananaskis Outfitters, give it a read and check out their beautiful website if you are interested in seeing what all they do.

15781571_1248344911875257_3156321827171470706_n-300x300Snowshoeing is a method of transportation that has been around for about 4000 years, but in the last couple of years, it has definitely gained a lot of popularity! A lot of this popularity is probably because of how accessible snowshoeing is for the vast majority of people, and also how snowshoes have become easy to wear and use.

Originally designed by the necessities of living in a snow-covered world, nowadays, people mostly snowshoe for fun. Snowshoeing turns hiking into a year-round activity. Snowshoes no longer look like tennis racquets strapped to your feet; modern snowshoes are sleek and usually come equipped with ice cleats built in, making for incredible traction in even the most slippery of winter conditions.

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Kananaskis is a haven for snowshoers, offering a long snowshoeing season and a huge variety of trails. By the Kananaskis Village, there are a couple of great loops for newcomers to the sport; the Village Loops leave right from the Village Centre, and have a 2.5km option or a 1.5km option, or you can do them both for a great 4km loop. This loop has a little bit of elevation gain but remains very family friendly.

15621824_1337638826298250_6992831369302393830_n-240x300Troll Falls – An easy snowshoe for families

Another snowshoe trail close to the village that is family friendly, is the Troll Falls trail. Leaving from the Stoney trailhead, this is an easy 4km loop when done in conjunction with the Hay Meadows trail. This trail features a beautiful wintery waterfall and fantastic valley-bottom views of the surrounding peaks.

If you are willing to drive a little deeper into Kananaskis for snowshoeing, then you need to check out Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. This park offers kilometer after kilometer of snowshoe trails, with a wide range of views. On our recommended list to check out are:

The Elkwood loop starts at the Elkwood amphitheater and travels across the frozen edge of Marl lake. At 3.4km in length, and with little elevation gain, this is another great snowshoe loop for families.

 

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One of our snowshoe groups standing on Marl Lake

 


12417608_1033832390012230_6320220815210209063_n-289x300Hogarth Lakes
is another Kananaskis classic. Starting at the Burstall Pass trailhead, you share the trail with skiers for about 200m, before the snowshoe trail meanders off into the woods. This trail takes you through beautiful spruce and pine stands before taking you over Hogarth Lakes. There are always lots of tracks and signs of wildlife along this loop and one of our guides has even spotted a lynx along the trail (from a distance!).  Take a lunch or some hot chocolate along on this 4.1km trek to make the most of a beautiful winters day.
12832425_1011632558879828_5912986574658780623_n-240x300Looking for a bit more of a challenge? Then Chester Lake is for you. The cross country ski trail at Chester Lake follows the summer hiking trail, but the winter snowshoeing trail is a much steeper climb. The steep hike is definitely worth the reward! The trail deposits you on a frozen alpine lake, surrounded by fiercely beautiful peaks. Definitely take a lunch along: This 7km hike has 287 meters of elevation gain.

Snowshoe Safety

No matter how long you are planning on being outside while snowshoeing, be it a 2.5km loop or a 15km summit day, there are some very important things to keep in mind. In the winter, what may start as a simple backcountry emergency can get a lot worse very quickly. To make sure you are well prepared for any situation, there are some things that you should always carry:

  • Emergency blanket/bivy. Make sure to account for group size
  • Enough water and keep it thawed! Store it inside your pack or next to your body. It’s no good as ice
  • Snacks and food – enough to get you through an accidental night in the outdoors
  • First Aid kit
  • Hand warmers – these little packs can help if some ones gloves just aren’t cutting it
  • Spare toque, gloves and socks and an extra mid layer
  • Headlamp or flashlight – winter days are short!

Before you go:

  • Check the local avalanche reports. You can check it here. If you are in an Alberta Parks area, then the designated snowshoe trails are not located in avalanche terrain. If you are entering avalanche terrain, make sure you have the necessary training and gear.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back.
  • Know the local emergency number: here in Kananaskis it is 403-591-7755, or 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
  • Check the local weather and dress for it. Remember to dress in layers!

 

Snowshoeing is a great activity to keep you outdoors all winter long! There is always somewhere new to explore and fresh powder to plow through! Looking for a twist on snowshoeing? Check out our Stargazing Snowshoe tours!

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Troll Falls at Night on a Stargazing Snowshoe Tour

The Most Canadian News Story…

Every once in awhile there is a news story that hits television that is so stereo-typically Canadian, it reinforces to everyone what a wild, wacky place Canada is. These are stories that lead people to believe we live in igloos, get around by dog sled and only eat poutine. This week, another of these stories made the television.

As many of you know, I call Kananaskis AB home. KCountry is a very magical place and a hub for amazing nature and wildlife stories. Since I have lived here, several wildlife videos from the area have gone viral. Like this one of two bull moose rutting or of this wolf taking down a big horn sheep on the side of the highway. So it is pretty safe to say the wildlife here is never boring. Right now the critter that is making the new is, once again, a moose.

You probably saw this story on CBC (yup, that’s right, this made national news) that Kananaskis has issued a moose warning for the Chester Lake/Burstall Pass trail heads due to a moose hanging out in the parking lot licking cars. 

Yes, you read that correctly. This moose (and her calf) are hanging out in the parking lot and licking cars. Read the CBC story here. So why the heck are these moose licking cars?

For the same reason that big horn sheep, deer and other critters are ‘licking’ the road:

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They are eating the salt. Salt contains minerals that are important to these critters, but beyond that, the salt tastes good them.

The cars are getting salt on them from driving on maintained winter roads, and the wildlife has come to expect that they can lick cars to get the salt off. To be honest, if I had to choose between licking asphalt or licking a car, I guess I would lean towards the car, so it is no wonder that the moose are doing it too.

Alberta Parks has issued a formal warning, including what NOT to do if a moose is licking your car, but I am going to give you some tips here again:

  • Don’t approach the moose; if they walk up to you, try to maintain a safe distance or stay inside your vehicle.
  • Don’t offer the moose food; they do not need to become any more accustomed to people as a food source
  • Don’t try to physically move a moose away from your vehicle. They will win.
  • Always make noise when hiking, exploring, so as to not surprise wildlife.
  • Keep your pets on a leash. A kick from a moose can kill or severely injure a dog.

If you return to your vehicle to find a moose licking it, by all means  take a picture!  I would! But do not approach the moose to do so. Make noise, be loud and be patient for the moose to move off.  Be aware of what way the moose will most likely run if it gets startled, no one wants to get run over by a moose. If everyone respects the space of these dorkily majestic animals, then everyone will be able to share the space.

 

 

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? A Look at Winter Trail Etiquette

Cross country skiers are infamous for disliking snowshoers because they wreck their trails; snowshoers think that cross country skiers are snobs. And fat bikers? Well, no one likes fat bikers. Don’t believe me that there is so much drama in the world of casual winter sports? Check out this blog post from Skier Bob. It is titled ‘Snowshoers would use the snowshoe trail if we started skiing on it.’ If you want to  really see the tension, read the comments. They are way worse than the actual article.

So would you believe me if I told you that its actually really easy for everyone to get along and all just enjoy winter trails? As someone who does all three of the above winter sports, I promise you, it IS possible. Now that there is actually snow on the ground, and winter trails are opening, it is once again time to look at some winter trail etiquette.

Don’t Wreck The Tracks

Here in Kananaskis, we take a lot of pride in our cross country ski trails. They are world class, well-groomed and, best of all, free for people to use. There is a dedicated Alberta Parks team who keeps on top of grooming the trails, and you can even check a live grooming report here. 

A groomed ski track may look like this:

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(thanks Shutterstock for the photo!)

or like this:

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(Photo by Crystal Mountain)

The first photo is of a ‘flat groomed’ cross country track. This track works great for classic and skate skiing. The second photo is of a ‘track set’ ski trail. The difference being the parallel grooves carved into the snow in the second photo. These grooves are specifically designed for the gliding of classic cross country skiing, and skate skiing will wreck those tracks. It is important to know what the trail is groomed for before going out. Most track set trails also have a skate lane, so if skate skiing, please be courteous and do not wreck the tracks.

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Here the snowshoe trail crossed the ski trail and you can see I carefully stepped over the tracks so as to not wreck them.

15267747_1312113492184117_6959736387260210962_nYou can imagine what these tracks would look like if a snowshoe-er or hiker walked through them and mashed them up; hint: They would look rough. If a cross country skier hits a mashed up bump at high speed (say at the bottom of a hill or something) they can fall or go flying. If a snowshoe trail cross a ski trail, it is best practice to step over the ski tracks, so as to avoid mashing them. If you are on snowshoes and need to follow a cross country ski trail for a bit, walk on the edge of the trail, so as not to ruin the tracks or the skate lane.

Who Has The Right-of-Way

Trails can get busy, especially on weekend with nice weather, so it is important to know who has the right of way so that nobody gets frustrated and everyone can enjoy their day.

  • If it is a cross country ski trail and you are snowshoeing (even if you are on the edge of the trail), the cross country skier has the right of way. Since you know, its a ski trail and all.
  • The person travelling downhill has the right of way. The assumption here is that they will be travelling at higher speed, and the person going uphill is probably going to enjoy a momentary break anyway.
  • Ski on the right, pass on the left. Same as when you are driving in a car.
  • Politely call out to let people know if you are approaching from the rear if you are going to overtake or pass them.

 

What About Fido

  • In some areas, particularly on groomed ski trails in provincial parks, dogs are not allowed. Always check signage for where you are skiing.
  • Always pick up after your pet
  • If your dog is allowed on the trail, check the leash laws for the area.
  • Whether you are in an on-leash or off-leash area, keep your dog under your control. They should not interfere with other peoples enjoyment of the day, or worse, cause injury to someone else.

Fatbikes

15317778_1313691058693027_298110483410022055_nAs far as winter sports go, fat tire bicycles are the new kids on the block. Mountain biking used to be confined just to summer, but now that these bikes can be outfitters with super wide tires, riding in the snow just got a whole lot more fun. But since fat bikes are so new, really only having gained popularity in the last couple of years , sometimes it seems like people don’t know where they should be riding them. So lets cover the basics here:

  • Fat bikes CANNOT go on groomed ski trails. Period. If the trail is track set, do not ride there. It is up for debate in some areas if fat bikes can ride on flat groomed trails, so err on the side of caution and don’t do it.
  • Fatbikes are generally welcome on snowshoe trails
  • Be respectful of people moving slower than you, and call out politely so as not to surprise or scare them.

Winter Leave No Trace Principles

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Leave No Trace is a fantastic organization that educates people on how to leave the natural world as nice or nicer than they found it, as well as how to enjoy it safely. You can check out the winter LNT principles here.

So as you can see, its really not that difficult to all get along outside; whether you are on skis, snowshoes or a fatbike, we are all out there for the same reason: to enjoy nature.

 

 

Oh and by the way..

If you have to pee, don’t just stop on the trail and pee on the side. Everyone who passes that point after you will have to see the yellow snow you left behind. Take at least a few steps off the trail, find some cover, or cover it with snow. We all know it wasn’t a dog when there are snowshoe or ski tracks that stop directly in front of a pile of yellow snow… Don’t be gross.

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