Being Outside – the power of community green spaces

I love to be outside, and I love to be in the mountains. I’m also utility-oriented with a desire to maximize the benefits for any costs, so as result it isn’t always “worthwhile” to do a mountain trip with our two toddlers. If it takes 1+hr to drive there and another 1+ hour to drive back I figure you should have at least 2+ hours of mountain time to make the trip worthwhile (this is my equation, your mileage may vary and I’d love to hear it in the comments).

With toddlers we find this isn’t always possible since ours are still solid nappers and are not yet quick to get going in the morning. With this excellent summer weather we have instead been making the most of our community green spaces. We are fortunate to live in a city where green space is plentiful, available, and often times left wild. These green spaces range in size from the incredibly vast such as Nose Hill Park, Fish Creek Park, and The Weaslehead area to mid-sized areas such as Edworthy, Bowmont right down to the local neighbourhood sized green spaces.

In our case we are fortunate to have a ravine running through the neighbourhood which has been left relatively wild and which provides many excellent opportunities for an urban wilderness experience. As far as the kids are concerned they get the same joy from the local ravine as they do from an early-season trip to Sunshine Meadows, or Kananaskis Lakes. 

The power of these community green spaces is that they can connect us to the outdoors, give us a fleeting glimpse of wilderness, and create a relaxing fun space that is distinctly different from work or home. They help us to find wilderness, explore nature, and experience the world in a way that is different from simply being in our houses, offices, and rec centers. It requires very little effort to take the kids to local green spaces and let them explore along the pathways, through the aspens, and splash in the creek. For them every little bug, flower, stick, and rock is an exciting new discovery.

For me it’s a chance to be outside, in a natural environment, experiencing things through their eyes without the 2 hours of driving. The other great benefit of course is that we can make many small trips to our local green spaces, sometimes two or three times per day. Each visit provides something unique, a chance to discover something new, and another chance to be outside. While I will always advocate for, and do, big mountain trips with the family I think it is good to remember the power that our community green spaces have and their ability to provide wilderness into our everyday lives.

Kananaskis Lakes – Hiking with toddlers

The Kananaskis Lakes are an easy 1.5hr drive from Calgary and offer some spectacular scenery. I’ve done plenty of trips there before from a night-time scramble up Mt. Indefatigable to backpacking Northover, and camping at many of the backcountry campgrounds they have available.

This weekend we took the kids out there for a low-pressure chance to wander around explore the area. Both kids were in a great mood and we started off from the Interlake Parking lot with the goal of walking/hiking as far as possible whilst enjoying ourselves as much as possible. I’ve really found that when we take the pressure to hit some certain objective off the table then the day is much more enjoyable and we can experience things at a toddler’s pace.



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We initially started out going clockwise around the lake before quickly coming to a washed out section of trail. Being that there is no glory in hiking with toddlers we elected to simply turn around and go counter-clock-wise around the lake instead. This was a good deciding and we followed the easy trail for a total of 1.5 km. The kids did a mix of hiking and riding in the backpack, with us encouraging them to hike as much as possible. Riley loves the ride the backpack and I think for her there is still huge novelty in the experience; as you can guess this means that she hiked very little!

Around 11:30 we stopped off at a nice section where there was a beaten donkey-trail from the main path down to the lake. We ate lunch, threw stones in the lake, and looked across the lake at the raging thread of the waterfall and generally enjoyed life outdoors.

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Once the kids grew tired of stone-throwing we loaded them up and headed back towards the parking lot. There is a nice little isthmus that runs out in the lake and provides a great spot to poke around and look at things. We played on this for a while and found even more stones to throw in the lake.

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Sunshine Meadows – Hiking with Toddlers

If you’re a reader of this site you know that Jamie and I are big time outdoors people. More than anything we love spending time outside and it wasn’t unusual for us to spend both days of the weekend , every weekend, in the mountains. Since we had two kids and I started an MBA our available mountain-time has been drastically reduced by course work, house work, yard work, and of course constrained by nap-time. However, every once in a while we still make it out, and as our kids get older and I get closer to finishing school I expect that the frequency of trips will continue to increase.

Over the beautiful 4-day weekend, with a lull in school and some wonderful weather we took the opportunity to get out to Banff National Park again and explored Sunshine Meadows. If you haven’t been there Sunshine Meadows is a beautiful location. It’s easily accessed via Sunshine Resort and (for a fee) you can ride a bus up the “ski out” from the base of Sunshine to the “Village” where the lifts are found. This cuts off 6 km of hiking and some substantial elevation gain. On Monday we pulled in to the nearly-empty Sunshine Village parking lot and pulled the kids out of the car.

It was a balmy 7C at the base and Jamie has smartly packed mitts and toques for the kids. The trails in the Meadows still had 70% snow coverage, however the trail to Rock Isle Lake was open and cleared. Logan, our 2.75 year-old son, is obsessed with cars, firetrucks, and school buses so for him the best part of the entire day was riding the “Mountain Bus” up the steep windy road. Riley, our 1.5 year-old daughter loved looking out the window and seeing the water running in the creek.

Once we arrived  at the top we got off the bus, put the kids coats on a started up the trail towards Rock Isle Lake. We traveled for maybe 100m before the kids needed snacks (c: This is our experience



It was a pleasure to be out in the mountains, even if we were about 2 weeks too early. The snow cover was still substantial, however there were wildflowers everywhere just poking their heads up and looking around.


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Unfortunately, this was as close as we would come to Rock Isle Lake. Riley had a full on melt-down and (despite all of the layers) was complaining that she was cold. We devised the “big green hug” and wrapped my jacket around the backpack to build another layer around her in hopes that it would help. The other constraint was the bus situation – buses back to the base ran at 12:30 and then not again until 2:30; and our kids typically conk out for nap around 1. If it had been a stellar warm day up there we would have pushed it, but with one kid already melting down and the other getting whiny we opted to turn around and head back to base.

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The “Big green hug” in action! On the way back to the Village Riley conked out in the backpack and stayed that way all through lunch. We had a nice play at the Village, ate some lunch and the took the Mountain Bus back down to the parking lot.
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All in all I would call it a successful (if abbreviated) day in the mountains.


Gender bias and STEM subjects

This ad about women and girls in science is making the rounds on social media today and while I don’t usually share advertising pieces I do think that this one is worth discussing.

In an era when kids can switch the gender on their birth certificates traditional gender roles are increasingly being broken down. The video/ad linked above encourages us to think about the way we talk to our girls and the implicit expectations that we set for them. As the father of two toddlers (one boy, one girl) these implicit expectations are something that I keep in mind for both of my children, regardless of their gender.

While I agree that we should be mindful of what we say to girls and avoid setting implicit expectations that they should all become princesses, I also think that the message in the video is a little patronizing toward women. Why do we never see ads about the implicit expectations and roles for boys? The video ad highlights the small number of women that major in engineering (22% here in Alberta) but we never hear about the lower number of men that major in nursing (10% at Johns Hopkins).

I realize that it may seem strange or unnecessary to point out the lack of support for gender equality for men, but my point is this: if the goal is to break down implicit gender stereotypes and roles beginning at childhood, shouldn’t we do this equally for all genders?

“Where” is a key question

A coworker of mine recently forwarded an email newsletter to that he thought would be interesting. The newsletter was for a small company that offered a wilderness venue for events such as retreats, offsites, weddings, and family gatherings. The newsletter was interesting enough that I actually clicked-through to see their full site and was pleased to see nice photos, good descriptions, and a fairly clear picture of what they offered.

However, one of the key things was missing – I couldn’t find where they were! Their site didn’t have a business address listed, nor did it have an embedded map, or even large heading with a short description underneath it. For me, where a service provider is located is one of the first questions I ask, and if the answer can’t be easily found then I am inclined to move on to another competitor who will tell me where they are.

“Where” is a key question for many consumers, and the answer has implications on their likelihood of purchasing the product or service. Even in an era of increasing globalization people want to know where their products are coming from, if only because this tells them how long they’ll take to ship. Looking at a business like this wilderness venue, “where” is a  critical question to the buying process. I’m located in Calgary and it makes a difference to me if your venue is located in Bragg Creek vs Nordegg vs 100 Mile House.

“Where” is just as important as the other key questions: (who, what, when, why, and how) and as consumers are now more location aware than ever it is a critical question to be answering.

2 Toddlers, 1 Infant and 4 adults – 3 nights on the Icefields Parkway

The scenery, terrain, and adventure options up the Icefields Parkway are second to none. Some of the tallest peaks and biggest glaciers in Canada live up here creating a spectacular view no matter where you look. Now that we have kids we aren’t doing any alpine starts or mountaineering routes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find adventure. To get here drive west from Calgary on Hwy 1 until you get to Lake Louise, the turn north and take Hwy 93, all the way to Jasper if you want. Since it’s such a long way to go we wanted to make it worth our while without making things too difficult. We elected to forego camping (and give our 8 mo old somewhere to crawl) and booked the Hilda Creek Hostel instead. Located just 8min south of the Icefields Visitor Center Hilda Creek Hostel is a 6-bed wilderness hostel without any running water or electricity. It does have propane heat and light and a nearby creek for water (and beer cooling!). On this trip the creek was extremely cloudy and we were all glad that brought water to drink. The drive up was fairly easy. We traveled convoy style with another family: Kirk, Dianne, and their 2-yr old Annabelle; and agreed to leave Calgary at noon when all of our kids were due to for naps. Both Logan (2yrs) and Riley (8mo) crashed out hard in their car seats and we had peace and quiet all the way to Lake Louise. We stopped in LL for about 45min to give the kids a chance to wiggle and run and then started up Hwy 93 N towards Hilda Creek. Total driving time was roughly 3 hrs and leaving at nap time meant the kids slept for most of that. We arrived in late afternoon and spent  some time getting unpacked and organized while the kids ran around outside the hut. There is a nice wooden deck out front and a flat play space where they could run and play within easy sight of the adults.





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Marble Canyon – Canadian Rockies Photography

Marble Canyon is a fantastic place. It’s a very accessible slot-canyon with an easy paved path right off Highway 93 South. The path starts out at the river level and before long you’re climbing up and up while the canyon and river drops beneath you. The rocks there have a great rusty-red colour and lend some contrast to the pale-blue glacier water.


Marble Canyon is inside an old wildfire burn area which lends it a very spooky and other-worldly feel.

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