It’s That Time of Year Again

Up here in Canada, this coming weekend is variously known as the May 2-4 weekend, May Long Weekend, or (officially) as the Victoria Day weekend. Regardless of what you call it, the long weekend in May has always been the traditional start of camping season. And for me, that means it’s time to get back to work on this blog.

Things have been quiet around here for the past 12 months, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my attempt to turn my kids into nature-loving adventurists. If anything, this past year I’ve made more strides, and as they’ve got older, we have also been on more adventures. Summer 2015 took us to Dinosaur Provincial Park, to the North Saskatchewan River for fishing, and just generally out of the house and into nature as often as I could manage it. I still plan on talking about some of this stuff on here as well, because there are lessons that can be learned from success, from failure, and from looking back and thinking critically about the things you’ve done. That means talking about gear, talking about places we’ve had our adventures, and maybe even a post or two about recipes and cooking, since food is ALWAYS a big part of travelling for me. Continue reading “It’s That Time of Year Again”

Camping with Kids 101: What to Pack and How to Plan

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Now that camping season is upon us here in Canada, and now that the basics of gear have been picked out, the next step is to get all packed up and get out the door on your own adventures. The biggest, most daunting part of that is what to pack for a night or three away from the house? You will need to bring, literally, everything you need to get by for the duration of your trip, unless you enjoy trips to the store for little things you’ve forgotten. Not only that, but how can you plan for every eventuality? How can you make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything?

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Camping with Kids 101: Picking a Tent

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So, because you’re cool, frugal, economical and efficient (and cool, too, did I mention that?), you’re looking into buying a tent for you and your family to camp in. Wonderful! You’ve now entered a world with literally hundreds of very different options from dozens of manufacturers, at prices from under $100 to $500 or more. Where do you start? How do you choose? In my experience, the best way to start choosing a tent is to ask yourself three questions; the answers to those questions will help to direct your purchases. Continue reading “Camping with Kids 101: Picking a Tent”

Camping with Kids 101 – Tent vs. RV

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Welcome to the second installment in my Camping with Kids 101 series. I have this particular discussion with some of my friends at least a couple of times a year: which is better, RV camping or tent camping? Some people could never be convinced to sleep in a tent, while others are adamant that tenting is the only “true” way to camp. Now, I’ve done both: 11 years in Scouting gave me a decent perspective as a tent camper, and currently that’s where we are at as a family. At the same time, growing up our summer holidays consisted of hooking the truck up to the holiday trailer  and hauling it through Alberta & BC. So I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

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Camping with Kids 101: An Introduction

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Camping with kids can be seriously intimidating. It is a departure from everything that can be considered “normal” with modern parenting: there are no walls, everything is dirty, many things can be incredibly dangerous, structure is gone, yet you’re still supposed to feel relaxed and enjoy yourself. Because all of those things obviously go together, right?

The thing is, they totally can, and there are two main reasons why they can. The first is that kids aren’t the same out in nature as they are at home, particularly with the anticipation of a long, sustained interaction with nature. They seem to find better, calmer, more inquisitive versions of themselves when unshackled from home. And the second is that YOU change when you’re out in nature too, and (given the chance) the things that bring you the greatest stress can seem to disappear, because nature brings out the better version of yourself too. The one that can relax, “let kids be kids”, and shed the structure that can define so much of family life right now. Continue reading “Camping with Kids 101: An Introduction”

The Season of Dreams

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Winter is always a bit of an odd season for me. I personally love the winter, love getting outside and enjoying the purity and stillness that nature gives us. In any other season, sitting outside in nature gives you an immediate and overwhelming awareness of life surrounding you. In the winter, when most everything is slumbering beneath a blanket of snow, you can truly get a sense of solitude and calmness. In the winter, everything is undiscovered, trails newly untrodden, and there are things to discover everywhere. For a nature nut, winter is wonderful for all of the ways that it isn’t what you’d normally expect.

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A long overdue update on summer 2014!

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Well, now that it’s definitely and decidedly winter, maybe it’s finally time for an update! 🙂 Here’s 5 things I learned over what was a wonderful summer and autumn here in Edmonton:

1. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.

My goal for camping this year was 5, maybe 6 times if the weather held out until October. We went a grand total of… 2 times. Once you already heard about, and once was because my Mom invited us out to the site where she and my step-dad had their trailer for September long weekend. That’s it. We DID have a busy summer, all things told. I photographed more weddings than I ever had before. We took a 10-day vacation to the Okanogan that basically ate up three weekends all on its own. But still, there was time to fit some camping in, but it was never scheduled, and therefore it never happened. Continue reading “A long overdue update on summer 2014!”

Camping Adventure #1 – Elk Island Resort

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Finally, it’s camping season!

For May Long, Finn & I packed up the car, and got the heck out of town! Just a little ways though, at least for this first trip. 🙂 After a mild snafu with our original campsite (note to self and others: the Lions Campground in Stony Plain, while nice and clean, is almost strictly parked RV’s and doesn’t permit campfires! OMGWTF!) we made a quick last-minute call to Elk Island Retreat, and they were lucky enough to have a tenting site available that we could have! It’s a great little private campground I discovered by accident on Google Maps a month or so ago. It’s about 20 minutes east of the city, just outside the west gate of Elk Island National Park, so it was close to the city while still offering a nice wilderness environment. They have an RV section, a gorgeous tenting area with nice big, private sites and lots of trees, and a couple of kilometers of trains through the wilderness to explore. There are also tipi sites, with a tipi set up on a platform so those without tents can still get out & camp, and some trappers cabins as well. It was just about perfect for us. Continue reading “Camping Adventure #1 – Elk Island Resort”

Geocaching Failure!

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In my never-ending search for cool things to do with my two little princes, I decided to give geocaching a shot. What is geocaching, you might ask? Basically, it is a huge, worldwide treasurer hunt using a GPS and a set of coordinates. You plug in the coordinates, go to that spot, search around a bit, and you should find a cache that someone else has left there. (You can read more about geocaching, the movement, and how to get started over here.) Sounds pretty simple, right? If Jake and his Neverland Crew can find treasure on a weekly basis, I’m sure i can manage to get my two munchkins to find a treasure box. As luck would have it, one of our favourite places, the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, has three cache’s hidden in its boundaries that are rated relatively easy and close to the main trails, so that should be right up our novice alley!

Little did I know, I would soon be quite over my head. Continue reading “Geocaching Failure!”

Feeding our neighbourhood goose

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One of the side benefits of spring arriving at our house is that we are lucky enough to have a little park with a lake right across the street from our house. That means we have lots of opportunity for unstructured play in a (somewhat) natural environment. And in Alberta, a lake in the spring time means ducks… and lots and lots of Canada Geese. We happened to run into our neighbours outside that afternoon, and their son, who was born only a few days after Declan, wanted to come down to see the goose with us.

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