Exploring the Alder Trail

IMG_4171One of the things I love about Thanksgiving weekend (and Fall in general) is that it is usually a beautiful sunny weekend, with crisp mornings, blue skies and warm afternoons, surrounded by the gorgeous colors of leaves turning. This is the time of year when I really enjoy getting out hiking, or for short walks in nature. With or without kids, I love to explore the forests, park, mountain or whatever location it is that we decided to go and check out during this beautiful season.

This weekend we went out to Bragg Creek, which is only a 30 minute drive from our house, to the provincial park. It is a beautiful spot with picnic tables and fire pits, just up from the river with lots of lovely walking trails, of various lengths.

The kids were excited to pack up and go for a picnic and have a fire. In fact, I have not seen Luke and Chloe get ready so fast and out to the car, chomping at the bit to go! I was still packing things up and they were already in the car!

IMG_4178Once we got out there and claimed our spot we went for a short walk before enjoying our picnic (which would be roasted hot dogs and banana boats). A few weeks earlier I had been out there and came across the alder trail, which is a 1.6 km loop. At the time I wasn’t sure how long the trail actually was so decided not to complete the loop that particular day due to time constraints. I was looking forward to discovering this trail and what it was all about.

It turned out to be a beautiful trail, through moss covered floors and old growth forest. The trees were tall and covered in old man’s beard, which I pointed out to Luke and Chloe. They looked on in amazement and giggled as I asked them if they would like a beard of lichen.

IMG_4182The trail is fairly flat and great for kids, with interpretive signs along the way describing the life of the forest. With information on everything from the animals that live there to why we experience chinooks and the effect they have on our environment. Both Luke and Chloe asked me to read every sign and listened attentively as I read. Matthew even stopped at each sign and read what it had to say before moseying on.

Luke was often stopping at trees and knocking on them or giving them hugs, Chloe and Matthew (my more adventurous ones) attempting to climb the trees. Our pace was not rushed but not too slow and everyone enjoyed exploring the trail. All in all our hike took us about an hour (which I thought was pretty good with two 4 year olds) and we returned to the picnic area ready to roast hot dogs and enjoy the fire.

We rounded out the afternoon with some soccer and frisbee, yes it felt like the perfect family scene, tacky but nice; and a short trip down to the river. Exploring along the river bed and tossing rocks into the stream.

IMG_4203Exhausted, satisfied and happy we hopped back into the car for the short drive home. I feel blessed living so close to such a beautiful area that we can enjoy and explore. To me getting out in nature with kids is so important, and not just going out for a picnic but going for a walk or hike of some kind. I had to pry my oldest away from his iPad, but will do so again (and again) as we all need to get outside more and enjoy our natural environment. Cause each time you go out there, it’s different. You find something new to share, learn about and appreciate that you may not have before.

The Skunk Cabbage Trail

Often times on road trips I look for a nice little place to stop along the way. I feel that the journey along the way can be just as much fun as the destination. In fact we often find/ discover little treasures or places to explore that we might not otherwise.

The road between Calgary and Oliver is full of these little places and many a time I have driven thru making a mental list of all the places I would like to stop. Completing this list often takes a while as there are so many, and we typically only make one stop (or it would take forever for us to get to Oliver). We also tend to stop at some places more than once because they are favorites of the kids. (I have been to the Enchanted Forest so many times now I have lost count! but I do love it there)

This was the case on our way back from Oliver this summer as it was about that time to stop and stretch our legs, as I always like to make sure we do so at least once. It not only breaks up the drive but gives everyone a nice break to look forward to.

We were coming up to the Skunk Cabbage Trail which is in Mount Revelstoke National Park. I was starting to feel tired and Luke and Chloe who had been sitting so well for the whole trip, needed to get out and move a bit.

When I told them that we were going to stop and go for a walk on the Skunk Cabbage trail they got very excited and chatted about it excitedly until we got there. I had been on this trail before with my oldest son Matthew when he was about 3 years old and this was one of my favorite trails. Luke and Chloe had never been and I knew that it was a short loop they could easily handle.

The 1.2 km loop is a valley bottom wetland – one of the rarest environments found in the Columbia Wetlands and is full of Skunk Cabbage, a plant that is found in wetland areas and has a beautiful yellow flower in the spring. It is called Skunk Cabbage because of the distinctive ‘skunky’ odor it emits.

We set off along the trail, crossing a wooden bridge over a rushing creek. Luke and Chloe stopped to check out the sight leaning through the rail, saying “Mommy look water!”. We could have stayed there watching the water for awhile, going no further and Luke and Chloe would have been totally satisified. But me, being a typical mother wanted to move on as I not only wanted to walk the trail but was concerned about them falling over the railing into the water – ha ha.

On the other side of the bridge we entered into a cool old growth forest making our way to the beginning of the boardwalk itself. Interpretive signs highlighting the rich diversity of the plants and animals found in this area were spaced out along the loop. We would stop at each sign and I would ask Luke and Chloe if they wanted me to read it to them and they always said yes. So we learned about the bird migration project they were doing, that black bears like to eat Skunk Cabbage and other plants and animals such as Devils’ Club and frogs.

It was a hot afternoon and I was glad that it was only a short walk. The kids had their water cups with them while I had left mine in the car. We took our time, stopped to rest and enjoyed the trail. Luke kept asking where the skunks were, as that is what he thought we were looking for. I explained to him that it was a skunk plant and not an actual skunk and kept pointing them out along the trail. Chloe caught on quickly and started to point out the plants as well. Luke was still asking about the skunks by the time we got back to the car but enjoyed his walk none the less.

I always enjoy doing little walks like that with my kids and this trail was the perfect size for what we needed that day. There are other short walks along that stretch of highway like the Giant Cedars and the Rock Garden trail, which are fairly easy and just the right size for a little breather (and a bit of an education too!)

Though we did this walk in the summer, you could still easily do it in the Fall and if you have the chance I would definitely recommend it in the spring; as that is when the Skunk Cabbage flowers and it is a very cool sight to see – these huge plants with big yellow flowers in the middle.

Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls

On the weekend that Matthew and I did the Burgess Shale hike (read more in earlier post) we also did a few shorter hikes the following day. We did this for a few reasons, one was that Matthew was up bouncing around and had some energy to burn (yes after 22 km the previous day, he was neither tired, nor sore) and I also felt it was a good idea to move a little and do a short hike so we wouldn’t stiffen up. Not that Matthew would.

Plus I love going and exploring. We’re often driving through Yoho National Park on our way to somewhere else and don’t make any stops to check things out. So as I’m driving through I mentally make a list of places/ hikes I would like to go and see for the time that we do stop and stay awhile.

Spiderweb in a Tree

Wapta Falls is an easy 5 km return hike in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, along a treed path to a beautiful waterfall at the end. Though fairly flat, the trail ends in a slight incline to get to the falls but is a great trail for beginner hikers and for kids. There are lots of things to explore and discover along the way; we found a beautiful spider web between the branches of a tree and an interesting bump on another tree.  Of course there is the anticipation of the falls at the end, which as you are hiking along the path, can hear before you actually see it. Drawing you, beckoning you.

MEC Happy Trails Baby Carrier

Though the trail is suitable for children, it is not suitable for strollers. There are bumps and tree roots along the way that make it quite difficult to navigate a stroller on it. If the children are not walking on their own then I would recommend one of those backpack carriers for small children. There are many different styles and brands out there, we have one from Mountain Equipment Coop we really like, as well as one from Baby Trend.

Matthew practically ran down the trail and we had to ask him a few times to slow down, or pause to take a break. The rush of the waterfall was drawing him in and he was getting excited!

There are 3 spots where you can look at the falls. It is a bit deceiving when you first come to the falls as it looks like that is where the trail ends. There is a fenced area overlooking the falls with a bench to sit and relax. A lot of people assume that this is where the trail ends but if you continue down the trail, you can go off to the left for a different view or continue all the way to the bottom.

Matthew at the bottom of Wapta Falls

If you go all the way to the bottom, the trail ends by coming out onto a beach along the river at the bottom of the falls. It is a great place to sit and just be, soaking up the beauty and absorbing yourself in this calm, peaceful environment. The kids will love playing in the sand or throwing rocks into the water, or you can even move down along the shore a little ways and continue to explore. It’s a lovely spot to sit and have a snack or enjoy your lunch as you gaze at the waterfalls.

After spending some time at the falls we hiked out, Matthew again running – oh to have the energy of a child, and enjoyed some nice relaxing quiet time back at the campsite. Well I did, Matthew on the other hand was busy as usual, chopping wood.

 

Discovering the Rockgarden Trail

I’m always on the lookout for new trails to hike and explore with the kids. I love the outdoors and it is one of my greatest joys to share this passion and excitement with my children.

For years we have been driving up and down the #1 highway west on our way to visit family or on some kind of adventure. I love this drive, it is a beautiful, lush and full of places to discover and explore. Often though we are pushing through to our destination or have another ‘planned stop’ and don’t always have the opportunity to stop at the trails and sites that I would like to see.

There are 4 National Parks along this route, Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke. All are unique and beautiful in their own way with so much to do and explore.

Ever since Matthew was little I have wanted to go on the Rockgarden trail. It is a short 20 minute hike on the east side of the Rogers Pass, in Glacier National Park. We discovered it one time when we stopped for a bathroom break and pulled into the parking lot for the outhouse.

Entering the Rockgarden Trail

This trail though short is not meant for strollers or young children. If you have young children you will need a baby carrier to take them with you.  It is a steep, rocky trail with high drops in some places. It has rock stairs and winds through boulders and lush forest. It is considered a miniature landscape all it’s own, rich in lichens and mosses that are more than 2000 years old.

Lichens and Mosses

For one reason or another we have always passed it by, timing not working out with the kids, weather or the desire to push through and get to our destination. But this weekend we went! I was driving Matthew out to my parents for the week, and I had already decided before we left that this would be our planned stop. I was very excited that we were finally going! I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would be decent, as it was a little rainy.

When Matthew and I entered the trail we were in awe of what we saw. Piles of rocks/ boulders settled along the trail, part of the trail. It was truly entering a rock garden.

At the beginning of the trail be sure to pick up a brochure that describes different areas of the trail by matching the symbols in the brochure. This provides you with more insight into what is/ has happened in the area and you can appreciate the wonder and life of the area. It is also a great educational tool for the kids! When I was little I always loved reading the signs and learning more. My parents would read the signs to us and as we grew we would read them on our own. Sometimes we would even set up a scavenger hunt using the signs and information and that was fun too!

As we meandered and explored the rock garden we noticed the faces in the rocks and the energy of the forest. It is a magical place, one where you could sit and rest awhile before carrying on on your journey.

So next time you’re heading down the #1 and need a break, or a chance to stretch your legs, I would highly recommend this beautiful and magical place tucked within the Canadian Rockies. Stop a while and take a breath, enjoy and discover a place you may not have noticed before.

Matthew conquering the Rockgarden Trail