What our moms knew when they said ‘go outside and play’

I think we’ve always known that it’s a good idea to get outside. And even though our moms sometimes mentioned that it was ‘too nice a day to spend inside watching television’ — it wasn’t often that we needed prompting to get outdoors. That’s where the fun was: building snow caves, playing hide ‘n seek, riding bikes, sledding…Can you imagine the steps we’d have racked up if we’d had fitbits? And, as far as I remember — it was never too cold for tobogganing or snowball fights. So, about a year ago when I adopted my dog Henry —  I made a commitment to myself to spend less time on the couch (cancelling my cable subscription is another story) and to get outside more. And, wouldn’t you know it — ‘getting outside’ is a thing!

So, if you need more motivation to get yourself or your kids or your dogs outside every day, and that energized yet calm feeling isn’t enough — there’s the science behind what’s now being called green exercise. By itself, just being in nature, says nutritionist and lifestyle consultant James Murphy , has a number of benefits: “restoring your focus, helping you relax, improving cognitive function, and making you happy”. But double down with exercise and the benefits really stack up: improved self-esteem, less perceived effort, increased workout frequency, and just plain fun. Like the kind we had as kids.

So, rather than trying to cram in noon hour workouts at my workplace gym, my commitment (resolution if you will) is to get outside for some green exercise 4 or 5 times a week, whether it be making tracks in the park with Zander, finding a new tobogganing hill, or hiking with Henry in the coulées. (Poor Henry has a pound or two to lose after Christmas too.)

Maybe I’ll even get snowshoes and head out to Waterton for a winter hike! How will you get your  green – or should I say – white exercise this winter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What our moms knew when they said ‘go outside and play’

New Year’s Eve & a first anniversary

 

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New Year’s Eve 2015

Today marks not only the end of 2015 but it was also 1 year ago today that Henry came to live with me from Windy City Canine Rescue. By the way, I was very impressed with this organization’s thorough adoption process, as well as their ‘trial period’ for cautious adopters like me. However, after less than 24 hrs I knew that Henry would be staying for good.

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New Year’s Eve 2014 – Henry’s a little nervous about his new home

In case you’re wondering, Henry is an unusual mix: border collie & shih tzu. I still don’t know the respective breeds of Henry’s mother and father, but either way you think about it (and I’d recommend not thinking about it too much) — it seems logistically daunting! But damn if that cross doesn’t make for an adorable little dog who, with those short shih tzu legs, is like the ‘forever puppy’. Even better — minimal shedding! Not that he didn’t come with at least one vice: chasing cars. This meant that wherever we went for the first month or so, even the off-leash park (we learned the hard way and thank goodness for the snow fence along Scenic Drive) – he had to stay on a lead.

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Winter 2014

Well, they say that it takes a village to raise a child, and you could almost say the same about a dog. Henry’s ‘village’ has come to include the wonderful folks at Pet City, a dog daycare with ample indoor and outdoor play space, flexible booking, and caring attendants who sometimes even throw in a free bath for ‘low-riders’ like Henry. Henry also has a ‘spa day’ every couple of months at Hair of the K9. This is an awesome pet grooming service where rather than being kennelled before and after their turns — the dogs here are free to roam the space and  play with their ‘spa mates’ (usually a group of 5 or 6). They even get play breaks in the back yard.

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One of the main reasons that I wanted to get a dog was for some extra motivation to get outside every day. Mission accomplished! (Also, you might notice — no more leash!) More than any exercise class or walking regimen — there’s nothing like a dog staring you down until you get off the couch and put on your runners….or rain gear…or snow boots. Having Henry has also meant much more exploring in the coulées and discovering new trails.

And when we’re not out on the trails, Henry is great company around the house.

Happy adoption anniversary Henry!

 

New Year’s Eve & a first anniversary

Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)

by ‘The Armchair Alpinist’

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Hey, so it’s no secret that I’m afraid of most things…really high heights (anything above the treeline)…bears (anywhere below the treeline)…extreme cold…extreme hunger…extreme lack of washroom facilities…but oh how I do love a documentary involving all of the above! Imagine then my delight as I snuggled in under my couch blanket with a cup of tea to enjoy this year’s extraordinary climbing documentary, Meru.

Winner of the 2015 Sundance Audience Award for documentaries, this film delivers delicious tension, triumph over tragedy, inspiring friendships, an unexpected avalanche (who doesn’t enjoy avalanche footage?), an unexpected romance (hint: not between the 3 climbers) and the sage narration of the seasoned (handsome) Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air).

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011
The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Especially fascinating to me were the conversations with  Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk about their fear — how they worked with it, controlled it, and used it to keep themselves alive. Also interesting were the ways they rationalized their risk-taking to their loved ones. (Having once been married to a ‘risk-taker’, I’m still not sure I buy it…)

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Exhausted, Renan Ozturk contemplates the long descent after making the summit. The top is only half way.

Suffice it to say, the photography is stunning as are the revelations about courage and commitment. I’d highly recommend your putting on the kettle, stacking up a plate with sugar cookies, and hunkering down for a delicious adventure story.

–The Armchair Alpinist

 

Meru Review (hey, that rhymes!)

Our High Level bridge

by Julie Deimert

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Zander watches a train cross from the vantage of Lethbridge’s Galt Museum

If you live in Lethbridge, you probably see this bridge almost every single day, whether you’re walking in the river bottom, driving downtown, commuting from the west side, or cycling along Scenic Drive. It’s a part of our landscape and hard to imagine the river valley without it. And while I’ve known that the High Level bridge is renowned as the largest of its kind in the world — I’ve rarely stopped to think about how it got here.

But thanks to Carolyn for posting Lethbridge Historical Society’s photos, I have a renewed appreciation for this bridge, the largest railway structure in Canada which was constructed between 1907 & 1909. What a feat of engineering!

First of all, kind of eerie almost to see the river valley without it:

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And check out these two machines: the ‘Travelling Erector’ and ‘Travelling Riveter’.

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Makes me wonder if the producers of the AMC production, Hell on Wheels, (shot in Alberta’s Bow Valley) — took some lessons from the experiences of this crew (below)? I’m sure they had some equally ‘riveting’ (haha) stories to tell!

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Much more recently, like just last week — our bridge was in the news again as CPR’s holiday train made the crossing.

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Our High Level bridge

Winter Coulées

by Julie Deimert

I love to walk the coulées on a bright winter day and can almost feel my vitamin D stores replenishing! For Henry, it’s all about the smells…and birds. All this — just 5 minutes from home.

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And without the heat of summer,  I swear Henry gets twice the exercise on our winter walks, often running to the next ridge and back multiple times as we do our loop. (I get perhaps 1.5 my summer workout considering the extra 20 pounds of winter wear! Although, if the hills are icy, I clip Henry back on the leash and let him pull me up!)

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Even at noon, the winter sun is low, the coulées cast in shadows.

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Winter Coulées

My Triple Crown – Part 3

Carthew/Alderson

by Carolyn Geddert

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While the elevation gain on this hike is only 2132ft, it is achieved in just 8km, making for a steep opening climb and a longer 10km descent. This time there were nine of us, and I was especially thrilled to have Julie along. We have had coulee walks together, but never a mountain hike. I assured her I was as afraid of heights as she, but this one was not a big deal…I’m still apologizing.

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Towering Spruce , Poplar and alpine flowers line your path up to Summit Lake. You then begin a harder ascent, and as you get higher the trees become stunted and then not at all. The wind was blowing but not enough to keep some of us off the top bluff for a worthy panoramic view of foothills on one side and turquoise alpine lakes on the other.

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It is all downhill from the ridge but not downhill in beauty with a series of small lakes and waterfalls surrounded by twisted spruce trees. Beyond the lakes is the towering Alderson mountain, and then 7 km of trail through forest takes you  back to Cameron falls in the townsite of Waterton.

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Alderson/Carthew stamp and my name on the glory board in Pearl’s restaurant . Even more rewarding..I was given a thick felt marker to write my name on the board~ not a pen like everyone else. So, y’know, it kinda stands out, but you’ll have to visit Pearl’s  to see for yourself!

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My Triple Crown – Part 3

My Triple Crown (Tiara) – Part 2

by Carolyn Geddert

Akamina Ridge

This 9-10 hour hike is the shortest of the three but with 4270 ft of elevation gain it is by far the steepest climb and with the most exposure, especially up on the long ridge. To boost my confidence, I invited Hans, a friend with significant mountaineering experience, his wife and my good friend, Judy,  along with their 17 yr old daughter, Jillian. The biggest challenge on the hike can be weather but the forecast was promising and the morning warm and calm.  If all went according to plan, we would walk along Forum and Wall lakes, do some scrambling, and enjoy some more panoramic views from the top of Akamina Ridge.

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Part way up the scramble, a rainstorm hit and we were able to hunker down and stay dry under a rock overhang.

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We watched as another group of hikers stopped as well and one unfortunate fellow accidentally sprayed himself in the face with pepper spray! The mountains echoed with his f-bombs for quite some time.

 

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When the rain stopped, we finished up the precarious scramble, made it to the ridge and decided it was lunch time. Clouds began to whiz by and at that elevation we were sometimes engulfed.

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Then the wind picked up, and we started to wonder about turning back. A couple on their way back down strongly cautioned us  against continuing. This same older woman had checked out our clothes earlier and questioned our preparedness for the weather on the ridge, prompting me to whisper something about her being a ‘drama queen’ and to stubbornly proceed onward.

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Half an hour  later we were at the highest peak and in the eye of a storm with horizontal hail and a wind that threatened to throw us right off the ridge. There was not a single tree or piece of vegetation for cover, and when we heard a sudden clap of thunder, we were wondering if we would even survive.  Soaked through, hail biting our faces, packs bouncing, we ran until finally we found a few trees for shelter.

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Thanks to Hans and his backup dry clothes, we were able to layer up and continue. Our descent was fast, and when we met another couple at the bottom, and they asked what the ridge was like,  apparently I described our experience in a very colourful way, earning the title ‘Drama Queen #2’.  So, I hope I’m not being too dramatic when I say that of the 3 hikes this one takes the prize for view.

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At the top you are standing at the apex of Montana, British Columbia and Alberta. Next time I just want to enjoy the view a bit longer. Nevertheless,  Akamina stamp EARNED!

My Triple Crown (Tiara) – Part 2