Early Winter Hiking


jasperThat time of year between autumn and winter, where the temperature climbs and dives, might not seem the best time for hiking. But maybe cheap hotels will convince you that it’s the perfect time of year to get out on the trail.  The Canadian Rocky Mountain towns of Banff and Jasper are very expensive unless you go when nobody else wants to.  You can get nice accommodations for the whole family for less than $100 CAD per night as opposed to upwards of $350 CAD per night during peak season.  End of November into the first week of December is when I bundle up the family and take off to the mountains.

In my opinion this time of year is extremely underrated.  The beautiful foliage is gone and the ski hills are not open yet.  So, why go?  Well, I’ve mentioned the cheap hotels.  But, the hiking is wonderful this time of year, which is the main reason we visit the mountains, and you don’t know what kind of hiking you’re going to get.  It could still be Autumn like conditions, the trails could be clear, and hiking excellent.  Or, it could be full-on snow-covered trails that require clamp ons.  Either way, if you are prepared, you are in for a great hiking adventure.

We headed to the mountains for a weekend hiking adventure during the first week of December.  Our hotel was $98 Cad, so it didn’t dent the wallet too much.  The weather was sunny and around -5 Celsius.  Which sounds somewhat cold, but when you are hiking through the snow, it feels like it’s 20 degrees out.  It’s always important to check the weather because we slid our trip into a warm period.  The week leading up to our trip was -20 degrees and the day we left for home the mercury dipped to -17…too cold for family hiking.  Our limit is -10.


We were prepared for all hiking conditions so when it snowed quite heavily the night we arrived, we were prepared for trudging through the snow the next day.  I can’t stress how important the above checklist is for hiking.  Over the past few years we have made multiple mistakes and miscalculations in terms of weather and preparedness.  The list above will get you onto the trail and to the end safely.  We always plan one big hike per day in the winter, because the hikes take longer and we expend more energy in the snow and cold.  And then we will do a small hike; More of a sightseeing hike.


This trip, with clamp-on’s secured to our boots, we headed to the Maligne Canyon.  The river wasn’t quite frozen yet, so we were unable to hike in the canyon, and instead we hiked along the top following the trail you would take in the summer.  The clamp on’s were essential, allowing us to make it to the end with an autistic 8-year-old while passing adults without the traction aids were forced to turn back.  Slowly, as we expended energy, the layers had to come off.  The hike took longer than we expected, even for a winter hike, but our son has become a fairly good hiker.  We put him on a treadmill about 5 days a week so he stays in hiking shape…might be time for his mom and dad to hit the treadmill as well.


Our second day of hiking took us to the Old Fort Road, but trust me it is no road.  Its a slow gradual climb through a winter forest.  The trail was a long one trudging through the snow.  The kid loves hiking amongst the trees, specifically if the sun shimmers through the canopy so he can get some stim time.  We had to stop several times to rest and peel off layers.  One thing we didn’t bring was extra mitts.  The temperature rising combined with the exercise and falling in the snow lead to some wet mitts.  Luckily the temperature didn’t dip and we got away with it.  I can imagine if the temperature fell we would have had very cold hands by the end of the trail.  Next trip we will add extra mitts.IMG_0703IMG_6550IMG_6563

The views from the summit made all the hiking worth the trip.  Blue skies and a clear view of the Rockies are all a hiker can ask for.  The decent got a little tricky, but the spikes helped and we would never have been able to climb down and finish the trail without them.  I did have to drag the Kid in some parts because the edge was a little to perilous and I wanted to be sure be sure we didn’t slip and picking him up was a little too dangerous.IMG_6555

My son just turned eight at the time of this trip.  We always pick easy to moderate trails with limited elevation changes.  We are planning to tackle some trails in the spring and summer that will change elevation quickly, but if you’re looking for good beginner winter hikes in Jasper, the Maligne Cannon and the Old Fort Road are doable, beautiful, and rewarding hikes.  The exercise, fresh air, and incredible scenery is restorative…and so we hike.



Autism and Why We Hike

Autism SoulMy son had such a difficult first few years.  So many problems and health issues that accompanied his autism.  He is non-verbal, which severally complicates just about everything, his autism is severe, and add a good dose of epilepsy and hypoglycemia and my wife and I were always in a state of extreme worry with frequent bouts of panic.  We concentrated so hard on his autism and all it’s wonderful accompaniments that our health began to decline, especially my wifes.  With no family support and us being older parents we needed to make a change; we needed to stop trying to fix the autism and start fixing the family.

I also began to get concerned with my son’s level of physical activity.  He wasn’t running and jumping like other children.  He had no friends to horseplay with.  There were no sports he could play.  Fitness had to play a larger role in our families life.  The Kid spent more and more time on his iPad and in front of the TV.  Our health as a family, the stress, and really the fact that we weren’t having any fun weighed heavy on us.

We needed a change.  Autism was mentally and physically picking us apart.  We needed a new approach, a new strategy, a new plan, a new something.  I remembered that when I was young and our family would hit a low point for whatever reason, my dad would say “ok that’s enough, we are all going out to diner”.  Simple, for some it is routine, but for our family it got us out of the rut we were in and we had a little fun family time without any distractions.  With all that had happened with our son and the way we were struggling, we needed a vacation from our life.

We packed the car and headed to the mountains.  Completely unsure if leaving our comfort zone was wise, the comfort zone that was eating us alive.  We left the chores, doctor’s appointments, the endless parade of therapists through the apartment, and the internet research behind.  Driving out of the city, I instantly felt better.  The Kid didn’t seem to mind the four hour drive.  We were about to introduce a ton of change and completely destroy his routine.  When the mountains appeared on the horizon, I knew this would be good for us.IMG_1820

We set up the hotel room with all of the Kid’s favorite items and after the four hour drive he was so excited to have his iPad that he barely noticed the change in environment.  In the morning we hit the breakfast buffet, loaded up on energy and headed to our first trailhead.  We used A Canadian Rockies Companion Guide entitled Walks & Easy Hikes in the Canadian Rockies.  IMG_5323


We chose short 2-3 kilometer hikes that were flat trails.  We all loved the drive through the mountains and the hiking was beautiful.  Pictures don’t do the scenery justice.  We stopped often to have snacks and take in the scenery.  We fit in three hikes per day, one in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  Between the hiking, sun, and the fresh mountain air, by the end of the day we were all exhausted.  A couple hours of TV for us and iPad for the Kid and sleep was welcome and came easy.  It’s amazing how long the day seems when you don’t have a billion appointments clogging up your schedule.IMG_1834

We hiked for two more full days, taking in as much mountain air as we could until our bodies told us we had enough.  Surprisingly, the Kid only had one seizure during our trip and only one bad bout of that infamous searing diarrhea that autistic kids seem to get.  So, health wise, as a family, we didn’t descend too far into chaos.  Phisically tired, but mentally rejuvinated, we headed home to tackle the next round of appointments.

The moutains, the fresh air, the animals we saw, and the natural untouched nature we hiked through repaired some of the damage the years of stress and fear the Kid’s condition had done.  We felt it.  That energy you see so abundant in some and so depleated in others, call it health, spirit, or the soul, that energy had returned to us.  Not completely returned, but enough so we felt we could face the coming months.We agreed to return in a few months.  The benifits to my family were too great to ignore.  Hiking is easy and supports both the mind and body.

The simplest way to repair the spirit is to walk among the trees…and so we Hike.



Nature, Autism, Stress, and the Soul.

I saw this on Google +, sorry I’m new to this and can’t figure out how to post the link, but I thought I would share this because I see the difference in my family and feel the rejuvenation after our trips to the mountains.

Sometimes (actually all the time) dealing with the symptoms that accompany autism doctors, therapists, appointments, disappointments, failures, drawbacks, errands, sickness, seizures, and chores can weigh heavy on the soul.

We try to walk outside everyday regardless of the temperature; Leave the stale air of the apartment and experience the weather.

Nature nourishes and replenishes the soul…and so we hike.