The Adventures in Parenthood Project

The Adventures in Parenthood Project is an exploration into the transition of outdoor adventurers to parenthood.

Profile photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Meghan is a winner of Top 25 Outdoorsy Moms - 2013

What's your favorite affordable outdoor activity to do with your kids?

My daughter is only a few weeks old, but I can still offer some perspective on this question.

My website for outdoor parents has a unique focus and explores not just outdoor parenting but also the transition of outdoor adventurers to parenthood. I started The Adventures in Parenthood Project before I even became pregnant, which eventually happened in June 2012. From there I used the project to explore my own journey as an outdoors enthusiast – familiar with a life full of spontaneity and independence – to motherhood. I live in an outdoorsy community where many couples struggle with the decision to have a child for fear of the impact that will have on their lifestyle. On the website I have been writing about my own experience and have also included interviews with other adventurous parents to establish different perspectives.

As such, I don’t yet have a favourite affordable outdoor activity to do with my daughter. But I do have recommendations for outdoors activities you can pursue with your yet-to-be-born child. I tried to stay as active as I could through my pregnancy and enjoyed hiking in the summer and fall and cross-country skiing in winter. Both of these activities allowed me to stay strong and didn’t have too much impact on my pelvic floor, which couldn’t bear as much pressure as before. These activities were also much safer than my usual choices of mountaineering, traditional rock climbing and backcountry ski touring, which, if anything, I didn't have the energy for while I was pregnant. I found that the side-to-side motion of hiking or cross-country skiing rocked the baby to sleep and felt gentle on my body. It was very special to share my love for outdoor adventure with my daughter when she was in the womb, and hopefully that was the beginning of a lifelong relationship that she’ll have with the natural world.

Affordable outdoor activities I intend to pursue with my daughter are hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing. My husband and I are pretty stoked to carry her on the trails we love so much and expose her to the fresh air. Being so small, she may not know what’s going on all the time, but hopefully, even just on a visceral level, these outdoor experiences will stay with her.

What tips do you have for spending time outdoors when its cold?

I live in Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada) and see a fairly long winter, so I’m used to spending time outdoors when it is cold. Even in the summer our night time temperatures can drop well below zero, so hiking late in the day or camping overnight often require one to be prepared for colder weather. Here are a few of my tips:

-Ensure everyone is dressed properly, which means using a layering system to keep the body warm and dry (moisture wicking against the skin, insulating middle layer and a waterproof/windproof outer layer).

-If you are enjoying a more rigorous activity, keep moving and don’t let yourself get too hot. Take off a layer before you feel you’re going to sweat and add a layer before you get too cold. Avoid standing in one position for too long and shake out your hands and feet if you feel some numbness coming on. If your toes get quite cold, take off your boots, replace any wet socks with dry ones and rub your toes until they are warm again. If you are being immobile – camping or taking a lunch break, for instance – having extra warm layers on hand, including a hat, mitts and warm socks, will give you added protection against the cold.

-Bring warm food and liquids and add some sweetness or spice to keep the body warm on the inside. Put some hot chocolate with a pinch of chili pepper or some chai tea in a thermos to have ready for a break on the trail or for drinking around the campfire. If you can, bring hot food along if you’re spending the night out. It takes more work to prepare but is definitely worth it and will quickly warm the body.

What's a great vacation destination for families that want to spend time outside?

Perhaps I’m biased since I live in Banff National Park, but the Canadian Rockies are an amazing destination for families wanting to spend time outside. The mountain parks have a variety of activities available to families year round, including hiking, biking, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, camping and more. The parks present the perfect combination of accessibility and pristine beauty, allowing you to drive to trailheads and then quickly escape into the wilderness. Better yet, particularly Banff National Park is located very close to an international airport in Calgary, so that you can fly in and be in the mountains in less than two hours.

These national parks in Alberta and British Columbia also have their share of amenities and accommodations no matter what your style, so you can keep things rough and camp out under the stars, or enjoy outdoor activities from a huge selection of hotels, bed and breakfasts and mountain lodges, including some lodges located in the backcountry.

Some of my favourite outdoor activities that would be great for families include hiking to Helen Lake, Bow Glacier Falls or the Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff National Park; staying in backcountry huts, such as the Stanley Mitchell Hut in Yoho National Park or mountain lodges like Skoki Lodge; downhill skiing high up in the alpine at one of Banff’s three ski areas; cross country skiing on the Minnewanka Loop or in the Lake Louise area; scrambling up many of the ‘hikeable’ mountains in the area; and paddling on the Bow River, Johnson Lake or Bow Lake. Older kids could try my other favourite outdoor activities to do in the Canadian Rockies: rock climbing, mountaineering, caving or ski touring.

I encourage anyone looking for an outdoor vacation to consider the mountain parks of western Canada. Just be ready for some wild weather and incredible views!

What's the best form of exercise for a tired, busy mom who wants to get back in shape?

Meghan J. Ward

Walking! This gives you exercise, helps you get outside, gets you moving and even gives you a chance to run your errands with your baby in tow (no need to have someone come to watch the little one). Get a set-up that allows you to comfortably bring your baby along. I am using a front baby carrier for the first few months, which gives my body added resistance while I'm walking. If you're tired, a walk in the fresh air will actually give you more energy, not tire you out further. Your baby also needs some fresh air, so it will do you both good (we actually find that our baby sleeps better at night when she's had some time in the outdoors). Challenge yourself to get outside each and every day - it's not always easy to get out the door. Even just five to ten minutes outside will feel great!
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