My Favourite Things From 2015

I resisted writing this post today for various reasons. Busyness. Fatigue. Repetition. Mainly, I wondered if these more personal reflections are better kept in a journal.

But, as usual, my keyboard called me back.

I have been doing a year-end review online for nearly ten years, in one form or another. And every time it forces me to sit down and count my blessings, to recount the moments that made me smile. I have also enjoyed reading the annual reflections that other people are posting and think it’s silly to keep these thoughts to yourself. Putting them out there helps to spread positivity in this world, and I think there can never be too much of that. 

I recently heard that it’s in being grateful that we find joy and not the other way around. So, call this year-end round-up my way of expressing gratitude for yet another year of memorable, sometimes miraculous, things. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes the ‘top-of-mind’ items stand out for a reason. In no particular order…

My Husband.

If you’re wondering who inspires me, it’s my husband, a guy who chases his dreams with relentless passion. Seriously. I don’t know anyone else who, among many other things, stays up all hours of the night waiting to shoot dramatic and innovative photos of the Northern Lights, plans photography workshops in his dream destinations like Greenland, keeps up with a massive social media community, and manages to find an amazing amount of time for his wife and daughter.

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Paul under The Milky Way over the mountains in Mount Assinboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.

My Dream Job.

A “dream” job does not imply that everything is easy. While it’s quite the opposite, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful way and sink my teeth into an exciting project. Many of you have already seen a bit of what Crowfoot Media is up to, but I can’t wait to release the first volume of the Canadian Rockies Annual, our beautiful print magazine (if you’d like to have it, order a copy!).

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This is a mock up. Yeah, we make you wait for the real thing. ;)

My Daughter.

This little rock star is growing up to be a beautiful human, inside and out, with the most vibrant and vivacious personality in 100-square-kilometre radius. She calls me to be my best self each and every day and opens my eyes to new ideas and possibilities I often overlook. I love her spirit and can’t wait to create some new memories with her in 2016.

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This Quilt.

My mother sewed this quilt for my daughter for Christmas this year. It makes me grateful for the family ties and the love that flows through the generations. I don’t take this lightly as I have a number of people in my life who don’t share in this privilege. So here’s my shout out to anyone who has (or is married to someone with) Ward or Moore blood running in their veins, including my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews.

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Our Trip to Belize.

It was an ‘easy’ trip by our standards, in that we didn’t rough it or explore as much as we usually do. But it was exactly what we needed. We learned the hard way that on previous trips we had pushed our little girl a bit too far past the limits of her temperament. (On that note, you can read about that in The Difference a Year Makes).

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Biking to The Split on Caye Caulker, Belize. iPhone snap by Paul Ziza.

My Business Partner. 

The very term feels a bit too stifled since I’m lucky my Crowfoot Media business partner and I work insanely well together and we get along! Dee Larosa (Medcalf) is one of the most talented designers I know (check out Phaneric.com), and I am eternally grateful for her attention to detail and self-motivation. Knowing we can lock ourselves up for hours on end for a work retreat or take off in the backcountry for four days and come out still talking is totally awesome!

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Me and Dee (left) and our volunteers at the Spindrift Sessions back in June. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson/Spindrift Photography.

Mountains!

It has been a long journey back to this point, and one I’ve written about in depth over on AdventurousParents.com. This past year, I went on three backcountry trips (to Lake O’Hara/Abbott Pass Hut, Skoki and Egypt Lakes) and climbed Mt. St. Nicholas, Mt. Cory, Mt. St. Piran, Fairview, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Lesser Pharoah Peak, Cirque Peak, Wastach Peak (am I forgetting a bunch?). The best thing was I fell right back into my stride as if I’d never taken a break.

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Coming down from St. Nicholas Peak. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

 

And to complete the list…

I am grateful for my house, my friends (who shall go unnamed so that I don’t forget anybody!), my writing nook, the gym with the awesome views, cappuccinos, chocolate, hiking, biking with my little girl, yoga, skiing, Paw Patrol, gluten free baking,  Wild Women Magazine, Aventura Clothing, our Crowfoot Media contributors, the last light on Cascade Mountain, and everything else, even the ugly stuff that made me stronger.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

The Real Things a Girl Thinks About on a Hike

Like many people who read “12 Things a Girl is Probably Thinking About on a Hike“, I was left feeling quite disturbed by the shallowness of the piece. I immediately started pondering how I’d rewrite it. A friend of mine and fellow writer, Tera Swanson, beat me to it, and did such a bang-on job, I thought I’d reblog it for you here. It is beautifully written, and one of Tera’s best pieces to date (in my opinion!). Enjoy!

Originally posted on The Wander Journals:

By Tera Swanson

After recently reading an article a friend had shared with me regarding “what girls probably think about on a hike,” it opened some conversation with the women in my life who enjoy the outdoors as to what we did or didn’t relate to, how it portrayed outdoor women, and what our motivations were for getting out there. Turns out that yes, you can care how your hair looks and enjoy hiking too. Or not care. That is also ok.

Hence, I’ve compiled my own 12 thoughts and traits of “girls who hike” that I’ve gathered from these conversations and my own contemplations – let me know whether or not you agree!

1) We check in with our hiking partners. How is everyone doing? What are our group’s strengths and weaknesses, as individuals and as a whole? Sometimes we need a little push to overcome things that seem a lot scarier than they really are. Sometimes we need to pay close attention to our partners when they are becoming more and more anxious, but won’t make the call to pull out. And sometimes we explore with people who are way overconfident in their abilities. It’s important to check in with others, as well as make note of your own thought process and comfort levels.

Read the rest of the article on The Wander Journals.

Win Tickets to the Calgary Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show

Western Canada’s largest outdoor adventure and travel marketplace, The Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show, returns to the Stampede Park BMO Centre on March 21 and 22, 2015! This exciting two-day event offers a large selection of exhibits, interactive demos, and celebrity guest appearances. Learn all about the show here!

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Be sure to follow the Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show on their social media channels: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Giveaway

You can win Tickets to the Calgary Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show, taking place on March 21-22, 2015! I’m giving away 2 x Family Four Packs. Please enter only if you are able to attend the show.

Contest open to entries until March 1 at 11:59pm MST.

→Enter to win tickets here

Take a Moment for “Wanderment” by Doug Urquhart

From the maker of Mountains in Motion and Eye of the Beholder, Doug Urquhart’s latest masterpiece is Wanderment (chosen today as a Vimeo Staff Pick!). Having worked with Doug before I know first-hand just how much of a genius he is with his craft, and how humble he is about it. Wanderment demonstrates his artistry and eye for detail, his passion for the wilderness, and desire to bring that beauty to others.

Take five minutes and watch the video below.

Synopsis

Best Viewed in Full Screen (with scaling turned off)

From meandering streams and forest-dwelling organisms to the grandeur of high mountains above tree-line, this short film wanders through the contrasting wilderness of Alaska, North Carolina, Georgia and California.

WANDERMENT is the result of a 12-month collection of 4K time-lapse sequences captured while backpacking. Countless miles of hiking in the Appalachian Mountains and adventurous backpacking in California and Alaska provided no shortage of opportunity to capture the planet’s poetry in motion. Further juxtaposing these contrasting landscapes is the use of both color and black and white techniques throughout the film. Each time-lapse sequence, comprised of hundreds of still images, represents a chance to share these reflective moments far away from urban epicenters. It offers a simple reminder to step outside with your friends and family to experience and respect nature first-hand.

WANDERMENT from The Upthink Lab on Vimeo.

Finding Inspiration at the Banff Mountain Book Festival

Considering the quantity of sold out events this year at the Banff Mountain Book Festival, I think it’s safe to say that it is no longer a best-kept secret, and no longer the ‘little sister’ to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. On a more personal note, the book festival has always been my favourite part of the festivals – not only because it offers a more intimate experience, but also because words are my medium of choice, the way I process information, my lifeline.

As a writer, the Banff Mountain Book Festival encourages me to dig deeper, to find the story really worth telling and to continue sharpening my skills so that perhaps one year it will be me up on that stage presenting my own book. But for now I’m content to learn from others, to absorb from a seat in the audience, and bring the stories of others to you.

I can’t recap the entire book festival, but the events today offered a particularly good mix of topics and styles. They also brought with them lessons we can apply to our own lives, which I’ll summarize here:

The Calling.Barry Blanchard kicked off the with the presentation of his book, The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains. I was familiar with his book, having reviewed it for The Campsite a few weeks ago, but it was refreshing to hear him reading his own words. In fact, the book read better aloud than it did in my head, and listening to Barry gave the stories new life and the audience an opportunity to laugh. It is clear the crowd – a home crowd for Barry – simply loves this man, and that spoke as loud as his words. One thing I learned from Barry, both through his climbing stories and his account of challenges writing the book, is the importance of perseverance. If you eventually want to see something in print, you need to work away at it, letter by letter, word by word.

Paddlenorth.Next, author Jennifer Kingsley presented her book, Paddlenorth – an account of a 54-day, 1100-kilometre journey she made with friends on the Baillie and Back Rivers in Nunavut. While she didn’t intend to write a book about the trip, the experience motivated her to do so. She didn’t reveal too much about her book (I’ll have to read it!), however a few things she said caught my attention. First, she made a comment about how modern travel allows you to get from one destination to another very quickly, but that does not mean that you have caught up emotionally and psychologically. This also ties into a comment she made about returning home from such a voyage: “This is the kind of trip that when I got home, it wouldn’t lie down,” she said. Having been on a few longer stints of travel, I can relate to both of these comments – to needing time to catch up to my destination and needing time to unravel the threads of the experience once I’m home.

Great Bear Wild.Finally, photographer, conservationist, and author of Great Bear Wild, Ian McAllister, took the stand. I was familiar with McAllister’s incredible photographs, just not the stories behind them. Walking the audience through the backstories of his images, McAllister conveyed a deeper understanding of these magnificent creatures. By explaining their contexts through human analogies, I could relate to the wildlife in a way I never had before. I appreciated these stories because these are the creatures and habitats (alongside First Nations communities) under threat due to the plans to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Through McAllister I learned that the Great Bear Rainforest is actually an area that is seeing regeneration and a resurgence of life. It would be a shame to see that compromised. Be sure to check out PacificWild.org for more information on what you can do about that.

The festival doesn’t wrap up until Sunday night, so be sure to check out the Banff Mountain Festivals to snag any remaining tickets.

Keep following along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for dispatches from the field!

Special Announcement: The Campsite Finds New Owners

Back in January 2011 I had a vision: to create an online community that would facilitate discussion about the outdoor lifestyle and the inner journeys we experience there. To give budding writers, or those wanting to hone their skills, a home for their words. To network with the outdoor industry – from longstanding gear companies to grassroots campaigns. To feature high-quality, curated content that would distinguish this outdoor website from a field saturated with outdoor blogs.

Nearly four years later, The Campsite has become just that. It has a loyal community of readers and it has explored the outdoor journey in various forms. It continues to produce highly curated content, and has supported many writers, photographers, organizations and companies along the way. It has nurtured an impressive network. And, finally, in 2014 it was noted for its quality content with a nomination for USA Today/10 Best Readers’ Choice Award for Favourite Hiking and Outdoors Travel Blog – landing in the top ten.

But like many things in life, The Campsite needed new wings to let it evolve. Being a freelance writer, a full-time mom, and a woman with many passion projects, I wanted to see The Campsite thrive, but knew that I would not be the person to take it there. I considered shutting it down, then thought I could bring on someone to help keep it going while I figured out my next steps (thank Helena Artmann for being such an amazing team member!).

The Campsite.

The Campsite.

The Sale

About one month ago, I decided I would list The Campsite for sale using freemarket.com. I used a few websites to get a sense of its value, and took the bold leap to find it new owners. I had no idea what to expect. I had never built and sold a website before. After a quiet first few days, with the odd spark of interest, I got a phone call from a local acquaintance showing a bit more sincerity about taking over The Campsite. After a flurry of text messages, she and her partner were well on their way to putting together an offer for me. I knew instantly that these were the women meant to take over my beloved website. For me, it was about finding the right people to take over and I couldn’t believe these two women had pulled through. To find two other Canadian Rockies souls was a big bonus.

So, I’d like to introduce you to The Campsite‘s new owners as of 2015: Alannah Jensen and Jen Whalen. Alannah, of Lannie Rae Gourmet, and Jen, of Mountain Bound Photography, are teaming up to bring you the next iteration of this outdoor lifestyle blog! They are stoked, to say the least, and I’m equally excited that The Campsite will have the power of these two women behind it. We’ll be sure to give you a proper introduction to these women in the weeks to come.

Of course, I’m a bit sad. It is hard to let go of something you love so much, of something you built and nurtured. But we must let go of things in order to make space for new opportunities. And that’s where my life is leading me right now.

Jen and Alannah, I wish you all the best! And thanks to all of you for your loyal support. You taking the time to read my articles makes it easier to do what I do each day.

Keep Following The Campsite

Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going

Looking over Cory Pass at Mt. Louis. Photo: Adam Zier-Vogel Photography.

Last week I went on a 14-kilometre hike with some friends around Mt. Edith via Cory Pass – in my opinion, one of the best day hikes in Banff National Park. Halfway, we hit Cory Pass and got an incredible view of Mt. Louis. I climbed the Kain route on Mt. Louis in 2011, in what feels like “my past life”. The trad climb took our party 24-hours of solid moving from base to summit to car. To that date, I had never pushed myself so hard. Only my ascent of Mt. Assiniboine comes close to the pride I felt in having reached the iron cross that stands at the top of Louis.

The next summer I was back at the pass with my sister and two months pregnant with Maya. My sister chose our lunch break at the pass to tell me she was expecting, too, and our babies arrived three weeks apart in Spring 2013.

Looking up at Mt. Louis on Friday I wondered if I would ever do a climb like that again. Or is my life drifting in another direction? There are some places on this planet that give us a chance to pause and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Returning to the same location provides us with a baseline that we can use to gauge the changes we’ve been through and how we’ve evolved as people.

Which places on the planet act as your baseline?