Doing the things you love with the one’s you love

For the past eight years, Pete and I have spent several weeks during each summer traveling and exploring the United States. Two years ago, when our daughter Ella was born, venturing to the great outdoors became more challenging as planning and preparing for the unexpected and expected needs of an infant and toddler trumped our fly by outdoor adventures. We have learned and grown much over the past seven vacations, three camping trips, and numerous flights to visit family.  We have learned there is a very fine line between pushing your child a little outside their comfort zone, and pushing them beyond the joy of adventure and into the disgust of exhaustion, hunger, dehydration, and sleep deprivation. Although, it sounds simple, crossing over into the latter state, comes quicker and more regretful than you may plan or prepare for. Here is how we spent our latest trip exploring both Grand Teton National Park and Glacer National Park.

Pete, an avid runner and in great condition, allowed him the opportunity to add challenge into our family adventures by easily carting around our 24 pound 2 yr old. While in the Tetons, we decided to spend our one full day, hiking up Cascade Canyon. Our traditional and by far favorite hike in the park. Although we were unable to make it to the top of the canyon due to snow pack, and my own fatigue, we were able to hike a total of 11 miles that day. The trek itself took us about 6 hours as we began the flat hike around Jenny Lake allowing Ella to trompe through the woods and run along the trail herself totaling around one mile on her own two feet. Beginning the hike in the mid morning, and after a good 45 minutes of walking she was ready to have a snack int the pack, followed by a nap.  This allowed Pete and I the opportunity to pick up the pace covering a solid three or so miles in a much shorter period of time. Once in the thick of the canyon we were able to stop for a brief lunch, play time, and some more solo hiking for Ella. I have learned that it is usually time to turn around when the first melt down begins to occur. At this point, I know fatigue is settling in, and it serves as a warning that more will follow if we don’t clue in to her “I’ve had it” request. I also am aware, that in a total of about 6 hrs we can usually cover 10-12 miles depending on the uphill terrain and the two short naps we count on somewhere in the mix. We usually have to stop about three times to let Ella out for snacks and run around time but really try to do most of our feeding with her in the pack and on the move. Using the nap time to hike faster, allows us to get a good workout and cover more terrain before our turn around cue chimes in. We also plan for a beginning, middle, and ending walking period for her as her two feet desire to move too. This process was repeated in Glacer as we spent another full day trekking up miles of switchbacks to breathtaking views of waterfalls, mountain goat, and wild flowers. The last day, we wanted Ella to be able to move as much as possible so we picked a shorter and more “kid freindly” hike allowing her to walking a whopping 2 ½ miles to a cool and crisp glacer lake. Quintessential views and terrain to Glacer National Park. Ella loved hiking on her own and feeling the accomplishment and pride that she too could hike just like her parents do. I do believe this is so important in helping our kids grow fond of what the outdoors have to offer. We made sure to talk about the animals and the things we saw along the way, using our time together as a learning experience and a memorable moment.

Our second day in Glacer was spent biking 22 miles of the park’s famous road leading up a gradual incline to the top of breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and streaming waterfalls. The uphill climb took around 3 ½ hours with stops for picture taking, rests, and road construction. Pete carted Ella on the back of his bike in the trailer that was conveniently used for both biking and running. She tends to love this more than the hiking backpack as there is more room to move around and therefore more room for toys and snacks. Because the trailer is inclosed she is protected from weather changes and some of the intensity the sun offers during the middle of the day. I load her up with snacks, toys, and water during the trek. Although buckled in, she is still able to sleep sitting somewhat upright and play without too much assistance. On this particular trip, I even threw play dough in for the ride. But most importantly, we keep our phones charged and on hand for those last few miles when a 30 minute Winnie the Pooh clip is essential for getting us home!

We ended our week-long trip with a half marathon up and down the main road in Glacer National Park. Ella was a total trooper as she buckled down for yet another 2 yr ride along the road. This time instead of being pulled by our bikes, she was pushed in the trailer up and down the canyon. We purposely timed this run to coincide with her nap which worked perfectly, as she snored her way threw our huffs and puffs.

Pete and I love the outdoors. We love hiking, biking, running, and getting out in nature whenever we have the free time. But there is nothing more special than doing it with the little life we created and the being we love more than fresh air itself. Making Ella a part of our outdoor adventures is challenging and often exhausting, but worth more than a picture could capture. May you find adventure with your family this summer!

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Fueling for the Great Outdoors

Pete and I ventured into the great outdoors this summer with our energetic and excited toddler. Planning a camping, hiking, biking, and running road trip with a 2 yr old caused me to search the grocery isles and dig deep within my creative mind to come up with food and snacks for Ella. We spent the first two nights camping and hiking around Grand Teton National Park, followed by three nights in a cabin on the west side of Glacer National Park. Each day was filled with hours of exploring the breathtaking landscape and keeping a 2 yr old entertained and nutritiously fed. Both were a bit challenging. Here are a few ideas I found helpful in keeping Ella energized during her outdoor adventures.

Most natural food stores (like Wholefoods, Trader Joe’s, or Sunflower Market) sell fruit/veggie smoothie drinks that do not need refrigeration. All you do is twist off the cap, and your child not only has a nutritious drink but an easy fill of a variety of fruits and veggies. I purchased two different flavors of Ella’s Kitchen at our local Sunflower Market. Ella loved squeezing the flavor out of her smoothies at the top of a long hike. This particular brand, offers a large range of products from beginner baby food to toddler meals. Other stores, offer different varieties and brands of similar products; all perfect for day hikes. Fruit snacks, dried fruit, applesauce, and even animal crackers provide great fillers for the in-between times. In the baby section of the grocery store, I found a non refrigerated yogurt which was absolutely perfect and helped with meeting Ella’s dairy needs. Although I did not use any of the other prepackaged toddler foods, Gerber makes a wide variety of meals you could purchase for on the go travels. When I did have access to a refrigerator or an ice cooler cheese sticks were a must. Bananas and other easy to eat fruit came with us wherever we went. I made some homemade granola bars (recipe to follow) to take with us but you can obviously purchase these too. I also threw together my own trail mix packed with nuts and pretzels. We made several peanut and butter and jelly sandwiches, and carried little apple juice box drinks to help prevent the inevitable traveler’s constipation. I kept milk around for breakfast and dinner but only brought water on the trails for hydration. They key was to have access to snacks where and whenever she needed refueling and/or entertainment. Dinner was our largest meal of the day, helping to offset any needs that were not met for breakfast or lunch. We split our time between cooking and eating out. All in all, I would say Ella ate the best on this trip than prior trips I hadn’t quite planned adequately for. When it comes to kids, more is always better and picking foods your specific child will like is the key. Once you have a happy and healthy kid, they are more likely to fall in love with the great outdoors just as you did!

Coming up next… how to do the things you love with the little ones you love.

Millcreek Canyon

Millcreek canyon is nestled between Parley’s canyon and Big Cottonwood canyon. It is one of Salt Lake City’s premiere recreational areas. Within twenty minutes of downtown, hikers, bikers, runners, cross-country skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts have access to miles of breathtaking views andnatural landscape. The canyon traverses nine miles uphill passing handfuls of trails, picnic areas, restaurants, and places to stay. The area is open to dogs off-leash on odd days. On even days, bikers are free to explore the top of Millcreek where you will find high alpine lakes, moose, and connections to Salt Lake’s famous Big Cottonwood canyon. This is a watershed area, so no dogs allowed out of Millcreek canyon. During the warmer months, you will find lots of people picnicking along the creek, hiking along the ridge, and running along the famous Pipeline trail. In the colder part of the year, many snowshoers stomp along the trails and cross-country skiers terrain across the closed road six miles from the base of the canyon. For those heading up Millcreek, for a romantic dinner or getaway, Log Haven is a state of the art restaurant featuring local cuisin by their award-winning chef and staff. It has perhaps the most romantic eating area in all of Salt Lake. You can dine inside or outside, with views of water streaming down the hillside or the changing leaves in the fall. Millcreek Inn is located three miles up the canyon. On most given weekends, you will hear the laughter and music of a wedding reception at this lovely site. Perfect for a place to stay and rest during a weekend getaway. With so much to do in Millcreek canyon, no wonder it is one of Salt Lake’s most visited and loved recreational areas.

Pete and I have spent many cherished memories exploring this canyon. Some of our favorite hiking trails are accessed here such as Lambs canyon which begins about five miles up Millcreek road and heads towards Parleys’ canyon. One of our dogs personal favorite hikes is Dog Lake via Big Water and Little Water trails located at the top of Millcreek road. After a gradual three mile hike uphill, your dog has full access to a large high alpine lake. From there, you can continue (without Fido) to Desolation Lake and the Wasatch Crest, a must-do on any Salt Lake hikers list. This is a great place to see wildflowers, ridge line views, and wild life. Some of Pete’s favorite mountain biking trails include the Big Water and Wasatch Crest trails located at the top of Millcreek. And his ultimate favorite ride begins at the top of Big Cottonwood canyon where he descends down the crest trail in Millcreek and continues to the Pipeline where he finishes a twenty-mile ride. Together, Pete and I have both enjoyed many miles of trail running and road running in Millcreek. For a quick, and fairly flat run, we would begin at Butler Fork or Church Fork and run along the Pipeline trail. For a more mountain climb, Pete likes to ascend either Big Water or up Alexander creek trails. Pete, along with a few others, have even been known to run through the night along thirty miles of moonlit trails all along the Millcreek 50K.Lastly, as a family, we have enjoyed snowshoeing many of these same trails. One of favorites, is along Thaynes canyon just above Millcreek Inn. We have even been known to road ride up the entire nine mile canyon, and then back down in half the time! Here are some of our favorite pictures.