Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Importance of Introducing My Kids to the Outdoor Community--My Community

A thumbs up from Mack on an olde tyme bigge wheele bicycle at the Tour of Alberta Festival.
Part of raising outdoor kids is exposing them (a.k.a. making them do stuff) not just to the outdoors, but to outdoor culture and the outdoor community. I have to admit that I haven't done a very good job of this, but over the past year I've been making this a priority.

Why? I'm part of the outdoor community and I want to share that community with my sons. I'd like them to decide to become part of it with me, although I accept that we each have to follow our own path. It's a pretty fun community to be part of, though, and I'm pretty sure Mack and Michael have realized that. I've met some pretty amazing people through my outdoor adventures (some less than amazing people too, but what are you going to do?), and those adventures have taken me from the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island at the age of 12 to a 5,900 m peak in Ecuador at the age of 44. The outdoors and the outdoor community have helped me deal with hard times and provided more good times than I can even remember.

This weekend I hadn't planned anything of the outdoor community kind, but two opportunities presented themselves and I eagerly grabbed hold. The first was an invite from a fellow outdoor parent to join her, her son and some friends at the Best of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival at a neat little hamlet by the name of Bragg Creek on Saturday night. Mack, Michael and I duked it out in good fun with our inviters over a paint ball package in the silent auction (ultimately, we both lost the bidding, which was probably for the best). And at the last minute we lost the bidding for a sweet package of cycling clothes made by a local company called Brainface. Yes, the boys and I like a good silent auction. Mack and Michael also saw me drooling over bespoke skis made by another local company, Snoday, and began drooling themselves. There's nothing like drooling over outdoor gear for good old fashioned male bonding.

I also ran into an old friend, Paul, who I hadn't seen in a while, and reintroduced the boys to him. And the boys were totally into the films, including Mountains in Motion, an awesome short film written by fellow outdoor family blogger Meghan Ward. I also finally got to see Shattered, a short film by climber Steve House, and walked away from the festival comforted that even world-class high-altitude mountaineers deal with the same doubts and fears as I do. That my boys, only 9 and 13, then wanted to talk about the film, House's fears and why he climbed made the shared experience an incredibly rich one. It spurred a talk about the risks I take in the mountains that I need to have with them on a regular basis, but don't initiate often enough.

Sunday, I saw on Facebook that a friend, Cynthia, was working the Ft. Calgary booth at the Tour of Alberta Festival. I take the boys trail biking a few times a year, but I'm not really a "cyclist" and I'm definitely not a road biker or into Tour de France stuff. But there were world class bike racers in this, the inaugural Tour of Alberta, the boys love the food trucks that are always at these things, and it's all part of the outdoor community.

What a fantastic afternoon we had! We ran into Paul again, visited Cynthia's booth and got pictures of the boys in North West Mounted Police uniforms, ran into my hiking friend Maija who was volunteering at the TELUS Spark booth (we gotta get out hiking together soon!), bumped into Bob (I've known him since grade 5 and he's now married to Cynthia), got interviewed by Val who's a Calgary Herald columnist and a friend and one of my former editors at Avenue Magazine (I was a journalist in a past life) who I haven't seen for years, talked with a colleague who'd crashed in the GranFondo Banff a couple weeks earlier and was now sporting a wrist cast and a concussion...

Then there were all the other things. A balance course that Mack aced and Michael persevered on until he made it. Olde tyme bigge wheele bicycles that Mack again mastered quickly but were too big for Michael (although he did get an invaluable lesson in how to get a pretty girl to put her arms around him; see photo below...that's my boy!). Give aways like water bottles, cycling socks and Jelly Belly's. The energy that surrounds the finish line of world-class athletic events. All three of us soaked it in. We weren't just part of the outdoor community, we felt like we were part of it and part of something much bigger than ourselves.

Much like we feel when we're in the mountains--part of something much bigger than ourselves.

A lesson in how to get a pretty to girl to put her arms around you. That's my boy!


  1. Thanks for the kind mention about Mountains in Motion, Ken!


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