Recharging the batteries: An adult trip to Shadow Lake Lodge

The cabins at Shadow Lake Lodge. The first two are the eating cabin and then the reading cabin.

The cabins at Shadow Lake Lodge. The first two are the eating cabin and then the reading cabin.

This past July, I got to check off one of my bucket list items! I’ve always wanted to stay at a backcountry lodge and decided this was the summer we would visit Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.  Usually we like to do backcountry camping trips with friends, though those trips were temporarily put on hold when Little Bear came around.  Since she’s now an independent little toddler, it seems like a good time to take an adult trip.  We had a few potential trips in mind but when I found out I was expecting a Baby Bear in the new year, it sealed the deal that we would celebrate with a fancy lodge experience!

I had done quite a bit of hiking when I was pregnant with Little Bear so I felt fairly confident that I could handle the hike in (14 km with 400 m elevation gain) as I’d be 3.5 months pregnant.  We decided to go for 3 days (2 nights), as it was LB’s first time away from us and I wasn’t sure how many days of hiking I’d be up for.  And it wasn’t exactly cheap!

The hike in on the fire road was very straightforward and rather nice as far as fire roads go.  It was cool for the first half of the hike and then rained/hailed for the second half.  Luckily we had our full goretex gear so no one got wet and it was great motivation to move quickly!  Unluckily for me, pregnancy #2 turned out to be much harder on my body than #1.  Even my small 15 lb pack turned out to be a bit much and by the time we got to the lodge I was limping and ready to sit.  With a good rest that night, I was recovered by the next day so it wasn’t too bad.  It took us about 4 hrs in total to walk up there and as a side note, the “steep” part at the end didn’t seem very steep or sustained in my opinion.

Checking out the clearing views after an afternoon of rain and hail.

Checking out the clearing views after an afternoon of rain and hail.

Same view but in the morning!

Same view but in the morning!

The next day we did a day hike to Gibbon Pass, followed by a post-lunch walk to check out Shadow Lake.  I had originally thought it would be fun to go off trail and explore Copper Mtn but my hips declined that option.  Gibbon Pass was beautiful though, and likely one of the prettiest passes I’ve seen which made the change in plans worthwhile.  We lucked out and had cool weather all day which was lovely to hike in.

The wildflowers on the way up to Gibbon Pass

The wildflowers on the way up to Gibbon Pass were some of the most vibrant I’ve ever seen!

Gibbon Pass

Gibbon Pass

The lodge was amazing! It will definitely be that much harder to go back to backcountry camping now that I know what I’m missing.  We got an individual wood cabin with a wash basin, heater and very comfy bed with a down duvet and wool blankets.  There was even our own porch for afternoon tea!  The communal bathrooms had hot water and showers.  I think the best part though was not having to worry about food. After our hikes we enjoyed afternoon tea, then settled in to the reading cabin to read and chat with everyone.  Dinner was in a separate cabin and was as good as any restaurant I’ve been to. They did a great job preparing high end meals in a off-grid setting.

Hubby and I both agreed that this was the perfect relaxing vacation for hikers and we’d love to do this again sometime after the next bear cub.

Shadow Lake and Mt Ball

Shadow Lake and Mt Ball

In case anyone is in my situation and thinking of heading in while pregnant, here are a few things I’d take note of:

  • The hike in.  My husband didn’t feel like he broke a sweat walking in but I really felt it due to this pregnancy.  I wore a hip stabilizing belt which helped a ton.  I wish I had packed lighter or opted to let hubby carry our stuff in and only carried my water and snack in my bag.
  • Day hikes. There are a lot of day hikes to do from the lodge but many are at least 6 km return with elevation gain.  And this would be after your hike in and before your hike out.  I was ok with the idea of hanging out around the lodge for a day if I didn’t feel good but thankfully felt fine the next day.
  • Food. Let’s just say, between breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, it was a pregnant lady’s dream come true!  Add in the extra calories burned hiking and I was very happy to stuff myself at every meal.  There was always more than enough food and it was delicious.

If anyone has been to any other lodges here or elsewhere, I’d love to hear how they were!

Advertisements

Staying active outside: Pregnancy

Chatting with a friend who is pregnant, I realized that I’m starting to forget all the little details about what it was like being pregnant.  All the miserable parts are getting foggier (thank goodness!) and the fun parts are what is standing out.  I guess this is how women getting around to having a second baby? In any case I thought I would write down what I could recollect about staying active while I still remember.  Before finding out I was pregnant I was very active as you can probably tell by checking out the rest of my blog.  Here is a brief rundown of what I was able to do or didn’t do during those 9 months and how I made it work.   I’m hoping to get a little series going with suggestions for the 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9 month phases of having a baby.

Activities

Hiking

This was my #1 go to activity until the snow started flying.  To better enjoy my hikes I did a few things:

  • Tone down the elevation gain. I tried to stay <500m of elevation gain over 10-12 km.  If the trail was shorter I’d pick something with even less elevation.
  • Bring lots of water.
  • Have someone else (hubby) carry lunch, water and clothes. From early on I wasn’t able to use backpack waist belts comfortably and I hate using a pack without them as it hurts my shoulders.
  • Bring extra warm clothes.  I would get hot easily while hiking so once we stopped it was good to have a sweater or pants to throw on.
  • Wear a hip support belt.  There are specific ones made for pregnancy, I used this one which I bought from Coop Home Health (if you’re in Calgary) and it was covered by my insurance.
  • Bring appropriate food. See below.

A few of the hikes I enjoyed doing were:

  • Chester Lake (Kananaskis)
  • Eiffel Lake (Lake Louise)
  • Ptarmigan Cirque (Highwood Pass)
  • Bear’s Hump & Bertha Lakes (Waterton)
  • Maligne Canyon & Whistler’s Mountain from the gondola (Jasper)
Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O'Hara.

Hiking in to Eiffel Lake

Running

I ran until I was 5 months pregnant at which point the impact of running was more than my poor body could handle.  When I did run, I always wore a waist belt that carried small water bottles as was more thirsty than usual.

Camping

I car camped a few times over the summer and it was ok but the frequency of my trips to the bathroom made it much less enjoyable than usual.

View of Waterton from Bear's Hump. We camped in town and discovered where half of Alberta goes to on long weekends.

View of Waterton from Bear’s Hump. We camped in town and discovered where half of Alberta goes to on long weekends.

Climbing

In my first trimester I climbed indoors on whatever I felt like, but didn’t lead anything.  I did a very easy 5.7 multi-pitch in Chamonix when I was 3 months pregnant which felt really good.  I didn’t climb again after that mostly due to a lack of climbing partners.

Yoga

I took a prenatal yoga class during my last trimester and was impressed with how much it helped me out.  I was initially worried it would be heavy on the “meditation and visualization” side but it turned out to be just perfect and left me feeling stretched out and relaxed.  I highly recommend the prenatal classes at Yoga Mandala in Calgary (Sara is a great teacher!).

Biking

I biked a little during during my 1st and 2nd trimesters (they fell during the summer).  Loading a bike into my trunk was difficult and resulted in not much biking and the purchase of a bike rack.  I did enjoy biking at Glenbow Ranch though I had to walk some of the hills. I’d recommend padded bike shorts.

Watching the CP rail trains go by.

Watching the CP rail trains go by.

Swimming

My last trimester fell during winter and an aquasize class was just what I needed to feel active without having to bundle up for outdoors.  You don’t need to take a prenatal one, I attended a drop in class at the YMCA. Bonus – you get a solid 45 min of feeling semi-weightless!

Skiing

Nope.  Did not do any skiing.  I wasn’t pregnant during downhill season and I’m not a cross country skier – yet!

Snowshoeing

I loved loved loved this during my last trimester.  I was starting to get shoulder season cabin fever and snowshoeing was the cure.  Here are some tips for getting out:

  • Buy good snowshoes! Ever heard the saying a pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back? This is all the more true when you’re already carrying extra weight.
  • Bending over to adjust snowshoes is difficult so give it a try at home before doing it at the trailhead with bare (and cold!) fingers.
  • Wear a hip support belt.
  • Wear good quality, comfortable clothes (see below).

Here are some trails I was loving:

  • Elbow Lake (HIGHLY recommend this.  It’s gorgeous!)
  • Hogarth Lakes
  • Paddy’s Flat (nice because it’s close to the city)
  • Bragg Creek’s Snowshoe Hare trail (this one is a bit long so perhaps so take are not to go further than you’re willing to walk back)
  • Fish Creek. If you stick to what are “dirt” trails in the summer, you can easily snowshoe several kilometres in the park

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

Snowshoeing in Bragg Creek with my jacket panel

Plain ‘ol walking

Most evenings I went for a stroll around the block just to get some fresh air and stretch the legs.

Notes

Food

I took a prenatal class and they recommended eating around 80 g of protein a day as a goal.  On days when I wasn’t active, I found I was happy eating under this but on days I was very active, I ate WAY more than that.  I’m not a dietician but I think it’s good to keep your protein intake in mind when packing lunches and snacks for active days.

Clothes

Activewear really becomes an issue if when you’re hitting your last stages of pregnancy over the winter.  Here is how I handled it:

  • Borrow, borrow, borrow.  A good friend loaned me some fantastic Mountain Mama maternity clothes which I loved.  I also snagged a pair of my dad’s long john’s.
  • Buy select pieces. In particular I’d recommend the Make My Belly Fit panel which allowed me to wear my technical jackets.
  • Improvise.  Cold bum while snowshoeing because your jacket doesn’t go down far enough? Wrap a fleece scarf around yourself to make a faux skirt :)

Hope this helps someone out! If you’d like to read other blogs about staying active during pregnancy I’d recommend the three below.

If anyone has any other tips or good sites I’d loves to hear!

How To: Wear your jackets while pregnant (Make My Belly Fit Review)

If you’re outdoorsy and anything like me, you probably have a large collection of technical jackets you carefully choose from for every outing and lovingly care for.  While I was pregnant, I was able to use my regular jackets until the last trimester which unfortunately coincided with winter.  Leaving jackets unzipped or wearing sweaters were ok in the city but wouldn’t cut it for doing anything active outdoors.  I looked into regular maternity jackets but they turned out to be expensive and mostly “fashion-style” jackets that were more appropriate for the city.

Stealing husbands’ jackets is most common solution I heard to this problem.  Unfortunately my husband only has one down jacket so using it wasn’t an option.  I was, however, able to borrow some of his hardshells and fleeces.

Hubby's fleece and down vest on permanent loan

Snowshoeing at Ptarmigan Cirque with hubby’s fleece and down vest on permanent loan

I was curious to try out Mountain Mama, which makes maternity activewear, but they don’t carry insulated winter jackets.  On a side note, I did buy one of their dresses (Isabelle Maternity Midi Dress) and loved it!  It turned out to be one of my favourite maternity outfits as the fabric was super soft, stretchy and seemed to fit well as I got bigger. (Note – I found the dress ran true to my pre-maternity size).  I’d love to try out more of their clothes, as activewear for use during pregnancy or while nursing is *so* hard to find.

Finally, I decided I on buying a jacket extender panel that I originally saw in a review on Adventures in Parenthood Project.  It’s called Make My Belly Fit and is a black softshell panel that you zip onto your jacket.  It has snaps on the front to allow you to make your jacket bigger or smaller on the top, bottom or both. You can also purchase a matching fleece panel to snap on the inside if it’s really cold out.  I bought both.  Below is a little review of the panel.

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

How does it attach to your jacket? Can you switch between jackets?

The zipper it comes with fit 3 of my jackets.  For the rest I would have had to buy a zipper adapter which I opted not to do as I figured I would be ok with the ones it did fit.  It’s worth checking if it will fit your partner’s jacket as they might want to use it for carrying the baby (see below).

How does it look?

Better than I thought it would! I thought it would look out of place but black matches pretty much everything and I got several compliments on it when I wore it with my Patagonia softshell.  Someone asked when Patagonia had started making maternity jackets (ha!).

Is it warm enough? Does it work?

YES! Even on cold days when I went snowshoeing and wore it with a down jacket, I was more than warm enough and didn’t need the fleece insert.  The panel blocked the wind very well and was water (snow) resistant. I liked that it zipped onto 3 of my jackets so I had some variety in what I could wear.  It was also long enough to zip up to the top of all my jackets.

Post-baby usage?

The bonus with this panel is it’s just as useful post-baby as pre-baby! Firstly, you don’t go back to your original size right away so you’ll still need a jacket that fits afterwards.  Secondly, it’s great for when you want to take a walk with your baby in a carrier.  For little winter babies, it’s so hard to know how to dress them to keep them warm outside.  With the panel, I could dress baby up in a fleece sleeper, stick her in my Boba carrier with a hat, and carry her under my jacket so I knew she’d be warm and out of the wind (I used the fleece insert when I did this).  Baby dressing guesswork: gone!  The panel would be useful until baby is big enough that his/her legs reach below the hem of your jacket.  I’d guess this would be around 4-5 months though I never got to this point as the weather had warmed up by then and I didn’t need to wear a jacket.

Hope this helps anyone looking to stay active when pregnant & with their babies!  If anyone else knows of any other great activewear for use before or after baby I’d love to hear!

Here are some other reviews to check out:

Eiffel Lake larch hike – Second Trimester

As I’m sitting enjoying a tea and watching the snow accumulate, it seems like a good time to catch up on a few posts that have been patiently waiting around since… September.  What can I say, I feel like I go through phrases when I’m either really into blogging or not really feeling it.  The last few months fell in the “not really feeling it” category, probably due to the fact that work was overwhelmingly busy.  Now that things have quieted down, it’s time to catch up!

September will ALWAYS be larch season for me.  Every year, I like to do a few larch hikes: usually one I haven’t done before and one repeat.  Eiffel Lake was a new one for me and it certainly did not disappoint!  This will for sure be added to the list of hikes I would happily repeat.  In case you aren’t a local, larches are these adorably scraggly trees that only thrive in the mountains at very specific elevations.  They are only found in areas that meet their stringent criteria and don’t really look like anything special in the summer (other than the fact their needs are feathery soft!).  In the fall though, there is a 2-3 week period when they turn fluorescent yellow and drop their needles.  We don’t tend to get the deciduous trees out here that you’d see in the east so larches provide that colour change that makes fall feel special.  It’s always hit or miss which weekends will be best for larches AND have the best weather.  The third week of September is generally speaking the best bet but depending on the weather, elevation, location and aspect of the larches, they can be brightest earlier or later.

When to go?

We hiked to Eiffel Lake the second weekend in September and found most of them had started turning this year.  We were also able to avoid the crazy crowds by going earlier in September.  This still meant that we needed to arrive at Moraine Lake early and at 9am we scored the last spot in their miniature parking lot.  A side note, this year Parks Canada started offering shuttle buses from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake on the third weekend in September to help avoid the usual larch hike overcrowding.

Where is it?

This hike leaves from Moraine Lake and follows the same trail as the hike to Larch Valley/Sentinel pass until the top of the switchbacks when it branches off.  We were happy to find that once we branched off to Eiffel Lake, we left 99% of the crowds behind and had the trail almost to ourselves the whole way despite the parking lot being full (and overflowing as we saw on the way out).

 

Canoes on the dock at Moraine Lake first thing in the morning.

Canoes on the dock at Moraine Lake first thing in the morning.  The mountains in the background are part of the Valley of the Ten Peaks that you can see all along the hike.

Difficulty?

The hike is around 12.5 km with a little under 500m of elevation gain.  We did this hike with my parents who are not regular hikers and they did really well and were able to hike the whole thing.  I was 22 weeks pregnant when I did the hike and no problems with the hike.  Until I hit my third trimester, the ~12km hike with <500m gain was the magic number of what I could comfortably tolerate.  If you wanted to take this hike further, there is the option to continue to Wenkchemna Pass which makes the hike around 18km with over 1000m elevation gain.  Several of the groups we met at Eiffel Lake were continuing on to the pass so I have a feeling it’s a well-used trail.  In fact, the whole trail to is very well defined and any intersections are clearly signed.  The only confusion we had was where the lake was.  With a name like Eiffel Lake, I was expected something very large and …. magnificent?  Perhaps in early summer the lake is larger because I thought it was rather small.  Luckily, the surrounding views MORE than make up for the lack of view the lake provides.

Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O'Hara.

Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O’Hara.

Tiiiny little Eiffel Lake.  I couldn't even be bothered to take out my fancy camera so this comes from hubby's cell phone.

Tiiiny little Eiffel Lake. I couldn’t even be bothered to take out my fancy camera so this comes from hubby’s cell phone.

Would I recommend it?

Yup! This will go down in my list of hikes I’d repeat, hopefully with the kidlet next summer!  The trail has a very mild grade, easy switchbacks and is well packed down with few roots and rocks so I think it would be easy with a backpack carrier.  The views though, are what really make this hike memorable.  Not only do you get to see larches for most of the hike, you are essentially skirting the edge of larch valley opposite the Valley of the Ten Peaks and have views of the peaks and glaciers the whole way.  Also, you can hear avalanches and rock fall come down (sometimes you can see it) as the day heats up.

From our lunch spot, this is the view looking back.  I even tried to frame scene with larches!

From our lunch spot, this is the view looking back. I even tried to frame scene with larches!

Stopping for a photo op.  Shorts and a tank top are NOT usual fall hiking clothes out here!

Stopping for a photo op. Shorts and a tank top are NOT usual fall hiking clothes out here!  I even got to test out my lighweight Columbia runners.  They were super breathable, comfortable and light and on the trail.

Pregnancy hiking tips?

For this hike I was really lucky in that the weather was outstanding.  It was bluebird and unusually hot.  Things that I found helpful for hiking in warm weather are as follows:

  • Water (and tons of it!).  Being pregnant has made me thirstier than usually and doubly so when it’s hot out.  I found the best setup was to put one 2L Platypus in hubby’s pack with a hose that I could drink out of quickly.  We would also pack another 1-2L in a second Platypus or water bottles depending on temperature and length of hike
  • Support belt.  My hips started to bother me as soon as my belly popped out and the support belt (or more technically, SI belt) helped a lot with the pain.
  • Layers.  I got hot very quickly so it was key to be able to transition from cold mountain mornings to hot afternoons by stripping layers off.
  • Snacks in excess.  I still remember this hike because I was charting my food intake to see how I was doing nutritionally.  I was pretty shocked at how much protein I (easily) consumed.  I probably had the same hunger level as I’d have going backpacking.

For a longer list of tips, check out my other post where I go into more detail :)

On a separate note, I got a lot of kudos from other hikers.  Comments ranged from “Way to go!”, to parents who pointed at their own kids and said “I did the same and look how far we’ve come!”.  I have to say, I really appreciated all the positivity and next time I’m out and see someone who is pregnant puffing along, I’ll share the good vibes!

Have you ever encouraged someone on the trail or been the recipient of kind words? I usually don’t make comments but I’m thinking I might change that.

Second trimester hiking: Ptarmigan Cirque & Tips!

The forecast for this weekend looked less than promising: a system was coming in from the west and snow had already fallen above treeline this week.  So, it (obviously?!) seemed like the perfect weekend to check out Ptarmigan Cirque!   Sounds crazy, I realize, but the hike is really a short 4km loop with around 200m of elevation gain.  It’s located right at the Highwood Pass which at 2200m, is the highest paved road in Canada.  Since the weather was so uncertain, we thought it would be better to do a quick hike we could get on and off of in case the weather turned.  The hike had also been on our hit list but usually when we drive as far as Highwood Pass, we opt to do something a bit longer.

Looking into the Cirque

Looking into the Cirque

Turns out there was a lot more snow than we expected and it felt more like a winter hike than fall hike!  Had I realized how snowy it would be, I would have brought gaiters and spikes.  In some areas, the snow drifts were almost up to my waist!  Needless to say, we did not complete the loop as the trail had only been well trampled to the back of the cirque and we wound have had to have broken trail on the second half of the loop in snow.

Ran into this troupe!

Ran into this troupe!

It was still a fun day out and we even saw a heard of mountain sheep!  The larches weren’t as spectacular as I had hoped they might be.  They were still nice but for a real, bright yellow larch experience I would still head to the Lake Louise/ Moraine Lake area rather than Kananaskis.

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

This is my fourth hike now in my second trimester and here are some things I’ve figured out along the way:

  • Wear an SI support band designed for pregnancy.  This was recommended to me by a girlfriend and it’s been a lifesaver.  It keeps my hips from getting too sore and it also helps keep pressure off your bladder so you’re not peeing as much.
  • Bring LOTS of water that is easily accessible (ie in a bladder with a hose).  On cooler hikes I tend to drink less but I’m still drinking more water than usual so we now overpack on water with the idea that we can dump what we don’t need if it gets too heavy.
  • Bring LOTS of snacky, high protein foods.  I’m hungry most of the time but that changes to all of the time when I’m hiking!  My favourites so far have been trail mix cookies, babybel cheese, boiled eggs, nuts, protein bars and dried fruit.
  • Bring extra snacks & water for the drive to/from the trailhead.  Unless you live closer than I do, 1-2hrs is a lot of time to sit in a car when you’re hungry or thirsty.
  • Pass on the backpack.  I’m a bit slower when I hike now, but I can usually keep up a very reasonable pace without my pack.  I’ll admit it’s a bit of a blow to my ego to let my husband carry everything when I’m used to carrying my own things but it really helps make hiking more enjoyable.  We joke it’s good weight training for him!
  • Think about what hiking clothes will fit you and if you’ll be comfortable in them.  Warm hikes were easier to deal with.  I wore my Lululemon tank tops which are extra long & their shorts which have a panel waist.  Cold hikes were harder as Lululemon fabric tends to attract snow and dirt and my regular technical pants/jackets didn’t fit.  My solution was to borrow from maternity hiking clothes friends and in a pinch, steal my husband’s jackets!
  • Wear lightweight shoes.  For most of my hikes I wore my favourite Columbia trail runners as they’re light and waterproof with great treads.  Only on this last hike did I wear my lightweight Vasque hikers since I thought there might be a bit of snow.
  • Bring poles.  Even on mellow terrain, I find them worthwhile as they seem to take some of the pressure of my hips and knees.
  • If you think there is the possibility of snow, bring spikes.  Worrying about slipping on trails is overrated so I think I’ll be bringing my spikes on the next few hikes.

*Whew*, I think that’s it!  I’m sure YMMV on those tips but that’s what’s worked for me.

Lots of snow!

Lots of snow!