Tag Archives: Family

CKS Paddlefest is a must-do for families

This post was written for Jackson Kayak and can also be found at: http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/06/09/cks-paddlefest-is-a-must-do-for-families/

CKS Paddlefest is held over the memorial day long weekend in Buena Vista, Colorado, a funky mountain town a few hours west of Denver. It just celebrated it’s 18th year and keeps getting better and better for both paddlers and families alike.

Once you arrive in the South Main area of Buena Vista, you can pretty much park your vehicle and spend the rest of your time walking or biking everywhere, which is such an amazing things for families. This is our second year here and were were once again impressed with the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of the area and the general fun factor of the event, which includes running races, a disc golf tournament, bouldering competitions, Stand up paddle boarding, flat water activities, freestyle kayaking and down river kayaking. Pretty much something for everyone!


There are 3 solid choices for accommodations:

* Camping or RVing in the camping area that is right beside the river. It’s mostly a gravel lot but convenience outweighs everything else.

* Air BnB / Vacation Rental of a house or apartment in the South Main area – no more than 2 blocks from the river and all the action in the main green

* Hotel – stay at the Surf Hotel, which is right on the Arkansas River and in the middle of everything

Fun family activities off the water:

* Buena Vista playground is about 3 blocks from the river, full of high quality playground equipment and right next to the community centre bathrooms (super handy – someone was thinking!)

* Buena Vista skate park is just on the other side of the playground and has features that work for beginner through to expert and both skateboards and scooters

* Buena Vista pump track is just across the road from the playground (what amazing forethought to put these 3 sites within 100 yards of each other) and super fun to play on with your bikes

* There is even a dog park that has agility toys so you can get your dog out and playing (located just on the other side of the pump track)

* South Main bouldering park is SUPER Fun for kids of any age – nothing beats climbing up and around things to keep everyone smiling. Most kids are out in their socks or bare feet vs actual climbing shoes.

* Run around in the big grassy area at the South Main square, which has a nice mixture of grass, shade, benches for mom and dad and a bouldering rock to climb on

Getting out on the water:

There are on water activities from Friday through to Monday and are geared at a wide range of paddlers. You can choose to compete in some events (freestyle, downriver class IV and downriver class II) or just take a workshop or two from world class paddlers.

* This year there was a fun kids paddling event at the pond geared at getting kids out kayaking on flat water. A number of the kids from the Jackson Team were on hand to teach some skills and cheer on others as they learned.

* Freestyle clinics were taught by Stephen Wright and Mathieu Dumoulin

* EJ was running slicy boat clinics on both Saturday and Sunday to help people make the most of the newest old school boats and tricks

* Rocky Mountain Outdoor Company runs full day kayak river running sessions for a range of skills

* You can also take ACA instructor classes to get your certifications or re-certify

On top of of that, Buena Vista is just a beautiful place to hang out. There are a range of trails to walk, run, hike and bike on that you can access directly from the South Main area. Lots of restaurants within easy walking distance and three ice cream shops so you won’t get in a rut!

One of the things that we love best about CKS Paddlefest is how safe it is. If feels like a small town event and there are no concerns about the kids running around back and forth between the river and the campground or even heading down to main street to get ice cream.  We completely recommend CKS Paddlefest as a family event – whether you come to compete (because that is super fun), to learn (amazing opportunities) or just to paddle some of the fun rivers and features in the area.

12 years later…back in Alberta

mineral springsIt was 12 years ago this August that Hunter launched himself into the world at the Mineral Springs Hospital in Banff. We left Alberta for the Yukon a year and a half later and have not really been back since.

As part of our “Summer of Paddling” we have spent over a month in Alberta spread through out July and August. In between all of our time spent at the Kananaskis River (playing, training, competing) we managed to fit in some visits with family, connecting with old friends and some general fun days…

Our first visit to Calgary came over the Canada Day weekend. We camped out at Calaway Park (medium RV park rating) and then drove into Calgary each day to hang out at family central – aka the Murphy house.

mark and hunter cookingHunter had a fabulous time hanging with Uncle Mark every time we landed in town – they cooked, they golfed, they went for ice cream, they walked the dog and Hunter even bought into the mental math lessons!

murphy poolLots of time spent playing pool in the basement with anyone that Hunter could talk into a game. The other upside was meeting Spencer, a new “cousin”, and they had a great time hanging out doing boy stuff. Big thanks to Uncle Paul for taking them for laser tag, skating and ice-cream…

canoe meadowsWhen not in Calgary we were mostly based out of the Kananaskis region. Lots of time spent at Canoe Meadows as it is so great to be able to just walk to and from the river rather than load up shuttles etc.

mt yamnuska

We also spent time at the Bow River Campground, the Bow Valley Campground and the Willow Creek Campground and give high ratings for all three with respect to hanging out in nature, great sites, amenities and cleanliness plus reasonableness of price.

One of the pleasant surprises of the summer was getting to connect up with old friends. Tim ran into two former colleagues from Banff during the first day of kids kayak camp in early July as it turns out their boys, of similar age as Hunter, are also into kayaking. We even ran into and old friend on the street in Banff when she was taking her garbage out! We ended up with visits on and off the river throughout the summer with many people, with one of those visits being Hunter getting to go for a trail ride with Heidi in Canmore – it definitely made his week!

tim hunter kan biking 1We had a family bike ride on the paved trails around Kananaskis Village as we enjoyed the sunshine and told “when you were little” stories to Hunter, who loves that stuff. Out and back to the ponds made for a great 20km ride.

hunter ice cream kan village

This is a re-enactment of where he had his very first ice cream cone, thanks to Great Grandma. We had come up to visit her at Kananaskis Village where she was attending an IODE conference and we all went for ice cream. Much to our dismay, she decided to share hers with Hunter – months earlier than he was supposed to have ice cream according to all the feeding charts! I guess that’s the privilege that comes with being a Great Grandma…

hunter chester pokerOver the course of the summer we have “run into” Chester and Anne six different times across BC and Alberta and they have been great paddling partners. They went to Kananaskis for KanFest and stayed for a week after so we joined them and had a fun week of paddling and general hanging out. Hunter finally found someone to play poker with him!!

hunter pelly climbingOur last non-paddling adventure was our day trip into Canmore to check out Elevation Place, where they have a workout centre, full climbing wall, pool and library as well as SHOWERS to get clean and INTERNET to stay connected. Hunter and Pelly had fun enjoying all of the amenities. What a great resource for the town.

tim hammockOur month in Alberta was an interesting mix of hecticness, paddling/activity frenzy and downtime. We are grateful for getting to see so many friends and spend the time with family. It was fun to be back and I’m sure it won’t take us another 11 years to do it again.

Christmas in Florida – all part of the adventure

opening stockings


We have all agreed that the holiday season does not seem quite as festive without the snow. Having said that, Tim and I are NOT missing the snow 🙂 Having a different Christmas this year is just one more piece of our 8 month adventure. The important part was that we were with family and friends – oh, and that Santa found us…

Hunter has been sleeping in every morning until 9:30 or 10:00, at which point in time we go and actually wake him up. With that in mind, we figured it would be safe to assume the pattern would be consistent for Christmas morning. With a house full of adults (Grandpa Bob, Grandma Liz, Aunt Shannon, Uncle Andy + Andy’s mom Otti), it was suggested that present opening start at 9:30. Hunter agreed and even asked me to come and wake him up at 9:15 so he could get his stuffies organized… Well – he ended up waking up at 4:30 and was so excited that he couldn’t go back to sleep. He was wide awake when Grandpa got up at 7:00 so he got hauled out for a bike ride to kill some time (this is when we round the firetrucks Christmas morning).

new bike from santa

Once we got the rest of the adults up and moving, we launched into PRESENTS… Santa came yet again this year and brought a new skate park/trick bike, some Star Wars action figures and some movies for the road. Hunter also pitched in and helped everyone else with their present opening.

Other fun gifts were the annual Hess Truck from Grandma & Grandpa and the pogo stick from Mom & Dad.

At home we have a tradition of going outside to play between presents and Christmas dinner. It stated with running the dogs and then evolved to just “playing”. Keeping with that theme, this year we went Gator Hunting in the everglades with Grandpa Bob and Uncle Andy. Referred to as “Gator Dynasty”, Hunter got in the spirit by dressing in some of his new camouflage wear and bringing his new binoculars from Santa.

searching for gators from shore


We paddled for two and a half hours and saw well over 20 alligators, ranging from 18 inches to 10 feet in size. The 10 foot ones are really LARGE – especially when they charge you from the bank and come much to close to your boat (referred to as the LEE screaming incident). I have a 5 foot gator-free comfort zone and there were a few times when this was violated. The scream came when a large alligator charged off the bank just as Bob & Andy’s went by. It dove into the water and came up to the surface, somewhat agitated, just to the left of me in the front of our boat. I screamed which caused Hunter to scream 🙂

Boxing day was family “cut down a tree” day to help work off all the turkey and sweets. Andy had a large tree in his front yard that needed to come down and it turned into a full family project to cut it down, cut it up and get it to the curb in time for the large hauler truck to come and pick it up.

In between all this fun, we have been playing in the pool and having fun with the local wildlife…

While we didn’t have snow, a big tree and hot chocolate this year, we still had family and cheer and never ending food and fun. Thanks to everyone for a memorable Christmas in South Florida!

Wildplay Nanaimo – great family stop

family wildplay photo

Having spent the last 6 months working with the Wildplay team as part of my role on the board at Mount Sima (Whitehorse), I was anxious to check out another of the Wildplay facilities to see how they operated and what we could learn to bring back to the Yukon.

Wow… the Nanaimo Wildplay location is amazing. Tucked away off the main highway it is a lush, forested play park that is intimate yet like an adventure waiting to happen. The sun was beaming down when we got there at 10:30 and it had the makings for a great day.

Thanks to the generosity of the Wildplay corporate team, we were able to partake in all of the park’s offerings and are happy to fully recommend every single one… Primal Swing, Bungie Jump, Dragonfly Zipline and Monkido Aerial Adventure.

Hunter was fairly disappointed  that he wasn’t old enough for the Primal Swing and Bungie Jump but the staff did an amazing job to engage him all the same. After signing all our paperwork at the front desk (fairly simple process), we headed up to the “Bridge” where the Primal Swing and Bungie Jump are based. Here he is getting the Bungie experience at the top of the bridge 🙂

hunter testing bungie

I’m not a big fan of free fall – don’t really like roller coasters etc., so Bungie Jumping was left solely to Tim but I did agree to do the Primal Swing with him in tandem. It turns out that I MISTAKENLY thought it was just a big swing off the bridge… should have watched the video’s a little closer! Remember my opening statement???

tim lee primal swing

After getting into our harnesses, we are seated in 2 plastic seats at the edge of the bridge. I first start to sense a bit of trepidation when our harnesses are attached to what looks like a big slingshot and the guide is working hard to offset the pressure that is being pulled on us. The butterflies in my stomach started to really dance when the guide started to let go of the harnesses and we could feel the pressure. Then it was 1-2-3 “GO” and OMG!!! I was free falling and screaming my head off. The only thing that made it manageable was having Tim sitting right next to me – and he was grinning from ear to ear and laughing his head off so it couldn’t be that bad right? We fell down towards the water and then swung in a big arc back up into the air opposite of the bridge. At that point my immediate thought was “what goes up must come down” – OMG!!! and back came the free fall again… thankfully the swing arc decreased after that and it was a fun swing with no free fall components. Hunter had his way with the guides up top on the bridge and we got lightly dunked but not soaked so all was good.

After getting picked up by the boat on the river, we headed back up the stairs for Tim to do his bungie jump. As we were in the swing, he said “I’m not sure I’m up to the Bungie…”. I was very supportive of the fact that he didn’t have to do it, but that I was NOT doing the swing again with him. I actually renamed it the Primal SCREAM for anyone I spoke with that entire day. With Hunter pushing him on, Tim boldly stepped in to the Bungie platform and actually dove headfirst off the bridge towards the river. With a scream and then a massive laugh, he bounced up and down and had a great time.

tim bungie

After a short wait we were off to the Dragonfly Zipline. It is a 2 line zip line that runs over and back across the River. It is a great introduction to ziplines for those that haven’t done it before or might be feeling a bit of trepidation. We had experienced the Zoom Ziplines at the Wildplay Yukon facility last year, which are over 1km in length, so were excited to have some more fun. As Hunter is under 100 lbs he had to go tandem with one of the guides. Brian the guide did an amazing job of being his buddy. They would take a running start off the platforms to see how fast they could get going… it sure makes it seem cooler to have a buddy than to go alone! By the time we were done our zipping it was perfect timing for a lunch break. Lucky for us our camper was just out in the parking lot so we headed out for a lunch break and some hanging out.

hunter tim buddy course


We spent the afternoon in the Monkido Aerial Adventure course. Hunter is JUST (by the tips of his toes) tall enough to do the buddy course so he and Tim were buddies. What this means is that the kids get to do the kids course once and then get to do 2-3 legs of the full course but not the final “black” leg, which is the hardest. Their “buddy” is on the course with them to ensure that they are being safe and have help when required.

Hunter is an old hand at Monkido courses, having spent a bunch of time on the Yukon one. He zipped right through the kids course and was ready to move right into the full course. Being “just tall enough” does create some challenges on the course as it means that the tether between your harness and the safety line can be very snug at times. We came up with some creative approaches to work through this and he had a fun time. The course itself is fabulous – it winds through the trees and many times you can’t see what the next obstacle is due to the lushness of the forest. The obstacles  push some peoples comfort zones and yet are 100% safe and secure. I view them as a big kids jungle gym and would be happy to do this every day!

wildplay nanaimo


We definitely recommend this (and any of the Wildplay facilities) to families that are looking for some outdoor, active fun together!