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In the past few days, I’ve started planning some of our adventures for the coming year. As I was compiling a list of potential people, places and things for us to see and do it occurred to me that I should look at the adventures of 2011. From dozens of fantastic day, weekend and week long trips, there some that stood out right away such as my son’s birthday at the lake with friends and our trip up to Jasper with my in-laws. There was joyous trips such as my mom’s surprise party in Vancouver and sad trips such as my uncle’s funeral. The weather was hot, cold, dry, snowy and everything in between. There was snow, rocks, sands, trees, mud and water. In the end, I’ve chosen to share with you five trips which demonstrate values that form “The Big Picture” – things that made us happy and healthy as a family and as individuals. I’ve listened them in order they occurred as it would be impossible to rank them otherwise.

#1 Family Day Weekend in the Okanagan

We headed down to Vernon for Family Day weekend to visit my mom and stepfather, go skiing and enjoy a weekend away.  I’ll always be thankful that we took the time to visit my aunt and uncle nearby while we were there. Not only was it a great visit with them and a multitude of cousins, it was the last visit I had with my uncle who passed away not a month later. I’ll always look back on the weekend with bitter sweet fondness. Family is important, and while they may drive you crazy, it’s important not to miss opportunities to spend time with them.

#2 Winter Hike at Mount Lorette Ponds

This was a typical day out in the mountains for us. We often pack up our gear, pack some snacks and head out with no fixed plans. This particular day was snowy and in Kananaskis. We stopped at the ponds for a short hike and we had a blast romping in the snow and enjoying winter at it’s best in the mountains. And as a photographer, I was also able to get some great photographs of my son and the landscape around me. This trip demonstrates that some of the best memories don’t have to be planned or grand. We have to seize the moment and look around us.

#3 Upper Kananaskis Lake Photo Hike

I took this hike in June with a local outdoor meetup group and I look back fondly at this day out with fellow photographers. A beautiful sunny day, it was a day filled with laughter, photography and new friends – it was rejuvenating to spend the day out.  It was a solo trip but I feel that it clearly belongs on the list because it demonstrates that needs of the individual in a family dynamic… and individual trips for all of us should be on this list for the coming year.

#4 Back country camping trip to Laughing Falls

We joined two other families for the August long weekend for a back country camping trip into the mountains. Six adults, three toddlers and a baby in the back country of Yoho National Park, camping beside a raging river fed by glacier water. The weekend wasn’t without its challenges – missing juice, clogged filters, night terrors, thunderstorms, etc. – but we proved it possible and had a great time doing it. A back country trip is a definite for 2012.

#5  Camping at Dinosaur Park

This was a short weekend trip that we decided on literally at the last minute. Within about an hour Saturday morning, we had packed up and were heading out into the crisp fall air. We avoided the main highway as we meandered to Dinosaur Park, stopping at several small provincial parks along the way to explore. We took the time to catch frogs, have a picnic and I got some photographs. At the park, we took turns playing with our son and making camp. We watched the sunset over the badlands and ate dinner as the sky darkened. Our son fell asleep quickly and easily in the tent. We enjoyed a last cup of tea under the stars. The next day, we hiked the hills of the badlands and learned about dinosaurs. We learned to camp simply and to play with our son instead.

Now what adventures lay ahead for us this year? Only time will tell.