Building new explorers (photo gallery)

Family adventure vacations can strengthen family bonds and improve family unity, and while you enjoy new experiences together, you make memories to share for a lifetime.



Family adventure vacations can strengthen family bonds and improve family unity, and while you enjoy new experiences together, you make memories to share for a lifetime.

Fortunately, this type of vacation experience does not have to cost a lot of money, especially when you live in Alberta. The close proximity of terrain like the Alberta Badlands and the Canadian Rockies means that world-class adventure travel is basically right in our backyard.

Tammie and Randolph Burak, of Cold Lake, are no strangers to the concept of adventure travel.

Before starting their family, the couple hiked, cycled and camped throughout Alberta and British Columbia. In recent years as their children have reached an age where they are growing more independent, they have made a point of planning family adventures at least once a year.

“The best part of getting out and exploring the outdoors as a family has been watching our children’s delight as they experience new adventures and places,” explained Tammie.

“Sometimes as adults we lose the sense of wonder and awe that we first felt in seeing a place, but bringing children along makes it all new again. When you do a hiking or cycling trip with children, it is like you are seeing the trail for the first time.”

The Burak family have discovered that venturing off the beaten path has helped to instil a spirit of adventure in their children and bring their family closer together.

Below are two of their recent family adventures.

Exploring the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

The Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) is a 600-km abandoned railway bed that has been converted into a recreational trail in south central British Columbia. About 450 km of this trail has been designated as Trans Canada Trail, making it an important part of the cross-Canada trail.

The gentle grade of the trail makes cycling easy for families with children, but they still have to be adventurous to cycle the KVR. Myra Canyon alone has 18 wooden trestle bridges hanging from the inside of the canyon walls.

The Burak family recently experienced a multi-day cycling trip along the KVR between McCullough Lake and Penticton. They camped for four nights and cycled about 85 km, using tag-along bikes for their two children, who were seven and six years of age at the time.

Tag-along bikes attach to the back of an adult bike and allow children to peddle if they want or sit back and relax if they grow tired.

The family crossed 12 trestle bridges during the journey. The ride through Myra Canyon with its trestles, tunnels, and historic rock ovens was the highlight of the trip.

“What I liked best about the KVR was the variety of scenery we saw along the trail,” said Tammie. “We rode through wilderness areas where we’d see no other people for most of the day, but there were also farms, orchards and urban sections, as well. We had great views of Lake Okanagan in some stretches as we rode along a high plateau and thoroughly enjoyed the stunning ride through Myra Canyon.”

Adventure details:

• There is no trail fee charged to cycle or hike the KVR, but joining Trails B.C., one of the trail societies, or contributing to the Trans Canada Trail helps to support the trail.

• The trail surface is gravel, so a mountain bike is recommended.

• A number of trestles were damaged during the fires of 2003, but they have since been repaired.

• Recommended reading: Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway by Dan and Sandra Langford.

• On the web: or

Heli-snowshoeing: a whole new view of the Rockies

Exploring the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies on snowshoes is an awe-inspiring experience that very few people get to enjoy. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the journey into these isolated areas takes several days on foot and is difficult during the winter.

Heli-snowshoeing has opened up the backcountry and made it possible for amateur hikers and snowshoers, as well as families with young children, to experience areas that were previously accessible to only the most dedicated and fit of athletes.

Last December, the Burak family enjoyed a heli-snowshoeing experience near Rocky Mountain House that proved to be a special holiday treat for the entire family.

Their two children Emily, now nine, and Joshua, seven, weren’t new to snowshoeing, but it was their first time travelling by helicopter and the experience lived up to their expectations in every way.

As the helicopter climbed to 3,200 metres, they were all amazed by the sheer number of mountain peaks stretching as far as they could see in every direction.

“We’ve driven the highways, hiked and ridden our bikes through the mountains and imagined that we knew something about them, but the view from the helicopter was a revelation to each of us,” said Tammie.

“After setting the helicopter down on Wedding Knoll, we had lunch and enjoyed a one-hour snowshoe excursion in the backcountry, identifying animal tracks in the fresh snow and taking in the incredible views.”

Heli-snowshoeing proved to be one of the highlights of the holiday season for the Burak family and something they hope to experience again.

“Heli-snowshoeing opened up the vastness of the landscape to us,” Tammie said. “The best part was seeing the children’s delight as they witnessed that enormous expanse of peaks for the first time. It was like I was seeing the Rockies for the first time.”

Adventure details:

• The Burak family travelled with Icefield Heli Tours, located near Rocky Mountain House. The Wilson Icefield Discovery Tour that they experienced includes 25 minutes of flying time at $259 per person (GST included), plus a wilderness stop for $69 per person. Tour prices start at $69 per person and go up in cost from there. The entire experience took about 3½ hours.

• Icefield Heli Tours offers a variety of winter adventures from their helipads near Rocky Mountain House and Kananaskis Country, including champagne snow picnics, glacier tours, sightseeing wilderness expeditions and more. For more info, check out their website at or phone1-888-844-3514.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.