Active mom guides readers through Alberta's paths best taken for all

take a hike with your children bookresizedLynda Pianosi, a Calgary mother of two, is a few months away from publishing her second edition of Take a Hike With Your Children.

The book's success among parents with young children was received so well, that Pianosi had to do a second printing, and has also now left her position with the lunch program at a local elementary school in Calgary's northwest to focus on the book.

The guide details family-friendly hiking trails at varying experience levels, hoping to prevent injuries as well.

Pianosi says her active young family has been injury-plagued by trails that were not terrain-appropriate for the whole family.

In fall 2003, Pianosi's husband, Doug, slipped, fell and injured his lower back while hiking up the slippery, rain-soaked switchbacks to Larch Valley in Lake Louise with their sons tucked in their backpacks.

In December 2011, Pianosi self-published her family-conscious hiking guide after an accident during a family hiking trip in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which was recommended in one of the common hiking guides for the area. The 2011 incident inspired her to write her own alternative.

"That's when I started making notes in that particular book, 'not a good hike for the kids'," says Pianosi. "I just started making little notes in the side of this other book too, and I started complaining to my husband, 'You know, there really needs to be something for families. I'd buy it,'" and he said, 'Just make it yourself'."

Many of the books she used when hiking in Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise claimed 'great hikes,' but did not specify 'great hikes for families.'

"I went into Banff townsite and I specifically asked the wardens, 'What are hikes that are really easy for families and what hikes could I push a stroller around?' And they kind of went, 'Oooh.' There were some answers but there weren't a lot of answers."

Pianosi says she did the same at Kananaskis, taking area maps and talking with Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Visitor staff about recommendations for hikes her kids could endure.

"I just started trial and error. I started pounding them off to see if they were feasible."

EASY-TO-READ GUIDE TO KID-FRIENDLY HIKES

Take a Hike With Your Children is a family-orientated guide because the book is particularly tailored to families with young children who want to enjoy the outdoors safely with their kids.

All the 46 hikes in the 60-page pocket guide are five or fewer kilometres and have been self-tested and approved by Pianosi and her two sons, Justin, 11, and Morgan, 9. Pianosi shot all of the book's photos.

In the book, the hikes are divided into sections based on their locations and are simply described on the basis of who, what, when, and where, noted by icons.

Her icons are visual cues that include 14 pictorial representations of what parents can expect on the trails.

The 14 icons begin with an all-terrain stroller that can make it over rough, uneven ground, followed by public bathrooms at the start or on the trail, or if there are vault (outhouse) style toilets, benches, terrain is suitable for parents wearing child pack carriers, designated fire pit areas, firewood provided by the parks, picnic shelters, picnic tables without coverings, and that the trail is mostly in the sun or has a mix of sun and shade along route.

Pianosi has also included three separate pictures within the icons that advise parents whether the trail is suitable for all walking abilities, meaning that children who can walk on their own but may require some assistance won't find the terrain too difficult.

There are also hiking options for competent walkers for those children and families that can walk without needing assistance on any terrain. The advanced walker hikes, Pianosi, has designated for children that are able to walk competently alone with moderate elevation gains.

In the Banff area, Pianosi offers 13 trails and four plan-B options in case of weather restrictions, trail closures, or for those days you just can't seem to convince your kids to go on a full hike.

In the Canmore area, she includes seven possible hikes, accompanied by four replacement options if the weather is poor.

In Kananaskis Country, Pianosi detailed 14 hikes with three additional options.
And in Lake Louise she has seven possible hikes for the family with four alternate day options.

Pianosi has included the Larch Valley hike where her husband hurt his back for Lake Louise, but has warned parents that this nine-kilometre trail "is one for the parents" or advanced walkers because of switchback and steepness concerns.

In the book, chapter two explains the icon-based recommendations that Pianosi developed to visually outline what the hikes look like from a child's perspective.

A FUN FAMILY ACTIVITY

One of Pianosi's favorite hikes that she has included in Take a Hike With Your Children is Rawson Lake.

Rawson Lake is located in Kananaskis National Park and is an eight-kilometre round-trip hike to the crystal-clear lake nestled within the Rocky Mountains and alpine meadows.

The Pianosi family had a condo in Canmorewhile their two boys, Justin and Morgan, were growing up. As a family, they wanted options that would enable them to enjoy hikes together, and expose the boys to a variety of activities that connected them with nature rather than their Xbox. What the family didn't want was to spend a Saturday or Sunday walking up and down Banff Avenue because they couldn't find a safe option that they were comfortable exposing their kids to.

"My target market really are, and this is how I felt when I had Justin and Morgan, 'I want to go out there, I know there's hazards, I want to go where it's safe for me as an adult and as a parent, and where it's safe for the kids.'," says Pianosi.

Pianosi grew up in Alliston, Ontario where she spent summers at the family cottage on Lake Muskoka, and winters alpine ski racing out of Blue Mountain in Collingwood. Always a vigorously active individual, Pianosi recalls camping and hiking while eight months pregnant with her first child, Justin.

"I was pregnant hiking with my second and I was pregnant hiking with my first," says Pianosi.

Both Justin and Morgan started hiking with Lynda and Doug at three months of age. Pianosi, a 5'7" blonde, outdoor enthusiast turned her passion of hiking with her kids from when they were young into a career when she wrote Take a Hike With Your Children.

"I've been getting emails from people asking when I am going to add more to it," says Pianosi.

Pianosi anticipates that the second edition of Take a Hike With Your Children will be released in 2014. Her second book in the series will include Waterton, Jasper and the Panorama area as well.

While Pianosi is in the planning stages of her second version, Take a Hike With Your Children is available in Calgary at Chapters Chinook, Campers Village, Babes in Arms, in Canmore at Switching Gear and Café Books, and in Banff at Hidden Ridge Resort, Monod Sports and The Viewpoint

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