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Excerpt: The Freedom to Roam


By Joanna Croston and Jen Groundwater

Many of us can remember a time when carefree, unstructured days spent outside were the norm. But today’s children – even those in mountain towns – live in a world dominated by screens, safety concerns and over-scheduling. So, what can we do about it? These two stories show what can happen when you break the mould and let kids be, well, kids.  

Editor’s Note: In Volume 4, we called on the talents of two writers to explore this topic through two different articles. For this excerpt, we’ve actually provided an excerpt from each piece. Wanting to read more? Here’s how you can get your hands on Volume 4.


By Joanna Croston

Ahhhh… the dirtbag life. In mountain communities worldwide, if you know where to look, there’s a quiet corner of town where you might see the dull yellow glow from a van with curtains drawn at night, the gentle wisp of smoke rising upward as dinner is being cooked on the tailgate. Van dwelling, the western version of the nomadic lifestyle, seems to have reached an all-time high. Living on the road! What could be better? Surviving off the grid, moving from one amazing landscape to another, immersing yourself in the great outdoors, answering to no one. 

Sonnie, Tate, Mesa and Lydia with Scamp. Photo: Sonnie Trotter

No one, that is, except your 13-month-old daughter, who cries out in the middle of night looking for cuddles and a diaper change. Hmmmm, on second thought…

Most parents couldn’t wrap their heads around camping with young kids for a whole year. But for professional climber Sonnie Trotter and his wife, yogini Lydia Zamorano, it made sense. Why not move out of the house and spend a year living out of their camper with four-year-old Tate and baby Mesa?

I’m sure they had an idea of what they were getting into. After all, both Sonnie and Lydia had experience with living on the road. Years before, they’d spent their honeymoon in a van. They enjoyed that so much they extended their trip for a year and a half. #ScampLife365 (named after their camper, Scamp) became the 2018 version, with kids in tow. 

→ Keep reading this feature in Volume 4 of the Canadian Rockies Annual.


By Jen Groundwater

When my sons were young, about ages six and eight, they’d come home from their Friday afternoon Forest Play program each week, covered in dirt and announcing they had: Started fires! Whittled sticks! Built forts! In short, all the stuff that kids in an earlier time might have done on their own, with no adult supervision, but that kids today are rarely allowed – much less encouraged – to do. 

Outdoor educators Dave Verhulst and Corey Stevens launched Forest Play in 2011 with the goal of introducing kids to the wonders of nature. Their classroom? The forest above Cougar Creek in Canmore. 

The woods are an antidote to “nature deficit disorder,” the condition first identified by author Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. Louv warns that humans are becoming increasingly disconnected from the natural world. This disconnection is leading to a host of societal, behavioural and mental-health problems, and hastening the demise of the planet. 

Kids exploring through nature-based play. Photo: Dave Verhulst

Louv’s idea made a great deal of intuitive sense even back then, when Facebook was in its infancy and other social media platforms (and even iPhones) hadn’t yet been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Now, as society stumbles forward into an unprecedented era of screen saturation and sedentary lifestyles, his warning rings ever more true. “Direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health,” says Louv. Encourage kids to spend time in nature from an early age and studies show that they are “far more likely, in most cases, to really care about the environment later.”

But, in an era dominated by quick-moving games and the instant gratification of technology, how do you make kids enjoy, perhaps prefer, their time outdoors?

→ Keep reading this feature in Volume 4 of the Canadian Rockies Annual.

The team at the Canadian Rockies Annual is devoted to high-quality storytelling, carefully curated content and top-notch photography – all wrapped up in a meticulously and thoughtfully designed publication. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing (available worldwide) or picking up a copy at one of our retail locations. 

The views and opinions expressed in the articles on are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editor, the editorial team or the publishers.

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