Do You Want To Build A Snow Fort?

IMG_5229Do you want to build a snowman?

Well, no, not really.

Actually, my kids would rather build a snow fort.

A huge, awesome, epic snow fort. Big enough to fend off an army of snow goons and abominable snowmen.

Some people view winter as a time to avoid outdoor activities. If they aren’t skiers, then they prefer to curl up next to a warm fire on a comfy couch, hibernating through the cold and snow until spring brings them out into the sun again.

That’s too bad, because winter can be filled with awesome family fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, and it can even be right in your own backyard. Getting outside in the snow is a great time to make memories with your kids.

Especially the planning and construction of your very own snow fort.

Call it an igloo, or an ice palace, or a snow fort. Whatever it is, go beyond stacking up some snow, sticking a carrot in it, and calling it Frosty. Hey, building a snowman is fun, too, but an actual structure takes a lot more imagination. And, at the end, it becomes functional.

snow fort

My kids and I built this snow fort using a smooth plastic storage box to create blocks of tightly packed snow. We then stacked them up to about 4 feet, making parapets, windows, and secret doors along the way. They improvised as they built, and learned a few lessons about structural integrity. The nice thing about snow, you can change things up any time you want.

After a few hours, the kids had the idea to sleep in the fort that night, which they did, under a pile of quilts and blankets. I stayed out there with them, enjoying the warmth and comfort of our hand-built shelter.


But as nice as it was, and as tough as I like to think I am, I would not have made it through the night without some help from Fisherman’s Friend, the strongest, most effective throat lozenge on the market. Originally formulated in 1865 for the deep-sea fishermen of Fleetwood, England, these extra strong, extra soothing lozenges are perfect for cough and cold relief. It’s exactly what you need to tough it out during the long winter months, when the cold wind seems to blow right down your throat every time you open your mouth.

I’ll never buy another brand of lozenge when I have a cough or cold. Fisherman’s Friend is the perfect all-natural menthol relief, available in cherry flavor and sugar free formula. They’re perfect for anyone over the age of 2 in need of instant relief of sore throats, coughs and congestion.

Whatever you do during the winter months, make sure you get outside. Build a snow fort! Okay, build a snowman too. Ski, snowshoe, dig tunnels, play disc golf, have a snowball fight. Just get outside and enjoy the snow. Carry a packet of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges and you’ll be tough enough to do anything.


Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion.

10 Cool Things For Kids In North Idaho

It’s that time of year to start thinking about road trips and family travels for the coming spring and summer. There are few better places to find fun with your kids than North Idaho.

The northern panhandle of Idaho is my family’s stomping ground. Over the years, we’ve discovered a great number of cool and exciting places to take the kids. So, when people ask what there is to do around here, I always have a ready list of sights and activities that will make any family vacation a memorable one.

Ten Cool Things For Kids In North Idaho

1. World’s Longest Gondola Ride

Silver Mountain Gondola

In the town of Kellogg, you can board the longest gondola in the world for a 20 minute ride to the Mountain Haus terminal at the top of Silver Mountain, a climb of 3400 vertical feet. In the winter, you’ll find some of the best ski runs around, but in the summer you can hike the nature trails, go mountain biking, or ride the chair lifts for more scenic beauty even higher up the mountain. Continue reading

Can You Canoe?

The Scouts said they needed another adult leader to go on their canoe trip last weekend.

My son couldn’t go, but that didn’t stop me.

Actually, it almost did stop me, but then I realized a few things.

Beautiful lake.

Sunny, warm weather.

Quiet, peaceful canoe.

And, oh yeah, the campout would be canceled if I couldn’t go.

When you’re a dad, it’s a given that you have to inconvenience yourself for your kids.

Sometimes you have to do that for other people’s kids too.

Turned out to be an awesome weekend. I didn’t tip over once.

photo (1)

Fly Like An Eagle

How do you get a 250-pound picnic table up a steep 1.2-mile mountain trail?

That’s what I wondered when my son found his Boy Scout Eagle Project.

After much asking and researching, and even hoping that someone might approach him with a project idea, I was quite proud when my son came up with a project on his own last spring.

We were hiking a popular local trail, the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, one which we’ve traversed several times a year for the past ten years. It’s a 3.3-mile loop, with the first third of it being quite a strenuous trek up to the top of the ridge.

Quite often, we’ll bring a picnic lunch or snack with us to eat when we reach the top. It’s a good place for a little rest before walking along the spine of the ridge and admiring the beautiful lake views. At the top, there is a small bench and an old wooden shelter. No place for a family or group to sit and eat.

So, my son had the idea to do something about that. The shelter was kind of useless, and a bit unsafe, while the ground underneath was uncomfortably sloped. He decided to redesign the shelter, level the ground, and place a heavy-duty picnic table there.

Sounds easy, right?

It might have been, if not for that 1.2-mile trail. My son would have to coordinate the transportation of over 500 pounds of materials, tools, and supplies to the top of the ridge.

Oh, but first he had to measure and sketch and think. Which meant, before the project even began we’d hiked that thing so many times I began to have dreams about it.

And, every time we’d go up, I couldn’t help but notice how bad the yellow jackets were around the shelter.

Late in the summer, on our last planning hike, a man suffered a heart attack and died right in front of us on the trail.

I wasn’t feeling very good about the whole thing.

But the idea behind an Eagle Project is to challenge the Scout to plan and coordinate properly, and then to lead the effort to finish the task.

I’m happy to say I shouldn’t have been worried. My son rallied enough friends and family to lug 80 pounds of concrete, 150 pounds of gravel, and 100 pounds of lumber up that trail over the course of two days.

Then came the big day of work, when a dozen of his fellow Scouts went up to dig, cut, paint, drill, and nail.

Over the course of 5 hours, I watched my son be a leader, and make it all come together.

There was just thing left to do. That 250-pound picnic table.

This was some serious table. 8 feet long, heavyweight aluminum, rubber coated, designed to last forever in the rugged outdoors.

My son brainstormed numerous ideas for getting it up to the top of the ridge, including using a horse or motorcycle to pull it. But the BLM said no motorized vehicles and no horses. It would have to be done with sheer muscle.

After building a fancy wooden rig to lift the table onto the shoulders of six older boys, he realized this would not be sustainable for the entire trail.

Finally, someone suggested a game cart. Not being hunters, we had no idea what this was. These 2-wheeled carts are built to haul heavy game across rugged mountain terrain. We borrowed one, and my son figured out the best way to strap the table, benches, and legs onto it, so it was perfectly balanced and extremely secure (duct tape is amazing).

That’s the answer to the question. You get the table up the mountain with a game cart. Oh, and 6 strong boys pushing and pulling this contraption up the trail, taking lots of breaks, rotating jobs, and only dumping the table off the narrow trail 5 or 6 times.

And then anchoring it into the ground with 80 pounds of concrete. That table is not going anywhere.

With the project completed, my son just has a report to write, and a few bits of paperwork, and then he can go up in front of the Board of Review to see if they think he deserves the rank of Eagle Scout.

If only they had climbed that trail as many times as I have, the decision would be a no-brainer.

End of Summer

Summer has to end some time. For me, it felt like it ended this past weekend with a Boy Scout camping trip on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. We also hiked 20 miles, but I’m trying to forget that part.

It was the last weekend of truly warm weather, so everybody swam and played like it was still summer.

Now we can get on with the business of fall and winter, which is all about school and indoor projects and catching up on hobbies, and dreaming of next year’s warm weather fun.

Lazy Summer

You wouldn’t know it from looking at this picture of my son napping on the beach yesterday, but our summer hasn’t been lazy at all. It seems like we’re busier now than ever.

At least for one afternoon, however, we took the time to be lazy.

Snowy Protest

My son learned a good lesson about free speech this past weekend. He and about 70 of his fellow Idaho Boy Scouts traveled into the big city to march on the council BSA office. They wanted to voice their concerns over the proposed sale of a beloved local Scout camp.

It could not have been a worse day, weather-wise. An intense winter storm hit the area just as the rally was kicking off. That didn’t stop the boys’ enthusiasm, as they paraded along the street, waving signs and shouting out protest chants. The blizzard-like conditions only steeled their resolve to be heard.

After about an hour of waving at honking cars and brushing layers of snow off of hats and coats, we climbed back into our cars and carefully made our way home.

My son wasn’t sure if a small protest march of a few Boy Scouts will make a difference to the decision makers. But I think it just might. Those boys cared enough about their camp to march around in the middle of a snowstorm. That kind of passion can’t go unnoticed.

Last Campout

In between rain and wind storms, we managed to squeeze in two nice days of camping on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille here in North Idaho.

My son chopped firewood, cooked hamburgers on the roaring flames, and skipped stones in the moonlit waters.

Camp with a view

The chef at work

Moonlight Serenade