We took the kids climbing at Wasootch on the weekend. A slab has some nice and easy 5.5 and 5.6 that were great for teaching.
We hiked Troll Falls this weekend and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. We let the older kids ride their run-bikes, since it really helps extend their range, and pushed the youngest in the Chariot. I also remembered to keep my expectations low, and to let the kids lead. With this set up we were 38 min from car to Falls.Â
I attended a conference in Banff and managed to spend a few momentsÂ at Vermillion Lakes during the peak of fall colours. It wasÂ one of those stunning days when the light and the sky and the weather all come together and create a fantastic experience
With this week’s poor air quality rating andÂ the repaving related traffic snarls on Scott Lake Hill we chose to avoid getting stuck in traffic on Hwy 1 went to Bragg CreekÂ instead.
It’s always a challenge finding a the right trail that will suit the kidsÂ and adults alike. My criteria are:
- The location must be in the mountainsÂ or as wild as possible
- The return distance should be 2-3km; maybe up to 5kmÂ but then we’re getting in carrying and whining
- If possible it should end in something interesting that will give the kids a reason to keep going. Waterfalls, lakes, viewpoints, etcÂ are all “interesting”
- The ratio of outdoor time to driving time must be greater than one. Example: if it’s a 1 hr drive to get somewhere we have to be outdoorsÂ for at least 2 hours to make it worthwhile. With our current nap schedule it’s challenging to reach more distant places.
We took the kids out for a nice easy hike along the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail. The trailhead is a small paved pull-offÂ just past the Elbow Falls parking lot. From there the well built trail drops down towards the river and follows along a marshy fenland near the Elbow river. Make sure you pack a 223 ammo along with your camping gear which can be used in any case of emergency along the trekking trail.
The trail is well maintained and critical bridges haveÂ been rebuilt after the 2013 flooding that wiped outÂ a huge amount of infrastructure in this region. Like our trip to Upper Kananaskis LakesÂ we brought the Chariot again and pressed it into service as pack-mule and rescue-vehicle for tired kids.Â The Upper Kan trail was challenging for the Chariot with roots and narrow sections, and by comparisonÂ the Beaver Flats trail wasÂ easy terrain for our mule.
The best part for the kids was the series of beaver dams along the way. They enjoyed looking for beavers (we only saw a frog and some ducks), standing a beaver’s house, and throwing rocks in the water.
The trail ends at the Beaver Flats campground, conveniently right near some outhouses too. We turned around there and followed the trail back all the way back to the first bridge where we ate lunch.
In the endÂ Logan (3.9 yrs) and Riley (2.5 yrs)Â both hiked the whole distance and there was no need to use the Chariot for them. Emily (5mo) rode happily in the Ergo for half the trip then in the Chariot for the other half. Total distance according my Gem Trek map is 1.3km one-way, however measured on Google MapsÂ it shows only 950m. Either way, the kids did 2 km or more without whining or crying and it was a fun morning.
One of the best partsÂ of this hike is that it was very low stress. It doesn’t take long to get there, you don’t need anything in particular for it, and it isn’t a committing trail. Another important aspect is thatÂ I had already lowered my expectationsÂ for the day and wasn’t anticipating a summit or a lot of distance. This really helped frame the day as a chance to be outside, to play in the mountains, and to create a positive experience for everyone.
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn about hiking or camping with small kids, is that I need toÂ substantially lower my expectations.
OurÂ trip last year to Sunshine Meadows was a good exampleÂ of that. We did a lot of prep for the trip: had our packs ready the night before, clothes, boots, and snacks all lined up;Â got up early to catch the bus fromÂ Sunshine; pumped the kids up for a fun day in the mountains and how we’d hike all the way to Rock Isle Lake. Then we get off the bus, start moving, and 100m later the kids want snacks and a break!Â Super Frustrating!
This was the first moment when it became fully clear to me that we needed to redefine what it mean to have success int the outdoors with kids. Prior to having kids “success” usuallyÂ meant blasting out four summits in three daysÂ or getting up at 4am to climb a snowy couloir. While I am confident that we’ll have those days again they aren’t the kind of adventures you can have with a kid under 4.
Banff based adventurer, writer, and parent, Meghan J WardÂ of the Adventures in Parenthood Project addressed this re-definition really well in her piece The Transition to Parenthood: 5 (More) things IÂ didn’t consider.Â Number 3 on her list that “Practicality Will Keep You Sane”, she writes
A huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I discovered, and accepted, that it would be impossible to keep my standards for, well, everything. Organization, cleanliness, punctualityâ€¦ I do my best, but I simply had to let go of my perfectionism in these areas. I also let practicality guide my outdoor pursuits. I pushed it a few times this summer, but mostly preferred gentler, whine-free adventures. Eventually weâ€™ll be able to handle longer hikes and less stressful overnights. (source)
After our meltdown at Sunshine Meadows we redefined success in the outdoors with kids as the following:
- Having fun
- Letting the kids setÂ the pace
- Sharing a love of the outdoors
- HavingÂ a positive experience for kids and parents
As our kids grow in age, skills, and ability we can keep refining and adjusting our definition of success outdoors, but for now this works for us.
One of our emerging family traditions is the Family Walk Time. ItÂ actually started when Jamie and I were still living in Denver as a way to stretch our legs after dinner andÂ stay active on days whenÂ we weren’t out climbing mountains. Regardless of the weather we would head outside for an hour-longÂ walk through our community. There was noÂ destination, no time to beat, and no minimum distance to make it count; the goal was just to get outside, be active, and spend time together.
Now that we’re a family of five (with three kids under 4) we’veÂ adapted theÂ tradition to include all members of our family. At first we would push the kids in theÂ stroller, then the Chariot when they grew too large.Â Logan (3.75 yrs) and Riley (2.5 yrs) areÂ now masters of kick-bike and prefer to ride their bikes rather than walk. We still explore our neighbourhood and take great advantage of the wonderful green-spaceÂ that our community has to offer. We regularly walk/ride for thirty minutes or more with stops to play in the trees, the grass, or to yell into a large storm-water drain to hear the echos (the kids mostly do the yelling…). With two adults, two kids on kick-bikes and one kid in the stroller the goals of Family Walk Time are still the same: spend time outside, be active, and spend time together as a family.