There are certain moments that stand out in my mind from our most recent camping trip. Like the moment after the park warden said that we could have a fire and my daughter jumped for joy. The exchange went something like this – Park Warden says, “There’s no fire ban up here”. My 3 year old reaches high up in the sky, begins jumping for joy like a maniac and shouts “YEAAAH! HEY MOM! There is no fire ban!”. The Park Warden then says matter-of-factly, “Well, I’ve never seen that reaction before”. His reaction reminded me just how much our kids can liven up otherwise regular moments in a day.
Anyways, it truly was a nice surprise that we were allowed to have a fire! The 45 minute drive from Nairn Falls Provincial Park to Rogers Creek Campground took us into an area where it was colder and had recently been raining. The news of being able to have a fire came at the perfect time. Our daughter had just said in the car that she was tired of camping and wanted to go home. I started to second guess the long camping trip. The excitement of the fire, roasting marshmallows and having a small piece of chocolate renewed our little 3 year old’s zest for camping. I mean what 3 year old (or adult) would not love all of these things!
Once we arrived at Roger’s Creek we set up camp as usual, except that we got all our snacks and lunch ready for the next day. We were planning to do a longer hike with the girls the next day and wanted to have minimal prep in the morning to allow for an early departure. Our plan was to hike Joffre lakes which is an 8 km round trip hike with 370 metres of elevation. They major draw of the hike is the three beautiful mountain lakes at kilometres 1, 3, and 4 from the trail head. This was the longest hike we had done with both of our daughters. Funny enough, we would do an even more challenging hike two days later but that is a story for another blog post. Prior to my second daughter being born our longest hike with our oldest was along the Helm Creek Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park. We stayed two nights in the backcountry so that we hiked 9 km in on day 1, did a small 3 km hike to the bottom of the Black Tusk Mountain on day 2, and then 9 km out on day 3. Having not hiked a significant distance with both of our daughters, it only seemed fit to have a few bigger adventures as a family of four before the summer ended.
Our initial thought was to have both girls in the carrier for the hike. Then I talked with a Pemberton local. She mentioned that her 2 1/2 year old hiked the 3 km to the second lake and back for a total of 6 km of hiking. Since our oldest has pretty good stamina we thought we would give it a go and have her hike. It seemed an appropriate distance for her since she has been known to hike up to 4 m on her own. As it was a bit of a longer distance and the elevation was going to be a challenge, we decided to bring the extra carrier in case she got tired and we needed an exit strategy.
The hike started and the pace was a typical 3 year old walk which means that it felt like the pace of a snail as she stopped to examine rocks and pick up sticks. This was not going to work if we were actually going to complete the hike. Then I noticed the orange squares on the trees marking the trail. Soon these little markers became a treasure hunt for our 3 year old as she began to run up the mountain jumping with glee every time she reached a marker. She was flying by other hikers on the trail. My husband chased after her as I half jogged half speed-walked after them with our youngest on my back.
As the trail began to increase in elevation, we increased the number of water breaks and the hikers we had passed started to catch up to our speedy 3 year old. This particular trail is extremely popular, and by popular I mean over crowded with people. In the past, a crowded hike would not have been something that would have appealed to me or my husband. However each person that passed us cheered on our 3 year old and provided moments of entertainment for our 1 year old. These crowds of people really encouraged our girls to enjoy the hike and each of these people were a real gift on the trail. They helped make the hike fun for the whole family. In particular, we met a couple with adult children in their 20s hiking the trail. They were so encouraging of all of us, and great company as we often hiked back and forth past each other on the trail.
It was not all perfect, although I would say we came pretty close to a perfect hiking experience. This does not happen all the time, so when it does my husband and I bask in the pleasure of a whine-free, tantrum-free hike. At one point I could foresee a meltdown. Our daughter asked to go in the carrier and was about to demand to sit in the carrier while our 1 year old started to whine that she wanted to get out her carrier. At that point we busted out the farmers sausage and fed our 3 year old as she hiked and our 1 year old as she sat in the carrier. The extra food perked them both up and in no time at all we made it the 3 kms to the second lake.
After some lunch and pictures at the turquoise blue, glacier-fed lake we put both girls in their carriers and hiked the 30 minutes to the upper lake. The 1 km walk to the third lake was not nearly as difficult as the hike to the second lake, but it did take us over some big boulders. This type of hiking would have been difficult and slow-going for our 3 year old, as for her tiny feet it would have been a lot of scrambling. On our way to the third lake we stopped to soak in the waterfall that was crashing down the mountain. Once we arrived at the third lake we ate a treat on the large boulders while sitting in awe of the surrounding views. It was stunning. All four of us climbed down to the water and took off our shoes and socks to feel the fresh water on our toes. It was an amazing feeling. After a whole bunch of pictures were taken, we plopped both girls back in the carriers to head down, but by the time we reached the 2nd lake on our descent, our 3 year old was begging to get out and hike again. Out of the carrier she went and she hiked and ran the remaining 3 km back to the trailhead.
Our daughter turned out to be a better hiker than I ever expected. She hiked all the way to the second lake had a break in the carrier on our trips between the 2nd and 3rd lake, and then hiked the rest of the way from the 2nd lake down to Dusty our VW van. She was incredible! In fact both of our girls hardly complained at all. It was a gift as we soaked in the fresh mountain air and beautiful views. It truly felt like a pre-kids experience, only better because we had two little gals that were just as excited as us to be hiking on the trail.