Was this really a good idea? I wasn’t so sure anymore. I was stuck 90 minutes drive from home and a few kilometres up a steep trail with a whiny 3 year old and a 25 lb two year old who just wanted to jump in and out of the hiking carrier every 15 minutes.

Love, Sweat and Tears: A true story of hiking with toddlers

My husband was away camping with a friend and so, of course, I needed to find something really fun to do with the kids. With this in mind, I had resolved to take the girls by myself on the Ptarmigan Cirque Hike in Kananaskis Country — a beautiful 5 km hike with 220 metres of elevation gain. I knew that my 3 year old could hike it herself as she had tackled harder hikes last summer (e.g. Joffre Lakes in BC) with my husband and I, but taking both kids by myself to conquer this trail was proving to be mentally exhausting. It didn’t take long before I began to question if this truly was “fun”.

I thought about turning around pretty early on, but my stubborness prevailed and we kept going in hopes that our overall moods would change. We slowly made our way up the trail as I told stories about volcanos and bribed the girls with blueberries.  We hiked this trail last year as a family and so I knew that the forested trail would soon open up to a beautiful hollow filled with alpine flowers and expansive views. I asked some hikers coming down the trail about how far it was to get to the cirque and I did not receive the answer I was hoping for. We still had quite some ways to go up the trail. Feeling a little, but not entirely, defeated we continued to trudge up the trail, the girls’ tired little legs struggling to navigate over the big roots and rocks.

Next we met some hiking angels. They told us we only had to go up a little further around the bend and then, voila, we would be above the tree line! When hiking with littles, there is nothing better than news that you are further up the trail than you thought you were.

My littles walked as if there was lead in their shoes, but I, on the other hand, found a new burst of energy. We were close to our destination! I pulled out more blueberries and ran ahead of them on the trail urging them to move their little feet.  It took quite a bit of coaxing but we finally made it – we had reached the Cirque!

The girls were jumping with excitement since they knew that this was where we would have our treat. I brought out the apple sauce and cookies to munch on while we happily soaked in the views and watched the ground squirrels running around us. The challenge  to get up to this spot was well worth the effort.

My oldest turned to me and said ” Mom this is the best day ever. I am having so much fun.” Talk about living in the moment. Then as she took a bite of her cookie she added ” And you know what the best treat is? It is being together as a family.” My heart immediately melted and I knew my decision to take on this trail, just me and my girls, was the right one.

We stayed for quite a while and played volcanoes, while searching for special rocks. The kids were sad when it was time to leave. Nature really is the best playground. Once we were packed up and ready for our descent, I tried to put my 2 year old in the carrier for a nap. After a couple of aggressive bum drops in the carrier and blood-curdling screams I knew that I would have to wait until we reached the car for nap time.

I was so happy that I decided not to fight her opposition to sitting in the carrier (although I’m sure her screams would be a good wildlife deterrent!). The two girls held hands as they skipped their way down the mountain. Their spirits were high as they relished in the experience of being together and accomplishing something difficult.

The way down was slow but manageable. They drew in the dirt, slid on their bums and jumped off pretty much any rock they could find. But they were happy, and we were having such a great time that it felt like we reached the car in no time at all.

In the end, I can say without hesitation that I am so happy we did this hike together. The quality time and our ability to work out the challenges brought us together in the kind of bonding experience that is hard to find anywhere but in the outdoors. Needless to say, I am SO looking forward to our next adventure.



By Annika Mang



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