Meet Laura and her family. I actually first met Laura when we played rugby together for the University of Alberta. We reconnected when she contacted me to ask me about camping with a newborn. She then told me her crazy story to go backcountry fishing with her 3 month old. I instantly fell in love with her family’s adventure and asked her to write a post for Born to be Adventurous. Read on to hear about their adventures fishing in the East Arm on Great Slave Lake.

“… this baby was joining our lives and not the other way around”

driving the boat with baby

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I would describe Rob and I (Laura) as weekend warriors that love fishing, hiking, hunting and generally being outdoors. When I was pregnant we kept telling our friends and family that we wanted to take the attitude that this baby was joining our lives and not the other way around. This was most often greeted with snorts, laughs and ‘oh you’ll see’. Frankly, this scared me. I didn’t want having a baby to mean giving up the things we loved to become full-time suburbanite parents. But hey, what did we know about parenting? Perhaps our idealistic view would quickly fall by the wayside in our sleep-deprived state.

When our daughter Morley was around 3 months old we started floating the idea of a backcountry fishing trip in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake (a 5 hour boat trip from Yellowknife). We hadn’t yet camped overnight with Morley, so this seemed like a stupidly large trip to bite off as our inaugural adventure with an infant. Before even attempting this, I chatted with friends from Yellowknife, and buddies that have backcountry camped with their infants. The general advice from everyone was:

  1. Be over prepared with clothes and diapers,
  2. Your sleep might seriously blow chunks,
  3. Keep your expectations in check,
  4. You’re going to have a blast.

With that boost of confidence, we booked our flights to Yellowknife and there was officially no turning back.

To prep for the trip we pitched a tent in the backyard at the family cabin to make sure our daughter would indeed sleep in a tent. We ended up blowing up a thermorest for her beside mine, and opening up two sleeping bags (one to lay on and one to act as a blanket). Morley slept like a champ. Me? Not so much. The constant fear that I would roll over or suffocate her with a blanket meant that I didn’t actually sleep.

Baby Lifejacket
The lifejacket that squished her face too much.

We also needed to make sure Morley would be OK travelling in a boat. We initially bought her the Canadian Coast Guard approved infant life jacket for the trip. You know what babies don’t love? Life jackets! She screamed bloody murder since it didn’t fit well and squished her face.

I regrouped and bought her the non-approved life jacket that didn’t pinch her face and made her happy. My attitude was that a happy baby would keep a flotation device on, whereas a screaming baby with the other life jacket would likely cause me to say ‘Screw it’ and take it off her. Good news is that with the new life jacket would keep her afloat and she was a happy camper on the boat! *

The plan for our trip was to fly up to Yellowknife and then take a floatplane to our camping spot on the East Arm.  Once there, we would meet friends who were lending us their boat, they would fly home while we took care of their boat for a week and drove it back to Yellowknife. We were also extremely fortunate that our friends were bringing the majority of the gear by boat so we didn’t have to worry about gear weight and were able to bring along luxuries like a duvet and beer. Score!

Our saving grace were the baby muffs we purchased prior to the trip that blocked out the majority of the noise. A definite must have for small planes and boat travel!

floatplane baby

We were a little worried how Morley would handle the floatplane given that it’s noisy and cramped, but she had a blast and even fell asleep at the end!  Our saving grace were the baby muffs we purchased prior to the trip that blocked out the majority of the noise. A definite must have for small planes and boat travel!

We struck the jackpot for accommodations on the East Arm and were able to stay in a fantastic little lease cabin . The owners leave the door unlocked and welcome anyone to stay provided they clean up and pack out garbage. By backcountry camping standards we had DELUXE accommodations complete with the kitchen sink.

lease cabin

As expected fishing was fantastic! We caught lots of lake trout and the occasional grayling. In the boat Morley was extremely content to sit on our laps or hang out in the bassinet with toys. Luckily, she isn’t mobile yet so we didn’t have to worry about her crawling around or out of the boat. While we were generally able to get her to sleep in the bassinet, if the water was rough (or she was cranky) she would sleep on me in her carrier.

A week of fishing, campfires, exploring the area and chilling out at the cabin flew by and soon it was time to make the 5-hour boat trip back to Yellowknife. We were definitely sad to leave, but felt proud of ourselves for jumping in with two feet on our first family backcountry vacation.

fishing with a baby

Take home thoughts from the trip:

  1. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
  2. Flexibility was key. We had to work around naps and her schedule to a certain degree, but we still had tons of fun.
  3. I packed way too many clothes for Morley. Definitely, could cut a lot of things out next time…but for our first trip I was fine with over packing since we didn’t have to worry about weight.
  4. I’m glad we used disposable diapers (instead of cloth) and packed them out. Made things much simpler.
  5. Sleep was the same as it was at home. Still sleep deprived. Might as well be tired in a gorgeous setting.
  6. I’m glad we didn’t talk ourselves out of this adventure. What amazing memories to make together.

*Disclaimer: I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t buy the Canadian Coast Guard approved PFD. Just didn’t work for our child’s giant head.

Laura's headshot
Laura Macpherson

More pics from their adventure.

exploring baby
floatplane and babyimg_1553
catching fishbaby sleeping in boat

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