Initially, we had planned that hiking the Joffre Lakes trail near Whistler, BC with our two girls, aged 1 and 3, would be our toughest trek of our most recent camping vacation. Read about our adventure on that hike in the post “Tiniest Feet on the Trail”. When our 3 year old ended up hiking 6 km of the 8 km hike, we decided that we needed a harder challenge before the end of our trip. Then, someone suggested Hermit Meadows, the steepest hike in Rogers Pass, and we knew we had found a winner.
I could almost feel the burn in my legs after hearing the amount of incline. Immediately, we knew that unlike the Joffre Lakes hike, both girls would have to be in the carrier for the majority of the trail.
It was a grind. The Hermit Meadows trail has 819 m of elevation over 3 km. That is a big climb over a short distance, which means it is STEEP. I could almost feel the burn in my legs after hearing the amount of incline. Immediately, we knew that unlike the Joffre Lakes hike, both girls would have to be in the carrier for the majority of the trail. That meant that my husband would be carrying about 50 lbs and I would have a light load of 25 lbs of wiggly weight! On top of the weight I was a little bit worried about moods, as I know that when these girls want out of their carriers they are not afraid to let us know. Does anybody else have kids like that?!
Our plan was to hike up to the meadow and have lunch, then descend the mountain. The hike was, just as everyone said, extremely difficult and very vertical. There were hardly any hikers on the trail, and so we felt completely surrounded by the wilderness. The feeling of being completely wild as a family was incredible and something we don’t often get to experience these days. In fact we only saw one solo hiker and 3 sets of couples hiking on the trail. After an hour of hiking and climbing, we passed by our first hiker.
The first hiker that we encountered was a young woman solo hiker. She was hiking down the steep trail with her arm in a sling constructed out of her jacket. She had injured herself on the trail and was talking on her cell phone to health insurance to figure out what coverage she had. She was in good spirits though, and definitely had the situation under control, so we asked how much longer we had to hike. She said, “Oooh you’ve got a ways to go…” We discovered that we were not even halfway yet. My heart sunk just hoping that the girls would stay pleasant for the amount of time it would take us to complete the hike. She told us that we would come to a portion that would level out as the trees started to thin and then we would be about halfway. Once we left the trees behind we had about 1/3 left of hiking.
After feeling defeated for a few moments, I regrouped and thought to myself, “this is perfect and exactly what we wanted in a hike.”
It became clear that we would not make Hermit Meadows for our lunch and that it was indeed going to be the hardest hike we had done with both of our girls. After feeling defeated for a few moments, I regrouped and thought to myself, “this is perfect and exactly what we wanted in a hike.” After readjusting our hiking strategy we decided that we would stop wherever we were at 12:30 pm for lunch.
When we hit the spot where the trees started thinning out, our oldest daughter wanted to hike. My husband at this point ended up carrying our 1 year old in his carrier. We both felt like we had a break in the amount of weight we were carrying. It was sweet relief. Out of the carrier went our 3 year old and she started hiking incredible slow. In fact she was so slow, I began to think that we would maybe not be able to finish the hike. By ‘slow’, I mean that she was tip-toeing nervously over every part of the trail. Inside, I started to get frustrated as this was supposed to be the easy portion of the hike with very little elevation, not much for big rocks or roots, and where we could increase our hiking speed to make up time lost on the more difficult bits of trail. I think the most frustrating part was that our little girl knows how to hike. For crying out loud, she had just hiked up that Joffre Lakes trail a few days earlier as fast as many of the adults on the trail!
We soon realized that our daughter’s overly cautious hiking approach on this day was really our doing. Prior to hiking Hermit Meadows we had pumped up how steep and hard the hike was, so that our little hiker would sit happily in the carrier. It turns out, all of this talk made her happy to sit in the carrier, but also a little bit scared of the trail. Now she was being ‘oh so careful’ on the trail because she was afraid. After about 5 minutes of excruciatingly slow hiking, she soon regained her confidence to hike like the little 3 year old I knew. After 30 minutes of toddler hiking, I needed to refuel so that I had the energy to continue. We stopped for lunch and both girls enjoyed the food, the views and exploring close to us on the trail.
After lunch, both girls hopped in their carriers. Shortly after, we encountered a couple on the trail. They told us we were about 20 minutes to where the trees break and that it was short hike from there. I regained my energy and hope that we would be able to complete the full hike with the girls. Off we continued to climb.
We were in a gorgeous meadow with a panoramic view of mountains. We explored the meadow with our girls and took endless amounts of pictures. The views were amazing.
Our 3 year old zonked in the carrier while our 1 year old soaked up the views. We soon hit the break in the trees, did a short scramble and from there we hiked through the meadow to the trail marker that marked the end of our hike. We were in a gorgeous meadow with a panoramic view of mountains. We explored the meadow with our girls and took endless amounts of pictures. The views were amazing. When our 3 year old woke up we enjoyed a well-deserved chocolate croissant and a cheese croissant from La Baguette in Revelstoke as a treat. The girls hiked around the meadow as we enjoyed watching them explore and soaked up the views.
We soon decided it was time to descend. There were some clouds rolling in, and we still had to find a campground for the night. At first, I was so happy to be going down instead of climbing; however, after 30 minutes of descending, my legs started to feel a different type of burn and I could not wait to be at the bottom. The trail was excruciatingly steep. Trying to go fast down to ease the burn, while remaining in control in order to prevent injury was a challenge.
With about 20 minutes left in the hike, our girls reached the end of their rope. This was one of those times when you feel more exhausted than ever, but somehow need to find a way to bring out the more energy to entertain the kids. While hiking all of the focus goes on the girls, and it does not matter how much my legs are burning. We managed to cheer them up by putting sticks on our heads, which ensued big laughs from both of the girls. Tear free and happy we finally made it back to Dusty the VW van. We hung out under the trail information booth chugging water until we were ready to jump into the van and find our next camping spot.
Everything about this hike felt wonderful –the gift of happy kids for the majority of the hike, the tranquility of the forest around us, the stunning views once we reached the alpine, and the challenge. While I knew my kids would change my life in many ways, I always figured that I would find a way to keep doing the activities that I enjoy. Instead of giving up these activities, I would adapt them and bring my kids along. Ultimately, any added difficulties would only up the adventure and lead to even more rewarding experiences. So far, I think I was right.
Note: “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. Our daughter was in the hiking carrier for most of that journey”*
*Exert taken from the Blog Post “Tiniest Feet on the Trail”