After we finished our backcountry trip, I had a lot of people ask me if the trip was “fun”. It is definitely not type 1 fun which is all awesome with no challenges at all. Thankfully, for us, it was not type 3 fun which is only hard with zero enjoyment at all. For us, back country camping with kids was the perfect description of type 2 fun. Type 2 fun is when an activity is extremely challenging and hard, but you also have some beautiful rewards as well.

Our first back country camping trip with our 1-year old daughter was incredible but, also a good reminder to be prepared for the worst when exploring the back country. If the worst happens, can you get yourself and your family out safely?

Since our first back country adventure, we have taken the kids on only one other back country adventure. I think we needed some time to digest what happened and invest in a satellite phone in case something worse were to happen on a trip out in the wild.

Well the wait was over, and we were ready to tackle back country camping with kids once again.

It all started in early July. I was sitting in my parent’s basement in Calgary talking with Cam after the kids went to bed. At this point we had nothing really planned as a family for the summer. My husband looked at me and said “what do you think about hiking to Hidden Lake Campground near Lake Louise? There are 3 nights available at the back country site and we could do day hikes from there”.

I was missing adventure since our 3-month van trip last fall and looked at my husband with a big smile. We booked the 3 nights immediately for the end of July and decided that we would continue to camp in our VW van Dusty for a week or so after. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that you decide to do at the last minute.

A couple days later I found out that I would have some work that would take me to Idaho for a whole week before our back country trip. That meant that I would come home to Regina from Idaho and leave the very next day for Calgary. I wanted adventure and I was getting it.

My husband and I spent the next week prepping for 4 things:

1. Packing and planning for my trip to Idaho

2. Buying food and organizing meals for the family while I was gone

3. Packing and buying the necessary items for our backcountry

4. Setting up our VW van for the camping season

It was an exhausting week, but I knew that the hard work would pay off. I was about to go on 3 different adventures over the next 3 weeks and I was so excited.

Idaho came and went in a flash. I got home at 6 pm on the Friday and gave great big hugs and kisses to the girls and Cam. I had so much fun mountain biking at Grand Targhee but I missed them a lot. The clothes went into the wash, I repacked my stuff and started organizing for the next day.

We left the house for Calgary at 11 am and arrived around 6 pm. I was thankful we had a day in Calgary before leaving for the start of our hike near Lake Louise. There were a few more back country logistics we needed to sort out like setting up our satellite phone and buying some last minute essentials.

We left the house at 9:00 am to head to the Skoki Lodge trailhead. I was nervous for our hike. Our 5 year, 4-year-old and 8 month old puppy would have to hike the whole 7.5 km and 500 m to our campsite. I mean, I knew they could complete the hike but, it would be a big challenge for them as well.

We started the trail right after having lunch in our van at 11:30 am. The first 3.5 km of the trail to Hidden Lake is on a gravel service road and is where most of the 500 m incline occurs. After the first 30 minutes the kids started to whine, and my husband and I decided to carry their backpacks so that they would hike faster than a snail’s pace.

I started to rethink our decision to do this trip and that it may be too challenging for our family. 1 hour of hiking passed and we had only made it up .8 km of the trail.

I was worried

We stopped for a break and some snacks. I was emotionally tired, and my pack was so heavy. I looked at my husband and said, “if we don’t get the kids to pick up the pace, then we cannot safely finish this hike.”

My husband knew I was right.

We had a long talk with the kids. About 5 minutes later, I became the monster (the fun kind) that slowly sauntered after the kids and my husband. They started walking faster and even at times running. I think they also liked that they were given jellybeans from my husband if I did not catch them. A treat that I was hoping would be given to them near the end of the hike.

After another hour and half, we arrived at the halfway point which is the picnic table at the base of the “actual” trail head.

The rest is somewhat of a blur. The hike in the trail had minimal elevation and the kids moved a little quicker without too much motivation. Occasionally our 4-year-old would hop on my husband’s shoulders for 5-10 minutes. When she would go up on his shoulders my husband would mutter, “I can only handle 5 minutes of this, or I may fall over”.

During this time, I hiked with our 5-year-old and 8 month old pup. In the last 2 km she looked at me with tired eyes and said, “mom, I am tired, and this is really hard”. I looked right back at her while holding her hand and said “I am tired too honey. This pack is so heavy, and my feet cannot go any faster than this because it is so hard for me too. You know what though? I like doing hard things and I like it even more that I get to do them with you.”

She smiled a big smile. Together we held hands and pushed through to the end. In the last 50 metres, when we knew we were close, the kids had a burst of energy that allowed them to run to our campsite. I, on the other hand, slowly arrived with my large pack with our pup pulling me forward since he wanted to keep up with the kids.

I was thankful that we as a family had arrived. We had made it to the back country, and we were ready for a wild adventure.

Pictures to prove that the Type 2 fun was 100% worth the effort!

Thinking about taking your baby on a back country camping trip?

Check out the posts “Tips for Back Country Hiking with a Baby” and “Tips for Backpacking with Toddlers”

By Annika Mang
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