The Drive There in a Heatwave
Some people thought we were brave, others thought we were stupid or just plain crazy. At times I felt like all of the above. Making the long drive from Vancouver to the Rockies with a five month old baby wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. We left on Friday afternoon after literally packing the whole house into our ’99 Subaru Legacy. Neil fell asleep before we even drove two blocks and slept until around Merritt, three hours away, while I tried to remember all the things that we might have forgotten. Eventually Gili got so tired from the drive that we had to stop at a rest area so he could take a nap, but of course by then Neil was up and about and in full-on play mood and wasn’t too happy when we put him in his car seat again, so we stopped at a Forest Rec. Site not too long after Merritt.
It being the Friday before the BC Day long weekend the rec site was full with mostly rednecks, so we found a spot nearby, on a hill overlooking the lake. Neil got used to the tent routine very easily and didn’t seem to mind camping out for the next two weeks. He loved the ‘Orange House’ and especially anything related to zippers, mesh and air mattresses.
The next day we continued the drive. We were happy we got our air conditioner fixed just before the trip because it was over 30C degrees outside. A swim in a lake was in order and we found a locals’ beach at the tiny town of Canoe, on the shore of Shuswap Lake. The drive seemed to be going fine, but a long stop in Revelstoke did not do good to any of us and by the time we tried driving again Neil showed us that he had reached his limit.
Eventually he fell asleep and we drove till a really nice rec site by the Columbia River just before Golden. We found a spot easily this time, and a nice dinner and relaxing time got us all into a better mood. We did most of the drive to the Rockies and we were now officially on vacation. I told Gili that every time before a trip it seems so difficult to leave, but once we are out everything seems so easy. From then on there was less driving, more family time, hiking, nature and fun.
Around Yoho National Park
The combination of BC Day long weekend, Alberta Heritage Day and just the fact of it being summer brought many people to the Rockies. After a stop at the information Centre in Lake Louise we concluded that traveling spontaneously like we do (and with a baby!) with no camping reservations is considered crazy. So for the next few days we based ourselves in a really nice walk-in (non-reservable) campground near Takakkaw Falls.
From there we went on our first long hike, the Iceline Trail. We weren’t sure how far we would go, but eventually we decided to complete the loop of 17.5 km. Although it seemed like Neil enjoyed being in the hiking carrier it was good to test his and our limits. 17.5 km with a five month old – definitely too long…. It didn’t help that the heat wave broke just towards the last couple of hours of our hike. We enjoyed stunning views and the walk by the nearby glacier. We had a nice Bamba (an Israeli snack described as peanut Cheezies) break by Laughing Falls, but from there on we only had the crying falls. Neil was not a happy camper during our last hour of the hike. Finally after a long hour we reached the tent and spent some time inside and away from the rain. In a matter of minutes Neil returned to being his happy self and was laughing and smiling, playing in the tent.
A Romantic Dinner in Banff
After some rainy days around Yoho we realized that we needed a laundromat: Gili had hand-washed Neil’s diapers, but for three days straight they had been rained on. It was a good excuse to finally check out the town of Banff. After checking it out, I now know we hadn’t missed much on previous trips to the Rockies. It was a relaxing day in which we visited the local hot springs together with hundreds of other people who agreed with us that it was a good hot springs day.
Then we went to a fancy fondue restaurant in Banff with the excuse being our wedding anniversary. The problem was that Neil was very sleepy after the hot springs but when we got to the restaurant he was in a very active mood… Two couples around us were trying to have a romantic dinner while Neil was busy ripping napkins and any other paper that came in his way. The food took a long time (how hard is it to prepare a cheese fondue?!) and eventually I had to feed him just as the food came. It did the trick though and he was very calm for the rest of the evening.
Five Day Hike becomes Six
The morning we left on our five day hike we had a lot of packing to do. It was our first multi-day hike using this hiking carrier and we had to find a way to fit everything in. Before I even emerged from the tent there was already a line-up of people wanting to take our camp spot. It turns out that camping spots in the Rockies are prime real estate, especially just before a weekend.
Eventually we were ready to go and drove the short distance to the start of the hike. Then after messing around a bit more, eventually we were ready to go at 2:30pm… As soon as we put on our backpacks, Gili carrying Neil, the food and the tent and I the rest of the gear we realized that we were on a different scale of heaviness. Honestly I didn’t think we’d make it.
The first couple of kilometers were along the very popular Johnston Canyon. A beautiful section of the river, with narrow elevated boardwalks above the water. Unfortunately that meant tons of people walking on the very narrow path while we tried to pass through with our wide and heavy backpacks which made it hard to make room for them to pass (especially since I was carrying two mattresses). Eventually, after slogging the not too steep but definitely noticeable hill and reaching the Ink Pots we left most of the crowds behind us. Two kilometers later we happily arrived to Larry’s Camp, our home for the night.
We met a lot of interesting people during the hike. A Chinese couple were very interested in Neil and asked to take photos of him. They said that in China it is not common to take children outdoors until they are at least two or three. We also met a woman hiking with her dad who was probably in his seventies, too many Americans who did not seem to know the basic rules of hiking, camping and keeping quiet (as well as not pooping where you sleep!). A father and his 13 old son on a weekend trip where the dad very patiently showed the boy how to cut and split wood, and a mother and daughter in her early twenties who enjoyed some bonding time. It was very encouraging to see the different family groups, and gave us hope that Neil would like to hike with us even in the far future.
We spent two nights at Badger Pass Junction Campground that unfortunately was full of mosquitoes. Protecting Neil was a challenge, and we resorted to building the tent temporarily in the kitchen area. That evening something was going on with Neil – he wouldn’t stop crying. Our guess was and still is that something was wrong with his tummy (maybe it’s related to the dirt he sometimes ends up eating). The next day when he finally pooped we were all relieved and everyone was in a better mood. It’s amazing what makes you happy while hiking with a baby.
A short day hike from camp took us to Pulsatilla Pass – we had started up the trail thinking we’d end up at Badger Pass, and by the time we noticed it was going to the other pass decided we’d just go along with it. We enjoyed the views of the next valley over and the beautiful Pulsatilla Lake while the weather kept on changing and a curious marmot came a bit too close.
Our favorite campground was the one off the trail at Luellen Lake. Gili spent a lot of time washing Neil’s diapers and hanging them. At this point we already decided that completing the trip in five days was doable but probably wouldn’t be too fun for any of us, since the original plan was a really long day out. We stretched our food, having one lunch of trail mix and another breakfast of granola bars… It worked – as long as you are flexible anything could work. The new plan gave us a lot of extra time to relax and enjoy the beautiful lake, just by ourselves once everyone left, which was very convenient for taking a refreshing swim…
The routine of the hike was very relaxing. We didn’t start too early, we hiked mostly while Neil was sleeping, we took long breaks to play with him, change him, feed him and exercise him, so when he was back in the carrier he was once again very tired. He seemed to get used to this routine easily and we enjoyed it very much too.
The last day of the hike was short – after passing the Ink Pots we were once again on the beaten track. On our last break a few people stopped to admire us and even took a photo of all of us. We finished the last bit of granola bars, it was probably the first time we finished all of our food without leaving even crumbs… Luckily Neil didn’t have to worry about his food running out.
We took a different trail out through Moose Meadows to avoid the crowds of Johnston Canyon again. When we finally emerged to the parking lot we knew we had succeeded – a six day hike with a five month old, what a great adventure we all had. Neil and I waited for a bit while Gili hiked two kilometers on the highway to get the car. In the meantime Neil practiced his new skill – sitting.
We drove back to the familiar campground at Castle Mountain and Gili cooked a feast for us while Neil was busy ripping a magazine that some tourists left behind to tiny little bits. Then I felt it was time for the little guy to take his first bath in over ten days… For some reason we actually brought Neil’s bath with us from home, and Gili filled it with warm water.
After Neil was all clean and tidy it was time for his parents to do the same. Since we couldn’t fit into his bath and our campground didn’t have showers, we had to drive to a different, more expensive, campground close by. At the entrance the guard said that they charge $8 for showers (?!) but then changed her mind and said we could shower for free (thank you!).
Easy Day Hikes
We still had a few days before we had to start making our long drive back. The good thing about the Rockies is that you can get to some amazing views without trying too hard. The disadvantage of course is that it means tons of people everywhere. Everywhere? Well, like always if you continue a bit farther it is likely that you’ll leave the crowds behind. We hiked to Bow Lookout where we enjoyed amazing views of Bow Lake and then camped at Silverhorn campground which didn’t have a lot of people either.
The next day we drove to Moraine lake where a parking spot is also prime real estate… By the time we we were ready to start hiking, it was raining. We decided to do the hike to Consolation Lakes anyway, but when we got to the beginning of the trail there was a sign that a minimum group of four is required because of Grizzly bears in the area. We convinced a young French couple to join us, forming a group of four on the spot… The rain only got stronger so we didn’t really enjoy the views of the lake that much, but it didn’t bother Neil who took a very long nap. Of course, on the way back the sun came out.
The Drive Back in a Thunderstorm
Then it was time to start heading back. The drive went smoothly, but we made the mistake of stopping at the gas station in Revelstoke again. We are pretty sure that this gas station is cursed, because like on the drive there, things started going downhill from there. Already at the gas station we started hearing the sound of a rolling thunder storm and the sky became very dark.
Back at the car Neil was very grumpy and eventually we had to stop so I could feed him although he ate half an hour before…. We didn’t manage to find the turn off to the rec site we were looking for, so eventually we kept on driving and Neil fell asleep. By that point it was already dark and I suggested to Gili that he’ll just keep on driving till we hit Vancouver (ETA: 3am?). He wasn’t thrilled with this idea and when we saw a sign of a campground on the side of the road we stopped there. The campground only had a few tents and campers around, and Gili suggested that we’d sleep in the very basic cabin that they were turning into a office, which the manager agreed to. We jumped on the opportunity since it was very appealing not to set up the tent in the coming storm.
Neil was already sound asleep, so I took the opportunity to head to the shower (yes, a shower!) and Gili made dinner. Then we all had a cozy good night’s sleep in the cabin while the storm was rolling outside, and even the noise from the nearby #1 Highway didn’t bother us.
Neil woke up early giving us a head start for the day. We took a detour through Vernon in the hopes of finding a huge stash of fruit, but no such luck. Then we decided to try and make it to Vancouver in the same day as there was really no point in making the drive longer.
After the thunderstorms it was great to find that Vancouver was still sunny (Suncouver!) and Neil felt right at home back in the apartment and we were happy to see lots of red tomatoes waiting for us. We had dinner at our favourite sushi place close by before crashing for a good night’s sleep, leaving the piles of laundry for the next day…