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August 2021

4 Days in the Backcountry with a Toddler | Valhalla Provincial Park, BC

Guest Authors: The Mordaks

Our most recent excursion took us into the alpine of Valhalla Provincial Park. We chose to hike into Gwillim Lakes Campground on a Thursday and situate it as our base camp for 3 nights. It absolutely benefitted us to arrive before the weekend to scoop a snazzy tent pad in our favourite location. As the weekend inevitably arrived, the choosing fell slim. It is no wonder that so many neighbouring weekend warriors came to enjoy this area - the mountains were plentiful, the lakes were stunning, and the temperature was mild.

Our smokiest day. Fortunately, it was brief.

Day 1:

After quite a long and mostly gravel road, with quite the bumpy end, we chicken wired our car (yes - totally a thing in porcupine country) and then began our ~6km hike in with nearly 600m gain that took us nearly 3 hours. Now that is 3 hours of either toddler toddling or toddler wearing so we were definitely not breaking any records with our pace.

A couple of incredible pieces about our hike up: views, views and more views, flowers, marmots, marmots and more marmots. Also, I did say toddler toddling, but I hold a ton of pride that our 2 year old hiked and scrambled ~2km of this trail. She also did so with blazing confidence. Things that Kismet said while ascending, “I can do this”, “I got this”, “I can climb that”, & “come on mom”. A huge goal for us as parents is raising a confident human who has positive self-talk.

We entered camp in the afternoon, snagged a great tent pad, and simply soaked up the 360 views, the cool alpine lake, time with friends, good fresh food, delicious wine and unfortunately many insect bites. The plethora of bites, specifically mosquito bites, really complicated our sleep that night. It turns out that we had applied insect repellant and layers too late in the day and our little one was unbearably itchy much of the night. Now when a toddler doesn't sleep, NOBODY sleeps. Her discomfort nearly brought me to tears. Truth be told, one must be ultra prepared for pesky insects in the alpine and I was feeling some parent guilt about not putting her in a bug net bubble. Is that a thing?

Day 2:

We did have the pleasure of a "sleep in" after our unfortunate night. After soul soothing coffee and our classic home packed oatmeal, we scrambled up a boulder field and out of the bowl we were camping in, over and onto Lucifer's Pass (~1.5km, 400m gain) and we embraced the views and the wind. That special wind meant no pesky bugs. So what we should have done was bring our lunch and stayed up there until dinner time. Instead we came back down for lunch and iced our bug bitten legs in that sweet mountain lake - also super, super nice.

We then found refuge from the pesky mosquitoes and horse flies in our tent for as long as our wacky toddler would let us (tent fly off of course to be able to still see the sights). Did we pack a few kids books and a stuffed animal in our already incredibly heavy packs for such entertainment purposes? Yes, most definitely. Us parents even swapped nap turns. So good. Those sweet naps provided just enough energy to cook up our freeze dried Persian Bean Bowl from West Coast Kitchen and couscous (easy way to beef up the calories when you're a family of 3 or just hungry). We've tried many backpacking food companies but WCK has got it going on++. Night 2 was far superior in the sleep department after a little extra mosquito prevention this day and after bite application before bed.

Day 3:

This morning looked similar: snooze well past sunrise, sip coffee, eat and climb up and out of the bowl. Well actually before we climbed out of the bowl - Kismet found a KID! We don't often come across other kids in the alpine and sweet Kismet latched on and was having the time of her life. This girl was several years older but was kind and welcoming to Kismet. Together they built a "fairy house" and bonded over their matching Ambler hats - how sweet. We simply could not pry Kismet from this.

The other family was out by the late morning and then we hiked up and out of the bowl. This time we headed West and up onto a Ridge (~2km, 375m gain). We did not make the mistake of leaving our lunch this day. We spent time up on this wide ridge allowing Kismet to explore, climb and "build houses'' out of rocks that apparently she intended on living in. There was yet another lake mid-way up this section so after lunch we descended for a leg soak and dip. This lake was crystal clear, beautifully blue and had one of the most incredible backdrops. We didn't return until dinner was on our minds. For this meal, it was perhaps my personal favorite, freeze-dried curry.

Us parents verbally agreed to a sunrise wake so we went and laid down early this night, reading books and snuggling until we fell asleep. It was another itchy and restless night for Kismet. Unfortunately, we misplaced the after bite. Probably because we only had one single, tiny, after bite wipe, that came from our first aid kit, and who knows where something that small can run off to in the slew of our tent (we did find it during our pack up).

Day 4:

We woke up to our alarm at 04:45am. We left our tent fly door open - because of the views. When I looked up and out from my slumber, the sky was already pink. Gah the sunrise was already coming and going! Michael rushed to retrieve our stove, coffee, and oatmeal from the bear cache. I was rushing to ready sleeping beauty and carry her to our intended lookout. We missed most of the pink but caught some beautiful oranges and rays that slowly climbed over and down the mountains. Kismet slept in arms for most of it.

This coffee and breakfast spot was beyond comparison. Bittersweet because it was pack and go day. We were packed up and began heading down by 07:45am. Very likely our earliest departure ever. Did I mention I am neither a night owl or an early bird? I am what the meme says - a perpetually exhausted pigeon. Anyhow, I think it is easy to say that we would do this adventure all over again. Even if the insects were impossibly worse.

About The Mordaks

A short intro to us: We are the Mordaks - a small family living in B.C., Canada. Michael works in Digital Marketing and I, Katia, am currently finishing up my Bachelors in Midwifery - supporting and serving pregnant, birthing and postpartum families. We have one wild toddler, named Kismet, and one silly pup, named Maisel. We entertain these beings and ourselves with outdoor activity as much as we can. We take to the mountains/trails/ocean/lakes no matter the weather or time of year. We are particularly keen on backpacking, bikepacking and canoe camping as a family. Keep up with our explorations by following us on Instagram @mor.wild.