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August 2022

McCrae Lake - Outside of Revelstoke, BC

Guest Author: Shannon Head (@restlesscrusade)

Backpacking with children is tough at times so ideally going for two nights is what we prefer. This time however we only had enough time for one night. Some would say it’s not worth going all that way into the backcountry just to set up, sleep, tear down camp and hike back out. But our love for the mountains calls us and we will take what we can get.

We drove almost three hours to reach the parking lot for McCrae Lake and peak hike outside of Revelstoke B.C. at 1750 m above sea level. We left the truck at 1:30 pm and started on our hike. The trailhead sign said it was a 5.5 km hike to the lake while we had read somewhere online that it was only 3.5 km. Already this hike was starting off on the wrong foot.

Five minutes down the trail Lidija started complaining her shorts were falling down and wanted them changed. I had an extra pair but they were deep in my backpack so she didn’t get the option and had to push on. Another 10 minutes further was a creek crossing where Lidija decided to go in a little too deep allowing the water to flow over the top of her hiking boots making for a soggy foot. I pulled her boot off, dried it the best I could with my shirt then put it back on and we continued.

The first kilometre is on an old deactivated road making for pretty easy hiking minus the few minor issues we were having. We then came to a fork in the trail leading right, up into the forest. There were a few down trees crossing the trail that needed to be climbed over and as Lidija did just that she put her hand down on a patch of sap leading to another melt down. After I got some hand sanitizer out and got the sap off her we tried to remain positive and push on.

Next came patches of snow covering the trail. This perked the girls up as they trekked through now with smiles on their faces. Up and up we climbed through the sub alpine terrain of thinning trees until we came to another fork in the trail. The right trail would take you two kilometres further to McCrae peak and the left path continued down to the lake. Only one kilometre to go before reaching our destination. Lidija and I forged ahead while Bexley and Tyson took in the views and every little rock, stick and bug on the path.

Lidija eventually saw a peek-a-boo of the lake and ran ahead trying to get herself there as fast as she could. When you first enter the camping area there is a fly-out barrel outhouse to your left and to the right a grey water dump and cooking area. Just beyond that are three tent pads.

We quickly searched for a place to put our tent for the night. I still had my pack on as I slipped on a root and fell to the ground while twisting my ankle and knee and scraping up my leg in the process. This trek was really going well.

There was another family camping right in the water saturated meadow but we went to search out the tent pads. One exposed and the other two still covered in snow. Of course the one we really wanted had half a foot of snow covering the 10’ by 10’ wooden platform. Once Tyson and Bexley arrived they confirmed this location as it had a slight view of the deep green mountain lake between the trees. I started unpacking the bags and setting up the chairs while Tyson hacked the snow off the tent pad. The girls both helped Tyson as well between munching on snacks.

Tyson set up our new MSR elixir 4 tent while us girls went to the lake to fill our Platypus GravityWorks bag in preparation for dinner and rehydrating after our 30°C hike in.

When we returned the tent was all set up and we were ready to make some dinner and relax. The bugs had other plans for us. We ate a quick dehydrated chicken pad Thai while swatting away mosquitos, black flies and the odd horsefly. Once dinner was finished we ushered the girls into the tent to escape the bugs. We then donned on our head bug nets and sat back in our chairs to relax for the evening. The girls enjoyed just playing inside the tent with the few stuffies they brought and making up games.

This mountain lake is an amazing colour of green with steep banks lining most of the shore line. There are a couple smaller walking paths taking you to creeks feeding and exiting the lake. The east side boasts spectacular mountain views of the surrounding peaks with year round snow patches lurking in the steep shadows below the rocky summits.

There was no bear pole or cache at this location so we had to hang the food in a tree well away from our tent site. Bedtime came early for us, around 9pm, as we curled up next to the girls after trying to calm them down with their excitement of sleeping in the tent.

Fortunately the girls slept amazingly well. Tyson and I on the other hand were a bit chilly. We had decided to bring our summer sleeping bags this trip since it was so warm. But the night was anything but that. At an altitude of 1950m the night time temperatures were getting down to just +2°C . This was also the first time in our new tent which is a big step up from our previous two person tent and makes for a much larger space for our bodies to warm up, not to mention we were resting mere inches from the snow located within one of the vestibules.

Morning came and the sun beat down on the tent waking us up around 9:00. We slept a good 12 hours and were ready for the day, although the bugs were continuing in full force. The girls remained in the tent while we boiled water for breakfast. We had thoughts of spending the day here but with all the bugs we couldn’t really enjoy being outside. We decided to pack up and start our hike out in hopes that with us moving the bugs would be kept to a minimum.

The first bit of the hike out wasn't too bad but once we got about 2 km from the parking lot the black flies and horse flies really picked up. The girls were wearing the Buzz Patch and I also gave them another spray with Repel bug spray. Once we left the snow the mosquitos were pretty much nonexistent but the other bugs were non stop attacking. It got to the point where the girls were crying because there were so many. We would pick them up for a few minutes then put them back down and hold their hand so we could hike at a faster pace.

Once we got back onto the deactivated road it was a bit more open allowing for a slight breeze and less of these tiny annoyances. It took a lot of talking and distractions with the girls to keep them going at this point and get them to the truck in a prompt fashion. Finally we returned to the vehicle, quickly changed into other clothes, refilled our waters with cold water we had stored there and also had a few snacks. We were out of the bugs and on our way back down the mountain. A few switchbacks down the girls fell fast asleep for the next few hours of our drive home.

I know what you are thinking… this doesn’t sound fun to me. Not all our backpacking trips are this way, each and every one we go on has different challenges. All that effort for just one night is still worth it to us. We want to expose our girls to it all. Once we got home they were already asking when we would be sleeping in the tent again.

So even after all we went through on this one night backpacking trip we still think it was worth it. Why? We are all together, learning new things, how to problem solve and deal with the elements. Once outdoors everyone’s mood seems to shift to happy and we can always enjoy the rest of the day in great spirits. Hiking with kids can be tough but so can hiking without kids. It’s all in how you look at it as to whether or not you want to give it a go.