Adventure, Baby! First Backpacking Trip

Over the weekend we took Katrin on her first backpacking trip, down in Kananaskis. I booked us a site for two nights at Point Backcountry Campground, which is in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We picked this particular spot for our first foray into backpacking with baby for a couple of reasons. First, we have been there close to a dozen times and are very familiar with the trail and the campground. Second, it’s not very far of a hike (around 4kms each way) so if things went really south, we could bail out with relative ease.

As it was, we didn’t have to bail out, and everyone had a wonderful time!

We reached the trailhead around 1:30pm on Friday afternoon. I fed Katrin and then we strapped on our packs. They were a little on the heavy side (mine was almost 40 lbs) thanks to baby gear, but not unmanageable. Mike likes to wear the little one whenever he can, so he elected to carry her (and thus, I only loaded his pack down with around 30 lbs of gear, LOL). The weather was great! Not too hot or too cold, and the trail was dry and not terribly busy. We made excellent time, considering how out of practice we are, and made it to the campground in less than 1.5 hours.

I didn’t take a lot of photos on the way in, primarily because we were focused on getting there as quickly as possible so that Katrin didn’t have a chance to get hangry. She was so excited to see many new things, she stayed wide awake the entire walk in. The highlight was spotting a few pikas in the Palliser rockslide! We hadn’t seen a pika through there in many years, and we figured they had all gone. Their populations are quite isolated and fragile, so it was extremely exciting to see a number of them have returned! Once we made it to the campground, we picked a site (most of our favorites were taken so we settled on one that was close to the bear lockers and toilets, just for sake of practicality) I fed our tiny adventurer, and then we set up our tent and the beds.

We used a spare tent footprint for a ground sheet and put one of our sleeping bags on it so that Katrin had somewhere to hang out while we were getting things done. Pretty soon it wasn’t just her hanging out there, HA HA!

She seems to love being outdoors, and was happy as a clam to look around at all of the trees and rocks.

Once we set up our spot, we had some supper (Mike and I had butter chicken with rice and baby had turkey with pasta puree) and then went down to the river to get water for the next day. The lake is extremely high, so the river was less of a river and more like a great big pond. I washed our dishes and collected water in the dirty bag of our filter system. Once everything was put away in the bear locker for the night, we decided to turn in early because we were all pretty tired. We bundled up Katrin in her layers, and I nursed her to sleep in her travel crib.

It wasn’t supposed to rain that night, but it did, off and on. The temperature dipped a little lower than I hoped, and I think the wee one got a bit chilled because she woke up a number of times. Her torso was warm all night, but her little hands got cold, even though I put mittens on her. When she woke up I would scoot her onto the mat with me and feed her and warm her up, and then sneak her back into her own bed. So it went, at least four times through the night but I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly how many. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, but once the sun started to rise and it began to warm up a few degrees, she seemed to settle and we both had a little sleep in, which helped immensely.

Mike got up first and brought all of the food and coffee making supplies from the bear locker. He got the water started for coffee while I changed Katin and extracted us both from the tent. We had stroopwaffles with our coffee while breakfast was rehydrating (mixed berry “crisp”) and Katrin got to have some bits of strawberry that I had soaked in hot water.

After breakfast was finished and the dishes were done, we decided to take a little walk down to the lake. The weather was warm and sunny, and everyone was in good spirits.

It doesn’t matter how many times I see these same mountains, they will always be stunning to me. I never tire of them, and the lake, as usual, was gorgeous.

Katrin was pretty tuckered out, especially after a less-than-restful night. She fell asleep in the carrier, and so when we returned to our camping spot, she snoozed away while I made lunch (shrimp pad thai).

Fortunately, she woke up refreshed and happy! We ate our lunch and followed it up with a leisurely coffee while we enjoyed the great weather. A conservation officer stopped by to check our permits, which I fortunately had saved to my phone because I forgot the paper copy on the bulletin board at home. Whoops!

I fed Katrin and then Mike kept her entertained for around half an hour so that I could have a nap myself. Apparently they had quite a good time playing in a patch of moss, although Katrin is in that “I have to taste EVERYTHING” stage, so letting her experience new objects and textures is a balance between exploration, and keeping dirt and sticks out of her mouth, HA HA.

I felt a million times better after a little rest, and we decided to do the short hike up to the Lower Kananaskis Falls. It’s a nice walk, and mostly shaded.

Unfortunately Katrin didn’t get to see the waterfall because she fell asleep during the hike! Oh well, maybe next time.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at our site, taking turns keeping Katrin entertained. Shes not a particularly needy baby, but she does like to always have one of us close to her in unfamiliar surroundings.

We had supper (gnocchi with chicken and veggies in tomato sauce) and got everything organized and back into the bear locker for the night. Katrin was in fine form and just wanted to play when we all crawled into the tent for the evening, mostly to escape the bugs. Even though our tent is heavier than I prefer, the extra room is worth it because it comfortably fits all three of us, plus gear, even if we just want to hang out in it.

Eventually she grew tired, so I bundled her up in her sleeping layers, hoping that it wouldn’t get as cold overnight. She settled easily and only woke a couple of times in the night, which isn’t particularly unusual for her even under normal circumstances.

Her favorite thing is when I snuggle her in between us to feed her in the morning. She usually falls back asleep for a short time, and Sunday morning was no exception, which gave Mike and I the opportunity to have a coffee in peace while we watched her snooze.

Once she was awake, all bright eyed and bushy-tailed, we had some breakfast and started in on packing all our gear.

It didn’t take too long to get ourselves organized and everything back into our packs and ready to go. We wanted to be on the trail by 10am, which is more or less about the time we got going.

The hike out was lovely and uneventful. Katrin fell asleep about half way through. We saw a couple more pikas in the rockslide area, and they bid us farewell with their shrill chirps.

I made a point to take more pictures on the way out. Again it took us just under and hour and a half to reach the trailhead. Dropping our packs into the box of the truck was positively heavenly! I fed Katrin and we let her have a little break to stretch before we headed towards home.

Truly it went much better than I could have hoped. I think it’s always a bit stressful when one takes an infant into new situations, but I feel far more confident now about our future plans for going to the wilderness with her. The only thing that would have made it better was having the older kids with us, but hopefully they can join us for at least one family adventure this summer!

About the author

Mike & Cal have been backpacking around Alberta for the past decade. This site is where they share trip reports, photos, and tips and tricks for getting outside.

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