Over the Divide

Time is a friend and foe.

We wait through the long dark nights of winter dreaming of the days of summer – a blissful time filled with infinite opportunities. Now that the summer is here, we have to figure out what to do with all of the potential (and quickly before the sun starts to slip away).

Similarly, as a parent entrenched in diapers and strollers, it is hard to imagine the distant horizon when our babies will strike off wobbly and independent. But the time comes soon enough and we have to figure out what to do with all of the youthful energy. Beyond putting things out of reach on the counters, our family solution has been to set out on adventures every summer. It is a wonderful puzzle figuring out how to cram in maximum outdoor hours before our hibernating tendencies kick in. Northern paddling adventures have been our go-to staple because we can easily pack the family and lots of goodies into a canoe and disappear for an entire summer. Unfortunately, we discovered a problem last summer. That wobbly independence caught up to us and the kids couldn’t cram their legs in with all the food. We needed a new type of adventure to fit the kids.

This summer we will be setting out on a different kind of wilderness trip, a hike on the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies. The kids will be walking every step of the way, not relaxing in the canoe eating snacks as they are accustomed. This could be the hardest trip we have ever tried.

Over the years we have learned a few things to make a trip with our kids fun and engaging:

  • Give yourself lots of time: We are taking five weeks to hike a scant 120 miles (although the route includes 45,000 ft of elevation gain). The extra time will allow us short days on the trail and the option to rest and explore near camp when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  • Light packs for kids: Koby (9) and Ava Fei (7) will only be carrying water, snacks, a rain jacket, and a few Shopkins.
  • Good gear makes for a great trip: We outfit the kids in good gear much like mom and dad – they are excited to have their own hydration pack, umbrella, and walking pole. Our eldest feels like a big person now that he finally fits into XS merino layers exactly like mom’s.
  • Treats for all: We splurge a bit on food when we are on trips. Dried mango, beef jerky, or special candies are not on the menu at home, but they generate a lot of excitement on the trail when the going gets tough.
  • Pick an interesting route: We are heading above tree line where there is lots to see. This makes the walking far more interesting and varied, which is important for kids who may lose interest when it gets monotonous.

Personally, I am hoping that time is more friend than foe as we return to the trails I spent hundreds of days guiding in my 20s. It has been a few years since I’ve shouldered a huge pack and I’m sure the climbs haven’t gotten easier…

Stay tuned for updates along the way through the summer!

Words and photos by Dan Clark