People, both on and off the trail, are always floored that I take both my girls (1 and 4 years) on the Grouse Grind. It’s a 2.9k hike up some rugged stairs below a tramway. You gain more than 3,000 feet.
But doing this hike regularly has prepared me to take the girls on all sorts of wonderful hikes like the Grand Canyon and around Arches National Park.
I’d like to share some things that I’ve learned along the way.
1.) Being a mama mule is hard work.
Kids are heavy. They need constant attention. You can’t simply zone out in the pain cave and keeping plodding through.
I never push myself so hard that I’m running into the red zone. In fact, I’m usually singing or telling stories… which in a way, makes hiking far more enjoyable.
That being said, start with short easy loops (even just around your neighbourhood) and work your way up. You’ll learn how you, your children and your equipment responds.
2.) Be extra prepared.
I’ve learned from mistakes and from my husband. Boy Scouts have it right. Be prepared for anything (weather, poop explosions, injury, etc.) You’ll need to be fitter to carry the extra stuff so see point #1.
Also, hike with another person and carry the ten essentials, have bear spray accessible in bear country and know how to safely use it, hike well traveled and well marked paths, etc.
Safety is, of course, that much more important when you’re taking little people out.
3.) Snacks save the day.
You’ll be burning more fuel carrying kids around and by spending more time out there. Plus, your kids will probably eat and drink ten times what they normally do.
I always pack what I think I’ll need, times three. And I always have a special snack that they don’t otherwise get like fruit bars.
4.) Games and songs pass the time.
We pick up games along the way or make them up as we go. Some of our favourites are “eye spy”, “the alphabet game”, and “going on a picnic”.
Some of our greatest conversations happen out on the trail, and we sing a lot of songs. Hiking gives us plenty of “off line” time to connect and enjoy nature. Which is probably why my four-year-old still asks me to take her.
5.) Slow down.
I can do the Grind in less than forty minutes but it usually takes about an hour and a half with the girls strapped to me. It took over three hours for my daughter to walk the whole way up.
I remind myself it’s all about the adventure and spending time in the great outdoors. That’s something I want them to remember as happy times so I better model it!
* I use two ergo carriers when carrying both children: the baby on the front and my older daughter on the back. Whatever carrier you use, make sure there are no buckles or plastic bits sticking into the other child. It’s also very important that you are comfortable so adjust and stop as needed. While I don’t recommend carrying two children, these are important considerations.
** Also worth noting is that I try to stick to tramways since I don’t like hiking down with both girls. Too much risk of falling.