Even the most routine of tasks can be daunting with a toddler. Something as simple as leaving the house now requires significant effort. In my pre-Mera life, if I wanted to go somewhere, I put on my shoes and went. Now I have to wake her up, get her dressed, ensure that she’s fed and pack for ALL contingencies. With so much prep required for simple trips to the playground etc., it’s no surprise that bigger trips to the mountains have become increasingly rare! Be that as it may, I’ve always wanted the outdoors to be a big part of my daughter’s upbringing. With my wife working for the weekend, I therfore figured that it was about time for a daddy-daughter day in the Rockies.
When my original plans for the day were spoiled by a large wildfire in Kootenay National Park, however, I struggled to come up with a good “Plan B.” Whatever our objective, I wanted to ensure that it was:
a) Safe and suitable for Mera.
b) Interesting and scenic for Mera AND I.
Unfortunately, those 2 requirements featured little in the way of overlap (admittedly because I’m only interested in absurd or less-travelled destinations)! Consequently, I had a hard time coming up with a good “Plan B.” For a time, I considered staying in Calgary and doing the same-old trip to the playground etc. When Mera was ready for an alpine start (read: woke up EARLY), however, I decided to just drive west, sure that inspiration would strike along the way. Fortunately for us, it did! As I mulled through popular hikes that held little appeal to me, I suddenly remembered Panorama Ridge’s East Summit . I’d considered snowshoeing up this peak at various points and figured that its relatively gentle, snowshoe-friendly ascent slopes might make it “toddler-friendly” as well. Although the approach via Taylor Lake is somewhat long (6.8 km), I reasoned that the lake itself might prove to be a decent endpoint if Mera wasn’t enjoying herself. By bribing Mera with Timbits®, I was able to keep her happy for the full 2 hour drive to the Taylor trailhead between Banff and Lake Louise. Once there, it was finally time to hike with my little girl!
Mera consults the map at the Taylor Lake trailhead to see what I’ve gotten us into.
Off and running! Fueled by Timbits®, my little hiker galloped along the gentle trail. Only problem? Like other toddlers, she’s easily distracted and, therefore, wasn’t always galloping in the right direction…
Thanks to budget cuts, Park Canada’s trail-clearing crews can no longer afford saws. Fortunately, there are creative solutions: prop up one dead tree atop another and “Presto!” – trail cleared!
I’d generally consider the hike to Taylor Lake to be dull with nothing to see but forest until the lake. Fortunately, when viewed through the eyes of a toddler, everything is interesting! Mera collected sticks, proudly identified wildflowers by color and eagerly hunted for bear poo. Without her, I’d have been bored silly on this approach. With her, I had a blast!
After an exciting morning, my little one eventually ran out of steam and asked to go “up” in her hiking backpack. Once there, she soon dozed off. While Mera napped, Daddy pushed himself trying to make good time while he could.
Taylor Creek is usually nearby on ascent and the trail crosses it twice. These bridged crossings are the most interesting thing on the trail until it reaches the lake (and that’s not saying much).
Shortly before reaching the lake, we were finally treated to a view! While it’s tempting to enjoy these vistas after so long in the woods, I’d recommend watching where you step; this meadow is actually more of a bog and those caught sightseeing are likely to sink ankle-deep into mossy pits of standing water.
If the hike to Taylor Lake is a scenery desert, then the lake itself is an oasis. Click to see larger and drink in the views!
Looks who’s awake again. That was a short nap...
Water cascades down from Taylor Pass on the lake’s far shore.
Free from the hiking backpack, my little goat enjoyed exploring and having fun lakeside.
Of course, even the busiest little goats need to stop for lunch sometimes; in this case, lunch with a view!
Celebrating a successful daddy-daughter hike to Taylor Lake.
Since we were both having so much fun, “we” decided to continue up towards Panorama Meadows and maybe even Panorama Ridge’s East Summit. The trail to the meadows briefly wanders up through the Taylor Lake backcountry campground and passes the bear pole before continuing north. A sign warns that the trail is “not well defined” but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the trail is quite easy in addition to being well-travelled. My toddler hiked up the hardest parts of it on her own! Most hikers stop at the lake but Mera and I would highly recommend continuing onto the meadows.
Mera makes quick work of the trail (even if it is “not well defined”!).
After quickly gaining elevation, the trail leaves the woods behind and begins to meander through the beautiful Panorama Meadows. As you can see, these meadows are filled with wildflowers and larch trees, ensuring that they’re colorful whether you visit in summer or fall.
Panorama Ridge’s grassy East Summit finally comes into view beyond a gurgling alpine stream.
Mera’s pointing to the summit – I guess she wants to go up! Like most dads, I’m not good at saying “no” to my daughter so up we went.
After meandering through flower-filled meadows, the trail eventually crossed a stream. Since Mera’s rock-hopping skills still leave something to be desired, this proved to be a good time to curtail her freedom and load her back into the hiking backpack.
After crossing the stream, the trail finally became “not well defined” so we left any hint of it, crossing open meadows before "flower-whacking" up thinly forested slopes to gain the ridge.
On the ridge, the terrain soon became rockier (still easy off-trail hiking) and the panorama towards the Bow Valley started to open up. Click to see larger.
Larches dot the final, moderately angled slope to the summit. Unfortunately after 5 hours of hiking, Mera’s mood took a turn for the worse here. With the summit less than 10 minutes away, I wasn’t keen to turn around so I put the pedal to the metal and grunted my way up. As I did, a heavy child-filled pack challenged my cardio while the screams of an unhappy toddler challenged my will to
Trying to manage smiles for our daddy-daughter summit selfie. This proved difficult in light of an unexpectedly frigid summit wind and accompanying mid-July snow squall (note the white flakes in the air).
In addition to flurries, a wall of smoke was quickly advancing, marring our view towards Lake Louise. Click to see larger.
The south (Kane scramble) summit of Panorama Ridge.
Protection Mountain (left) and Castle Mountain (right) highlight the view to the east…for now (soon they’ll be lost in the smoke).
A small tarn adds a splash of color to the alpine meadows below while Panorama Ridge’s more rugged true summit highlights the panorama to the west. Click to see larger.
Mera takes in the view towards Mount Bell and more distant Storm Mountain from the summit. Full disclosure: despite the awesomeness of this photo, my poor little girl is crying. I’d hoped that some freedom on the broad summit would lift her spirits but the cold wind and her worked-up state dashed that. After a quick summit cuddle, I raced to pack her back up and made haste back down towards the warmer meadows below.
Looking back to Panorama Ridge's East Summit from the Panorama Meadows below. As we lost elevation, the wind quickly abated. With it gone, Mera soon fell asleep in the pack as we hiked across meadows and past this tarn.
A "local" keeps watch as we pass. I suspect that he hasn’t seen too many toddlers up here!
Spectacular wildflower scenery as we retrace our steps through the Panorama Meadows.
Upon our return to Taylor Lake, we found a much smokier scene than the one we’d left a few hours earlier. Mouse over to see the difference that a couple hours makes when a large wildfire is burning about 30 km away.
After a 30 minute cat nap, my Love woke back up and we happily chatted, sang and hunted for more bear poo while making our way back down the otherwise dull Taylor Lake trail. Unfortunately, her good spirits only lasted for the first half of the trip down from the lake. Beyond that point, she decided that she’d had enough of this hiking business. Of course, I have only myself to blame; a 21.4 km round trip day with a cumulative elevation gain 1,175 m is pretty ambitious for a 21 month old! In fact, by the end, I was pretty ready to be done with this hike as well! I, therefore, loaded her back into the backpack and gently jogged the last 3 or so km while she acted as my bear siren (read: screamed). About 5 minutes before we reached the car, she was inexplicably happy again (perhaps sensing that her stash of Timbits® was finally near).
Aside: Like any activity with a toddler, this long hike featured its share of challenges along with a lot of happy mountain memories (for both of us). Personally, I think it’s important to chronicle the good along with the bad and have tried to do so honestly in this trip report. It would be easy to gloss over the hour or so that Mera was unhappy and to present only the good. But that’s not life and that’s certainly not parenting. I challenged my little girl with this trip and it mostly went well but I’m not going to forget the parts that didn’t; it breaks my heart to know that she was crying because of the choices that I made. At the same time, her tears at those points of the day don’t negate the many good memories that we made together on this hike. In the end, we shared a great day of bonding in the mountains (through the good and the bad).
When we did finally make it back at the parking lot, we were greeted by a smoky scene that looked more like Mordor than the Bow Valley.
Dinner in (and on) her car seat! A happy end to a (mostly) happy day for both of us. Hiking with a toddler can be daunting (especially when the hike in question covers over 20 km) but, through the good and the bad, I’d do it all over again.
Now bring on the drive-home Timbits®; we both earned them today!