A note from Maman on the Trail:
Meet Sarah, a human of the outdoors. Sarah lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia and gets outdoors with her husband, Dwane, and their two kids, Molly (4 years old) & Chuck (2 and a half years old). Here is her story…
On her time outdoors…
I just completed a 32-day canoe trip with my kids and my husband travelling from Skagway, Alaska to Dawson City, Yukon. We hope to make a big wilderness trip part of our summer every year going forward. During the rest of the year we live in a rural community with great access to outdoor hikes and boating. We hike with our kids on a weekly basis.
My husband, Dwane, is stay-at-home-dad and gets the kids out all week. Our children, Molly (who just turned 4) and Chuck (who is 2.5 years old) love the outdoors. We also have two dogs, but they were not invited on our canoe trip (they rock the boat too much). They do love hiking with us, but are not fans of camping.
We’ve always been outdoorsy people. I was raised in a big city, but learned to love the outdoors because I went to summer camp in Ontario as a kid. The Clark Family inspired us to take this big trip after watching their videos of four large family trips they have done starting when their kids were young.
On learning to adventure as a family…
Our kids have been hiking since they’ve been small. When Molly was only 3 months old we hiked with her in the coastal mountains around Whistler, Pemberton & Bralorne. As she got heavier and Chuck was born, we have been hiking them on the trails of Salt Spring Island where we live. Our first time camping was this past spring. We set up the tent in our yard and after sleeping in it for a week I finally had to make an excuse to put it away. We did a 5-day canoe trip in the southern Gulf Islands in May this year to see how the kids would do on a multi-day trip before setting off on our summer trip down the Yukon River.
On preparing for a big wilderness trip…
We had about 5 months to plan for this trip since deciding we were going to do it at Christmas. Dwane and I both had a lot of camping gear when we met but it’s all getting old (we’ve been together for 12 years), plus we had to buy a lot of gear to fit the whole family. Dwane enjoys shopping so he spent a lot of time researching and deciding about all our purchases including the canoe, tent, paddles, water filter, stove, clothes and food. Most items were purchases online or over the phone and shipped to us. The courier was especially confused when he showed up at my office with an 18.5 foot canoe!
After we went on a practice 5-day canoe trip in May, we scrapped the route we had originally planned and decided on the Yukon River, thinking it would be an easier trip for our young kids. We were glad we had all the gear purchased so we could spend the short time we had left figuring out a new route, buying new guide books and reading as much as we could about the trip.
When setting off on a trip like the Yukon River, try to be as prepared as you can. It’s advertised as an easy trip, but it does have some demanding sections. We saw many people paddling down the river who didn’t even know how to steer a canoe. We only saw them on the easy sections, but we would always think about them in the harder places. Know your limitations and work on them. If you don’t know how to steer a canoe take some lessons before you get out there.
Our trip was so specific to having a 2- and 3-year old along. When camping with young kids, bring some toys, games and books but also bring your imagination, you’re going to need it when things get challenging. We tried to stay together as a family as much as possible but at times the kids needed time apart so each of us would take one kid on a short walk.
On the challenges and benefits of big wilderness trips…
The biggest challenge was that we were all in one canoe. The kids were sitting beside each other on a seat in the middle of the canoe. Our kids are the best of friends, but they also fight like crazy. Having them sit right beside each other meant daily fighting and wrestling in a canoe, and that is not a good idea. I would not do a trip with them in the same seat again. Next year we are planning on buying a second canoe and rafting them together. It would have worked this year too. Rafting them together would be more stable, they would have their own seats and all our gear would fit into the boats a lot easier.
The trip was also easier than expected. We had a tarp with us and every time we thought it might rain we set it up. If we were paddling we would pull off the water and set it up and wait out the storm. One day we didn’t make it and it started pouring rain, with thunder & lightning. While Dwane secured the canoe, I carried the kids into the forest and put on their rain gear. I thought it would be a miserable experience. Instead, Molly was fascinated by the hail and started eating it! Neither of them was upset about the experience, it was an exciting adventure.
The beaches were by far the best part. Many campsites were on beautiful sandy or gravel beaches. The kids loved their time for free play, digging in the sand, making beach art, finding treasures, playing chase or hide and seek.
A little Q & A…
Q: What is your go-to adventure snack?
A: After a long day’s paddle the best this is when my husband pulls out the camp stove and makes us all some popcorn. I had never eaten popcorn until our canoe trip this May (I know, ridiculous when I’m 38 years old!) but now I love it. We have found it’s easier to make over the camp stove rather than the campfire.
Q: What piece of gear do you never leave the house without?
A: I wouldn’t consider it gear, but I never leave home without water to drink.
Q: What one piece of advice would you share with someone who is wary of or new to the outdoors?
A: Find what motivates you and work to find experiences that give you what you’re looking for. I’m motivated to get outdoors to see the natural beauty. My husband craves the wilderness for the feeling of freedom it gives him. If you’re not into the outdoors, but you think it’s good for your kids then slow down and watch them explore and discover. You don’t have to hike great distances or sleep outside. Find a place in the forest and pay hide and seek.