Bonding with Grandpa

I love camping with my kids. Even though the days are longer, bedtimes later and way too many trips to the bathroom (which is usually a long walk to get to), I love being in the outdoors with them, where we literally putz around, relax, have tea, sit by the fire and really just enjoy each other’s company.

Yes our trips are mixed with trips to the playground, or a walk to go and explore somewhere (other than the bathroom), but overall it is just a beautiful go with the flow couple of days where we eat well and hang out.

This year we had the pleasure of heading out camping 4 times for varying number of days, which is more camping than I have done in years. This is due to having a great man come into my life who loves to camp! I also had the pleasure of my parents joining us on one of our trips at Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park.

On this trip we visited Takakkaw Falls, went to the amphitheatre and learned about bears and sat by the fire drinking lots of tea! Both Luke and Chloe enjoyed just sitting and hanging out, which is so different than my oldest Matthew, who needs to be constantly on the move. And Luke, well he is always up for a conversation. Featured in the picture here is my Dad and Luke enjoying some great bonding time while hanging out at the campsite.

Wapta Falls

wapta falls hike

On the weekend that Matthew and I did the Burgess Shale hike (read more in earlier post) we also did a few shorter hikes the following day. We did this for a few reasons, one was that Matthew was up bouncing around and had some energy to burn (yes after 22 km the previous day, he was neither tired, nor sore) and I also felt it was a good idea to move a little and do a short hike so we wouldn’t stiffen up. Not that Matthew would.

Plus I love going and exploring. We’re often driving through Yoho National Park on our way to somewhere else and don’t make any stops to check things out. So as I’m driving through I mentally make a list of places/ hikes I would like to go and see for the time that we do stop and stay awhile.

Spiderweb in a Tree

Wapta Falls is an easy 5 km return hike in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, along a treed path to a beautiful waterfall at the end. Though fairly flat, the trail ends in a slight incline to get to the falls but is a great trail for beginner hikers and for kids. There are lots of things to explore and discover along the way; we found a beautiful spider web between the branches of a tree and an interesting bump on another tree.  Of course there is the anticipation of the falls at the end, which as you are hiking along the path, can hear before you actually see it. Drawing you, beckoning you.

MEC Happy Trails Baby Carrier

Though the trail is suitable for children, it is not suitable for strollers. There are bumps and tree roots along the way that make it quite difficult to navigate a stroller on it. If the children are not walking on their own then I would recommend one of those backpack carriers for small children. There are many different styles and brands out there, we have one from Mountain Equipment Coop we really like, as well as one from Baby Trend.

Matthew practically ran down the trail and we had to ask him a few times to slow down, or pause to take a break. The rush of the waterfall was drawing him in and he was getting excited!

There are 3 spots where you can look at the falls. It is a bit deceiving when you first come to the falls as it looks like that is where the trail ends. There is a fenced area overlooking the falls with a bench to sit and relax. A lot of people assume that this is where the trail ends but if you continue down the trail, you can go off to the left for a different view or continue all the way to the bottom.

Matthew at the bottom of Wapta Falls

If you go all the way to the bottom, the trail ends by coming out onto a beach along the river at the bottom of the falls. It is a great place to sit and just be, soaking up the beauty and absorbing yourself in this calm, peaceful environment. The kids will love playing in the sand or throwing rocks into the water, or you can even move down along the shore a little ways and continue to explore. It’s a lovely spot to sit and have a snack or enjoy your lunch as you gaze at the waterfalls.

After spending some time at the falls we hiked out, Matthew again running – oh to have the energy of a child, and enjoyed some nice relaxing quiet time back at the campsite. Well I did, Matthew on the other hand was busy as usual, chopping wood.


The Burgess Shale – Walcott Quarry

For the past 2 summers I have taken Matthew for a mother and son camping trip. It is a great opportunity to spend some one on one time with him doing something we both love. We try and change it up each year, choosing different sites to camp at and different things to do. This past weekend, Matthew and I went to Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies. We did the Burgess Shale Hike to Walcott Quarry, a 22 km guided hike up through the mountains, to view the famous fossils.

Matthew and I at Walcott Quarry

A World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale is considered the world’s most important fossil site that preserves one of the world’s first complex marine ecosystems. It has also been shown that 95% of the world’s species have evolved from these fossils; the origin of all life.

Discovered by Charles Walcott in 1909, this is the world’s most significant fossil discovery because of their age (500 million years old), diversity and the incredible detail of the preservation of the fossils. It is truly a wonder to be discovered and enjoyed.

This fascinating find attracts researchers from all over the world, as well as hikers. As a protected site, the only way to access the site is on one of the guided hikes provided through Yoho National Park or the Geoscience Foundation in Field, BC. This is to preserve and protect the site from misuse and vandalism and continue to utilize it for research.

A Trilobite

You can choose one of 2 hikes, the Mount Stephen Fossil Bed or Walcott Quarry. Both hikes can be challenging and it is best to go to the National Park website to determine which hike is most suitable for you. Though Mount Stephen is shorter in distance it is strenuous and steep, while Walcott Quarry is longer in distance, it is less steep.

I have wanted to go on this hike for many years, every time I drove through Field I thought maybe this year I will go. One of the reasons I had not gone yet was that I did not have anyone that was interested in going with me. And though I do many things by myself, this was something I wished to share with a friend or family member.

I was very pleased and excited when I suggested to Matthew that we go. He seemed keen and interested and though the 22 km hike was more than he had hiked before (he had done up to 14 km), he was willing to do it.

We choose the Walcott hike because it was a less strenuous and difficult hike, as well as the fact that there are a variety of fossils found at this site, such as trilobites, marrella, anomlocaris; compared to Mount Stephen, which is mainly trilobites. We felt that even though the distance was longer that this hike overall would be a more satisfying and exciting experience.

Takakkaw Falls

After waking up at 6 am and a quick breakfast, we met at the trailhead at Takakkaw Falls at 7:15 ready to start our day. It was going to be a beautiful day, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. We met our Parks Canada Guide Kristi and fellow hikers and after going through a few ligistics we were off!

Matthew was the youngest in the group and I could tell that some of our fellow hikers were a little shocked/ concerned that he was coming along. I admit I was a little nervous for him but I knew in my heart that he could do it. He is a strong resilient kid and we had already hiked many trails and terrains over the last year. Though he might be tired at the end of the day, I knew he would do it.

Learning about the fossils

By 1 pm we were up at the fossil site with a stunning mountain view of Mount Burgess and overlooking Emerald Lake. We got to spend a full hour here, exploring and discovering fossils. It was amazing!

Mount Burgess

We had to wear helmets to protect ourselves from possible rock fall overhead and were literally standing on the slope of a mountain. Our guide provided us with fact sheets to help us identify what we found, as well as little eye magnifying pieces to get a better, or sharpened look at the fossils. We were also able to do fossil rubbings, with good old fashioned paper and crayon. It was awesome and so fascinating!

Matthew studying a trilobite

Matthew loved it. He loves that kind of sciency stuff and gadgets to check it all out with. And he was pretty excited and proud of himself for completing the hike as well. Yes he was very tired by the time we got back to the parking lot, but he did it, and he did it without whining or complaining. He’s an amazing kid! And once we fed him dinner and got back to the campsite, he was up running around and zooming off on his bike. Where does he find the energy?

Of course the next day I was a little sore and stiff, not my 8 year old. Bouncing around ready for another day. So I took him on another hike 🙂

The Burgess Shale is a fascinating hike and once in a lifetime experience; even if you are not a science geek, the fossils are fascinating to see and the scenery alone is worth the hike. It is also very cool to see and be a part of these fossils and to understand that we evolved from these guys. To see them preserved is something I can’t really describe, it’s one of those things that you’ve got to do to understand the awe and wonder of it.

I did it! 22 km and still alive! It was awesome!

Note: This hike is not suitable for young children, even if taken in a baby carrier. 8 years old and up is what is recommended on the website and not many 8 year olds actually do it. Please ensure that your child has hiked distance before and has the stamina, determination and interest in doing it. This is not only for their safety but for the safety of everyone on the hike as well.

Fact sheets and fossils

Want to know more about the Burgess Shale? Check out these great websites for more information