Gear Shakedown and Trip Report: Camping and Backpacking Chilliwack Lake with Toothless

It’s getting closer to our 2021 GDT start and we really need to finalize gear and routines with Toothless.

Our key concern so far have been getting a sleep system and routine sorted out with him since our previous attempts were unsuccessful.

We originally had a trip planned for Manning Park but we cancelled this due to the provincial travel restrictions making recreational travel to Manning Park illegal for us during that time. This is the second time this year we have cancelled a trip to Manning Park so we were pretty bummed out by this.

As a last minute alternative we booked a site at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. We have never been there before this trip, but I was pleasantly surprised by the available trails and the campground overall. The park is about 1.5 hours from Vancouver so it’s a fairly accessible camping and hiking spot. It is apparently a fairly popular spot to hike during the weekend and some of the more accessible trails are reportedly quite busy. We arrived on Sunday and the trailhead was packed and the park day use lot was busy so these reports seem accurate.

Plan

We car camped for three nights to test out changes to Toothless’s sleep system and test out another variation on beans and rice. We did not bring our backpacking tent; we camped in our car camping tent (a Coleman Sundome) but kept Toothless’s sleep system close to the same as we hope to bring backpacking.

During the day the goal was to day hike and get a feel for routines on eating lunch, changing diapers and feeding him.

Our rough itinerary was:

  • Day 1: Drive to the park and set up camp. Maybe go for a short walk.
  • Day 2: Hike a day hike. Car camp.
  • Day 3: Hike a day hike. Car camp.
  • Day 4: Pack up and drive home. Put gear away.

Hiking

There are a few hiking options. We played it by ear and chose to try to reach Greendrop Lake and back on our first hike and Radium Lake and back on the second hike.

Greendrop Lake

We left our campsite at 9am and headed to the trailhead fairly quickly. The trailhead was much less busy on a weekday morning than it was on Sunday afternoon.

The hike up to Lindeman Lake was fairly smooth, but a little slow once we started gaining elevation. We arrived just after 10am and chose to change Toothless’s diaper, feed him and grab our own snacks. It was hot out and we made sure we were all covered in sunscreen. This took us a bunch of time – almost 45 minutes. By the time we finished the area was getting more busy.

We got some water from the lake, treated it, and packed it in our bag for the aquatabs to do their thing while we drank from our other bottle.

We pushed on. After the campground we started hitting boulders more often and it slowed us down a bit. Around the back side of the lake the boulders got larger and more frequent and then the trail snaked around and through some brush before heading back up a much longer boulder field.

Natasha did great on the boulders with Toothless and was able to navigate through the brush, through the small water crossings and small scrambles over larger boulders without any difficulty.

We didn’t quite make it to Greendrop Lake before our agreed turn around time. We found a nice spot in a boulder field about half way between Lindeman Lake and Greendrop Lake just as the trail drops down towards the lake and stopped for lunch, changed Toothless and fed him. We then turned around and got going down the hill again back towards Lindeman Lake.

As Natasha scrambled down some boulders, Toothless decided he was having a great time and found some smooth branches to hold onto. Natasha carefully removed these from his hand and this made him upset. Something new to watch out for as we hike!

The hike back to the trailhead was uneventful (other than the beautiful butterflies and the lizard we saw) but slow going in spots due to how crowded it became.

We hiked about 9km total this day with several diaper changes, having to navigate boulder fields and navigate around people. This hike took us about 6 hours and while it’s not our best time, gives us some understanding of our pace on this kind of trail.

Radium Lake

We chose to hike up to Radium Lake on our second full day. We started the day similarly to our previous day. We started hiking at 9am. Natasha started carrying Toothless so she could feed him on the go if needed during his first nap. We traded after he woke up and I carried him for the rest of the day.

The first break to feed Toothless was very efficient and brief.

The hike up was quiet and interesting. There were quite a few downed trees and I learned that Toothless thinks climbing over or under them is just the most fun thing to do ever. So many giggles!

The water crossings were safe – either quite small or via well maintained bridges. The suspension bridge was a very nice design and well maintained. Toothless was enthralled by the rushing water. We will definitely need to keep an eye on him around water. He is very interested.

After about 5km the trail spent a lot more time next to the after and things cooled down quickly. Toothless started getting cool but then went down for his nap, so with the hood up and him tucked in he stayed a good temperature.

Soon the trail opened up and we met snow. It was soft and unstable and quickly melting in the sun. The air cooled down quickly and there was a cool breeze so we put our MYOG down baby wrap on and Toothless stayed toasty and stayed asleep.

We carefully hiked through a few sections of snow, post-holing a few times with my leg sinking in suddenly once waking Toothless up before we got above the snow line and it became apparent that the rest of the hike would be on snow. While this was early still in the day and we had a lot of energy, we were not prepared for this much snow nevermind something so unstable. So at this point (about 6-7km along) we chose to turn around.

After we passed the snow and got low enough that the temperature was comfortable, we stopped for lunch and a diaper change. This was nice and efficient again. It was tempting to spend more time up there but we were ready to head back down.

The hike back down was efficient and fun. Toothless stayed awake for different parts of the hike and saw different things then fell asleep a bit before the suspension bridge. Most of the downed trees were crossed this time with him fast asleep.

We hiked about 12-14 km on this day in just over 5 hours. Despite the downed trees, we managed to maintain a pretty decent pace.

Sleeping

This trip was one of the final opportunities to test out a system before heading on the GDT so it was important we got it right.

Our previous sleep system trials did not work for Toothless. It was obvious he can’t sleep next to us or on the same mattress so we needed something to solve that problem.

A week or so before this trip we bought a used PeaPod travel bed. We had been getting Toothless accustomed to it at home by letting him nap or sleep in it. So far he had had no issues with it and we felt comfortable with it, so we brought this along to test while camping.

For a sleeping pad we used the ZLite below it. We plan on bringing a different sleeping pad backpacking but the ZLite was simple, available and low risk.

Natasha modified Toothless’s sleeping bag to make his hands accessible so he could suck his thumb at night. Previously we put snaps in to shorten it, but we have learned this isn’t enough for him and he needs to have his hands free. He is a self soother and sucks his thumb to stay asleep. So Natasha cut the sleeve open and we rolled his sleeves up.

Thankfully we got this right!

With this system, Toothless slept about as good as he does at home. It was fantastic.

He did have issues one night with ambient noise and distractions – he normally sleeps with white noise and is used to our neighborhood sounds and we did not turn on white noise for him camping. He got over this when the neighbouring site quieted down. This is less of an issue backpacking and is an issue car camping. We also have white noise on our phones in case we need it. Obviously this depletes our phone battery so should be used sparingly.

We set up the PeaPod next to us at our feet. This is in a similar location as his crib relative to our bed. It’s still pretty accessible for Natasha but she has to get more out of the covers to feed him at night.

We put him down first and stayed outside the tent while he fell asleep but the PeaPod has walls that block visibility so we might be able to stay in the tent quietly with him. We need to test this out.

The PeaPod itself is about 700 grams so this is a heavy system but the ability to sleep is worth it.

Conclusions

This was a good trip.

Chilliwack Lake PP is a good park and a nice find. We will return!

We have a good feel now for hiking pace on different terrain and trail quality.

Our MYOG baby wrap works great!

We have a strong foundation for a good sleep system for Toothless.

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