Trip Report: Elfin Lakes

As a shakedown before we headed out to tag the part of the GDT we had to skip in 2021, I snagged permits for Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park for us to do a quick overnight hike. We had a few things to test out as Toothless is much bigger and more mobile now which necessitated a few gear changes:

  • Framed backpack carrier instead of a SSC carrier plus a backpack
    • We opted for the MEC Shuttlecraft as it had one of the highest storage capacities (28L), and actually fit me well (this actually deserves its own post, but it is ridiculous to me that most framed child carriers don’t seem designed to fit women at all – I am 160cm (5’3″) which puts me around 40th %ile for height, so well within the range they should be designed for!), and we were able to find it used for a great price
    • Some major downsides of this change mean one parent needs to carry the majority of the gear and food, and there’s a big bump in our base weight as these carriers are heavy! The one we opted for is 3.2kg (7lbs) and that doesn’t even include its rain cover.
  • Toothless is now a full-blown toddler who loves his independence, yet has no concept of safety yet.
    • We planned to let him walk stretches of the trail (he can walk about 2km round trip to the park and library at home) and wanted to be able to have a way to tether him to us and be able to grab/scoop him up quickly if needed.
    • Since we were eventually planning to do sections of trail that would have steep drop-offs and potentially fast water, we opted for a full climbing harness rather than a wrist or backpack leash. I didn’t do too much research, but my cursory searching seemed to indicate the Edelrid Fraggle would be the lightest option, so that’s what we went with, plus a length of some rope we already had at home.
  • Toothless’ diet is now mostly solid food supplemented a bit by breastmilk rather than the inverse
    • This means carrying both more food and ensuring he actually enjoys the food we bring.
    • On this trip, we tried out: peanut butter sandwiches, cheerios for breakfast, cheese, salmon pouches, lentil curry and rice, baby food pouches

Our gear list for the trip:

Trip Report

Day 1 – To Elfin Lakes

Mileage: 11km

The drive is about 2 hours which meant Toothless fell asleep on the drive which made a nap while hiking questionable, but I was hoping it would work out. We had only used the carrier one time before for a day hike and Toothless didn’t fall asleep, so we actually had no idea if he was going to be happy to nap in it or not.

We managed to get everything sorted and got hiking just before 10am. Toothless wanted to walk at the start – not surprising given he just woke up from napping in the car. At home, he seemed terrified of the harness every time we tried to show it to him and gave it a wide berth even when it was just sitting in the living room, so I was not at all confident he would cooperate with putting it on, but he seemed happy to put it on. With his harness on (and adjusted as this was the first time he had worn it), we slowly started down the trail.

Toothless walking while holding hands with Natasha

After only a few hundred metres, Toothless decided he was done with hiking and was happy to get into the carrier with Kyle. Even though we had only used the carrier on one hike previously, Toothless was already a big fan. He would proudly declare it “[Toothless’] seat!” and frequently asked to be placed in it when we had it out in the living room, “Help [Toothless] sit bum.”

Unfortunately, his happiness with the carrier doesn’t last for long and he asks to get down. Once down and back in his walking harness, Toothless is still upset and doesn’t want to walk either. Thinking back over our day, I realize we forgot to feed him a snack before we started. I ask if he wants to eat and he confirms with a sad, “Yeah.”

We sit down on the side of the trail for a snack break only to discover Toothless does not want to eat any of the food we have. The only thing he will willingly eat is the dehydrated strawberries I brought on a whim. They seem to have approximately the same nutritional and caloric value as air, so this doesn’t bode well for a happy toddler unless he decides to eat something else on a future break.

Toddler full of strawberry-flavoured air and we pack everyone back up and continue down the trail. It is now getting to the point where we are overdue for Toothless’ regular nap time and it is obvious his car nap isn’t going to tide him over until bedtime. We try to coach him to put his head down on the little cushion on the carrier and close his eyes; he tries, but unfortunately can’t seem to settle and fall asleep. So we continue down the trail with a screaming overtired, over-hungry toddler and hope he figures it out soon.

Eventually, Toothless settles a bit and starts to nod off. The trail to Elfin Lakes is busy with both backpackers and day hikers though, and every time we pass a new group Toothless gets roused from his light sleep and starts shrieking again. Needless to say, not our most enjoyable afternoon of hiking.

We do reach the lake in pretty good time though, at which point Toothless decides that 20 minutes of sleep taken in 5-minute stretches is enough for him and he is now awake. Another snack break where Toothless didn’t want to eat the food and then the fun puzzle of pitching a very non-freestanding tent on a wooden tent platform. Every time we do this, I think it would be a good idea to bring a package of those screw-in hooks and then promptly forget until the next time.

Lots of rocks

Then off to dinner, another meal Toothless didn’t want any part of. We debate on whether to try an early bedtime for our little grump, or wait until a bit later given the very bright and warm summer evening sun. We decide to wait a bit and take him over to the closed shelter to climb up and down on their porch and keep his shrieking away from the other campers for a bit. Staying up past bedtime is not improving his mood, so we abort after not too long and bring him back to the tent to get started on bedtime.

I had a brilliant plan that we would attempt to just use a sleeping pad for Toothless to sleep on tonight and not his Peapod as it would be great to cut some weight and volume from our gear list for the GDT. This resulted in a comical situation of a toddler bouncing around the tent and all over us while making no attempts to fall asleep. Plan aborted, we set up the Peapod and put Toothless in it, a few overtired screams later and he was happily asleep in his “crib” for the night.

Finally happily asleep

Kyle and I, on the other hand, did not have a comfy bed to settle into. When I had inflated our sleeping pad, I’d discovered the baffles had failed which resulted in a comical lump that just kept spreading if I attempted to add more air. Thankfully it was a warm night and despite all the annoyances of pitching on a tent platform, they at least make for a flat sleeping surface.

Day 2 – To the Parking Lot

Mileage: 11km

I’d forgotten how slow we were to break camp every day on the GDT and wasn’t quite prepared for our glacial pace this morning. We certainly didn’t have to rush – even with our struggles on the hike in, it only took us just over 4 hours and going out should be quicker as it is mostly downhill. We tried to divide and conquer with Kyle taking Toothless to get started on breakfast while I worked on packing everything up.

Toothless enjoying a shovel while we sort out the gear

Just before 9am we finally start down the trail as some early-rising trail runners start to arrive at the lake. There are a couple small patches of snow left on the trail that Toothless enjoys interacting with. Some prolonged ups and downs later with Toothless which result in me carrying him in my arms for a bit and we figure out that he wants to sit in the carrier with me rather than Kyle. So we adjust the carrier so it fits me and swap packs and then set off down the trail again.

Wanting to be held

After the swap, the trail is pretty smooth-sailing with Toothless quickly settling into a nap. We stop at the shelter at Red Heather for a lunch break which Toothless once again doesn’t want to eat much of, but he is happy enough once we get on the trail again. Close to the trailhead, he falls asleep again clearly still pretty exhausted from yesterday, so once we reach the trailhead, we put the carrier down in the only patch of shade for him to finish the nap before we start the drive home.

Sleepy toddler


Key learnings from this trip:

  • Toothless prefers to be carried by Natasha
  • We still need to bring the Peapod for the foreseeable future
  • Food is going to be the main struggle on our GDT trip – I foresee a lot of heavy baby food pouches in our future

And on a more general note about the trail, Elfin Lakes is a great option for families. The trail is short and well-graded, so it is achievable for both young kids to walk the whole length and parents to sherpa everyone’s gear. The cooking shelter also means there is plenty of space for cooking and eating and a sheltered location to hang out if there is inclement weather.

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