I almost always send out an email to other families when we plan to go into the backcountry, but we have only on a few occasions been on alpine backcountry camping trips with other families - both times at Tricouni Meadows although last time we had a miscommunication and ended up on different sides of the mountain. We have been on other kinds of trips with other families: a few hut trips to Brew and Phelix, lower elevation hikes like Cheakamus and latest our biking trip to Cowichan Valley. Generally though the alpine seems to deter a lot of parents. This weekend was different though - it was a spectacular gathering of families.
Destination was Illal Meadows on the Coquihalla accessed from Illal Creek Road off of the Tulameen Forest Service Road. We all met at Exit 228 on the highway to make sure everyone would make it to the trailhead. Here many of us was introduced to each other for the first time.
The party consisted of:
Total head count: 10 adults and 8 kids age 0-7 years old. Truly spectacular.
At the parking lot I made sure everyone knew where they were going before I send everyone off with a good luck. We were in the back with Michelle while our toddlers were hiking the first part of the trail. As the trail started to gain elevation the toddlers went in the backpacks, and we slowly accented the steep but very well made trail. After gaining the steepest part of the trail we caught up to the rest of the group. For a little while we were all walking together with most of the kids hiking, climbing rocks and poking mud. It was a glorious moment for me.
We all trickled into our campsite at the lake north of Jim Kelly around 4pm. It was overcast and pretty windy, so a lot colder than we all expected. We found a few sheltered spots to set up the tents, F was sleeping in the carrier and the rest of the kids played in the meadows. Christian and Vance took off to climb Coquihalla, and the rest of us gathered up at the rocky beach to start dinner. A lot of rocks were moved from the beach to the water both by children and adults. Vance and Christian returned before dinner was over after climbing all of the Coquihalla peaks in a couple of hours.
On this trip we shared our tent with Michelle and her son, so she did not need to carry a tent as well. We were all excited to see how it was going to work out. It started out very well with lots of jumping and playing together. An once everyone settled down the night was pretty smooth as well. We could definitely do that another time.
In the morning a few families went towards Illal Mountain and I went towards Jim Kelly, where Maya, Gili and their son later joined me. Michelle and Christian stayed back at camp to play with the last of the kids. I enjoyed the short hike up to the top. The mosquitoes were plentiful, but so were the flowers among the rocks.
On my way down from Jim Kelly I saw the first few families take off and back at camp I found Michelle frantically packing to try to catch up to her ride. We quickly convinced her that she should settle down and drive with us instead. We causally packed up camp and had lunch before heading back down. Kids took a nap in the carriers, and once they woke up they hiked mostly the rest of the way to the car.
At the car Christian shuttled Maya and Gili down the rough part of the road, and then came back to pick up Michelle, I and our kids. It was pretty crowded in our Kia, so I moved into Maya and Gili's car for the rest of the ride. The 8 of us stopped for dinner in Hope and avoided most of the bad traffic going back into town.
I felt very fortunate to be a part of this trip, to be able to encourage families to get out, to get to know new outdoor families and spend time outside with old friends. Last but not least I am very proud of the everyone on the trip for making it out. Lets do it again some time.