I thought, in this pandemic year, I might break my streak of taking the big kids snowcaving every winter. It's become a bit of a tradition. Usually we go up to Red Heather, but we've been sticking to our local mountains this year (fortunately there are a few places on the North Shore that are accessible, yet not overcrowded, if you know how to navigate). Fortunately the snowpack is pretty deep this season, so being stuck on the North Shore wasn't a problem. It was Line who came up with a plan for how to overcome our usual strategy of bringing along an extra adult to help dig and manage the kids - she'd just come up herself carrying W, then head back down for dinner/sleeping, and come up again the next afternoon to pick us up. Since W is only 1.5 years old we decided against her spending the night in the cave, as we'd be without the backup of a warming hut.
The first part of the journey to our undisclosed North Shore location is a bit tricky - fairly thick forest with a bunch of microterrain ups and downs. It's the sort of thing you don't really notice if you're an adult on a daytrip, but each little obstacle has the potential for major inefficiency when towing a kid. F, now 7 and skinning uphill on her own power, had no trouble but it was near-impossible to tow N. I gave up pretty quickly and tossed her onto my shoulders. Upon returning home I weighed everything, and between the kid and all the things I had 125 lbs on my back. It was heavy but let us make pretty quick progress through the tricky part; soon we were on to the more open and monotonic forest beyond. I'm really impressed at how good N has become at being towed. For a while Line followed her closely, to help her get up whenever she bailed, but pretty soon we fell into a rhythm where I towed N quickly and took breaks while Line and F plodded up the trail more steadily. After lunch and a fair number of candy breaks we came upon the area where the steepness mellowed and the trees thinned. Some probing and cursory digging revealed the snowpack was about 3.6m deep, so it was time to get started.
I dug the cave in record time while the kids played under Line's supervision - just under 2 hours - but I had to rush as it was getting late. Our friend Lena passed through towing her son C and chatted with Line for a bit before they continued on a loop-tour. Then it was time for Line to snowshoe down with W, and for me to cook and eat dinner (the kids said I finally didn't ruin the mac and cheese!), read bedtime stories in the cave, and go to sleep. One of the nice things about snowcaves is that they are dead quiet, and it's easy to sleep in. After a long nights sleep (with no potty interruptions!) it was time to get up and play! The kids took turns breaking trails around camp, riding shovels into treewells, and generally having a good time while I packed up camp. Although uncrowded it's still a relatively popular area, so we elected to bag/pack-out our poop. I demonstrated the "direct deposit" method for F: "...and then you tie knot in the bag to help keep the smell in...". "Also, to keep the poo in.", F commented. After I dug a hole down into the snowcave through the roof (we always collapse our cave) F surprised me by successfully climbing out through it, despite the cave being at her shoulders and the roof being again as thick. Then she did it over and over.
I became a bit worried when Line didn't show up at the pickup time, but she was only a half-hour late. F elected to ride a shovel down the mountain, rather than skiing, and N decided that she'd spent all her energy playing and needed to ride down in the backpack. We'd planned for that possibility, though, and Line had brought a second soft carrier for W, so I could take the hard kid-pack for N and leave the big backpack with all the stuff at camp. It was totally the right choice - we all made it down quickly and efficiently, and it was a good excuse for me to go get an extra lap picking up the overnight gear. Overall the whole trip was type 1 fun, and it was *so* good for my mental health to spend a night in the mountains. This whole "stuck on the North Shore" thing hasn't been so bad, really. You certainly spend a lot less time driving.
Say Nuth Khaw Yum
Recent tips and thought
What is in our backpacks?
Pandemic pondering and wandering
Tweaking our haul-a-day
Making kids crampons
Digging a snowcave
Make a kid towing harness