Before my son was even born, my husband asked if I’d be up for doing a winter cabin trip with the baby. Our friends were expecting a baby 6 months before us and thought it would be fun to book a hut with 4 other families, for three days, with 5 kids between us. Sure, sounded like fun, “Sign us up!” I said.
It was months later that I discovered we’d be going to Elk Lakes Cabin. The trip would entail a 10km ski in and out, an outhouse, communal sleeping, no electricity, or running water. I secretly wondered if my husband was delusional thinking this was something we could do with a 5 month old. I’d like to play it cool and say that I was still onboard but I wasn’t…was a trip like this even possible with a baby? I was still learning how to cope with basic changes not to mention a rustic cabin trip—this was far out of my comfort zone!
I must have been extremely sleep deprived (or I really love my husband) but somehow he convinced me that it could be done and we’d actually have fun. We decided that each of us was limited to one backpack, this included both ski gear and daily wear. Extra items that we had to consider were diapers, two giant frozen lasagnas my husband made for our assigned meal, daily snacks, and a breakfast. This is where the Thule Chariot really stole the spotlight with all of its storage space behind and below. (If you haven’t seen my Blog describing our snow stroller, check it out here).
There was lots of fresh snow and the trek in definitely got my heart pumping. When we finally reached the cabin, there was no relaxing though. After a quick celebration beer, everyone got to work boiling snow, lighting the propane pilot for cooking, starting a fire to heat the cabin, unloading food, claiming bed space…not to mention taking care of babies and toddlers! Ugh…even the memories of this part exhaust me!
By the time preparations were done, it was time for dinner. The assigned couple made an awesome meal. I can’t remember all the details but I definitely remember the homemade squash ravioli and fresh green beans followed by a delicious chocolate dessert. Needless to say, they set the bar high. Once the kids got to bed (well, some of them) we all sat around the fire and relaxed with a beer or glass of wine (there was a significant shortage in this case since baby supplies took up premium packing space).
The night was definitely one to remember with the kids erupting into crying symphonies every other hour, a screaming toddler that wanted warm milk (which needed to be heated on the fire), and a mom getting hit with the stomach flu…
Day 2 was tough. Everyone was a little on edge at breakfast after having no sleep—plus the looming worry of catching the stomach flu. Somehow we all pulled through, enjoyed our breakfast burritos, got the kids dressed, and ventured out to explore the area. It was gorgeous! The weather was warm and the views were incredible. The kids could play outside and the parents built snow chairs to relax in while some kids napped. Yes, we did try to maintain our precious sleep schedule to some degree 🙂
The evening was hard with some kids completely sleep deprived and others trying to sleep but consistently being woken up. Food was running low and there definitely weren’t any more celebration beers…We had purchased an inflatable pad with walls from Ikea (I think it was actually a change pad) that we used to co-sleep with our son. It worked really well except I spent the majority of the evening comforting him after being startled awake from crying babies.
Day 3 made me feel like the trip was too short. Part of me was excited to get back home and out of this crazy cabin but another part wanted to spend the day enjoying the mountains again. Since the cabin was fully booked that evening, we had to start cleaning early. It probably shouldn’t have came as a surprise but 8 adults and 5 kids sure do make a mess. It felt never-ending as the kids continued to run around, babies were still trying to sleep, and everyone kept at their designated chores. After a morning of hard work, two nights of no sleep, I was thankful the ski out went fast!
At this point I’ve probably discouraged you from ever attempting this type of trip and you’re wondering if it was worth it. Well—heck ya! Oh wait, I’m probably back in that sleep deprived state with my 4 month old and toddler. But no seriously, with a few tweaks, I’d do it again!
There’s something very homely when living and working along so many other people in a rustic setting—everyone has their unique role and chores, a closeness forms while squishing around the table for meals, and a soft empathy grows as you witness other parents conquer the same struggles of discipline, nap times, winter dressing, etc. It brought us closer together as family and friends, but also fulfilled my personal need for adventure which had been lacking. I truly felt like I had survived and conquered something amazing by pushing my boundaries.
That being said, keep your expectations in check. It’s not easy and it does take work. Evenings were tough. If your baby wasn’t crying or breastfeeding, someone else’s was. Trying to find safe places for babies who were learning to crawl or wanted to move was impossible. In our case, there was really only room for 1 extra small playpen. It was also extremely eye opening to see how much families consume, waste, and take items for granted at their disposal.
Nonetheless, it’s an experience your family will never forget and I’m convinced that it will only get easier (fingers crossed!)
Stay tuned for an upcoming post where I’ll provide a list of suggestions to conquer a trip like this! In the meantime, book your cabin trip through the Alpine Club of Canada!