By: Yukon Charlie’s Trailblazers, The Donoghs
We are The Donoghs, a young family of four living in the Pacific Northwest. We vlog about our adventures, sustainability, and food. As parents who grew up enjoying the epic outdoors here we feel a deep responsibility to instill the same sense of wonder in our kids that we gained from venturing outside.
This winter we drove out to Stevens Pass in Washington to snowshoe up to Skyline Lake as a family. The Skyline Lake trail is a busier hike, but we aren’t ones to shy away from crowds. Just being out in the white snow with the little bit of sunshine reflecting off it is enough to make any day awesome. Know ahead that it’s marked as a beginner trail, but the ascent is very steep most of the way and a lot folks end up turning around before reaching the lake. The good news is that the extra effort is rewarded in amazing views of ski lifts, clouds lingering below, and beautiful mountain peaks. Not to mention a killer leg day!
Learning from our past snowshoeing experiences with the kids we made a couple of changes that helped us all out a lot. Whether you’re headed to Skyline Lake or to snowshoe elsewhere for the day with your family we hope you find these tips useful.
Prepare your kids for the work ahead before you begin.
Our oldest son Kelly made the entire 4.5 mile loop snowshoeing all on his own and we couldn’t be prouder. We listened to one of the kids’ favorite songs right now by Walk the Moon, “One Foot” in the car on the way. The chorus is “One foot in front of the other.” We talked what we do when we feel tired and want to give up. You’ve got to just keep putting one foot in front of the other to make it up the mountain. He definitely did that. No complaints! He just powered through.
Treat it as a day in the gym, but outside.
Snowshoeing is awesome cross training for other sports, and adding kids to the mix just increases the challenge! Shane was looking forward to hauling our youngest son and backpack in the sled on the way up the mountain. The bigger challenge means a bigger reward and one that lasted several days afterwards in the form of sore legs and core.
Modify your sled for snowshoeing with kids.
Wyatt loves to snowshoe like his big brother, but it’s tough to keep up with 3 year old legs so he won’t pass up the chance to get a sled ride from dad. This time Shane brought a longer rope to make hauling the sled easier. Not only that, he also used a carabiner to attach it through the sled’s molded handles. By doing this he could easily switch the attachment point to the back of the sled to make the long descents easier. He used a short strap to secure his backpack to the sled in case of a capsize, and to give our little guy something to hold onto.
Pack a hot lunch.
Hot food is a great motivator! Once we got to our destination at Skyline Lake after climbing 1200,’ the wind was gusting across the frozen lake so Shane made an impromptu wind break with his snow shovel. With the shelter we could eat lunch out of the frosty breeze. A shovel is a necessary tool in the backcountry, and doubles as another great way to stay warm by having a snow shoveling contest.
Shane heated up some Mac & Cheese for the boys to get them fueled up for the way back. We brought the kids’ bowls and utensils from home and Shane used his JetBoil to get the water going quickly.
At these elevations you can be sure the Camp Robbers will start showing up soon at the faintest smell of snacks to entertain you (or annoy you!)
Celebrate accomplishments with some extra sledding time.
Towing a sled behind us while snowshoeing isn’t just a practical solution for hiking with kids, but a tool for fun… and a little bribery. The day was winding down and no one was around. This trail had a nice hill at the bottom, which made for a perfect spot for us to stop and let the kids go all out on the sledding. Rather than feeling tired from the trek the kids were invigorated with fun before we drove off.
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