My Canada friend issued us a light warning that Lake Louise would be swarmed with tourists and she wasn’t wrong.
The creamy, light turquoise waters of Lake Louise are stunning, which explains the horde of tourists (like us!) It's hard to look away because the colour is just so alluring. I'm not sure I've seen anything like that naturally occuring in nature!
I also love how it's like art and science coming together - sunlight reflecting off rock flour that had been carried into the lake by melt-water from surrounding glaciers created this spectacular work of art in nature. Even though Gwen probably didn't understand a word, I explained this phenomenon and shared my musings with her as we sat together admiring the scenery. She was the perfect listener (all babies are!)
In addition, the dreamy Fairmont Chateau made for a gorgeous complement to the allure of the lake. We even happened to witness a romantic wedding taking place at Fairmont Chateau during our visit to Lake Louise that made our time there even more magical.
The Hike Around Lake Louise
The hike was on flat grounds which was suitable for Gwen (14 months) to walk on her own. There was quite a bit of wildlife to see in the bushes and lightly forested areas surrounding the lake — I pointed out birds and ground squirrels to Gwen, who even wanted to follow a squirrel into its hole.
I noticed that there were different shades of turquoise in the colours of the lake — due to varying amounts of sunlight and depths of waters. I described the colours as vividly as I could to Gwen and held her hand as she leaned close to the shoreline to take a closer look at the clear waters.
The husband and I were ambitious about seeing Lake Louise in its entirety so we determinedly walked the whole trail, all the while trying to cajole an unhappy young toddler who wanted to dawdle on the path. I believe we took 2.5 hours for what was meant to be a 1 hour hike. On hindsight we should have made a u-turn earlier because I felt the endpoint didn’t have much of a wow factor.
What I Learnt about Hiking with Young Toddler
Before my husband and I had Gwen, we had never been on a hike. We haven't had the slightest inclination. But everything changed when Gwen became a part of our world, and more so when she started walking.
We wanted to show her the world - do things we've never done before, go places we've never been, and see things we've never seen, with her. More succinctly, we wanted those first experiences to include Gwen.
So we decided to hike, to go on adventures as a family. And these are what I learnt as a beginner hiker with a very young child.
- Little ones are mostly concerned about what's ahead of them, what they could feel and see. They live in the present - they don't understand or care much about the end-point, which leads them to idle, stop or lag behind on a hike and focus on what interests them. The small rocks lining the path, the birds overhead, the sound of running water - those are tangible things they want to stop and explore.
So, let them. Adjust your expectations and pace. Get to their level. Slow down and appreciate the tiny, often-missed details of nature from the fresh, different perspective of young children.
It is easy to overestimate the stamina of young children — Ever since she's taken her first few steps, Gwen had always enjoyed walking so I thought she'll cover a fair distance on her own for the hike, but I was too optimistic. There were definitely spurts of high energy, but all too soon Gwen wanted to be held or carried.
Little children are highly sensitive to temperature and climate changes. A sudden wind, a slight drizzle - there are little discomforts we dismiss quickly as adults but they can really bother or surprise young ones.
As parents, there is a need to plan ahead, ensuring the hike doesn't affect the nap schedule of the day, the baby is dressed for the weather, there's sufficient food and water to keep the energy level high etc to ensure the hike goes well. It's key to check the weather forecast and dress for it. Equally important is the packing of essentials (like sanitising wet wipes to clean dirty hands!) and supplies in the backpack (easy high-calorie snacks and water for little ones are quick-fixes for fussiness.)
Really be mindful about enjoying the process, instead of being too fixated about the destination. From experience, the best memories of the hike will come from the unexpected little moments (Gwen perched on the bench looking out for birds and then clapping with joy) and even little pleasantries and unspoken camaraderie exchanged with fellow parent hikers. How the destination looks is often quickly forgotten. How you feel about the hike is what will stay with you for a very long time.
Follow #gweninnature for my chronicles of traipsing North America with a toddler and seeing nature through her eyes.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.