Tapaltos & Cape Beale: A First Family Backpack

In Activity, Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, Backpacking, Clubs, Family, Island Mountain Ramblers by Explorington1 Comment

Dear Octavia (22 months) and Hemingway (five years),

Taking the whole family on a backpacking trip is a significant milestone, and it was an excellent way for all of us to spend two days together in the middle of July. Getting everyone involved with the adventure is exciting, but I felt anxious thinking about the risks involved … much more concerned than when I go on my own. To help manage the risk, I chose a trip to Tapaltos Bay with a daytrip out to the Cape Beale lighthouse. Hemingway, you and I have done this trip by ourselves before, and a few times with Mom; but this was our first family trip since Octavia was born in September 2016.

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale


The short hiking distance was an important factor in choosing Tapaltos as our destination, Hemingway, because this was your first trip with the backpack I gave to you on your birthday. Our trip depended on your ability to carry your clothes, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad (under eight pounds). Between all the camping gear, food and snacks, and Octavia’s bottle, milk, and diapers, it was nearly impossible to fit the volume of equipment into just two backpacks. Mom’s 60-litre bag billowed out from her body– thank goodness it only weighed twenty pounds. While Hemingway walked the whole route, I carried you, Octavia, in the backpack, with all the dense small items in the storage compartment below you. You might not be two years old yet, but you’re already thirty pounds– the combination of child and pack weight came in just over fifty pounds. I haven’t carried that much weight since before I dislocated my patella in 2013; one more reason I was happy the distance to the beach was short!

To help reduce the distance to the beach, we started our hike on the road that bisects the regular trail. From here the path was in good shape; that is, dry. We didn’t have to walk in the mud until we reached the Tapaltos-Keeha junction. Even so, Hemingway, you were a real trooper! It was fun to watch you hop from log to log, and I was impressed because you only needed help a few times. Octavia, you were a great hiking partner because you didn’t complain at all when I bent over and you were left dangling in the harness; or when the branches brushed your face; or when I jostled you by hopping up and down over logs. Way to go, family!

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

It took just over two hours for our group of five to reach the beach. Even without mud, the log-hopping and threading around the bushes tired us out. When we crested the hill above the beach, Hemingway cheered as the breeze blew through Octavia’s hair: “The beach! The beach! The beach!”

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

We spent the evening setting up camp, making a fire, and poking in the sand with sticks. I brought a pack of hot dogs and buns for a weenie roast, but you kids wanted nothing to do with it (I’ll put that in the parenting win category, even if it was a “Why did I pack these!?” moment).

As the sun started to set, the two of you were put to bed. You slept toe-to-toe in the middle of the tent with mom and dad on either side. You two must have been tired because it took only ten minutes for both of you to fall asleep. When Mom and I came to bed hours later, we looked at our two sleeping angels and discovered you were both covered in dozens of mosquito bites! There must have been 15 of the buggers flying in the tent, fat on the bounty you unwittingly gave them.

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

beach treasure

Day Two– Cape Beale

Octavia, you made it through the night with only a few swollen bug bites. Hemingway, you weren’t as lucky – your bites were numerous, mostly located on your face, and your left eye swelled shut! It didn’t slow you down, nor did it seem to interfere with your depth perception. You still raced headfirst on our adventure to the lighthouse.

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

a mosquito bite on the eye

I carried sleeping Octavia in the pack, while Hemingway zipped along the trail poking at every bug and berry. It wasn’t until we started the climb to the lighthouse that Octavia got to put her feet on the ground and stretch her legs. She pulled at the flowers beside the path and happily made her way up to the lighthouse.

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

just a little mud

We had lunch at the lighthouse and enjoyed a good conversation with the assistant keeper before heading out to the land bridge for photographs and the return to camp. Somewhere en route, Hemingway, I took a picture, and you demanded to see it. As you saw your swollen eye for the first time, you stared at it, your jaw hanging slack in awe. Eventually, you asked, ” Will it heal itself?” I thought about telling you no, you needed to adapt to your new pirate life, but that seemed extra cruel. After all, you were working so hard all day.

hiking on Vancouver Island, Tapaltos Beach and Cape Beale

Octavia rushing the lighthouse–CHARGE!

By the time we got back to the beach, not even gummies could keep you two in a good mood; you needed to run and play. While I prepped dinner, you and Mom scoured the beach for an appropriate toy and came back with a large wheel–beach toys these days!

Bed came later on the second night, and after checking for bugs, we sent you two to bed. Mom and I spent some time alone at the fire talking about how cute you two were when you weren’t yelling, screaming, crying, eating, or being too demanding.

Day Three — Home

Day Three was the adventure of walking back to the car. Motivating you on the trip to the beach was easy, but now, on the way back to the car, you were both extra tired. Hemingway managed to keep his backpack on the whole trip, and Octavia, you were extra fidgety after being cooped up for two days in a row, but otherwise, things went smoothly.

Hemingway, when you were almost at your breaking point, I noticed the break in the trees ahead: the road! When you heard the road ahead of us, you got a second wind and ran off the trail–you were so excited!

This trip was a litmus test for a much more challenging trip to Arnica Lake, planned for later in the summer. I needed to know that the family was going to have the mettle to deal with the terrain and challenges that come with backpacking as a family. We came through this with flying colours and learned some new limits. We were ready for the more significant trip!
I look forward to the adventures we will have as you two get older.

I love you two.


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Matthew is an adventure blogger and photographer. He documents his adventures on explorington.com. His stories create a vivid backdrop that give his photographs cotext. He finds his adventures with the Island Mountain Ramblers, and whenever possible, his family joins his adventures.


  1. What a fabulous experience, and so many memories for you all. Well done! That rucksack is half as big as your kid!!! 😂

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