Have you ever stayed in a cabin with a group of strangers and had a less than desirable experience where you wanted to send the whole lot of them back to kindergarten for a lesson on sharing and playing nicely? I have! I've had experiences I'd like to forget in cabins, huts, and wilderness hostels all over the Canadian Rockies. And I know I'm not alone. Just today I was asked about our weekend from a leery mom who's had bad experiences in the past that have left her scared to bring her children to another hut. That's really sad considering that both the Alpine Club of Canada and Hostelling International pride themselves on being family friendly. Check out the photo below as proof - you've seen it before on my blog. The Alpine Club is currently using it in their campaign to attract more families to their huts. The caption in one publication says, "This could be your family." And that is my family in the photo below - at least the little boy in red pajamas.
|Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park|
In the hopes that this story goes far and wide, I present to you:
Group Etiquette 101.
One - Cook together as a groupWe stayed at the Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel this winter with another family. Friday night we also shared the hostel with a group of Girl Guides and Saturday night we got to share our cabin with a group of Boy Scouts. The Girl Guide group was highly organized and the leaders took the lead on all of the cooking. They'd prepared a huge breakfast casserole for the group before coming and Saturday morning had nothing to do but put it in the oven - simple, fast and easy. The Boy Scout group on the other hand had no concept of organization. The leaders sat back while 30+ teens all cooked individual meals for breakfast and dinner. Have you ever seen 10+ people in a kitchen at one time? I'm sure there was a bit of collaboration going on and maybe the leaders thought they were organized in appointing one teen to cook for two or three others, but how much simpler would it have been if they had prepared a huge batch of pasta for the whole group Saturday night? Pancakes and sausage for everybody Sunday morning.
The bottom line - if you are sharing a cabin or hut with a group of 4+ people, cook together and free up the kitchen for other hut users.
|A photo from the archives of our trip into the Tonquin Valley, Jasper National Park|
Two - Respect the sacred act of sleepingI'll start with saying that if you are sharing a cabin with a group of friends or strangers and you expect to get a good sleep - you are delusional. If you want a zen-like sleep or want to sleep in until 10am, go to a spa for the weekend. However, there are things each of us can do to make sleep easier for others.
- If you snore (and don't give me the crap that you didn't know) admit it to the group before going to bed with an apology, pass out ear plugs to those who forgot to bring a pair, and perhaps think of some other way to redeem yourself. (bringing extra alcohol, cookies, or brownies to share would be a good start. Making fresh coffee for your hut-mates in the morning would be awesome!)
- If your snoring is loud enough that it is driving people outside to sleep (I've seen it happen once at the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel), you have no business sharing hostels or cabins with other people. I'm sorry, but seriously, consult a doctor if your snoring is that bad. As mentioned, I've only seen it once, but once was enough! I live in fear forever going forward.
- If you have children that wake up early, plan some kind of quiet activity to occupy them in the morning. We always bring a portable DVD player for our son and my husband has gone as far as to take my son into the kitchen of the Elizabeth Parker Hut at 5am, wrapped in a blanket, where the two of them sat on the cold hard floor and watched cartoons until the majority of the hut users were awake.
- Don't pack your stuff up while others are sleeping unless you have an early start and need to be out the door before 8am. Otherwise, go have breakfast first, grab a cup of coffee, and go back to the sleeping area once others are mostly awake. There will always be that one person who is trying to have a marathon sleep, but go with the majority.
- Be respectful of children trying to sleep. If you want to play a loud card game or get drunk with your buddies, wait until all children are fast asleep. Yes, I know, the parents chose to come to the hut and they knew they'd be sharing it with those who might not have kids. Still - compassion people? Live it, study it, practice it! (this goes for Boy Scout groups too playing Spoons outside the door where toddlers and babies are sleeping. You are so lucky my friend didn't hurt you when you woke up her kids. I assure you - she wanted to.)
|A photo from our trip to the Peyto Hut, Banff National Park|
Three - If you are going to represent the majority - rent the whole facility!Would you want to share a cabin with 35 children or teens if you weren't their parent, leader, or guide? Or how about sharing a very small back country shelter with a private church group who takes over the whole cabin? Neither scenario is fun but both have happened to us. If you know that you are going to be booking more than half of the spaces in a cabin, hut or hostel, and especially if you have a group that will be less than desirable for others to share the facility with - just rent the whole space! You can either absorb the cost of the extra spots you don't need or invite more people to come with you. And don't even suggest that you are then being rude by hogging a place to yourselves and preventing others from coming and using the extra beds or rooms. Trust me - nobody wants those extra spots!! We had an amazing family weekend at the Elizabeth Parker Hut when a member of our local Alpine Club rented the whole cabin for our group.
It was a great trip because everybody staying in the hut had children and knew what to expect - little sleep, everybody going to bed early, and lots of noise. We wouldn't have dreamed of making a single couple share the cabin with us. This past weekend we stayed at the Elk Lakes Cabin and we also rented the full cabin. It made us feel less uncomfortable when our children woke up in the middle of the night, chased each other around the loft screaming, or cried themselves to sleep.
The bottom line - Book as a group and enjoy your private cabin! Play crazy card games until 2am, drink with your friends, stay up all night - whatever you want. It's your cabin. The Alpine Club of Canada actually offers group discounts for those making a private booking FYI.
|Staying at the Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park (we booked the whole cabin)|
|Staying at the Mosquito Creek Hostel - We booked their private cabin for two families|
What would you add to my list of group etiquette rules?
Continue on to read part two which covers the issues of poaching, free-loading, mountain princesses, and family haters in the backcountry.