Beginners backpack trip report
How do you get your kids to love backpacking? You take them backpacking. Like you're voting in a Chicago election: Early. And often.
My daughter is already five-and-a-half and this was her first backpacking trip. Why didn't I take her sooner? I'm not really sure. But we made it out there this past weekend, to what is probably my favorite local backpacking destination: Hawn State Park. There are lots of spots to pitch your tents, including a few that are on the map. We hiked less than a mile from the trailhead to Backpack Camp #1. It's up on a hill, so there's no water closer than the parking lot, where Pickle Creek rushes past. But it's a very pretty spot and has lots of space for tents, plus a well-established fire ring. No worries about leaving no trace here; that trace has already been left and is here to stay.
It's approximately three-quarters of a mile from the parking lot to our campsite, and about half way there I learned that I had made a mistake. In the 5 years since I had had a child this age, I had forgotten that children who are not used to carrying things do not carry things. In my years of training my girl to be a day-hiker, I had let her get used to having others carry her snacks and water. So after about 15 minutes she dropped her glittery school backpack -- containing her blankie, one small book, and a sippy cup -- onto the trail. Rest assured that I will be putting a backpack on her every time we hike from here on out.
We set up camp in the late afternoon but still with lots of light left. A couple of those in our group took a short hike to the creek where they got some more water and did some splashing. My daughter and I dozed in our cozy tent.
I had all the usual gear for two people, but this was the first time in at least five years that I didn't have my now-12-year-old son along to help carry gear. He's at least as strong as I am. And while the weight of all that gear and food and water wasn't a huge issue, I simply couldn't fit it all in my pack. Perhaps the next time we do this I'll have to carry a day pack on my chest.
For dinner on Saturday night we had mac n cheese, her favorite. S'mores were shared, along with glow bracelets. Hey, they're for fun and safety.
Sleep didn't seem to be an issue. She had slept in a tent before so it only took her a little longer to fall asleep than usual. We both woke up early, right at 6 a.m. dawn. After breakfast we packed up and walked back to our cars, then hiked about a half mile down Pickle Creek for some splashing. Everyone had a blast and agreed it was a success.