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  • Kathy Schrenk

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.

She was so stinking excited about the backpacking trip. She talked about it all week long leading up to it and now she tells everyone she meets that we went on a backpacking trip.

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.

This adorable dogger got to come along, too.

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.

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