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Hiking with Kids Stories


Name: Travis Lofthouse
Subject: Backpacking with Kids

I did an overnighter backpacking trip with my six year old son. We covered twelve miles, and he was a real trooper. I did end up carrying everything at times, but other times he was able to pitch in and help carry his things. It was a rigorous, steep hike at times as well, but I was very proud of his ability and determination. I might not go so far next time, but would love to take him out again, this time with his little brother and sister, as he talks about it all the time and has bragging rights too!

Name: Irene Sheppard
Subject: Kids Backpacking in Havasupai

My family accompanied my teaching colleagues and our gifted students on a three-day backpacking adventure in Havasupai Canyon. What a fulfilling experience we all had! The kids, ages 9-14, had never backpacked before. Were the adults (all 40+ years old) a bit leary? We didn't let it show. At the end of three days we had ALL gone swimming in the freezing waters of glittering waterfall pools, swung off of a rope swing to splash ten feet below, descended (and ascended) a grizzley 100 foot cliff via chain and cave, and hiked 20 miles. We adults shed our fears and trepidation in order to model intelligent risk-taking. The kids responded beautifully; they are our heroes. We adults are revitalized. I have never had a better backpacking experience.

Name: Amber
Subject: Kids backpacking

My husband and I have taken my niece on overnight backpacking trips since she was 7 (and she is tiny!). We also have climbed mountain peaks with her. Although she gets tired hiking (usually 3-5 miles each way) she feels a sense of accomplishment when she we are done. She loves to help pump water, cook food and everything we do. She also carries most all of her own stuff up the mountain. We will be taking my 7 year old nephew for the first time this summer. It is a great self-esteem booster.

Name: Thad Pinney
Subject: Backpacking with Kids

Your Message: I just stumbled across this site and wanted to share this story:
When my first born son was 5 year old, his uncle (my brother) and I took him backpacking in the Massanutten Mountains (VA). We choose a trail with a shelter about a mile from the trailhead. This would put us near enough to car so that we could retreat if need be or we could retrieve our tent if the shelter was full. We also planned our trip as a yo-yo, passing the shelter on the way up the mountain, and then continuing to the ridgeline where we could hike until we felt that the return effort would be achievable for my son or for the remaining daylight. Before we left, he asked if we were "going into the wilds?" and if there "would be any bears?"

This being the case I answered truthfully and then added that boys who complain a lot "usually get eaten by bears." His eyes grew big and he asked "really Dad?" "Yes," I answered, "what do you think happened to your older brother." I don't know what I was thinking or where it came from, but I am ashamed of myself for abusing the trust of my son. This jest was in extreme poor taste and impacted him deeply. I had to reassure him for quite some time that this was not the case, that he never had an older brother and that his dad had been joking. Not an easy concept for a 5 year old to completely understand.

Since so much about backpacking is in the fact that you wear a "pack," we bought him a small CamelBak. In this he carried his clothes, water, ID, a spare set of keys to the car, a map with the car marked, a whistle - only to be used "if you get separated from us" (occasionally he would run and hide behind a tree and blow it) and some food (granola bar and marshmallows). My brother and I split the remainder of his gear (sleeping bag/pad, jacket, sandals etc.)

The hiking was slow, especially at the steep sections, but we were able to accomplish about 6+ miles in 5-6 hours. We made it a point to stop when we found a flower and look it up in our pocket guide. This reinforced a respect for nature and inserted little resting points. It also encouraged him to see the details around him (seeing a new flower meant a rest.) Every so often, when he was struggling to get to our next "resting point" he would pause and say "Daddy, I am not complaining, am I?"

"No son," I would answer, "you're not. I am proud of you. Keep up the good work." That evening at the pit toilet near the shelter, as I stood holding the door so that the spiders wouldn't find him he summed it up: "Daddy," he said as he sat there doing his business. "Daddy, I love you." "I love you too," I said laughing - such a tender expression in such a stinky setting. After all, it was "the wilds." When he got home he had to tell his little brother that he "didn't complain and the bears didn't eat me."

Photos from this trip (are still) available HERE

Name: Keith Smith
Subject: Skylar

I have been backpacking with my seven year old daughter Skylar for the past couple of years. This last weekend we had a permit for Andrews Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park. A very beautiful area by Loch Vale. What a trooper she is! It's about 4 miles to camp with an elevation gain of about 1400 ft. She did great like she always does. I've discovered that she has the energy and endurance for any hike we do but can get restless on the trail when the going gets monotonous so I keep up a conversation with her (she likes to talk) and we can go indefinitely. She made me extra proud this time as she accidentally broke through the snow into a small stream. Of course the water was freezing and she cried and I got her boot and sock off and put her in the sun to dry/warm. Within minutes she was back to her happy self again. For the rest of the trip we couldn't ever get her feet completely dry. She never complained and had a great time. She is a better backpacker than most of the adults I know, very into nature. I'm very lucky she likes to go with me because I don't have any friends anymore that like to backpack. She is the second best backpacking companion I've ever had. She Rocks!

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