Many people will wander the Earth to find themselves, go through some rite of passage. A little over a month ago, my son and I went backpacking on the Taylor River, and I learned a few things.
- Some things are better at re-energizing a kid than others. Grabbing a quick snack, stopping for lunch, going to the bathroom and even changing his socks, were far more motivating than sitting down and taking a break. Maybe its the dread of putting the pack back on when you're resting, but some stops put a bigger spring in his step than others.
- Don't doubt your kids' cababilities. They can probably go further than you give them credit for. My 10 year old son carried a 28 pound backpack for 6 miles on Day 1 and 11 miles on Day 2 of our trip. And I didn't cut him much slack - he carried his stuff as well as some of our common gear. While we did eat the food he was carrying first, he still carried the tent poles and the rain fly (both pretty important in the state of Washington). And on top of all that he brought a full set of clean clothes for day 2 which is an oddity when we're at home with his full closet.
- We all know already that kids love sticks, often to parents' chagrin. Along the way, Kid3 picked up a "sharp stick" that became one of the most important pieces of "gear" my kid carried. He used it when scrambling up steep slopes, it was a pointer for the map. You can even see it in his hand in the picture below. We even turned around a short distance to go get it when it was left behind. Once. The final time it was lost, we realized it after about 15 minutes of walking. But it wasn't that traumatic of a loss.
- I did try to make this a learning exercise for Kid3 and teach him how to live in the outdoors. As we were hiking, I shared with him how to not attract animals to our campsite and how hanging a bear bag is a great activity. Usually, hanging a bear bag takes many attempts, so it serves as after dinner entertainment and to warm you up before you go to bed. Not so with my football playing son. On the third throw, he had it over the branch. And when we needed to lower it to get our toothbrushes, he just decided to re-hang it with similar ease. Take football players backpacking with you.
- You don't need as much stuff as you think. On this trip I carried as much weight as I do on a day hike (I pack heavy) and I had more food, parts of a tent and a sleeping bag. I didn't carry as many backup pieces of clothing and relied on my water filter quite a bit. On a typical day hike, I'll carry 3 - 4 liters of water, but this trip, we each carried 1 liter and an empty water bottle. We did refill several times during the trip, but that's easy as water is so plentiful in the Pacific Northwest.
- This was the first trip I went on with my new backpack, the REI Mars. My daypack is pretty simple and is about 13 years old. There have been quite a lot of improvements in backpacks, in particular the now common stretchy mesh pockets on the side of the packs. They're perfect for holding water bottles and easy to get the water bottle while walking. I stayed so much more hydrated on this trip than other trips.
- I really love being outdoors, rain or shine. We were lucky that Day 1 was a great day - not too hot, but still sunny. On Day 2, the clouds never quite cleared and by 10AM it was starting to sprinkle on us. We were generating enough body heat hiking that we didn't stop to put any wet weather gear on for several hours The rain didn't matter, it was just so great to be in the outdoors.