My first year out of undergrad, I applied to grad school. Just one school in a program that I thought would give me what I needed to become a Child Life Specialist. While waiting to hear, I decided that if I didn't get in I was going to Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
I actually started buying my supplies (there was an EMS right down the street from work) - a pack, a sleeping bag (that I still use), a 2-person tent. I attended a workshop on what you needed to do to prepare. Then I got into the program I had applied to.
When I graduated high school, my family went on a backpacking trip (my parents, 5 kids age 7-17, and an Irish Setter). We travelled up to the White Mountains and camped somewhere around Zealand Falls or Thoreau Falls. We have some great pictures of us five kids out on a flat rock in the middle of the Falls. I remember it raining. I remember the dog carrying its own food in saddle bags. I remember stopping by the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut and thinking it would be a really cool way to do it.
I've done a couple shorter sections of the AT over the years, including a solo trip in NY state where I camped out on a summit in a thunder and lightning storm (yes, not the brightest idea). I've been excited to take my kids backpacking for a very long time.
This trip didn't let me down. The falls were beautiful. The complaining was kept to a minimum when the kids took the lead. The weather was perfect. The Hut Croo gave us the bunk room for four. With a door. Instead of mixing us into one of the bunk rooms for 16. We only needed to hike 3 miles in to the hut. A nice mix of meandering trail and straight up over rocks and boulders.
Even more importantly, the kids are ready to go again. While backpacking again will need to wait a little while, I think I am going to attempt to take them camping by myself over the next couple weeks. That way I get to start the fire - an ongoing battle between me and The Dad...
While we did lots of backpacking before we had kids, we had only done car-camping with them until this summer. We found great State Parks and learned to be particular about sites - the outer ring, along a river always being quietest and best. And we waited. Until they were old enough to hike in, carrying their own (light) pack.
We decided they were ready this summer, having just turned 5 and 7 this spring.
When I was in elementary school, living in Minneapolis, my Dad decided that we were ready to learn how to ski. There were lots of small places for skiing in Minnesota but he believed that for us to really learn how to ski, we had to go to Vermont. Two parents, a grandmother, and five kids (the youngest still an infant) in a large Dodge van driving half way across the country to learn how to ski. I've always kind of laughed at that, but now I understand.
For us, to take them backpacking for the first time, we had to take them to the White Mountains.
After much deliberation and research, we decided to spend the first and third of three nights at a campground and the second at an AMC Hut up on the Appalachian Trail. These pictures are from the campground (where we camped right next to the Pemigewasset River). It was beautiful. We could have stayed there for a week and easily filled our days.
The hike up into the mountains and onto the AT was even more amazing. Next post!