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Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

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Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby pylot » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:38 am

I want to take my 4 year old on a backpacking trip over an extended weekend at end of April to introduce him to wilderness skills. He's pretty active, but I would not expect him to hike more than 5 miles per day (less so if on snow), so we're looking for a loop of at most 15 miles. Some activities we may engage in: fishing, bouldering, sledding, building survival shelters, foraging, etc. Any advice?



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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby balzaccom » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:43 am

So it would help a lot to know where you live. Driving five or six hours is enough to drive any little kid insane.

And April? It won't be in the Sierra...Because there's way too much snow.

Instead of a loop, you might consider a base camp with a one day layover to let him poke around d where you camp and make it his...
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby Tom_H » Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:24 pm

We did a loop at Point Reyes once with friends. The mom carried the infant girl in a backpack child carrier, while the dad carried gear for all three in his pack. He was a professional guide like me, but it was only a 3 day trip so not too heavy of a pack really. But the thing is, this child did not have to walk.

You say you are expecting a 4 year old child to walk 5 miles per day in a wilderness. I just do not know how to react to this. Part of me wonders if this is a late April Fools joke. Part of me wonders how much experience you have in the wilderness and particularly with this child. I am not trying to be unkind, but truthfully, I am sitting here scratching my head. Children's energy comes in intense bursts, but they are not endowed with endurance. They will race around with great intensity, but then stop to rest. In my mind, it would be exceptionally rare for any 4 y.o. to walk 5 miles up and down trails. And there are some very rugged trails in CA that can chew up the feet of even adults who are not used to it and don't have correct footwear. If you push a 4 y.o. beyond his/her ability, you will wind up with a lot of screaming, tears, and rebellion.

Personally, I would set up a base camp with a vehicle and do short day hikes (as has already been suggested). You cannot build shelters (other than snow) in wilderness and other protected areas, so make sure you are on land where that isn't prohibited.

It would help us to help you if we knew the following:
-Where are you coming from?
-Are there places you have in mind?
-How much experience do you have in the wilderness?
-Have you ever taken this child out into the wilderness or long hikes before?

I would also encourage you to think long term. Consider becoming a Cub Scout (later Boy Scout, Explorer) master; teach him and his friends these skills over the next 14 years. If you push too hard at this tender age, you could turn him off to wilderness enjoyment for the rest of his life.
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:38 pm

Is poison oak a concern? If they do not react badly to poison oak, you can consider the beach.

I think Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to take kids on their first backpack. It is semi-civilized - you have to camp at established campgrounds which have picnic tables and out houses. They allow fires on the beach (bring wood). I cannot remember if there are fire rings at the campsites. One standard loop is first night at Glen Camp (very woodsy), second at Wildcat (great beach with a 1-mile walk at low tide to a waterfall) and then on the Coast Trail back to Bear Valley. That makes the last day longer than 5 miles, but you can also go back on a shorter more direct trail if needed. I plan on taking my grandkids on an in-and out to Coast Camp. THey can ride their mountain bikes all the way, then have a great beach to play on as well as ride around on their bikes. Then we will go out to tour a lighthouse in the car. Not exactly a wilderness experience but very kid friendly.

Henry Coe State Park is also possible, if you think your kid will not balk at hills. First night at Manzanita Point, second at Coyote Creek and back up the road. It may be a bit too much elevation gain for a 4 year old- but I think older kids would do fine. There is also poison oak here and ticks. Not a trip to do if you are not willing to really check the kids several times a day for ticks. I do not think they allow campfires.

If in the LA area, Channel Island may work - the boat ride out is really fun. You just backpack in a short distance and then day hike.

I have done a lot of climbing and car camping in Joshua Tree NP, but not backpacking. I think you would have to carry water.

As far as the ability of your kid, I would not say that 4 years old is too young, if you have done enough with him to know his capabilities. I actually took my 5-year old daughter on a one-week trip in the WInd Rivers, where we were horse-packed in about 15 miles and spent a whole week slowly walking out. I have taken my kids backpacking since they were 3 months old. But you need to start out a little at a time. First do some backyard camping. Then a car-camping trip. Then an overnight. and so on. I would say doing this in April is not idea. If you wait until August- September, there are many more places to consider, mosquitoes and snow will be gone, fishing is better, and overall I think you will have a better experience.
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby pylot » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:55 pm

Thanks for the comments and suggestions! We are near San Francisco - I like the Point Reyes idea! Joshua Tree would be interesting as well, but kind of far.

Our kid's ability: last year he did fine on 4 mile trails that were not very steep (he even did a 3 mile flat trail 2 years ago) Agree that with kids you never know how much energy they have, that's why I prefer a place where we can "camp" wherever he feels like he had enough for the day, not necessarily in a campground. If it were summer, I'd take probably take him to the Twenty Lakes Basin near Saddlebag Lake.

My ability: I'm not a wilderness expert, but I think I have decent skills. I'm somewhere between "I definitely can't live on my own in wilderness for any extended period" and "I'm okay if a day hike turns into an unplanned bivouac".

I did not know that building shelters in the wilderness is not allowed. I did a little search online regarding this and could not find any info. Could someone point me to the right resource?
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:56 pm

You are expected in most designated wilderness areas to conform to Leave No Trace standards. lnt.org has the full details on those.

Point Reyes SOMETIMES allows fires on the beach, but often they do not. There are small grills at each campsite and you are never allowed to burn wood in them, only briquettes - in winter we bring a small bag and some lighter fluid to have warm hands and possibly grill a few things wrapped in foil. Coast Camp is the easiest of the camps to get to, especially if you start walking from the hostel instead of park headquarters.
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby Jimr » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:56 pm

pylot wrote:I did not know that building shelters in the wilderness is not allowed. I did a little search online regarding this and could not find any info. Could someone point me to the right resource?


Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act of 1964

PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES
(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.
In our thirst for freedom, we must be careful not to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Apr 08, 2017 7:17 am

The point is "leave no trace". You could build a temprary shelter of limbs or rocks that are already on the ground (no chopping or breaking limbs off trees) and then, when the lesson is learned, put it all back where it came from. I agree that this may be a valuable lesson in emergency shelters, but would be lost on a 4 year old. Better saved until he is about 12 or older. The reason you take a 4-year old backpacking is to introduce him to the joys of the outdoors. And, yes, 4-year olds love to build "forts". This can also be done on a car-camping trip in a non-wilderness area. Let him do that as long as you put things back in order before you leave. Nothing actually can entertain a 4-year-old more than playing with sticks and a puddle of water!
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby wildhiker » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:58 pm

A few more suggestions for Bay Area backpacks in April:

1) Castle Rock State Park above Saratoga. They have a backpack camp about 3 miles in from the main trailhead. It has piped water, picnic tables, and outhouses (I think). From the camp, you can do a day hike further in. This trail has forest, open views, and big sandstone rocks. They have about 25 sites so no reservations needed.

2) Big Basin State Park north of Santa Cruz, from the ocean side at Waddell Creek. They have trail camps at 1.5 and 3? miles in from the trailhead with only a couple hundred feet elevation gain. Camps had piped water years ago - don't know current state. They are located in the redwoods along Waddell Creek which is great for skipping rocks and wading. Can day hike further in, possibly to Berry Creek Falls. Decades ago, took my kids at ages 1.5 and 3 into the first trail camp and they had great fun playing in the creek and in the sand along the creek. Each trail camp only has about 6 to 8 sites and reservations are required.

3) Sunol Regional Wilderness (East Bay Regional Parks District) east of Fremont. They have a backpack camp about 3 miles in. Trails continue beyond and you can make a loop to/from the camp. More elevation gain than the ones above. Open grassy hills with lots of wildflowers. Some poison oak. Again, decades ago my kids did this backpack with us when the youngest was 3. Reservations required.

-Phil
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Re: Easy wilderness backpacking with young kid

Postby JerryOnYourSix » Fri Apr 14, 2017 8:45 pm

I like Kennedy Meadows, north on the PCT up to gauge station bridge. Easy route, lots of water, store/burgers/beer at trailhead.
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