Backpacking with my daughter

11:51 a.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Took my 4-year-old daughter out backpacking for the first time Saturday and Sunday. There was some good, some bad. I took her, three friends and their sons and we went to Huckleberry Knob along the TN-NC border in the Nantahala National Forest, just south of the Smokies.

Huckleberry is a bald at 5,600 feet. It's about a 1.2 mile hike, so not hard on the kids. Here's what happened.

We got to the trailhead and started up the trail at just a  slight incline. All of us we're loaded up since we were carrying our stuff and our little tykes stuff.


Me, on the right, and a buddy of mine starting out. The kids are in front of us.

We kept going and the first place we get to is a giant meadow with a mower sitting in it. It was about a half mile in.


We walked into some more woods, went another half mile and came out at Huckleberry Knob.


My daughter is to the left in the pink jacket and pink Dora backpack.

It kind of surprised us when we got up there. When we left Chattanooga, Tenn. it was 60 and sunny. When we got up there it was 34 and overcast. The cold didn't surprise us. It was the overcast part. Every weather forecast we looked at said it would be sunny everywhere. But the mountains have a mind of their own and when we got to the summit, looked around and noticed the only clouds in the sky were the ones hanging above us.

We got to the top, made camp and started to enjoy the scene around us. We were at the highest point in that mountain chain and around us we were surrounded by a sea of mountains. You could see some of the cloudbank floating underneath us over in NC.

That didn't last long. Within an hour, a cloudbank came in and ennveloped us. The rest of the evening all we had was a dense soupy fog around us. It got colder and windier. We had prepared for the cold, but for some dumb reason unknown we didn't prepare for the wind. I should have known better. We had no hard shells for us or the kids and within minutes we were all huddled by the fire and the kids were crying.

It got to night and I put my daughter down to bed. She slept like a champ, but beforehand she kept telling me she was afraid of the wind and it scared her. Kept asking me why I picked a place so windy. I had no clue she'd be scared by the wind. She also missed mommy.

At about 4 a.m the wind got even heavier blowing the tents. But we all settled down and went back to sleep. It was still a soupy fog outside and I was worried it would be like that at sunrise.

The sun rose and I heard a friend say it was beautiful and I had to come see.

I stepped out the tent and saw this.


Got a pic of Carolina.


Then me and Carolina.


The sun started peaking out.


Then it was blazing.


Here's a couple of pics of the area around us.



Then we headed home having a scavenger hunt with the kids on the way back. Some of the leaves were turning up at that height and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Had a fun time telling them to find leaves and flowers. We left it was 32 when we got home it was 62.

Carolina said she hated the trip, but said she wants to go backpacking again, just somewhere "less windy." I'll start looking around for that place soon and think I'll take her out again when the leaves start peaking in the valley.

I know she didn't like it this time, but I think time will have its toll. I think someday when she is older and looks back on these photos she'll think about how much her daddy loved her to do thing like this with her.

It wasn't the trip I planned and you get the trip Mother Nature gives you. But Mother Nature smiled on us Sunday morning and it was worth it to me to get up and share that beautiful sunrise with my little girl.

4:04 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Glad you and your daughter and friends had a good time. I was married once many years ago, but my wife and I split up and divorced when our daughter was 3 1/2. I had hoped to be taking her out on some hikes when she was young, now she is approaching 18 (Nov 4th) and we have not even seen one another in 16 years. Her mother was bitter after the divorce and I have not been able to visit her. I hope after she graduates from high school next spring that she will still want to see me and take up where we left off so long ago.

Fall leaf and flower scavenger hunts sound great! I am traveling by bicycle now (Trip Planning and Trip Reports) and like seeing all the plants of the different areas and elevation I pass thru.

4:12 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Good trip report with some familiar fotogs.  Now you know why I carry a Hilleberg tent along with plenty of goose down and look like I'm standing on K2 half the time.

7:03 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Nice trip. I'll have to add that to my list of places to visit.

7:17 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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When hiking with little ones, plan trips you can abort on a moment's notice, and get back to the car for refuge or just go home.  You are lucky your daughter is willing to give it a second go.  I know several kids who'll never go camping again because they found themselves in situations not to their liking and the parents made them deal with it, rather than retreat to fight another day.


8:00 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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We were only a mile away from the car and I could have aborted anytime I wanted. But she never said she wanted to leave. She said she missed her mommy and was scared by the wind and I was right there next to her, which was what she wanted.

And I've been taking her hiking with me since she was 3 months old and she's been car camping with me half a dozen times. And she loves playing "tenting" with me under the bed covers when I get my headlamp and lantern. So, she knows one trip doesn't translate to everything being bad.

I just didn't throw her into this and we had plenty of plans. There was no need for an escape because as soon as she got in the tent and into her sleeping bag she was cozy and slept 10 hours. 

By the way, she said today she wants to camp out in the backyard this week, while I'm on vacation. And we're camping out here in a few weeks as a family when the colors peak.

I'm a pretty good dad, Ed. I'm going to listen to her and I'm going to protect her.

8:07 p.m. on October 3, 2011 (EDT)
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Be careful, she may get the bag night bug.  It starts at a young age with a tent in the yard.

1:23 a.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Very fun and very sweet. Looks like you made it fun and are off to great start in instilling a sense of wonder for the great outdoors.

My son and I have had some great overnighters sleeping on the beach down the street or on out tiny sailboat moored within sight of his school -- it still feels like we're miles from home and off on a big adventure.

I imagine your family is in for some great adventures of your own.

Thanks for sharing.


7:23 a.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Rocklion said:

I'm a pretty good dad, Ed. I'm going to listen to her and I'm going to protect her.

Good deal. 

I am sorry if my remark seemd critical, I could not tell from the narration if this option was considered.  Please don't take my comments personally, they were also meant for other folks considering taking little ones camping.


7:31 a.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Nice trip Rocklion...way to go!

8:01 a.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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No worries Ed. :-)

I know you don't know me and my background or the background of me and my daughter. And believe me, I know there are a lot of fools like that around. One of them was with us. I'd only met the guy once in my life and one of our buddies invited him on the trip with us. I ok'd it because it was only a mile in. There were two of us out there with a lot of backpacking experience, our buddy who just started backpacking, but is good at listening to us and taking advice and then this fourth guy.

His son was way, way underprepared and was crying and he kept screaming at him to stop sniveling the whole night. I almost thought of aborting then. Not because of our kids, but because of his.

On top of it, daddy brought two fifths of Jim Beam, downed them both and was drunker than a skunk. That did not go well with me.

I've already told my two buddies he's never welcome on a backpacking trip with me again.

That may have been my biggest fault. Allowing this guy to go without vetting him first, which is what I always normally do.

8:56 a.m. on October 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Great to see you getting up there with your daughter, Rocklion, that is my favorite "easy but beautiful" spots. It is just far enough from the road to discourage tons of people, but just short enough to make it pleasant to take family and friends for a low-key hike-in camp. 
Even though the elevation isn't *that* high, it is the highest peak in that section, and being a continental divide it can serve up some surprisingly hellish weather. I've seen 15F nights up there in May and below freezing temps in August. 
If you ever get up there and the weather on the top is a bit harsher than expected, there are some wonderfully sheltered spots off the north side along the trail as it continues on down to Little Huckleberry Knob. Of course backtracking to the edge of Oak Knob on the south side of the ridge would be even more protected.
The walk out to Little Huckleberry is worth it any time, it is quite untrodden, and beautiful. 

6:21 a.m. on October 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Rocklion said:

..That may have been my biggest fault. Allowing this guy to go...

Perhaps it was this guy's blowing that frightened your daughter instead of the wind.  (only half joking, drunks can be real scary to little ones)  I have experienced similar misadventures on occasion; it is hard to arrive at an understanding of expectations, per third parties invited by friends, without being a real bore, or risk enduring some misadventures.  At least it sounds like you picked up one new back country buddy.


3:02 p.m. on October 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Nice story and pix, thanks.

You know, some day your daughter might brag about that trip. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. I remember a night in a single wall tent on top of a ridge somewhere in central Cali, north of Bakersfield, when the wind was gusting 40mph all night long. Thought it would never end, between snatches of sleep. Now it's one of my favorite campfire tales. Or the severe thunderstorm on an island in the middle of Lower Saranac Lake, when I only had a tarp, and stayed completely warm, dry, and awed by the beauty. Yeah. I love the clement days, but somehow its the inclement days that really stick out.

This is not a request for more. Just in case the trickster trail gods have something up their sleeves. LOL.

3:31 p.m. on October 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Good stuff Rocklion, love the pics. Thanks alot for sharing this. 

4:13 p.m. on October 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Well done sir! An inconvenience is just an adventure in disguise! 

 Tough weather will teach the kids how resilient they really are.  Next time the weather gets sour just remind them that it is nothing compared to trip X, Y, or Z and that they made it then, and will survive this day as well. 

Experience from a dad of five: With my squad of little ones (aged 3-12) there are two things I can not overpack; warm dry clothes and snacks/food. It sems like I never get to wear my hat, down jacket or spare gloves on trips b/c someone has either lost theirs, gotten theirs wet or just got cold. 

Also a full stomach seems to cover for an otherwise rough trip. Kids' apetites on an outing will scare you. 

Brerarnold +1 Mine always brag about the all-night storm at Peggy's pond

7:57 a.m. on October 15, 2011 (EDT)
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There was one thing I was really proud about her on this trip. Not that I wasn't proud of her period, but this just warmed my heart.

That morning when we woke up, she was freezing and telling me about how she didn't like the trip. I had promised her before the trip one thing we were going to do is a scavenger hunt. Then at the end while we were packing up camp, and all the other kids on the trip were crying and one of the boys said he wanted to go, all of a sudden she said, "But we have to do a scavenger hunt first!" I was like huh. I looked at her and asked if she still wanted to do the scavenger hunt and she shook her little head yes. So, that's why I did the scavenger hunt at the end of the trip. She's a tough cookie. A real tomboy. Yeah, she loves her princess things, but she doesn't mind getting dirty either. I've told my wife countless times I'm glad for that because I don't know what I would have done if I'd ended up with a real girly girl.

Selfishly, I'm going to have some of my own good memories from the trip. The biggest one for me was when we were hitting the sack and she started saying about how she didn't have her books. We read to her before bed every night. I asked if she wanted me to tell her a story. She said yes. So I started making up a story on the spot. Afterward, she goes "That was a really good story daddy." And then there was just holding her and sharing that sunset with her.

I agree with you all. I think as she gets older and goes on more trips with me then she'll look back on it as a challenge. We went to the market last weekend and the Girl Scouts were there. One of the girls asked her what the bravest thing she ever did was, and Carolina piped up "Going backpacking with daddy!" They were also talking to me about how she should join next year when she's old enough and talked about how they would introduce her to the outdoors. I told the girl behind the desk that they don't have to do that because I'm already backpacking and hiking with her.

The girls eyes got big and she was like, "You are? Wow."

No doubt in my mind. There's more good days to come.

12:50 p.m. on October 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I have a son in cub scouts.  My daughter was in brownies.  TOTALLY different in this area.  The cub scouts have camp outs with tents, we take short hikes in the woods.  They are "tamed" down boy scouts. My wife complained that the brownies weren't allowed to do anything.  They had a camp out once a year at the girl scout camp with screened in cabins.  

11:38 p.m. on October 15, 2011 (EDT)
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Rocklion said:

We went to the market last weekend and the Girl Scouts were there. One of the girls asked her what the bravest thing she ever did was, and Carolina piped up "Going backpacking with daddy!" 

That's what I'm talking about. Good girl!

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