I was finally able to take Riley on an over night backpacking trip. We went to a local part of Jordan Lake — New Hope Overlook — that has about 6 miles of hiking trails and 2 primitive camp sites. I had planned on going to site A as it is closest to the water and thought that would keep us more entertained, but the guard told me there were 4 sites taken by a boy scout troop, and 2 other sites taken, so we opted for Site B, where no one had yet reserved a spot.
I picked out all of our gear and food, and then split the load into my pack and Riley’s. She insisted on a couple of small stuffed animals, but beyond that she only had her sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a tiny flashlight, energy bar, and small nalgene. At first I loaded in the tent ground cover (13 oz), cup, and spoon, but she pulled those before we even left. Either way, I ended up carrying her pack about 90% of the time anyway! I have to say, though, that it is mostly due to the pack she was using. It is really a “sleep over” backpack, in that it has a place for a sleeping bag and clothes, but is really meant for the trip from the car to a friend’s house. There is no real support structure to distribute the load, so it was not comfortable for her at all. If she continues to show interest in this, we will look into a kids backpack, but I doubt they make any for someone her age/size!
Here we are at the start of the trail. I took this from behind Riley so you could see her pack. The picture I took from in front is all blurry, or I’d show that too.
The guard was quite surprised when I told him we were going to park at the trail head, rather than drive to the camp site parking area. While they call it “hike in” camping, you can actually drive to within a couple hundred yards of where the sites start, and that is what most people do. But we parked at the trail head to make sure it was a real backpack trip. 🙂 From there to area B, is about 1.25 miles, but we actually hiked all the way to end of area B, which is more like 1.75 miles. We didn’t see any other campers on any of the sites on the way to there, so it looked like we had the whole place to ourselves! It was only about 5 p.m. though, so more could have come in. Turns out when we walked out the next day we did see two sites with tents on them, but it FELT like we had it all to ourselves while we were there.
We also discovered that the last site in area B (site 15), had some trails down to the lake after all, so we were in luck! When we arrived, we set up the tent and grabbed some fire wood for later, and then we walked down the trails, which kind of disappear after bit into just woods, down to the water. This picture of Riley in front of the tent is blurry, but I wanted to include it since it is the only one we have of it.
Here are a couple shots of the beach area:
While I cooked our dinner (black beans and rice, crackers, cheese) in my Jet Boil stove, I still made a fire and we made smoores (after a 2nd beach trip and sunset).
We retired to the tent around 8:45 or 9 p.m., when it was getting pretty dark and Riley was getting pretty tired. I read a few pages from “Walden” to her, which is really not age appropriate for her yet, but she still had some questions and I tried to point out some interesting points, or explain what Walden was writing about. We then slept as best we could in the tent. The 1st night is never as comfortable as the 2nd — or maybe on the 2nd you are just more tired! — but we made due, and overall Riley did very well. We awoke around 7:15 a.m., had breakfast — coffee for me, hot chocolate for Riley, oatmeal, pop tarts — packed up, and went back to the beach for a little while.
We then hiked out the other part of the loop, which was probably around 2.5 – 3 miles total. I again carried Riley’s pack a fair amount of the way, even though this time I had taken everything out except her sleeping bag. It was still a 3 or 4 lbs pack though, not suited to backpacking, so again understandable. The way back was also longer, but Riley made it through. Here are a few final shots of us on a bench about two-thirds of the way through:
And finally a turtle we found on the trail:
Riley seemed to really enjoy it, though she definitely enjoyed the “camping” part more than the hiking. Hopefully she’ll continue to show interest in both aspects!