Monday, August 10, 2015

Our First Family Backpack

My husband and I agreed that the kids were ready to go for their first backpacking trip. We selected a short trail, about 5.5 miles round trip, up South Fork Baker and back the Timber Creek trail in Great Basin National Park. The trail gained about 1,700 feet elevation, but it was short, so easy, right? Well, we knew we had some work cut out for us, especially when we laid out all the gear we would need for a night out. We really had to carry that much stuff for just one night??

The weather forecast wasn't so favorable, with rain expected, but my husband and I decided to go anyway. I might not be able to take the night sky photos I was hoping to, but we could deal with a little rain.

We started out with a pre-trip photo at the trailhead. A few smiles, anyway!

We chose this hike because it has a lot of habitat diversity and spends a lot of time along water. We sure appreciate that in this dry country! The water means bridges, which are pretty exciting to us, even if they are only ten feet long.

We progressed up to a huge meadow. Desert Girl started with her backpack, but she didn't carry it the whole way.

We knew a large part of the backpacking trip would be just enjoying the trail, so I tried to do just that and not rush to our destination. I found the trail really beautiful and relaxing, especially as it wove through the aspen groves.

We took some time to smell the flowers. There were flowers all over, and one of the games we played on the trail was to spot flowers of different colors.

One thing that was new to the kids was filtering water. Before we left the stream, we refilled our water bottles. They were so surprised that you could use a little gizmo to make your water potable. It was also really close to this spot that I saw a marmot--a marmot in an out-of-the-way spot where marmots haven't been seen before. It's cool how they are spreading.

We kept hiking and got to the big meadow where we wanted to spend the night. It was time to go off trail and find our camping spot. This was also something entirely new for the kids, they were used to camping in established camping sites. We told them the criteria: flat, relatively smooth, and not out in the middle of the meadow or under the largest trees (thunderstorms were expected that night).

We found a spot and the kids abandoned us to go play on the huge granite boulders. They were delighted to make forts and slides and all sorts of other things. My husband and I put up the tent (a four-person backpacking one that I had purchased from Sierra Trading Post last fall with the idea of a family backpacking trip and weighing 6.7 pounds). It was only about 5 pm, but we were hungry so we decided to eat. We had brought convenience food, Tasty Bites, which weigh a bit more than backpacking food but we had them at home and they were easy to prepare.

Here's what Desert Boy thought about dinner:

Then it was pajama time and more play time.

It was so nice to be away from electronics!

It started raining, so we went in the tent and read. Then it stopped so we went out for an adventure hike.

As the sun set, the clouds turned gorgeous colors. We could hear a poorwill and saw nighthawks. Otherwise, we were all alone in our meadow. It felt wonderful.

The next morning I woke up (the tent stayed dry despite rain throughout the night) and wandered around taking photos. When I came back, everyone else was up and dressed warmly. We ate breakfast and played a bit, then decided it was time to go. There weren't any clouds in the sky, but more storms were forecast for the afternoon.

The wildflowers were exquisite. Here is some sedum with Pyramid Peak in the background.

The hike down Timber Creek was very steep but scenic. We quickly warmed up and started shedding layers. My husband was very glad for the hiking poles to help his knees.

We made it back with just one skinned knee. It was a really nice trip, and we think we'll try backpacking again soon!

A few tips for backpacking kids: pick an easy trail with little mileage; take lots of breaks; leave all the electronics behind; have lots of snacks; don't pack too much; but do pack enough to stay warm; be ready to explore!

The yellow-bellied marmot that greeted us on the Baker Creek Road.

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