I took my first overnight backpacking trip with my 6 year old son, this past weekend. Originally planned for fall of ’06, it was postponed due to a broken arm (his). For a first-time venture for both of us it went very well – there is not much I would do differently.
We had planned to hike the trails at Vogel State Park in north GA, but at the last minute changed due to predicted low 20’s temperatures at the higher elevation of Vogel. We ended up on the Pine Mountain Trail in Roosevelt State Park in central GA. The trail is 23 miles long, with something like 15 primitive campsites along the way, as well as a lake with cabins, RV and tent camping. It is not very strenuous, with only a few hundred feet of elevation change over the whole length of the trail. It is well marked and mapped, has lots of parking for mid-trail insertion, and I would recommend it for family hiking.
It was his spring break, so we took off after work Thursday, and spent the first night at the drive-in campground between the RV’s. For the hike we picked a 5 1/2 mile segment (Fox Den Cove to Whiskey Still), which turned out to be about right. He only spent the last mile complaining, but trooped on and was his rambunctious self again as soon as we dropped the packs and set up camp. Hiking pace averaged out to little more than 1 mile per hour on the trip, once you figure in frequent water & rest breaks, and a 6-year-old-who-notices-and-comments-on-everything walking pace. Highlight of the day was flushing out a wild turkey, who took flight directly in front of us and glided across the picturesque cove a few feet off the ground. Old hat to hunters, I’m sure, but we are city mice.
The night temp dropped to around 30, but we were cozy in the tent. Around midnight were awakened by a roaring wind, and peeked out to watch the trees waving against the night sky.
The second day of hiking we took an alternate return trail, “Sawtooth Trail”, which was just under 4 miles. With an earlier start than the day before, we got back to the car by 12:30, so drove into the town for lunch rather than eat Ramen noodles again. Then back home. We both had a blast and look forward to the next one.
Pack: High Sierra Treck 25+ backpack
Sleeping bag: Northpole Quest 20^ (Galyan’s/Dick’s)
Blue foam pad
Stuff sack with clothes (ended up wearing everything but tomorrow’s socks/underware)
beanie for cold, boonie for sun
Pack: Lowe Alpine Outback 60 (1991 vintage)
Sleeping bag: North Peak Summit II (0^, Galyan’s/Dick’s)
3/4 of a Thermarest foam pad
Tent: TexSport Knollwood Bivy
Integral Designs SilPoncho (double as ground cloth)
Trangia Stove/ windscreen / 1/2 pint flask of ethanol + last minute purchase bottle of Heet
Evernew Titanium .8L pot and silverware
Stuff sack with clothes
Ditty bag full of the usual necessities
Ditty bag first aid & emergency kit
Orange shovel/TP/hand sanitizer
Mesh bag of food / Sleeping bag sack with 25′ cord & carabiner for bear bag
Russian army canteen (cool factor [i]and[/i] functional)
1.5L canteen for campsite water
Things I would do differently:
Square(s) of blue foam pad for sitting
larger fuel bottle if really cooking
fingerless gloves + beanie for me
gloves for him, weather considered (mornings were bitter cold)
larger/collapsible camp water container
children’s chewable Tylenol
pocket nature guide