When the first tantrum broke out, we weren’t three minutes into our backpacking ride. Our eight-year-old Herbie moaned that his backpack was too heavy and dropped it into the parking lot on the pavement. Only 112 kilometers to go, I thought. We knew it was ambitious for our two-week hike through the Sierra Nevada, but for some time we had been working towards it.
My husband Will and I are inveterate campers and eventually got the children excited about day hikes of 10 to 15 miles (Herbie and his older brother Artley, 11).
Backpacking includes a love of camping and the outdoors, a strong tolerance for dirt and discomfort, and some advanced organizational skills, including meal preparation, reading charts, and an almost excessive concern for lightweight equipment. We’ll carry everything our family needs to survive on this trip: tents, sleeping gear, blankets, food (in bear-proof canisters), flashlights, first aid supplies, and water filters. We’ll also carry a big dose of patience for a backpacking trip with kids, much of our year’s supply of motivation, and the resolve to enjoy it.
And with snacks.
The rolling, limestone hills of Sussex will always feel like home to me, but the mountains have captivated us since we moved to California five years ago. In scale and beauty, the Sierra Nevada mountain range is unparalleled, and there is no better way to see them than to gain every breathtaking view from your own hard walking. In this way, John Muir, the Scottish-American mountaineer, writer and conservationist, captured the imagination of the Sierras: his eponymous hiking trail stretches more than 200 miles from Yosemite down to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States at about 14,500 feet. At the time of our trip last year, during the pandemic, official recreation advice in California was c.
Non-essential travel was discouraged by some state agencies; others, especially national parks such as Yosemite, still issued wilderness permits while encouraging hikers to wear masks and maintain a social distance.
This advice was followed by most hikers we encountered, as well as limiting supply stops in rural areas and avoiding out-of-state hikes. Experienced hikers complete the entire John Muir Trail in three weeks, but in two weeks we intended to complete the northern portion, starting halfway near Florence Lake. The path winds through dusty pine forests and lush wildflower meadows along the spine of the High Sierra, past mountain lakes and over mountain passes.
It was necessary to allow some control for the children so they felt in charge, which usually meant running at the front. They had the charts, determined when to stop (which often was) for snacks and the lakes to jump into. On our first day, this tactic even resulted in Herbie nearly standing on a six-foot rattlesnake, but thankfully it was early in the morning and the snake was half asleep.
It was an eye-opener to watch it slide down our route, and a good reminder to watch where your feet were set.
“Dumb Ways To Die”Dumb Ways To Die. We spoke about what lay ahead each morning, highlighted the swimming holes, and let the children decide when and what to eat. Food needs to be high in calories when hiking, but comforting as well. We usually began the day with lunch of oatmeal, ate wraps and peanut butter, and then boiled water to make a big dinner prepared meal. In dark moments, we packed countless granola bars, some raw cake mix for pudding, and innumerable “surprise” candies to raise spirits.
When you’re sucking down a Werther’s, it’s hard to complain. Artley’s eleventh birthday was our second day. We gave him little wrapped photos of his gifts so he had something to unwrap (they were too big to carry), and I put a candle in his freeze-dried ice cream astronaut sandwich after dinner. At Senger Creek, a lovely wildflower meadow at the edge of the forest, we woke up and decided to skip the rock later in the day. (And yes, it still leaves me with an operation with An