four full pack loaded in the back of the car

When I was pregnant with our first child, I was browsing in a local used bookstore, and came across a book about Backpacking with Children. The cover was a black and white photograph of a family backpacking. They had an older child, a younger child, and a baby. As a dating couple we had enjoyed some amazing backpacking trips together. So in my first pregnancy naivete, I looked at this book and thought, “Cool! Maybe we can keep backpacking now that we’re parents!” HA! What a joke. Over two years later, with a toddler and a baby, I could look back on my younger, optimistic self and just laugh and laugh. Car camping became a lovely and practical reality in our lives. While ideas of backpacking with our younglings could easily bring on nightmarish feelings of exhaustion and anxiety. More power to any parent who safely goes backpacking with a baby or toddler. I can’t fathom how that would be even possible much less relaxing.

Anyway, short story long, we took our 8yo and our 10yo on the first backpacking trip of their lives last weekend in celebration of my 35th birthday. It was truly exciting, fun, challenging, and rewarding.

Brother Young Son and Family Man wearing their packs stopped by a dogwood tree

The hike was 3 miles, all uphill and downhill. It was hot. And smoky too, because of the nearby River Complex Fires. Brother and Young Son carried their own packs, with a sleeping bag, their clothes, one cup, and a little food. As my mom used to say, they were troopers. We hiked out on Saturday, stayed the night and most of the next day, and hiked back on Sunday. So back-to-back days of hiking; it was rigorous. Definitely not for the feint of heart. In spite of the heat, and the climb, and the long, long hike, they kept walking and didn’t complain. Family Man and I were so proud.

Beautiful Day Mama sitting cross legged by the river

Our camping spot, in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, was along a beautiful, secluded turn of a crystal clear river, along which the swimming holes are numerous. The swimming was the big payoff for all the hard hiking; the swimming there was delightful.

the curve of the river the two tents in the sand the two boys seated on the river rocks

We had a nice sandy spot just big enough for the two small tents. A ring of flat rocks for a floor level kitchen. A branch on which to hang our hat. Perfection.

Brother and Young Son whittling sticks with their pocket knives a rock says Happy B Day written in charcoal

All weekend, the boys kept asking me which day was my birthday and telling me they hadn’t bought me a present. This is my present, I kept explaining, this is exactly what I wanted and I am so happy we are doing this all together. Thank you for this, I told them, and gave them a big hug.

Young Son smiling as he eats his breakfast out of blue enamel tin cup

Seriously. These kids are so awesome. I love them to the end of the Earth and back.

Brother smiling through his long hair on the hike back

It doesn’t get any better than this. This is the highest height. The most joyful joy.

happy family reaching the end of the trail on the hike out

We made it! The above photo we snapped just as we were reaching the end of the hike on our way back to the car on day 2. Tired, worn-out, satisfied, happy champions of the trail.

WOW! Backpacking isn’t just for grown-ups anymore…