Family Backpacking Series: How to Deal with Diapers and Potty Issues

Backpacking with toddlers isn't impossible!  We have had multiple successful backpacking trips with our toddlers since our youngest was in diapers.  Don't worry there will NOT be any pictures of my children on the toilet or any gross bathroom pictures.  The most common question I get from my readers about family backpacking is the bathroom issue with diapers and potty training.

"What do you do with diapers in the backcountry?
What about potty training on the trail?
What about accidents?"

Thankfully my children are almost fully potty trained and my days of diapers are almost over so I would love to impart my "Diaper and Potty Training" backpacking wisdom with anyone who is willing to go backpacking with little ones.

Diaper and Potty Training Equipment

  1. Disposable Diapers
  2. Baby Wipes and Toilet Paper
  3. Sanitation Trowel AKA "Poop Shovel"
  4. Extra Clothes for Accidents
  5. Freezer Gallon Bags and Sandwich Bags
  6. Hand Sanitizer
Diaper and Extra Clothing Calculation

I have a boy and a girl so as a mom of both genders, I have learned that boys and girls are different in the manner they go to the bathroom, especially in the angle of pee. Usually as parents, especially those with diaper wearing little ones, tend to OVERPACK especially when traveling, I am one of those! But when it comes with backpacking with little ones that is the worst thing you can do.

  • Diaper Wearing Babies/Toddlers ~ In the few days/week before going on your backpacking trip count how many diapers your child uses in a day.  Our first backpacking trip was when my daughter was 19 months old and was still in diapers.  Her diaper calculation was 3-4 diapers during the day and 1 diaper at night = 5-6 diapers in a 24 hour period.

*NOTE: Change your child's diaper RIGHT BEFORE you hit the trail and leave extras (not the calculation extras)
in your vehicle. Hence the reduction of one diaper in the average use of daily diapers on Day 1 & 3.  
  • Clean Diapers ~ Keep all clean diapers with all your toiletries at night.  Keep one diaper in your tent at night in case your child leaks.  One clean diaper won't have a bear tearing into your tent, well I hope, I'm still alive!
  • Clothing for Accidents ~ Whether you have a diaper wearing baby/toddler or in-process potty training toddler, you need to bring extra clothing in case of accidents.  For this reason, I HIGHLY suggest purchasing quick drying, wicking clothes for babies and toddlers.  Why you may ask? You only want to bring ONE extra set of clothing, so the wet/soiled clothing can be washed and dried in case you need to use it again during the rest of the trek.  I'm not one of those who say "Cotton Kills" but if you don't have "Hiking Clothes" for your children bring clothes that are light and could dry quicker than jeans.
  • Underwear Calculation ~ This really doesn't need a chart but one underwear a day plus one extra.  You can always wash a urinated underwear to wear the next day.

The Diaper Disposal

Sorry to burst your bubble but those dirty diapers just have to come along until your trek is done.  As part of Leave No Trace, you MUST pack out the soiled diapers.  Though there are somethings you can do to minimize the fact you are carrying human waste:

Do kids go in bear boxes?!
  • Backcountry Sites with Trash Cans ~ What?! There are hike-in or backcountry locations with trash cans as in our first family backpacking trip at Point Reyes National Seashore.  Of course you still want to minimize trash in these campsites, but it was really nice to be able to throw away diapers.
  • Bear Boxes, Canisters and Ziplock Bags ~  Let's start with what to do immediately after a dirty diaper is changed:
    • Stuff the diaper in a sandwich bag along with the baby wipes if it fits.
    • Put the diaper stuffed bag into a large freezer storage Ziplock, preferable with freezer bag with the zipper top.
    • Bear Country: Designate one bear canister as the trash canister and use that one to put the dirty diapers along with your other trash.  Proceed with normal bear canister procedures for your area (hanging, canisters at safe distance etc).  If your location provides bear boxes then keep the dirty diapers (in the freezer bags) in the bear box.  Even if you are not in bear country, like Point Reyes, still keep the dirty diapers in the bear boxes because there are other pesky wildlife around that would love to eat your child's diaper. Gross.
  • Poop Disposal ~ If the poop is solid (sorry...) and easily falls out of the diaper, dig a hole and bury it so you have less weight and smelliness on your trek.  Follow Leave No Trace, Principle No.3 Dispose of Waste Properly.  

Going "Potty" Outdoors

This section can be applied to day hiking as well, which I highly suggest can be used as an opportunity to practice for backpacking trips!  Obviously boys and girls go to bathroom differently and even though I believe we are equal, boys just have it easier when having to pee than girls.  So I will start with the how to go #2 outdoors since that is the same for boys and girls.

  1. Pull their pants and underwear ALL the way down to ankles.
  2. Hold their hands and have them "Sit down" on the invisible toilet, pretty much squat with their bottom sticking out as far as they can without falling over.
  3. Clean their bottom! Make sure you have baby wipes/toilet paper. poop shovel, hand sanitizer near by, before this point.  Baby wipes/toilet paper should be put in your sandwich bag or trash bag.
  4. Dig the hole with the poop shovel (Leave No Trace, Principle No.3), push the poop in with a STICK NOT THE POOP SHOVEL!! Cover it up.
  • Peeing for Girls ~ The same as going #2, except you don't need to dig a hole and have them spread their feet more so the urine doesn't dribble down her legs.
  • Peeing for Boys ~ Same as peeing in a toilet.  Just make sure their pants are pulled down far enough.
  • Ask every 15 mins if they have to pee, especially before putting them in the kid carrier!
You can also have them practice in your backyard, so its not so traumatic when you are backpacking or hiking.  Remember going "potty" outdoors might be scary for toddlers so make sure a parent is always with them when they have to go.  Diapers and potty training is part of parenthood and learning how to deal with this issue can be frustrating just at home.  But I can testify that backpacking with toddlers in diapers and in-process potty training trainees can be done!

Do you have any tips in dealing with diapers and going "potty" while backpacking?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Toddler Hiking Cycle
  2. Backpacking in Point Reyes National Seashore

"Sleeping Under the Stars" Family Project

As the Polar Vortex crippled the rest of the North America this past winter, California was experiencing an extremely warm winter.  One warm winter night, my husband and I were reminiscing about backpacking/camping as we were making our summer outdoor plans.  I was inspired by a fellow outdoor blogger, Tanya Koob's "The Camping Project" where her family camped 40 nights from May to September!

We decided that since we were experiencing 70 degree weather in the middle of January, we were going to take advantage of our warm weather and go camping!  One thing led to another and we came up with a little project:

Camp outdoors for at least one night, each month for the entire year

For the past FIVE months we have been able to to continue with our goal with a combination of camping and backpacking:

We currently have plans to "Sleep Under the Stars" until August and I'm pretty sure that we will be able to complete our year long project into the Fall and Winter months with some planning and maybe visiting some yurts!

My kids love sleeping in our tents so much, that they ask to set up our tents when we are just day hiking! I encourage you to join our family with our little project and discover how fun it is to make "Sleeping Under the Stars" part of our lives more than a couple times year!   In 2013, President Obama declared the month of June as Great Outdoors Month but my wish is that everyone enjoys the Great Outdoors all year long as we are doing with our "Sleeping Under the Stars" family project.

What are your family's outdoor plans for the Summer?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Happy Times at Black Diamond Mines: Family Backpacking [Video]

We truly had happy times at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.  Backpacking with children is ALWAYS an adventure, lots of fun and work! For our first backpacking trip of 2014, we chose a local overnight trip to Stewartville Backpack Camp at Black Diamond Mines in Antioch, CA.  

This a family-friendly 3.2 mile hike-in camp in the East Bay hills.  Trip Report will be coming soon! Until then enjoy my little video of our fun and successful backpacking adventure with our little ones!

Thank you for watching!!

Related PostsSnake Encounters on the Trail with Kids

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Snake Encounters on the Trail with Kids

On our most recent family backpacking adventure at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, my family had two encounters with snakes.  Prior to heading out on the trail, the ranger showed our family the difference between a rattlesnake and gopher snake at the visitor center.  My children were immediately terrified due to all the noise the rattlesnake was making, but they slowly came in closer to the cages for a better look.

Selfie with a Rattlesnake

Hiking with kids slows down everything so ALL my snake encounters have been with my children.  I never saw snakes before we had children, not because they weren't there but because we probably hiked right past them and never saw them.  All our past snake encounters have been at a safe distance and since our children were small, they were high in their carriers.  FYI, no one got hurt during our last encounter except that I aged about 10 years from the scare.

1st Encounter - Rattlesnake: What Happened?
A mile into our first backpacking trip of the year, as were reached the picnic area of the park we took a little spur trail that crossed into some empty horse corrals.  My 4 year old son is the designated  "gate opener", so he opened the gate so the family could walk in.  Not more than five feet passed the gate, was a rattlesnake protecting a squirrel that it had just killed but my husband nor I saw it.

The victim....

As my son ran to catch up to my husband (three feet away from the rattlesnake), he suddenly saw and heard the rattlesnake and immediately turn around and started running, crying and screaming.  It was a DEATH scream.

I immediately got tunnel vision and all I could only see was my little boy running from a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike.

I grabbed my son, almost fell over as I dragged him to a safe distance, while my husband tried to catch his balance and run away with about 70 lbs on his back.  My husband's pack was 43 lbs alone, but our daughter was in the carrier during the rattlesnake encounter which made him very off balance.

We quickly made it over to the asphalt and headed to the picnic tables for a long break.  We explained to the kids that they did a great job protecting themselves and that the rattlesnake was probably more scared of us.  Our son was a little more shaken up than my daughter....she actually said "The rattlesnake is so cute!".

Out of mere morbid curiosity, I went back (by myself on the asphalt) to the scene of the crime to see if I could see the rattlesnake but all I found was a dead squirrel waiting to be eaten by the rattlesnake.  My mind was playing tricks on me and all the sticks looked like snakes near the squirrel, so I went back to the picnic tables.

2nd Encounter - Gopher Snake: What Happened?
As we reached the second mile, my son walked towards the gate to open it and my husband calmly said, "Snake".  This time my son did not scream but stepped back quickly and I immediately identified it as a Gopher Snake, which my son said "Mommy THAT one is not a poisonous one!!" and smiled.

We watched it for a few minutes, talked about the Gopher Snake and waited patiently until it slithered away into the grass.  We congratulated the kids again for being calm and careful on our second snake encountered and continued on with our trek.

A Few Learning Points
Of course these aren't the only things to do to protect against snakes, but more of "What I Learned" from our double snake encounter:
  • Talk to your kids about snakes and other wildlife BEFORE heading outdoors.
  • Learn about the types of snakes that are in your area and teach your kids how to identify them as well.
  • If you have a "scary" snake experience, talk about the incident later when your kids are calm.
  • Hiking "Sandwich" Order: Adult - Children - Adult.  To protect children from snakes and other wildlife.
  • Check out "Snake Safety While Hiking" by Walk Simply, about hiking with kids and snake encounters. 

Please refer to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife "Rattlesnakes in California" for more information on protecting yourself and what to do if someone gets bitten.  Also please educate yourself about the snakes in your area.

Snakes are a part of nature both in the outdoors and our urban areas.  There is a fear factor in snakes but that fear is diminished as we learn that they are part of the Nature-s Cycle of Life.

Have you ever had a snake encounter with your kids?

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A Tale of Two Mountains: Hiram Peak VS Ellis Peak [Guest Post by Nate Rische]

On our last attempted backpacking trip for this year, our good friend and fellow blogger Nate Rische of In The Absence of Something Substantial accompanied us to the Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately, I became a victim of altitude sickness and we were not able to backpack on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  On the other hand, Nate was able to hike up to Ellis Peak, enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and mark off another peak he bagged!

I’m not Chasqui Mom. I’m not even a mom. And thankfully, because that would be awkward; I’m a guy. But while the chasqui were running up and down the Incan Empire, my ancestors were fierce warriors in Bohemia (the region, not the artists) known as the Chod. So you can call me Chodové Warrior. You might also remember me as cheese-tester-guy.

So much of Chasqui Mom is about hiking as a family, and it may seem odd for a single guy to guest post. You’re thinking about it all wrong; I may be single, but I love to spend time outdoors with my family.  Unfortunately my blood relations all live far away, so I don’t get as many opportunities to get out with them. That just means I have to get out with my other family. Wonderful people like the Chasqui Family.

Nate carrying my daughter on a backpacking trip - Chasqui Mom
Don’t laugh; try to take a couple of toddler’s backpacking, and you’ll appreciate the need to invite along a guy like me, a pack mule willing to weigh down his pack with your extra gear and throw kids on his shoulder when necessary.

I’m not a mountain climber. I mean, I’d sure like to be at some point, at least a little bit. It’s on my to-do list, and you know how that goes. Unless you already climb mountains, in which case you don’t because you’re a little bit better about those to-do lists than I am.

So when I get the opportunity, I like to get what I can.

A bit back, I went camping at Highland Lakes, way up in the Sierra Mountains in the Stanislaus National Forrest. In fact, I think my quote about the location was, “Wow, this is remote. When the Chinese invasion comes, this is where I’m coming.” While driving out there, we watched the thunderheads roil on the horizon. We arrived at the campsite with enough time to set up my tent before it started to hail. Good golly, it hailed. Then rained on and off through the afternoon, evening, night, and even into the next morning.

Those of us camping had desired to hike along the Pacific Crest trail, but illness from one of our campers had cancelled that plan. We had the day and nothing planned. When the rain cleared up in early afternoon, I looked up at Hiram Peak towering over us, and knew what I had to do.

Hiram Peak - August 2012

There was no trail, so I surveyed the mountain and made my initial ascent along the west side, approaching from the smaller of the two Highland Lakes. I had a choice to go around the south or north side for the second half of the climb. The south side looked easier, but the north side remained in view of the lakes and campground. I erred on the side of caution, and took the north route. I circled around a plateau along the north side, and started my ascent towards the peak on the east side of the mountain.

Once I hit circled around on the east, there were gorgeous views of groves and valleys stretching on the southeast side of the mountain, scenery that we couldn’t see from our camp ground. I circled around on the east/south-east, and as I climbed the shrubby undergrowth gave way to a very loose rocky terrain. The summit itself was all rocks, boulders, stones, and rubble, everything in between. There was no clear path, and as I zig-zagged up towards the summit it got steeper and steeper.

Heading up to Hiram Peak
About 150 vertical feet from the summit, I took stock of where I was and what I had left. The terrain ahead was rough, and I’d seen great views already. I still had to climb all the way back down, and I made a decision. I’d done enough, I was satisfied to turn around. Or so I thought. I went back down. I thought I was happy. It was good enough.

I was wrong. I had been so close. I could have made it, I should have finished. I didn’t. I’d taken the easy way out.


Fast forward a bit. We were set to go backpacking on the Tahoe Rim Trail, when one of our group succumbed to altitude sickness. I’m very grateful that altitude sickness is not something with which I’ve had much trouble. Cancelling our plans to backpack, we instead decided to setup camp nearby, but the afternoon was still open, and the trailhead to Ellis Peak beckoned.

I made the initial climb up to the first ridge, and an outcropping of rocks stood away from the trail. I climbed to the top, and looked out over the Lake Tahoe valley. To my right, Ellis Peak loomed.

I followed the trail as it led up the ridgeline, turning into furious wind, threatening to blow us over. Seriously, gale-force winds blowing up from the lake along the north side of the peak. Thankfully, we crossed over to the south side for the final ascent, and the mountain shielded us from the wind thereafter.

On the north face, in the wind, it was frozen cold. In the wind shadow, it was comfortable, and the sun streamed through the pine forest.

The trail led first to Ellis Lake, which is sort of a misnomer, because a lake there is no more. Simply a very large, grassy divot tucked in a valley before the real ascent started.

According to the trail map, the peak was only ½ mile away, and several hundred vertical feet above.
I wasn't going to quit this time. Following the trail, it turned up. And up. After a good climb, we reached the “peak” of the trail. I looked over, the actual peak rose above us another 150 feet, but the trail went no higher.

I wasn't going to regret again.

I climbed those final 150 feet and looked over the peak. It was astounding; climbing up the south side of the peak it was perfectly still. But peaking over the edge and looking down the north side, the wind threatened to knock me over.

Ellis Peak View

The view was spectacular. As beautiful as any I’d ever seen before, with all of Lake Tahoe stretching out before me. I’d say it took my breath away, but that was probably just the wind.

Sometimes you think you’ve seen all you need to see, and that little bit of effort at the end isn’t worth it. You’re good enough. Maybe you’re thinking of the climb back down, or what you’re going to cook for dinner or whatever.

You’ll never regret staring out over the top of that mountain, even if it costs you a little more. Good enough isn’t, and you’ll always have unfinished business with that mountain.

At least until you do something about it. And maybe the view at the top isn’t any better than you’ve already seen. That isn’t the point; the whole idea isn’t about what you saw, but what you did. Or did not do.

My lasting memory of Hiram Peak is staring up at the top from below.  But from Ellis Peak, the whole world was at my feet.

Hiram Peak, I will see you again.

Have you ever had a "trail regret"? What did you do to overcome it?

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Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed - A Transformative Journey from Broken to Better by Jennifer Fontaine

by Cheryl Strayed
315 p, Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95
"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and in Oprahs Book Club of 2012.  I have not had a chance to read this great book and since it's being produced into a movie, I will definitely read "Wild" before it hits the screens. As much as I love being outdoors, I love reading about it as well.  Jennifer Fontaine, author of shares the same love of the outdoors and provides a great book review of "Wild".

Cheryl Strayed's calamitous memoir of her 1,180 mile journey along the spectacular and harrowing Pacific Crest Trail can only be described as life-changing. Shifting between her tumultuous past and agonizing present, I found myself shifting as well from astonished to uplifted and back again, riveted by her monumental naiveté and an unforgettable drive to go somewhere. Somewhere different. Anywhere. Just not where she had already been, Hell.

Haunted by the death of her mother, full of guilt for the destruction of her marriage and then her subsequent spiral into drugs, Cheryl realized that she had to get out of the daily traps keeping her from moving forward in to a life of purpose and meaning. At 26, she stepped on to the Pacific Crest Trail in a dusty Mojave Desert town in Southern California, in search of answers. Then, the realization hit her, like an avalanche; she had absolutely no idea what she had gotten herself into. Not an avid hiker by any sense of the word, she quickly learned the PCT was serious business and being ill-prepared would not just cost her a few toenails, but could potentially be the death of her. Luckily, it wasn't a death as much as it was her rebirth.

Through her vibrant and spirited words, I could hear the crunch of the leaves under her ill-fitting boots. I could smell the musky pine trees, see the creek as it meandered through the forest, feel her agony and fully grasp the depth of her grief. Her ability to describe stillness, quiet and seemingly inane moments, allowed me to sit with her in meditation, to ponder along with her my own deepest innermost thoughts. "I gazed out over the darkening land. There were so many amazing things in this world. They opened up inside me like a river. I laughed with the joy of it, and the next minute I was crying my first tears on the PCT. I cried and I cried and I cried. I wasn't crying because I was happy. I wasn't crying because I was sad. I wasn't crying because of my mother or my father or Paul. I was crying because I was full."

The unnecessarily heavy load she carried with her on her journey was a brilliant metaphor for the needless, deafening load of criticism, self doubt and misery she had been carrying for years. As if the physical load wasn't enough, the behemoth backpack began wearing through her clothes, cutting into her skin, causing gaping open wounds that poetically lead straight to her soul. Bound by bloody bandages, she continued, begrudgingly forced to care for her self-inflicted wounds, finally conceding that they must heal and in turn, so must she. 

It was under the weight of her Monster pack that she began to get stronger, not only physically, but mentally. Each step reveled more of her truth, no matter how difficult to admit, and with each ridge and summit she conquered, she began to accept who she was and started setting a vision for who she wanted to be. "I gazed at my battered feet, with their smattering of remaining toenails... I looked North... I looked South, where I'd been, to the wild land that had schooled me and scorched me, and considered my options. There was only one. I knew. There was always only one. To keep walking."

I connected to Cheryl's story largely due to her straightforwardness. She has a unique ability to convey her mistakes, her delusion and even at times, her total (admitted) lack of judgement with such honesty that I forgave her most of the time. She took responsibility for her mistakes and eventually she took the extraordinary step to seek a new path guided by an understanding of what it meant to be motherless, divorced, a writer and that her desire for true love was not only acceptable, but well-deserved. By the end I, too had clarity and a deep desire to hike the PCT!

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jennifer Fontaine! In addition to my newest title, Blogger, I am also a wife, a daughter, a sister, a cat lady, a chef, an actor, a film producer and a screenwriter!

I started The Mommy Hiker Blog in the hopes of inspiring other parents to get outdoors with their kids to explore and discover the wonder and beauty of Mother Nature and in doing so, I have inspired myself

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Gear Review: Teton Sports Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack

Any parent knows that when you leave the house to go anywhere with kids you have to take a multitude of things to keep the kiddos happy.  Recently when hiking alone with my two toddlers I noticed that my regular day pack was starting to show its age, as well as busting at the seams with our "gear" for our little mid-day hike.

A Mom's Daypack!
Teton Sports Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack is normally used for backpacking trips or if you have lots of gear, like a mom hiking alone with two toddlers.

The Pluses!

Size - The size (4300 cubic inches/70 liters) is great for carrying everything a mother carries in a diaper bag, plus gear for hiking:

  • Diapers, Wipes, Toiletries
  • Change of Clothes and Sweaters
  • Snacks, Lunch and Toys
  • Hydration Pack and Water Bottle
  • First Aid Kit
  • Picnic Blanket
  • Baby Carrier (i.e. ERGO, Boba, etc.)
Pockets - I love all the top pockets but my favorite pocket is the front right pocket on the adjustable belt.  It's large enough to comfortably hold ANY phone size, plus a car keys as well as having small candies easily accessible.

Unisex - I'm very particular about having products fit to a women's body but "unisex" gear usually fit men better than women.  I loved 99% of the Escape's fit on my small framed body (5 feet tall), in particular the shoulder straps.  

Lightweight - 4.75 lbs! 

Rain Fly - Bright yellow rain cover is attached in the bottom compartment! I consider a great plus because most companies sell the rain fly separately.

Cost - MSRP $159.99

The Minuses

Adjustable Waist Strap - As I mentioned before, I am a really small framed, petite woman and even though the waist strap is for 28"-45" waist, this strap fits my waist just a tiny bit too big.  That is why a said I only love the fit 99%.

Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack in action at Sunol Regional Wilderness

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

I really like the Escape 4300 backpack, it's a really great spacious, lightweight backpack for day hiking with two toddlers and even though the waist strap fits me a little too big, the winter months are coming when my waist might get a little bigger! I never thought I would have to use a backpacking backpack as a day pack but I'm glad +TETON Sports was gracious enough to send me this backpack at no cost with no review required.  Thank you +TETON Sports for providing me a great new day back and as always, this review is my honest opinion.

+TETON Sports has a great video about getting to know you Escape 4300 Ultralight Backpack, check it out!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Teton Sports: Escape 4300 Ultralight Internal Frame Backpack
  2. Will My Next Hiking Boots Live Up To My First?
  3. Gear Review: Vasque Breeze Ultradry Hiking Boots

Three Days in One: Salkantay to Andenes Camp

Back in 2007, my husband and I took our first real adventure to Peru where we visited the Amazon Jungle and hiked to Machu Picchu. This is a series of post I've been writing about since I started this blog.  The first post on this particular day can be found at: The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay.

Getting ready to come down Salkantay!
Tuesday, October 17, 2007
We started heading down Nevado Salkantay and it was cold, rainy, windy and muddy but it was much better than hiking up the mountain!  I was very glad to have some energy back and could hike again.  I learned a very good lesson on my way down the mountain to never buy cheap gear! Half way down the mountain my cheap poncho broke....I tried  to fix it but I just got wet.  Never again will I buy cheap gear.  I also wished I had a Balaclava because I had to hold up my scarf around my face to protect my face against the freezing cold wind the entire trek down.

This was the longest portion of the trek in my memory, my zombie trek.  I was cold, wet, hungry and I felt super disconnected I was just walking because I had no choice.  Sit down and rest in the pouring rain or just keep hiking, I chose the latter.  The energy that I felt early was gone, probably because I had barely eaten anything and I started singing to motivate myself to keep walking.  Once we got off the actual mountain and were hiking on flat ground I just wanted to be in our lunch tent!  I don't remember who else was walking with us except Jesse (my husband) and Edwin (one of our guides) but it was foggy, raining so we couldn't see too far ahead of us.  I kept asking Edwin, "How much longer?" and he would say 15 minutes, an hour or so later we finally saw the red tent in the distances and we made it.

We ate our delicious lunch in the pouring rain in a slowly forming swamp, we all sat there talked, recovered from the mountain we just came down.  The guides told me I looked like the women from Puno because my cheeks and nose were so red but after a few days had gone by we realized my nose was burned from the freezing wind.

Rosy Nose and Cheeks!

Jesse made me a make shift poncho out of a garbage bag which of course I wore for about two hours and it never  A group member later remembered she had an extra poncho that she let me borrow for the rest of the trek.  The rest of the afternoon we walked through a beautiful green valley as the rain slowly let up as the sun came out.

Garbage Girl....
Everyone felt good and was in good spirits when we made camp, except the Australian who became sick at the top of Salkantay, he ended up riding the horse all the way to camp.  I felt really bad for him because he really wanted to hike but he couldn't stop throwing up and just looked awful.  I was in his situation the day before so I knew what he was feeling.

Beautiful valleys

Goodbye Salkantay....

Andenes Camp
This day felt like it was three days in one! First getting to the pass at Salakantay, making it down the mountain to our lunch tent, and then walking through the green valley to our second camp at Andenes.  Even though it was a very tiring day, this was one of my favorite days because of the changing scenery from the rocky pass to the green lush valleys.

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Chasqui Mom: Peru Posts
  2. The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay.

Will My Next Hiking Boots Live Up to My First?

Eight years ago, I walked in to my local +REI and purchased my first pair of boots, +Merrell Continuum Women's Hiking Boots.  Up until then those were my most expensive footwear I had ever purchased, vaguely remember the price...about $180.00 but my husband (then fiancee) told me, "Trust me they are worth it..." and they sure were.  I wasn't a big outdoors person back then as I am now, but if I can contribute piece of gear that helped me grow into LOVING the outdoors it would be these boots.

I have never had an issue with my +Merrell Continuum, maybe I lucked out and picked the perfect boots and I know without a doubt that these were greatly made.  I have so many memories attached to my boots, they have traveled with me, been with me on arrest and search warrants, firing range, law enforcement training, camping in Mexico and most importantly hundreds and hundreds of miles on the trail in the United States and Peru.

My +Merrell Continuum are currently in "ok" hiking condition but one of the front toe seams recently ripped when a branch hit the seam perfectly and the soles are starting to peel away from the sides.  I can still hike in them but I am most certain that the waterproofing has been compromised.  They will get a few occasional hikes in but the Bay Area "Rainy" (I'm being sarcastic) season is approaching and don't want to risk testing the waterproof issues on them.

I recently asked my fellow outdoors connections what boots they recommended and now I'm torn!! There are so many options now!  Will my next hiking boots live up to my first?  Based on my needs and the recommendations I've received I'm actually thinking of getting two types of boots for the following reasons:

  • Day Hiking Boots: For shorter easier hikes, not carrying too much weight (30lbs and under).
  • Backpacking and Longer Day Hiking Boots: I normally carry 40-50 lbs when backpacking and lesser weight during longer day hikes but during certain times of the hike I usually end up carrying my pack AND one of our children.  The weight I carry (child and backpack) usually ranges from a minimum 30-80lbs, so I need a hard boot.
+KEEN has been highly recommended and of course I will be looking into +Merrell again, for day hiking boots.   For backpacking boots, I'm leaning towards the Asolo TPS 520 GV Women's Hiking Boots but I'm still looking into others.  My husband has the Asolo Men's version and he absolutely loves them, so much that he sent them to get resoled to a cobbler in Seattle, Washington.

Until then, a little photo montage of where my boots have taken me over the last eight years....

The Inca Steps on the Inca Trail - Peru

The clay muddy hills of the San Francisco East Bay Hills.

The steep trails of Rancho Corral de Tierra in the Peninsula.

Of course, Chasqui Mom's and any hiking boot mecca - Machu Picchu.

I want to cry just writing about my it weird that I have such en emotional attachment to a piece of gear?  Do you have a emotional attachments to gear? Also, if you have any recommendations on Day Hiking and Backpacking Boots please leave a comment with your recommendation, I would really appreciate it.

Bears, Waterfalls and Decisions at Hetch Hetchy

Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite National Park this past June was certainly an adventure! We had programmed a Senior Backpacking Trip for our graduated high school seniors from our Spanish-speaking church where my husband and I are youth leaders.  Originally only my husband was going to lead the group but situations arose that I along with our two children were able to attend.

A huge heat wave had come over most of the West Coast but we were hoping that the temperatures would drop due to the higher elevation at Hetch Hetchy.  Temperatures were nearing 100 degrees in the immediate San Francisco Bay Area, so we hoped it would be cooler in Yosemite.  Alas, it was not cooler.

The Group
We planned to hike the Lake Vernon Loop, approximately 27 miles over a 3 day/2 night backpacking trip.  That is what we planned but things were about to change as we started out on our adventure!  It was all of the graduates first time to Yosemite National Park, and almost everyone's first time to this section (Hetch Hetchy) of Yosemite so everyone was very excited.

Backpackers Camp
We arrived Friday afternoon at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Backpacker Camp, set up camp, had dinner and made our final preparations to start our trek the following day.

Setting Up Camp

Gear for Six Adults & Two Toddlers
A few of us went on a search for water, since all the bathrooms did not have potable water.  The bathrooms had sinks and flush-able toilets and even had a separate kitchen "washroom"  There were signs on the walls stating that potable water was located at the "Comfort Station" but the few backpackers we saw never heard of the elusive "Comfort Station".  We eventually drove down to the Hetch Hetchy Day Use area and found the drinking fountain.  It was still quite warm when we finished all our preparations that night, so we all climbed into our fly-less tents and stared at the beautiful starry night and drifted off to sleep.

Day 1 - Bears, Waterfalls and Decisions
The following morning we started our trek a little later than we hoped but everyone was in good spirits and we started our first day of backpacking.  Everyone gasped when we had our first view of the reservoir and Wampama Falls.  The youth were amazed that Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is one of the Bay Area's water source and that they were going to drink "their" water from the source.

View of Hetch Hetchy from Wampama Falls

We all happily hiked along the reservoir, crossing the O'Shaughnessy Dam into the tunnel, where we finally started hiking off pavement.  We all knew it was going to be hot but we never knew it was going to be scorching hot.  We calculated low 90's but in reality we were hiking in over 100 degree weather for large portions of the day, peaking at 105 at the hottest point in the day.

O'Shaughnessy Dam
About two hours into hiking, we were walking in an open rocky meadow when another hiker (not of our group) all of a sudden said, "Wow whats that?!" and low and behold it was a small California Black Bear and her two cubs! It happened so quickly that none of us reacted they way we though we would react.  It was the groups first time seeing bears in the wild, except for my husband.  I think we were all internally scared but after a few minutes had passed of the mama bear and cubs munching on some berries, we made a safe passing of them on the trail.

Mama Bear and Cubs
The bear sighting gave us an adrenaline rush and we made it to Wampama Falls, then Tiltill Creek Falls where we all happily hydrated.  We eventually made it to Rancheria Falls on our first day but just barely!  The hike itself wasn't technically difficult but with heat wave upon us made every slight uphill feel like a giant mountain.  We would all huddle around the shade like cows, drink water and have snacks.  There was one large non-shaded section between the two first waterfalls but thankfully that section was switchbacks going downhill.

Get ready, no shade here!
After hours and hours of hiking along the reservoir (about 8 miles) we made it to Rancheria Falls dehydrated and exhausted.  The heat made everything less enjoyable, but after we kicked off our boots, had some cool refreshing river water and relaxed at our gorgeous campsite by the river and as time passed all our suffering had been forgotten.

We had to reevaluate our trek at this point, for the following reasons:
  • Day two was scheduled to have two ~1500' climbs on exposed rock faces.
  • The members of the group where suffering physically, including myself.  Nausea, headaches and some "other" digestive issues had hit the group.  Thankfully it was all related to the heat, food change and not related to the treated water.
The leaders had a little pow-wow, figured out that our meals had not been affected and we decided we were going to camp at Rancheria Falls for the two nights with a day hike to Tiltill Valley, instead of the Lake Vernon loop.  Some disappointment was felt by all but we had to make the correct decision based on the circumstances we were in.  These are the great moments where we can use outdoor experiences to real life, especially for graduating students entering the military and college life.

After our bellies full of pepperoni bacon pizza, we taught the group how to properly leave a camp clean and bear safe, we had a water-filtering team down by the river and I laid in the tent with my babies relieved that the day had come to an end.

A few more pictures of the day...

To Be Continued! Coming up Day 2 and Day 3....

Related Posts and Links:
  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. The Toughest Backpacking Cheese
  3. Latinas Outdoors
  4. Yosemite National Park -
  5. Backpacker Campgrounds at Yosemite -

The Toughest Backpacking Cheese

I'm a burger and fries kind of girl.  I crave healthy fats and bad fats but after hiking for long periods of time or in particular backpacking trips, I want meats and cheese at the end of the day.  I've managed to address my meat craving with Trader Joe's Chianti Red Wine Artisan Salami, which is absolutely delicious alone or in a dish.

On our last backpacking trip to Yosemite National Park we took two different hard cheeses:
  1. Gruyère cheese - a cheese from Switzerland, normally used in baking.
  2. Asiago cheese - a cheese from Italy, normally grated on salads, soups, pastas, etc.

We first tested Gruyère out on our first family backpacking trip in Point Reyes National Seashore in May.  As many coastal locations, the weather was mostly cool so the temperatures never got above 70 degrees.  I was very comfortable with eating non-refrigerated Gruyère during our Point Reyes trip.  We used it in a Backpacker Magazine recipe for Cheesy Sausage Pasta dish, which was a fatty filling dish that I loved.  We decided this would be a meal we would replicate on our Senior Graduating Yosemite Backpacking Trip as well as another Backpacker Magazine recipe, Quick Pepperoni Pizza, that used Asiago cheese.

Our backpacking trip happened to be during California's most recent state-wide heat wave that hit a few weeks ago, long story short we were hiking in 105 degree weather with hardly any relief at night.  All of our food were in bear canisters from the previous night of camping at Hetch Hetchy backpackers camp.  After hiking all day in scorching heat and finally making it to our first site, I started getting our food ready for dinner and when I opened the bear canisters I wanted to cry.  The Zip-Lock bags that contained the cheeses had almost disintegrated from the heat and the oil that leaked from the cheeses.

I'm not going to lie, I was so distraught because it was two meals worth of food that I thought had gone to spoil and there was a possibility of our trip being cut short due to the lack of food.  Either way I kept the cheeses because even though the chunks of cheese were HOT they maintained their structure when I pulled them out of the canisters.  In my mind, the cheeses were no good.

It was dinnertime and Nate, one of our gracious leaders volunteered as a "cheese tester" and took the plunge and tasted the Asiago cheese that had been in extreme heat baking in a bear canister all day.  My sadness turned to joy when I heard Nate say, "The cheese is good!" as well as the pepperoni that we had brought, so we enjoyed pepperoni pizzas that night.  That's why Asiago cheese gets my "Tough Backpacking Cheese" seal of approval.

Dinner for the second night was the Cheesy Sausage Pasta dish and we were so hungry that we almost didn't care if the Gruyère cheese had gone bad, I really wanted cheese! Nate our cheese tester, tasted a piece of Gruyère cheese that had gone through TWO days of scorching heat, and our beautiful, delicious Gruyère cheese was still good.  I dove right in and had a piece of Gruyère even before our meal was done.  That's why in my experience Gruyère gets my "Toughest Backpacking Cheese" seal of approval.

I recently read post, "Cheese" and I learned that we should have packaged our cheese differently rather than keeping them in tightly wrapped packaging.  Cheese paper, parchment paper, foil wrapped chunks or unsealed plastic baggies are cheese wrapping options and probably would have helped the cheese oils not to explode all inside the bear canister as it did on our Yosemite trip. also lists other "backpacking" cheeses and Backpacker Magazine also list 20 types of "Trail Worthy Cheeses" that I will definitely try out on our future trail adventures but I can personally testify to the toughness Gruyère and Asiago cheese in extreme temperatures.

Related Posts:

  1. Cheese by
  2. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  3. Test Kitchen: Cheese by Backpacker Magazine
  4. Trail Chef: Weekend Menu - Cheesy Sausage Pasta & Canyon Quesadilla by Backpacker Magazine
  5. Trail Chef: Recipe - Quick Pepperoni Pizza by Backpacker Magazine

Latinas Outdoors

In our most recent backpacking adventure to Yosemite National Park, we had the honor of taking almost all new hikers.  In particular Dixie, a graduating high school senior and Vanessa, our newest youth leader, both from our Spanish-speaking church.  We had done a few training day hikes but this was the ladies first time backpacking.

I originally was not going to go on this trip, but in the days before leaving we decided that I would go along with our toddlers.  Dixie and Vanessa were so relieved that I was going with them  that Vanessa even said, "I'm so happy, I don't know how we were going to do it without you...".

The ladies....
Those words stayed with me over the next few days and I also recently read Hiking Along: Backpacking: Is It Just a Male Sport?.  I realized how important it was to Vanessa and Dixie that I went not only because I'm an "Outdoorsy" woman but the only Latina they knew that truly loves the outdoors.

Where are the Latinas?

One question that I have wondered in the last few years being outdoors, is "Where are the Latinos?".  Not even in particular, Latinas in the outdoors but Latinos in general?  I live in one of the most diverse places in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can find almost every ethnicity in the world and it's still very difficult to find Latinos more yet, Latinas outdoors.  Here are a three aspects that might hinder Latinas to venture outdoors:

  • Traditional Roles:  The Latin culture usually maintains the "traditional roles" especially in 1st and 2nd generation Latinos.  Husbands work (white and blue collar) and wives stay home with the children and with that comes many obstacles that might prevent Latinas to even entertaining the thought going outdoors.  First time mothers might be very cautious or even afraid to take their children for example camping or hiking as a family, nevertheless by themselves.  I have nothing against traditional roles, I actually chose to leave my career to be a Stay-At-Home Mother but even I had reservations about taking my child outdoors when I first became a mother.

  • Pre-Conceived Notions:  The Latin culture has many mythical creatures and undocumented "medical tips" usually given by grandmothers and mothers to daughters.  One of my favorite medical tip is "Le entro el aire" (The air hit him/her) which "causes" sickness.  My son was a couple months old when I took him to an outdoor event, and I was very worried about the wind but he proceeded to sleep for 14 hours straight for the first time in his life.  I put that one to rest in my mind and actually encourage mothers to take babies and children outside. Some are legitimate concerns, for example when I visited my grandmother in Peru she was very worried of us catching a "jungle" disease during our jungle tour/hike deep in the Amazon jungle.

    Another pre-conceived notion are mythical creatures in the outdoors, which differ from country to country in Latin America.  My parents never tried to scare me with mythical creatures but I know a lot of my Latino friend's parents who did.  To read more about Latin mythical creatures, read Rena Payan's Overcoming My Fear of "El Cuycuy".

  • "Machismo": describes "machismo" as "a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity".  Machismo is an exaggeration of traditional roles that many Latinos might live through during their lives and if the patriarch of the family (father, husband or brother) doesn't like the outdoors, the family might not enjoy or even have the chance to explore the outdoors.  Machismo is indirectly related to the idea that Traditional Roles stop Latinas from being outdoors.  Machismo can certainly come from husbands, fathers and brothers but it doesn't necessarily need to come from Latino men.  Machismo is ingrained in the Latin culture and an outdoorsy Latina might be looked down upon from other women as well as Latino men.  Discouragement to enjoy the outdoors might even come from within oneself, if all someone has heard is "those things are for men". 

In honor of these great Latinas who put these aspects aside and attended the Graduating Senior Backpacking Trip, here is a little honor on each one on them!

Dixie at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite
Dixie, graduated high school this school year, the eldest daughter of four girls and a very strong hiker!  We nicknamed her the "Task Master", even though she was dealing with altitude sickness and nausea she somehow found the energy in her tiny body to not only hike but to keep the whole group at a good hiking pace.  After she got sick on some difficult switchbacks she just ate some trail mix and finished the hike with gusto!

Vanessa at Tiltill Valley, Yosemite

Vanessa, our newest church youth leader and current college student survived not only one bear encounter but TWO bear encounters!  Vanessa learned to control her fear during her second bear encounter at camp on our second day backpacking.  My husband told her that there was a bear behind her and after she realized it was not a joke she carefully walked away while he loudly clapped and said "Go Away Bear!".  Not letting fear over take her in this bear encounter will be something she will never forget and can apply it to the rest of her life!

Mountain Baby in Yosemite

Sophia, the littlest Latina (well half Latina) in the group! She continually teaches me and others that dirt does not hurt and there's nothing wrong with getting dirty.  Sophia was a little trooper on this trail that hardly sees toddlers and she had lots of dirt to play with!

Chasqui Mom - Melissa

This trip really did push me to my limits even for this so claimed "Chasqui Mom".  It was a hard hike due to the heat and somewhat difficulty of the trail but I knew I had to keep face for the ladies and motivate them to keep going.  After all was finished, I did tell them that I was deathly scared of the bears and that I did not want to finish our second day's hike.  I wasn't around the ladies when they arrived at Tiltill Valley, but another youth leader said the whole trip was worth seeing their reactions when they had their first glimpse of Tiltill Valley.  Just hearing about the ladies reactions gave me the energy to keep going.

So here's to my Latina sisters Vanessa and Dixie who encountered bears, fought off snakes in the river and trails, spent hours washing dishes, learned to filter their own water, built their own tents, watched out for animals during our bathroom adventures, and comforted each other when we wanted to vomit.  Thanks for stepping out of breaking down the barriers to enter into the wonderful world of the outdoors.  We can do it!

Related Posts:

  1. Wordless Backpacking at Hetch Hetchy - Yosemite
  2. Hiking Along - Backpacking: Is It Just Male Sport?
  3. Overcoming My Fear of "El Cucuy"
  4. Guest Post on Latino Outdoors: "Latinas Outdoors"

Chasqui Mom's Toddler Hiking Cycle

Bonbon Break
Since I've been pregnant I've hiked with my children, who are now toddlers.  In my last few hikes and in particular on my most recent hike to  Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley, I clearly saw a "Toddler Hiking Cycle" (as I will call it) with both my children.  We've done one to twelve mile day hikes with our toddlers and this "cycle" seems to repeat itself no matter the distance.

Note: This chart is not based on scientific fact, but my own personal observations on my own children over the years.  Each child has different levels of energy and each parent should know their own child's limitations.  Times are just an approximation.

"Lets Go" Stage (15-30 Minutes)
This stage starts from when the car hits the parking lot.  My kids (and myself included) are so excited to get out of the car, that many important items may be forgotten.  In my most recent hike, my son got fixated on going through a street tunnel that we drove by so he refused to take his token "Cowboy Hat" and his flashlight.  Five minutes into our hike he was on a verge of a meltdown because he didn't have his flashlight and 20 minutes later he was wearing my sunhat.  I quickly ran to the car and grabbed his flashlight but did not bring his hat.  As the parent, being organized, bringing "comfort items" and being relaxed go a long way for a smooth transition.

"The Groove" Stage (1-3 hours)
"The Groove" stage is my favorite part of the cycle because everyone is happy and hiking!  Energy levels are up, and the whole family is moving along and enjoying the outdoors.  I know my 21 month old daughter is in the "groove" when she's singing on the trail or when she say's "Mommy, look at me! I'm hiking!".  Depending on how long your toddlers can hike this stage can last between one to three hours so enjoy it as much as you can!

My daughter singing on the trail!

"Carry Me" Stage (30-60 Minutes)
I normally try to calculate ending our hikes during this stage to avoid going into a meltdown later on.  Currently, my three year old son can hike approximately 3-5 miles and my 21 month old daughter can hike 1.5 miles.  My husband and I usually take our large carriers for longer hikes and for shorter easier hikes we take one large carrier and our ERGO baby carrier.  When they ask to be carried, I usually try to coax my toddlers to hike a little longer with candy or chocolate.  Sometimes that gives them the energy boost needed hike another 30 minutes.  Parental actions such as hand holding, giving candy/chocolate, putting your child in their carrier or on your shoulders, is essential to hiking with toddlers.

"Nap Time" Stage (1 hour)
I prefer for nap time to be during the car ride home after hiking because my kids have never been good "car seat" kids.  Also, if they fall asleep during the "Carry Me" their naps might be disrupted during the transition to their car seats.  I'm more of a free-spirited parent when it comes to nap time but if your child has a specific daily nap time, just make sure your child is in their carrier at that time or you can always lay a blanket down on the trail and proceed with their normal nap schedule.  Who wouldn't want to sleep outside?  Here's our son during his "Nap Time" at Pinnacles National Park during this past winter.

My suggestion to parents is either hike fast to cover lost ground during the nap or slow down and enjoy the scenery to let your toddler get a restful nap.

"Meltdown" Stage (15-30 Minutes)
Every parent has experienced a meltdown whether at a home, store, restaurant and they also occur on the trail.  Usually hiking meltdowns occur because my children have reached their hiking limit and are tired.  More recently hiking meltdowns are caused because we leave a fun water source, so I let our kids have their time at a creek, pond or even a puddle.  That's why I try to calculate to end our hike during the "Carry Me" Stage before their complaints turn into a full down meltdown.  Sometimes meltdowns are inevitable so I just let me kids have their meltdown on the trail until they are done.  Remember it's nature and no one is usually around to hear all the crying so don't stress about it.  Parents should stop hiking and normally proceed with whatever method you use to stop a meltdown but most importantly take a breather and be patient.

Someone is not happy!
I was recently asked how did I get my toddlers to hike "long" distances, so I'd like to give a few tips on how to "train" toddlers to hike.  Just like a runner who trains for a marathon, toddlers also have to "train" to hike:

  1. Walk every day - Start small, leave the stroller behind and walk with your toddler around the block.  Once your toddler is comfortable with a distance add a little bit more distance.
  2. Walk or hike slow - Hike at your child's pace and make sure you have time to complete a one or five mile hike without feeling hurried.  I consider myself a "hiker" and our family averages one mile in one hour.
  3. Motivation Toys - Motivate your toddler during daily walks to run, bring a scooter, toy doll stroller, etc.  My daughter will run around the block if she has her baby stroller because that is what I do with our jogging stroller.
  4. Attractive Locations - Pick hiking trails that have attractive qualities for toddlers. My toddlers love water, so I usually pick parks that have little streams or an ocean park.  Parks with caves or tunnels are also good locations because the children are having so much fun they will forget they are hiking.
If you have anymore suggestions or questions just let me know by leaving a comment below.  Remember be patient, enjoy the scenery and have a fun time hiking with your little ones!

Related Posts:

  1. Toddler Nap Time During a Hike

Outdoor Father Series: "Discovering the World" by Jesse Avery

In honor of Father's Day coming up on Sunday, June 16th, I will be featuring three outdoor father's favorite experiences with their children.  Last up! My husband, Jesse Avery enjoys the outdoors through hiking, backpacking, camping, cycling, traveling and almost anything you put in front of him.  Jesse is an electrical engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area during the day and a great outdoors man during his free time.

I hesitate to call our backpacking trip to Point Reyes National Seashore my favorite outdoor experience but there was just so much about that adventure that was exciting and meaningful, and hey, if it was my favorite it was my favorite.

Outdoors or indoors I love seeing my kids discovering something.  I remember my own joy as a kid when I learned how to fish, swim, and jump off of big rocks into big rivers.  I still remember the first time that I saw Yosemite Valley as an adult and the awe I felt.  Watching my two children see new things and learn different bugs, and plants, and sights and sounds and skills in the outdoors lets me experience that joy and awe all over again, and helps remind me what a magnificent world we live in. 

Malakawena Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

This is not related to the Point Reyes trip – but the first time I realized what a pleasure discovery is was when we took David to the Big Island.  He was nine months old; we went to the beach and took him into the ocean for the first time.

When he first got in the water he was nervous, and went stiff as a board when the water first hit his chest.  Then he got curious and splashed a little and got some in his mouth, he made a face, then smacked his lips and splashed again, fear very quickly giving way to joy, and so he spent most of the afternoon happily splashing around in the Pacific Ocean, swallowing who knows how much and giggling so much it hurt me to watch.  Jthat same dayust watching him experience the ocean for the first time reminded me just how great the ocean is.

Now back to Point Reyes and staying with the beach theme: David and Sophia love the beach and the sand and the ocean so much that when we went to the Wildcat Camp beach on the second day they would let nothing stop them from enjoying it.  The beach is such a great place and it is worth any price to play in the sand and the water that both kids got naked and played for more than an hour in conditions so cold that Melissa and I had to wear our sweaters and huddle together for warmth.  At one point David was sliding on his belly through the sand for warmth because putting on his clothes would mean play time is over and he wasn't ready for that.  That’s how much fun the beach is, as an adult I have evidently forgotten that fact.

Wildcat Camp Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore
On our way down to the beach that same day I remember we found a field of ferns and other dense, low green plants still covered in morning dew.   There were butterflies flying around, the air was pretty still and the sun was just starting to break through the fog, Sophia stopped her walk and went up to the ferns to just stand there and stare.  The whole scene was so beautiful and alien to her I thought she must be thinking  it was a fantasy landscape out of one of her Tinkerbell movies and I figured as she was standing there that she was imagining of herself as a little fairy princess.  Just another moment I understood just how beautiful and powerful some places can be for the imagination.

Being outdoors with nowhere to be and no one to see provides a little more time to letting David ‘help’ as well, also known as learning new skills.  David is in this phase, which I honestly hope he never grows out of, where he wants to do everything I’m doing.  If daddy is riding his bike then David has to ride his bike, if daddy is making pancakes then David has to be on a chair cracking eggs and stirring the batter, if daddy is kicking a soccer ball, then David needs to kick a soccer ball, you get the idea.  Anyway he saw that I was lighting a match to start the stove to make food and coffee, so he had to help.  So at first when he wanted to help I held his hand and showed him how to light the match and put it up to the stove to light the burner, then I just sat next to him and talked him through it.  He had some trouble getting enough speed on the match to make it light, but he figured it out, he burned his fingers a couple of times when he let the match burn down too far before he put it to the stove, but again he figured it out.  So after the first night whenever it was time to cook David lit the match and helped me light the burner. 

There are of course other aspects of camping where ‘helping’ doesn’t work quite so well.  When we first arrived at camp and were setting up our tents David wanted to help, specifically spiking down the tent…  For a little boy the joy of hitting things outweighs the joy of setting something up.  I use my boots as a hammer in the back-country when a hammer is necessary, David followed suit and hit the tent spikes, the tent, the table, the other tent, his dad, his little sister, and then the tent again.  At one point he barreled into the tent so hard that he caved half of it in and I thought a pole was going to snap and I’d be sleeping under the stars, but the tent survived.

Another reason I love being with the kids outside – I get to spend time with them.  Melissa was very tired on the final day, so she refused to carry Sophia and Sophia refused to walk, so I got to carry my daughter pretty much the whole five hours back to the car from camp.  I rarely get to spend time with her since if Melissa is within sight then dad is nothing by chopped liver…  Anyway we spent time looking at flowers, singing all of her favorite songs (Barney, Veggie Tales and the Bunny Song…), looking at banana slugs, greeting other hikers and then exploring Divide Meadow.  That was probably the most time I've spent that close to Sophia ever, and it wasn’t magical, or earth shattering, but it was very nice and in general hiking with them provides me that opportunity with both kids, which again is very nice.

All that said - it’s a lucky Saturday when I get to spend all day with my family and this adventure in Point Reyes let us spend three whole days together finding plants and bugs and critters and water and sand and all sorts of other fascinating bits of the outdoors.

At any rate – I think my favorite part of being outdoors with the kids is watching them experience new things and learn how to be just a little bit more self-sufficient – hiking 20 minutes more on their own, finding a cool bug on their own, building a tent, or a fire.  I look forward to spending as many years as possible hiking around California, the USA and maybe even the world with them.... - Jesse -

The Longest Five Miles at Point Reyes

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Our last day of backpacking at Point Reyes National Seashore was definitely a fun but tiring one, especially for me.  As you can see below, that's my daughter who slept in MY sleeping bag on MY sleeping pad.  She's a very outdoorsy toddler but she can be a little "princess" when she wants to be.  I also had to document this in the middle of the night.

My daughter has issues with sleeping (too many to list) but she has to sleep with me, not next to me but pretty much on top of me all night, it's rather tiring.  Long story short she was not comfortable because she did not have a sleeping pad so at some point in the middle of the night I gave up and let her sleep on my pad in my bag and I "slept" on the hard ground halfway out of her kid's sleeping bag.  I did not sleep well, I was cold and couldn't stay asleep, which set the tone for the rest of the day.  Thankfully I 'm a petite woman so I could almost fit into her sleeping bag.  Ah, what mothers do to make their kids sleep.

Stay hydrated when on the trail!!

The kids and Jesse woke up very refreshed but I did not.  My hips hurt from laying on the ground and I was cranky until I had coffee.  By the way, Starbucks Via Instant Coffee is wonderful, I don't think I could ever go backpacking without coffee or chocolate covered espresso beans.  Once I had my morning coffee and breakfast, I felt 100 times better and had energy to clean and pack up to start our five miles trek to the parking lot.  Five miles really did not seem like a long trek, but it sure felt like it.

We took the same trails that we took on our first day backpacking, but in reverse order: Glen Camp Loop Trail, Glen Trail, Bear Valley, Bear Valley.  It was a gentle down slope which really helped our kids hike a lot.  I am proud to say that my son hike the entire 5 miles to the parking lot! Partially because my husband and I were too tired to carry him but David has hiked 3-4 miles all by himself, we've seen him do it many times.  We had a constant steady flow of trail mix, dried fruit and most importantly chocolate for all of us, especially for the kids.  Jesse and I switched our "hiking buddies" quite often, but I hiked with my son most of the day.

I was really tired from not sleeping, which totally affected my hiking.  I was really slow and sluggish but I just masked it by hiking at my son's pace.  It allowed me to enjoy the beauty of Point Reyes once again.  We took lots and lots of breaks which also made us even slower and made my pack feel heavier and heavier.  As we hiked, all I could think about was what could I do to make my pack lighter but four people's worth of stuff in two people's backpack was just a lot, period.

One of our many breaks was the bridge that connects Glen Trail to Bear Valley Trail.  I held Sophia because she really wanted to go overboard into the river.  The parking lot was 3 miles from the intersection of Glen/Bear Valley Trail, so there were a lot of hikers (day and backpackers) and bikers.  One runner in particular stopped and congratulated us for backpacking with our kids.  She continued to tell us she knew how difficult it was because they had gone on a backpacking trip with their FOUR young children.  Goodness!! All I could think about was how heavy their packs must of been!  Some other hiker thanked me for bringing my kids outdoors.  It was very encouraging to hear nice comments from other people, since I needed to mentally push through my sluggishness and coaxed my son to continue hiking.

Jesse picked up Sophia and hiked as fast as he could to Divide Meadow.  David was tired and I was too tired to carry him so the both of us hiked extremely slow.  Jesse found our beautiful break spot at Divide Meadow, left his pack and came to "rescue" David and I.  The second David saw his daddy, he yelled "Daddy, I'm tired!!" and literally laid down on the trail and fell asleep for a minute!  Poor buddy was really exhausted.  We all made it back to our tree log bench and had our feast of Trader Joe's Salami, dried cranberries and Clif Bars to get some energy back in us.

Best thing about hiking is eating and taking breaks to enjoy the view!!

Western Fence Lizard

My love and Chasqui Mom, photo taken by my three year old!

Artistic photo by my three year old son!

My daughter in Divide Meadow.

After we recharged, we started on our last 1.5 miles or so to the parking lot.  It seemed like an eternity because the kids were completely done, Sophia wanted to "hike" a.k.a play in the dirt and David wanted to be carried and neither of us wanted to carry him.  Jesse was gracious enough to lighten my pack and carry some of my weight.  We started throwing every bribe we could to motivate David...McDonald's, candy, ice cream as long as he made it to the car.  We had about 0.25 miles left and David was really struggling so I ran to the car and dropped of my pack, and ran back to meet them on the trail.  David happily climbed on my back and we all made it back to the car together!


Distance hiked was 6 miles but the extra mile was probably due to the walking around on the trails chasing the kids.  It is a 5 mile hike from Glen Camp to Bear Valley Trail parking lot.

Elevation change was very gradual, high point about 600 ft, low point 150 feet.

Glen Camp Loop Trail - Glen Camp Trail - Bear Valley Trail

Overall, it was a rough day but as always we make the best of it.  A few days later the kids were asking to go "sleep in the tent" again.  I love my family and I love being outdoors with them.  Point Reyes was the best place to have our first "Pilot" family backpacking trip.  Three days and 17.5 miles of hiking with my family was wonderful!

Related Posts

The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore

Friday, May 10, 2013:

We all woke up very hungry from our first day of backpacking and we quickly started making coffee and breakfast.  I brought Nido powdered milk for my toddlers but my super picky eater son wouldn't drink it and of course my daughter ate everything in sight.  I couldn't figure out what to have for breakfast so we had instant oatmeal and added some powdered milk to make it "fattier".  We also brought Mini-Wheat's Cereal for the kids in case they didn't want the oatmeal, but I eventually convinced my son to eat oatmeal.  Sometimes I think my son survives on air, but I knew if he didn't eat something he would have a miserable day.  Thankfully after a while, he had some food and became a happier little boy.

Foggy Morning at Glen Camp
It was a very foggy morning and none of the other campers had arrived yet so it was a very quiet morning other than my toddlers squealing. We "quickly" cleaned up and got our packs ready for our day's hike to Alamere Falls.  It was a 3 mile hike (Glen Camp Loop-Stewart Trail) to Wildcat Campground and then a 1.1 mile hike to Alamere Falls. That was our plan, an 8.2 mile round trip for the whole day with our much lighter packs so we could also hike faster.

David hiking on Glen Camp Trail
Glen Camp Loop Trail was fairly flat with a very low grade uphill climb to Glen Trail.  Glen Trail was also a fire road like Bear Valley Trail but it was very beautiful.  Park Rangers were out for their morning routes in their trucks and we saw one horse rider and then we did not see anyone until we reached Wildcat Camp.  We nicknamed a section of this trail, "Nana's Fairyland" because it seemed like a very magical place.

Can you find the spider?

We walked along a portion of the trail where there were hundreds and hundreds of plants (pictured above) that were covered with dew. My daughter walked up to the plants and happily poked the plants so the water trickled down to the ground.  We looked at my daughter and she had a grin from ear to ear and my husband said he could imagine her imagining fairies popping out from the plants.  It really looked like something out of a fairyland story book!  The landscape looked like it should belong in a magical land where fairies, elves and other creatures would be roaming around.  I could see my children's imagination in their faces and I loved it!

Foggy Stewart Trail
The landscape was always changing, one of my favorite things about Point Reyes! The first portion of Glen Trail was very covered woodsy trail which included "Nana's Fairyland".  Stewart Trail opened up to over looking a small wooded valley and then opened up to the view of Wildcat Campground and the Pacific Ocean.  It was very refreshing to see the ocean.  I love the ocean because it's so big, open and knowing that it is the end of the land until Asia.  I love the ocean.

We debated about camping here, but it would have been a longer hike into camp and I read that it could be extremely windy and wet.  Normally I wouldn't care if it was windy and wet but I wanted our first family backpacking experience to be an enjoyable one, so we picked the protected Glen Camp.  My daughter fell asleep at this point in my carrier and I was terribly hot because the fog cleared, it was an opened non-shaded trail and I couldn't take off my sweater.  I hiked as quickly as I could down to Wildcat Campground.

I also decided to use my front day pack (the top portion of my Gregory Deva 70) so I could comfortable carry one of my kids on my back, which worked out pretty well.  It was a somewhat steep trail down to Wildcat Campground but it was doable without my hiking poles.  When we made it to Wildcat Campground we took a little break and my daughter woke up.  My son, David had seen the ocean from the trail so he was already excited to go to the beach but it was still another 1.1 miles to Alamere Falls, up another hill.  We decided to take a longer break at the Wildcat Beach and then hike to Alamere Falls.  When my daughter saw the beach, her reaction was priceless! She literally screamed "THE BEACH!!!!!", put her hands on her face, screamed with joy and did a little dance.  That is the truth.

There was a little creek that flowed into the ocean which of course the kids were immediately drawn too. After about 15 minutes of being there +Jesse Avery and I realized we weren't going to make it to Alamere Falls.  The kids were never going to want to leave this place, they were having so much fun splashing in the water, rolling in the sand and throwing rocks.  We could actually see Alamere Falls from the beach and it looked like we could walk to it but we read that the tide can come in all the way to the cliffs and we didn't want to risk getting stranded out there.

Alamere Falls in the distance, so close yet so far away....

We had our Chicken Pita Lunch on the beach and tried to relax on the beach while the kids played on the beach.  The difference between hiking/backpacking before kids and after having kids is that you can never truly have a break! We tried to rest but one of the kids always needed us to clean sand out of their mouth or we had to observe that they didn't go too deep into the creek, etc.

My husband was really amazed that our kids were not cold because we were freezing, especially myself! I don't know what's been going on with my body lately but anytime I finish exercising I immediately get really cold and stay cold for a long time.  My kids on the other hand were dressed in what they were born in, splashing in the water!  My kids eventually got cold and we dressed them in dry clothes and they had a screaming tearful, almost tantrum goodbye from the beach.  There was no way we were going to make it to Alamere time.

We rearranged our packs again and my son (who threw the borderline tantrum) was very tired and needed to take a nap.  I told him he could ride in my carrier and he happily went on my back.  Of course he took a nap on the hardest part of the uphill trail and my husband slowly walked with our daughter because she was determined to walk herself.  We were not in a rush so we took our time, not like I could run up the mountain with my three year old toddler on my back.  We took Stewart Trail (0.9 miles) to Coast Trail which I highly recommend.  It was a very beautiful trail with views of Wildcat Campground, the Pacific Ocean and Wildcat Lake which we had not seen.

Wildcat Lake from Coast Trail
Coast Trail was more "coast-like" trail, short stubby plants and drier than the earlier day's hike, it was windier as well.  Sophia was falling asleep on Jesse's shoulders and I was pretty exhausted from carrying David up Stewart Trail so we stopped in the only shaded portion of the trail for a break.  We tried laying the kids down on our jackets but they didn't survive the transfer and woke up, so Jesse and I laid down while the kids rolled around and had snacks.  Coast Trail had abundant amounts Poison Oak so we made sure that our break area was clear of it.  All I remember from our break was looking up at the sky and seeing the fog roll in and out, it truly reminded me of hiking in the cloud forests of Peru.

Coast Trail eventually became a single track trail and we only passed two hikers who admired us for backpacking with our kids.  One guy said "I saw you guys down at Wildcat and I thought wow!"  I really don't know why people think it's unimaginable to hike with kids, its certainly hard but we love spending outdoor time with our kids. They have taught us to see the smallest things on the trail that I would never stop to see like....

Ladybugs, Flowers, and Wild Strawberries!

 Thank you to my children to allow me to enjoy the little things in life!

Sophia, our Mountain Baby....

David, our Cowboy...

The kids were starting to reach their limit again and we had about a mile of so left picked the pace as well as the kids so we could make it back to camp before sunset and not have to cook in the dark again.  I was terribly paranoid that my son was going to jump in poison oak so I was glad he was riding on "daddy's shoulders".  A few pictures from Coast Trail.....

My friend called this, "Into the Wild".

Beautiful flowers were all along the trail
All in all we made it back to camp with lots of day light to spare so we could actually "relax" as much as parents can with two toddlers.  I was hoping to see some wildlife but we only got to see cute quails roaming around the trails.  We did see beautiful changing landscapes which is always nice to see.  We also had more campers when we returned to Glen Camp, a troop of Boy Scouts and their leaders.  My daughter and I were the only women there for a long time then I saw a few more women hikers arrive later in the evening to set up camp in the campsites behind us.

We had dinner, cleaned up, took a little tour of the whole campground and tried to find some sun to warm up.  My daughter had a late afternoon nap so she wasn't ready to go to sleep but my son was exhausted.  The problem with my son is that the more exhausted he get the harder it is for him to sleep.  He eventually fell asleep and about after an hour of rearranging our packs and cleaning, the rest of us went to sleep.  It was a good day.


Hiked 6.3 miles, in 7 hours but half of the time we were not moving, lunch, breaks, etc.

Elevation: Lowest point - Sea Level 0 Feet, Highest Point 900 Feet

Glen Camp Loop Trail - Glen Trail - Stewart Trail - Coast Trail - Glen Trail - Glen Camp Loop

The Very Green Point Reyes National Seashore, Glen Camp

What can I say about Point Reyes National Seashore? Better yet, what can't I say about Point Reyes?!  This was the perfect place to have our first family backpacking trip.  Beautiful landscapes, campgrounds, weather and fairly easy trails.  It was truly a wonderful place to visit with my toddlers.

Somewhere on Bear Valley Trail
We decided to head out before the normal Friday-Sunday weekenders so we planned our trip to be Mother's Day Weekend Thursday-Saturday.  I had been preparing for weeks by organizing meals, calculation of diapers, gear and equipment needed, clothes and anything that would be essential to backpacking with toddlers.  Before I start off with our adventure story I'd like to list some general information:

Hikers: Two Adults and two toddlers
Backpack Weight: +Jesse Avery 56 lbs, Myself 49 lbs (Total 105 lbs)
Location: Glen Camp, Point Reyes
Day 1 Listed Mileage: 4.6 Miles (Bear Valley trailhead to Glen Camp)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We started the morning by packing our backpacks to the rim, loaded the kids in the car and headed off good ol' IHOP!  We arrived to the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 2 p.m. and checked in to get our permit.  The visitor center entertained my children quite a bit with their life size animal replicas such as orca whales, elephant seals, sharks and a very interactive animal center.

Bear Valley Visitor Center
We parked our car at the very end of the parking lot and made our final preparations to our backpacks before we headed out on the trail.  As I mentioned in many previous posts that transitioning from the car to actually hiking is always chaotic, a crying toddler, someone having to go pee pee, forgetting something in the vehicle, realizing that we left something at home.  In this case, we realized we had forgotten my newly purchased hiking poles for this very trip!  We laughed it off, we were bound to forget something.

We started at the Bear Valley Trail which began at the end of the parking lot.  The majority of the hike to Glen Camp was on Bear Valley Trail which was primarily a fire road, 3.1 miles to be exact.  There were a multitude of horse riders on this portion of trail which led to both excitement and fear from my children and the fact that we had to dodge horse poop piles.  There were lots of runners as well, which my daughter liked to greet with a cute "Hi!" or "Looking mommy! Running!"

We stopped at every bridge so the kids could throw little pebbles.  We saw a multitude of "centipedes" crossing the trails but after a little bit of research the centipedes which actually almond-scented millipedes. Not as abundant as the millipedes, there were also many banana slugs out on the trail.  Here is one "destroying" a centipede or at least it looks like the banana slug is eating the millipede.  Nature is so fierce...

It was 1.6 miles to Divide Meadow, and it was a  very slight uphill to the Meadow.  My daughter was very energetic so she was hiking but my son hadn't nap on the car ride over, so it was time for him to ride on "daddy's shoulders".  +Jesse Avery and David made it to Divide Meadow before we did, but I could see from afar that my little boy was dead asleep on my husband shoulders.  Divide Meadow is a very beautiful meadow, very open with large trees in the background along with the coming and going fog.  There are tree benches, bathrooms, garbage cans and water source at this location.

We decided to have a little break here and rearrange our son or else Jesse's neck would be killing him later on.  My son weighs at least 35 lbs so Jesse put David in the ERGO carrier on his front-side and his 56 lbs backpack on his back, total weight of 91 lbs!!  My husband is a strong guy.

Sleeping on the trail....
Divide Meadow

Sophia took a little tumble at Divide Meadow, she's a much better hiker/walker than she was two months ago but the trail was slightly down hill and she was imitating the runners by running.  She caught some speed tripped on a rock and scraped her palm of her hand.  After a band-aid  hugs and maybe some chocolate the crying had disappeared into my happy hiking mountain baby again.

The landscape all along Bear Valley Trail was very dense, lots of shade except for Divide Meadow.  It was another 1.5 miles to Glen Trail from Divide Meadow which was fairly flat.  Many parts of the trail reminded me on hiking in the high jungles of the Andes Mountains in Peru, cold, mossy with lots of vines and ferns everywhere.

The Letter "R" Tree

Ferns galore!

At some point on Bear Valley Trail, Sophia got tired and had to ride on my shoulders but only for a short while because I was struggling to carry her along with my pack.  I just put her down and walked along at her pace.  The hike to Glen Camp was only five miles but we calculated with all our weight and our kids we would hike 1 mph, so five hours to get to Glen Camp.  It seems unimaginable to hike five miles in five hours but that is how slowly things go with toddlers.

David woke up just a little bit before we reached the beginning of Glen Trail which was only 0.6 miles to Glen Camp Loop Trail but Glen Trail was "steep" uphill.  Anything that wasn't flat felt steep with my 49 lbs backpack and my 25 lb toddler, minimum of 74 lbs on me which is more than 50% of my body weight.  Let's say I was very sweaty! I gave up and had to put Sophia down again but sunset was coming so Jesse picked Sophia for a little while.  Glen Trail was not a fire road but was still wide on portions of the trail and after the good "steep" portion the trail became a very slight uphill trail, so low grade my daughter was able to hike up the hill.

It was around 6:30 p.m. when we finally made it to Glen Loop Camp Trail and we only had 0.9 miles to go but it still seemed like it took a very long time.  Glen Loop Camp Trail was very beautiful, it was a single track trail with lush greenery all around.  We were reaching our children's limit by this point and we ran out of our daily ration of chocolate so we had nothing to bribed them to keep hiking other than dried cranberries!  When my daughter gets cranky she only wants to be held by me, so I left her behind with my husband and hiked as fast as I could to get to camp. There were easy  uphills and downhills but every uphill was very tiring by this point.  We eventually made it to camp with some daylight left.

Troops arriving at Glen Camp!
As you can see Glen Camp has pit toilet, a water source and solar panels which my husband assumed it was used to power the water filtration system.  The Point Reyes NPS website did state to bring our own water filtration in case the water was not drinkable, but thankfully the water was good to go!  We reserved Campsite No. 8 which was just up a slight hill (sigh) to the right.  We quickly set up camp, started making coffee and dinner.  I was going to include our meals into this post but I think I'm going to make a backpacking food post since I put in so much preparation to calculate the right amounts.

View of Campsite No. 8
Campsite No. 8 was probably the smallest campsite and most enclosed of all the campsites.  We barely fit our two two-person tents in our sites.  We were surrounded by bushes and trees which was ideal keep our kids noise in and other campers noises out.  There was only one other campsite being used and the rest of the camp was empty.

View of Glen Camp from Campsite No.8
Dinner was eaten, dishes washed, everyone cleaned up, changed clothes and we all headed to bed around 9:30 p.m.  Sleeping is always a shot in the dark with our kids but thankfully our kids slept better than they "normally" do our first night.  This was my first time using my REI Lite-Core 1.5 Sleeping Pad, which was very comfortable.  Unfortunately I kept on have weird/nightmare-ish dreams the first half of the night so I kept on waking up, but thankfully I eventually fell asleep and got a good stretch of peaceful sleep.


Mileage Listed 4.6 Miles, but we actually hiked 5.2 miles.

Starting Elevation 100 ft, End Elevation 550 ft

Bear Valley Trail - Glen Trail - Glen Camp Loop Trail
Day 2 will be coming soon but until then I leave you with two of my favorite pictures!

Somewhere on Glen Trail

Hiking toddler at Glen Camp
Related Posts:

  1. Family Backpacking Gear List
  2. The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore
  3. The Longest Five Miles at Point Reyes

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Family Backpacking Gear List

Next week we will be embarking on our first family backpacking trip in Point Reyes National Seashore! Of course we've been planing for months and a big portion of our planning was making sure we have the correct gear especially since we will be backpacking with two toddlers (Ages - 19 months, 3 years).

This will be our test run backpacking trip for future harder trips. We will hiking 5 miles into Glen Camp, setup camp for two nights, day hikes during our stay and then hike back out. A very "easy" backpacking trip, I use the term loosely because nothing with toddlers is easy but that's what make things fun.

Gear List for two adults and two toddlers:

Sleeping Items
  1. Four Sleeping Bags
    • Mountain Hardwear Mountain Goat 20 Sleeping bags (1 Pink, 1 Blue)
    • REI Mojave +10 Down Sleeping Bag, Women's
    • REI Shasta +15 Synthetic Sleeping Bag, Men's
  2. Two Sleeping Pads (third sleeping pad optional)
    • REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self-Inflating Pad Short
    • Thermarest Trail Reg Pad
    • KidCo Peapod Mattress - Only (optional, if we have room)
  3. ENO Single Nest Hammock
  4. Two REI Half Dome Tents
Hiking Equipment

  1. REI Traverse Shocklight Women's Trekking Poles, Pair
  2. Three Backpacks (2 Adults, 1 Toddler)
    • Gregory Deva 70 Women's Pack
    • Osprey Aether 85 Men's Pack
    • CamelBak Scout Pack
  3. ERGO Baby Carrier
  4. Four Hydration Reservoirs
    • Two CamelBak 50 oz Antidote Reservoirs
    • CamelBak Omega 100 oz HydroTanium Reservoir
    • CamelBak OmegaTM 70 oz Reservoir
  5. Four Water Bottles
    • CamelBak Eddy Bottle 25 fl.oz.
    • REI Nalgene Everyday Wide Mouth Loop Top Water Bottle 32 fl. oz.
    • Two Nalgene Everyday Grip-N-Gulp Water Bottle Kids 12 fl. oz
  1. MSR Alpinist 2 System Cookset
  2. Four Light My Fire Sporks
  3. MSR Pocket Rocket Backpacking Stove
  4. Fuel Canisters
  1. Three Hiking Boots, One Toddler Athletic Shoe
    • Asolo TPS 520 GV Men's Hiking Boots
    • Merrell Continuum Women's Hiking Boots
    • Vasque Kid's Breeze Hiking Boots
    • Stride Rite Accelerator LC Baby Sneakers
  2. Two Minimalist Shoes
    • Merrell Women's Pace Glove
    • Vibram FiveFingers Spryidon LS Trail Running Men's Shoes
This isn't our complete list because I still haven't included our clothes, diapers, wipes and food.  Thankfully I have one fully potty trained toddler, so I don't have to take double the diapers.  I'm that type of person who likes to take every piece of clothing, so taking what is necessary will be a very monumental task for me.  Any suggestions would be gladly taken.  A few more days to go before our first trip!

Related Posts:

  1. The Very Green Point Reyes National Seashore, Glen Camp
  2. The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore
  3. The Longest Five Miles at Point Reyes

The Savage Mountain, Nevado Salkantay

"Wild, Uncivilized, Savage, Invincible...Savage Mountain"

Tuesday, October 17, 2007: Soray Pampa Base camp, Cerro Soray is in the back ground along with a mini market stand.  My nausea still hadn't subsided by breakfast time so I had only liquids for breakfast, which was not a good way to start a long day of hiking, but I was in good spirits.  The dog in the pictured followed us from Challabamba from the previous day in hopes for scraps.  The dog actually followed us over the pass until lunch on this day! That's a hiking dog!

Our faithful horses and mules grazed as we had our breakfast as well. We were soon to become best friends.

The trekking crew! I remember everyone except for the guy to the left of the guy in the cowboy/brimmed hat.  He wasn't in our group but I think he was talking with the Canadians when we took this picture so he just jumped right in.  To correct my previous post there were two Australian couples.  The only people not pictured here are our guides, Alex, Santiago and Edwin.

C'est Moi
After breakfast and group pictures, we started to hike up to Nevado's Salkantay's pass.  This is my ultimate FAVORITE hiking picture.  I love how insignificant and small I look compared to Salkantay, God's creation is magnificent.

Boulders anyone? 
An hour or so into our hike, I was nearly gone, no drive, no energy, nothing left to hike.  I walked 15 minutes and had to stop and rest.  I have always thought hiking was all mental and I was going to hike up Salkantay but I was hiking so slow and falling way behind.

Back of the line.....nothing left, walking with Edwin.
Edwin and Santiago told me it was probably a good idea to put me on a horse to the pass and I agreed reluctantly.  I needed to rest and get some food in my belly and not hike a couple of thousand feet in the sky. So I layered on some more clothes as my horse got prepared to carry me to the pass.  As I got on the horse I felt liked I failed, I wanted to cry but I did not.  I really wanted to hike and not ride a horse up Nevado Salkantay....especially on my first backpacking trip.  One day I will go back and kick that mountain's butt.

Santiago, myself, and my ride the horse.
I smiled for the picture but I was very sad inside.  To this day my motivation for almost every hike comes from failing to hike Nevado Salkantay, but now I understand hiking is not really about a destination but about the journey.  In retrospect I really enjoyed riding that horse and getting to know Edwin.  At this point +Jesse Avery tried to hike as fast as Edwin and the horse but he couldn't keep up so we were separated for a few hours.  This is Jesse's recounting of his portion of his alone hike up the killer switchbacks:

"The pass was brutal, an ascent of 2,000-3,000 feet, going up to 15,000-16,000 ft.  It was high, the air was thin and I'd spent nearly an hour busting my butt to keep up with Melissa's horse and the caught up with the rest of the group.  Anika and I finished together, walked twenty feet, caught our breath and walked another twenty."

This was my view of the switch backs, riding my horse.  I liked my horse, he was really small compared to all the horses I've seen my entire life.  Edwin explained to me that those are the kinds of horses they use in the mountains.  The horse was somewhat stubborn because he kept stalling on the switchbacks so Edwin had to make horse noises to make it move and I had to kick it with my feet.  I was timid to kick it but it was mostly like "hey get moving!" kick.  The funny thing about the horse was that it farted a lot and it smelled, both Edwin and I laughed a lot!

Edwin was probably a few years younger than me, reminded me of a little brother.  This was his fourth or fifth trek that he had done with +Llama Path.  He was a timid young guy but we had good conversations which put me back into good spirits after being put on the horse.  We saw the porters across the valley taking an even harder shorter trail to get ahead of the group, I took a picture and the porters yelled across the valley, "One dollar!!". We all had a good laugh...

My hiking buddies, Edwin and my horse!
I was a little scared riding the horse because I never really rode horses before and the trail was very steep.  I also really didn't have anything to hold onto, since Edwin was guiding the horse.  We stopped at some point on the trail and I was left alone with the horse while Edwin ran up and down the trail checking on  the status of everyone.  Very impressed with Edwin's hiking skills.  The horse went to the cold mountain stream and quenched its thirst, once again I was reminded of the horse being like a giant dog.  I was able to have some snacks and get some calories in by this point.

Killer Switchbacks
My picture of the switchbacks came out blurry but I wanted to show how steep the mountain was....there was no way I could have hiked up the mountain in the weak condition I was in.  When I arrived at the pass of Salkantay, hot coca tea was waiting for me.  This was the view at the pass...

Cold was an understatement.  I had to wait at the pass for the rest of the trekkers but more importantly wait for my hubby, +Jesse Avery, I missed my forever hiking partner!  I decided that I was going to walk down the trail to see if I could see Jesse and call out to him.  15,000 plus feet in the sky was weird, trying to take breaths and not feeling like I had enough air, getting winded with a few walking 20 feet was strange.

Two other girls had to ride the horses up the mountain and one of the Australian guys made it to the pass, but was obviously sick.  He threw up at the pass and sick for the next two days.  Combination of altitude sickness and stomach bug.  The savage mountain was a truly living up to its name, not only were people struggling to hike it but it was windy, raining a little bit.  Not more than five minutes after Jesse had his coca tea did the skies started hailing on us like crazy.  Alex, our main guide, hurried us along to start hiking down the mountain because he knew the weather was going to get worse.  A few days later, we met a trekker from a different trekking agency who was right behind our group almost every day, said when they passed Salkantay 30 minutes later than us, they had to hike in a foot of snow....I was glad that I could start hiking again with my love!

Day two was so long, I can't even finish it in one post!
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