Overnight on the AT with the kiddo’s…

P1030616I had plans to do a loop in the Smokies this past weekend, but unfortunately, I had to back out of those plans just a few days before the hike. And even worse, I was already pumped up about getting to get out for another hike, so this left me pretty bummed. But, I got to thinking… and I thought of something… so, I talked with my kids…

My son, Matthew, has only been on a few overnight & multi-day hikes with me in the last few years. He doesn’t mind going, but to be honest, I know he doesn’t really enjoy it so much when it is just him and a bunch of adults. On the other hand, my daughter, Emily, has only been on a few day hikes, and had no problems expressing her unhappiness about climbing mountains… So, I proposed a suggestion to both Matthew & Emily about a hike that might make both of them happy… and me of course!

I asked the kids (with my focus on Emily really) about doing a short hike on the AT, staying the night at a shelter, and then hiking back out the next day… and surprisingly, they both agreed! And even more surprisingly, Emily was really excited about it… Friday morning as we were waiting on the school bus, she was filled with questions about bears, the shelter, the trail, the mountains, the drive, other hikers, what we would eat, where we would sleep, what could she bring with her… and so on…

So, we (and by “we” I me “I”) got our packs all packed up Friday, then, Saturday morning we piled up in the car around 3 am and began the long (6-ish hour) drive to the Springer Mountain parking area on the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia!

We arrived at the (pretty much full) parking lot around 10:00 am Saturday morning. There were cars everywhere, which I expected considering this is the busiest times of the year for this area with all the hopeful thru’s coming through. At this time though, there were still a number of folks in the parking lot, standing at their cars, making last minute adjustments to their packs, their shoes/boots, adjusting their trekking poles, and other random things that most hikers do before leaving their car and heading down the trail. Many of the people I heard talking though were actually heading south (0.9 miles) on the trail so that they could officially begin their hike at the summit of Springer mountain.

Me and the kiddo’s though, were heading north! “We” had planned to hike a simple 1.8 miles from the parking area to Stover Creek Shelter, where we would stay for the night. Then of course we would hike back to the parking area the next morning and drive back home…

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We lucked up and had a really beautiful weekend. The sun was out, but there was also a nice little breeze blowing, which made for pretty close to perfect hiking weather…. As well, the hike to the shelter was all down hill (about 480 ft drop over the 1.8 miles), so there was no reason to sweat anyway. What made it even better though was that Emily was having a great time… I could hear it in her voice, and see it in her face; not to mention, in the way she would occasionally trip over those notorious rocks and roots that jut out of the ground in the middle of the trail… She was really enjoying herself… and this made me enjoy the beauty of the mountains even more…

P1030402 P1030403 P1030407 P1030409 P1030412 P1030413 P1030416 P1030417 P1030418 P1030419It didn’t take us long to make it to the shelter, and thankfully, the Stover Creek Shelter is actually a nice shelter. Huge, covered front porch, with a picnic table under it, seats built into the side, two large platforms on the bottom, and a huge top bunk area, which actually has a railing built on the edge. Being that we were the only ones there at that time, it was the perfect place for them to play while I was setting up our camp…

P1030420 P1030423 P1030424 P1030425 P1030426 P1030427 P1030428 P1030429 P1030434 P1030439 P1030442 P1030445 P1030446 P1030449 P1030450After I got our tents set up with all our gear unpacked and lofting up inside our shelters, I explored the area with my kids. I had been her a few times before, but only just stopping by for a minute to have a snack, or to just check it out and keep moving on (remember, it is only 2.8 miles north of Springer Mountain…) We filled up our water bags and carried them back to camp. I showed Emily the privy since she was very curious about it, and then we just hung out for a while. Eventually, Matthew decided to take a short, power nap, and Emily and I decided to write in the shelter log…

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Also, while reading through the shelter log, I discovered a common problem being logged by a few hikers… (and remember, this is less than 3 miles in…)

P1030474Throughout the day there were a number of other hikers coming through and stopping by at the shelter, however, this early in the day, they were all just passing through. Many were hopeful thru’s, while there were also a few day hikers, overnight hikers and multi-day hikers, and even a group of scouts (well, one leader and 2 scouts… the rest were somewhere else…) Everyone that stopped by though were happy to be out and were kind enough to talk with us for a bit. (Of course, between finally starting such a long hike, and the beautiful weather is enough to bring out the kid in (most) all of us!)

Around 4:30 I decided to give in and feed my starving kids… I had brought my 1.3L Evernew cook pot with my Sidewinder Caldera Cone and the Epicurean stove. I carried stuff in for us to cook hot dogs (compete with buns & condiments) and then to bake a Triple Berry Muffin for dessert! Let me just say, it was awesome…  :)

P1030478 P1030480 P1030481 P1030482 P1030483 P1030487 P1030488 P1030494 P1030496 P1030499 P1030502 P1030503 P1030504By the time we had finished cooking and cleaned up, there were a few others that had stopped in for the night. Most of them were thru’s, however there were a fair amount that were out for a week or less. A few were hammocking, while some others set up tents, and of course, a few began claiming spots inside the shelter. As well, a few of them also began preparing their own dinners. Most were using canister stoves, however, there were a few that were keeping it real using alcohol stoves, and even one thru hiker using the sweet little BioLite stove!

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As the day began turning into night, folks began hanging their food bags and started getting settled in around the shelter. A few folks that were tent camping came up and started asking about making a fire… then, as night finally began to settle in on us, we were all huddled around the camp fire having an awesome time. There was lots of gear talk, as well as stories of how everyone made it to the trail, and what their goal was while on the trail. The thru’s shared with us their thoughts on getting ready to hike 2,180 miles… And of course my daughter was right in the middle of them all… she was having a great time!

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As the night went on, Matthew decided he had enough and was ready to hit the sack. However, Emily and I decided to have some fun with the camera…

P1030578 P1030579 P1030586 P1030589 P1030590 P1030591The next morning came early… since we travel east to get to the trail, we have to move our clocks ahead 1 hour anyway, however, this past weekend was also Daylight Saving’s Time weekend, so we again moved our clocks another hour ahead… we had lost 2 hours! I woke up around 8 am, changed back into my hiking clothes, then began boiling water for hot cocoa and coffee. Once it was about done I woke the kids up and let then change back into their hiking clothes, and then we enjoyed our breakfast with droopy eyes…

P1030594 P1030597 P1030598 P1030602 P1030604 P1030606 P1030607After I finished eating, I began cleaning up the kitchen gear and tearing down our shelter, and repacking our packs. As well, we decided we had better get some shots of all 3 of us together before we finished and forgot!

P1030600 P1030611 P1030612 P1030614 P1030615Around 10:15(ish) we slung our packs back on, said our good bye’s, wished the thru’s good luck, and began heading back up the trail towards our car.

The hike back is a pretty easy hike, however, Emily decided that she still wasn’t too fond of uphill hiking… She did good, but she wasn’t in such high spirits as she was the day before. However, with a little talk and some efforts to get her to laugh, and take her mind off the fact that she was walking up a mountain, she made it. By the time we got back to the car, she was glad to be done, but at least she was in good spirits!

On the hike back up, I stopped to take a few more shots, but not many…

P1030617 P1030623 P1030626So, once we got back to the car, the kids got changed into some clean clothes, we loaded the car back up with our somewhat dirtier than before packs, then started the long drive back home…

And of course, before I wrap it up, I must include the video from our hike… so here it is:

As well, be on the look out sometime soon for a bonus video, shot by the one and only, Emily! Until then, thanks for stopping by…

As promised, here is the video that Emily shot while on the hike… I think she did pretty good!  :)

As well, here are a few of the photo’s that she took…

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Thanks again and hope you enjoyed it!

~Stick~
(& Emily)

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About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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25 Responses to Overnight on the AT with the kiddo’s…

  1. This is great. Looks like you had the weather for it too. Jealous you were able to whip up some dry baking recipes :-)

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Jake… and that dry baking recipe was simply a bag of Betty Crocker’s “just add water” muffins! Mixed it up in a Ziploc, squeezed it out in the aluminum pan, then dry baked it for about 30 minutes. It was a delight for us all… :)

      ~Stick~

  2. David Byrge says:

    Stick, this is awesome. Looks like you guys had a good time and it’s always good to see the young ones out on the trail. Hike on brother!

    • Stick says:

      Thanks David, and yes it was a great time… I wish we could have spent one more night out, but I’ll take what I can get.

      What was really cool about this hike though is that it was Emily’s first time to hike the AT with a backpack, and actually spend the night on the trail… She enjoyed it, although, she isn’t still super fond of hiking uphill… I will have to continue to find area’s with very minimal elevation change for her to come much more…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

  3. Great pictures Stick. It is good to see your beautiful children again. I remember them in the Redneck beer cup drawing winners. They will never forget the adventure. My children are in their 30’s and 40’s now but they have never forgotten their outdoor adventures with me when they were young. Hmmm…they may want to go on all the hikes with you as long as it is downhill. It is a shame the hikes are not downhill both ways.

    • Stick says:

      Thanks for stopping by Steve and I hope they never forget their little adventure… although, I hope that I can accompany them on many more to come. However, for now I had better be sure to keep the hikes mostly downhill for my daughter’s sake! :)

      ~Stick~

  4. Hendrik says:

    Great read Chad, enjoyed this a lot!

  5. ighwoman says:

    Thanks for all of the photos (as usual) but the video was wonderful. I don’t think you have anything to worry about with Emily, she was able to find her own happiness given all of the new surroundings. I wonder how long it will take for her to work into some inclines? I know you will give her every opportunity! I also enjoyed the muffin, I’ve never tried “dry” baking, but have steam baked before. I’ve gotta try that!
    TicTac

    • Stick says:

      TicTac,

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed the video… I need to get the camera my daughter used and see what kind of video she captured… that should be interesting!

      As for the muffins, to me, it just seems like less work than steam baking, but to be fair, not by much…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

  6. Looks like fun times Chad!!

    • Stick says:

      It most certainly was John… picked up on some things that I should have carried, so our next trip should be a bit more fun for us all! :)

      ~Stick~

  7. Rudy R. says:

    Great video Stick. I have two younger boys that I take hiking on very similar trips as this. I noticed your boy looked a little bored. My father used to haul me outdoors all the time. He would bring a sling shot that I only got to use while we were out. He also bought some cheap ninja stars for me to throw around. My boys are too young for both of those items but would be a great fit for your son. Trust me, hours of enjoyment!

    I also pack a gun. A S&W 380 Bodygaurd or Ruger 22/45 Lite. You may want to look at a better carry gun. The TRP isn’t exactly a cannon I would want to strap to my waist, or haul in my pack.

    I look forward to more family trip videos and if possible what weight and items were your kids carrying?

    PS where are the marshmellows? That is a kid necessity outdoors.

    • Stick says:

      Rudy,

      Yeah, Matthew was a bit tired. He actually passed out for about 45 minutes on the hard wooden floor of the shelter. Between being pretty sick just a few days before (high fever, sore throat, cough, etc…) and waking up at 230 am that morning he was pretty tired… (this was part of the reason why I had to back out of my original plans for the weekend…)

      A sling shot is a good idea though… he has one, but we didn’t think about it. As I mentioned, this whole ordeal was very last minute, which is why I also forgot some marshmallows, and the Uno cards…

      As for a gun, to be honest, that is something I have never carried before, and still have no real desire to carry again. The biggest reason I carried it this time was because I wanted to show my buddy Joe that was hoping to make it out, however, I will also admit, it is a good feeling to have some sort of real defensive weapon at my side when I have my children around. But I will also admit, if I am going to carry, I want to know it is something that will stop, or at least deter, a bear if need be… I am not all that knowledgeable at what calibers do what to a bear, but it seems to me that a larger caliber would be a better idea…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      ~Stick~

  8. Warren3 says:

    Great to see kids imparted with outdoors experiences that may kindle a lifetime love of nature and family fun times (and some times not so fun!) Where were the s’mores around the campfire? Afraid Bruin might want some? :-)

    • Stick says:

      Warren,

      To be honest, I forgot the stuff for smore’s… or at least marshmallows, but hey, they had some in their hot cocoa! :)

      ~Stick~

  9. Pat C says:

    I don’t know Stick, you may have started something. Might be a couple of Thruhikers in the making. Nice to see kids getting out and unplugged. Glad you three had a great time!

    • Stick says:

      Pat,

      That would be awesome… And I tell ya, this time of year really eats away at me… seeing all the thru’s on the trail, watching their videos of them starting out… I ask myself: “Why can’t that be me?!”

      Anyway, I hope that they take to this over time, and that would be super great to be able to do a thru with my children…

      ~Stick~

  10. Brooks Clay says:

    Glad to see someone else hits the trail with their kids! My wife and I backpack with our three kiddos (8, 6, & 5) almost every other weekend. We just stayed at Plum Orchard Shelter last weekend, hiking from Dick’s Creek Gap/ US76 for a quick overnight. We have been backpacking as a family since our little ones were 6, 4, and 2, and we continually get the strangest looks from other hikers! My kids favorite trail is the Art Loeb. We are headed out to Aspen this summer to tackle the 4-Pass Loop around the Maroon Bels Wilderness. We live in N. GA, so hope we pass your crew on the AT sometime. Good stuff… keep it up!

  11. Luke S. says:

    The key to making camping fun for kids is this; knives, fire, and junk food.

    Knives
    If they don’t use them regularly at home using knives out in the woods is a lot of fun for most kids. They can carve a spear, work on a bow or whatever they are into.

    Fire
    Forget Ultra Light, look at a survival book and bring as many exotic fire starters as possible. Flint and steel are probably the best. I bring a big bag of generic cotton balls and a couple Light My Fire strikes. If you show kids how to make the sparks and light the cotton balls on fire they’ll have a ball.

    Junk Food
    When I took little brothers and friends it was understood we’d consume way more junk food then we could get away with at home. S’mores are a good idea.

    As far as guns go I’d suggest a 5 shot Smith and Wesson in .357 Magnum or +P .38 Special. With a hard cast bullet it has enough penetration to seriously hurt a black bear. Its also lighter and easier to carry. You could fit it in a cargo pocket or a pack belt pocket.

    • Stick says:

      Luke,

      Great points! I will definitely keep those in mind on our next outing. I will just have to keep a close eye on them with fire and knives… :)

      As far as guns are concerned, I am still not convinced that they are necessary on the trail. As I mentioned in some other responses, a big reason that I carried this one was because my buddy (that wanted to make it) and I talk a lot about guns and I carried it to show him “also.” However, in time I am looking at getting a smaller carry gun since I am having a hard time carrying this one with just a t and not printing… I am looking at a S&W M&P Shield likely chambered in a .40, but I shall see…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and for the suggestions!

      ~Stick~

  12. Roger says:

    Stick,

    I really enjoyed watching the video of the trip. The kids are interesting to watch. Emily is so charming. She wrote a great note. I enjoyed seeing things through her eyes with the camera. Speaking of cameras, do you reveal what camera you use. I am looking for a HD camera. I am 70 and will not get to be out many more times. I have a trip up Lyell Canyon in Yosemite sometime this summer. I have been trying out my camera in the back yard to see how it looks. It is a cool pocket camera, but nothing that I would be happy with putting up for any one else to view. I do not want to think about carrying my HD video camera as it is huge and heavy. It would never work on the end of a trekking pole.
    I have enjoyed seeing the many light weight tarps and shelters you have demo’ed. I am glad that there are many companies making this kind of thing. When I began in the early 1960’s there was nothing light. Heavy was “in.”

    Keep those kids on the trails,

    CNV

    • Stick says:

      Roger,

      Thanks for watching, and glad that you enjoyed it! As for the camera I am using, it is a Panasonic Lumix GF2. The one my daughter is using is a Panasonic Lumix SZ7.

      I like the GF2 pretty well. It is a micro 4/3’s camera, which is a step above P&S’s, and I can even change out the lenses on it. I will admit, it has a touch screen which I don’t like, and kind of wish were not on it… I just use the buttons and not worry with the touch screen, but sometimes I will accidentally hit a button on the screen and a menu will open… kind of bothersome. Other than this though, I am quite happy with it.

      And I am planning to take the kiddo’s out again this weekend! Keeping my fingers crossed for no thunderstorms! :)

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

    • Roger says:

      Stick,

      Thanks for the model numbers or codes. I will paste them into a search and get a look at them. I was up early (for me) working on a new antenna and learned that my legs may have improved, but my back will not stand for much. I may have to be carried past the 2 mile mark and set myself up to camp for the duration of the trip. Dr. tells me it is arthritis in my lower back. It may be that I am getting to the point where I have to drive to see the things I love.

      Tell Emily that a teacher was really impressed with her writing. She is a smart little girl and still can be humble. I think that is a good thing.
      From California,
      CNV

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