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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Have Kid Will Travel

    I know summer is pretty much over with for this year, but there is always "Next Year".

    Essential checklist for campers packing kids

    Janice Cooke Newman Sunday, September 28, 2008

    While I have never been a hard-core backpacker, once or twice a year for the last decade or so my husband, Pete, and I have hauled out the maps and the Therm-a-rest pads and the requisite bottle of tequila and sought out the wild places where car campers dare not go - places where we could see stars, bright white against the night sky, undiluted by the glow of RV generators.

    After I had my son, Rowan, I used to daydream about backpacking a lot. I think this was in part because when your life consists of hauling around 20-pound boxes of diapers and car seats and Costco-size cartons of goldfish crackers, the idea that you'll ever be able to go anywhere again with your entire household on your back seems about as likely as uttering a sentence that doesn't involve the phrase, "Be careful."

    Finally, when Rowan turned 6, we decided to take our first baby steps back into the woods. We did this despite conventional wisdom that says if REI doesn't make a backpack small enough to hang in the vicinity of your kid's spinal column, maybe they're trying to tell you something.

    Our destination was Little Boulder Lake in the Trinity Alps of Northern California, which we chose for a number of reasons. For one, though the Trinity Alps region lies about two hours west of the city of Redding, many people (Californians included) have barely heard of it, which generally translates to uncrowded trails and easy-to-snag premium campsites.

    For another, when you're traveling with a kid who's been burned a few times with the promise that "we're almost there," the ratio of hiking distance to water-based rewards should be at least 2-1. With its trout-stocked lakes, rippling streams, myriad waterfalls and granite-ringed basins perfect for beginning rock climbers and stone skippers, Trinity Alps is a dream destination for the short-attention-span set.

    Though it's a little challenging to get to the trailhead - 11 miles of driving up a dirt logging road - the hike to Big and Little Boulder Lakes is a relatively easy 2 miles. We kept Rowan entertained with an epic round of "I Spy," in which we named (and found) just about every form of flora and fauna in the field guide. Luckily, the Trinity Alps is home to some 20 varieties of conifers alone, and once you've exhausted those, there are wildflowers, birds, rocks, lizards and rodents - enough fodder to get you at least a mile before you have to dig into the M&Ms bag. (Though the thrill factor was high, I decided not to mention that Trinity County also ranks among the highest in the nation for Bigfoot sightings.)

    For a novice, Rowan did admirably well, whining occasionally about the heat and the hard hills, and refusing to carry his pack (which held exactly one water bottle and a pair of pants) only when the thing sagged so low down his back that it banged into his knees.

    It was all forgotten once we arrived at the lake. We found a spot in the trees just above granite boulders that surrounded the deep, blue water and watched trout jump for their mosquito dinner. That night, after we'd stuffed ourselves on freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini and s'mores (pre-assembled and individually wrapped to ensure no leftovers for marshmallow-loving bears), we fell asleep counting shooting stars.

    Over the next couple of days, Pete and I patted ourselves on the back for remembering to bring things like a deck of cards, a pint-size fishing net and a light stick that you can hang from the top of your tent, but we kicked ourselves more than a few times for overlooking some other, obvious kid-friendly provisions.

    Here's a checklist of essentials we came up with to ensure happy trails for baby backpackers and tequila drinkers alike:

    -- Mac's laminated field guides (available at REI). These single, illustrated sheets are easy to carry and come in very handy for a game of Name That Wildflower.

    -- Likewise, C.E. Thompson's Glow in the Dark Constellations: A Field Guide for Young Stargazers (available at most national park stores), will provide hours of connect-the-dots entertainment.

    -- Walky-talkies. They're not only a fun way for kids to give frequent advance scouting reports (mostly in the form of farting noises), but they're indispensable in the event your kid wanders out of earshot.

    -- An iPod loaded with stories and favorite songs. It's a godsend at the end of an exhausting day of hiking (and worrying about potentially fatal trail hazards), offering much-needed down time (for both adults and kids). Pull out the flask and call it happy hour.

    -- And don't forget: Lots of extra fishing lures, easy-off water sandals, dry lemonade mix, a big plastic ice-cream scoop for digging your personal latrine and a bear whistle (partly because it's a good idea, and partly because it's great to annoy parents with). REI and Sports Basement make kid-size convertible SPF pants (another essential) that come with a compass and whistle attached.

    If you go

    GETTING THERE
    From Interstate 5 in Redding, take Highway 299 west 45 miles to Weaverville, then head north 38 miles on Highway 3 to Coffee Creek. The logging road to Boulder Lakes trailhead is less than a mile south of Coffee Creek.

    WHERE TO STAY
    Eagle Creek Campground near Trinity Center sits directly on the Trinity River and makes a great pre- or post-trek base camp. The 49er Gold Country Inn in the old mining town of Weaverville (718 Main St., www.goldcountryinn.com) isn't fancy, but it's clean, air-conditioned, and has the all-important pool; rates are about $90 for a double.

    WHERE TO EAT
    La Casita In Weaverville (52 Main St., (530) 623-5797 offers tasty fresh Mex and cold cervezas. The Forest Cafe in Coffee Creek is the place for hearty bacon-and-eggs breakfasts (530) 266-3575.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION
    links.sfgate.com/ZEWI

    Have Kid Will Travel appears the fourth Sunday of each month. To comment, visit sfgate.com/travel and follow the links. To suggest topics for future columns, send e-mail to havekids@sfchronicle.com.

    This article appeared on page E - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle


    Once upon a time, I did a couple of similar camping trips. My oldest son was just about 2 when we went. One trip was just the three of us and the dog, and other than the rain, it was a good trip. The second was a greater washout because of incessant rain (see a pattern here? LOL) but we were with friends who had older kids (7 thru 11) and they had a camping trailer. As a kid, my grandparents had a camper but I always used a tent. After the 2nd trip and the weather problems, I am convinced that a trailer or similar vehicle is an absolute requirement for families with younger kids. Although maybe 5 years doing "Army Camping" had something to do with that sentiment too?


  2. #2
    Forum Member AHAPPYMOM's Avatar
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    My parents loved camping. My four siblings and I saw most of the US this way. We lived on the east coast and went to every state except Alaska, and I think Texas.

    We started in a tent and moved on up to a motorhome.

    We entertained ourselves the "old fashioned way". Playing cards, singing around the campfire, fishing for newts and frogs, and walking trails.

    Now I am an avid supporter of The Marriot hotel chain.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Aaahhhh yes, I remember those days too. My sister and I, and usually our grandparents, but sometimes other family members too, out for the summer.

    Times were simpler then. ssssiiiiiggghhhhhh

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    Forum Member MasterMerlin's Avatar
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    While not being an avid camper, I do take my twin girls (7 today) geocaching. They seem to really like it. They look at it like a treasure hunt since they get to exchange something in the cache. The extent of my camping includes either a Hampton Inn or a cabin in the mountains.
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  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MasterMerlin View Post
    While not being an avid camper, I do take my twin girls (7 today) geocaching. They seem to really like it. They look at it like a treasure hunt since they get to exchange something in the cache. The extent of my camping includes either a Hampton Inn or a cabin in the mountains.
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your girls! Hope they had a GREAT DAY!

  6. #6
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    Starting in 1992,the second biggest hit for my nieces now ranging from 8 to 18,after the bubble wands, was a small four person pop up tent in my parents' backyard.
    They'd get to "camp out" with an adult checking on them surreptitiously every hour, play house and other games like making witch's brews for potions.Don't ever turn your back on them.You'll get turned into a frog and I ain't kidding.
    This year,I had to break down and buy another tent because that tent is just wore plumb out and I have been drawn for an archery hunt on President's Island.
    I decided that I would camp at the check in station so I got a small tent,some deer field dressing gear and some cover scent spray in the big gallon size.(some may see where this is going)
    On the way home,apparently the gallon bottle sprung a leak because now my Blazer smells like "Wet Earth" scent as does everything that was in the BPS bag.
    If only I'd had my camouflage with me,then I wouldn't have to spray anything down for the hunt.
    Last weekend,I'd set up my tent for the neighbors' kids and my youngest niece to play in and they all ran from the thing saying that "It's stinky in there."
    I guess I am ready to go hunting now.

  7. #7
    Forum Member AHAPPYMOM's Avatar
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    You just reminded me of that "tent smell". Old tents were made from some type of green, smelly cloth.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber ffmedcbk1's Avatar
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    I am about to have my first kid, I hope the kid will like camping b/c I sure do. (also hope not to make the kid resent camping with my enthusiasm about it too)

    I have a god friend that loves to take his kids out 9-8-7- and 6 years old out to the Allegheny Regions in PA. They sure love it.

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