If you know me or have read this blog, then you know that I like backpacking. Last year I tried to plan a backpacking trip for the kids into Rocky Mountain National Park but we got rained out by a storm that ended up being a Derecho Storm; so good thing we canceled. But we didn't really get another chance to backpack last year.
This year, I re-booked the same site on basically the same weekend, and guess what? We got rained out again. Determined to make things work this year, I decided to chance a trip to a wilderness area that did not have reservations. The reservations were nice because I knew exactly how far we needed to hike to our site. Without reservations, we stood the chance of a full wilderness area and lots of hiking without the distance known. This is not a great situation with small children. Regardless, I settled on Lost Creek Wilderness since I had been there before. So with about 24 hours of notice, I get the kids ready and let my mom know that we were going since she wanted to go with us.
We were looking for sites in the 1.5-mile range from the Wigwam Trailhead. According to the All Trails page for the trail there are some identified sites right in this area, but being a wilderness, I was sure there were more. Due to work schedules, we decided to drive down on a Friday, so we were getting to the trail a bit later than I would have liked and I was very nervous it would be crowded. Coupled with the slower pace with the kids, I was also worried about light.
We arrived at about 430 or 5 and got on the trail. The parking lot was not super packed and the first couple of campsites we passed were empty; so things were going well so far. The most difficult part of the hike was the several river/creek crossings with 2 young kids and my mom, but we navigated them all well. The river was really running, which was beautiful and the weather was perfect. The kids hiked without complaint and were even excited to be wearing a backpack on the trail.
At about 1 mile in, we did pass a few good looking sites and one other family with young kids setting up camp. We decided to continue to find another area. At the 1.4 mile mark, we found our perfect spot and pulled off the trail. The spot was flat, open, and near running water to lull us to sleep. We quickly started setting up camp and reconstructed a fire ring that has been scattered before setting up to make dinner.
The twist to all of this was that Mrs. Steen was working this day. When I told her we were going, she unexpectedly came back and said she wanted to join after work. Mind you, she works until 7 PM. After mentioning that she would be hiking in the dark and not know exactly where we would be (I told her near the 1.5-mile point) she still said she wanted to go. So I packed her bag and hiking gear and dropped it off at her car on our way out of town.
Without cell service at the site, I really was not sure how all this was going to happen and my mom was freaking out a bit about it. We even yelled at a random stranger who walked by after dark to see if it was Wifey. At around 9 PM, I finally decided to start hiking towards the trailhead in the dark to see if I could meet her just as it started sprinkling. About halfway there I got some cell service and was able to call her; she was just parking at the trailhead. So I kept on that direction and met her just after the first river crossing. We got the hike the rest of the trail together on a romantic nighttime hike. I cannot describe how happy, excited, and proud I was of my Wifey for coming out on her first backpacking trip IN THE DARK!
We made it to camp a bit before 10. The kids were still awake and were staying warm near the fire. After a bit of relaxing to calm down from the harrowing night hike we finally all turned in. This was my first time sleeping in a hammock (to give Wifey and the kids enough room in my 2-person tent) and I learned a bit. Even though I had an adequately rated sleeping bag, my backside still ended up super cold. Apparently, you should still use a sleeping pad when sleeping in a hammock to keep your downward-facing parts warm.
In the morning we made oatmeal and explored our camp area a little bit more which the kids really enjoyed. Then we got all packed up. X was chomping at the bit to start hiking back. He got his backpack on and was really antsy to get on the trail. Finally, we were on the trail and he was the one setting the pace with a jovial walk.
We made it back to the cars without issue and the kids did splendidly. I think they really enjoyed the trip but I could also tell they were ready to just rest on the car ride home.
Now that I know they can tackle a 1.5-mile backpacking trip, I hope to tackle more and longer trips in the future.