Backpacking with Toddlers in Henry Coe

Our family in packs.

Anna and I took the kids out to Henry W. Coe State Park for a three-night trip. This was the kids’ longest stay in the woods so far. At four and a half years old, Adlai is quite a little hiker, and he’ll walk for miles a day if you provide enough snacks.

Calliope will turn three in two weeks, and she still spends most of the hike in “the box” – an Osprey pack into which you can stuff your kid and a few pieces of gear.

This park is special to us – it’s the first place I backpacked almost a decade ago, when Anna turned me onto the past time.

Thoughts on Backpacking with Kids

Kids on a rock

The kids climbing onto this rock worried me too.

After having kids, backpacking has a different tenor to it. We don’t go quite as far or quite as fast, we stop a little more, and we go to bed earlier. That’s not to say I enjoy it less – it’s just a different feel than tromping through the forest as a young couple.

I spent a lot of time this trip worried about Adlai falling off the trail, and wondering if I should have him on a a tether. The trail down from Manzanita Point to China Hole has some steep drop-offs, and as a four-year-old, Adlai isn’t always paying attention to where he’s stepping, and his mind if often pretending he’s involved in some fantasy with monsters and weapons. He stumbled or meandered (dangerously it seemed to me) a couple of times, but he made the trek in the end. I then worried about heading back up the same trail, but that ended up seeming smoother, either because he had less momentum going uphill, or because my admonishments to pay attention and walk in the middle of the trail did something (probably the uphill thing).

Anna and Adlai on the trail.

This part had a wide trail and not-so-steep drop-off, so I was relaxed here.

Another things I noticed was that, even though our kids don’t tend to play together a ton at home, they’d huddle up in the tent when we arrived at camp each day, playing Uno, cuddling, or playing games involving hiding and sleeping bags. They constructed for themselves a little indoor play area, perhaps to escape for a moment from the wilds we dragged them into.

Finally, I’ll note kids are a lot less picky when they are hungry, but still balk at eating their fair share of lentil soup. They’ll eat a half a cup or so, but then they hold out for snacks and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Tons of Wildlife in Henry Coe

IMG_1023The most exciting wildlife experience happened on day two, on the way from Manzanita Point to China Hole. As Adlai and Anna passed a bush, we heard a crazy loud sound. Then as I Calliope and I passed it, it happened again. I peered into the bush and saw a rattlesnake. I think this was my first wild encounter with such a creature.

We also saw another snake, wild turkeys, hawks, condors, and crazy amounts of wildflowers (which Henry Coe is known for in the spring). There are also wild pig traps in the park, but we saw no pigs.

Here’s a video of wild turkeys evacuating our camp as we entered on the final day. You can hear them gobble.

Tracks and Waypoints

We did about 10 miles, with Adlai hiking all the way, and Calliope mostly in what I call “the box,” riding on my back.

Here’s a folder with my tracks and waypoints from the trip. This was a solid test of the new Gaia GPS update we’re about to do – still a few kinks to work out, but overall the app performed well.

Henry Coe is a beautiful and special place.