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misc.kids FAQ on Outdoor Activities for Young Children Part 1/4

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 )
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Archive-name: misc-kids/outdoor-activities/part1
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-Modified: February 13, 1995

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
                    Misc.kids Frequently Asked Questions
         Outdoor Activities for Young Children (up to about age 8)
                                Part 1 (of 4)

=====================================================================
Collection maintained by:  Gloria Logan  (glogan@atk.com)
Last updated:  February 13, 1995
=======================================================================
Copyright 1995, Gloria Logan.  Use and copying of this information are
permitted as long as (1) no fees or compensation are charged for
use, copies or access to this information, and (2) this copyright
notice is included intact.
=======================================================================
To contribute to this collection, please send e-mail to the address
given above, and ask me to add your comments to the FAQ file on
Outdoor Activities for Young Children (if possible, specifiy the
subcatagory of your comments -- for example, CANOEING, BACKPACKING
TRIPS, INSECT REPELLANT, etc.)  Please try to be as concise as
possible, as these FAQ files tend to be quite long as it is.  When
you send your FAQ comments, please let me know whether or not you wish
to have your name and/or email address included in the FAQ with your
comments.  If you have already contributed to this FAQ and wish to
have your name and/or email address added to your contribution, please
let me know.

For a list of other FAQ files, look for the FAQ File Index posted to
misc.kids weekly or check the misc.kids.info newsgroup.
=======================================================================

This FAQ has been broken into four parts.

Roughly, the FAQ is organized as follows.  There is a lot of general
information overlap, however, so you may want to scan all of the FAQ
files.  The sections on CANOEING and GENERAL CAMPING have the most
widely-useful information.

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 1 (of 4) -------------------------
    SKI PROGRAMS
        TAHOE AREA
            ALPINE MEADOWS
            BEAR VALLEY
            BOREAL
            HEAVENLY
            KIRKWOOD
            NORTHSTAR
            SIERRA SKI RANCH
            SODA SPRINGS
            SQUAW
            SUGAR BOWL
        OTHER CALIFORNIA
            SHASTA SKI PARK
        CANADA
            LAKE LOUISE
    BACKPACKING TRIPS
        YOSEMITE
        TAHOE AREA
    GENERAL CAMPING (part I)


------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 2 (of 4) -------------------------
    GENERAL CAMPING (part II)
        GRAND CANYON
    CANOEING (and good general info on outdoor living with kids)

  
------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 3 (of 4) -------------------------
    SNORKELING
    BIKING
    BEACH
    FARM
    TIPS ON GENERAL PLANING FOR KIDS
    TIPS ON SLEEPING


------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 4 (of 4) -------------------------
    TIPS ON CLOTHING
    TIPS ON FOOD
    INSECT REPELLANT
    BACKPACKS FOR CARRYING KIDS
    LIFEJACKETS
    BIKE TRAILERS (and related products)

=======================================================================
Outdoor FAQ Part 1 (of 4):
=======================================================================

SKI PROGRAMS:

TAHOE AREA:

ALPINE MEADOWS:

We went to Alpine Meadows last week-end where they have a Snow School
for kids starting at age 3 1/2.  Our daughter was enrolled for two
half-day sessions (lunch included) and really enjoyed herself.  The
instructors interact well with the kids and demonstrate ample
enthusiasm and patience.
-----

Alpine in general was strongly recommended--both for the quality of the
child care and the low pressure "fun" emphasis in the skiing lessons.
Good snacks and inside activities were also cited.  They don't take
children until they are out of diapers is the downside for parents of
little ones--The program is a ski school not a childcare was one
comment I received--not as a negative but as an indication that
licensing requirements would be different.
-----
 
BEAR VALLEY:     phone: (209)753-2301

I took my daughter to Bear Valley for a day trip.  Due to circumstances
separate from the skiing, it was an unpleasant trip so I do not want to
say too much.  They do have a ski school for young kids that seemed to
be good; the teachers were warm and friendly.  They also had a daycare
for non-skiing kids, but were telling people that this would be closed,
so I am not sure of its current status.
----------
 
Bear Valley was also mentioned once as having a good program.
----------

BOREAL:     phone: (916)426-3666 - shared with Soda Springs

Last year we took our 4 and 5 year olds (both boys) to boreal .. we
felt very comfortable with the program, both in terms of number of
personnel attending the children, the facilities, the equipment, and
the care offered .. we do not, however, have anything to compare with
as this was the first time we had taken the children .. we looked in to
heavenly, but it was a little more expensive and much more crowded ..
boreal was, of course, much more convenient .. we were able to pull
right off 80, ski, and then drive into reno for the night, a nice room
and entertainment, then back to boreal the next day, and then home ..
we will undoubtedly return this year .. I like skiing homewood (I am
obviously not that good) and we will probably try it this year
-----

I have taken my then 5 year old son to the [Boreal] ski school for
lesson last year.  They have full day and half day lesson.  The first
time we went, we arrived at around 9:30am and missed the whole day
class.  So we wait and let him take the half day lesson that starts at
around 1 pm till 3:30pm.   He LOVED it and asked to go back.  So we
did.  This time we went back and make sure he gets in to the whole day
session.  A big mistake.  He is already too tire by the afternoon and
end up leaving during lunch.
   
Money-wise, you get more for the whole day session since by paying $12
more, you get the extra morning lesson and lunch is included.  But,
depending on the child, a full day lesson maybe too much for him.  Too
bad they don't offer half day lesson in the morning.
   
I think it is safe to leave the child with them while you ski.  But
since i don't ski, i end up watching him during his lesson.
-----

I have use Boreal with my daughter last year when she was 5.  I thought
it was quite good.  She got good morning lessons and then skied with me
for the afternoon.  The slopes were very good for learning.

I have a feeling that this year, at 6 and after some experience, she
will begin to find Boreal too easy and boring.  I will start there but
probably end by taking her to larger places.
-----

HEAVENLY VALLEY:

My then 4 year old took two all day lessons.  About $40 or $45 per
child lunch included.  After the second lesson he was out skiing with
us on the beginners slopes and doing very well.  He next class would be
the "D" class.  The ratio at the time was 3 to 1 but can go as high (I
think) of 6 to 1.  He now bugs us to go again!  

I heard Safeway was offering discount tickets for this program.

[We went to] Heavenly Valley - last march/april.  [The kids] loved it.
Wants to do it again this year

[In response to: Did you feel the care was good from the perspective of
daycare?]   Great!  Didn't push if they didn't want to ski any more
very considerate when they got tired.

[In response to: Did you feel the ski lessons were appropriate?]
Fantastic.  The instructors Stayed around after the lessons to discuss
progress, practicing techniques, etc.

[In response to: Did you feel comfortable leaving yours kids all day
while you skied?]  Very.        
-----

KIRKWOOD:

We spent a week at Kirkwood last winter with our 4.5 and 2.9 yo's.
This was the week before the good snows.  They allowed us to enroll
both in the ski school because there weren't many people there (only 2
lifts were open).  They loved it -- and they learned something.  By the
end of 4 days skiing our son was up to intermediate level (and we have
the videos to prove it!).  Even the 2.9 was starting to wedge by the
end.  The care and attention were great.  My only complaint was about
the lunch (included in the price) since they gave them pb&j and chips
every day.  But they took lots of breaks during the day.  Our daughter
still talks about her instructor Chip.  I checked on them about every
hour - but of course there wasn't too much else to do. (They said there
was also a day care center but it wasn't open.)  Of course looking up
and seeing your not quite three year old daughter on a ski lift can be
a bit unsettling....
-----

NORTHSTAR:

About a month later my husband and son went skiing at Sugar Bowl and at
Northstar.  Sugar Bowl let James take lessons but Northstar refused
because he wasn't five yet.  They didn't mind selling him a lift ticket
though ...
-----

SIERRA SKI RANCH:

We went to Sierra Ski Ranch when Alan was three and a third, I guess.
He liked it, but he likes any sort of lessons.  [In response to: Did
you feel the care was good from the perspective of daycare?]  There
weren't that many kids, so I think they spent a lot of time outside.  I
don't imagine the people were trained in daycare; I think it was called
a ski school, not a daycare.  [In response to: Did you feel the ski
lessons were appropriate?]  Like I said, Alan loves lessons.  He loves
to follow directions.  They had him up the lift the third day, I think,
but I think that's unusual for threes.  They used tricks to teach
techniques.  He did things for the teachers he wouldn't do for us
later!  [In response to: How comfortable were you leaving the child all
day while you skied?]  Since he was so little, we only left him for the
morning.
-----

SODA SPRINGS:     phone: (916)426-3666 - shared with Boreal

I took my daughter to the Ski-with-me program at Soda Springs and
thought it was very good.  It is designed to teach parents how to ski
with their own young kids (you, the parent, must be an intermediate-
level skier and must participate with the child).  I found that, even
though I ski, I did not know what was appropriate to expect from a 4 or
5 year old: what can they do and what can they not do?  The program
gave us (my almost-5 daughter and myself) a 1 hour private lesson
during which the teacher took us up the chair lift!!  My daughter LOVED
that; it was her one goal in skiing to ride the chair lift.  The
teacher then helped her ski down with a snowplow.  For the youngest or
least adept, they have a plastic device that holds the tips of the skis
together so the child only has to worry about the heels.  By the time
we reached the bottom (45 minutes later) my daughter was snowplowing.
As we came down, the teacher made comments to me to help me understand
how my daughter was doing and what I could do to help her.  Once the
lesson was over, we got to use the plastic device the rest of the day.
I took my daughter up the lift several more times and the last time
down she only stopped a few times and was able to control in a
snowplow.  My reaction: If you want to work with your child but are not
comfortable as a teacher or if your child is fearful of being left with
strangers in a group class, then this program works well.  Its only
disadvantage is that you, the parent, must be able to ski and do not
get to ski the harder slopes on your own.
-----

SQUAW:
 
Squaw in general received negative comments--mostly refering to an
instance in the past which no one seems to have specifics on but that
was related to a staff member problem.  These comments came up often
enough and from both bay area and local (Tahoe) residents that
something must have happened.  But I don't know how long ago and how
much is current concern.  One comment was specific about a high level
of pressure put on the kids--I don't know what age group this referred
to.
-----

SUGAR BOWL:

About a month later my husband and son went skiing at Sugar Bowl and at
Northstar.  Sugar Bowl let James take lessons but Northstar refused
because he wasn't five yet.  They didn't mind selling him a lift ticket
though ...
-----

OTHER CALIFORNIA:

SHASTA SKI PARK:

 phone: suggest people call the Shasta Ski Park (you can get the #
 through the 916 area code information and inquire about specific
 facilities for little ones.)

I'd like to recommend Mt. Shasta Ski Park.  Friends of ours with young
children enjoy the ski park because the lessons are well conducted for
little ones. The park offers group and private lessons and, from
observation, some of the wee ones snowplow more adeptly than they walk!
(which might give you an idea of how little they are.)
-----

CANADA:

LAKE LOUISE:

I've also gotten strong recommendations in the past about Lake Louise's
child care/children's ski school--but Canada is hardly a day or weekend
trip for most of us--
-----

=======================================================================
=======================================================================
BACKPACKING:

YOSEMITE:

I have taken my daughter on this trip (at 3) and it was a LOT of fun.

NOTE: Update 1/25/94 -- The description of the trip is essentially the
same today, but they have upped the target age of the chilren to 6-10.
What happened is that the leader (who is wonderful) is doing this
because of HIS son (who alway goes on the trip with him).  Since the
son is getting older, they are targetting slightly older kids in
general for the trip.  I took my daughter again each of the last two
years (when she was 5 and 6) and it continues to be a very good trip.
Hopefully, we will go again this summer (at 7).

FAMILY BACKPACK TRIP - for Families with Young Children
   
where: Yosemite, off Tioga Pass
when: depends on year - 1992 is August 21,22,23
cost: $100/adult,$65/child 4-7
   
It's never too early to get out on the trail with kids, especially when
they have other kids to explore with!  This trip is designed for
families with young kids, primarily 4-7 years old.  Any style family is
welcome, including single parents.  Younger kids often go if the
parents are up for some extra work (in 1990 two 18-month olds went).
   
You drive up the day before and camp in a reserved campground that
night, at Tuolumne meadows. The trip starts the first morning with an
easy 2-3 mile hike to a campsite.  The middle day you simply explore
around the campsite, letting the kids do what kids do best - play.  The
third day, you hike out and drive home.  Each family brings their own
equipment and food and does their own cooking, so you can suit
yourselves.
   
The children don't mind getting dirty and have a wonderful time!  One
year, we camped by a creek that was small enough for the kids to wade
in.  There are always LOTS of rocks to climb.  If you are interested,
contact:
                Yosemite Association
                (209)379-2646
-----

>>cost: $100/adult,$65/child 4-7
>
>I don't understand what you get for your $100.  You drive yourself,
>bring your own food and equipment...  Why not just get a couple of
>families and go backpacking together?
   
Others feel this way too.  I do not watch my money down to the last
dollar and what I get is all the logistics done: they pick the route,
they get the permits, they bring all of us together.  To do this trip
yourself, you would have to decide to do it back in Jan. or Feb. to get
permits; waiting to the last minute means that you might not be able to
go.  Also, how well do you know the possible routes?  Picking from a
book might work for an adult where the cost of a mistake (too long, too
hard, poor campsite) is small, but can spoil the trip with a kid along;
I know one poor 5 year old who climbed all the way up to Cathedral
lakes and made things very unpleasant for her parents because it was
too hard/long for her.  To me, it is worth it, but everyone must judge
for themselves.  Your last sentence pre-supposes that you can FIND
other families.  I have very bad luck at this.  Some of my friends will
car-camp but not backpack.  Those that might backpack are not free when
I am.  Etc.
   
>I have a four year old and am really looking forward to being able to
>take him backpacking. I have tried starting him off on day hikes but
>he refuses to walk more than a 100 yards without sitting down for a
>snack.  Any advice on getting kids to like hiking?
   
My daughter was similar.  Two things I did last year (when she was 3):
 - took a VERY, VERY slow pace so she only walked 100 yards at a
   stretch - these stretches were intersperced with snack times or
   pauses to climb rocks or ...  - you MUST re-set your expectations
   compared to when you backpack as an adult - would you believe, 3
   hours to go a little over a mile?
 - did it with other kids - seeing others up in front, she would want
   to go ahead to be with them - this worked in reverse when the other
   kids stopped! - but overall, the group-setting helped motivate her
   to keep walking
-----

TAHOE AREA:

A couple of weeks ago I asked for recommendations where to take my two
kids (7 and 10) in the Sierras for their initial backpacking trip.
   
I post this as both a report, several people wanted to know what I
found out, and with hope of discussion and suggestions about what
others have done and how to improve the trip next time.
   
We hiked just passed Five Lakes, off the Alpine Meadows trailhead, near
Tahoe.  A ranger had recommended this hike to me, and she was exactly
right about virtually everything she said.  It was uphill nearly the
whole way, with an elevation gain of about 600 feet in about the first
two miles. We stayed for 3 nights, doing day hikes the two layover days.
   
I had rented the kids packs at REI.  They carried their own clothes and
sleeping bag and a cup tied to the pack.  The younger one also carried
a box of granola bars.  They also each had a comic book and a small
chapter book, as well as a few small, light toys to play with.  They
both passed up the opportunity to carry a thermarest.  They slept on
the ground without any problem, as my wife had predicted.
   
The beginning was inauspicious.  As we got a late start from Oakland I
decided to lay over in the Super-8 in Trukee before packing in early
the next morning.
   
While working off their nervous energy from having been in the car for
3.5 hours, the older boy banged his head on a chair, causing a large,
bloody, but "cleanly cleaved" vertical gash that obviously required
stitches.  So off to the emergency room, where he received eight
stitches and wound up looking like Frankenstein.
   
When I mentioned that this ended our trip before it started, the doctor
asked why.  I said, what about infection?  He said that there was no
more chance of infection than from being at home.  If it was real
dusty, he said, just put on an extra coating of neosporine and cover it
with a bandaid.
   
So, after quieting my kid's upsetment (going to a movie helped), off we
went the next day.
   
The hike up was in the heat.  The kids did great.  But the younger one,
nearly 8, but quite small for his age, started to complain that his
"heart had a hernia".
   
We rested about 4 times on the way up--once for about a 45 minute lunch
break--until the trail finally crested and became level.  Soon we could
see the first of the lakes through the woods with a use trail to it.
We needed to continue past the lakes and thus stay on the regular
trail.  However, at this point I heard distinct mutinous remarks from
the troops.  However, realizing that argument or discussion would do
little good, just the opposite, under the circumstances, I simply
walked on.  Soon we came to the main lake, and we took a rest break for
about a half hour.
   
The kids played near the shore, putting them in better spirits.  Then
we move on past the lakes (camping is not permitted by the lakes) about
a 1/4 of a mile and found a beautiful, established campsite, just as
the ranger had told us.  "We're here," I said.  I gave them a big
high-5 and a hug, and there were broad, spontaneous smiles of
accomplishment all around.
   
The campsite had a flat area for the tent and a fire circle with a
sitting log near it.  A small stream ran near the camp.  This not only
provided water but many hours of enjoyment for the kids' exploration
and play.
   
As the ranger had told us, the trail to Five Lakes is day-hiked (and
jogged).  However, there weren't too many parties, at least when we did
it during the week.  In addition, few people went passed the lakes.  I
think 3 people jogged passed the lake to our campsite in the 4 days we
were there.  The new trail connecting to the PCT ran about 75 yards
away in sight of our camp.  Only a few parties passed on it, not
including the two coyotes who brazenly walked by on it, in full view of
us and our camp.  On the day hikes we ran into two or three hikers on
each trip.  There was no one else camping near us.
   
So, although we were close to civilization and also to help, at least
during the day, because of the people day hiking to the lakes, we were
pretty much alone, and definitely isolated at night.  Perfect for me,
but somewhat boring for the kids who would have profited from the
company of other children.
   
The next day we did a day hike.  It was quite hot and the hike was
downhill, which I didn't like.  I much prefer uphill at the start so
it's downhill going back.  This seems to make it easier on the kids
when they're tired (and thus on me, too).
   
I would say that they were still somewhat tired from the pack in the
day before.  After a couple of miles we arrived at a stream where they
wanted to play at.  "I thought you said you were hungry".  "We are,
dad, but I'm hungry for play first."
   
This stream was considerably larger than the one near our campsite.
After about an hour or so, and after lunch, we started back.  The older
boy pooped out on the way back (all uphill).  But finally we made it.
   
This night the kids insisted on macaroni and cheese for dinner, instead
of Top Ramon.  So I made both packs.  However, after eating a bit of it
they both said it was awful. (I couldn't disagree with them.)
   
However, this was the worst night.  After dinner they were tired and
bored and went into the tent and started cutting up.  Well, fooling
around in the tent is not my idea of what should be happening (I'm
always afraid of damage to the tent), but I was never really successful
in calming them down.
   
The next day we took a bigger hike up a mountain.  A snow pack on the
mountain was visible from our campsite.  The kids desparately wanted
to visit and play on it.  I told them I believed the trail went on the
other side of the mountain but, when high enough, we would cross
country to the snow pack, if possible.
   
The trail was all uphill and mostly in forest, until we reached tree
line.  But at this point we could see the snow pack only about 50 yards
from the trail, so the kids went off to play in it.
   
Naturally, they wanted to slide around and all.  If I had thought it
through, I would have insisted they bring a change of clothing.
   
Play went well on it for about 45 minutes, but then I heard the younger
one screaming and crying, and I thought he had broken a bone.  I rushed
out.  He had somehow caught his hands beneath a rock so that they were
trapped for a couple of minutes in the snow.  They definitely had a
blue-ish tinge.  Finally, we warmed them up sufficiently, though they
remained cold for a bit.
   
The other boy's hands were also very cold.  More importantly, he had
lost his new pocket knife while sliding in the snow.  He was very
bummed out by this.  He tried to find it, twice, but with no success.
   
Luckily, and surprisingly, their clothes were not too wet.  After a
short lunch, we hiked further on, getting beautiful views of Lake Tahoe
(the actual lake, itself), the nearby mountains, and the snow covered
mountains in the distance to the south.  (We also got views of the
Squaw Valley ski lift, maintenance buildings, tram, etc., which were
less to my liking.)
   
As clouds with darkish undersides began to drift by more and more
frequently I thought it time we get back to camp, where our panchos
were.  (Another great piece of planning on my part.) On the way back,
we crossed another stream about a quarter mile from camp.  The younger
boy noticed a small school of trout in a pool right next to the trail
crossing, and we stopped here for about 20 minutes as the kids played
in the stream.
   
This night things went easier, although there were still an occassional
problem with the kids' behavior (due to boredom, I really believe).
   
The next and last morning, we packed up.  After breakfast, the kids
pretty much packed their sleeping bags and packs, and then took off for
the stream where they had seen the trout the day before in an effort to
catch some with their hands.  (I told them they couldn't spear them as
they had to be put back.)
   
When they got back I still had about 45 minutes of packing.  It was
quite hot and there was also some difficulty now, as they just had to
hang out.
   
Finally, we were on our way, the kids saying (as they had the previous
night), how glad they were to be going back to civilization!  As a
special incentive and reward, I told them they could pick where they
wanted to eat when we got out.  They selected the Round Table Pizza in
Trukee.
   
The hike out only took an hour and a half, with just one short rest for
lunch.  Except for this, they didn't want to stop.  The younger boy
said it felt much easier now, no hernia in his heart.  We made it back
to the car, but somehow there was no big climax of "we're done".  We
all got in and drove to Trukee where we rejoined society at Round Table
Pizza.  Although I wasn't into the pizza, nor the video games, nor the
music, I must admit the fresh salad tasted great! (But I'd still rather
be eating in camp.)
   
Now for some particulars:
   
CLOTHES:  each boy brought two sets of clothes and an additional pair
of shoes.  All the clothes they carried were in waterproof bags.
However, I forgot to put the sleeping bags in a waterproof bags.
   
BOOKS, etc.:  Each kid as mentioned brought a comic book, a chapter
book, and a few small light toys, e.g., men.  I now would have had them
bring more comic books, and would have happily let them each purchase
two or three instead on the one I did.  I think with more to read they
would have been somewhat less bored.
   
FOOD:  For breakfast I brought oatmeal packets and some cold cereal.
For lunches and snacks there were bread, peanut butter, honey, string
cheese, a small salami, lemonade mix, Peet's coffee for me, granola
bars, trail mix, M&Ms, Triscuits, margarine, and some hard boiled eggs.
For dinner I had bought 8 Top Ramons and 3 Kraft macaroni and cheeses.
There was also hot cocoa mix and a few marshmellows.
   
I had purchased some cold cuts for the hike in, and these proved to be
very popular.
   
Well, the bread was a disaster, having gotten crushed in the pack.  So,
the peanut butter and honey never got used (but weighed a lot).  The
salami proved an unexpected hit.  By the day out we had run out of most
of the snack food, having only a couple of granola bars and some string
cheese.  But the kids weren't too interested in lunch, so it didn't
matter.
   
Next time I would bring more snack food, saltine crackers to make
sandwiches with (they asked if I had brought them), and some plain
pasta.  Serving this with margarine is all they require, at least for
now.  In addition, I think I cold cuts purchased that morning could
last to the first night's evening meal.
   
I looked at the more expensive meals at REI.  But since I'm satisfied
with Top Ramon at $.33 a pack, I saw no reason to purchase $6.95
dinners (which might not taste as good, anyway).  This is one time I've
been thankful for the kids' simple tastes (although the younger one is
quite picky).
   
IN CAMP:  lots of work for me before and after breakfast and dinner.
My wife couldn't make it, so I was constantly busy without much time to
just lay back.  It was the kids' job to take care of getting water and
purifying it.  This had to be done several times a day.  I did the food
cleanup.  It was easier this way, and there wasn't much of it (I used a
total of 3 small cups and 1 pan, although I had brought some plates and
bowls).
   
Although hardly a neatness freak at home, I like a clean, well
organized camp.  Not only is it disconcerting to me in comparison to
the scenery if the camp is messy, but it often seems important to find
something right away.  This "everything in its place right away
attitude" caught the kids by surprise.  One of them said: "It's hard."
(I would judge them as average in neatness, compared to other kids, at
home.)
   
ON THE TRAIL:  The kids were also surprised by my quite careful
attitude to food and water when hiking.  I wanted to impress upon them
the need to take care with these so as not to be caught short due to
losing food or water through fooling around or carelessness or waste.
We had a couple of discussions as to how on the trail water can be more
valuable than gold, and I told them the story of Walter Houston's
experienced old prospector saying that very thing to Humphrey Bogart
and Tim Holt in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".  They made me
promise we could rent the movie upon their return.
   
FIRES:  the first night we made a fire.  The kids really wanted it.
But a half hour after they wanted to go to bed, and they were really
tired and falling asleep.  Well, this meant having to now put the fire
out, make sure it was out, etc.  So, we didn't make fires again the
next two nights.  This was a disappointment to us all.  I need to
figure out a better system next year.  Maybe making the fire right
after dinner, when it's still plenty light, would do.
   
COMPANY: Although I want isolation (with my family) I think it would
have worked out better if my wife had been with us and even better
if another family with kids had been with us.  Maybe next time.
   
I would say given the amount of time we were together with no outside
company, I think the kids did great.
   
SUMMARY:  Overall I think this was a very positive experience for my
two boys and myself.  Although reluctant to admit it, I think that
overall they had a very good time (a lot of fun) and felt quite proud
of their hiking accomplishments and of being in the woods for 4 days
and three nights.  (My wife thinks this also.)
   
As for me, this was my first backpack in nearly 8 years (the last was
only a few months before the younger was born), and I can't wait to do
it again!
-----

After the most successful dayhiking near Tahoe with my two kids, 7 and
10, (we did several hikes of up to 9 miles, some with fairly good
climbing) I'm thinking of doing a backpack with them next week, and I'm
looking for suggestions of where to go in the Sierras.
   
Here's what I'd like, but I (obviously) don't expect to get them all.
We'd be going out for 3 or 4 days.
   
(1) About 2, at most 3, miles in.
(2) Trails out of the campsite (for day hikes)
(3) Water available (we will purify, of course)
(4) Lightly used, but definitely not heavily used (this is quite
    important to me).
(5) Alpine views, at least some of the time.
(6) Easy drive (3-4 hours) from the East Bay, off 80 or 50, for example
(7) Relatively free of bears.
   
I was sent some trail information from Tahoe National Forest.  One they
mentioned was the Bear Pen Trail accessed via the Powderhorn Trail.
This seemed pretty easy (2.5 miles of moderate hiking).  You need to
drive past Tahoe City to get to it.   My guess is that this is in the
Desolation Wilderness.  Anyone have any experience with it?
-----

We recently went to the Emigrant Wilderness.  Took Corey at 10.5
months.  We went out of Crabtree Camp, up past Camp Lake to Bear Lake.
This is past Sonora, up towards Sonora Pass.  Surprisingly alpine
terrain at only ~8000 ft.  Very nice.  Cross country day hike was
exciting (some climbing, some snow fields), though a bit scary at times
knowing that a minor slip could damage the kid on one's back.
   
We managed okay with four adults to carry stuff for a 3-day trip.  It
would have been a real slog with just two of us.
   
Really nice area.  I went swimming in Camp Lake on the way out.  It
wasn't overly cold.  Corey enjoyed it (mostly).  Quite a few kids on
the trail, some dogs (with packs), many fisherman.
   
A good 3.5 hour drive from Cupertino.  Maybe more, depending.
-----

=======================================================================
=======================================================================
GENERAL CAMPING:

Bring another couple that has the same or fewer kids!

My wife and I just took Rachel (4 mo) and Laura (22 mo) car camping.
We've camped before, but always by ourselves.  This time we brought a
couple with a 3 mo baby.  I was amazed at how much easier it made things
like pitching tents or long trips to the bathroom.  The more hands the
better!
-----

Three things that we did that were helpful for our camping trip with
6mo old were:

- crib netting over portable playpen to keep mesquitos (sp?) off him
  while we were eating.
- I sewed part of an unfolded diaper into his cap to shade his neck and
  shoulders (this was very important since we were skiing and on a boat
  part of the day)
- long sleve and leg cotton outfits. Like onesies only with long sleve
  and legs.  These were good to keep sun and mesquitos off.

Also don't forget the obvious: sunscreen that is no-more-tears for kids
and lifejacket if you are going near water.
-----

Right. This is *not* my very long, wilderness canoe camping with kids
under <insert Marc's current age here, 6 in 1992> posting. This is
car camping with a child under 1. And with a parent who has the basic
food, diaper, and sleeping stuff worked out (don't forget your
breasts! :-) ). [*** for discussion of Kate's canoe trip, see CANOEING]
   
Take the stroller, if it's a lie-flat type. Great for evening strolls,
though most strollers don't do beaches well, they do fine on the gravel
roads of most car-camping places. The baby may even fall asleep in the
fresh air.
   
Take a Moses basket for a child who can't pull herself up to sit and
who doesn't normally sleep with you. No-one can roll onto her, she
can't roll under you, the walls of the basket may make her feel a
little more secure, etc etc. Kathy and Aimee ended up sleeping in the
back of the station wagon, though.
   
Take a Snugli and (try this! it works!) put that mosquito netting you
brought for the playpen over parent and baby both while the baby is in
the Snugli. This is also a way to nurse outside without being bitten
(at least by bugs :-) ).
   
Take a big blanket or quilt for the child to sit/crawl on at the
campsite, beach, etc etc. If you have a sand eater, Vaseline on the
bum after every change is said to make it easier to clean off -- I
have never tried it. Er, you see the only problem with eating sand,
at least sand you can be sure is free of cat poop, is that it comes
right through and is murder to clean off the bum. Beth ate primarily
dirt, which does not come through.
   
Get your kid a lifejacket! Even if the smallest lifejackets fit 20-30
lb and yours is ten lb, put them in the too-big one and make it fit
somehow. This is a MUST if you are going on any boats at all. Beth
wore a 20-30lb lifejacket at 5 weeks and 11 lbs when she went in our
canoe for the first time.
   
Fun toys you never thought of as toys: a tarp strung over the picnic
table is a slide for stuffed animals -- this kept Beth, 9 weeks, and
Aimee, 6 months, happy for AGES. Of course it was Marc, 3.5 doing the
constant stuffed-animal flinging...  Sticks, rocks, leaves, etc are
all big hits (though random leaves should probably *not* be allowed
in the mouth). 
   
If you use pacifiers, get a pacifier bib, you do *not* want to be
washing sand and dirt off every time it is dropped.
-----

> what i am wondering is what helpful hints or hard lessons did you
> learn to make camping trips with your infant more enjoyable?  

We took Jake camping at 10 weeks.  Not just camping, but to the
Strawberry Music Festival where we were camping with literally
thousands of other people.  It worked out just fine!  We were
complimented that he was much quieter than some other older babies
camping nearby.  We did /not/ see very much music though.
   
What I'd recommend most is a mosquito net for the porta-crib, so
you can spend some time outside the tent.  (Babies can't wear
mosquito repellant, and they are yummy tender morsels for bugs.)
And if you're breastfeeding, maybe someone could think of a way
to keep mosquitos off both of you while doing that.  I just kept
going back into the tent.
-----

 From kperdue@hpsmtc1.cup.hp.com (Karla Perdue)

>I have some questions about camping that I haven't seen addressed so 
>far--I'd love to get input from the more experienced.
>
>Sleeping bags:
>I had imagined that when we went camping, we'd put the baby in
>between us to sleep. Now that I know Will, it's obvious that this
>would not allow enough room. What a little squirmer! We zip together
>our two down bags to sleep while camping, and there's not a lot of
>extra room. 
>
>At least it turns out that, with modern diaper technology, wetting
>the bed is not a problem, so we don't have to worry about the fact
>that down does not insulate when wet. There is a real spit-up
>problem, though--at 5 months, Will enjoys eating twice what he needs
>and then ejecting the excess.
>
>I think that Will should have his own sleeping bag, and I should
>probably sleep between Will and his daddy. (Note that we're talking
>about a warm climate, here in Texas!) For a sleeping bag, I could
>perhaps put him in my parka, lined with a baby blanket to absorb
>spit-up. Or perhaps I could buy a Polartech blanket and sew it, with
>removable stitches, into the correct size for his current size, or
>better yet sew in snaps so we can still use the blanket in other
>ways. What do you think? If he gets cold, I'll be right there and can
>put him in our sleeping bag.

I highly recommend that you get something that WASHES.  No matter how
hard you try, you won't keep it clean and will want to wash it between
trips.  I did not trust my daughter in a "real" sleeping bag until
3 1/2.
   
Do you use SLEEPERS?  I am thinking of those 1-piece sleep outfits
that have feet and a zipper down the front.  Around here they are sold
for winter wear; you can get them made of flannel, terry cloth, or
other warm, soft fabrics.  One problem is the child wiggling; this
makes it difficult to keep them covered.  The more the bedding clings
to the baby, the harder it is to throw off.  I would put my daughter
into a sleeper and lay her on an insolating pad (so she does not get
cold from the ground).  If needed because of cold air, I would then
cover her with blankets.  In fact, these blankets were often out of
her crib, so they felt like home and were comforting.
   
Also consider getting 1 or 2 FLANNELIZED RUBBER CRIB SHEETS.  These
are rubber, so water proof.  This protects from leaky diapers and
spit-up.  But they have a covering that feels like flannel, so is soft
and comfortable to lay against.  They are machine washable.  I would
put one of these down over anything non-washable that my daughter
might end up sleeping on.  This meant that nothing got dirty on the
trip that I could not wash when I got home.  I still use them over
the camper's matresses just to be sure, although I no longer use them
in the tent.
   
> Backpack:
>"I'm going to go ahead and order the Tough Traveler Kid Carrier,
>okay?"  "I don't know. I think it's too fancy."  "I think we need
>it."  "But what if we don't end up doing much backpacking with the
>baby?"  "Well, if we get the equivalent of a daypack to carry the
>baby in, we WON'T do any backpacking--it will be impossible!"
>"What's wrong with that old Gerry backpack our friends picked up at
>the garage sale for $5?"  "It's not a real backpack. Remember how
>tired Patsy got when she went backpacking with us and carried her
>stuff in a daypack? It wasn't even a very long hike. I want a REAL
>backpack to carry the baby in!"  "But we don't really need something
>with all those bells and whistles, do we?"  "WHAT bells and whistles?
>What features do you want to do without?  The good hipbelt? The extra
>bags so I can carry something besides the baby?" ...etc. (I'm the one
>who wants to spend the money.I think it will be well worth the cost.) 
> 
>Has anyone taken a baby backpacking in a Gerry pack without intense
>suffering?
   
My recommendation -- get a Tough Traveller!!  For me, it was one of
the best purchases I made.  It TRUELY makes a difference - TT has a
backpack-like hip belt that puts the weight on your hips.  At least
the Geri packs that I have seen have only shoulder straps.  Weight on
your shoulders gets HEAVY FAST.  On my hips, I have been known to
carry half my weight as a load and for several hours; on my shoulders,
I could carry less than half that weight at all and much less than
that for any length of time.
   
The alternative if you backpacking: One of you fit a Geri pack into
the TOP of your regular pack (they ARE smaller and lighter than a TT).
 Make sure it is fastened in so that it can not come out.  Then load
the pack and position the kid in the Geri.  Walk away - the kid is up
high where he can see and is near daddy's head so they can talk.  (I
said daddy, because it would be a heavy load and usually the man can
carry the bigger weight.  If this is not true for you, you might want
to carry the kid.)  The other person can carry a normal pack.
Acutally for the friends that I saw do this, the "normal" pack was
very heavy, so the wife carried the kid.  They actually had two kids,
with the older one walking.  However, the parents had to carry an
awful lot.
   
> Dirt:
> How bad is it for a baby this young to eat dirt? I've never even
>laid him down on the ground outside. He should be crawling by the
>time we go on our first car-camping expedition. What happens when a
>baby crawls on the ground outside? He must get incredibly dirty, and
>get very scuffed knees on the rocks! Should I take a blanket for him
>to crawl on? Maybe this could be the same blanket I sew into a
>sleeping bag for him. At least the place we're planning to go to
>doesn't have fireants yet. What neophytes we are at this parenting
>business.
   
I tried not to worry about dirt too much (but that was hard with my
upbringing).  Most dirt or even insects, in the quantities that a
toddler would eat, won't hurt the child.  My friend who went
backpacking with an 18 month old, just dressed her in a sweat outfit
(which gives some protection) and let her play.  I think they learn a
lot by feeling and tasting the earth.
   
I would be more worried about him DRINKING WATER.  Make sure you
either get water from a faucet (in the campground) or treat it (filter
or boil).  Ghirardia is a very big problem and almost NOWHERE is safe
nowadays.
-----

>How bad is it for a baby this young to eat dirt? 
   
We took our daughter camping at the beach a lot and let her crawl on 
the sand.  She put some in her mouth, but I don't think she swallowed
it, and it didn't seem to hurt her.  Then she reached that age where
they don't put things that aren't food into her mouth.  Yeah, her
clothes got dirty but we just washed them.
    
>Small questions, but important. If you have any major or minor hints, 
>please share them!
   
Minor hint:
Make sure you use tent stakes with rounded edges on top, no sharp
edges, because a toddler is bound to trip on a tree root and scrape
her knee on a sharp stake.
-----

My husband and I took our daughter Anna (age at time of trip 5.5
months) for a weekend of camping at Acadia National Park, Maine. It
was unusually cool for mid-September, with highs in the low 60's and
lows of about 40 F. Anna slept between us on our partially zipped
together down bags. However, what really kept her warm was a thick
"blanket sleeper" bought at J. C. Penney's for 2/$11. The first night
I put on a rather thin snowsuit over her sleeper, and she woke up
overheated.  Just the sleeper with her usual acrylic blanket (which
she always kicks off) was ok in that 50 degree tent! Anna sleeps warm
compared to me (I zip up my down bag when it is 50 F. We were given a
Gerry "ultra-deluxe" backpack as a gift before I could buy the Tough
Traveler which I really wanted. My husband carried Anna (~ 16 lbs.) on
a rather steep 2-mile trail up Beech Mtn. with no complaints. However,
I think his balance may have been a bit off since he slipped once
(giving me a near-coronary :-()). However, he attributed the misstep
to the loose scree on the trail and the Merrill dayhiker boots he was
wearing.  Anna can't crawl yet, so I always put her down in her infant
seat (great for watching Mom and Papa put up the tent) or on a
blanket. I did let her sit on the grass (sitting by herself at 5
months :-)) and pull up plants under close supervision. She enjoyed
this as well as watching a squirrel store pine cones for the winter.
However, the unfamiliar setup at bedtime meant about an hour of
fussy/crying period in the tent both nights. 
-----

>Sleeping bags:
   
When we camp with the kids we put them in sleeper blankets.  Vary the
number depending on how cold.
-----

Another poster wonders whether she should get a Polartec (aka
Synchilla, polarfleece) blanket and make it into a sleeping bag for
her baby.
   
The short answer is yes.

Polartec, the world's greatest fabric, is fantastic for camping
applications, because it's nice and warm and will not stay wet for
more than about two seconds, and it's indestructible.  We had a piece
of polarfleece about a yard and a half long that was originally bought
prebaby for a cat blanket.  After Will was born, it migrated to the
bike trailer, both to keep Will warm while I rode, and to be a park
blanket.  It also did duty as a changing pad.  This summer I took Will
on a week-long bike camping trip on the Oregon coast.  I thought that
it would be cool and foggy (it was) so half of the polarfleece came
along as a trailer blanket, and the other turned into a pair of fleece
pants for Will.
   
Using polarfleece for a warm-weather sleeping bag is a good idea.  I'd
probably use short ties rather than snaps because they're easier to
sew on, but either would work.  If there is access to water (a stream,
say) you wouldn't have to put a spitup liner in, because you could
just wash out the polarfleece every day.
   
Rather than buying a premade "blanket", why not just buy some
polarfleece yardage?  Polarfleece doesn't ravel, so you don't have to
finish the edges.  The Rain Shed (503-753-8900) carries four types
(light- and heavyweight, stretch and nonstretch) in many colors and
prints for about 16 dollars a yard;  the nonstretch varieties are
60" wide.
-----

Our North Face bags measure 30" across at the top so zipped together
are the same width as a queen size bed.  Measure yours -- you may be
surprised.  It's at the bottom where things get tight and and Will
won't be taking up space down there.  You could always get one of
those blanket sleeper sacks for him and just let him sleep on top of
some blankets.  Seems like the "urk" would wash out of those easier.
Better yet get several.
   
>Has anyone taken a baby backpacking in a Gerry pack without intense
>suffering?
   
If so, I haven't heard of them.  I've done a lot of hiking with a
Gerry and when Kate was 2 we got a Mountain Master.  Wonderful pack,
even though it does have far too many bells and whistles.  But alas, I
think the company has gone out of business.  
   
>Dirt:
   
Well, if there is anything dangerous, fires, etc. you just put him in
the backpack.  Yes, they get filthy (we just got back from 2 weeks in
the Sierra and I'm still trying to get some of Anna's clothes clean.)
They love being filthy and you learn to live with it.  Or you pack
everything they own and spend your trip changing their clothes.  But a
little dirt never hurt a kid.  Fireants, maybe, but dirt...no.  It's
just roughage after all.  I'd hate to know how many pounds of sand and
dirt my kids have eaten, and pooped out, and they are *never* sick.
The knees are fine --that's what they make those adorable Oshkosh
denim overalls for (don't show dirt nearly as fast, either)  But if
it's as dry and dusty where you camp as it is in the Sierra you
certainly don't want anything in your tent that's been on the ground
outside.  

Babies love camping.  It's not nearly as relaxing for their parents;
one of you has to be on baby patrol all the time.  But chose your
campsite carefully (no cliffs or fast-running streams), avoid smoky
campfires (Anna got a nasty case of bronchitis at 3 mos when we camped
for a week in a state park where everyone built a roaring fire every
night.  I think the air quality was similar to Mexico City's) and
expect Will to get dirty 30 seconds after he leaves the tent in the
morning.

ps: bring a stocking cap for Will to wear when he is sleeping.
Chances are he won't be used to the air temperature being that cool.
-----

Last year we did some hiking with friends who had a one year old and
three year old. Martha carried John (1) in something resembling a
Snuggli on her back. Greg carried Katy (3) in one of those full size,
framed, hip belted child carriers. (It's got a little seat, and a
place to rest your feet, and a place to put food, etc.)
   
Result: John slept most of the hike. Katy squirmed and twisted and
pointed and stood up on the foot rest. Martha's back and shoulders
were sore.  Greg felt fine. Both Martha and Greg are in good physical
shape.
   
I suspect that Will one fit in a child carrier like the one they used
for Katy, but given this experience, I'd say go with the good
technology.
   
If you buy the low-tech model, and you have a lousy time, are you
going to be likely to use it again?
-----

My son turned one about a month ago, but he is on the small side- he
currently weighs between 18-20 lbs.  He is about 30 inches tall.  We
used the Gerry backpack (received as a shower gift) exclusively for
the last 6-8 months (the one with the waist strap).  It has worked
alright, but it has gotten more and more uncomfortable for us as he's
gotten heavier.
   
We bit the bullet and just purchased the Tough Traveler (Stallion
model- it's rated for 50?60? pounds).  What really made us spend the
money is the fact that the TT has straps to keep the child *in* the
backpack.  The Gerry does not have any straps to hold the baby in the
carrier.  Ever since my son started standing, he could easily stand
in the Gerry (by putting his feet on the bottom of the pack frame).
At first, this was fine, since he could see better that way.  But now,
he's started light "tantrums", that involve him flinging his head back
and arching his back.  I was really concerned that he would fling
himself right out of the Gerry backpack.  We bought the TT at the next
opportunity.
   
We use the backpack a lot - not just for camping.  We use it as an
alternative to the stroller.  My husband likes the backpack better
than the stroller and will even use it in the house, when our son
wants to be carried, but we're both too busy (cooking or washing
dishes) to hold him ourselves.  I like the backpack when we're going
to be somewhere crowded, where the stroller is harder to maneuver.
And, of course, our son loves to be up high and able to see something
besides knees.
   
Also, the TT seems to "come apart" for washing much easier than the
Gerry, which is not easily taken apart (it's put together with pop
rivets).  So, after 8 months of use and never having washed the
canvas, it's pretty gross (and our kid doesn't spit up much, either!).
   
Lastly, the TT is *much* more comfortable to wear.  Be sure to *both*
go and try them on (I hope I've convinced you!).  We had to go back
and get the next model up (I originally purchased the TT
"Kid-Carrier") because it didn't fit my husband (not because of
height, either, as the TTs are very adjustable) - the frame hit him
uncomfortably in the shoulder blades.  The next model up ($20 bucks
more) fit him fine.
=====================================================================
End of   "Outdoor Activities for Young Children" FAQ   Part 1 (of 4)

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