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Archive-name: misc-kids/outdoor-activities/part2
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Last-Modified: February 13, 1995

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
           Frequently Asked Questions
         Outdoor Activities for Young Children (up to about age 8)
                                Part 2 (of 4)

Collection maintained by:  Gloria Logan  (
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 weekly or check the 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) -------------------------
        TAHOE AREA
            ALPINE MEADOWS
            BEAR VALLEY
            SIERRA SKI RANCH
            SODA SPRINGS
            SUGAR BOWL
            SHASTA SKI PARK
            LAKE LOUISE
        TAHOE AREA

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 2 (of 4) -------------------------
    CANOEING (and good general info on outdoor living with kids)

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 3 (of 4) -------------------------

------------------- Outdoor FAQ Part 4 (of 4) -------------------------
    BIKE TRAILERS (and related products)

Outdoor FAQ Part 2 (of 4):

GENERAL CAMPING  (continued)

We've done quite a bit of camping with our baby (now 2.5 yrs), but
never did an overnight backpack with him.  We just figured that unless
we had a group of people, it would be too tough to carry all of our
stuff with just two people (ie. if you have a group, you can distribute
one person's things over the rest of the group while that person
carries that baby).
Anyway, that said, here's my advice:
We have a Tough Traveler Kid Carrier and IT'S GREAT!  BUY ONE!  (Do you
want me to repeat that for your husband's sake? ;-) If your husband
won't let you get one, make *him* carry the baby.  The Tough Traveler
really is worth every penny.  We've used it on many day hikes.  It's
very stable with lots of straps so you don't have to worry about the
kid falling out (even if you bend *way* over).  It's very adjustable,
has a nice waist band, and there's room to carry other things (ie
diapers, etc.) My husband is a definite tight wad, but he didn't
complain a bit when I brought the Tough Traveler home - he's done a
lot of backpacking and recognizes the need for a good pack.
sleeping bag:
We got one of those REI infant Polarplus things that zips up to a
snowsuit (legs separate) or a sleeping bag (legs together).  It's nice
and warm.  We put Peter in it, in other clothes, then wrapped him up in
blankets.  He generally slept next to me (not in the middle of myself
and my husband).
Eating a little dirt won't hurt, but a blanket is nice to be able to
spread around.  Put old, sturdy, long pants on the baby so that when it
crawls around its knees are protected.  One thing to do is set up your
tent as soon as you arrive at your destination, and put the baby in the
tent.  Instant playpen!  We did this a lot with Peter when he was
crawling since we didn't trust him not to eat the local
foliage/dirt/etc. and because he hated being put in a playpen.

Can't help much on the sleeping bag problem..  In a warm climate I
wouldn't think it would be a big problem though..  use the sleeping bag
design you thought of, and it should work well.
Buy the good backpack.  It will be worth it.  We did five days out with
an eight month old in a good pack -- hip belt, extra bags, etc.  I
can't imagine what it would have been like in one without the belt.
All the of supplies for the child that we might need quickly were kept
in the backpack with the child.  It made life a lot easier.  And if
you're doing eight-ten miles a day, I'm positive you won't regret it.
(Besides, it's an investment that will hold over for your second child,
if you plan a second.)
Well, on the above trip, I wasn't the parent, but i do remember one
evening being charged with keeping the child on the blanket we laid
down and out of the dirt.  (Just wait 'till next march, though..)
I'd say bring along  blanket just to keep the chilk a bit cleaner.
Dirt itself probably isn't that bad, and I've never yet heard of a
child that didn't at some point decide that dirt was the thing to eat,
but most parents seem to have a small hangup about the ingestion of
that particular substance.
If nothing else, keeping the child clean helps keep your tent clean,
which is always a plus for me.

...One thing I forgot to say - when I shopped for the Tough Traveler
they had three different models, separated in price by twenty or thirty
dollars.  We bought the mid-price one, since the top-of-the-line one
didn't seem to have much more in the way of features.

If you're going to do any semi-serious or tougher hiking with a baby or
toddler, I'd seriously recommend investing in one of the 'real'
baby-carrier backpacks.  I've used both the light trip-to-the-mall
type, and a full-frame (ToughTraveler?) carrier, and there's just no
comparison.  Believe me, when you're half-sliding down the Iao Valley
trail after a rainshower, with a 30 lb. kid on your back, you will
thank yourself for preserving your balance and maybe saving everybody's
That said, though, I'd also recommend that you get one of the light
carriers, and drop by your local REI-equivalent and pick up a hipbelt
and some attachment hardware.  For day / beach / shopping use, the
upgrade is a real pain-reliever.

Funny how sometime after 12 months children asleep resemble
helicopters, rotating round the bed, waking one every so often with a
knee here, a head butt there...
I used blankets with Deborah on those trips in her 2nd-to-3rd year, not
a sleeping bag. I don't describe what we used after she turned 3 and
1/2, because due to mom's allegations, we didn't even see each other,
let alone camp... Now (age 9 last Wednesday) we use a rectangular
fiberfill bag, fully zippered, which takes care of a reasonable range
of temperatures, is still warm when wet (and pre-teens manage to wet
things too with spilled cocoa, or a bag dropped in a puddle, or we ship
water in the kayak). Really _cold_ nights ski camping a Pendelton
blanket adds warmth and color. This year we'll do hut ski tour camping!
Don't know, I recollect watching my youngest brother eating a lot of
it, I must have been about 7 or 8. Asside from his having sandy poohs,
it dosen't seem to have hurt him. Unless you are luck enough to find
really toxic camp sites, Will should have a life expentancy at least as
good as the previous milliena of dirt-eating anthropod infants, and
eventually wear button-down oxfords from Brooks Brothers.
Make or get a washable, easily detached sleeping bag liner, and mix
some sugar in the dirt, it will taste better and draw a better class of

This is a major hint for now (not so much) and the future (when it
becomes very true)....
A dirty child is a happy child.
(Repeat this over and over until you believe it.  It makes looking at
a disgustingly dirty child not quite so unpleasant.)
Again, a dirty child is a happy child.  That's why children like
camping.  They get to get dirty.  They get to spill things without 
getting yelled at about ruining the carpet.  They get to wear the same
clothes for days on end.  A heavy layer of dirt is good protection
against bugs, sun burn and superficial scrapes.  
And it feels so good when you wash it off 3 days later.
My son is 7 now.  Some of the most joyous memories I have of him were
when he was so filthy that only his parents could love him.  Camping,
gardening, playing in the rain, cooking together, etc.
A dirty child is a happy child.

We took our daughter both car camping and backpacking since she was
2 months old.  Backpacking she used to sleep in my husband's down coat;
car camping in a sleeping bag type blanket.  We always put her between
us, but our friends, who we've camped with several times and who have
bags that zip together, always sleep with the mom in the middle.  The
midquality Gerry carrier has always worked for us, even strapped onto
the back of a backpack.  My husband has talked about changing the belt;
maybe with the next kid.  Finally, I've never thought dirt was too good
to ingest -- isn't there lead and other bad things in it?  On the other
hand, our friends, who are both chemist types, don't seem to be
bothered about it.  We always bring an old shower curtain to put on the
ground; it's not exactly light for backpacking, but it is easy to
clean.  Have fun!  Kids love to camp!

Well, on the sleeping bag front, one possibility is to look at Sears or
K Mart for the items I love, but don't know the name for -- it is 
essentially a fiberfill comforter with snaps (or sometimes a zipper)
that can be used to turn it into a "sack" that you wear.  Hmm, I'm not
doing very well explaining this, am I!  Imagine you are standing up,
and have a blanket draped around your shoulders.  Now imagine that
there are snaps down the front that pulls the part over your shoulders
in to big, loose "sleeves", and your feet stick out the bottom.  One
of mine was called a "Snug Sack", but I don't know if they still go by
that name.  I wore my first one nearly into rags, and got another from
my Mom for last Christmas.  Every one I've ever seen is completely
washable, they run about $25 last I saw (but can be found cheaper), and
would do very nicely not only for a baby sleeping bag, but also for a
spread out "play mat", and at home, for a snuggly comforter for cold
nights.  Both my kids used mine a *lot*, though never for a sleeping
bag outside (my son used it as one inside more than once though.)
Just another idea.

As for spit up, you are probably just going to have to live with it,
making sure it has had time to dry by opening up whatever it is the
baby winds up sleeping in.  The good news is that the problem may have
faded..  my son was another "eat everything, and then some, and spit
up the extra" child (took us awhile to figure out!), and it faded
slowly between 6 and 8 months.  I can tell by looking at the baby
clothes -- I never could get all the yellowish spit-up stains off the
clothes, so when I get to the sizes when he'd stopped, there are no
more stains!  (By the way, this habit means you can probably throw out
nearly all the advice you get on feeding your child solids, as he may
continue the same pattern -- mine did.  We read all this "...your
child will turn his/her head, look away, make faces, push your hand
away, or otherwise clearly signal you when he/she has had enough", and
couldn't find the slightest trace of it.  We finally worked out a
system of how much food to start with, and when giving more was
acceptable (basically, after the initial meal was finished, we ignored
protests, and got him away from the table.  If the protests continued
more than a few minutes, they were probably real, and we returned to
the kitchen.  It was a pain in the neck, but better than both the
spitting up, and than the unbelievable weight gains that were beginning
to occur.  We did all this under the advice and supervision of our
pediatrician, but I just thought I'd mention it...)

As for dirt, don't bother trying to get your child to crawl on a
blanket; it won't work.  When sitting and playing, you may be able to
get him to stay mostly on a blanket, and might as well try.  Eating
dirt generally isn't harmful, unless it contains things it shouldn't
(like lead, PCBs, or other harmful chemicals/etc).  Some kids love it,
most sample, and then go on.  My daughter was an eater of bark, but
neither of my kids really went for dirt in a big way.  

Get the expensive one with the sophisticated alpine backpack harness  
(and the raincover/shade, too, if it's a late model -- the early type  
covers are junk).  Not the cheaper one.
>"What's wrong with that old Gerry backpack our friends picked up at
>the garage sale for $5?"  "It's not a real backpack.
It sure isn't!
>"But we don't really need something with all those bells and whistles, 
Yes you do. And remember you're gonna sell it when you're done with it.  
The only thing I don't like about ours is it doesn't have a pocket  
for the baby bottle, and it's short of cargo space generally for real  
hiking/backpacking.  I've always had to enlist my former climbing  
buddies as Sherpas for overnight trips.  Also, we modified the child  
restraint straps to make it easier to get the child in & out:  
fast-sliding ladder buckles, and we replaced the snap-lock plastic  
buckle on the child's waist belt with a day-glo red one (to make it  
easier to see when you're fumbling for it).
We've had lots of fun with ours.

We took our ~1 yo on a camping trip once.  Instead of a sleeping bag we 
just brought the porta-crib - we had a large enough tent :-)
The big problem we had, though, was that she was used to waking up at
4am to cry.  At home, we've learned to let her cry herself back to
sleep after we determine it's not something urgent.  But when the
next camper is just 20 ft away, you can't very well let her go on like
that.  I'd suggest that you find a nice empty corner somewhere :-) 

In response to backpacking with GERRY pack:
My wife and I used ours avidly and overall found it as good as the
expensive Kelty pack we borrowed from a friend.  MY wife is hadny with
a drill and she just bought a hip belt from the local camping store and
drilled holes into the Gerry - very comfortable.  The shoulder straps
were a little unpadded but that is easily fixed.  The Kelty($119) pack
was heavy on top of everything else.  We did 5 - 6 mile trips in the
steep mountains of North CArolina where we live without any probelms
from the Gerry - also a $5 garage find.  good luck  - try them both
out might be best solution for you.
ps We cut up an older north face bag for our girls sleeping bag and
then resewed it and used polarfleece to add some warmth.

I got all sorts of wonderful information in response to my posting a 
couple of weeks ago, asking (1) whether I really needed a Tough
Traveler backpack instead of a Gerry, (2) what to use for a sleeping
bag, and (3) what to do about dirt.
Very brief summary: (1) Almost everyone says that the Tough Traveler is 
so much better than a Gerry that you shouldn't even bother with the 
latter, although a couple of families had success with adding a hipbelt 
from a real backpack to the Gerry pack. (2) For a sleeping bag, you 
can substitute a couple of blanket sleepers, use an adult's parka, or 
buy polarfleece from the Rain Shed and make stuff. (3) As far as dirt 
goes, remember what Connie says: "A dirty child is a happy child. 
(Repeat this over and over...)"
Oh boy oh boy oh boy, my husband says the TT Kid Carrier just arrived 
from REI this morning, and I got my fabric swatches plus a beautiful 
3' x 5' piece of Polartech fleece in the mail yesterday from the Rain 
Shed. There are scads of great patterns in the Rain Shed's catalog 
(503-753-8900), for baby stuff, sports clothing, sleeping bags, 
luggage, etc.--and all of the specialized materials needed to make 
any of this. I just wish I had more time to do anything. The stretch
Polartech 200s looks like the ideal material for winter baby clothes.
(I'm not going to use a pattern, because I think it's more fun without

Just a note to let you know we are back from our camping trip.  We all
had a wonderful time.   I took her playpen.  It worked great.
I used a generic brand of Coppertone Water Babies for suntan lotion.
It also worked great.  The only one's who got burned were Daddy and
Mommy who did not use the lotion.  :-(
We did not use any mosquito repellent, even thou our doctor told us any
kind would be okay as long as it was not prolonged use.  If it had
gotten really bad we would have used some Off lotion.  We could not
find any store that carried Skeedaddle.
We brought lots of toys for the car, and stopped every hour or two and
let Isabel crawl around.  She had a particularly fun time chasing and
squashing ants.
She got cold in her own bed, so we let her sleep with us.  She got a
good night's sleep, although we did not.  I am going to make her a
down comforter for next time.

[She has a son: Cameron is 18 mos and *VERY* active, you name it he'll
try it.  She was putting together a list of what to take camping.  Here
is her results:]

Generally already known:
>life vest
>sun screen
>syrup of ipecac (sp)
>first aid kit
>ice packs
>what for bugs..???
Some things that people added were:

-benadryl ointment as anti-itch for bug-bites
-tylenol or equivalent
-A&D ointment or Desitin
-paper towels
-extra diapers
-extra clothes
-Dr. Spock or whatever your favorite children's health book is
-10% citronella, or Skedaddle brand DEET, not the usual bug repellent

-very warm pajamas
-hooded jacket
-city water
-rice cakes
-drink boxes
-life vest
-long sleeved t's for sunblocker
-back pack carrier
-harness and tether
Some others that came to my mind - 
-small pool
-water hose
-thongs for showers
-tarp - to keep child off dirt or to put pool on if no grass..

We recently spent 3 days and nights camping in Yosemite (Tuolomne
Meadows, to be precise).  We went with my brother-in-law, Brian, who
is a very experienced camper and rock climber who acted as our guide
as well as supplier of tents, sleeping bags, etc.  Our first night
out was awful, as we couldn't set up a tent for fear of being caught
camping illegally (off the road).  So, I spent the entire night
warding off mosquitoes, wood ants and comforting Dylan, who woke up
every half hour to hour crying "I want to go home!"  The next two
nights were much better, since we had a nice campsite right next to
Lake Tioga, and the tent protected us from the bugs.  We were only
in camp to eat dinner, sleep and have breakfast.  Otherwise, we had
our daypacks and spent the days hiking.
We had brought our backpack carrier, the Tough Traveler (TT) for
those inevitable times when Dylan wouldn't feel like walking any
further.  Little did we know how often those times would occur!
And, we had several stalemates when Dylan neither wanted to walk nor
to be put in the TT.  Instead, he whined to be carried chest-to-chest,
which was too much of a strain on our backs and shoulders as well as
too dangerous for the trails we hiked.  Since we don't ever give in
to whining, we spent quite a bit of time sitting or standing around
waiting for Dylan to pull himself together and choose one of the two
acceptable options.  Oh, and as Gary has a bad back, I was the
designated Dylan-mule. 
Aside from the battles over method of conveyance, however, we had a
wonderful time exploring nature.  Dylan got into the spirit of
picking wildflowers and having his uncle identify them.  And, he
loved the treks to rivers and streams, where he got to indulge his
love of throwing rocks and splashing.  Dylan really liked going
three days without a bath, though the same could not be said for his
mother :-0.  I even swam in chilly Lake Tenaya just for the
chance to get the top layer of dirt and sweat off!
All in all, I'm glad we went.  However, I learned that camping with
*my* kid would have been easier when he was an infant, and thus light
enough to carry all day long without strain.  Also, as an infant, 
Dylan didn't have as many strongly held opinions about what to do
with his time and energy as he has now :-0.  Gary and I have
decided that we will wait at least a couple of years before trying 
camping with Dylan again--with any luck, he'll be able to hike 
competently on his own by then.

We are going camping in the Gils Wilderness this weekend with our 8mo
old.  The car will be next to our camp site.  We have a good sized
tent (6X8).  A Queen sized air mattress which we will all sleep on.
(with her in the middle).

Do we need to bring her playpen?
What kind of insect repellent is safe for an infant?
What type of suntan lotion?
What type of first aid kit should we bring?  
Any suggestions as to how to keep a 8mo happy for a 6 hour drive?

we've done quite a bit of car camping with alex, starting when she was
about 5 months old.  i think having the playpen/portable crib thing is
great for that age.  we set it up outside and she loved it (only time
she didn't bum out about being confined), checking out all the animals
and trees while we set up camp.  we also brought an umbrella stroller
for walks and for sitting in around the campfire with us.
>What kind of insect repellent is safe for an infant?

we used avon skin-so-soft but i am not totally sure about the safety of
any of these products.  you should probably ask your pediatrician.

>What type of suntan lotion?

we really like waterbabies spf 30. 

>Any suggestions as to how to keep a 8mo happy for a 6 hour drive?

this is probably an impossible task.  i'd say you'd have better luck
keeping her happy for 2 3-hour drives.  and at least one of those
should start right at nap time.  we always plan our trips around
nap times and it seems to help.  then maybe she'll sleep the first 3
hours, then you stop for lunch and playtime for an hour or so, then
you cross your fingers for the second three hours.

I can only add what I have experienced, having camped with a very
agreeable baby (Megan) from the time she was 4 months old......
>Do we need to bring her playpen?
Yes, unless you don't mind her crawling in the dirt
>What kind of insect repellent is safe for an infant?
Dunno, didn't use it
>What type of suntan lotion?
We used Coppertone for Kids
>What type of first aid kit should we bring?  
Whatever you think you'd need around the house (Tylenol, bandaids,
vitamins...) plus perhaps some insect-bite repelant
>Any suggestions as to how to keep a 8mo happy for a 6 hour drive?
Frequent stops :-) No. I'm serious - Frequent stops!!! We also used
to let the kids eat plain cheerios on long rides. Also, keep plenty
of drinks readily available.

We took our 9 month old car camping without a playpen and it was fine. 
She never spent much time in a playpen at home, and when you're camping
there's not much to do except hang out with each other, so we couldn't
really see the purpose of a playpen.  We held her or carried her most
of the time, either in a sling when we were hanging around camp, or in
the backpack when we were walking or hiking.  Sometimes we put her down
for a supervised crawl around in the dirt and grass, which she enjoyed,
or we hung out together on a pad or sleeping bag, either inside or out
of the tent.  We did bring a seat that hooks on the edge of the table
and that was handy for feeding and for those occasional times when we
really wanted her stuck in one place while we were both busy.  

>What kind of insect repellent is safe for an infant? What type of
>suntan lotion? What type of first aid kit should we bring? 

Dunno about the first two.  But don't forget the baby Benadryl in your
first aid kit.  You never know when you're going to discover a new
allergy or see a bad reaction to a bug bite or plants.  
>Any suggestions as to how to keep a 8mo happy for a 6 hour drive?

Then and now, I pack a bag of special car toys and fill it with both a
few favorite things and things that are new or at least haven't been
seen in a couple of months.  A consistent hit are small plastic
containers with lids and interesting things inside of them (corn puffs,
little toy people) that can be taken out and put into other containers. 
I dole the toys out at intervals, usually interspersed with songs
and stories.  I break up this routine with interesting snacks and
drinks and get-out-and-run/crawl-around breaks.

|> Do we need to bring her playpen?

We took ours camping for Brendan to sleep in but then we have a cabin
tent with lots of room.  I think it would be a good idea if you don't
want her crawling around in the dirt a lot.  And also if you want to 
leave her in the tent alone for naptime and don't want to worry about
her rolling off the mattress or crawling away. :)

|> What kind of insect repellent is safe for an infant?

Ah, that's another thread.  :)  The net.wisdom is that DEET is the only
effective thing but too toxic for small kids.  Citronella based
products are OK and worked for us.  Other suggestions are Avon's
Skin-So-Soft and Skedaddle (sp?). Bottom line is ask your pediatrician.

|> What type of suntan lotion?

We use Water Babies spf30 but just picked up Johnson's & Johnson's No
More Tears spf15 (it says it won't sting their eyes if they happen to
have some on their hands and rub their face).

|> What type of first aid kit should we bring?  

Whatever you have at home - Children's Tylenol, syrup of ipecac, etc.
There are also new products for children called No More Ouchies, No
More Itchies, and No More Germies that you might consider.  I think
these are Johnson & Johnson also.  The No More Germies come either as
a germicidal liquid soap or as handy-wipes (good for traveling).

|> Any suggestions as to how to keep a 8mo happy for a 6 hour drive?

You may want to consider driving at night when she's normally asleep if
she sleeps in her carseat.  We have a 10 hour drive to our favorite
summer camping spot and have done this.  Last year, we left at
Brendan's bedtime (8 pm) and he slept the whole way.  The only time he
woke up was when we stopped for gas and the bright lights bothered him.
We took turns driving so we each got some sleep (that's Daddy and me,
not Brendan and me :-) ) then we took a nap the next day when Brendan
did.  We were tired but preferred that to frazzled after trying to deal
with an awake infant that long in the car.  It worked for us.
:My son will be ten this summer and wants to see Yellowstone.  I'd like
:to take him there but I don't care to drive the whole way myself from
:the Chicago area.  Does anyone know if it is possible to "do
:Yellowstone" without driving there?  I realize this may sound silly
:but the only times I've been there we camped, and this was back in the
:'60s and '70s and I detested it.
:I DID like the hikes and the hot springs and all the other wonders
:of nature (but a bed indoors, please) and I know Chris would too. I'm
:wondering if there isn't some kind of arrangement in Cheyenne where
:you fly and rent a car and stay in a lodge or some other plan they've
:devised for us sort-of-back-to-nature buffs?  :-)  I'll check with a
:travel agent but if someone's been there and done the Yellowstone
:curcuit without camping out, I'd appreciate reading your experiences
:(and advice!!!)

We did something similar to what you're suggesting last spring, even
though we drove to yellowstone from home (Denver).  We went before
memorial day in May, and I'd recommend this if you can make it work.
Yellowstone is full of HUGE parking lots that fill up with tour buses
during the summer, and they were all nearly empty when we were there.
No lines anywhere, and we saw LOTS of wildlife.  Christopher (3 yo at
the time) didn't stop talking about the herds of buffalo & elk we saw
on the road (I mean LITERALLY - we had to drive around them & wait for
them to move) for a couple of weeks afterward.

We stayed one night in West Yellowstone (little tourist trap of a town,
but the motel was nice) and one night in Jackson (another tourist town
where stuff seemed really expensive).  West Yellowstone is on the
northwest border of the park and is fairly convenient to Mammoth and
Old Faithful; Jackson is about an hour south of the southern entrance.
Also, Jackson is right next to Teton Nat'l Park, which is worth a visit
in itself.

Something that struck us while we were there is the sheer size of the
park.  We spent 2 days in the park, and felt like we had just scratched
the surface.  Make sure you schedule plenty of time there, especially
if you go in the summer (we heard lots of horror stories about traffic

I'd suggest flying into Jackson & renting a car there, and spending one
night at the Old Faithful or Mammoth lodge (if you can afford them &
reserve ahead of time) or in West Yellowstone, and then driving back to
Jackson & spending the rest of your trip there.

First, many thanks to all who responded to my request for tips as I
took my 5-year-old daughter Anna on her first camping trip last week.
Much of the advice, as I had hoped, fell into the category of just
getting psychologically ready, as in: remember this trip will happen
for her, not for me, and I must remain totally sensitive to her needs,
wishes, feelings, etc. That I did, to a degree that surprised me. I
have usually hiked and camped solo, and have never had to watch out for
others or sublimate my desires to another's on a trip like this (my
wife hates hiking, doesn't like camping much either).
Anyway, all seems to have gone quite well. We had a long drive, which
she slept through for the most part, thanks to the Dramamine (she tends
to throw up on mountain roads). We didn't do much but put up the tent
and make dinner the first night, as rain drizzled down and darkness
fell. It rained off and on through the night, but Anna slept just fine
and loved the concept and the reality of the sleeping bag. The next day
dawned bright and after breakfast I gave Anna her choice of canoeing,
hiking, or just hanging out in camp. She chose canoeing, so we drove to
the lake, put in the canoe and paddled around until she announced she
no longer wanted to canoe (about 45 minutes). We returned to shore, and
while I put the canoe back on the truck she found some cased caddis
larvae at the water's edge, giving me a chance to tell her about the
life cycle of aquatic insects.
Next she wanted to go hiking, so we found an abandoned forest road,
nearly level and walked about a quarter mile. She took many pictures
with the disposable camera we had bought her (great idea!), but began 
to lose interest when we hadn't seen a deer after about 30 minutes. We
walked back to the car, and I grew astonished at the things she chose
to photograph: trees and clouds, flowers, chipmunk holes.
Back at the car, she looked up the steep, trackless slope next to where
we had parked and announced she wanted to go up there. I tried to talk
her out of it, but next thing I knew we were scrambling hand-in-hand
through the rocks and trees to a rocky outcropping maybe 125 feet above
us. She grunted and whimpered a little, but she remembered she had
suggested it -- insisted on it -- and she never complained or changed
her mind. We sat on the outcropping until she decided to get down.
By now lunch time had arrived, so we went back to camp and ate, and the
rain came and came hard right after lunch, so we retired to the tent
and spent the afternoon playing Candyland (for the record she beat me
four times, and she denied she had cheated), reading and playing with
Barbies. She didn't feel a nap coming on until just before the skies
cleared, so I watched the best part of the day slip off while listening
to her gentle snoring. Dinner, more Candyland, wonderful conversation
(she finally asked where babies come from, what a great place to have
the first facts of life conversation!) and a good night's sleep
In the morning I told her we would have time to do one activity before
starting the long drive home and she chose to "climb the mountain"
again. We ascended with even more enthusiasm than the previous day,
wandered around for a while looking at things through a magnifying
glass, and collected the first few drops of rain that fell because she
wanted to know how it would taste (she didn't like it).

Then came her only tears of the weekend as she forced down the
dramamine (next time I'll get the liquid kind if I can find it), and
she slept most of the way back.

She expressed just one regret to me: we never did see a deer, though
she delighted in chipmunks, squirrels and woodpeckers. She seemed to
have a wonderful time and said she wants to go again, but one thing
worries me. Since we got back, she has hardly spoken two words about
the trip to anyone else. I had thought she would come back gushing to
Mom and brother Chas and Aunt Jessica about what she had done, but she
has said hardly a word and only when prompted. Maybe when we get her
pictures back on Thursday she'll open up about it.
Anyway, I think we succeeded in making it a positive experience for
her, and I think I can talk her into going again with no trouble. I
again want to thank all who sent me net-tips, and I apologize that I
didn't have time to thank each of you individually. Everyone helped a


I finally asked for a trip from from Bruce (who'd sent it but it never
got here).  So here are all the messages I received re. Vacationing in
and around Grand Canyon and Durango with 7 year old.

Here is the original message:
>We recently decided to try to go to Grand Canyon late August.  Our
>current thoughts are to visit the North Rim for 3 days, (in an attempt
>to avoid crowds at the South Rim), then drive to Durango via Page and
>Kayenta Arizona, Bluff, Utah and Cortez and Durango, Colorado, staying
>a few days in perhaps each spot (except Cortez).  We plan on a
>smoothwater trip on the Colorado River at Page, and will visit Mesa
>Verde while staying in Durango.
>We did some hiking last fall, 1500' change in elevation, 6 mile round
>trips, and would like to do some there.  Our son is 4'3" tall which
>means he's too short for any mule rides in GC?  (I believe I read
>this in some guide.)
>Has anyone been to any of these places?  We've never even been in any
>of these states.  What are the must-see and must avoid spots?  Is the
>driving hazardous (hairpin turns in the mountains)?  Do storms
>suddenly start?  Are there dredded insects/snakes this time of year?
>I don't even know exactly what questions I should be asking...

I grew up in New Mexico - and all of the states you are planning on
visiting are GORGEOUS!  One must stop place is 4 corners - I think you
will drive right by there on your way to Mesa Verde.  Basically it is
just a cement slab with a cross painted on.  Your 7 year old will LOVE
having his picture taken while he has 1 appendage in each of the 4

The north rim is certainly less crowded than the south - but it is
really hard to get reservations at the campground & hotels around there
- you should try to get reservations now.  You can't see the river from
the north rim - and it isn't as pretty as the south rim - but it is
still amazingly beautiful.

Riding the narrow gauge train from durango to silverton is also a lot
of fun - but I think it is pretty expensive.  If you do the train I
think you need to get your reservations in now also.  It is the big
tourist attraction in durango.  My sister currently lives in durango -
earning a living off of the tourist $$ - so leave a big tip for your
waitress if her name is Diana :-)
>Is the driving hazardous (hairpin turns in the mountains)?

Since I grew up driving in the mountains I don't think they are bad -
so I don't think I'm the person to answer this.

>Do storms suddenly start?

In august expect it to rain in the afternoons - if it rains at all.

>Are there dredded insects/snakes this time of year?

It is nice a dry - so no mosquitos!  If I were you I wouldn't worry
about snakes.

>We recently decided to try to go to Grand Canyon late August.
I suggest a rescheduling! Grand Canyon in *August*? We visited it in
early June and already it was far too hot down there. Of course if you
stay on top it probably won't matter, but if you are thinking of going
down, beware!  Bring lots of water and hats, etc.
>thoughts are to visit the North Rim for 3 days, (in an attempt to
>avoid crowds at the South Rim), then drive to Durango via Page and
>Kayenta Arizona, Bluff, Utah and Cortez and Durango, Colorado,
>staying a few days in perhaps each spot (except Cortez).  We plan on
>a smoothwater trip on the Colorado River at Page, and will visit
>Mesa Verde while staying in Durango.
I have not been in these other places (I highly recommend the Grand
Canyon but not in the summer...). I did visit Brice Canyon and Zion
Canyon (can't remember if it was Utah or Arizona though...) and I
recommend both as well (about a day travel from Grand Canyon).
>Has anyone been to any of these places?  We've never even been in any
>of these states.  What are the must-see and must avoid spots?  Is the
>driving hazardous (hairpin turns in the mountains)?  Do storms
>suddenly start?  Are there dredded insects/snakes this time of year?
>I don't even know exactly what questions I should be asking...
A tourbook is probably a better asset than me, but I don't think you
need to worry too much. There may be sudden storms at the bottom of the
Grand Canyon, but I would not worry too much about them.
I spent two weeks last summer in New Mexico and Southern Colorado.  We
spent 2 days in Durango and 3 in Mesa Verde. First, while in Durango do
take the Durango to Silverton steam train. It's great fun and Silverton
has been kept up as a real western town with cowboys riding in and out
etc. A 7 year-old should love both the town and the steam train ride
up. Buy tickets in advance and I suggest the train ride up and bus back.
Mesa Verde deserves a few days. There are several short hikes through
Anasazi ruins. There's a little climbing involved in a few places but
nothing a 7 year-old couldn't handle. Some of it is ladders. Usually
they handle the change in elevation better than the adults. None of us
had any trouble at all. It might be better to stay closer to the Park
than Durango. 
It is mountain dessert so it was dry and hot. Storms come in quick and
generally are short in duration. Often you get to watch one in the
distance while being in the sun yourself. I thought it was exciting to
see lighting touch down. We had rain ponchos with hoods that fold up
real small and always carried them in a pack. We also carried water
How much information do you want? I used to work as an archaeologist in
the area for about 8 years :-)  The North Rim is fine, BUT I feel it is
more spectacular from the South Rim (and traditional) and the crowds
aren't that bad (not anywhere near what you'll find at Mesa Verde).
Three days for the Grand Canyon are a little long when there is other
stuff to see.  Other National Monuments in the area are Sunset Crater,
a real, live recent volcano that is climable by a 7 year old.  Volcanos
are always a hit in that age bracket, and what my kids describe as a
bunch of real boring archaeological site/National Monuments. Of course,
the four corners monument for the obligatory picture to take back to
school showing the child in 4 states at once.  Monument Valley in Utah
is close, and VERY, VERY neat for kids and adults.  In Durango take
the narrow gauge train between Silverton and Durango - takes a whole
day but very much worth it.  In New Mexico about an hour South of
Durango try Aztec Ruin NM and Salmon Ruins County Park (where I worked
for those 8 years).  Spectacular and almost as good as a visit to Chaco
Canyon - you should be able to catch a jeep tour to Chaco from the
Aztec-Farmington area and that is the most incredible experience for
adult and child that I can think of and it is far, far, far less
crowded than Mesa Verde.  Also jeep tours to the Bisti Badlands -
dinosaur bones eroding out of the badlands, along with petrified trees.
Also in Arizona, Painted Desert NM and Petrified Forest NM.  My kids
rate the attractions in this order:
   Grand Canyon - either rim
   Silverton to Durango Train
   Sunset Crater
   Chaco Canyon
   Monument Valley
   Four Corners
   Petrified Forest/Bisti Badlands
   Mesa Verde
   other boring archaeological sites and museums
   We have never done the rafting.

Sounds like a wonderful vacation - I'm planning my own, I may want to
look up your route, I've wanted to get back to GC ever since I worked
there in the summer of '78.
The North Rim IS less crowded, no question.  Just offhand, however, if
my memory serves me correctly there would be less of an opportunity for
a 7YO-compatible day hike from there.  On the South Rim, there's short
hikes possible along the Rim, at Hermit's Rest, and of course, from GC
village down to Indian Gardens.  (IE, from the rim down to the plateau
but not all the way down to the river.)  Obviously, the trails are big
and well traveled, but they're enough to make even an in-shape college
student (me at the time) a little winded.  Bear in mind also the
'inverted' nature of a Canyon hike: down FIRST (which makes odd muscles
ache), the hard climb back up LAST.  When you're halfway down the
canyon that rim looks a long, long way up, and if you or your child
gets tired, you've got a problem.  It's better than 5000 vertical feet
to the river; not a hike for a youngster. 

Another pitfall of hiking in the sunny SouthWest: heavy-duty sunburn.
I saw a LOT of tourist blithely hiking in tank-tops, shorts, sandals.
Bad idea: you need light, cool clothes BUT they should be long pants
and long-sleeved shirts - you'll feel cooler, believe it or not.  And
real walking shoes, like tenny runners or similar, NOT sandals.  I
usually hiked in blue jeans and a blue chambray work shirt, which I
frequently doused with water.  If this sounds like craziness, recall
that this is how desert people dress too - covering up.  We're talking
about second-degree sunburn possible, so hats/sunglasses too.  (I'm
more assiduous about the hat now that I'm going bald!)  Those same
tourists I mentioned often ended up in the GC infirmary. . . use that

The cave dwellings at Mesa Verde and elsewhere - your kid will love
'em, I saw them when I was young and thought they were cool beyond
words.  Lots of scrambling to get down to see them, which 7-year-olds
seem to love anyway.

As for things to see in the vicinity:  The meteor crater near Winslow,
Arizona is great--my kids saw it a few months ago and the older two
really enjoyed it.  Oh, and I've also heard that there is a real steam
train that runs to and from the GC from...where was it?...not Flagstaff
but I believe the next city west.
It so happens that my family and I are traveling most of that route on
our way to Las Vegas June 6.  I will keep my eyes open for things of
interest and write to you when we get back.  Now last year, I finally
got to see Mesa Verde park and it was wonderful and very intriging. I
definitely suggest you don't miss this experience.  We use AAA to get
us routes for the trip and they have been very usefull and informative.

>We recently decided to try to go to Grand Canyon in late August.  Our
>current thoughts are to visit the North Rim for 3 days, (in an attempt
>to avoid crowds at the South Rim), then drive to Durango via
It's definitely worth staying away from the crowds, but as I recall,
the two sides are really quite surprisingly different.  If it's on the
way, it might be worth a 1 day stop on the South Rim.
>a smoothwater trip on the Colorado River at Page, and will visit
>Mesa Verde while staying in Durango.
Mesa Verde is very interesting but might be a little dull for a 7 year
old.  Still, one day can't hurt.  Mom and Dad have to have their fun
too :-).
>What are the must-see and must avoid spots in this area?
It's been 7 yrs since I went out there with my family, so the memory is
a little rusty on the geography.  Without a map here, I can't be sure
how convenient it will be to the locations you mention, but either way,
Bryce Canyon is worth going pretty far out of your way.
We went on a three week trip (driving from MD) including Rocky Mt Natl.
Park, Grand, Bryce and Zion Canyons, Mesa Verde, Dinosaur Natl Monument
and the Petrified Forest to name a few.  Of all those, I would rate
Bryce as the single most "must see" followed closely by Grand Canyon
(I know my father would agree and the rest of the family probably
wouldn't argue too much).
Grand is awe inspiring by virtue of its size and can be very pretty
too, but Bryce is orders of magnitude more beatiful.  And totally
unique.  You can hardly go wrong in this area.  I can't recall anywhere
we went that I wouldn't go back to again.  You're going to have a great
>hazardous (hairpin turns in the mountains)?  Do storms suddenly start?
>Are there dredded insects/snakes this time of year?  Anything to be
>warned of?
I can't say much for the driving.  I had just turned 16, so Mom and Dad
did most of the driving, but as I recall, the roads in the Rocky's were
steep and twisting, but nothing that struck you as dangerous.  Don't
count on averaging 55 mph, but it's not like the Alpine roads you see
in BMW commercials.
It's going to be hot, but that's hard to avoid in that area.  Still, it
bears repeating.  It's going to be hot.  Really, really hot.  Good luck.
First, although I have not hiked in the Grand Canyon, I know a little
about the trails. If you hike in on the North Kaibab Trail from North
Rim, your son is probably okay. But all those trails are steep and
narrow, and you should be very careful. And there is no water, of
course. Late August could be quite hot and even humid, even at the
north rim elevation. Down in the canyon it will be even worse. Get
all the info you can from rangers and the Park Service in advance.

From North Rim to Durango is godforsaken, desolate, barren, dry, rocky
and absolutely beautiful country. Most of it crosses the Navajo
Reservation, then Southern Ute in Colorado. The people are scarce and
very poor. They are concentrated in Kayenta, which as you probably know
is the closest civilization to Monument Valley. I don't know Bluff,
Utah. I have driven across the Northern Arizona side to Four Corners.
I suspect the drive is about the same in terms of conditions. There's
not much to Cortez, Colorado.  Durango is beautiful, but pricey.
Most of the roads are pretty good. There are some mountain turns on the
road to the North Rim and in Southwest Colorado, but nothing too hairy.
The roads on the reservation appear to have simply been smeared down
across the terrain with little preparation of the roadbed, but they're
passable.  The hard thing is watc hing the road when you want to watch
all the rocks around you. There are always insects and snakes in the
desert, less so in the high country. Mostly they operate around dusk
and on to about midnight, but you never know. Storms usually develop
for a while and you can see them coming. They can be quite violent,
but not totally surprising.

What you need to be careful of in regard to storms is if you're hiking
in canyons or washes. Storms far away can send huge walls of water down
dry washes and canyons, so always beware. If you hear thunder, stay out
of gullies and narrow canyons.

Mesa Verde is the most overcrowded National Park in the West.  Friends
who are rangers dread being assigned there because of the crowds.  On
the other hand it is spectacular.  Aztec and Salmon are both not as
nice or spectacular but are rather unlikely to be crowded.  They are
part of a much neater regional phenomena, the Chacoan empire, but
without a trip to Chaco Canyon, they are probably not as worth it.
Entering Chaco Canyon is the single most breathtaking and awe-
nspriring moment in my life (other than the giving birth of course :-))
and I have been all over the ruins in Mexico and Central America.  I
asked my kids after I wrote to you before about Chaco and Mesa Verde
and they though MV was better because a) the trip into the ruins was
shorter, b) closer proximity to junk food and c) other kids knew what
they were talking about when they said they had been to Mesa Verde,
which didn't happen with Chaco.  If there is a music festival in
Telluride while you are in the area, you might want to check it out.  I 
would definitely try to drive through Holbrook, Arizona during the day
on either your way into or out of the Grand Canyon.  There are several
rock shops that sell pieces of dinosaur bone, fossil sharks teeth and
maybe even an occasional dinorsaur tooth, as well as geodes.  All of
which are very nice status symbols among the elementary school set.
I'm not sure what the dinosaur bone and teeth really are, but they are
fossils and they do look the part.  Sharks teeth are always a hit.
>Thanks for the info again.  You're right, my son would LOVE a
>dinosaur bone and another fossil (we went to a workshop at a NY State
>museum and he got a (copy) of the NYS fossil whose name escapes me at
>the moment -- tiny scallop shell).  I'm hoping my son won't rate our
>vacation spots by the nifty video games available...
>We plan to take a smoothwater 20 person raft ride from Wahweap AZ into
>some canyon.  (I know, I gotta get my canyons straight...)  Would that
>be similar to entering Chaco Canyon by jeep (except for the water)?

Probably not.  Part of Chaco is setting, part is the amazing size and
grace of the ruins, part is the incredible sense of spirituality.  To
get to Chaco you ride along a pretty boring plateau for a LONG time,
then, suddenly, the road drops into a canyon.  The light is always
golden in Chaco.  The canyon is large - the wash that runs through it
is dry most of the year.  The ruins have a tremendous sense of
ancientness and grace.  It is very hard to explain, but very special
nevertheless.  Wahweap is nice and should be worth the trip, bit I
would be hard pressed to find an equivalent to the Chaco experience in
North or Central America, and friends who have been to Machu Pichu in
Peru  say they are hard pressed to decide which is better.  Have fun
on your trip.  If you can, you might want to check out a book of
Georgia O'Keefe paintings before you go to get a sense of the New
Mexico sky and New Mexico colors.

Well I am back from my vacation and we stopped in three places in the
southwest.  The first stop was the National Arches, it was a nice park,
and my kids seemed to enjoy it.  
The next stop was the National Bridges, my kids seemed to enjoy that 
more than the Arches (I don't know why). 
After that we went to the Monument Valley they rated it between the 
other two (I thought it was just as good as the other two).  A lot of
the western movies were filmed in Monument Valley.
Outside of Monument Valley we traveled into a town called Mexican Hat.  
Just outside of town was the most terrifying road I have ever driven.  
It was a 10% grade, single lane, dirt road nad ther were gravel trucks 
coming up the hill at us and they won't stop for anything. Not what I 
call fun with nine members of my family in the vehicle. 
The last stop was the Grand Canyon. My children enjoyed it the most.  
There is a lot for young children to enjoy at the visiters center. 
I have visited the following places in the Southwest during my lifetime
and this is how I rate them in order of enjoyment level:
   Mesa Verde             - I thoroughly enjoyed this
   Bryce Canyon           - a tour guide took us when I was about 10 
                            I found it very interesting.
   Grand Canyon           - either rim is good
   Painted Desert         - beautiful to look at
   Monument Valley        - Very pretty landsacpe
   Petrified Forest       - its was interesting
   Other archaeological 
   sites and museums      - enjoyable, sometimes interesting
   Silverton to           - its ok 
   Durango Train
   Four Corners           - boring
   PS.   My children's ages are 7 1/2 and two 3 1/2 yr olds.

End of   "Outdoor Activities for Young Children" FAQ   Part 2 (of 4)

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