View Full Version : Hiking w/ my 11 y.o.

03-30-2007, 23:21
Whoo-hoo! Taking advantage of spring break next week. I'm taking my 11 y.o. to do a 4-day on the AT next week. We're planning to go from Three Forks to Neel's Gap from Wednesday to Saturday. We spent some time noodling w/ gear tonight - looks like I'll be under 30 lbs, and he'll be around 14 lbs...of course, we're both hanging in our hammocks! Originally, had planned to do the GA section by myself, but he said he'd like to come along, so I was thrilled to change my plans!

03-31-2007, 02:20
So cool!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll look for you!

03-31-2007, 02:26
So cool!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll look for you!

great! I know you're on the trail, bfitz, but thought you were further north?

03-31-2007, 08:08
Good for you. It's great for kids to see there are other means of enjoyment in life beyond electronic devices.

I, too, will be on the trail but in NJ. My 14 yr old daughter and I will finish up at DWG. We leave tomorrow.

By the way we'll BOTH be wearing our new Whiteblaze.com shirts.

Have fun!

04-07-2007, 17:52
Hi, all. I thought you might enjoy a trip report.

We contacted Fred Woodward about shuttling us from Neel's Gap to Three Forks. He met us at the Neel's Gap parking lot at 9:30 Wednesday morning (he was there when we pulled in at 9:25). Fred decided to take us to Three Forks coming south on USFS 58. He didn't know that the road was closed about 2 miles north of the trail head. When we got there and found the road closed, he offered to take us around, and come in on USFS 42 - we decided we were there to hike, and that a couple more miles wasn't a big deal.


We hiked almost to the trailhead when I noticed that my pants' belt was loose, and that my fancy Kershaw knife (which I don't normally take hiking), which also has sentimental value, was gone. I left Scott in the middle of the road, and ran back the ~2 miles, to find the knife on the side of the road about 100 yards from where Fred dropped us off. I then trudged back up to Scott (I am not in cross-country running shape!), berating myself for leaving him alone in the road....rough start to our trip.

We finally got to the trailhead - at noon! I quickly decided that we'd never reach Gooch Mtn Shelter, the original plan. We took a lunch break at Three Forks and decided we'd overnight at Hawk Mtn Shelter. (notice Phoebe sporting her new Granite Gear pack - and notice that she is on lead - I'm holding the flexi-lead). We finally hit the trail at about 12:30 or 1:00 (not certain, as I had left my watch at home.)


We took the Blue Blaze trail to Long Creek Falls:


and ended up w/ an easy hike into Hawk Mtn Shelter, where we put up our hammocks and had dinner. There were quite a number of thru-hikers - we didn't get all their names. We did get to know Mike, from Texas (no trail name yet, although one female thru-hiker proposed "blue eyes" - he wasn't sure our other guy hikers would take that, tho!), as we hiked on and off w/ him over the next 2 days:


Evidently Baltimore Jack (and presumably bfitz) had camped there the night before. Texas Jack, in the pic above, had a knife someone had found where Jack had tented the night before - he said he'd keep it and get it back to Jack at traildays.

We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to make our planned hike to Neel's Gap, given our late start on Wednesday. We decided to try to hike into Gooch Gap, a pretty long hike for an 11 year old! Scott had a great time on the trail. As we approached Horse Gap, I described our challenge of the day - hiking up and over Sassafras Mtn. I pointed the mtn out to him as it came into view. He quickly laughed and said it looked more like "butt cheek" mtn to him!


We had lunch in Horse Gap, where USFS 42 passes. I was a little concerned, because we were running a little close on the amount of water we needed to get over Sassafras Mtn, Justis Mtn, and Phyllis Spur before we got to the next water source at Justis Creek. As we finished lunch Fred Dawson drove by, evidently shuttling some hikers. He stopped and asked if we had enough water (he didn't recognize us at first) to get to Justis Creek. Our first trail magic! He gave us three bottles of water, which gave us plenty to get to the next water source. (We would have been OK, as we had over a litre left when we got there - but it was a relief not to have to worry about it).

We hiked past Gooch Mtn shelter, arriving at Gooch Gap at about 6:00. We were the only ones camping there. We gathered wood for a fire, had dinner (burritos - dehydrated ground beef, refried beans and some rice from a Zatarin's mix were great!), and settled in for the night. We were surprisingly much more secluded than we'd been at Hawk Mtn Shelter, so didn't have the gusty wind during the night. We hung our hammocks off to the side of the large camping area at the Gap, partially secluded by a stand of trees and rhododendrum:


(pic taken the next morning as we broke camp - we'd already pulled up the stakes from the hammock tarps). As I looked at the rest of the trail to Neel's Gap, I was pretty concerned about being able to do this before Saturday at noon (we had to get back home Saturday afternoon for a prior committment). We needed to get to Woods Hole Shelter to have a chance of doing so. We thought this would be a tough hike, but decided to give it a try. We left camp at about 10:00 (had planned to get an earlier start, but forgetting a watch and the comfort of the hammock insured that I didn't wake up 'til after 8!)

We hiked to Woody Gap - arriving there at about 11:30. We had lunch at Woody Gap, and evaluated what we need to accomplish the rest of the day - another 7 miles to Woods Hole Shelter, or even another 5 to Jarred Gap would give us a chance of finishing at Neel's Gap when we needed to on Saturday. We started up the trail. When Scott and I hike, I constantly talk to him about how he's feeling, whether his feet are bothering him, etc. It's important to me that he continues to have a good experience hiking so that he'll continue to want to hike with me. I noticed, as we started toward Lunsford Gap, that he got really quiet, and wasn't looking at me like he normally does. I got his attention, and noticed tears. I stopped him immediately, and we sat down on the side of the trail to talk.

When I asked him what was wrong, he said, "Dad, I'm OK now, but I'm a little tired, and I don't think I can do the rest of this today, but I really want to keep going." I suggested that we go back to Woody Gap to call Fred to see if he or his wife were available to give us a shuttle or try to hitch a ride on to Neel's Gap, as this was evidently our last chance to get off the trail before we were committed to going over Blood Mtn into Neel's Gap. He said he'd like to hike up to the top of Big Cedar Mtn to see how he felt.

We got to the top of Big Cedar Mtn - neat hike up the mtn, with a nice payoff view!


We looked at the map again, and concluded that we'd bitten off a little more than we could chew. Fortunately, my cell phone battery still had a little charge, and we had a good signal on top of the mtn (verizon wireless). We left Fred a message asking if he was available to do a shuttle either that afternoon or Saturday morning. Fred called back within 5 minutes, telling us he'd pick us up at Woody Gap within the hour. Hiking back down the mtn, Scott continued to enjoy the hike, but observed that he thought we'd made a good decision.....

My key learnings from our trip:
1) I shouldn't plan more than 8 or 9 mile days when hiking with Scott (I know, "duh!", but it sounded like a good idea at the time!)
2) Scott's pack weight was perfect for him - he was at 15 lbs or so, and never complained about the pack. He handled the mountain climbs better than I - I was stopping for "breath" breaks much more frequently than he needed to stop.
3) Since converting to lightweight 4 or 5 yrs ago, I haven't carried a pack weight of over 30 lbs. Even with my relatively lightweight gear, I was at almost 40 lbs, with 14 lbs of food (I carried all of our food). This was the heaviest load I've carried in my Granite Gear Vapor Trail, and it carried the weight very well.
4) My relatively new Merrell trail runners were not adequate for an almost 40 lb load. The bottom of my feet got beat up pretty well by Friday. I should've worn my boots!
5) My first attempt at dehydrating food was a mixed success: the ground beef fried in burrito sauce and can of refried beans dehydrated and re-hydrated very well. We concluded the chicken I had dehydrated to eat w/ Zatarin rice mixes was pretty good for chicken jerky, but a little tough and chewy for a rice meal.
6) Fred Woodward is providing a great service to hikers. He was very responsive, and quoted reasonable rates for our shuttles. He and Joyce evidently stayed very busy pulling hikers off the trail last week who were dehydrated and this week who weren't prepared for the cold weather. His contact info is:

Fred and Joyce Woodward
Blairsville, GA
(706) 745-5188
Amicalola Falls to Fontana Dam. Live close to Neels Gap.

Scott's already talking about taking a week or so this summer to finish the Georgia section! :D


TJ aka Teej
04-07-2007, 18:21
Scott's already talking about taking a week or so this summer to finish the Georgia section! :D


Great trip report - especially the last line! :sun

04-08-2007, 21:28
Wow, great report. Makes me even more anxious for my trip in June with my daughter who is 9... Memories like that will last a lifetime for all involved! I believe that it will help to make him a better Dad when he gets a bit older as well. Sure can't hurt...

04-09-2007, 14:13
Great trip report - especially the last line! :sun

thanks, Teej! I was happy that, on the way home, when I asked him if he was glad he'd come, he said, "oh, yeah, dad!" That's when we started talking about doing the rest of the trail. (tentative plan is to thru-hike together the year he finishes high school!) I have a hiking stave that I buy the hiking stave emblems for to commemorate memorable hikes. He told me a few weeks ago that he also wants one. When we stopped at Walasi Yi on the way back, he really wanted to go ahead and get the GA AT emblems. I told him we'd save that for when we finished the GA section...

Wow, great report. Makes me even more anxious for my trip in June with my daughter who is 9... Memories like that will last a lifetime for all involved! I believe that it will help to make him a better Dad when he gets a bit older as well. Sure can't hurt...

It's funny you'd say that, buckowens. On the trail, he observed that he had all kind of "evil" things to try out on his kids! We have a joke, that whenever anyone asks how far it is to our next trail destination, we'll always say, "oh, about a 1/4 mile..." We developed this tradition when hiking with younger boy scouts who always seem to ask this. We also figured that a good 3 mph pace is about a 20 minute mile - or about 5 minutes for 1/4 mile - now he'll answer, "oh, about 5 minutes, huh?" with a grin...

He also asks a lot of questions, especially the "why" and "how" questions. We have a tradition that, if I don't know, I'll make up some off the wall answer (admittedly, not original w/ me - see Calvin & Hobbes (http://www.calvinandhobbeshideout.com/meet%20the%20characters.htm)). He'll question and query me until he figures out whether I've made it up or not. He asked me something on the trail - I don't remember what - and I gave him an answer. He looked at me and said, "really, or did you make that up?" I laughed and said, "yeah, really...."

I think the best thing we can do for our kids is share ourselves with them, within the context of things we enjoy doing together. Sounds like your daughter is a lucky girl!

04-09-2007, 14:35
My 11 year-old and I are doing some of the Trail this summer. I'm planning on very low-mileage days for us both.

04-09-2007, 17:26

Good trip report. I am glad that Scott had a good time. I was out on the AT w/ my 9 & 14 yo girls Thursday & Friday. They had a good time too but elected to spend Friday night in bed at home.

Take Care.