View Full Version : I need some urgent advice!!!!!

07-05-2010, 22:33
OK. So for the past 6 weeks I've been planning me and my son's 1st multi-day AT backpacking trip. I gave it a lot of thought and settled on hiking SOBO from Maryland into Harpers Ferry, one because it is about as easy as the AT gets and two because it's logistically convenient, and three because both he and I are interested in American history and that area drips with it. I have made all the arrangements, have the backpacks packed, got the time off work, he's excited, I'm excited, basically all systems are go to leave tomorrow morning.

So after my 2nd run of the day here at the firehouse for patients playing softball and winding up with heat exhaustion, I turn on the CBS national news and the lead in story is on the "massive east coast heat wave" ramping up this week. I do a search on Harpers Ferry/Hagerstown, MD weather and it's supposed to be 102 degrees Wednesday and in the mid 90's all week with dewpoints in the mid 60's.

Hiking in that kind of heat is miserable for me. I'm an experienced backpacker who is well in tune with how my body works and deals with heat. I know how much I need to drink, eat, rest, etc. I don't know my son's abilities and neither does he. My biggest fear is him getting heat exhaustion and feeling he let me down by blowing up the trip. My long term big fear is that he will always have this super hot miserable trip burned into his 9 year old memory banks as being the definition of backpacking, have a bad experience, and never be interested in it again. Let's face it, in 102 degree heat, there's only so much one can do to keep from hating life for 4-5 days and nights out on the trail, on a section of trail with little to offer in terms of creeks and streams to cool off in. That kind of heat is downright dangerous.

Soooo, what am I to do? What does the responsible parent do in this situation? I'm torn. I never let weather dictate the future of my trips, but this is different because it's much more about my son and his enjoyment than mine. Give me some advice.

07-05-2010, 22:42
I don't think I would back out because I'm so stubborn but my opinion is that if your son does not enjoy his first backpacking trip it will be his last backpacking trip. 102 is just a little hot...


07-05-2010, 22:46
If you intend to go through with it, hike only early or late in the day. You ought to explain what can be expected and could give him the option of going through with it under the prevailing conditions or doing something else in its place.

Others may suggest additional ways of mitigating the effects of the heat.

07-05-2010, 22:49
How old is the son? And what is his past experience?

If he's 5, I wouldn't take him into a heat wave. !5 maybe. It depends on the kid and his interest.

Regardless of heat waves, a lengthy backpack should not be a kids first experience in the wildlands. Do a lot of day hikes and weekends first.


07-05-2010, 22:58
it looks like the heat will let up some by thursday. its only going to be in the high 80's after that. That is still hot but much more manageable than 102. maybe you could have more fun by touring harpers ferry by car on tuesday and wednesday then start hiking north on thursday when the heat breaks. you will still be together and that's what really counts.

Panzer :sun

07-05-2010, 23:04
I just finished a 2 week hike with my 13 year old daughter (85 lbs). It was her first hike! She was a real workhorse, totally unexpected! She packed 20 lbs on the AT along the mountains of the NC/TN border and when my knee started having a few problems, she offered to take on another 5 lbs. We hiked 10 -18 miles a day. All I can say is that kids are a lot more adaptive than we give them credit for.

1) Expect slow, short miles and let them decide where the limit is.
2) Teach them the do and don'ts of water usage (lots of it). Pack lots of water and pee clear!
3) Take lots of breaks and enjoy the views
4) Be prepared to lighten their load to your pack.
5) Do as many pre-hikes a possible to get their feet/shoes worked in. I is likely that this will be more of a problem to them than the heat.
6) Have back up plans in case you need to get off the trail early.
7) Most of, have fun.

07-05-2010, 23:15
it will at least be good driving weather, sunny and clear...


07-05-2010, 23:29
How old is the son? And what is his past experience?

If he's 5, I wouldn't take him into a heat wave. !5 maybe. It depends on the kid and his interest.

Regardless of heat waves, a lengthy backpack should not be a kids first experience in the wildlands. Do a lot of day hikes and weekends first.


He's nine, and it's his first multi-day trip, not his first time in the woods. Maybe the heat is making your brain go haywire?

Appalachian Tater
07-05-2010, 23:30
It was too hot for me to go to the beach today! No way would I go for a 4-5 day hike in that kind of weather. As far as your son goes, talk to him about it and see what he thinks. Since you have a car maybe you can drive somewhere cooler to hike, maybe at a higher elevation.

If you do decide to go, remember that even in a nine-year-old, dehydration is more serious in children than in adults. Discuss dehydration with him and make sure he drinks plenty and doesn't get sunburnt and takes lots of breaks. Take some Gatorade or other electrolyte drink mix or make your own to add to water if you need it. If you don't want to just use sugar and salt, you can use this fancy recipe. Either way, you can add the little packets of unsweetened Koolaid to it for a little flavor.

one-half teaspoon table salt
one-half teaspoon potassium chloride (http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=807) (lite salt)
one-half teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons sugar
dissolved in 1 liter of water

07-05-2010, 23:30
http://www.weather.com/weather/hourbyhour/graph/25425? (http://www.weather.com/weather/hourbyhour/graph/25425?)

The proposed mileage could be done in the mornings before the heat advisories take effect.

It sure would be great to have vehicular support and spend the hottest part of each day visiting historical sites, but you may be able to plan your days around sites on the A.T. which offer some respite from the heat as well as opportunities to explore and learn.

07-05-2010, 23:31
My son is of similar age. We did 9 miles with camel baks at fort hill today it was 93 degrees according to the Truck temp.

He was miserable and he only had 2 liters of water on his back and it was for about 4 hours.

I wouldn't subject your son to 100 degrees on one of his very early outings.

07-05-2010, 23:48
Either change location or change dates.

07-05-2010, 23:51
I'm not sure if it went through, but in a PM I suggested that, although it's late in the game, maybe changing the hike would be a good idea. I suggested that, although it's mainly known for bicycling along it, a multi-day hike along the C&O canal might be a nice choice. You could still end in HF, the grade is virtually nil (slightly downhill), and the river is right there to jump into ebvery once in a while to keep cool.

Anyone else have thoughts on this, or other suggestions?

07-05-2010, 23:57
I did Maryland 2 years ago in a heatwave in September and FR to HF last year in a heat wave in Early October. I hate hiking in hot weather. Hate it. Each time I came home and told my wife I was done backpacking. (and I have been BPing for 25 years).

My honest thought is that you can the hike and hold out for better conditions. While heat exhaustion is life threatening, walking around dripping with sweat and having those stupid gnats flying in your face all day is also no picnic and makes for a miserable time out there. There's not enough spots to cool down in this section of trail...

It was 103 here in SEPA today and just walking around the yard was brutal. We went to a party later and even in the shade of an outside patio with a ceiling fan, I felt overwhelmed by the heat. Completely overwhelmed.

FWIW, I backpacked during a heat wave through Joshua Tree in 1996, so I have been through some heat before, but this weekend really felt extremely oppressive........ Good luck with your decision...

07-06-2010, 00:20
Thanks for all the advice. I think I'm going to can this hike, but have made other plans. I really want him to get his first taste of the AT, but maybe just a smaller taste. He is a big strong kid(115 lbs, 4'10", a Cub Scout and very outdoorsy). I can't change the dates or push it back; it's gotta be now. Being as the original plan was to do the hike and then drive from Harpers Ferry to the Outer Banks, NC to meet up with the family for a week on the beach, I was already planning on 16-17 hours of driving. Being as this trip is more about him than me, here's what I came up with. Much less hiking but yet all stuff he'd enjoy.

7/6: drive from Cincinnati to Rock City, check it out and stay at a KOA
7/7: check out Chickmauga/Lookout Mtn, stay another night at the KOA
7/8: drive to Springer Mtn, park at FS42 hike to Long Creek Falls & camp
7/9: hike out, maybe up Springer, then drive to Charleston SC/motel
7/10: tour the USS Yorktown and Ft. Sumter, stay at motel
7/11: drive to the Outer Banks for a week

Drive time: 6hrs+3hrs+6.5 hrs+4.5 hrs=20 hours of driving, but spread out some.

I've hiked the AT from the Approach Trail to Fontana, so I know the trail there and remember Springer to Long Creek Falls being easy PLUS the creek and waterfalls are there to cool us off, it's beautiful, he'd love that section and it's "kinda" on the way. Is it safe to park at FS42 overnight? Is it stupid to leave well packed backpacking food in the truck there(stuff like Mtn House, Clif bars, Ramen)? What's the easiest route to FS42/Springer from the west/Chattanooga? What do you all think? I'm open to other suggestions.


07-06-2010, 05:16
Sometimes rough trips end up as great stories. My oldest son remembers his first 15-mile trip 8 years ago because of the high temperatures and limited water sources. I gave him all of my water for the last five miles. He was fine which was my main concern. I had severe dehydration induced leg cramps when we finished, but I had extra water waiting at the van. My younger son's first 15-mile trip involved 24 hours of nearly non-stop rain followed by a quick drop in temperature. After getting some gear soaked we had freezing rain, then 6" of snow. After hiking 9 miles in mud we found the adirondack that had been reserved had never been completed, no sides so the wind / snow were blowing through. We talked about our options and he was ready to continue another 3+ miles to the parking lot. Now he enjoys telling people about his first backpacking trip. Both sons are joining me next week on the same section you were considering.

07-06-2010, 05:42
I like your revised itinerary. I was up near the AT yesterday around Bears Den, and it was horribly hot and very hazy. Hiking in that would have been miserable.

Appalachian Tater
07-06-2010, 07:52
Here's a suggestion: if your son is interested in the Civil War, spend more time in Charleston. There are dozens of fortifications and batteries besides Ft. Sumter and Ft. Moultrie and you can get a map and find a few of them. The Hunley was finally raised, it was still underwater when I was your son's age but I thought it was the neatest thing ever. There are a couple of week's worth of stuff he would probably enjoy.

Also, there is camping near Charleston if you don't want to stay in a hotel.

07-06-2010, 08:17
The revised plan sounds like a great time. Extra last-minute work on your part is a lesson in being smart about weather conditions and being flexible. Good job--have fun!

07-06-2010, 08:53
Like some others, I also would cancel the hike as planned - neither one of you would enjoy it and it could leave a bad taste in your son's mouth.

It sounds like you've made your new plans but I'll offer another suggestion anyway which incorporates hiking some on the AT: drive to Shenandoah NP, base camp at one of the campgrounds (preferable Lewis Mountain), and go on some light dayhikes. Sure, you sweat while hiking but SNP along the Blue Ridge crest is always more comfortable than the valleys anywhere. Someone on another thread mentioned that on a recent trip, the valley was in the high 90s but Skyline Drive was about 82.

Your day hikes can include trips to waterfalls under the canopy of tree cover. They can also include AT hikes to the highest points of SNP - Hawksbill and Stony Man mountains which are not that hard to get to.

And for a real "cool" excursion - both literally and figuratively - visit Luray Caverns or one of the other VA caves nearby. Also, look into tubing on the Shenandoah River.

Have a great trip!

07-06-2010, 10:48
Lets look at one positive. At least MD is for the most part a very easy walk. You can also relate to how the soldiers of past and present use to walk in these conditions carrying heavier gear and supplies. Give him some appreciation for our past and present military. Just some few positives. Hate to always dwell on the negitives of things.

07-06-2010, 11:35
Maybe the heat is making your brain go haywire?
No. It's this bad all the time.

07-06-2010, 12:33
No. It's this bad all the time.


07-11-2010, 18:26
We stuck to the amended plan and I am glad we did. We had a great time!!! We played around in Chattanooga for a couple days, then drove to Springer, hiked up the mountain, then down and on to Three Forks and camped. Woke up and hiked back out then proceeded with the plan. We both had a blast. I'm glad we didn't do the Maryland hike. My shuttler actually called me that morning to tell me that the heat index was 112 and that hiking on just wouldn't be any fun. I think the hottest it was in N GA was 85, much more doable. Like I said, we had a great trip and I think(hope) I got the boy hooked on the AT. He complained some, but I know he still had fun.

07-11-2010, 19:41
Glad it worked out. Maybe you can plan your next hike with him during his school's Spring break.