Kevin and I always dreamed of going backpacking for two nights in the wilderness but just never planned it out. For whatever reason, once Otto was born we both felt an increased urgency to make it happen. It was as if we looked at his face and thought this baby would love to go backpacking!
We reached out to a friend or two with some experience, a few friends with no experience, two sisters who are up for anything, and a scaredy dog who we knew would find her confidence in the wilderness. Just like that our group was formed. With the epic amounts of rain in California this year our plans had to keep changing to find trails where the snow had melt. Finally we chose the third weekend in May and we chose The Trinity Alps Wilderness in Northern California. Trinity Alps was perfect because the altitude stayed under 6000 feet (good for babies) and we did not deal with a lot of altitude change.
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it! Backpacking isn’t easy. Having Otto made it slightly more difficult as did having our dog. But that’s kind of the same as most other things; eating a meal, watching a movie, talking on the phone…But we are here to say, it can be done! In fact we are doing it again in two weeks.
The day started out by going grocery shopping, buying everything we wanted and then leaving a lot of it in the trunk when we realized we couldn’t fit it into our bags. We went to the ranger station to get our permit and learn that no one else was out on the trails (at least officially). So therefore they could not tell us anything about the trail conditions except the rivers were flowing and we would likely hit snow.
Kevin and I made a lot of mistakes from the beginning. Not knowing if we would actually like backpacking we did not want to invest in a lot of specific items. We knew we needed a baby backpack and bought the Osprey baby carrier and we do not regret that decision. We can use it around the city, for small day hikes and it really held up to a few days in the wilderness.
We made the mistake of not buying a better tent. He attached our trusty tent that has held true during many car camping trips and also weighs a whopping 14 lbs to the bottom of his pack. I made the mistake of not buying a sleeping pad. I tried to share one with Otto and spent most of the night on the floor as our dog took over any extra space.
Because of our ridiculous overestimation of our strength and will-power we did not make it to the meadow the first night as planned and instead stopped at 6 miles. It took us about 3 hours and we just could not go further. But as the universe would have it the camping spot was perfect. We had a running river directly along side us that provided amazing white noise for our city baby. Using the platypus we had more water than we needed. I actually brought in water to mix with Otto’s formula and expected to drink the filtered water myself. However, by the second day he was also getting filtered water because it really seemed that clean and safe.
The second morning we woke up early, hiked the extra 3 miles and made it to the Meadow to set up camp again, among the bear scat and bugs. Unfortunately we decided to camp directly in the path of deer making their way to the river at dusk, which drove our dog crazy.
The rest of the group dropped their belonging and headed another 5 miles to see the lakes. Kevin and I would have loved to do this, but we thought Otto could use a break from the backpack and honestly my legs needed a rest.
We waited for the group to get back, napped Otto in the tent and relaxed in our hammock. When the group returned we dined on couscous and veggies, drank the last of the whiskey and made smore’s with tortillas as we left the graham crackers behind in the car.
The next morning we woke up early and made the entire 9 mile trek out, it took about 5 hours. Otto slept on and off in the backpack, woke up for the river crossings and to eat when we snacked. We doused him in sunscreen but the actual screen for the carrier did a good job.
Some things I learned:
- Otto just won’t sleep as well when camping, its just a fact. But he sleeps enough. On the bright side, he slept great when we came home!
- Otto would have done better with his own sleeping bag and sleeping pad. We don’t co-sleep at home and he did not want to co-sleep in the tent.
- Invest in a good pack.
- Wear a hat or bandana or your baby will spend the 5 hour journey pulling your hair.
- Diapers are super heavy on the way out, so only change him when you need.
- Stay under 6000 feet to make sure you don’t need to deal with altitude sickness with your baby.
- Nights get cold, days get hot- but Otto was able to wear the same thing a lot.
- Bring a sun hat for the baby and a ski hat for the evenings.
- Bring a giant tarp, or spread out your hammock so your baby has a place to sit and play. He was in the pack so much so he really did not want to be in my arms.
- Be flexible, your baby or yourself may decide you just can’t go further. So take lots of breaks and enjoy the journey!