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  • Laura Johnson

The 24-hour Family Adventure

I recently finished reading Let Them Be Eaten By Bears by Peter Brown Hoffmeister. It was one of my favorite reads, ever, in the outdoor parenting genre (which, you might be surprised to learn, is a pretty small group of reads). The last Chapter was titled "Just Go" - and it really resonated with me. Hoffmeister writes a rallying cry for parents - that despite all the real and perceived reasons not to take that outdoor adventure (of any size) - that jumping in and making it happen will reap the greatest rewards.


Time. Gear. Tiredness. Know-how. Bugs. Bears. Heat. Cold. Rain. Kids too little.


All things that people (raising my hand here) list as reasons for not getting out there with kids.

This chapter struck me so much, that after sharing the "Just Go" concept with my husband, somehow Wes and I found ourselves one warm Friday a couple of weeks ago planning a backpacking trip with our kids.


A backpacking trip that would depart ASAP. I timed it. From the idea's conception until trailhead deployment after a 40 minute drive, it was three hours. That included a pit stop for a grocery-store dinner.

hiking down towards the lake & the sunset
made it! 1000' drop = wobbly legs


We hiked, all five of us (well, 6 with Rocky the dog, who is person-sized) - down to a lakeshore campsite. The trail was longer than described, but even so, 2.5 miles was do-able for everyone.

We arrived just as the sun was setting over the lake. We woke up to the sound of gentle lapping and a million birds.

We taught our kids how to carry and pack gear. We resurrected an old temperamental whisper-lite stove. We hung our food and watched bats flit over the lake, eating mosquitoes (we hoped).


We packed up and headed back out around mid-morning after enjoying coffee by the lake and Rocky's 6th morning swimming session. We were expecting a hotter day and there was 1000 vertical feet back to the car. It was a less than 24-hour adventure from leaving til returning.


our morning view


coffee by the lake. tiredness is a given on trips like this.


And it was incredible. Liam, our 9-year-old was my hiking buddy in the back. Not a single complaint. And as we crested the last rise back to the car he said "This is AWESOME. Are we coming back?"


So do it. Just go, as Hoffmeister says. You might be thinking that I have the right gear and experience to make the 24-hour backpacking trip a success. Well, sorta, not really. I have old gear and some experience packing with kids 13 and up. My kids are 13, 9, and 5 and they can carry varying amounts of stuff.


But what do you have most of the gear for? What are you excited about doing outdoors that you can share with your kids? What are you waiting for the "right" amount of time off your job or "right" weather for, that you could make happen? What's right in your backyard that you've never seen or maybe you go every week and wish you had more time? Sure, there are epic adventures and bucket list trips that require planning and new gear and training. Or older kids. But what can you go do now?


Backyard camping (very popular these days!), lake swimming, fly fishing, hiking somewhere new, biking or bike packing....

I challenge you to use part of your next weekend for a 24-hour adventure. Be responsible and have fun. I think you'll be glad you did.

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