Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – June 2017

Hannah – 4 years old – Backpacking Trip #1

As you read this blog, you are going to learn that the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (often referred to as the Porkies) is a very special place to me.  It is the place that Jim first took me backpacking when we first started dating, the place I started to fall in love with him, and the place he decided he was going to marry me… though he actually ASKED me to marry him on a different backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail… but more on that another day.

And so, it had always been part of my plan to take Hannah up there someday on a backpacking trip.  I wanted to show her all the areas I had hiked with her Dad, and where we sat looking over the vast Lake Superior, dreaming about our future, talking about marriage, and kids, and how we are going to take our kids backpacking all the time.

Lake Superior – Porcupine Mountains

More Fun with Friends

Thankfully, I didn’t have to do this alone.  I happen to be friends with some amazing moms who also like backpacking.  We had been on several girls backpacking trips together over the years of our friendship.  When I brought up the idea of backpacking with our kids, they both immediately agreed!  Both of them had never been to the Porkies before, and they were excited to see what I had been raving about all of these years.

Our kids were ages 3, 4, and 5 years old.  I knew I had to keep the mileage low, the terrain relatively flat, and there needs to be a shelter at the end of the trail that doesn’t involve setting up a tent.  This was different than I was used to.  Jim and I typically hiked long miles, steep hills, and we would only rent cabins when winter hiking.  But something told me it would be a good idea to have a dry place to hang out in if it rained, especially if we ever wanted these kids to come on another trip with us again.

Little Carp Cabin

I found the perfect Porkies location and booked the Little Carp rustic cabin rental about 6 months before our trip.  There are several trail and distances one can hike to get to the Little Carp Cabin along Lake Superior, but one trail in particular was perfect – the Pinkerton Trail.  It is about 3 miles from the trailhead to the cabin, with a few ups and downs but nothing drastic, some creeks and bridges, and fun boardwalks on the swampier parts.   Map of Porkies

We arrived at the trailhead unsure of what these kids were truly capable of in terms of hiking, snack breaks, etc. My cousin who has experience doing this told me not to be surprised if it takes us an hour a mile.  Oh boy… I thought, what have I gotten myself into?  Maybe Hannah was too young?   Maybe I shouldn’t have invited a 3 year old with us?  What if something goes wrong? 

Hiking In

Hiking on the Pinkerton Trail

But in no time, the kids has loaded up their backpacks and were bounding down the trail, not even taking a second to look back and see if their moms were keeping up.  Thankfully the trail didn’t have any cross trails from the trailhead to close to the cabin, so I wasn’t too worried about them getting ahead of us.  I also knew they would slow down and wait for us as soon as they got hungry.

Speaking of their backpacks, I read that a general rule of thumb for backpacking is that one should not carry more than 25% of their weight, and it’s even less % for kids.  So a 40 lb kid should not be carrying more than about 8-10 lbs.  Hannah was using her school backpack this trip, not a proper hiking backpack, so I was even more cautious about weight.  She ended up carrying just her clothes.  It probably ended up weighing about 6 lbs and she did not seem to have an issue with it.

Night One

We arrived at the cabin in about 1.5 hours (faster than expected) and with only one snack break!  It was perfect.  There were 4 beds (2 sets of bunk beds), cooking pans, utensils, and a wood burning stove.  The outhouse was not too far away, but far enough to keep the smell away!  The cabin sat up on a ridge, overlooking the Little Carp River to the right and Lake Superior ahead.  The breeze was light, but enough to keep the mosquitos away for the most part. 

After unpacking our sleeping bags and food, the first thing I like to do when backpacking is get water filtering. To prevent getting sick from the bacteria in the rivers/lakes, you always want to filter or use purifying drops in your water.  Depending on the water source, one way of purifying may be better than the other.  In the Porkies, filtering is a considered a safe way to drink the water.  I highly recommend the Platypus GravityWorks 4L Complete Water Filter Kit.  (paid link) Filtering four liters of water at a time is a great time saver, especially when your water source is not very close by.  And with 6 people, you want something that can filter a lot of water in a short amount of time.  The Platypus GravityWorks is easy to use.  Once the water is filtered, it is very easy for the kids to fill their water bottles directly from the bag on their own.

We walked down to the water and happen to catch the most beautiful sunset over Lake Superior.  Of course, in all the years I’ve been coming to the Porkies, it has yet to disappoint me on sunsets.  The kids had a blast climbing on driftwood and throwing rocks in to the lake. 

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The next day we set out on a short day hike to Big Carp River (about 1 mile each way).  We packed up some lunches and sat out on the rocks along the shore where Big Carp entered into Lake Superior to eat.  The sun shone down on us and we were enjoying every moment.  Upon our return to the cabin, it started to rain.  I’ve never been so excited to have a cabin instead of a tent in my life.  We played cards, made hot chocolate, and told scary stories to the kids.  The rain passed in the afternoon and by nightfall the kids were zonked!

Big Carp River

The Hike Out

The final morning we packed up, cleaned the cabin, and gathered the garbage.  The downside of cabin camping with kids is you tend to make more garbage, and everything that comes in, has to be carried out.  So one of us tied a bag of garbage to our backpacks.  The bugs were out in full force that morning after the rain.  Unfortunately the hike out never seems to be as fun for the kids as the hike in, and we needed them to keep moving so we were not eaten alive from mosquitos.  They also started complaining about who gets to walk in front.  This was all a challenge.  We fed them a good breakfast and promised lots of treats if they could make it to the car without a snack break.  We then invented a game where they thought they were each getting an exact equal time as the “leader” – where really the moms would just randomly call out “switch!” when we anticipated someone was getting antsy at not being in the front.  Three miles felt like five that day, but we made it out with limited stops, bug bites, and only a few complaints from the kids. 

Lessons Learned

Keys to backpacking with kids – keep the mileage low, the packs light, and the snacks close by!  And backpacking with friends is always a good idea.