Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – June 2019

Hannah – 6 years old – Backpacking Trip #4

For our 2019 summer trip to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, we decided to try out a new cabin, the Whitetail Cabin.  Since Whitetail was larger than our other cabin, we decided to invite more friends to join us!  This year Katie brought along her daughter in addition to her son who has been with us the past two years.  Allie, who was pregnant the year before, joined us again with her son.  And we decided to introduce backpacking to our friend Karin, who brought her two sons.  Karin, of course, had MANY questions for me leading up to the trip, which helped inspire me to start this blog.  So four moms and six kids later, we were on our way to an adventure.  Map of Porkies

Hiking In

The hike in was only one mile.  Each kid carried their own pack, but I also knew that we had two moms carrying food, etc. for two kids, in addition to one of those moms being brand new to backpacking.  Keeping the hike short helped us all feel more confident in the trip.  We could handle carrying heavy weight for one mile or we could double back and make multiple trips if needed, which we didn’t end up needing to do.

Hiking in

The kids did a great job of hiking and staying on the trail.  They enjoyed the cross road we hit and they had to read the signs to find the way to the cabin.  When we arrived at the cabin, we unloaded our packs and figured out sleeping arrangements. 

Safety First

The kids then wanted to all go down to Lake Superior to play.  The wind was strong that day and the waves were crashing up on the rocks, making them pretty slippery.  All of us adults quickly agreed to a “no kids by the water without an adult” rule.  Lake Superior is pretty cold still in early June, and the waves are strong.  We made sure to discuss this with the kids so they understood how important it was to be careful and to be sure they had an adult in sight.

Playing on the rocks by Lake Superior

First Aid Kit and Lake Superior to the Rescue

A few of us started gathering wood to make a fire.  One of kids came up from the shore and reached into the fire pit to grab the poker.  The fire appeared to be out and was all old ashes.  However, the people before us must have had a fire that morning, so the ashes were still hot, meaning the fire poker was still BURNING hot.  And thus, the first use of our first aid kit.  We happened to have some burn cream in there, along with a very cold lake nearby!  We filled a bucket from the cabin with ice cold Lake Superior water and throughout the rest of the night, we had the child occasionally hold his hand in the cold water bucket.  Thankfully by morning, his hand was feeling much better. 

Up and Down… Up and Down

Day 2: After delicious breakfast burritos made over the fire, we day-hiked back out to our cars and drove a few miles up the road to the Lake of the Clouds overlook.  We unloaded the kids and then a few moms went to park a car 4.5 miles down the road to our end destination and brought one car back up. 

I had done this hike years ago with Jim.  Unfortunately I completely forgot how many times the trail goes up to the top of the escarpment overlooking Lake of the Clouds and Lake Superior and back down to the base.  As soon as you got to the top, it seemed the trail brought you right back down.  About one mile in, I was worried.  Karin was already carrying her youngest son up the steeper parts, and many of us were using bandanas, hats, or headbands to try to keep the flys off of our heads.  And the temperature was much warmer than we expected it to be.

How to Keep Kids Entertained on a Long, Hard Hike

I was starting to feel nervous about the hike I had planned and if the kids were capable of making it to the car!  This is when the snacks we packed came in handy!  We started to dish them out occasionally, saying “At the top of this hill we all get 2 more gummy worms!”  Finally reaching a gorgeous overlook of Lake of the Clouds where the gentle wind was keeping the bugs away, we decided this would be a great lunch spot.  It was roughly halfway from our destination, which meant there really isn’t any turning back at this point.

Eating lunch overlooking Lake of the Clouds

After lunch, the kids seemed a little happier and there was less complaining going on.  We taught the kids the game “20 Questions” which kept them preoccupied for at least one of the miles.  We finally made it back to the car when we realized we still had to hike another mile back into our cabin.  However, the short break in the car must have fueled the kids, because they were bounding back to the cabin faster than we could keep up. 

Wine and Sunsets

That night, after dinner and more playing on the rocks by the water, we put the kids to bed, which wasn’t hard after all of the hiking we did that day.  Each adult grabbed a glass of wine – well, a small plastic bottle of wine poured into a camp cup – and brought it down to the lake while watching a beautiful sunset over the water.  The Porcupine Mountains has never disappointed me with its sunsets. 

Sunset over Lake Superior

We sat that night, drinking our cheap wine, watching the sunset, and talking about how amazing it was that not one kid asked us for an iPad or any electronic.  There is no electricity so it isn’t really an option anyway, but they never were bored enough to even consider wanting one.  And we talked about how much we connect with our kids while out in the woods and without the distractions of daily life.  It’s so amazing to show our kids this big beautiful world, and it’s even more fun to do it with friends who share my love for nature.

Lessons Learned

Never trust that ashes are not hot just because you cannot see them glow.  And I feel like a broken record on this one, but kids can do more than you think… hike longer, harder, steeper hills than you ever thought they could… all for the promise of two gummy worms.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – June 2018

Porcupine Mountains

Hannah – 5 years old – Backpacking Trip #3

After our first spring Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park trip one year earlier, all of us moms and kids said we definitely wanted to return to the Pinkerton Trail and stay at the Little Carp Cabin again the following year.  However, there was one hiccup… one of the moms was going to be having a baby three months before our next trip.  Although I wouldn’t put it past this particular amazing mom to strap a backpack to her back and a baby to her front to go on a hike, the thought of carrying out all of those diapers seemed less than appealing to all of us.  So we were down to just the 4 of us – 2 moms, 2 kids. 

Hiking In

The hike in went smoothly and the kids fell right into step as they had done last year.  With only two of them, now ages 5 and 6, we traveled pretty swiftly through the tall forest and over the streams and rivers.  After unpacking our sleeping bags and filtering some Lake Superior water with the Platypus GravityWorks 4L Complete Water Filter Kit (paid link), my friend, Katie and I started building a fire to make dinner. That night we made steak, asparagus, sweet potatoes, peppers, and carrots while sipping on Sutter Home’s finest White Zinfandel. 

dinner and wine
Katie showing off our dinner and drinks

The kids were off exploring the woods and seeing if their favorite hideout spots were still there.  They had found a big crevice near the edge and decided that a bear must live there. We could not always see them, but could hear their giggles occasionally, giving us comfort that they were not too far away. We did have some ground rules though – they were not allowed to go down by the lake without an adult. This particular cabin sits high up on a ridge and the trail down to the lake is a little steep. They seemed to find plenty to explore up on the ridge.

Hannah discovering the local “wildlife”

A Long Day Hike

The next day was beautiful.  The sun was shining but the morning was pretty cool by the lake.  The kids were up and ready to do some day hiking.  After breakfast, we made PB&Js, filled water bottles, packed snacks, and dressed in layers for our day hike.  We started toward the Big Carp River on the Lake Superior Trail.  Once we reached the Big Carp River Trail, we took that up river.  The wind was blocked away from the lake and as we walked, we were all slowly removing the layers we had on. 

Hannah hiking along the Big Carp River

We had gone about 2.5 miles so far, meaning our round trip would be 5 miles, which is the furthest these kids have ever hiked in a day!  We decided we should probably take a lunch break when we happened upon a gorgeous spot with a lot of sun shining on the rocks by the river.  By then, we were all in shorts and tank tops.  We dipped our feet in the water while snacking and the kids took turns taking pictures of each other and playing on the rocks. 

Hiking on the Lake Superior Trail

Surprisingly, the hike back to the cabin came with very few complaints.  The kids did awesome and the moms were happy they made it that far and that we didn’t have any rain yet that the forecast had suggested.  But little did we know… it was right around the corner. 

Rain and Warmth

Hannah and her friend adding comments and drawings to the log book

We had just arrived back at the cabin and were unpacking our gear from the day hike when the rain started.  The kids decided to write about our day hike adventure in the log book and then got out the deck of cards. However, they eventually were getting restless – even after that big hike!  So we put on our rain coats and headed to the beach!  A little rain isn’t going to stop these kids from throwing rocks into Lake Superior for hours! 

One of the best things about having a cabin to return to is the ability to dry out.  Most of the cabins have lines hanging up so you can dry your wet clothes.  We returned to the cabin and started a fire in the wood burning stove.  We made dinner and called it a night.  We all lay in our sleeping bags, listening to the rain fall.  The kids were zonked and fell asleep hard and fast.

Lake Superior
Lake Superior

The hike out was again a wet one, just like the previous year.  We didn’t take breaks and made it to the car pretty early after packing and cleaning up.

Lessons Learned

Kids can hike further than you think!  And having a warm cabin to return to after spending hours in the rain is incredible and highly recommended.