Category Archives: Backpacking

Friday Fun Video: Coyote Gulch Video

We had a great time in Coyote Gulch with the kids and already posted a few of the pictures here.  We also wanted to show a video to show some of the highlights of the trip with the kids.

Most of the shots are just of the kids playing, which is great, they loved it!  Kids make the whole trip fun by bringing a sense of wonder to the trip.

The background on one part is that Mason, after watching Dash from The Incredibles now has some “Water Shoes”, which he thinks he can use to run on water.  He kept showing us over and over again, until it didn’t work one time…  We also found a great hole that all of the kids hid in, built sand castles, played in quicksand, made echos in the canyon and watched the stars and saw the moon come up through Jacob Hamblin arch.  All in all, a sweet trip with the kids.

As a side note, one tradition that we do on many of our longer trips is to choose a theme song.  On this trip, U2’s “Beautiful Day” was the theme song and we listened to it each morning, a few times while driving, and a few times while hiking.  It makes the trip fun and now when we hear it, it brings back lots of good memories of the trip.

The only thing that we didn’t get much of in the video was the location – the amazing canyon that you get to hike through. So here was just one more illustration of what we enjoyed hiking through with the kids.

Dwarfed by the canyon walls

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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Adventures, Backpacking, Camping, Friday Videos


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The fear I can’t conquer

I really dislike the word can’t.  It makes my skin crawl.  Lately, Chloe constantly says “I can’t” to everything her stubborn 2 year old mind doesn’t want to do (whatever sweetie – you can eat that oatmeal I just made you! – stinker).  I just want to yell at her and tell her to stop being such a pessimist and that she’s amazing and can do amazing things.  But alas, she’s 2, so I just show her that she can and save the screaming for boys who want to date her later.

However, that being said, I’ve decided that I have a fear that I really can’t conquer.  Or maybe I should say, “I have a fear that I won’t be conquering, ‘cuz it scares the crap out of me”.  Here goes…I have a fear of heights.  Well actually, it’s not really the heights that scare me, it’s the thought of falling off of them and landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom.  Now I know that much of this may sound totally irrational to you, but here goes…

Rewind 10 years.  I worked in Jackson WY during the summer as a river guide.  I was working most of the time the sun was up so my friends and I would do everything at night.  One of the favorite activities was cliff jumping.  This was something that had always scared me, but somehow doing it at night made it much easier.  At this point, I thought I was cured of my fear of heights.  Well, turns out that it’s just because I knew I was likely not going to get hurt when I fell.  If you land right, water does not hurt.

Me pretending I can actually climb


Okay, now go back 7 years to when Andrew and I were dating.  He’s pretty much the Jack-of-all trades when it comes to outdoor recreation (have you noticed) and climbing is no exception.  He was quick to take me climbing with him and teach me all about it.  I went along with it.  Bought shoes, went with him several times and kept my sobbing to myself.  I was scared that if he knew this huge fear he’d think I was too whimpy for him.  Soon after we were married, the truth came out about how terrified I was of rock climbing (I know, how sneaky).  I would get about 15 feet up and start shaking (I could show my true colors now because we were married and he was stuck with me), demanding that he pull the rope tighter every time I moved and inch, and the higher I got, the more likely I was to cry.  There, now you all know – I’m a big baby.  I was scared of a big fall and landing bad.  Like loosing my footing, slipping, and crushing my body into the rocks.  Or worse, Andrew would fall and I would end up paralyzed since my fall would no doubt be disasterous.  Don’t worry, I completely understand how irrational all of this sounds, but this is what goes through my head and I can’t shake it.  Needless to say, we started climbing less and I encouraged Andrew to just go with friends instead.  Since then, I’ve pretty much backed off from anything that will bring on this fear.  Having kids makes it even worse because now I imagine Mason running to catch a ball and running straight off a cliff (he doesn’t pay attention when he’s playing hard).  Yep, I’m crazy when it comes to taking my kids around steep things.  So we avoid them.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can handle climbing indoors, and bouldering is great.  I mean, climber girls are cool and I wish I could be one.  Their lean, ripped, and just hardcore…but I’ll never really be one.  Girls who are scared of heights don’t make good climbers.

Okay, rewind to two weeks ago.  We’re headed down to Coyote Gulch.  This was my first trip there and Andrew had told me that there was a big hill at the end that you needed to go down.  “Don’t worry” he reassured me “it’s not that bad”, and I believed him.  That is, until we got there.  I saw the hill and vertigo instantly set in.  There was no way I was going down this.  I sat down to control my shaking.  Andrew did his best to reassure me “it’s way harder going down than it is going up”.  So we made a plan.  He would take his pack and Mason down to the bottom and then come back up to carry Chloe in her backpack and I could scoot down on my bum.  Amazingly, I did okay (minus the giant hole this made in my pants) and I don’t think I cried once (even though I still made Andrew help me at the hard spots).  Two days later, we met that hill again.  I kept telling myself that going up is way easier than coming down, and guess what?  The first section was.  I was still pretty scared, so Andrew had already taken his pack to the top and was holding Masons hands with Chloe in the pack.  I wanted to stay close to them thinking that if there was a problem, I could help.  Seriously?  Okay, maybe I was actually thinking rationally then.

My brother and sister-in law going up the hill



I was fine until one move came.  I would have to put my foot on a tiny sloping rock while I made a big move to my next hold.  I couldn’t handle it.  One of my biggest problems with climbing is that while I know I can trust my feet, I mentally can’t do it.  If I fell here, the slope was steep enough that I would easily slide 100 feet to the bottom.  I immediately stopped thinking about my kids and started thinking about how I was going to survive.  Andrew wouldn’t let anything happen to them and would wait with them at the top, but he wasn’t with me now.  I started getting dizzy and a sharp pain in my stomach had me doubled over.  Luckily, we were with a big group and my brother saved my life.  For the next 75 or so feet, he placed his hand on each foothold for me so I would be confident I wouldn’t fall.  I was convinced he would die doing this but he assured me he would be fine.  I was crying by this point (I’m sure that really helped me a lot) knowing that each step I took made my fall bigger.  As I was doing this, my brother-in-law practically ran past me.  The killer part was that my 3 year old niece had her harness on and was clipped onto him going as fast as she could.  Not only was I scared now, I was a major wimp – wasted by a 3 year old!  By the time we got to the top, I was a mess.  I had to sit for a long time before I could get control over my body (shaking, crying, stomach pain).

It was at this point that I realized that I probably wouldn’t ever conquer my fear.  I could do my best to mentally prepare for situations like this, but my fear always won me over.  When I step back from the situation, I can see how completely crazy I sound.  However, I can’t seem to do anything about that when I’m in the situation.  I understand what it would take to get me over it and I don’t think I can do that.  I don’t think I can gradually expose myself to heights until I’m no longer afraid.  I can’t handle the mental or physical stress that gives me.  Well, at least not today.

We’ll go back to Coyote Gulch someday, but not until the kids can carry their own packs.  Andrew will need extra room in his pack to carry the ropes and harnesses needed to get me down and up that hill again.

Hi, I’m Jessica and I’m afraid of heights.


Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Backpacking, Climbing, Fear


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Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip

Well, I went into this trip hoping to remove the bitter taste our last backpacking trip left me with (what, carrying 50 pounds straight up a billion mountains doesn’t sound like fun?), and we succeeded.  To say this trip was memorable would be an understatement.  The kids are still talking about it and asking when we can go back (when you start carrying your own packs, slackers).  We were accompanied by 3 uncles, 2 cousins, 1 aunt and 1 grandpa from both of our families – what a party.  Writing cannot do this trip justice, so here’s a million pictures so you can see why this truly is Andrew’s favorite place on earth!
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So beautiful.  So fun.  So worth it.  And don’t worry, the kids are just downing their celebratory IBC root beer at the end 🙂






Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Adventures, Backpacking, Hiking


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Friday Fun Video – Coyote Gulch

Guess where we are right now (or at least where we should be).  Coyote Gulch in Southern Utah!  It’s going to be a killer trip with lots of great people joining us, including our niece’s (so we’ll have a 4,3,2, and 1 year old).  Here are some pics to give you a glimpse at what we’re seeing right now!

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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Backpacking, Friday Videos


Backpacking Chef – great food far from home

Oh my goodness.  Do you ever come across a site so good that you need to tell everyone about it?  As Andrew and I were doing some research for our backpacking trip this weekend, we decided we wanted to expand our food options.  As we searched online, we luckily came across .  This site is amazing.  There are TONS of menu options for each meal of the day (including the ever so important dessert) and they walk you through how to make it all.  My favorite part about it is that you do ALL of it yourself.  They tech you how to dehydrate meat, pasta sauce, even pumpkin pie.  Seriously, these guys have got it down.  So, if you’re heading backpacking, be sure to check them out.  Not only will you save some serious money by not buying pre-packaged trail food, but it will taste SO GOOD (at least that’s our hope).  No, we’re not being paid to say this, we’re just so pumped to find this site.

Oh and yes, we are crazy enough to try and squeeze in one more backpacking trip this year.  Hopefully, it goes a little smoother than last time.  Since it’s already pretty cold here, we’re heading to Coyote Gulch in Southern Utah.  It’s gonna be awesome.  Check back next week for our updates!  Thanks for reading!

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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Backpacking, How to


Hiking with kids…20 tips to combat whining

No matter who you are, or where you go, chances are you are if you hike with your kids, you’re going to encounter whining.  I’m no talking about the little complaints.  I mean the ‘oh my goodness if you do not be quiet right now  I swear I will leave you on this trail for the bears because you are making my head want to explode’  kind of whining.  We hike a lot with our kids.  I think that makes us experts…on whiny kids that is.  Yep, our kids are really really good at whining on the trail.  Out of necessity, we’ve gotten really good at getting them to stop!  Here are some of our top tips for getting your kids to stop whining.  Most of them involve some sort of distraction, cuz’ let’s face it, mostly the kids are just whining because they can’t think of anything better to do .

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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Backpacking, Hiking, How to, Ideas, Tips


Backpacking with kids part 4: Tips for the trail

As you take kids off the beaten path, your going to expect adventure, chaos and challenges.  Our three day trip was full of the unexpected, the difficult and the rewarding.  We had a great time, and learned some good lessons to pass on that will hopefully help you if you decide to take on backpacking with young kids.

Start of the trip

The trip was less mileage than we’ve previously done with the kids, but the trail ended up being more strenuous and threw in additional aspects that we hadn’t encountered before. So, we rolled with the punches and helped the kids to do the same.

We knew we were hiking in the mountains, but we encountered a few more hills than we had planned on.  One of the ways that we made it easier for Mason and to keep a relatively consistent pace was to let him be pulled along.  This helped when the trail got steep.  Also, it kept him from stopping every 5 seconds to pick up a new rock or stick.

One lesson learned – despite your best preparations, you can’t be prepared for everything.  The one thing we did not anticipate was the extent of the mosquitoes. There were more here than we had ever seen. Sure we had the bug spray and long sleeves, but quickly they became overwhelming. We questioned turning back a few times, but soon decided to just cut the first day short, set up the tent, hide from the bugs and reassess in the  morning. The goal became save the kids and mom instead of just go out for a nice hike.

So after avoiding the bugs outside, but attacking each other in the tent, the kids were ready for dinner.  Luckily one of our plans did go well, our dinner of burritos was awesome and by far the best of the trip.  Yes, it is true that most food tastes better in the back country, probably because you’re working hard and starving, but this meal was one to remember and was well worth the extra weight to have a flavorful meal.

The morning turned out to be alright and we had a nice breakfast with few mosquitoes bothering us, so we decided to keep going and not scrap the trip all together, which was a thought the previous night. Our destination was the lake we were originally planning to camp near. Along the way we took some snack breaks and enjoyed playing games with the kids.  One of Chloe’s favorite things was searching through the trail mix for the “tachlet tips” (chocolate chips)

The lake was beautiful and it had lilly pads all over it.  We spent a few hours here just playing and eating lunch.

The runoff and streams have been high here in Colorado, so there were still many portions of the trail that were muddy and required jumping or balancing on logs and rocks.  Mason became very adept at picking the dry spots to step on and avoid the large bogs.  He also balanced great on logs.  This made a great game for us to play along the way and kept us all entertained,especially if someone had a misstep into the mud.

The second night made the trip.  We got to our camp site near the next lake in the late afternoon.  The hiking wasn’t too bad and thankfully the mosquitoes didn’t really bother us.  This lake was a blast.  We explored for hours the surrounding area and were surprised that we didn’t see another person the whole time.  The first area was the cliffs on one side of the lake.

Having some extra time to just explore and enjoy the surroundings is good.  From our camp near the lake, we set off on a quest to find a way to the other side of the lake.  In one direction we ran into cliffs. There were a few big ledges that looked promising, but each one ended without a way to continue on.  There was one sketchy path that Andrew could climb, but it wasn’t kid friendly. Suprizingly, we did notice a secret trail right along the base of the cliffs.  This whole trip had a lot of fallen trees and some previous hikers have taken many of these downed trees and laid them at the base of the cliff, in and around the edge of the water to create a hidden pathway around the cliff. It was hidden by all of the grass surrounging the lake.  A few of the logs sunk , but overall it was a fun path.We’re actually walking on the logs in the lake in the picture below.

Then we went around the other side of the lake and found more rocks to play on and many small stream inlets that Mason had to jump over.

The scenery was great, the kids were tired and after dinner they went straight to bed.

The next day had some good scenery with a lot of cool rock formations to go through, waterfalls, beautiful meadows and good scenes of the surrounding mountains.

Unfortunately, we had one unexpected hill that was nearly a mile long and much steeper than we had anticipated.  This took a lot of energy out of us.  The one redeeming fact was that Mason kept imagining that he had different creature power suits (based on Wild Cratts) and they gave him the extra power he needed to make it to the top.

What happens when my kid needs to take a nap?  Kids can really sleep anywhere, but you can do a few things to make in more comfortable for them. For Chloe, she can fall asleep in the baby backpack fine, but her head will  bounce around, so one thing that we do is grab a long sleeve shirt or sweater and support the back of her head and put the two sleeves under the straps of the backpack in front of us.  It works smoothly and allows her to get a longer, much needed nap while we are on the go.

One of the funny things along the trail is that when you are anywhere 2 -3 miles in and you have little kids with you it surprises most people.  Well Mason took it one step further and would hide as other groups of hikers would approach.  Some hiding spots were in plain sight, but he got better as the trip went on and he completely surprised a few men. The flowers and undergrowth was as tall as us in many parts, completely hiding Mason from view, which is exactly what he was hoping for.  I don’t know what some of them were more surprised by, the kid growling at them or just seeing a kid this far from the trailhead.  It was classic to see the guys jump and Mason just laughing hysterically.

So what do you do when the kids start saying “I’m tired, I can’t walk any more”?  It’s similar to the proverbial “Are we there yet”, and if you’re three miles from either camp or car, you better have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep the kids going. Here are a few of the distractors and motivators that we used to make it enjoyable and not have a major meltdown of either the kids or mom (ok, dad can get frustrated too).  Make as many distractions as you can, usually pointing out new things:

  • Mushrooms – they were everywhere and we created a guessing game to see what color the next one would be and who could see it first.
  • Did you hear that???? – identifying sounds, hikers, upcoming streams, birds, etc.
  • If you make it over this next hill we’ll all get gummy bears!!!
  • We took regular breaks and snacks and let them run around without a destination.
  • Finding and using the perfect hiking stick
  • Songs – we were able to teach both Mason and Chloe a few songs during the trip
  • Catching lady bugs or butterflies or just watching bugs in general
  • Hiding and surpirzing others
  • Having a few select toys that they can play with along the way as a distraction, especially if they are in the baby carrier.
  • Then when we finally had to pull out all of the stops, it came to telling stories.  Don’t worry, with kids, almost any story can do, and the easiest ones if you don’t know any are doing your own synopsis of a Disney or other kid film. These stories kept Mason from stopping on the side of the trail a few times.

The other big lesson from the trip was that you are a guide on the trip.  Could you be responsible to take a group of people into this area or on this activity on your own?  Would you be comfortable working through different problems and situations when you are the one in charge.  There are lots of professional guides who take people whitewater rafting, rock climbing, etc. When you take your kids backpacking, you assume the role as a guide because the kids can do little if nothing for themselves, so you have to be able to do everything, even keep them happy.   We both felt that assessing your skill level in comparison to a guide is a good assessment tool of whether you are up to the challenge.

In total, our three day trip covered approximately 12 miles.  Our pace with the kids was just a little slower than we had anticipated at just under a mile an hour.  It was more difficult than we expected, but will be very memorable.


Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Adventures, Backpacking, Hiking, Ideas

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