Back to top

Lessons from the 'kids': A backpacking trip

Off the grid withthe kids

Our camping trip was off to a very relaxed start. After being packed for days in anticipation of this "off the grid" great adventure, only odds and ends were left to gather. As active adults, this was our first backpacking camping trip out in bear country. Our adult kids booked a forest service cabin weekend for us as a gift-and they are coming along on the adventure to show us the ropes and make sure we return in one piece!

Even as we have no idea what to expect on this adventure with the kids, I have decided to just enjoy every moment since we are now empty nesters who have downsized. We departed on a sunny, beautiful day and enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine on the 4 mile walk to the Spanish Creek cabin --trekking on packed snow and stretches of forest road.  We have ALL the gear and then some with us.  Our son's dog even has a backpack containing his food an supplies. We are so happy to be going to a pet-friendly destination.

Day One

When we arrive, it's a beautiful spot and cabin with everything we need including a beautiful creek with running water (fortunately, it was not frozen and we brought water filtration system); a nearby vault toilet aka outhouse (nice advantage in bear country); lots of trees, a picnic table and fire pit outside; basic kitchen; bunk and loft beds; table with chairs, dried flower arrangement (left by some prior guests) and a great potbellied stove with a cooking surface–plus lots of firewood. Not the amenities we find in active adult living communities!  And a big woodshed that kept my peripatetic husband entertained for hours with chopping. Nice guest book with some great entries – including a fabulous cartoon. But best of all, we had each other-all five of us!

Although it seems like we had everything we could possibly need, a few things were missing. running water (other than the creek); Electricity or gas; cell coverage; lighting; many choices of anything – we brought just enough - clothes, sleeping gear, food, cribbage, (oh, yea, and a couple bottles of wine), a book – we had to carry it all, so everything was well considered before it was packed.

 We had an amazing pasta dinner (mostly pre-cooked) which we definitely earned; and a  bottle of wine – and for dessert hot chocolate. when it was time to rest, I slept on the top bunk - my son’s dog and my husband are now cuddled on the bunk below. Of course, in the middle of the night with a full moon, I decide I need to rappel off of the top bunk to take a walk to the vault toilet – my 4 legged escort enjoyed sniffing around in the bright moonlit snow -  what an amazing light and sky – it’s nearly like mid-day in the middle of the night.

Day Two: Time with the 'kids'

On day two, we awoke to a cold but, very sunny day. The ‘kids’ slept up in the loft while my husband and I started our percolator coffee that tastes amazing with a splash of heavy cream kept cool in the woodshed. We made a breakfast of hash browns on the camp griddle via the wood stove, heated up some bacon and made fresh, scrambled eggs. 

Everything we experienced was heightened in feeling and senses. Basic things taste better, smell better, feel better – just because you appreciate them out here AND you notice so much more. It’s living a meditation. Doing things, like cooking, cleaning, and playing games provided focused attention with more mindfulness – you are more present rather than multi-tasking and having your mind wander to a to-do list.

By noon, we cleaned up the camping site and got ready to do a hike to the Falls along Spanish Creek. It's mid 40s and slushy but, a lovely warm sun with lots of opportunity to make some vitamin D. 2 miles in, we're tired of post holing through the snow. We haven't seen the moose whose tracks we’ve been following, just poop, and we decide to turn around. Nice to not feel that we are so intent on a goal that we can’t change our minds and listen to ourselves.

While we enjoyed the hike – my son suggested that we really need to experience a full day of being ‘stuck’ in the cabin by a huge snow dump, just chilling. The point of the trip was not to ‘do’, but rather to ‘be’ – he’s right…. maybe we’ll learn. He stayed behind when we hiked and got his extra-quiet time – smart guy. I must say, I love love love having no cell phone or Internet!! It is so freeing!!! Peaceful!!!! Nothing to care about but the setting, weather, cabin, and those with us.  

The evening was really a fun time with a freeze-dried food tasting session thanks to new technology that made the effort quite successful. The menu was chicken and green curry with mushrooms and pasta, rigatoni and meat sauce. Yummy! And very light weight in our packs on the journey.  The ‘kids’ broke out Cribbage for Mom, who has avoided being taught how to play, finally had the time and patience to learn – we played till the kerosene ran out and fell into bed.  

Snow started and woke to go to outhouse at 3am to several inches of soft,white fluffiness. Our mascot was sleeping too soundly with my husband in the bottom bunk to join me. Beautiful walk with bright sky of full moon behind the clouds.  Woke at daybreak to over 6 inches of snow. We enjoyed a fabulous breakfast of freeze-dried skillet eggs and potatoes and sausage and gravy ☺️. Packed up. Cleaned up cabin. Loaded up our pack-horse (aka younger son) to start our hike back. We were in our hiking boots with no yak tracks or snowshoes or sleds. It was fun to walk in 6” of snow except for a few spots of black ice under the snow.  
Along the way, we saw a herd of 🦬 bison and the skittish group never let us closer than a few hundred yards. Made it to cars in good time and loaded our stuff and tired, dirty, wood-smoked bodies to go home and shower, unpack, chill and relish the afterglow of days of living in the present moment. 


As you contemplate "unplugging" from the chaos of daily life, consider reading "Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention-and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari.

Phone Prison

About the Blogger

Ann Arthur Cook Photo  Ann Arthur Cook is the Strategic Projects Officer & Co-Founder for Treplus Communities.