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  1. #1
    New Member Messy Jesse's Avatar
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    Where to take very young, first time backpacker?

    I want to take my son on his first backpacking trip (with hammocks, of course ). He's only nine, so he's not going to be able to carry much weight. I'm thinking an easy 1-2 mile hike in would be a good intro, but not sure where to do that. It's been years since I did any packing, and all the trails I remember would be too much for him right now. Any suggestions? We're in Charlotte, NC, so we could easily travel to parts of SC, the NC mountains, or southern VA.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    MAD777's Avatar
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    It's not just a question of where, but maybe more importantly, how far. He won't really have a sense of how far from the car he is, but if things don't go well, a non-traumatic escape is nearby.
    It's great that you're taking your son out in the woods
    Mike
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  3. #3
    Mr. Arrowhead pgibson's Avatar
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    Not familiar with that side very much, but go someplace AWSOME! At 9 you want to make it jaw dropping if you can. Take great food, take some thing for fun...that does not take batteries, and be sure the place is amazing, hang on a ridge or next to a lake or along the pool at the bottom of a waterfall. Have a fire and roast hot dogs and smores, and, and and and and and then if your lucky he will be asking to go again even before you get home. Good luck on your search for a great hike, hope your boy has a blast.
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  4. #4
    TallPaul's Avatar
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    Here's some choices:

    Doughton Park - 1.5mi backpack in along a old abandoned road (Grassy Gap Fire Rd) , easy grade. Camping is by permit, but these are free. You have to call & they will mail it to you. You can then day hike from here. Creek is nearby. Multiple day hike options.

    South Moutain State Park - multiple options here - the backcountry sites are reservable online. There are number of options that are a couple miles in. These sites have an outhouse. Creek / waterfall options. Some trails have easy grades, others climb, so just be sure to look at the maps.

    Crowders Mountain - I've not backpacked here, but I've hiked to the backcountry sites & they look fine. The hike in isn't bad. The backcountry sites are in the trees, and water is available via spigot. After you drop your gear you can climb up to The Pinnacle for some views - just be sure to hold your 9 year olds hand as there are drop offs.

    Uwharrie National forest is next door - no permits required. You just find a place to setup off the trail & call it home.

    Farther away you have Grayson Highlands - this is a must at some point, as they have "wild" ponies there. Just watch the weather around here, as it can go from nice to bad in a heart beat. You could stay in the state park, or hope up to the AT. Bit more of a climb around this area, though.

    If you are still reading this far, you can jump over to my YouTube channel.
    I made a video trailer called "Southeast Backpacking" that includes a map with links to my trip reports. The maps are about 43 seconds into the video then continue thru the end.

    My YouTube channel

  5. #5
    gunner76's Avatar
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    Stone Mt State Park
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  6. #6
    New Member Wraith6761's Avatar
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    Well, in southern VA there's Grayson Highlands as well as the New River Trail State Park...I've only stayed at the Double Shoals site on the NRTSP, and it's about a 5 mile hike from the parking lot (on a very flat easy trail), so I'm not sure if that's within the range of possibility for a first timer. Or, if you wanted to drive a ways further north into central-ish VA, you could try James River State Park. The sites there are pretty hammock-friendly (especially Branch Pond sites), and the car is right there at the site if things go sideways (or you can leave it in one of the lots and hike down to the site). There's also a loop that goes around Branch Pond that makes a good (if short) day hike with a low-to-moderate challenge level.

  7. #7
    STinGa's Avatar
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    Someplace with a creek to play in would be my suggestion. Last fall, I took 3 of my kiddos (5, 7, and 13) to look for Ellicott's Rock. The 5 year old's shorter stride didn't let us reach our official destination, but the trail was easy enough and they all got to play in the river prior to the lunch and dinner meals. They all had a blast and have asked to go back when we have more time to explore.

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  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    I kind of inherited two kids, city kids. They are going through a major family tragedy, I was a stranger to them, my daughter dates their uncle. Their grandfather killed my nephew when both boys were 14, so our families keep crossing. Anyway, I needed a way to keep them occupied and thinking forward. I decided to teach them some bush craft. We made hammocks, we fashioned tarps out of found materials. We made stoves, which I keep custody of. We made our own recipes. We did three back yard Hang outs, complete with camp fire. Now, we are ready and we are going for the big
    time, a real Hang, no matter what the weather is doing. Spring has sprung in Oregon, well at least today.

    With your child I would not go too far, it is amazing at how far a active 8 or 9 year old can hike, the trick is when they get tired, they are tired, you really need to stop and make camp.

    I would shop with the child for quality food, a taste of the usual hotdog on a stick over an oven fire and the old marshmellow roasted. Too much sugar might cause problems. Oranges hydrate and give positive energy. Hot chocolate make a person sleepy.

    Something heated like a warm water container placed on a tummy keeps the body warm for a long time. Flash light very important, adult nearby, very valuable. I am taking a book on local botany. A magnifying glass is a wonder to kids they get a close up view of interesting things such as moss, bugs, insects, trees and even rocks.

    So much to do, I would not go very far to pitch camp, as pointed out earlier, it is nice to be able to make a graceful exit if things do not go well, or you end up in a monster storm. I would do a hike them come back near the vehicle and pitch camp.

    You are going to have fun, 9 year old boys are a lot of fun, they are past the baby stage where you have to keep them on a leash, guys at 9 are ready to learn and they communicate clearly, nine is a great age.

  9. #9
    New Member Messy Jesse's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of the great suggestions. Waterfall wow factor, a creek to play in, and s'mores will go a long way. He's done a decent amount of tent camping near a car, and we're going to do a few scout/car camping trips with our hammocks before we try to pack it in. Maybe we can work day hikes in at a few of the suggested locations to scout our trip.

    Ironfish - sounds like those kids got a pretty raw deal, and are really lucky to have you in their lives. I'm finding 9 to be fun and challenging in a whole new way - mostly related to that clear communication. Testing our gear and practicing some of the bush craft he's learned is our focus for the next few trips, before we head out away from the car. Knowledge and confidence in his skill help keep fear away in the woods, and the only way to get that is practice.

    Thanks again everyone - lots of great ideas to build on.

  10. #10
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    Congratulations on thinking and planning ahead. All kids (boys and girls) benefit from someone teaching them. From my experience raising two sons...make sure each person has 'their own' gear. Their own headlamp...own everything.

    My favorite memory of my dad taking me camping? Giving me my own knife when we set out on our first camping trip together. It was a Schrade fixed blade knife with a leather scabbard and I was to wear it on my belt at all times when camping. Use it as I had been taught and then turn it in when we were safely back in the truck headed home. Made me feel like I was trusted... and I still have that knife.

    Years later - each of my sons got their own knife on their first 'real' camping trip. With two sons, that meant buying two of everything but they were responsible for their own gear and made my life easier knowing they had their own first-aid kit...own spare boot laces...etc.

    The most important part of the trip will be watching the youngster and sometimes it's OK for the adult to say...let's take a break. Kids sometimes want to prove how tough they are and will overexert themselves...so keep a careful eye on how red their face is getting and if their walking gait is changing...

    My best memory? Both boys sound asleep on the way home....smiling.

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