Hiking and Camping with Kids

Judy and I brought our daughters hiking and camping in Minnesota State Parks when they were little (maybe 4-13 years old). So it’s only natural that we’ve now continued the tradition with our three grandsons since they each got to be about five years old. They are now 13, 12 and 9 years old.

All three boys excel at hockey and golf, play soccer and Matt, the youngest, plays basketball as well. In fact hockey is played year-round; as school team members, and in traveling teams that take them out-of-state, and up to Winnipeg more than once. Their rooms are full of trophies and medals! Yes, very active kids! And they’re all good at what they do, and their mom and dad probably work harder than the kids, making it all happen -for sure! Dad has been a #1 hockey coach since day one, shortly after Charlie started walking! And mom is the true ‘hockey mom.’ But this story is about kids hiking!

Given all the competing demands for limited time, they have all hiked (parents included) in several Regional Parks located near the Twin Cities area. They have also hiked and camped in several of Minnesota’s State Parks as well. One of the kids, Mikey, has even camped and hiked in New Mexico and Colorado with gramma and grampa. The kids all seem to enjoy it more and more as they get older. Initially it was all car-camping and day-hiking, and now the oldest boy, Charlie is getting into backpacking with grampa, and I’m sure Mikey will join us in another year or two.

Hiking, camping and backpacking provide great exercise. In addition, the kids learn geography, geology, human and cultural history, about the flora and fauna around the country, climate and weather, and much more. On a recent trip, Mikey learned about the CCC, a government jobs program that provided ‘work and income’ for millions of Americans during the Depression. He didn’t learn about it from books or in school, but rather by seeing projects built by CCC workers across America -bridges, roads, buildings in state/national parks, across the country, and more. The learning opportunities are endless! And so is the fun!  [I’ll also mention how I’m integrating Ham Radio into my outdoor activities at the end of this post; it’s a rapidly growing interest of mine.]

The two older boys, Mikey and Charlie, can now read topographic maps, and find direction using the sun. They’ve learned to orient a topo-map in the field, using a compass; and they watch for prominent landmarks like towns, rivers and streams (noting direction of flow), high peaks, ridge lines, lakes and road/rail ways to help them find their way in the backcountry. They’ve also been busy learning other fundamental life skills over the past few years with grampa. It’s fun because every year they grow bigger, stronger and smarter, and become better able to to meet new challenges. Ahh, to be young again. 😉

Charlie was the first to get out on the Regional Park trails with me. Since I was retired, it was relatively easy for us to get together for outings. I returned from a six-week solo-hiking and backpacking trip into the Canadian Rockies, in the fall of ’04, and brought him a nice t-shirt from Banff. I think that t-shirt, combined with his listening to my hiking tales tended to put him in the hiking mood! You know those kids are always listening!


Charlie, fall '04, with his shirt from grampa

Charlie, fall ’04, with his shirt from grampa. One day he’ll join me in Alberta.


Judy and I took Charlie out for a hike with friends shortly after my return from Canada. He had a blue baseball cap that his mom said he’d never wear for long. I too wore a blue baseball cap. He wore his cap all day and even wore it home at days end. Surprise, mom!


Charlie hiking with grampa

Charlie hiking with grampa at Wild River State Park in ’04. Photo by Judy.


Before long, Charlie had a new brother, Mikey to play with. And it wasn’t long until Mikey started hiking with us. They both liked hiking and camping with gramma and grampa.


Charlie and Mikey, summer '08

Charlie and Mikey, summer ’08


Here they are sitting together along the rocky shoreline of the Baptism River just below the lower falls in Tettegouche State Park, which just happens to be about a mile off the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).

Charlie seemed to get out hiking more than Mikey for a couple of years, but now they both get out quite often together with both gramma and grampa.


Charlie camping with grampa in William O'Brian State Park

Charlie camping with grampa in William O’Brian State Park, along the St. Croix River, north of Stillwater, MN.


Charlie and Mikey exploring Gooseberry Falls with grampa

Charlie and Mikey exploring Gooseberry Falls with grampa. Photo by gramma.


Charlie hiking near a 'controlled burn area' in a Regional Park.

Charlie hiking near a ‘controlled burn area’ in Richardson Nature Center, a Regional Park only half an hour from home.


A few weeks after this hike, Charlie’s teacher was teaching a class and showed a picture similar to this (but without Charlie) and asked the class if anyone knew what it was. Someone mentioned a forest fire but all the surrounding trees didn’t burn. Then Charlie suggested it was a ‘controlled burn,’ surprising everyone including the teacher, and went on to describe the purpose of the controlled event to the class- grassland management in this case.

Eventually Mikey joined us on a more regular basis.


Judy, Mikey and Charlie

Judy, Mikey and Charlie hiking along the SHT


Mike, Charlie and Mikey along the SHT

Mike, Charlie and Mikey hiking along the SHT


Mikey and Charlie near Split Rock Lighthouse

Mikey and Charlie near Split Rock Lighthouse


We’ve camped several times in the Cascade River State Park, and it’s one of their favorite places to camp and hike. The Cascade River can get pretty wild during the spring ice melt along the North Shore.


Mikey fishing in Lake Superior

Mikey fishing in Lake Superior near the mouth of the Cascade River.


Charlie fishing in Lake Superior

Charlie fishing in Lake Superior near the mouth of the Cascade River.


The boys camping with grama and grampa

The boys camping with gramma and grampa at Tettegouche SP


Caribou Trail (Co. 4) SHT Trailhead

Caribou Trail (Co. 4) SHT Trailhead going north to Cascade River


Judy and I, and both boys set up a base camp in Cascade River State Park, then we drove S down to Caribou Trail and began hiking back N to our base camp in the State Park -along the SHT. Charlie and I were going to spend the night camped along the trail. Judy and Mikey would hike in with us as far as Jonvick Creek, we’d all have lunch, then they would return to the car and drive back to our base camp. Charlie and I planned to camp at Indian Camp Creek, then continue back to base camp the next morning.


Boardwalk across a large beaver pond

Boardwalk across a large beaver pond


Beaver pond along SHT

Beaver pond E of Caribou Trail along the SHT.


We crossed the beaver pond

We crossed the beaver pond and no one fell in!


Jonvick Creek Camp Sites

We took a break and had lunch at Jonvick Creek Camp Sites.


After having lunch, Judy and Mikey hiked back to the car and returned to Cascade River State Park, while Charlie and I continued hiking. We had at least two-three hours to hike before getting to Indian Camp Creek. After an hour or so, we ended up on a snowmoblie trail, which isn’t that unusual. However it seemed to be heading east toward Lake Superior at a pretty rapid rate- the elevation was dropping. We back-tracked a bit and asked a few hikers at an overlook if we were still on the SHT and they said yes, so we continued. After another half hour I knew we were off the trail (I’d hiked it five years earlier with Judy).

I told Charlie that we must have missed catching the actual SHT again somewhere back along the snowmobile route. We continued along taking the snowmobile routes. I told Charlie we weren’t lost, but we’d just lost the trail. We’d been talking too much and not paying attention to the trail. He understood that. We checked our map and compass. I suggested we just take the snow machine routes/side trails that kept us heading directly E to Lake Superior and HWY 61, which would take us back to Cascade River State Park, Judy and Mikey. I didn’t want to turn around and climb back uphill searching for the SHT. And, besides, my pack was getting heavy! So we hiked along the shoulder of Hwy 61 for about a mile and came to Cascade River Lodge, which has a nice restaurant right on Hwy 61. We were walking by looking at the restaurant, and who was sitting right in the front window eating? Mikey and Judy! Charlie and I walked up to the front door, entered, dropped our packs in the lobby and joined them for dinner. Amen, we were hungry! I enjoyed one of the best cold beers in my life, as we waited for our dinner.

After dinner, we all went back to base camp and spent the night there. Next morning Charlie and I got dropped off early back at the Caribou Trail/SHT Trailhead again, to finish our planned one night out-on-the-trail hike as originally planned. This trail was not going to beat us!

This time we hiked and paid attention as we got on the snowmobile trail again- less talk is often a good thing along the trail. We rounded a curve on the snowmobile trail, and along the outer edge, there was the slight trail connection we’d missed the day before. Indeed, we had not been paying attention and missed it! We were again back on the actual SHT headed toward base camp.

Another couple of hours and we reached Indian Creek Camp, our destination for the day. There were a number of other campers there already. They had hiked in from Cascade River State Park, a short hike. We found a place for our tent and made camp. We joined others around the fire and talked for an hour trading hiking/backpacking stories from all around the country -what fun! Charlie and I finally got up to make our dinner -a delicious dehydrated adventure, washed down with filtered cold water from the creek that was only twenty feet from our tent. Dinner was good, and we hit the sack early. We’d put on some good miles over the past two days, and the weather had been exceptional. What more could we ask for?

In the morning we had some coffee/cocoa and an energy bar for breakfast. We topped off our water (filtered of course), packed up and bid farewell to the other campers as we headed for our base camp in the state park. We only had to hike about 90 minutes or so, and we met Mikey and Judy on the trail as we entered the state park -small world! We all hiked along the river together for awhile before returning to our base camp to pack everything up and head for home. We stopped for a hearty lunch at Northern Lights restaurant near Beaver Bay, and then drove home.

It was a good three-day weekend, and Charlie enjoyed his first backpacking trip- even if it was just a one-nighter out on the trail. Judy and Mikey had fun together hiking in the Park, much of it along the raging Cascade River.


Mikey the photographer

Mikey the photographer -in Lower Scorpion Campground, Gila Wilderness, NM ’15


Mikey joined Judy and me  on a trip in late summer of 2015.  I was out on a road trip and picked them up in Albuquerque. We drove down to the Gila Wilderness (558,000 acres of wilderness located north of Silver City, NM), and camped/hiked over a few days. We visited some very old Indian ruins along the nearby upper Gila River. The Mogollon people built and inhabited the cliff dwellings over 700 years ago. I’ve camped and hiked in the Gila Wilderness several times over the past decade. It’s tough terrain, complete with mountain lions, black bear and lots of rattlesnakes. It can get really hot and you need to plan well for your water needs. A truly great place! I visited once after severe fires, to find the Gila River water so full of ash, you couldn’t drink it and it would clog your filter -luckily the ranger facility had a well and I filled all my water bottles and a three-gallon container for my shortened stay.


Camped under the Ponderosa in Lower Scorpion Campground, Gila Wilderness, NM

Camped under the Ponderosa in Lower Scorpion Campground, Gila Wilderness, NM


A quick dehydrated lunch in Lower Scorpion Campground

A quick dehydrated lunch in Lower Scorpion Campground, Gila Wilderness, NM


Mikey learned about Geronimo

Mikey learned about Geronimo, a famous Apache leader, who was born along the Gila River.


Departing the Gila area, we drove up to Santa Fe for a couple of days, visited the Whittington Center further northeast, and continued up through the beautiful Raton Pass and Trinidad, CO headed for Vail, with a few layovers along the way. Then it was into Denver for a night, and next morning Judy and Mikey flew home. Mikey will never forget that trip -guaranteed! Of course, neither will we!  🙂

I continued driving north through Cheyenne, WY and Laramie, to the small town of Lander, where I spent a few days in the Wind River Range before returning home through the Black Hills and Badlands of SD.


Postscript– On future road trips like this, especially when in the mountains, I’ll be using my new Yaesu FT-817ND and my handheld transceiver (HT) to activate/chase some SOTA (Summits On The Air) radio contests. I get out west quite a bit to do hiking, camping and backpacking, so a little Ham Radio is a natural extension, and will only add to the fun!  I’ll spend this winter learning the menu and how to operate the 817 from my shack, while getting it programmed; getting myself upgrading to the General Class license which will allow me to work extended bandwidths, and get some antennas lined up. I’ve already got my snowshoes out; just waiting on the snow!

I’ve got my TYT UVF1 HT programmed for many Minnesota locations, and I’ll have to get some additional out-of-state locations added as well, including repeaters in select locations. I’ve got a basic Go-Kit built for the 817, with added packs for extras, depending on the situation. I’ve been spending more time on the air, connecting with other hams in radio nets and CQ’s on repeaters and simplex -locally and when on the road in MN. Practice, practice is the name of the game. I’ve met lots of great Hams in my radio clubs, and lots of good radio bloggers online as well, from around the world! I’m looking forward to a good 2017! And I’m looking forward to hearing you on the air! 😉

And Hi to my friend Howard, 4X1ZZ. We became friends at Field Day last spring. Happy holidays my friend!

Cheers! 73   Mike, KEØGZT







About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Honorary Member, Toronto QRP Society; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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7 Responses to Hiking and Camping with Kids

  1. Chris Warren says:

    Great article, Mike! And as always your photos are outstanding.

    Congrats on the FT-817ND. It’s a great radio…I own one myself and use it more than my “big boy” 100 watt rig. I’ll let you in on a little preview: Coming up this weekend on my Off Grid Ham blog, I’ll be posting an article on how to make a back-packable antenna that works great on that radio!

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Thanks, Chris. Always good to hear from you. I look forward to your upcoming post on a good homebrew antenna for the 817 that will backpack well. If any other readers are interested, check out Chris’ great blog ‘offgridham.com’ for details. I’m anxious to get familiar with the 817, but will probably only work 6m, 2m and 70cm over the winter. I’m considering a attic antenna for maybe 10m-12m, but I’ve got to get the office/shack rearranged first, as I need to upgrade my ticket as well. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours, Chris.

  2. Awesome pics. I bet that trip back to Minnesota was fin through the Badlands.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Lander, WY is a great small town to visit, as is the nearby Shoshoni National Forest, and the Wind River Range just to the NW. However, it was getting late in the season and was cold up in the mountains -there was some snow, but more on the way so I didn’t hang around long and get stuck! I did spend a night in the Sage Creek Campground in the western end of the Badlands (was warmer than in the mountains)- my favorite spot to camp out there, no water and I had the place to myself! I do have a friend living in the Badlands (Interior, SD) and stopped for a short visit. But I was anxious to get back to the family, after being out for several weeks, and pretty much made a beeline for home once I departed Lander. Thanks for the comment, Jonathan.

  3. oldslowhans says:

    Very nice! I keep a similar blog at http://www.oldslowhans.com

    73, de Hans, K0HB

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