Julia & Charlotte’s Big Adventure
July 18, 2014

by Marc Chalufour

Two first-aid kits are spread on the hood of my friend’s car and we’re trying to decide what we should pull from each for our three-day hike along the Appalachian Trail from Connecticut into Massachusetts. Julia, my friend’s 7-year-old daughter, and I are looking at a rolled-up ACE bandage.

“Do you think we’ll need that?” I ask.

“I don’t know how crazy this [trip] is—I’ve never done this before!” she says, slightly exasperated by my question.

I’ve never done this either—if “this” means backpacking with kids. Julia and her sister Charlotte, who is about to turn 6, have car-camped before, and they did a one-night backpack a year ago. But three days, two nights, and 15 miles on the AT will be a challenge.

The girls are slow to warm up to the hike, frequently asking when our next break will be. I'm not sure we'll ever cover 5 miles—let alone repeat that each day. But then they start to find a rhythm and tune into their surroundings. “It’s a mushroom!” Charlotte says, pointing to something growing on a tree trunk. “FUNGUS!” her sister affirms. We approach a downed birch tree and Charlotte says she thought it was a zebra.

We snap smart-phone photos of wildflowers and salamanders, and that night at camp the girls try to sketch them. On our first night, Julia and Charlotte want to write a story about the trip, which began a day earlier, shortly after their mom left town on a business trip. “How should we start it?” one of them asks.

“The moment Mom’s car left, we got so excited!” Julia says. “We sprang into action!”

“Mom’s not going to like this!” my friend says.

I ask them if they have any advice for other hiking families, and they quickly rattle off a mixture of textbook hiking tips and wonderfully youthful observations. Here’s a list of their advice, compiled on the trail and in a conversation following the trip:

Julia & Charlotte's Hiking Tips

  1. Take some breaks on the trail. 
  2. You should probably make some trail mix. 
  3. Be patient with your kids. 
  4. Definitely have a first-aid kit. 
  5. Bring avocados—but make sure they’re not too hard. 
  6. You might need two adults for two kids. 
  7. You should probably start a conversation to keep your kids entertained. Like if you see something cool, tell them. 
  8. If the kids want, use hiking poles, because it’s very broomy. 
  9. However: Hiking poles aren’t the best thing for the underground world. 
  10. Bring something to do in camp—like writing a story. 
  11. If you write a story, ask the kids to draw the pictures. 
  12. Take pictures of what you want to draw. 
  13. Look closely at things so you can see baby things—like baby salamanders. 
  14. Bring camp shoes. 
  15. Bring survival stuff. 
  16. Probably let your kids stay up later than they usually do. 
  17. Bring extra food in case you get stuck out there, or your stove breaks. 
  18. Have s’mores (“Put that last,” they insist.) 

I’m amazed by how much they’ve picked up from their dad—or simply figured out on their own. He'd told them about Leave No Trace, generally, and here Julia was already extrapolating that into the impact of her hiking poles.

Over the three days both girls have moments of fatigue and conviction that they have to stop—but within minutes they are usually on the move again. Those incidents are easily outnumbered by their mature observations. And as we spend more time in the woods, it’s interesting to see which experiences they most often bring up. They're the seemingly small ones, seeing the salamanders, or spotting a new variety of wildflower. These tiny moments seem to captivate their imaginations even more than summit views and waterfalls.

On the final day, along the last stretch of trail, we talk about kid stuff. Their favorite cartoons, which I’ve never heard of; my favorite cartoons, which they’ve never seen. Candy. Toys. Movies. Finally the parking lot comes into view through the trees. We’re all eager for a real meal and our own beds. Julia sums things up perfectly: “That was fun and hard at the same time,” she says.


March 24, 2013 (3)
I want kids to get out in nature so they can enjoy all its benefits. Not so they will suffer extra lung damage.
July 11, 2016 (18)
For budding young marine biologists, or even just animal or ocean lovers, tidal pools offer oodles of opportunity for exploration.

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By: Guest
Posted: 05/22/2017 04:28
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By: Guest
Posted: 12/20/2016 04:37

aww.. i really enjoyed your the julia and charlotts big adventure. thanks you so much for posting it here. it was really awsome. this post gives me new experiences. ik would like to go such like a trip with my new suzuki access 

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By: Guest
Posted: 03/02/2016 04:27

I believe the biggest issue that may occur during such trips is kids getting tired and not wanting to go any further. And it is going to be hard explaning them after they rest, it will be easier. It will be even more hard to convince them that with tme pain will go away. Such things usually happen when it is your first time going hiking with your kids and usually throwng tantrums doesn't depend on age. Once I was hiking with my 7-year-old niece and after walking for half an hour, she became annoying simply because she isn't used to walking long distances and since she was pampered quite a lot. she got used to get what she wanted. In few minutes it became a nightmare. I just wished somebody would magically appear and calm her down. Or some ideas would pop up. But nothing did. I didn't know what I should do with her. Simply because her feet were hurting a little, she was throwing tantrums so we didn't continue our journey but still she was hurting and even after resting for some time, though she wanted to go back, she was wining because her feet hurted. In the end, I piggybacked her back. And that was first and last time I went hiking with kids. Well, I'd rather spend my time with Assignment Help at write my assignment and try to calm down annoying clients than deal with kids. The latter are more dangerous.

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