I took my 5 y.o. son, Alex, on his first backpacking trip over Christmas break. We hiked up Sespe Creek in the Los Padres National Forest (Thanks for the suggestion Rockchucker!). I chose the hike because I knew there would be plenty of spots to stop wherever Alex got tired of hiking. He made it about a mile and half and besides a few hiccups had a great time. I was hoping to go farther but having a good time was my primary concern.
Here we are at the trailhead:
Shortly out of the parking lot the trail cuts across the mighty Sespe:
The first "water crossing".... hmmm the ranger said the Sespe always has water in it. Got a little concerned at this point, but was hoping one of the tributaries would have water.
Hiking down the trail:
About 3/4 of mile down the trail a tributary came in:
We set up camp on a sand bar near an existing firepit and collected firewood. Around 3 or 4 PM Alex tells me he is ready for dinner. I know he won't be happy if he is hungry so we start up the fire and roast hot dogs.
Went to check out the river. We found pretty good chunks of ice in the river. Hmmmm..... I had been following the weather at a weather station a few miles away on top of the ridge for over a month. Temperatures never dropped below 40° at night. Prediction for the night was a low of 48°F.
Got a visit from the ubiquitous scrub jay found at every campsite in California:
After roasting some marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate the temps started to drop. We snuggled into our sleeping bags and read books. After reading the 3 or 4 books I brought about a half dozen times we fell asleep.
In the night the temperature dropped like a rock. My sleeping bag and mat were inadequate and I did not sleep much. Luckily I had a warmer bag for Alex and he seemed to be warm and sleeping soundly. It could not have been any warmer than the low 20's. I guess the bottom of the canyon does not get much sun and stays quite a bit colder than up on the ridge. We woke up the next morning and a small pond nearby had completely iced over.
The next morning I was exhausted but Alex woke up happy. After we got up he told me his feet were "freezey". I tried getting him moving to warm up but the sun was nowhere near popping over the ridge and his disposition was degrading quickly. I built a small fire to warm up with but he was already pretty inconsolable and didn't want to stand near the fire. I finally threw him back in the tent with both of our sleeping bags and put a warm bottle at his feet. He perked up after that and when the sun finally cleared the ridge he came out and explored the area while I packed up camp.
Here we are back at the trailhead:
Alex said he had a good time and that is good enough for me.