As we drove through town, Sage looked out the window and pointed to a peak in the distance, “Mama, what’s the name of that big mountain?” I told her it was called South Sister. “Is it hard to get to the top?” I said, “yes, it’s a very hard hike to the top.” In typical Sage fashion she replied…”Ok then, I want to do it.”
When my daughter says she wants to hike to the top of South Sister, I am going to make it happen. The temps looked good for the coming weekend so we went for it.
South Sister is the third tallest peak in Oregon, 10,358 feet. The hike is relatively short (11.2 miles round trip) but steep (4,940 ft of elevation gain in 5.5 miles). .5 miles is flat-ish so really it’s like 5,000 ft of elevation gain in 5 miles. I didn’t tell Sage much about the hike because I didn’t want to intimidate her. But we did keep our expectations extremely low.
The morning began at 5am. We made snacks and loaded the car. We woke the kids around 6 and headed to the trailhead. Everyone got dressed on the side of the road, applied sunscreen, and filled the packs. We packed the Ergo too in case Sage had an issue and needed to be carried.
Sage has always been a child with abnormal amounts of energy. If you’ve ever eaten a meal with us you know how difficult it is for her to sit still. She’s also passionate, excitable, willful, and spontaneous. The best part of having a child with strong qualities is when given the opportunity to be herself in appropriate places she will do amazing things. Being herself everywhere else is another story…
We arrived at the false summit and that particular spot annoyed both of us. There’s nothing like climbing a super steep trail only to arrive at the top to see the rest of the giant mountain you have to climb. Discouraging to say the least. She asked to turn around. We took a break instead and decided on a new goal, a large shark fin rock farther up the trail. From that point on the only other time she wanted to quit was during the final push when she laid down and yelled, “I’m EXHAUSTED!” But then she hopped back up and proclaimed, “I can do it! I have tons of energy!” The constant encouragement from other hikers and a hand to hold motivated her. I have never been more proud of my daughter than I was today.
We started our hike at about 7am and were driving home 12 hours later at 7pm. Our watches calculated total moving time at about 6.5 hours. To keep the kids happy we incorporated lots of rest time for Sage and play time for Cedar who was sitting in the backpack. Our non-moving time worked out to 5.5 hours. This sounds excessive but non-moving time is play time, snack time, standing time, meltdown time, time at the top taking pictures… any time we are going slower than a 45min/mile pace. Being flexible with how much longer everything takes is the biggest adjustment to adventuring with children. We still do pretty much everything we did before children but now we plan for lots of extra time.
What made this work for Sage:
- Yummy snacks! We are mostly a whole food/low processed food family but when it comes to hiking- yummy, easy, non perishable, non- squishable food is critical. In Sage’s case, this means snacks she normally doesn’t get to eat. This time her choice was M&Ms. The good news is, by the end of the hike Sage said M&Ms were gross and didn’t want another one. A win! We also had PBJs, grapes, fruit leathers, electrolyte powder in water, dried cherries, Z Bars, and almond butter cookies. Other favorites are dried mango and peanut butter pretzels. We look for high calorie easily packable food. I am always eager to learn about new and higher quality hiking food so if you have ideas, send me an email!
- Stories. The other difference of adventuring with children (unless they are napping in the pack) is that someone needs to help them pass the time. For us that means making up the longest and most detailed stories as possible. We have fictional friends named Cinnamon and Rosie that have all kinds of adventures. On this hike, Sage requested stories about Cinnamon and Rosie during the Christmas season. In addition to our Cinnamon and Rosie stories, this hike was the first time we experimented with playing Sparkle Stories from my cell phone and it worked well! She listened to at least 4 which is an hour and 20 minutes! We also sang our favorite songs and changed the words to make them extra silly.
What made this work for Cedar:
- Yummy snacks (my favorite strategy): New tastes and textures definitely buy us more happy backpack time. Cedar is nuts about fruit leathers. Unfortunately Cedar was also eating some of Sage’s M&Ms but he was happy!
- I spy. Cedar loved pointing out all the lakes he saw on the ascent and descent. He kept yelling, “wah wah, wah wah!”
- Singing: This one is a slam dunk. I have yet to meet a little one who doesn’t love silly songs. We changed all the lyrics to “La La Lemon” to match each letter of the alphabet and took turns thinking of words. It was hilarious.
- Power of touch: Cedar loved touching the pine trees. When we were back below the tree line we slowed down for each branch he could reach.
As we made it down the first 3,000 feet and to the ridge above Moraine Lake, Sage was looking worn out. I was worried she was going to be sick and she wanted Daddy to carry her. I put on the backpack with Cedar. Peter put Sage in the Ergo. She went limp on his chest and was almost asleep for the final 3 miles to the car.
The time in the Ergo recharged her battery so when we got to the bottom both kids took off their pants and played in the stream.
What. A. Day.
More pictures from our adventure..