North Fork Trail Head-Wolf Bar Camp 5 miles out and back (2.5 miles each way). Little elevation gain.
Pass-Get back country permits for camping at South Shore Quinault Lake Ranger Station Difficulty-1/5 Rating-5/5
Chris and I really enjoy backpacking together and we have been looking forward to making a family outing and taking the kids with us. We wanted both kids to be potty trained before we took them backpacking so we wouldn’t have to pack in clean diapers and pack out dirty diapers. We also needed both of them to be able to hike a few miles by themselves without us carrying them, or taking too long of breaks. We wanted to make sure that they would have a good time and we wanted to make sure Chris and I had fun too!
Last summer we went on a few hikes and the kids did good. Ryan did really good, but Lillian still needed to be carried some. Earlier this year we went on a few hikes and Lillian and Ryan both did great. We also have been camping with the kids lots so they are used to sleeping in tents and being outdoors. We decided now was a good time to take them on a SHORT backpacking trip!
We didn’t have enough backpacking gear for all of us. When we would go camping we would just take a bunch of blankets and thick, heavy pads. This sleep system was not good for backpacking since we would have to carry everything. Chris and I were also planning on going on a big backpacking trip in high elevations where it would be colder. My current sleeping bag wasn’t keeping me warm enough so I knew that I needed to change my bag so I would be more comfortable. So I needed a new bag, Ryan needed a bag, and Lillian needed a bag. There are kid sleeping bags out there, but we didn’t love any of those options for us. (We didn’t want something too big, we didn’t want something that they would outgrow in the near future, and we wanted to make sure that they would be warm enough.) We also weren’t sure what to do about my bag. My current bag was rated for 25 degrees and I was freezing at about 50 degrees. (I’m a huge wimp.) We thought about getting me a -10 degree bag. (But then we were nervous I would be too hot in a normal circumstance.)
We did a lot of thinking and we finally decided that we would buy the (Enlightened Equipment) EE Accomplice. Its a two person quilt. A quilt is like a sleeping bag except that the footbox is the only part that is sewn all the way together. (Comes up to mid calf.) The rest of the bag is open like a blanket. No zipper, just open like a big blanket. There are attachments on it so you can hook it to your pad so you are fully covered and will stay fully covered. Quilts are great because they are a lot lighter since the back is open, but they are just as warm. Down keeps you warm when it is nice and fluffy (has good loft). If you are laying on your down it is compressed and has no insulating power, so the back adds no warmth. This particular quilt is made for two people. When we go as a family, Chris and Ryan will share and Lillian and I will share. We even let the kids pick out their sleeping bag colors which was a lot of fun! Lillian picked pink and purple. Ryan picked turquoise, dark blue, and red on the inside. The girl quilt is rated for 0 degrees so it is nice and toasty. Plus we can share body heat and get even warmer! If we get too hot we can just stick a leg out or uncover and we cool off right a way! Chris and Ryan got a 20 degree quilt so theirs is a bit cooler. When Chris and I go backpacking we can decided on taking either the 0 degree quilt or the 20 degree quilt, so we have a bit of flexibility! (If Chris goes without us he has his own quilt that he would just take.)
We also bought an Exped double pad for Lillian and me (or Chris and me if its just the two of us). Its super comfy and I love it! Chris doesn’t want the extra weight so he and Ryan hook their pads together so there isn’t a gap between them. (A gap would let all the cold air in and they would freeze. When people go out camping/backpacking they think they need a good sleeping bag to be warm, which they do, but they neglect their pad. Having a good warm pad will make a HUGE difference. If you sleep cold you probably need a better pad!) Since we had all our sleeping gear we were ready to head out!
Since it was fairly early in the season we were limited on where we could go. We needed a low elevation so there would be no snow. (We definitely weren’t ready for a snow backpacking trip!) We decided to the Quinault Rain forest that is in Olympic National Park. We wanted to do a hike with little to no elevation gain so the kids would have an easy time and we wanted it to be less than 5 miles round trip. We decided to start at the North Fork trail head and hike to Wolf Bar Camp. It would be 2.5 miles each way with very very little elevation gain. We were so excited!
The trail head is about 3 1/2 hours away and we wanted to make sure we had a good lunch before we started our hike. We got to the trail head, used the outhouse there (very nice) and we were off about 3:30 PM. The kids start off, almost every hike, whining and complaining. A few minutes into it they get into a rhythm and have a lot of fun! They would run and chase each other, then we would stop for a snack, then they’d run and chase each other, and then we’d stop for a snack.
The hike to the campground was so pretty! We were in an old growth rain forest! The trees were covered in moss. We did have a few stream crossings. The first stream crossing was pretty easy and the kids did
it themselves no problem. The second stream crossing was about up to our knees. We didn’t want the kids to be freezing that night so we carried them across. The water was freezing! The kids thought it was hilarious that we were wet and so cold! By the time our legs warmed up from the previous stream crossing it was time to cross another stream. Again this one was too deep to let the kids do themselves so we had to carry them across again. Again, the kids thought it was hilarious.
Before we knew it we were at the cramp ground! We found a great spot for our tent and set up camp. Then we explored the area. We were surrounded by small mountain peaks and we were in what almost looked like a wash where the kids liked to play in the sand and look for animal tracks. A couple hundred yards away there was this huge rushing river. It was so pretty and the kids loved throwing rocks in the water and collecting “crystals”. This is the first time I’ve ever camped where it was just us. We had the whole wilderness to ourselves! After exploring we made dinner, (Mountain house!-The kids split the mac and cheese one. Lillian liked it, but Ryan wasn’t a huge fan. I liked theirs better than ours!) cleaned up, and went to bed.
We slept so good in our new quilts and pads. I went to bed a little chilly, but when I got cold I would just pull Lillian closer to me. She thought it was so cool that she was able to keep me warm at night! Shes a good cuddle buddy! When we woke up, the kids played chase, we went to the river some, we had oatmeal for breakfast, cleaned up, and we were ready to hike back.
The hike back was great. The kids did it super quick and had a blast the whole way back.We were hoping to see elk while we were there, but sadly we only saw their tracks. When we made it back to the car the kids were so proud of themselves! You could tell they felt so accomplished! Both of them were asking when we could do it again!