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Two Kids, Three Months, 100 Miles of Backpacking

Posted by Anna Roth at Jun 26, 2015 01:39 PM |

Lorelei Felchlin is an adventurous spirit, and she's fostering that same spirit in her kids by getting them outdoors as much as possible. Joey (9), Elissa (7), and Vivian (1) spend their time hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and caving, and now they have set a goal to backpack 100 miles this summer. WTA caught up with her to discuss how she's going to tackle this goal.

Lorelei Felchlin is an adventurous spirit, and she's fostering that same spirit in her kids by getting them outdoors as much as possible. Joey (9), Elissa (7), and Vivian (1) spend their time hiking, backpacking, rock climbing and caving, and now they have set a goal to backpack 100 miles this summer. WTA caught up with her to discuss how she's going to tackle this goal.

What part of Washington do you most prefer to explore? Where do your kids like to go?

Felchlin: I prefer the Central Cascades, specifically the Stuart Range or the Marblemount area of the North Cascades. My son really enjoyed the Tubal Cain Area and his trip into the Enchantments. My daughter enjoys trips along the coast.

What sort of an outdoors background did you have growing up?

Felchlin: I had no outdoors background. My parents did not like the outdoors and had zero interest in even car camping. I have always had an adventurous spirit. When I moved to western Washington in 2002, and noticed all the granite mountains just off the highway, I was hooked.

What inspired you to decide on this goal?

I am excited to watch this unfold as they are currently picking out destinations and learning to read maps for mileage/elevation understanding.

Felchlin: I knew going into this summer that I had two days per week the two older kids and I could venture out without my youngest child. This would be really unique as they would get personal time with me and we wouldn't have to scale down the adventure to look out for the toddler.

Both older kids enjoy backpacking and I thought coming up with a goal would encourage each of the kids to take part in the planning and execution of each trip. Plus, it will allow them to watch their progress over the summer.

Hiker on Olympic Coast lorelei Felchlin
Elissa smiles on a beautiful day backpacking the Olympic coast. Photo courtesy Lorelei Felchlin.

What does venturing onto a trail add to your relationship with your children that you can't get by spending time with them in cities?

Felchlin: I think I could write a book on how being on the trail adds to relationships between parents and children. Our lives in the city, are so busy. The daily grind can be so overwhelming with school schedules, after-school activities, electronics (ipads, xbox, etc.).

When we hit the trail, everything quiets down and slows down. We have conversations without the interruption of phone notifications or needing to run off to an event. The kids are challenged to confront a difficult situation or face fears instead of running back to a comfort zone. As they learn to overcome these types of challenges, they can apply the same reasoning to other challenges in their life. For example, overcoming a fear of fording a small creek can be just as scary as standing up in front of your fourth grade class and giving a speech.

I feel getting out on the trails provides many life lessons and learning opportunities them that can mold many other aspects of their lives. I get the privilege of watching all of this unfold over the years and witness these little kids become amazing stewards of their community, and begin to care about the environment and encourage each other to be the best they can be and excel in their own unique way.

Have you done other goals like this as you've raised your children? What were they?

Felchlin: We have had other goals for the kids as they grow up. Each year we developed a goal for each child. Last year, the goal was two backpacking trips; one of the trips was one child, one parent. My son and I backpacked into the Enchantments for five days, and two weeks later my daughter and I backpacked for three days in the Chinook Pass area.

The goals in prior years centered more around what each child was capable of carrying throughout the duration of the trip, learning how to set up camp, learning how to cook and filter water. This year the emphasis is map reading and mileage calculation.

felchlin family log lorelei felchlin
The family takes a break to log their day's adventures on the coast. Photo courtesy Lorelei Felchlin.

Do you set goals like this while they're in school or do you save a project like this for the summer?

Felchlin: My schedule is flexible enough to allow me to accommodate this goal, but I did have to wait until school was out for the summer. Aside from the backpacking, we have a book reading goal but no other big summer commitments like summer camp or family reunions.

Which location are you most excited to visit? What about your kids?

Felchlin: We do have all our destinations planned out with some backup destinations in case of bad weather, wildfires, trail closures, etc. I am most excited about a 50+ miler into the Eagle Cap Wilderness. It will be one of two opportunities that we will get more backpacking days than the two days per week.

My son is really excited to get back to some alpine lakes, so I added Tuck and Robin Lakes to the list. My daughter also enjoys ending up at lakes so she can go swimming and fishing (we have only managed to catch sticks).


We'll be checking in with Lorelei in August to see how the backpacking project is going, and to learn some tips and tricks for hiking with youngsters. Stay tuned! For more great information on hiking with your family, sign up for our Families Go Hiking newsletter.


Awesome! Suggestions 4 & 6 year old

Great story, we have a similar goal to get our daughters out away from TV and the daily grind. We moved from the East Coast to raise them closer to the real outdoors. Hiking, camping, skiing, sailing -- love Seattle. Do you have suggestions for some early backpacking trips? I have done a few with my 6 year old, looking to get the 4 year old into the mix this year. Lots of great trails, but need some realistic goals. 3-4 miles one way, lake or stream, low - medium incline, less than 2 hours from Seattle (don't want to burn everyone out in the car before we even get there). Would like to avoid pre-planning with permits at Rainier or other since we usually out on the weekends.

Posted by:

Chris G on Jun 28, 2015 09:02 AM

young kids suggestions, specific backpacking trails

this story is a dead on match for us, well minus one kid! Two kids 4, 6 - regular hikers, still amazed at some of their mileage and tolerance. Looking for some early backpacking suggestions 2-4 miles, low-medium incline with some type of fun destination (lake, stream, big meadow or view), less than 2 hours from seattle, minimal permitting issues since we will be out on the weekend and we don't preplan well for places like Rainier backpacking! Great story, best of luck and thanks in advance.

Posted by:

Chris G on Jun 28, 2015 09:06 AM

this is wonderful

A couple years ago I did Spider Meadows with a 5-year-old and his mother. She rocked it - her son at 5 only carried a Camelbak bladder pack and a pair of trekking poles. He did great, and she was very attentive to his needs and abilities. We had a great time and I would love to hike with them again.

When I was 7 and my sister was six, we did a hike 5-day PCT trip from Stevens Pass _north_ to White Pass and out I think via Kennedy Creek. He was not so patient, but eventually, much later, I came around to love hiking more than I did at the time.

Posted by: on Jun 28, 2015 07:33 PM

Stay tuned!

We'll be checking in with Lorelei partway through the summer to see where she's gone and what tips she can suggest for families hoping to take a challenge like hers on.

For now, check out our First Backpacking Trips for Kids article for inspiration on where to take your kids backpacking for their first trip.

Posted by:

Washington Trails Association Trip Reports on Jun 29, 2015 09:32 AM