Overnight hiking with a four year old - really?? YES!!
Bad weather in the snowy mountains (huge snowstorm) threw me a curve ball – I was supposed to be tackling the Hannels Spur track and summit Kosciusko with friends in the middle of winter. With my bags already packed and my food organised I was left with no adventure 🙁
So my husband and I decided it was a good opportunity to take our Wild Child (C*) on her first overnight hike. The weather on the coast and inland from Newcastle was meant to be bit chilly but still dry and after a quick internet search and map check we decided on the Warrumbungle National Park, attempting the Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk.
The Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk is a stunning 15km loop with 3 campsites to bail into if needed. The only issue was the lack of drinking water around the loop – which meant we had to carry three days worth on us. I convinced one of my snow hike friends to come with us (Gen you are a legend!) which was amazing for C, as she had someone other than mum and dad to play with – Tip #1 for hiking with kids, bring friends!
Packing consisted of sorting the gear into two categories – essential and luxury items – which isn’t too different to usual packing, except we were trying to fit gear for three into two packs. Food is the hardest part for C as she is a picky eater, I ended up making an entire bread bag full of Vegemite sandwiches (crusts removed) for her, along with a whole bunch of bananas and snack bars – The aim was to keep her full and happy – that’s Tip #2
The drive from Port Stephens to Warrumbungle NP and back was actually the hardest part of the trip – its a long way! It was the first time I’ve really been to inland Australia – this is a huge country. Once we arrived it was already past midday and we had to get our park pass and pay camping fees before meeting Gen at the start of the walk.
My husband calls me a faffer – meaning I take too long to get ready – I look at it as being organised! So it was around 2pm before we started out hike from Camp Pincham car park. C was carrying her blue day pack with 1.5L water, snacks, raincoat and pants, warm layers and spare clothes.
Today’s mission was ~4.5kms up to Balor Hut Campground. The walk started off on a highly groomed track which morphed into a bricked walkway and then a stairway up to the sky. C was very excited to start with and spent a good part of the afternoon getting acquainted with her new “best friend Gen”.
When we started heading uphill on the brick path C dragged along a little but slowly and steadily made her way to the foot of the giant stairwell.
The stairs were actually very cool and gave C a new outlook on the track – she very excitedly made her way up taking in the views and height (Casey and I were busy checking out the awesome rock climbing opportunities!)
At the top of the stairs we went on a side path off to Balor Hut. Here we dropped our packs and clambered up to a high point to take in the surroundings and watch the sunset – yes we were moving very slowly the entire trip ~1km/hr).
Back at the hut we sent up our tent and built a campfire. C had some of her carefully prepared sandwiches and then took herself off to be soon after – something I love about camping is she always goes to be easily, usually as soon as it gets dark.
In the morning we had the option to walk through the Breadknife and High Tops (which was a bit longer) or just walk along the bottom. Consider how slow C is and how long we potentially had to go that day we Casey and I decide to skip it – we still got a great view of it though. Which brings us to Tip #3 Keep it simple.
Gen however got up SUPER early, in very strong winds to watch the sunrise from the top. Unfortunately she got up there to dense cloud cover and came back down a little bit disappointed – she will just have to go back again another time.
Casey, C and I started the walk while Gen packed up her tent and had breakfast.
It was fairly slow going, cold and drizzly (so much for the dry forecast) and we spent a good hour arguing with C to put a rain coat on over her puffer jacket – she won…
The track was very different to the groomed highway we experienced yesterday – which we actually prefer. When Gen caught up to us we had been making our way across several rock fields – we thought C was slow before, this was another level. On top of the understandable speed of negotiating the rocks she was also getting distracted but nature every 5 steps – I guess that’s why we were out there!
After two hours of walking C was getting a little fed up so here comes Tip #4 – bring bribery! Out came the jelly dinosaurs which we laid out like a breadcrumb trail to keep her moving (it wasn’t to far to our next stop at the base of Bluff Mountain).
At the base of Bluff Mountain we stopped for a quick break before making our way up the steep access track to the top. C spent the time either happily rock hopping and climbing or hanging around in Casey’s arms. Once we neared the top we were still in cloud cover and could feel the wind getting stronger. Fingers crossed for clear skies at the top we pushed on.
The top was very exciting for C who was getting blown around by the wind, the skies cleared – YAY! – and we got some pretty epic views of the valley below. We eventually made our way back down to our packs for lunch and a break.
After lunch we got our packs back on and continued our journey – we were now heading downhill back towards our next campsite option, Ogma Gap. Once we arrived we found a very exposed and windy area. Luckily C was still happy and moving so we decided we could push on through the last 4kms (with over 6kms done already) and if needed Casey could leave us behind to reach our new campsite, drop his pack and come back to carry her.
We made a game of jumping down the stairs (most of the way down to the valley floor) which kept C distracted and kept us going – Tip #5 – distraction!
At the valley floor C was obviously getting tired – and who could blame her! We had been moving for at least 8 hours (according to the 1km/hr rule) and still had another 2km to go. At the start of the hike we had set C goal of 5kms/day carrying her pack the entire time she had well passed her km goal so we took her pack, refueled her on chocolate coated muesli bars and started a chasing game along the track. This got her sugar and adrenaline levels back up and we managed to keep her moving all the way to Camp Pincham.
At camp I set up our tent while Casey made a swing for C. We made dinner and a campfire and like the night before C put herself to bed shortly after dark.
In the morning we packed up and went back onto the track – here is when it all went pear shaped…
C was a bit turned around and thought we were going the wrong way i.e not back to the car as promised. She threw an almighty tantrum and refused to go anywhere, she cried all the way along the 500m walk back to the car – not the best end to our adventure.
As soon as she saw the car all was forgiven and we hap our happy Wild Child back. We loaded up and drove off for a bit of climbing in the NP before our long drive back home.
10 Tips for Happy Hiking with Kids
#1 Bring friends
#2 Keep them full
#3 Keep it simple – don’t get too ambitious with your route, it’s about the journey not the destination
#4 Bring bribery
#5 Keep them distracted – games, songs whatever keeps their mind off the distance
#6 Make sure you can keep them dry and warm
#7 Have a bail out plan
#8 Take regular breaks
#9 Don’t forget, bunny (or teddy, snuggly etc…)
#10 Have fun!