Was it really backpacking if it was only 2 km?

Staying active with kids backpacking hiking camping

If you’ve been reading along with me, you already know that I’ve been obsessed with getting off the beaten path, out of the overcrowded campsites, and back into the serenity of the backcountry with my six-year old twins.  If you haven’t been following along, you can read about our inaugural backpacking trip here and how we prepared here.

But looking back on the adventures of the summer, it might possibly be time for a reality check. Click To Tweet

I’ve been really proud about finally getting my twins out on the trail with their backpacks on their backs and actually backpacking.

But let’s get real for a moment.  From the parking lot to the far end of Mystic Beach, where we pitched our tent, is a grand total of 2.3km (1.5 miles for those of you who don’t do metric).   Does that even count?  Or is that more like a gentle stroll around the block with the dog?

Did we actually accomplish anything noteworthy?

Was it really backpacking if it was only 2 km?

I mean, I put an awful lot of thought, time and effort into selecting our gear, prepping the twins, and basically just obsessing.

In my mind, we were heading into the backcountry, and we needed to be properly prepared.

And while, I still believe that being properly prepared is crucial any time you’re out enjoying Mother Nature, I might have to change my thinking about what constitutes backcountry.  To me, the fact that we couldn’t just walk five steps and be at our car meant that Mystic Beach met my backcountry camping criteria.

Apparently, my view is a little askew.

And, it turns out that I might not even be using the term ‘backpacking’ correctly.  In my mind, backpacking refers to putting all your stuff in a pack and disappearing out into the wilderness.  Apparently, the part about carrying all your stuff on your back is correct, but backpacking more generally seems to refer to travelling – with or without wilderness – OOPS!

Looking around on the internet, I didn’t find a concrete definition for backcountry camping, although, there was a general consensus that it had to be remote and difficult to access – some sites suggesting at least a four hour hike.

Getting to Mystic Beach, for me with my ‘monster’ pack, was quite difficult, but I think that had more to do with my fitness level and the size of my pack than the trail itself.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the Juan de Fuca Trail, including the two kilometre stretch to Mystic Beach, is not an easy trail.  It’s rugged.  But, more than one person passed us wearing only flip flops, so…

Was it all a little bit over the top?

When I planned our adventure, I used my SAR training, my survival training, and my experience with camping in out of the way places to determine what equipment and training we needed.  Did I go overboard?

Maybe, just a little bit.

Let’s put the whole thing in perspective.  The couple that was camping beside us had one of those cheap tents you get at Canadian Tire that don’t even have a proper fly.  It worked completely fine for the nice hot weather we had.  But, the safety obsessed part of me wants to remind everyone that we live on the west coast, and I own a three season tent for a reason – if there’d been a rainstorm, they’d have gotten WET.

That same couple also didn’t have proper hiking backpacks.  Their gear was packed in a combination of just regular backpacks, the type you’d use for school, and reusable shopping bags.  And guess what?  They got to the beach just fine.  Contrast that with me – I spent hours carefully packing our packs to make sure they were balanced and everything was easily accessible.

Maybe, I could’ve saved myself a lot of stress…

Or, maybe not.

Time for a quick safety reminder: it’s important to remember, that even though we were only two kilometres from the parking lot, we were still camped on a wilderness beach.  Other than the pit toilets and the bear cache, there weren’t any other structures to use for shelter if things turned sour.  If there’d been a storm or other emergency, I would’ve been ready – I’m not so sure about the rest of the people camping on the beach with us.

But back to the actual question at hand:

Was it really backpacking if it was only 2 km?

So, what’s the cut off? How far from your car do you have to be to be 'backpacking'? Click To Tweet

I don’t have a real answer for this.

And, I honestly don’t think it matters.

It was what we were able to do, and that’s what counts.  My kids and I had a grand adventure that was within our current abilities.  We made memories that will last us a lifetime.  Plus, this backpacking adventure, which was really not much more than a day hike with a few overnight stays thrown in for good measure, was the continuation of the foundation of healthy, outdoor behavior that I’m trying to create for my kids.

If I’d taken short cuts, we’d still have had the same amount of fun – I know this using my infallible  hindsight, because everything came out alright – but, I wouldn’t have been modeling safe behavior for my kids.  And, I think that’s important.

So was it backpacking? Sure.  Was it backcountry camping?  Maybe – although the Parks guy had no trouble finding us to collect our fee, so maybe not?

Was it really backpacking if it was only 2 km?

Does how far we hiked matter?

Not at all.

I’m not in competition with anyone, and the fact of the matter is we accomplished what we’d set out to do in a fun and safe matter, and my kids are up for doing it again – which was really the most important element.  Although, they did say they’d like to do some ‘regular’ camping, which translates into having marshmallows roasted over a campfire – off season car camping, here we come.

All I know, at the end of the day, is that I loved every minute that I spent with my kids on that beach.  So much so that we made a second sojourn to the exact same spot a month later to bring my husband in on the fun.  I don’t think it matters whether we walked for days or only a few minutes.  It was a memorable family event – and we were well prepared (except for forgetting the tea strainer, but that’s a whole other thing).

I wonder where I can find a 3 km hike…






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