Hiking and Trail Blazing: A Memorable First Overnight Family Trip
Recently I decided to induct my little family into the world of overnight hiking. During my teens I did quite a lot of hiking, which to be honest, I didn’t continue into my early 20s. But, now that my children are getting older, I’ve been looking at different activities we can do together which build skills and confidence, plus require an element of fitness.
Whilst I love camping, I find the organising, pre-packing, set-up, tear-down, packing away, and washing (oh my, the horror of the post camping wash pile) when you get home is just too much hassle for overnighters. Especially when you’ve got to face a full week of work the next day #eck.
Overnight hiking on the other hand, appeals to me as it requires less prep, less gear and it’s all about being outdoors, living simply, and detoxing from technology, whilst enjoying the company of my family.
So with all that to look forward to, I put together our gear (my list is here for our first trip) and we set out for a memorable first overnight trip!
For our first overnight trip, I did a little research on National Park ‘Walkers Camps’ not too far from home. Ubajee Walkers Camp was recommended as a good first hike for children in the Hiking & Bushwalking in Australia Facebook Group for these reasons:
- Approximately 5km of walking to the nearest car park
- Composting toilet
- Tank water
- Timber bush tables at each site
- No steep climbs (it is a little hilly, but nothing too crazy)
Ubajee Walkers Camp is part of the Sunshine Hinterland Great Walk, a full hiking experience that is 58km! However, you can walk smaller sections, which is what we did. Opting to start our hiking experience from the Mapleton Falls National Park car park area (approximately 8km from Ubajee Walkers Camp). Parking is also available at Delicia Road Great Walk entrance and Mapleton Day Use Area.
With our bags packed, we set out from home at 11am on a Saturday. It’s at this point, I have to be honest and admit we didn’t think ahead. We hadn’t factored in the last minute stop-off at the supermarket to grab water, the fuel pit-stop and the actual time it takes to drive to the National Park. By the time we reached Mapleton Falls Car Park it was hitting 2pm –we were cutting it fine with 2 young children get to Ubajee Walkers Camp before sundown.
To set a good walking pace, my husband took on the role as ‘group leader’ setting a steady walking pace for the children and keeping a mental note of how quickly we were getting through each kilometre.
I took up the rear, with the kids walking in-between us. With smaller children (ours are 5 & 8) this is a good formation as you can spot if they’re having issues with their packs and also prod them along if their walking slowly.
Everyone in the group should have a whistle in case of an emergency. This is especially important for the person bringing up the rear as you need to be able to let the walkers in front know how far behind you are if you lose visual.
We reached the halfway mark just a little after 3.30pm. At this point we let the kids rest and enjoy some sweet snacks to give them an energy boost. I’d bought for each of them a little ‘bum bag’ so they could carry their own treats to munch on throughout the hike. They thought this was great!
As we got closer to our destination, the trail periodically had signage and even a map of where we were and how far we had left to go. It was great fun trying to work out which way we had come and how many more ‘steps’ we had left.
We Made It!
A little after 4pm we reached the Ubajee Walkers Camp, it was completely empty, so we had our pick of camp sites! We went to each and had great fun assessing the good and bad points – were there lots of rocks on the ground, did the trees above have big dead branches hanging precariously over the campsite, was the site too far from the toilets and so on. Once we picked our site, we got right into pitching the tent and setting up the bedding, popping on a jumper so we didn’t cool down too quickly and then discussing the evening dinner plans.
Bath and Bed
Now some of you may be wondering what we did about bath time. The truth is: nothing. Most hikers don’t bother, before our hike I watched this hilarious video on hiking hygiene; it’s amazing how ‘liberal’ your views on hygiene become when you have to carry everything!
I did take with us a hand sanitiser to use after toileting and before eating. If you are one of those people that ‘have’ to clean up, baby wipes are a good solution, or just a small wet washer. You don’t want to be using commercial soaps and detergents in the creeks and water ways.
Bedtime was relatively straightforward, we dressed the kids in their thermals and (while it’s rare for ‘little accidents’ to happen these days) overnight nappies, as I didn’t want to deal with a wet sleeping bag in the middle of the night and no backup options for warm clothes and blankets. I had peace of mind knowing the children would stay warm and dry throughout the night.
As a little treat for myself, I did take my eBook. I figured we’d be going to bed early and I’d have a little time to kick back and enjoy my novel. As luck would have it, we discovered there was mobile coverage at the campgrounds, so I snuck in a cheeky Facebook post for the Grandparents so they could see how well the children had done.
The night’s sleep was not the most restful I’ve ever had. The sleeping mat wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, however, at least I wasn’t cold.
Considering we’d all had broken sleep, we were all very chirpy the next morning and enthusiastic about our walk back to the car.
Our breakfast pancakes were a complete flop and looked like some kind of goo, but our new hand expresso maker was AMAZING. A little heavy, but for the coffee lover a weight worth carrying on the trail.
It was a relatively social morning packing-up, we had some ladies drop-in and say ‘hi’ (they told us we looked like totally legitimate hikers and not first timers… #winning), a group of mountain bike riders peddled their way through the camp before we left, and after we set off we met a horse whose rider was very generous and let us have a pat! It was all very exciting.
The walk back seemed to take half the amount of time compared to the day before. We weren’t intentionally moving fast, knowing we had all day to get there. It was just a beautiful day, perfect for hiking. We did however have to transfer some of the gear from the 8 year old’s pack into my pack, as they were starting to struggle at the 5km point. Lightening the load did make a difference, although plenty of verbal encouragement was required to push the kids the last 3km.
We made it!
Reaching the starting point was an amazing feeling. We’d left a family chocolate bar and lots of water in the car as a ‘YAY! We survived’ drive home celebration. It proved a great idea and we spent the drive home talking, laughing and discussing what we’d do differently for the ‘next trip’. I’d call that a success!
10 Things I’d do Differently in the Future:
There’s no doubt we’ll be doing another trip. We all loved it. It was definitely the start of a new era in my family, but there are things I would do differently to make the next adventure even better. In order of urgency and affordability:
- Not provide a bag for the 5 year old to carry, or find something smaller for him to take as I had to take over carrying his gear within the first kilometre.
- Reorganise the First Aid Kit – look at what can come out and what needs to stay.
- Don’t take items which will not be used, like the baby wipes.
- Rethink bringing kitchen pots and pans as we didn’t use all we had brought.
- Take out extra torches and walkie talkies.
- Don’t pack beanies, hoodies on snow jackets.
- Swap out heavier sleeping bags for lighter options (found a great cost effective solution weighing in at 1.3kg, 900 grams lighter than the other sleeping bag).
- Look at new lightweight, squishy sleeping mats.
- The second hand hiking bag for my husband didn’t work out. He’s really tall so we will need to look into a custom-made bag for the next trip.
- Rethink the tent. Our tent is almost 6kg.Though a hiking tent for 4 is expensive, if this becomes a lifestyle choice for us, a good quality, less weighty tent will become a high priority.
Moving forward, I want to take our love of exploration further, not only interstate, but overseas. I have done very little international travel, but I plan on changing this. In future, when we travel overseas as a family, I want us to experience not only the perks of luxury accommodation, but also the diverse natural beauty of each country we discover.
Renee is a crafting, gardening, nature loving, somewhat techy, DIY’er with a passion for cultural heritage, reading, art, camping and exploring with her family. She may not be the world’s best cook or run a marathon, but she loves her job in digital marketing were she gets to tell everyone about her little slice of heaven north of Brisbane – be sure to Visit Moreton Bay Region and see what your missing out on!
Renée driscollJuly 19, 2017 at 3:14 pm
Great article I could imagine you all congratulations we need to do this too
Kelly - Be A Fun MumJuly 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm
This is so great Renee. Thank you so much for sharing your family adventures and inspiring us to do the same.
GemJuly 20, 2017 at 12:24 pm
My girls will carry their crumpler baby peas (not avaliable at crumpler anymore but they are ebay) for ever – theyre only 7 litres though – so enough for lunch or PJs and spare sock ect. Otherwise maybe a kinder age bag – as school bags are a bit ridiculous for littlies (my girls are 6, almost 7) . great post thanks!
Kelly - Be A Fun MumJuly 23, 2017 at 10:37 am
Thanks for the recommendation of crumpler bags. Looked them up and they look fantastic.
Kristy MannixAugust 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm
Looks fun! The kids certainly had a great time.