Hiking with a child: multi-day backpacking tour

Jouni Laaksonen 24.8.2021

In my earlier post I told how this summer I did a lot of hiking with my 7 years old daughter.

During several previous summers we have done a four or five days family hike, like Hetta-Pallas. This summer we wanted to try something new: my wife headed with our older daughter (14 years) to Kevo Trail, 63 km, and I and our younger daughter set as our goal to visit Paratiisikuru (Paradise Gorge). Paratiisikuru is situated in the heart of the second largest national park in Finland, Urho Kekkonen National Park. There is no marked trail to the gorge, but there are well-trodden unmarked paths. We planned a five day hike, which would mean just under ten kilometers per day.

I was surprised how well my 7-year-old managed. She walked briskly and without fatigue. Of course there was a lot of stopping and resting while eating blueberries that grew beside the paths, playing with imaginary friends, building “bridges” across smallest streams, picking “treasures”, and so on.

Our normal day started by waking up in our tent. I stepped out and started to prepare breakfast, while my daughter got to sleep or rest just a tad more. After breaking up the camp we walked for about five kilometers, resting several times during that hike. Then we prepared lunch on the shore of a stream and got a longer rest, for over an hour. When the pot was empty and washed we continued another four kilometers or so. I prepared dinner and the girl immediately started a vivid play. Playing time is vital for such a youngster. After dinner we often continued for another kilometer or two before setting our tent for the night.

There was some rain, but also sunshine. The daytime high temperature was mostly around +15°C. As it often is, come August and the amount of mosquitoes lessens quite dramatically. There were only a few mosquitoes, they were not a problem at all. We didn’t use our mosquito headnets even once.

Paratiisikuru was just as wonderful as every time before, and I hope it left a lasting imprint on my daughter’s mind.

A slideshow of four Paratiisikuru pics: 1. Arriving to Paratiisikuru, 2) nearing the end of the gorge, and the waterfall, 3) the upper part of the waterfall, 4) view from top of the waterfall to Paratiisikuru gorge.

She was very happy all the hike. Often with kids the problem is not physical endurance, but mental. This time motivation was top class. There was a secret she had to find in Paratiisikuru and that drove her to walk eagerly there. The way back was well motivated also, as she understood we needed to be in Ivalo bus station at a specified date and time to meet the rest of our family.

The fourth day was very cool, it was only +6°C from morning to afternoon. A small body does not generate, or keep, very much heat, and even as she had four layers of clothes, my daughter started to get cold every time we stopped. While walking she was fine. So, we ended up walking two scheduled day marches in one go, all the way to the car park, and keeping rest pauses short. Thus our five day hike become four day hike.

What about the other half of our family? They hiked the Kevo Trail according to their plan and emerged from the bus smiling. They had an absolutely great hike, too!

My 14-year-old at the Kevo Canyon.

Future?

There may come an age when our children do not want to come hiking with us, or go hiking at all. I’ve heard many stories about this, this often or sometimes happens with teenagers. But at least so far there hasn’t been any sign that our daughters wouldn’t want to participate in our family hikes, and I’m super happy about that.

And I know our daughters will never think a forest or wilderness would be a dangerous place. I don’t know if hiking will continue to be their hobby when they grow older, but at least they know going to woods and fells is good fun. 🙂

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