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Adventure in the Wilderness | All Girl Backpacking Trip

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4 Day, All Girl, 24 Mile Backpacking Trip in the Wilderness @ AVirtuousWoman.org

An All Girl Backpacking Trip

On October 5 we set off into the wild Appalachian wilderness for a 4 day, all girl backpacking trip. Me, along with my four daughters – Sarah (18 on Oct. 12), Emily (16), Hannah (11), and Laura (9) as well as a young med student from our church – also named Sarah.


This was our very first backpacking trip! We hiked the Mishawaka Trail at Cumberland Gap National Park – 24 miles in 4 days.

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I want my girls to know they are strong and can survive out there without guys around to help {since we usually camp with brothers and dads}. This trip was amazing! And we realized how capable we really are.

As a homeschooling mom, I love encouraging the girls to study nature and learn about the world around them. There’s nothing more wholesome and healthy than spending a few hours {or days} out in God’s creation! And if you’ve been to my website more than once, you probably already know how much I love camping with kids!

This backpacking trip was quite the adventure! We saw some beautiful views from on top of the mountain.


The elevation at our destination – the Hensley Settlement – was over 3000 feet.

I brought my new dog, Caroline, along for the adventure! She was great. I mean, really, I couldn’t have asked for a better behaved dog! Caroline had her own backpack and carried her own food, water, bone, leash and food bowl. And she made the perfect watch dog at night time!


We slept in a lean-to made from two tarps, a couple of tent stakes and some twine.Yes, we braved the elements with no walls on our “tent.”

That first night, when we went to get in bed – no joke – I shined the flashlight on our sleeping bags and they were covered in a half dozen or more spiders!! I told the girls, “Just close your eyes. It’ll be okay.”


That first night we heard a pack of coyotes howling for over thirty seconds like they’d just made a kill. We were glad Caroline was with us!

We had to crawl under a grove of Mountain Laurels to collect spring water for cooking and drinking.


That first night, we couldn’t get the water to boil! So we ended up eating pancakes using the last of our drinking water. In the morning, we did get the water to boil and ate pancakes and fried eggs.


Sabbath morning, the temperature started to drop. A sudden (unexpected) cold front came in. We set off on our hike to Hensley Settlement.

We had a lot of good laughs despite the cold, and the strenuous hikes up and down more than a few mountains.


After a night of freezing rain, we arrived Sunday morning at the Hensley Settlement. In the thirty minutes we were at the settlement, the fog rolled in thicker than ever. Within minutes, the fog was so thick, you couldn’t see six feet in front of you. I couldn’t even see the buildings I had hiked 12  miles to see!


The last two days the weather was cold and wet. It rained on Saturday night and poured down rain on Sunday night. Monday morning, before the sun came up, we decided to pack up and head back home.We did get a roaring fire going in the pouring down rain, though!

The rain wasn’t letting up and our tarp was starting to flood. We were cold, wet, and miserable! So, we skipped breakfast, packed our gear and headed out. We walked 5 miles in the pouring down rain, soaked to the bone and cold, over steep terrain in less than 3 hours!


Despite the rain and cold, this was one of the most exciting adventures I’ve ever had and I’m sure my girls will never forget the experience! It was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I ended up carrying about 30 – 35 lbs. on my back, my Sarah and Emily carried about 20 – 25 lbs., Hannah carried about 15 – 20 lbs., and Laura carried about 13 lbs.

The girls were amazing! I am so proud. We also learned how to build a wet fire, how to make our own tinder out of wet wood, how to use two trees for leverage for breaking dead wood into manageable pieces, and how to build a star fire. We survived!

I can’t wait to do it again.

Have you ever gone backpacking? What’s your favorite place to take a hike?

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  1. I have enjoyed your web page tonight. I could really use a good christian friend and am trying to be a better chritian woman, mother, friend myself. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. I hope God can love me and be here for me anyway. Have a good evening. Thanks for your writings.
    1. Hi Tammy, I want you to know that God loves you more than you could ever even begin to imagine! There is nothing you could ever do to separate yourself from the love of God! I hope you will continue to visit with me often so we can get to know each other!
  2. I think it's great you took your girls on this adventure! I've been backpacking since I was a child with my parents and have logged over 4000 trail miles with my husband on the Pacific Crest Trail over the years. We took our kids (5 and 3) on their first trip this summer - 11 miles in 3 days. I hope you've got to do this again! I love seeing girls outside and getting dirty! Here's to many more adventures!
    1. Wow, Amy, that's so great! 4000 miles! I never went camping - EVER - until just a few years ago. I love it. I loved the backpacking trip. I can't wait for our next one - coming up soon!
  3. WOW!! I started hiking last year and thus far, have only brought the kids on short hikes. I admire you SO MUCH for doing this! I stumbled on your site from Pinterest. I am grateful that I did!!
  4. Glad you ladies got out there! I'm devoting my life to getting kids outside, I feel that they are forgetting how to get dirty. My favorite backpacking trip was actually 21 days in the Arizona Wilderness during monsoon season, talk about some rain! Glad you didn't get too discouraged and I hope you keep taking them outside, so much to be awe and inspired by out there!
  5. I love the fact that you took your girls out backpacking. My husband and I backpack twice a year and try and do something completely insane! Last year, we hiked over 100 miles in glacier national park in 5 days. I still believe that this is the most beautiful place on earth. There is nothing more spectacular that climbing to the top of a mountain to see God's beautiful creation.
    1. Marissa, that sounds like so much fun! We've been trying to plan another backpacking trip, but our schedule has been to crazy the last year. Here's hoping we get to do it again soon! Your trip to the Glacier National Park sounds amazing!
  6. Hi! This is the first time I've been on your site. Looks great! A link to the camping adventure brought me here. I just this past summer did any sort of real camping/hiking, at a missions camp that prepares young people for 3rd-world missions. I am very curious about your fire-starting techniques, especially regarding the wet wood. Did you all figure it out as you went, or did you pull from some resources before you left home? Thanks!
    1. Hi Amanda, we've been camping a lot, so we had some basic ideas - but most {well, ALL} of our previous campouts had included men who were good at building fires! What we did was used our pocket knives to shave tiny wood pieces into a pile from the dry inside of the branch. We would also made fire starters called fuzzy sticks/ feather sticks from dead/ fallen sticks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=326RtScPADM Also, if there are trees with resin - like evergreens - those burn really well - especially if they are on the ground. We don't have many evergreen trees in our area, though, so we didn't have that luxury. Hope that helps!
  7. Hi! I really want to hike this trail with my husband this summer. What resources did you use to prepare for the trip?
    1. Hi Jessie, we really didn't know what to expect so there was no real science to the way I did things. :) I can tell you that there's only a couple of places to get water, so pack enough to last the 5 or 6 miles between water sources. Also, we had a hard time getting water to boil due to wind and cold, so plan on another way to purify your water. We didn't eat as much as I imagined we would, but that might be different for you. I weighed every ounce of everything we packed and then weighed each person and weighed each persona again with their packs on to ensure we weren't carrying more than we should. I carried between 35 and 40 punds or so and it wasn't easy but it got easier as the weekend progressed. This was our first backpacking experience. I thought it was a good beginner trail - not based on research because I realized afterward that the steep grade of the mountain trail was at least intermediate if not advanced. But it was a great experience and well worth the effort! Let me know how it goes!
  8. This is so cool! I'm a college student, and I'm trying to plan a camping trip for my two best friends and I in the Adirondacks. To be honest, though, I'm not really confident that I will know everything I need to take with us. What did you guys take? Sounds like you girls had an awesome time! God bless! Annie
    1. Hi Annie! We did have an amazing time! :) When you're backpacking, it's really important that you don't take too much with you - every ounce adds up and the more you carry, the harder the exeperience will be - I know because I carried roughly 35 - 40 pounds and it was one of the hardest things I've EVER done! We camp a lot, but backpacking is a little different because you really want to take as little as possible with you. You can find my car camping checklist here: http://avirtuouswoman.org/2014/08/04/free-printable-car-camping-checklist/ I also have a hiking checklist here: http://avirtuouswoman.org/2014/06/12/5-tips-for-hiking-with-kids/ quality backpacks a tarp or lightweight tent {we used two 1 lb. tarps for our "tent"} warm, lightweight sleeping bags pocket knife hobo tool compass whistle flashlights {head lamps are particularly useful} large black plastic bags {we used these for different things, one being as a bear bag to hang in the tree} mug plate {we used cheap paper plates so we wouldn't have to wash them} gallon sized baggies {we used these to store our trash. Not every campsite on the trail had trashcans and we had to haul our trash with us} water canisters {you need to carry enough water per person to get your to your next source of water and water is heavy - even my dog carried her own water bottles and bowl, and food} food {try to go as lightweight with the food as possible. One thing I would do differently though is not take so much food that required water because water was hard to come by on our trail - also, we ate much less that was suggested on the backpacking websites - probably because we were too tired to eat} Therma-rest mats or other mats to insulate you from the ground - we did not use good quality ones and I didn't realize how cold we would be even in our -20 degree sleeping bags because the cold ground sucked the heat right out of us even using our cheap Wal-mart brand mats. Clothing - you'll want to dress in layers. The weather changed suddenly on our trip and we ended up wearing every layer we'd brought. Water resistant/proof shoes. The last day it rained so hard on us we ended up walking in puddles INSIDE our shoes. bug spray {share a can} hand sanitizer {we used a lot of this because of our lack of an abundance of water water purifier/ filter hatchet for cutting wood for the fire matches emergency ponchos emergency blankets emergency flares a pot and pan first aid kit snake bite kit rope, twine duct tape {you don't need the whole roll} feminine products {if it's a possibility} There may be more, but that's what I can think of off the top of my head! It's important to decide what you can share - there's no reason to carry duplicates. Make a good list, lay everything out that your group will need and then pack the backpacks according to weight. Weigh food, even ounces, because ounces add up to pounds. You'll want to decide who can carry what based on their weight and ability. Weigh the packs as you pack your stuff making sure no one is carrying more than their fair share. Smaller people will probably need to carry less than bigger, stronger people. I hope you and your friends have a great time!

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