Two night trip with a two year old

Corinne has followed me on car camping trips and a few overnighters before. She turned two a couple of months ago, and has spent 12 nights in a tent since last summer.

This weekend I planned for her first two night hiking trip, and tent night 13-14 for her. The weather had turned for the better, and it almost felt like summer during the entire week. It was supposed to be a bit colder during the weekend, but still sunny with temperatures around 16-18°C.

Information

I had looked up Raslångens Ekopark in the border between Blekinge and Skåne. It’s a 1,5 hour drive from home. An Ekopark is sort of like a nature reserve, but they are established by the logging company Sveaskog. Forestry is allowed in the parks, but the focus is made on ecology over economy. The first Ekopark was founded in 2003, and there are now 37 Ekoparks in Sweden. They differ in size, but the average size is 50sq/km. Raslången is a smaller Ekopark, with its 13sq/km.

Trip report

I didn’t know much about the place, other than that it’s a popular place for canoing. Since it was still too cold in the waters, I didn’t want to bring Corinne in the canoe for the first time, so I planned for a hiking trip. There is a cape on the western part of the Ekopark, and I planned to do some exploring of the cape and to let Corinne set the pace.

We drove down on Friday afternoon. We parked at a parking spot marked on the map, and hiked some 500 meters down to a camp site called Västerviks brygga. Corinne was exited about getting out and to sleep in her sleeping bag.

The camp site had a lot of flat ground for tents, several lean-to shelters and a lot of fire places (not everything is marked in the above link). No one else was there, but I do prefer the forest to designated camp sites like this, so we hiked a bit further to see if we could find anything. We didn’t find any suitable grounds anywhere near, and I decided to set up camp in the far end of the camp site.

I set up the tent, and Corinne, always eager to help, handed me the pegs. This was the first time I used the HMG pole straps instead of the dedicated center pole, and it worked great (for now).

Once we had the tent up I put out our sleeping gear. I had bought a Klymit Ultralight V sleeping pad from Massdrop. I’ve thought about cutting it down to a kids size and just use my Exped Winterlite all year around. But I might use this myself, as Corinne sleeps good on a cellfoam mat. Bringing her along also means a LOT of wear and tear on the gear, so having a cheaper sleeping mat for when I’m camping with her feels better.

When we set up our sleeping gear we heard voices. We saw two guys in the other end of the camp site, and walked up to them to say hello. They where from Copenhagen, and had arrived at another place about an hour earlier. They where going to spend the weekend hiking Blekingeleden and Skåneleden, and had taken a detour up to Västerviks brygga.

We made dinner, and afterwards we sat by a small fire eating some snacks. Corinne had fun being out there, and I was happy to bring her along.

Unlike Lerike, where we camped last time, this place was quiet except for the sounds of nature. After sundown black-throated loons cried out across the dark lake. They have a special sound, that feels lonely and desolate, almost ominous. But it’s still a very beautiful sound, and a sound that I very much resemble with the forests and dark lakes of Sweden. You can listen to the sounds on YouTube, but it is a special feeling to sit by a black lake in the dark forest and listen to their cries echoing across the otherwise silent lake. Corinne was fascinated by the sound, and talked about it the entire weekend.

We both slept good the entire night, and woke up early the next morning. There was slight condensation on the inside of the tent, but the sun was shining and the tent soon dried up. It was a long time since I could pack down my gear completely dry.

We made breakfast, and after everything was packed down, we started to hike north. We first walked through the forest, following the shoreline. But soon fallen trees from storms and thin-outs made it impossible to continue.

We made our way out to a logging road, and followed it north instead. There had been a lot of forestry done, where the company had thinned out the forest, and left the dead trees on the ground. My plan was to hike to the end of the road, and then look for a nice spot at the far end of the cape, 2-2,5km from the camp site. Corinne set the pace, and it took the entire morning. When we arrived it was time for lunch.

When the road ended, we continued down to the lake, and followed the shoreline back south again. After a few hundred meters we found a nice spot for lunch. I had brought my Trangia 27, as it’s safer to use around a kid than my regular gas stoves. I haven’t been using alcohol stoves in a few years, and I really liked the silence. I’ll probably use my Storminstove set with Corinne in the future, as it’s very stable too.

Corinne was really tired after lunch. She didn’t hike far before I had to carry her, and she fell asleep on my shoulder. I carried her through the forest and back to the logging road.

After a while I found a nice open spot where I laid out the sleeping mat and put her down. She slept soundly for 1,5 hour. I sat there for a while, listening to the bird song and then laid down beside her. I woke myself up with my snoring several times as I dozed off.

When she woke up we continued back on the logging road. She rode on my shoulders a lot. I stared to look for a nice place to set up camp, and saw a place from the road, on the eastern side of the cape. There was a hint of a trail from the road, and I followed it down to the shore. The place was really nice, and it had a fire place to. Unfortunately it also had a tent. A danish guy and his son had already set up camp there. There was room for another tent too, but I didn’t want to intrude. The danish guy seemed to know the area well thought, and on the map he showed me a nice secret place on the western side of the cape.

We went back to the logging road and walked to where the guy said a trail would be. I guess with good intentions parts of it could be called a trail, but it was soon just rought terrain with cut down trees everywhere. Hiking off-trail with a backpack full of gear and a two-year old on the shoulders was an adventure of its own.

Eventually we found a small cape, with a fireplace and a nice spot for the tent a bit further up. It was really windy though. When we had the tent up we walked down to the fireplace next to the lake where we made dinner. After dinner we walked back up to the tent, only to find that it looked very awkward. I saw that the bottom end of a hiking pole was poking the fabric and hurried inside. Unfortunately I hadn’t tightened one of the pole straps enough, and when the wind picked up it had gotten loose, and the sharp end of the hiking pole had poked a small hole through the fabric. It bummed me out a bit, but it was so small that I think a little dot of silicone might be enough to fix it.

The wind meant another issue though, as the site I had chosen had a lot of loose debris, that blew into the tent. We brushed the floor as good as we could, and got the floor somewhat clean.

The wind calmed down, and we sat in the tent with the door open and watched the sunset and listened to the loons. We played for a bit and then Corinne went to sleep. I didn’t have any battery on my ebook-reader, and no coverage on my cellphone, so I listened to music for a couple of hours before I went to sleep.

I woke up with a headache and with the sky covered in clouds. After the pain-meds kicked in I was ready to break camp. It was a lot colder that earlier that weekend, and Corinnes hands where cold, as I had forgotten to pack mitts for her. She had some premade porridge for breakfast as I packed down our gear.

We hiked out (her on my shoulders) and came back to the camp site where we started our trip. By then the sun had started to shine, and we made second breakfast. We sat on the benches, eating and watching the lake.

After breakfast we walked back to the car, and drove home. It had been a great weekend, and it was fun to bring Corinne with me. Hiking with a two-year old isn’t always relaxing though, and having her along do mean a lot of extra wear on the gear. But it’s rewarding to have her with me, and I’ll keep bringing her as soon as I can. I’ve already begun to plan my next trip with her.

Gear

When it comes to gear I brought my HMG Southwest 4400, that is my go-to backpack now. Corinne had a Haglöfs Corker XS (5l) with a waterbottle, a teddybear and a puffy-jacket.

I used my Tentipi Olivin, that I had shaved weight off, and slept in my Cumulus Quilt 350 on yhr Klymit Ultralight V sleeping mat. I used my HMG stuffsack pillow for the first time, and it was more comfortable than the inflatable one I’ve used before. Corinne slept on my cellfoam mat, that I had folded so she had two layers. She also used her custom Cumulus Junior 250.

We cooked on a Trangia 27 stove set with an alcohol stove. Next time I’ll probably use the Storminstove set instead.

I also brought the MiniFinder Pico GPS-tracker. The Pico allowed me to see details about how we had walked, without draining the battery on my phone. An appreciated feature was that we also could call home with it when I had no coverage on my phone, since the Pico uses a foreign phone number and thus uses which ever company that has the best cellphone coverage in the area.

(Disclaimer: The MiniFinder Pico was lent to me for free for three months, in exchange for feedback to the company. I’m under no obligation to write or post anything about it if I don’t like it)

Here is my ligherpack for a hiking trip with Corinne. It might change a bit from when this post is made though. I’m glad I put an emphasis on lightweight gear, as weight adds up when you carry gear for two (+ the little one on my shoulders).

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo on Madeira

General info

The week before Easter the whole family on my wifes side went on vacation to Madeira. Madeira is a small island located in the Atlantic ocean, off the west coast of north Africa. It’s an autonomous region of Portugal. The island is relatively small, but it’s full of mountains, and the capital Funchal is built on the mountainside. The highest point of the island is Pico Ruivo, at 1862 meters above sea level. Madeira is a mecka for day hikers, as the island has a system of more than 2,170 km of levadas, accompanied with a walking trails. Levadas are aqueducts made to carry water to the agricultural regions.

Trip report

The trail between Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo offers some stunning views, as you hike on the top of the island. The round-trip is about 12 km. On Pico do Arieiro theres a big parking lot, and the road to Pico do Arieiro is in good shape.

As me and my wife drove from the house we rented in Funchal, we left the 20°C and palm trees for colder weather. As we came higher up the mountain we first drove through Eucalyptus forests. Even higher than that the Eucalyptus trees got replaced with a really old-looking spruce forest. It didn’t feel like we were close to the equator, but we could just as well have been in an old forest in the Nordic. The spruce forest was a lot more beautiful than I’m used to though, since most of the spruce forests in the south of Sweden consists of dense plantations.

Even higher than that bushes and grass replaced the spruces. We saw a man and his teenage son hitchhiking and picked them up. They were on their way to Pico do Arieiro and was going to hike the same trail as we did.

When we came to the parking lot it was full. We dropped our passengers off and drove down the road and parked at the side of it.

The skies were partly clouded, and the air was cool. I was glad that I had brought my synthetic puffy.

IMG_8834IMG_8838

The wind blew hard, and the trail was narrow at places, with steep sides. My wife has a fear of heights, and that fear was even bigger than she knew before this hike. But she overcame it and hiked the entire trail, despite the the height.

Almost the entire hike we had clouds around us, or just above our heads. On most parts of the trail there was wires as a fence from the cliffs. But in several places the poles had come lose, and the wires hung outside of the cliffs.

After a few km there is an intersection. The right trail is supposed to be a harder trail than the left one. But it was closed, so we took the left one instead, which goes through a series of tunnels.

IMG_8843IMG_8854IMG_8858

When we came near Pico Ruivo we passed a dead forest. The trees, with branches that had been twisted by wind, had died from a fire. The boles where pale and white, with the cracks painted black by soot.

IMG_8871

Just under the top of Pico Ruivo there is a cabin. We were hungry, and hoped it would be a cabin that sold food, but unfortunately it was closed. We rested for a while and ate the snacks we’d brought and then hiked the last 500 meters up to the top of Pico Ruivo. The top was covered in clouds so we didn’t get any spectacular views.

We found a geocach on the top, and after we logged it we turned back towards Pico Arieiro. As we hiked back we saw two pigeon-sized birds next to the trail. They were probably quite used to humans as they sat still while we photographed them.

IMG_8887

On the last stretch back to the car the trail was covered in fog, and the wind blew hard. We had brought too little food and were both very hungry. The fog made the parts on the image below feel almost magic. It felt like the trail was floating in the clouds.

IMG_8890

When we came back to the parking lot we stopped by the restaurant there and bought my new favorite fast food. A Portuguese steak sandwich. Two slices of Portuguese bread with garlic butter, a steak and a fried egg (plus cheese and ham, if you like the special). It was both cheap and delicious, and well needed after the hike.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be back on the trail, as I’ll hike Sigfridsleden from Asa to Växjö. It’ll be great to get a couple of nights under the stars again.