This was just the second trip for the youngest - you can read that TR.
Trip Report Video
As projected, I took my 4.5 and 13.5 year old sons out on the River Ridge Backpack Trail at Forest Glen Preserve on Tues-Thur of this week. This turned out to be 1 hour from our door. This time I bothered to weigh my youngest's gear since I was curious. Everything he carried including his preschool backpack was 53 oz or 10% of his weight. I had 29 lbs total with 2L water, all the food but 1 meal that couldn't fit into my food bag and my youngest's sleeping bag, which is really a women's down bag.
Sadly, we were about a week too early for most of the wildfowers. :( Mayapples were just starting to pop up and I saw some trillium leaves. The first third of the trail is mostly made up of other trails in the preserve and follows along a creek. Otherwise, the trail is on its own track through the woods except for 2 spots where you're on gravel roads and one tiny section on a paved road. At least at this point in the year, the trail was in great shape with very few wet areas and no overgrowth. There were a few areas near creeks where erosion was hinting at future cutback maintenance. One thing I was puzzled by was the lack of pounding in the spikes on waterbars. There were several areas one could trip or potentially hurt the sole of your foot if you're not paying attention.
It took us 2 hours to make the 3 miles to Site 1 of the group camp. This has LOTS of open areas where you could fit several hundred campers. It has a pit toilet (no TP). The other group camp area is a quarter mile further, and sites 2-6 are wooded, much smaller and also have a pit toilet (this one had TP). We had a very late lunch of ramen, tuna & crackers at about 5:30, having eaten a snack on the way. The boys played in the field as I walked around the area, seeing a deer, and then down to the river following the path to the north of the wooded sites. There's no water provided here, but if you follow the road signed Forest Glen Seep north of Site 1, it will quickly lead to a creek. There's a pasture on the other side so you definitely want to treat your water! I also saw another deer and a raccoon.
Since we had lunch so late, we just shared 1 dinner of rice, chicken and cranberries and then made a fire in the ring and roasted marshmallows. That had been a request of the youngest son after our last trip and since we were in an established camp this time, I had no problem complying this time. It was a beautiful sunset and "eighth" moon. The older son discovered he had assumed his hoody was still packed - so much for being prepared. :) I think we turned in about 9.
I finally got up at 8 and went to the creek for water. The youngest wanted to go home, but I think it was because of the wind at night. The plus of that was that we had no condesation on the tent or tarp. We finally bribed him that we were going to have to walk a long way to the car anyway and that we'd go to Dairy Queen on our way home if he stayed. He did eat a bit more oatmeal this time. I had brought a breakfast drink for him to have this time, but he didn't want it. Each son also got a PopTart.
Once we got going around 10:30, there were several small creek crossings and the youngest was determined to get wet walking through them again. He was excited about kicking up a group of 8-10 does. I had planned to eat lunch atop the fire tower (slight detour up a gravel road), but he would have nothing to do with it. Even though this one was 40' shorter than the Deam's, he made it to the second landing and that was it. I'm learning he doesn't like wind at this point in time! So my other son and I zipped up and down. We had lunch at the table nearby. This time we had salmon with the ramen and crackers. We're simple men - what can I say? As we hiked along the river we saw a 2' snake. My youngest didn't want me to pick him up though.
We made it to East Camp about 3. You can get water at 3 spots - Hickory Ridge trail junction, the bridge crossing just before you reach the gravel road going up to camp or climbing down the hill behind Sites 2 or 4 to that same creek. After seeing the sites from the group camp, these were a bit of a disappointment. They were clearly much smaller, which isn't any big deal, but the layout allowed very few spots with somewhat level ground. I toss and turn on my NeoAir so much that even on level ground it may inch its way out from under my tarp. Speaking of which, I had some of the infamous baffle popping near the valve so there's a 3x4 inch bulge in it now. I'll send it in for replacement soon. Anyway, Site 3 was the best IMHO and Site 1 would be OK if I was solo. This pit toilet also had no TP. Luckily, I had a small stash of shop towel pieces I had brought on the last trip in case the boys were too freaked out about going TP-free so they came in useful this time.
We walked back down the road which actually ends on private property in an Indiana field. We walked along the line 100 yards to the river and the boys played in it for a while. We returned after half hour and had "ramen pot pie" and made another fire for marshmallows, and played chinese checkers. I noticed that night I wore through the heel of an Injini sock. I'm thinking I had 150-200 miles on these. The important thing though is I believe my youngest is glad he stuck it out. Tonight is warmer and not as windy as the previous one, and he's had a good time today aside from the fire tower. We had another gorgeous sunset and moon and we went to bed at 10.
I got up at 7:30 and fixed the oatmeal. We left camp at 10. I had been worried about the variety of reviews that said this last third was a challenge. It didn't seem that much worse than the middle third, just a lot more concentrated and maybe a bit more elevation gain/loss. Neither of my boys had much trouble and they aren't experienced by any means. The last 1.5 miles is flat as it crosses next to the savanna (which had been purposely burned) and prarie restoration areas. A word of warning: there's a not so friendly dog at the house at the SW corner of the prarie (south of the Staff Office where you started from). We finished the 3.5 miles in 2 hours so I guess the "tough" terrain motivated us. Once again my youngest won the "race" of the last 100 yards. :)