November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters
Display Avatars Sort By:
Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters on 08/21/2012 00:45:56 MDT Print View

This year my wife and I took our two youngest daughters, Hannah and Natalie, on the John Muir Trail – after having gone the previous two years first with their two oldest brothers and then with their older sister and Hannah.
Last year was very different than 2010 due to enormous amounts of snow that made crossing the passes “interesting”. This year on the other hand had no snow at all – but it rained and hailed an unusual amount of days and an unusual amount of hours during these days. So we got every year a totally different experience out of the JMT.
The second year in a row the permit lottery at Yosemite assigned us Lyell Canyon as a starting point (the first year we got Sunrise Lakes). So we had again no luck in getting Happy Isles, but we were not really sad about avoiding the crowds from the valley.

During our first day the girls enjoyed wading and swimming in Lyell Canyon
Hannah and Natalie in Lyell Canyon

On the second day the girls crossed Donohue Pass
Natalie and Hannah at Donohue Pass

and met there an unfriendly group of hikers who felt little girls should not be in the wilderness where only real men belong – one had to make that famous sign while saying “F… yourself and your mother”.
Unfriendly backpacker who doesn't like girls in the wilderness

Hhmm, what can you say as a responsible parent to such people while your daughters are listening and watching? So we just kept going our way on to Island Pass where we stayed for the night with a beautiful view of Banner Peak.
Camp near Island Pass

The third day we picked up our re-supply at Red’s Meadow. We found time to fish and swim in Shadow Lake
Hannah and Natalie in Shadow Lake

and still make the 18 miles to Red’s Meadow before 7 pm to get a cheeseburger and milk shake.
Shake at Red's Meadow

On day 4 we detoured to our favorite hot spring.
Mom with girls in hot spring
The next day we wanted to re-join the JMT at Silver Pass, but stopped below the pass at the Lake of the Lone Indian due to a thunder storm.
After the thunder storm cleared we saw a huge fire cloud in the distance
Lake of the Lone Indian

On day 6 we went over Silver Pass and all the way up Bear Ridge to Bear Creek
Dad with girls

The next day we went over Selden Pass
Girls on Selden Pass with Marie Lakes in back
to Blaney Meadows where we enjoyed swimming in Warm Lake and sitting in the hot spring
Swimming in Warm Lake
Blaney Hot Spring
On Day 8 we picked up our re-supply at Muir Trail Ranch, which took us until lunch time because Hannah and Natalie played with the dogs and kittens. When we could finally break loose, we hiked to McClure Meadow.
McClure Meadow
The next morning we fished some more
and made our way past Evolution Lake up to Muir Pass where we stayed in the hut due to a huge storm that delayed us for several hours
Muir Hut

From Muir Pass we made it the next day past the kid-eating rock monster
Rock Monster
and Big Pete Meadow
Big Pete Meadow
to Deer Meadow.

The next morning we made it up the Golden Stair Case to Lower Palisade Lake for a swim
Swimming in Lower Palisade Lake
before we continued over Mather Pass where it hailed on us
Hail on Mather Pass
On day 12 we went over Pinchot Pass
Pinchot Pass
and crossed the hanging bridge at Wood’s Creek
Hannah going over hanging bridge
Natalie crossing hanging bridge
before staying at Baxter Creek where we prepared our usual trout for dinner on a grill we found there
Trout for dinner
The next day we passed by the beautiful Rae Lakes
Rae Lakes
and went over Glen Pass to Bench Lake Ranger Station.

On day 14 we continued over Forester Pass
Forester Pass
and by Tyndell Creek
Sign at Tyndell Creek
to Crab Tree Meadow which made for a 19 mile day.
Crab Tree Meadow
On our last day we went over Trail Crest to Whitney Portal. When we reached the trail intersection it hailed and the top of Mt. Whitney was not visible in the clouds.
Mt Whitney in the clouds
After some discussion with Natalie who was the only one who never stood on top of Mt. Whitney we decided to leave the summit for another day.
So we continued down to Whitney Portal
Reaching Whitney Portal
and the girls had finally the burger they were dreaming about for the last three days …
Burger for the girls

This was a memorable trip. The photos don’t show how much rain we had – simply because we barely took our cameras out in the rain. Nevertheless the kids had a great trip. Doing 218 miles in 15 days and having a lot of fun along the way was only possible because the girls went UL. When we weighed their packs at Whitney Portal both girls’ packs showed less than 10 lbs with some food left. Right now the girls are already scheming about the next trip. Let’s see where they drag me around next time …

Edited by Orienteering on 08/21/2012 12:02:11 MDT.

James Castleberry
"Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters" on 08/21/2012 01:38:31 MDT Print View

Incredible trip report Manfred. You and your beautiful family really showed how it's done. Happy, healthy and enjoying the beauty the world has to offer. And those girls were putting up some big miles. What an amazing family experience to have. Way to go!

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
nice on 08/21/2012 02:04:12 MDT Print View

Nice trip! looks like thunderstorms have been a theme this summer in the sierras.

what exactly happened with the 'gentleman' on Donahue pass?


Locale: South West US
Re: Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters on 08/21/2012 02:56:23 MDT Print View

Nice trip!

I'm kinda shocked at that dudes behavior. It's rankles me just to read about it. What kinda loser has to put down little kids? Sorry you had to put up with that. Coincidentally, the only time I've passed a blatantly rude hiker, it was at Donahue pass. Something about the air there I guess.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Incident on top of Donohue Pass on 08/21/2012 08:44:18 MDT Print View


This "gentleman" was feeding marmots from a bag of chips. My wife asked him to please not do that because it would create a problem for the marmots and all future visitors to this place. When he told her "that is non of your business", she asked him politely to please watch his language a little around these little girls. He then went into a rampage with many f-words that she shouldn't bring little girls into the wilderness. That these girls don't belong here, ruin the experience for real wilderness people and that my wife is "" irresponsible to bring them. At that point I asked him to slow down and let go of it. He immediately picked up on my German accent and told me to "crawl back to your country, where you belong -- there is no place for you b..stard here in the US, so GO BACK".

At that point I told my wife and children to just move on. I didn't see any point to discuss anything any further with this guy and his friends who got a kick out of the whole show and encouraged him to keep going on his rampage.

It was an unfortunate incident, but only a small distraction during our whole wonderful 15 days on the trail. We kept going and kept enjoying our daughters' enjoyment along the way.


James Castleberry
The incident on 08/21/2012 08:59:59 MDT Print View

Very strange and I'm sorry your family was subjected to that. A-holes can be found anywhere, but in general, experiences in nature such as backpacking tend to help us let go of such feelings. Exposing our children to nature and wilderness is so important, as the work of people like Richard Louv is showing. To think of how strong and healthy your girls must be to hike 18 or 19 miles a day. You are setting a great example, IMO.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters on 08/21/2012 09:25:24 MDT Print View

excellent trip report !!
sounds very memorable for all.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters on 08/21/2012 10:09:24 MDT Print View

Awesome trip and report!

David Lutz

Locale: Bay Area
"Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters" on 08/21/2012 10:23:53 MDT Print View

Nice work, Manfred. Again.

You've really made some great memories for your kids that will last a lifetime.

Funny how the "real men" have big shoes, big packs, hard-sided Nalgene, etc......

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Incident on top of Donohue Pass on 08/21/2012 10:55:47 MDT Print View

Manfred: Thanks for an inspirational trip report and great photos. I too figure that the family BPing trips are much easier, and spectacular trips like yours only possible by going UL. We're 51/45/12/7 years old so there are only a few more years before the kids are carrying more of the load than we do.

Like your wife, I'll say something when I see people cutting switchbacks, littering, ignoring quiet hours in Curry Village 5 days ago, etc, although I've learned to choose some settings and not others. My wife doesn't like the confrontations that sometimes follow, even when you're polite. And having kids along lets them go in a mode of being shocking to deflect the attention from their own stupidity. About the marmot feeding, I'd more likely direct my comments to my children, "Remember to not feed the animals" within earshot of the offenders if I was going to say anything, although more likely it would orginate from my kids, "Why are they doing that? It's bad for the animals." and then we could have a discussion why someone might not know/care/think the rules apply to them, etc. As to their a-holery in response, the world provides many teachable moments to families. For kilometers afterwards, you can be discussing "Why might they have responded like that?" "How did it make you feel?" "How would you have responded?"

I'd also theorize that while every decent person on the trail is impressed by your girl's accomplishments (my 7 year-old daughter hiked Happy Isles-Half Dome-Happy Isles on Thursday) and touched that you're having such amazing adventures as a family; if a person with poor ego-strength has their "manhood" or abilities challanged, it can get ugly. Nothing negative was said, but my then 11-year-old got some looks of disbelief bordering on denial that we'd hiked the Grand Canyon to the River and back in a day by high-school athletes and marathon runner types who'd bonked trying the same thing while after 18 miles and 10,000 vertical feet, he had a big smile on his face.

Keep doing what you're doing. That kind of family activity and involved parenting is the best innoculation against tweener- and teenage troubles and conflicts. I look at the best parent-child relationships I know among my peers, and they all had that level of engagement throughout their childhood.

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
thank you on 08/21/2012 11:07:22 MDT Print View

Thank you, Manfred for the post and photos. I hope to take my daughters up there in the coming years and find your post a good motivation and inspiration.

could you share your gear list?

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Backpacking with Daughters on 08/21/2012 11:36:07 MDT Print View


Thank you so much for posting this. I have twin girls who turn six next week. As someone who's sadly never put in an 18-mile day I can't imagine my girls doing it.

How did they train for the hike? Is it a matter of just being active kids (running, biking, soccer, etc.) or did you do specific hikes to work them up to that kind of mileage?

I too would love to see your gear lists for the trip. You indicated that you had a lot of rain - typically that would mean hiking with wet feet. Did anyone have blisters or other foot issues?

I've taken the girls on overnight backpacking trips a couple of times already and they're eager to do more. I'm truly inspired by your trip!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Backpacking with Daughters on 08/21/2012 11:59:58 MDT Print View


>How did they train for the hike? Is it a matter of just being active kids?

My datapoints are a daughter (7) and a son (12).

Daughter (7) is a stud muffin. The world is her gymnasium. She doesn't walk down the stairs - she climbs down the bannister. She also has always had a strength-to-weight from where/who, we don't know - iron cross on the rings, can climb a vertical door jam with finger strength, etc. For her 7th B-day party, she requested a rock climbing theme so I built two 24-foot-tall climbing walls. I was leary of her on Half Dome last week and the deal with my wife was that they'd turn back when half-baked. But the deal with the daughter was, "If you want to climb one really big rock today, you can't get distracted and climb all the little rocks along the way. Them's the rules today!" She made it, and the cables were a big, positive kick-in-butt. She was tired for the last half of the downhill and there was more literal and verbal handholding to keep her moving.

Son (12) is all slow-twitch muscles like me - not a sprinter AT ALL but we can just keep going all day long. He was 10 when I realized he wasn't slowing me down on day hikes (I carried the daypack). For 6 weeks before the Grand Canyon (at age 11), we'd each spend 10 minutes most mornings doing stairs in the house - up & down, up & down - get sweaty, and then shower and start my day. That, and we did flat miles (the only kind around). 2 to 5 miles on a beach or trail a few times a week while talking about life, math, Harry Potter, whatever. Last week up Half Dome, we'd prep'd much less. He did great, never slowed us down or complained about anything. He was only a little sore. I (51) was moderately sore 2-3 days out and now, 5 days later have no issues. If he'd done some prep work (we both will next time - Whitney!), I could put some weight on his back (and off of mine).

Neither of them walk to school like I did. We make them get out of the house at least once every day or they'd read non-stop. They climb trees, make snow forts and sled down hills. He (12) has PE in middle school. School has grade school recess outside down to -10F. At home we kick them outside to -15F. Family activites tend to be active - hike, ski, canoe together a few times a month. For years, we'd tried to keep the backpacking and hiking fun rather than impressive but now we're including some impressive, iconic stuff as well.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Preparation on 08/21/2012 12:28:16 MDT Print View


2010 when we returned from the JMT with our (back then) 15 year old twins (Philipp & Daniel), the experience was for weeks a topic at our dinner table, conversations with friends, etc. Our girls complained that we do the real fun stuff only with the boys -- this complaint is partially based on the fact that the Boy Scouts do way more fun outdoor stuff than the Girl Scouts. We told them that it has nothing to do with gender, but with age and we would take them too, once they are 15. The 12 year old (Cassie) argued that next year she would be 13 and that is almost 15 and the 8 year old (Hannah) argued that she is just as strong as Cassie. This went on for weeks. Finally in October 2010 when Hannah turned 9 we agreed to take them in 2011 on the JMT if they would go every other weekend (rain or shine) on a 10 mile backpacking trip with us and do a 30 mile weekend during Spring Break. To be honest I thought this would be over before Christmas. The winter of 2010 was very wet and lead to record snow levels in the Sierra for 2011, so every time we went hiking, we did so in the rain. Somehow I thought the kids would loose interest, but the opposite happened. They enjoyed it more and more. The rain didn't deter them - it opened new experiences like seeing newts and banana slugs. So the girls stuck to it and we went 2011 in an epic snow year with many deep creek crossings and had a blast.
When we came back Natalie (back then 8) announced that it would be her turn in 2012. Hannah immediately said that she would go again. So we kept going with the every other weekend backpacking schedule. Milage has never been a goal for us (at least not above the 10 miles/per day that is needed to finish in three weeks). It is the experience out there that is important to us. It just happened this year that we were done in two weeks rather than three weeks. In my opinion that is due to two factors: 1) We didn't have a teenager with us. The young girls are up early in the morning and ready to go, while the teenagers in 2010 and 2011 didn't want to get out of their sleeping bag before the sun would shine directly into their face (which is down in the valley around 10 am) 2) It rained a lot and thus there were not as many opportunities to stop and swim, fish, take photos, rock climb, etc. The girls just kept moving, because that kept them warm.
Both factors contributed to some higher milage.
Beyond our bi-weekly training hikes, all our kids and my wife and I bike to school/work. That is the only regular workout, we get.
I will share our gear lists later. What is the best format for that? Would a Google Doc (Excel) do?


Edited by Orienteering on 08/21/2012 15:39:11 MDT.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Foot Issues on 08/21/2012 12:40:12 MDT Print View


I forgot to answer your question about blisters or other foot issues. In 2010 we went in water proof hiking boots. That caused a lot of issues and required a tight management of socks and liner socks which would constantly be wet - simply from sweat. In 2011 we went with trail runners and thin merino wool socks. We would just walk through the creeks in them - instead of taking off the boots like we did in 2010. Thus we had constantly damp feet in 2011, but amazingly enough no issues. We would just change into dry socks at the end of the day and that was it.
This year we did the same with the same result. Despite the rain our feet were actually less wet than in 2011, because there were no wet creek crossings (with the exception of Evolution Creek and crossing the San Joaquin River to get to Blaney Hot Springs).
Natalie got towards the end blisters under her feet, because she would leave the fine grime in her socks that acted like sandpaper under her feet. We had just assumed that she would follow our instructions and when we saw both girls wash their socks daily, we assumed she would turn them inside-out. Obviously we put too much responsibility on her - treating her like her older sister. Once we discovered it, two pieces of duct tape and supervision in sock washing solved that problem and she walked 19 miles on the second to last day on those feet.


Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Hiking with Daughters on 08/21/2012 12:41:06 MDT Print View

I'm in awe, jealous, and motivated at the same time. Just your training routine sounds to me like an ideal way to get some family time and the JMT was simply the icing on the cake!

Thank you again for posting this and I'm looking forward to reading about your future trips.

Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Gear Lists on 08/21/2012 21:40:45 MDT Print View

Terry & Kevin,

here is the link to our gear lists. I uploaded only mine and Hannah's. The gear list for Natalie is very similar to her sister's (but with less weight, for example she was using a shorter ground pad). My wife's list is similar to mine. She didn't carry any of the gadgets, like GPS and inReach, but used a warmer sleeping bag and warmer sleeping pad than me).

Manfred's & Hannah's gear for the JMT 2012

The spreadsheet has still many lines from our 2010 JMT when we brought things like bear bells, camp shoes, foldable water bucket, clothes line, etc. We have dialed it pretty much in during the last three JMTs and feel very comfortable with this list.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Gear List on 08/21/2012 22:20:23 MDT Print View

Awesome trip report! How many 9 years old kids can say they hiked the JMT!

Just out of curiosity how did the Z-Packs Exo work for you?

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Hiking the John Muir Trail with our 9 and 10 year old daughters on 08/22/2012 04:14:09 MDT Print View


Man I gotta say: what a great trip and what a great looking family!

You and your wife are exposing your kids to so much (in a good way) and WOW - are they tough!

Thank you!


Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
ZPacks Exo on JMT on 08/22/2012 08:07:23 MDT Print View


the pack worked great for me. Last year I used the Osprey Exos 58 which is a great pack -- and the rest of my family used the Osprey again this year.

Here is a short list of things that made the ZPacks Exo work well:

- The Bearikade Expedition fits in the backpack. At first I was skeptical, because I couldn't center the bear can, but had to push it to the side in order to put tent and sleeping pad next to it. That never proved to be a problem
- The pack is almost waterproof. With seam sealing you could make it completely waterproof. That was a nice feature in all the rain.
- The shoulder belt pockets fit exactly a 1 l Snapple bottle. Treating water with the SteriPen and drinking happened in a snap.
- The hip pockets are very voluminous and almost waterproof. We all had our cameras in our hip pockets. I left mine in there when it rained. The rest of my family needed to get a ziplock and stow their camera away whenever it started to rain, because the Osprey has a mesh hip pocket.
- I used 4 panels of a Thermarest z-lite as a backpanel. That came often handy during breaks. It is nice to have a warm, dry seating area :)

Here is the one thing that was an issue:
- Abrasion. I carried a Delorme inReach and hung it with a carabiner from the top of the pack for best antenna reception. One day I had packed the pack in a way that the inReach would swing slightly back and forth right along the edge of the bear can. At the end of the day the cuben was rubbed through. I was shocked when I took the backpack off and saw the long "rip". At closer inspection it turned out to not be a problem. One piece of tape addressed the problem and the backpack was completely fine.

The pack carries comfortable for me. With the direct contact to the backpanel my back sweats more than it did with the mesh panel of the Osprey Exos 58, but that didn't pose a real problem. After our re-supply I took some weight off my wife - mainly by putting all the heavy food items in my bear can and all the light ones into her bear can. The scale at MTR showed 39 lbs instead of the 31 lbs I had planed for. With close to 40 lbs the Exo still performed fine, but I clearly wished for a better hipbelt during the next two passes. But amazingly enough I had no shoulder issues. The frame tranfers the weight well to the hips.


Edited by Orienteering on 08/22/2012 08:08:52 MDT.