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M SUL with My Kid Brother

by Luke Schmidt

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Article Summary:

Although I've enjoyed the outdoors with a number of people, I've probably spent more time in the woods with my youngest brother Joseph (now twelve years old) than just about anyone else. For whatever reason, all my camping mishaps seem to happen when Joseph is with me. Starting at age seven, he's endured miserably cold nights, gear failures, navigational errors, 60 mph windstorms on exposed ridges and other adventures... and he still goes out with me. I suspect he doesn't tell our mother everything that happens because she still lets him go out with me! Actually, she lets him get away with stuff other siblings couldn't at that age because of who he is.

To understand Joseph you have to know something about his personality. He is VERY tough and VERY goal oriented. When he was seven he tagged along on a cross-country run. My mom watched him run so hard that he cried, but he would NOT slow down. He wanted to keep up with the older kids. She actually limited how far he was allowed to run for fear he'd hurt himself. About the same time he decided she wasn't homeschooling him in a sufficiently organized way. Apparently she was committing the unpardonable crimes of answering the phone during school hours and waiting until evening to finish a spelling lesson. Joseph took matters into his own hands and wrote his own schedule at age seven. It covered everything from waking up to finishing school in the afternoon. There was even a time when Mom could return phone calls (after school was finished)!

Joseph's "General Bull Moose" personality means he doesn't mind hard work or some discomfort on backpacking trips. Starting at age nine, he insisted on carrying his fair share of the gear (fortunately by that time I was going pretty lightweight, so he could do so without hurting himself). Over the last year Joseph expressed an interest in doing a trip that was longer or tougher than our normal weekend trips. The plan I settled on was to take Joseph on a super-ultralight trip and try to cover around 20 miles over 2 days with the window open for a bit more if we wanted. I figured that would be a worthy challenge for an eleven-year-old.

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