Peak(s):  Harmonica Arch - 8,960 feet
Shafthouse - 8,500 feet
Date Posted:  07/22/2009
Modified:  08/24/2011
Date Climbed:   07/18/2009
Author:  Floyd

 My 2-Year Old‘s First Backpack Trip  

My wife fell in love with the Goose Creek area on a trip to seek the arch a few weeks ago. Alothough we didn't make it up, the nice stream and open meadows begged of a camping trip. I've been trying to wean her from car camping so when we had an opportunity and she was up for bringing our daughter, I was eager to try it out.

Ready For the Trail

As if backpacking with a 2 1/2 year old isn't interesting enough, we would also have our 2 dogs, one of which has his knee scoped 2 weeks earlier and even one of our daughter's friends was joining us. Luckily, my little girl is into older gentlemen so we were adding a 5 year old to the mix. Saturday morning, we loaded the bunch into the car and set out for the Goose Creek Trailhead.

The first section of the trail was slick and the two kiddos had some trouble getting their hiking legs under them. Several slips and falls ensued and their desire to hike and camp seemed to quickly wane. I have to admit, helping a little one stay on their feet while lugging a pack full of 4 sleeping bags, 3 pads, 2 tents, food for 4 and 2 dogs, and all the normal hiking gear, while at the same time controlling two dogs on leash was starting to dampen my spirits too.

Once we got down to the pine forest and level ground things got much better. The dogs got watered down in the stream and the little ones now could run and play a bit. We finally made it to where the valley started to open up and offer some camping opportunities but most of the camp sites seemed to already be filled. After a stream crossing and a few more occupied spots, I let the kids/dogs and my wife play in the water while I went ahead to scout out a spot. A few dozen yards up the trail I found an opening at a bend in the creek that offered nice shade. I set up camp and ran back to round up the troops.

Glad to be done hiking


Rafting the mighty Goose Creek

Once everyone was at camp, we broke out an inflatable raft so the kids could float down the creek. While they were having tons of fun, my adventurous side started to take over. I said goodbye and set out for the arch around 3:30. I crossed a downed tree a couple of yards up stream and started up the trail up the gully opposite the Organ Pipe/Arch. My impression was that this was going to be an easy walk followed by a couple of rock hops, but I was mistaken. The trail winds very steeply up hill across a ton of deadfall and requires a few class 2 rock moves in the trees. It's loose and sloppy, doesn't seem to get too much traffic, but is surprisingly well cairned. Once the trail stops, you are greeted with a steep rock climb that serves as an introduction to the rest of the journey. The route is hard to follow at spots as it brings you right up the backside of the dome.

Terrain on and views from the dome...
Image #7 (not yet uploaded)


To get over to the arch you need to hop across 4 boulders that reminded me of a scene from Super Mario Bros.

Rock Hops - Picture on the return

After leaping the 2-3 foot gaps, I found the Organ Pipe but I was a bit confused since the arch was supposed to be right behind it. I looked behind me, to either side, and then I looked down. That's whan I saw the gap and realized I was actually 1/2 way across the thing. The rock is the same granite that populates the rest of the area. A fall would surely take some skin, a slip and you may head over a cliff, so I was glad I went after this one alone. I snapped some pictures and traversed the arch for good measure on the way out. It's pretty airy and was a lot of fun. The return trip was better ran than hiked since it was so slick and made it back around 5:00.

Organ Pipe - Only slightly phallic

Harmonica Arch

Steep Trail

I got started working the stove making hot dogs and brats, but dessert was the highlight of the trip for the kids. We introduced them to the finer points of roasting marshmallows and packed in graham crackers and Hershey Bars for the ultimate camping treat. After dinner my wife made up bed time stories while I relaxed with the pups and the kids were alseep by 8:00. Hank curled up in a little nest in the grass he made next to me and Floyd was glad to have me back so he laid across my lap. Jamie slept with Hank and the kids in the bigger tent while Floyd and I shared my backpacking tent. I awoke around 6:30 the next morning with Hank trying to push through my tent door and Floyd struggling to get out to greet him. Luckily the kids slept through all of this and slept in until 7:00.

Mmmm.... S'mores

Relaxing with the Pups at Camp...

After breakfast and some games of hide-and-seek, I needed to stretch my legs again. Floyd and I set out for the shafthouse a little after 8:00. I figured I'd be back around 9:45 but that wouldn't be the case. I reached the shafthouse around 9:30 and attempted to find the way to the valley view. Much to my frustration, there was about an 8-foot downclimb that needed to be negotiated. I could do it fine, but the pooch was going to probably break a leg. I found a 3'*10" crack he may have been able to squeeze through to avoid it, but I was going to need to be on the other side to coax him. Not trusting that he wouldn't just dive off the rock when I got done with the downclimb, I reluctantly turned for home. Oh well, an excuse to make it back there again someday. Since we were running late, we jogged the trail back to camp, reaching it around 10:30.

Shafthouse and Historic Buildings

While I was gone, Jamie tried taking the kids for a short hike. Hank was pretty sore from the previous day's activities and our daughter was not too wild about walking any more. We reluctantly packed up and feared the worst for the hike out. Getting back to the main trail was difficult, but once there, the kids surprised us with a third wind of energy. They practically ran the entire way back only stopping to blow out a dozen monstrous dandelions.

Enjoying the hike out

All was good until the last 4 feet of the trail. Our daughter's toe sought out the very last rock on the trail (literally - last one) and she hit the dirt face first. She was not a happy camper as we packed up the car. She screamed herself to sleep about 10 minutes int othe ride and then Jami took advantage of her lack of consciousness to dress her skinned knees, elbows, and a 2" round strawberry on her forehead. No worries, all was right in the world when we pulled into Anthony's Pizza in Aspen Grove and got the kids filled on Pepperoni Pizza and lemonade.

Pizza makes it all better

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

LCW is great
02/05/2011 00:22
That is a great place to introduce the fam to backpacking. I remember backpacking every year to the shaft house area when I was a kid. It is good to see the buildings are still there and your TR reminds me that I need to spend more time in the LCW area.


Way to go!
07/22/2009 14:29
Your daughter is adorable Scott! The shot of both of them sitting on the log is priceless.

Fantastic job of including the whole family in your adventures. I really like the way you made sure everyone had fun on this trip! And it sounds like you‘re still carrying that 2 ton refrigerator on your back too!


Love it!
07/22/2009 17:17
What a delightful trip report! Especially enjoyed the first two photos and the two dogs snoozing. Wish my parents had gotten me into camping at that age. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Thanks guys
11/30/2010 17:28
We'll definitely be back to explore the shafthouse area some more. It is a great place for the family. So far so good, the little one seems to enjoy herself in the wilderness. But I have to admit, I was only in charge of logistics and keeping everyone fed. My wife was responsible for the entertainment and came up with the raft idea.

Chicago Transplant

Great Trip!
07/23/2009 16:55
Great to see you getting the kids out Scot, looks like they had a fun time! Its much easier to get them back out again if they have good memories of the last time, looks like you are building those with them


kId trip
08/03/2011 23:52
Great TR I am going to try almost the same trip but with 5 year old and 3 year old boys along with two 3 year old puppies. It looks like a great place to break everyone into backpacking.

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