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Kid-Friendly Backpacking- Hand Lake Shelter OVERNIGHT

This will be a short and easy trip chosen specifically for those littler hikers or people who aren't sure about backpacking and looking for an easy place to start. Kids are definitely welcome but I'm asking for no dogs on this trip just to help reduce the amount of extra feet running around.

Hand Lake is rated as Easy. It is a 1 mile round trip trek and there is actually a three walled shelter that can be utilized. It is only 100 feel in elevation gain and is located in the Mt. Washington Wilderness area. We will plan to hike in the half mile to the shelter, set up camp near the shelter, spend some time playing around and maybe do the 2.6 mile loop to an old wagon road, stay one night and then pack up and head out the next day. Pretty simple.

Preference will first be given to parents and their kids for this trip. Since there are relatively few backpacking trips that are suitable for children, it seems fair that this should be one for kids first, beginning backpackers next and others last. I will be limiting the number in attendance to 15 as I personally prefer to not hike in incredibly large groups. Every child needs to have an adult in charge of them. I will not be assuming responsibility for anyone's children. Although I'm not going to require that the parents have backpacking experience, I think it would be very helpful if you did as I am simply not going to be able to accommodate direct instruction to everyone in attendance while trying to manage my own children. What I would like to do however, is a few weeks before the trip, for everyone who has RSVP'd yes, for us all to meet somewhere for a picnic to discuss details about the trip and what to pack and maybe for the kids to have a chance to meet each other beforehand. I do not conduct background checks on people who attend these trips so ensuring your child's safety from unknown adults is your responsibility alone. I will also post a list of what the adults should be bringing for themselves and you can likely figure out how to modify it for your child. Children under 10 really should not be carrying large packs so be prepared for the fact that you will be carting a lot of your child's stuff. This is a trip that is also in the heat of summer. SUNSCREEN AND MOSQUITO REPELLENT= SUPER IMPORTANT!!!!

We will meet the morning of the trip at 8am at the 58th and Main St. Albertsons. Carpooling is encouraged and each passenger should expect to contribute $15 for themselves and for each child passenger they bring. This may seem a bit much to some people but keep in mind that we are compensating drivers not only for the gas but also the wear and tear on their vehicles that comes with long trips and often rough roads. Parents are responsible for ensuring appropriate carseats are in use. You are also welcome to drive yourself. There is no parking fee here. But keep in mind, given the relatively easy level of this trip, it is also a popular trip for people looking for something short and easy. The more we can condense cars and tents being used, the better the chance of getting a spot when we get there. Tent spots are usually first come first served.

Driving directions: Start by driving McKenzie Hwy. 242, the scenic old road between Sisters and McKenzie Bridge.  West of McKenzie Pass 4.5 miles, between mileposts 72 and 73, park at a small roadside pullout marked with a hiker symbol sign.

Here is some information from Sullivan's 100 Hikes in the Central Oregon Cascades book (Hand Lake is hike #46):

If you have but one hour to spend in the Wilderness, consider investing it here, because this short walk provides as much interest as trek. In just 2.6 miles, you'll pass wildflower meadows, mountain views, a rustic shelter, a lake, a lava flow, and a historic portion of the old McKenzie Wagon Road. There's even a short (but safe) trailless section to add a touch of adventure. The trail sets off through subalpine woods of mountain hemlock, lodgepole pine, and red huckleberry. Flowers along the way include blue lupine, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and wild strawberry. After a half mile you'll reach the historic three sided, shake roofed shelter at the edge of a lovely meadow. The view here extends across Hand Lake to Mt. Washington's spire.

That will be the spot where we'll camp. There is however, an additional loop that can be done by those more ambitious little hikers.

More information from the book about the additional loop: Continue on the path directly across the meadow. Turn right at a junction in the woods, following a "Robinson lake" pointer. After 0.4 mile the trail begins following the sandy edge of a lava flow. Continue up alongside the lava 0.2 mile, watching closely for several small rock cairns marking the easily-overlooked wagon road that cuts across the lava to the right. The abandoned roadway is perfectly level and 15 feet wide, but so old that a few struggling plants have had time to take root. Pioneer John Craig arduously chipped this route from the lava around 1871 as a shortcut from the Willamette Valley to Central Oregon's grazing lands. Follow the roadbed across the lava and turn right, following the sandy margin between the lava and the forest back to Hand Lake. Though there is no trail here, the lake's water level drops in summer, leaving a wide hikable beach. Go around the lake to the outlet, walk left along this creek until it narrows enough to be crossable, and then continue around the lake meadows to the shelter.

What to bring: Most of the people who have been hiking a while will probably know what to expect and what to bring. But for the sake of those who may not know what they need to be prepared, I'm going to repeat it here.

At the very minimum, having your 10 essentials is key:

1) Navigation (map and compass)

2) Sun protection (sunglasses, sunblock, hat)

3) Insulation (extra clothing, outerwear) Avoid cotton clothing. When cotton gets wet it gets cold and it does not dry quickly. Waterproof boots. Bring extra socks. Waterproof rain jacket just in case. Dressing in layers is good so that you can add or take off layers as your body temperature changes.

4) Illumination (headlamp, flashlight, include extra batteries/ bulbs)

5) First aid kit

6) Fire (waterproof matches and firestarter).

7) Multi tool and repair kits for any gear (mostly applicable to tents/ sleeping pads but could be useful for your pack as well)

8) Nutrition (at least one extra day's worth of food in addition to your lunch that you should bring for our lunch stop during the hike).  Since this is an overnight, you need to be sure you bring enough food for the two days, plus one as well as any appropriate supplies such as a stove, fuel, cooking utensils, pans, dishes, etc.

9) Hydration (always carry adequate extra water).  Someone going will likely have a water filter but please be sure you pack plenty of water on the off chance someone doesn't.

10) Shelter (space blanket or similar item).  In this case, since this is an overnight trip you will need a tent with a good footprint.  A good sleeping pad to keep you insulated from the ground.  And a good sleeping bag.

Not listed in the 10 essentials, and perhaps a bit obvious, is a pack. But let's mention it here anyway. I prefer to see actual backpacks as opposed to shoulder bags, especially on a hike of this nature. Some of the 10 essentials may seem pointless to people for a short hike. But I really encourage people to be prepared for the unexpected- for example, getting separated from the group, being stuck out overnight, etc. So even though you may not end up needing some of the stuff, better safe than sorry.

Other things to consider bringing: You may find trekking poles useful. A camera might also be a good addition to your pack. A nice book to read and perhaps a deck of cards or portable board game would also be appropriate in case we become tent bound.  I am not sure if there is a campfire ring in this campground, but I will try to find that out and we can decide what to do about wood at that point.

If you have any questions about what you should bring, you are welcome to message me and I can see if I can help you sort it out.

The goal of these trips for me is of course the hike, but also sight seeing and enjoying the company and conversation of other hikers. So that being said, it is not a goal of mine to rush through these hikes. There will be points where we will stop and take pictures, stop and have a snack/ lunch (be sure to pack one), and perhaps stop and rest. I will be limiting the number of participants to 15 so that it is easier to keep track of all members of the party and to minimize impact to the environment that larger groups often bring. In addition, I want people who may feel physically up to attempting a hike of this nature to feel encouraged to try and do not want them to feel as though they will be holding anyone back. So, if you are a power hiker who just wants to rush through, this won't be the trip for you. But I'll let you be the judge of that. I hope that you'll join us on this adventure!



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  • Chris B.

    Another super fun kids trip in the books. My girls loved it...thanks again for planning it Andrea!

    1 · August 4, 2013

  • Cory A.

    Great times! Second Annual Kid-Friendly trip to Hand Lake. Took two of my kids this round (4 and 6), both loved it.

    1 · August 4, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Was planning to come until I noticed no dogs were allowed, He always goes with me camping, hiking, and backpacking. I'll be up there near by you though lol

    August 2, 2013

  • Erin

    This sounds great! I've been wanting to do some backpacking but have been worried about taking my kids. I'll be bringing Kyla my 12 yr old.

    July 25, 2013

    • Andrea Brown (.

      I'm glad you're going to make it Erin! It's been a long time since I've seen you! Feel free to give me a call if you need any help deciding what to bring. Although you're pretty outdoorsy so I'm sure you can figure it out. But you can call me at[masked] if you need to!

      August 1, 2013

  • Linda K.

    So was there a pre trip meeting?

    August 1, 2013

    • Andrea Brown (.

      We did not have a pre-trip meeting. My schedule has been absolutely crazy and I wasn't able to get it scheduled. I was going to contact everyone individually today or tomorrow to see if there is anything I can do to help them prepare. You can give me a call Linda at[masked]-5033. I'd be happy to chat with you about the trip.

      August 1, 2013

  • Cory A.

    Will be taking Tayla (6) and Kyla (4). Was a ton of fun last year!

    1 · July 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I have never camped and I would like to learn how

    July 6, 2013

  • Cory A.

    Darn, have tennis sectionals that weekend. Tayla is going to be so sad to miss it.

    July 2, 2013

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