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The car trip from Dallas, TX to Devil's Den State Park, Arkansas, only took us 4 1/2 hours. Even though I have been to Arkansas before for a wakeboarding trip, I had never been up in Devil's Den
Checking in at the ranger station for a backcountry pass
Before we could simply drive to our parking spot and walk away from society for three days, we had to stop in at the Devil's Den ranger station to fill out a form for our free but required backcountry pass. After excitedly writing my name in as the group leader, I began to fill in the information that was being asked of us. When I got to the part of the form where they ask what day they should come looking for you should you not return your pass, I realized that I was a tad apprehensive about being in charge of a party of people going on a nature-filled adventure. What if something happens? Am I equipped to handle whatever will be thrown our way? The answer was a resounding YES! I signed the form, and we walked out of the ranger station, to our car. Here we go! I thought to myself. Let the adventure begin!
Which way do we go? Follow the BLUE DIAMOND ROAD!
I'll admit, in the city, I consider myself directionally challenged, but out in the
Fjording a waist-deep creek in our first quarter mile
I knew we had to cross a creek in our first mile, but I hadn't expected the fresh rain from the day before to cause said creek to be waist deep! When we walked up the rocky Butterfield Hiking Trail to the edge of the creek, the Hippy Hubby and I looked at each other and silently questioned if we were ready to do this with a 6-year-old in tow. Meanwhile, Syfy was excitedly dancing on the creekside shore, extremely stoked to get to walk through water so soon on our hike. Fortunately for us, there was barely any undertow and we had plenty of heat left in the day to dry our clothing off on our hike. We plowed through the water to the other side and began one of the toughest parts of the trail. A heavily rocky creekbed, ascending in elevation rather than the flat dirt paths that we were used to hiking back in TX.
Four miles of rocky creekbeds and elevation change
As we hiked the first four miles of the BHT, we climbed in elevation slowly but continuously, causing me and Syfy to have to stop frequently for breather breaks. According to my GPS, we were traveling at a pace that would put us at our desired stopping point, by 6 pm. It was on the late side, but we had started pretty late in the day, to begin with. The Hippy Hubby hadn't anticipated the amount of patience he would need to have when backpacking with a six-year-old. He wanted to just plow through our miles and be there, but when you are backpacking with someone with smaller legs, you have to take more breaks to accommodate their needs. Thinking of both of my team member's needs, I let him hike ahead of us, Syfy hiked in between us, and I followed up the rear to be sure that no one was left behind or needed anything. Sometimes a leader must lead from the back of the line! By mile 4, we had found our groove and were hustling along the trail, all of us looking forward to setting up camp for the evening. We still had one more hurdle to conquer, we had a waterfall to climb down.
Climbing down a waterfall when you can't feel your feet…
After losing feeling in my legs from the knees down, I couldn't give up on the idea that I could do anything that I dreamed. I had worked very hard to walk normally so that I could continue doing the things that I loved. Hiking on this trail, super rocky, slippery, and wet, I questioned myself internally a million times. Can I really do this? but I kept going, ignoring those questions because I was doing what I love, out in nature. Just after mile 4
Finding camp for the night under the rocky ledge
During our last mile for the day, we were on the lookout for a good spot to camp in. The very first one that we came upon, I was so exhausted from the day, that I stated this is where we're camping for the night, I can't go on, and that was that. This spot was brilliantly protected underneath a huge overhanging rocky ledge that had people's names burned into the wall. This was not a designated camping spot, so the fire ring that others before us had clearly used, was an illegal one. Wanting to show Syfy the rules when following the Leave No Trace guidelines, we chose not to use the illegal fire ring, and instead cooked our meals on our ultra lightweight backpacking stoves. Just around the corner from our hidden campsite cave, a waterfall majestically fell into the creek, amplifying the sounds of nature within our camp. The Hippy Hubby was new to sleeping outdoors and voiced his concern over wild animals that might want to come drink from the creek at night. Knowing we weren't in
The Kelty TN3 tent that we are talking about came from the good folks at Kelty (You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram). I was generously given the Kelty TN3 tent to review, but my opinions are my own! I will only share with you products that I myself love and use personally!
Setting up our tent was a breeze
With rain in our forecast for the evening, and clouds hanging above our heads, I knew I wouldn't get the chance to test out the fun stargazing features of our brand new Kelty TN3 tent. I was going to have to put the rain fly on tonight. Wanting to get the best analysis of this tent, I had decided not to put the tent up at home first. We would test out just how easy this tent was to use for the VERY FIRST TIME and by one person. In under 5-minutes, I had our tent up and the rain-fly on all by myself. The shortened magnetic 14″ aluminum poles are color-coded, making even the first use extremely easy to figure out. I stood there in front of this tent, impressed by the simplicity of it. Everything about this tent was designed with intent and actual real-life people in mind. It was easy to put up and take down and even fit the 3 of us and all our gear, very comfortably every night of our trip. Not a drop of rain got into our tent, even when we had the doors to the rain fly tied open so that we could watch the animal night-life all around us. The Kelty TN3 took all of the guesswork out of setting up a tent, no matter how many tents you have set up before!
Outside Magazine voted “Gear of the Year” 2016
When looking for the right backpacking tent for the three of us, I wanted something super simple to put together, even for Syfy. I was stoked when Outside Magazine came out with their Best Tents for 2016 and Kelty's TN2 had made the cut for the same reasons that I loved it so much.
“There’s nothing flashy about the Tn2—and that’s part of why we fell in love with it. It’s just rock solid, dependable, and willing to lend a novice camper a hand…the Tn2 gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t, whether it’s your first tent or your tenth.” Outside Magazine
Coming together under one tent for the evening
As I cooked up our homemade dehydrated meals while sitting in the open tent, Syfy ran around camp playing with nature. He climbed the elephant-sized rocks next to our tent, pretending he was a mountain lion, roaring to his little heart's content. Ready to chow down on a hearty meal, we gathered in the tent to scarf our dinners down in under 10 minutes flat. Having promised Syfy some s'mores on this trip, I roasted a marshmallow in one of my stainless steel cups and smushed it onto the chocolate and graham crackers I had hidden in my pack. He was thoroughly delighted with this new delicious treat. So much so that it became all he talked about throughout the coming miles that we would walk. Using my Good Night Sleep Tight essential oil roll-on on Syfy's feet and chest, we all laid down to chat about our trip so far. We agreed, it was fun hanging out together in a tent, without screens in front of our faces. I had anticipated it being difficult for him to fall asleep like usual, but it turned out Syfy slept like a baby during the entire trip. While the Hippy Hubby and I ended up staying up all night thanks to my biggest mistake, not buying us sleeping pads. While Syfy slept like he had the comfiest bed ever, I ended up with bruises on my hips from my painful side-sleeping ways. Lesson learned. We will never forget the sleeping pads again. Ever.
Fending off the big scary…mice?
When I did finally
To be continued…Find out what happens on our first family backpacking trip in my next post!
You can read the Hippy Family Backpacking Trip Part 1 HERE