written by Tara Bone, contributing writer

I’m still not sure how it happened. It started out innocently enough, brainstorming 2018 spring break ideas with my three boys and husband. We discussed a staycation with day trips, a visit to family, and even the obligatory Disney excursion. All fine options that included running water, plumbing, and a cozy bed. Then, something new emerged: a four-day family backpacking trip.

Before I knew it, I was outnumbered. In vain I mustered every ounce of my skills of persuasion to highlight the virtues of electricity. In the end, my boys wanted to enter the wild frontier with only what they could carry on their backs. In my defense, I’m not “afraid” of the outdoors or dirt; I grew up on a farm (lots of dirt involved) and enjoy hiking. But the idea brought back memories of a church youth backpacking trip that involved rain, getting lost, and the heaviest backpack known to a 90-pound girl. No one told me canned food in my pack was a bad idea.

With my fears in check, I dug in to help plan our family’s 2018 expedition. I learned quickly that a successful backpacking trip requires a lot of planning. It can be overwhelming, but there are a lot of outfitters in Cache Valley with knowledgeable staff who can help.

Left to right: Craig Dart, Susan Dart, Mason Darley, and Lance Darley at Ruth Lake in the Uintas.

One such resource is Mason Darley, an outdoorsman and employee at The Sportsman on Logan’s Main Street. Mason started backpacking with his family at 8 years old and believes it keeps families close, teaches kids to love the outdoors, and instills healthy habits. He encourages parents to go for it. His advice: “Don’t be intimidated by it, grab someone who’s done it before, and keep going.”

In our family’s experience, we enlisted the help of friend Justin Smith. Known by the nickname “Sherpa,” Justin is like most avid backpackers who want to help people discover lessons that only mother nature teaches. He believes he’s learned more on the mountain than anywhere else, and it was there he “learned to work hard, work together, and overcome adversity.” Who doesn’t want to teach that to their kids?

With Justin’s help, we chose a destination, mapped an itinerary, gathered gear, planned meals, and discussed safety. After all the planning and packing, we set out. It sounds dramatic, but we found beautiful scenery, exhilarating climbs, and long-lasting family bonds.

Would I recommend it to other apprehensive parents? Yes! The chance to spend unplugged, focused time with my boys without distractions was priceless. The hours spent talking, laughing, and learning life skills couldn’t have happened anywhere else. For your 2019 spring break, consider conquering your mountain and exploring the backcountry.