Backpacking with Hayduke and Isabel

Our friend Isabel just turned five, but she's been outside a lot. Her parents are both active, outdoor people - they both cave, and Amy runs and backpacks, and Spike hunts a lot - so Isi's quite accustomed to sleeping in a tent, to eating noodles while sitting on rocks, to peeing in the woods. No problem. Isabel is comfortable in the big wide world.

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So it was no surprise that Isi's first backpacking trip was a resounding success. We'd been planning it for months. We met up at Fairview campground on Friday night and did a quick car-shuttle before dropping into the Ozark Highlands Trail near Ben Hur.

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Isabel carried her own snacks and jacket. She borrowed one of Mandy's hiking poles. And Woofie came along to, clipped to Isi's backpack. We poked along the trail looking at stuff, and the creek crossing wouldn't have bothered her at all, except that it's still early in the spring and the water's still really, really cold. So she hitched a ride.

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Since we'd planned low hiking mileages and lots of playing-around time, we thought this would be a good first backpacking trip for Hayduke too. He doesn't like water a lot, but he was a good sport about the crossings. Once in the water, I think he figures he might as well just swim to the other side.

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Later we realized that this was very likely the first time he'd ever been in water so deep. How many of us have a photograph of the very first time we went swimming?

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We had lots of time in camp for naps and talking. There were ticks everywhere, but the weather was pleasant and the company was good. Isabel has a great memory for places, and the next morning when we left camp, she's the one who found the double-blazed trail intersection she'd seen the day before, and led us back toward our car, counting blazes as she went.

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On Sunday, we finished our hike in plenty of time to visit some waterfalls in the neighborhood. First we went to Falling Water Falls and splashed around for awhile. When the creek is up, this is a popular spot for kayak people to practice (going over the falls), but in lower water conditions, it's fun to walk along the rocks above the little falls, or sit at the edge of the pool below. This trip, we found a really neat spot where the bottom of a tree trunk has made something like a little playhouse, all open to the sky. It even has windows.

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We also visited Six Finger Falls, though due to road construction we had to walk along the road for a mile or so to get there. Hiking and playing are hard work for a puppy, and Hayduke had to take lots of naps in the sunshine. All in all, it was a great weekend. We loved spending time with Amy and getting to know Isabel. Both our 'preschoolers' did a great job on their very first backpacking trips.

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