I’m pretty sure we made record at the LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for having the most, and the youngest, children there at one time Wednesday night – bringing up six kids ranging in ages from 2-8 years old.
The Lodge sits at an elevation of about 6400 feet and is only accessible by foot. Staff at the lodge uses lamas to get down the mountain to have sheets laundered for the rustic cabins, and return with perishable goods from town. The rest of the supplies used to serve meals and maintain the lodge are dropped in by a helicopter at the beginning of the season, which lasts from March through November.
My husband had made the 5 mile hike twice before with the two older girls, while I stayed home with our baby. This year that baby is almost three. So all together, with some good family friends and my dad with his hiking buddy, we set off on the Alum Bluff Trail to make the 2500 feet elevation climb. With SIX children!
So how did we do it?
My toddler rode on my back in an Ergo for most of the hike. She walked some, when it was safe and we were not near a cliff, and my husband carried her some on his shoulders in addition to his backpack that carried supplies for the five of us. Each big girl had a small backpack with clothes for layering, a rain jacket, extra socks and trail food/water.
Our friends who went with us have a newly turned two-year-old. The mom become ill and was unable to join us. She is doing to better now. But the dad decided to go ahead with the plan and take the toddler, carrying her most of the way on his shoulders.
The key to keeping the other kids hiking all that way was having friends there, and extra grown ups. We had five grown ups to the six kids. A grown up was always in the front, back and scattered in the middle. There are very steep cliffs on this trail and many spots where hikers hold on to a cable drilled into the rock, with treacherous drops just a few inches away. The grown ups kept the kids safe, and together the kids had fun.
When one child gets cranky and tired of walking, it’s great to have non-parent grown ups there to step in. Because we learned kids don’t like to whine with folks who are not their parents. We are all like family anyway in this group. For the most part the kids needed very little pep talks to keep on hiking, even on the steepest of climbs. They did awesome and they had great fun.
As for me, I’m super glad I did it. However, it was a hard hike! And it was a lot to manage with the little ones.
However with all of that said, my favorite views of all were one’s like this.