A Youngster’s 7 Summits Quest, and Backyard Backpacking

At age 9, Big Bear Lake, Calif.’s Jordan Romero set his sights on becoming the youngest person in the world to climb the Seven Summits. Before his 12th birthday, he had climbed five of them, en route to a feat accomplished by fewer than 300 adults. He’s already been on the highest peaks of Africa, Europe, South America, Australia, North America and Oceania, and hopes to bag the final two before his 14th birthday. The remainder of 2009 will be spent training for climbing Antarctica’s tallest peak, Vinson Massif, and Mt. Everest.
Okay, so my kids aren’t quite that enthusiastic. But I still wanted to get them out backpacking this year. So with school just starting, and realizing that that doesn’t mean summer itself has to be over, I decided to follow Jordan’s lead and polish up on some of the lessons learned in Outdoor Offspring’s backpacking chapter. Destination: Dinosaur Lake, a half-hour hike off the summit of Buff Pass.

Of course, this naturally led to Brooke launching a campaign to bring along her friend Madelline, to which I readily agreed. Sometimes, the more the merrier.

With my wife bowing out and opting for a quiet evening at home, I picked the kids up at school at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and headed up to the Continental Divide outside of town.

The kids did great on the way in, and soon we found ourselves at 10,500 feet at the edge of Dinosaur Lake, facing our choice of campsites. We settled for a spot next to the water, where Casey immediately began planning where to put the stove and tent.

Next project: dinner.

“Uh, dad, no offense,” said Casey, after I whipped up a concoction of Kroeger Beef Stroganoff. “This probably isn’t the best dinner I’ve ever had, but it’s better than eating grasshoppers.”

This from the same little girl who convinced everyone, me included, to bend over and stick our heads between our legs to look at the lake’s mirror-like reflection upside down.

“You can’t tell which is rightside up!” said Brooke.

“Awesome,” chimed an upside-down Casey.

Then it was onto marshmallows stuffed with chocolate chips and oven-roasted Jiffy Pop before the girls started an impromptu Reality game. With me sipping tea by the fire, two would dance and sing while a “judge,” perched on a rock overhead, would hurl polite insults as to what they could do better. Then they called me to the stage, quickly voting me off the island.

We followed the Big Dipper to the North Star and hiked to a clearing where we could see the full moon. Then it was tent time, where we twirled a three-limbed flashlight tied to the ceiling and let it spin so it looked like a spaceship.

After everyone was quiet for five minutes, we heard the coyotes.

“Can they hurt us?” asked Casey.

“Nope,” I replied as we all drifted off to sleep.

The next morning there were three more full moons as we skinny-dipped in the lake before heading home to milkshakes at Johnny B. Goods diner.

I’m sure Jordan would appreciate a well-earned rootbeer malt as well…

Casey, Brooke and Madeline gearing up for the Dino hike.

Casey, Brooke and Madeline gearing up for the Dino hike.

"Hey, let's look at the reflection upside-down!"

"Hey, let's look at the reflection upside-down!"


"Tent time: You hear coyotes?"

"Tent time: You hear coyotes?"

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