4 Day “All Girl” Backpacking Trip

On October 5 we set off into the wild Appalachian wilderness for a 4 day, all girl backpacking trip. Me, along with my four daughters – Sarah (18 on Oct. 12), Emily (16), Hannah (11), and Laura (9) as well as a young med student from our church – also named Sarah.

This was our very first backpacking trip! We hiked the Mishawaka Trail at Cumberland Gap National Park – 24 miles in 4 days.

We saw some beautiful views from on top of the mountain.

The elevation at our destination – the Hensley Settlement – was over 3000 feet.

I brought my new dog, Caroline, along for the adventure! She was great. I mean, really, I couldn’t have asked for a better behaved dog! Caroline had her own backpack and carried her own food, water, bone, leash and food bowl. And she made the perfect watch dog at night time!

We slept in a lean-to made from two tarps, a couple of tent stakes and some twine.Yes, we braved the elements with no walls on our “tent.” That first night, when we went to get in bed – no joke – I shined the flashlight on our sleeping bags and they were covered in a half dozen or more spiders!! I told the girls, “Just close your eyes. It’ll be okay.”

That first night we heard a pack of coyotes howling for over thirty seconds like they’d just made a kill. We were glad Caroline was with us!

We had to crawl under a grove of Mountain Laurels to collect spring water for cooking and drinking.

That first night, we couldn’t get the water to boil! So we ended up eating pancakes using the last of our drinking water. In the morning, we did get the water to boil and ate pancakes and fried eggs.

Sabbath morning, the temperature started to drop. A sudden (unexpected) cold front came in. We set off on our hike to Hensley Settlement.

We had a lot of good laughs despite the cold, and the strenuous hikes up and down more than a few mountains.

After a night of freezing rain, we arrived Sunday morning at the Hensley Settlement. In the thirty minutes we were at the settlement, the fog rolled in thicker than ever. Within minutes, the fog was so thick, you couldn’t see six feet in front of you. I couldn’t even see the buildings I had hiked 11 miles to see!

The last two days the weather was cold and wet. It rained on Saturday night and poured down rain on Sunday night. Monday morning, before the sun came up, we decided to pack up and head back home.We did get a roaring fire going in the pouring down rain, though!

The rain wasn’t letting up and our tarp was starting to flood. We were cold, wet, and miserable! So, we skipped breakfast, packed our gear and headed out. We walked 5 miles in the pouring down rain, soaked to the bone and cold, over steep terrain in less than 3 hours!

Despite the rain and cold, this was one of the most exciting adventures I’ve ever had and I’m sure my girls will never forget the experience! It was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I ended up carrying about 30 – 35 lbs. on my back, my Sarah and Emily carried about 20 – 25 lbs., Hannah carried about 15 – 20 lbs., and Laura carried about 13 lbs.

The girls were amazing! I am so proud. We also learned how to build a wet fire, how to make our own tinder out of wet wood, how to use two trees for leverage for breaking dead wood into manageable pieces, and how to build a star fire. We survived!

I can’t wait to do it again.

You can see the rest of the photos from this trip here.

Have you ever gone backpacking? What’s your favorite place to take a hike?


About Melissa

Melissa Ringstaff is a pastor's wife, serving with her husband in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Southeastern Kentucky. She is a homeschooling mother of five plus four and Grandarlin' to 13 (so far) grandchildren. Melissa is the Founding Editor of A Virtuous Woman since 2001. She has written several titles including Spring Cleaning for the Heart and Home, The Homemaker's Journal: Keeping House, and Christian ADVENTures in Prophecy. You are invited to visit Melissa at A Virtuous Woman.
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