Hatchet and the Superior Hiking Trail


Our family had our first “wilderness” adventure together this summer. With all of our necessities on our backs, we packed in to a primitive campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail and spent the night away from all modern conveniences.  And we all came out alive.

The boys filtered water from the Split Rock River, gathered firewood off the trail and set up their own tent. They inhaled their mountain meal like it was the most delicious food they had tasted in their lives, and Owen said he liked river water better than regular water.

Aside from one child falling in the river, an almost bad log on a leg accident, the ongoing fight with killer mosquitoes and this mama losing her voice, the trip went pretty much without a hitch.


It was during this vacation that I started reading Hatchet aloud to the boys. They loved it. It may have had something to do with the fact that they felt they could relate in a tiny way to the protagonist, Brian, who was on his own far from civilization. In fact, when Brian started a fire with the paper-like bark from a birch tree, the boys were like, “Hey, that’s what we used.” Brian was roughing it a bit more than we were, but I think it made them feel like bonafide outdoorsmen.

Basic premise of Hatchet: After a crash landing in a small plane somewhere in the Canadian wilderness, Brian Robeson is left alone to survive with nothing but the clothes on his back and the hatchet attached to his belt.

Here’s a list of what the boys thought were the best parts of the book (spoiler alert)

* Brian crash-landing the plane in a lake after the pilot died of a heart attack

* Seeing how Brian figured out how to catch fish and hunt birds

* When Brian figured out how to get the survival pack out of the plane 

I thought it was fun to “watch” Brian’s mental processes and to see how creative he was with what little he had. Kind of like a kid version of Castaway.

Overall, it’s an excellent story. And kudos to Gary Paulsen for writing a page-turner of a middle-years novel with basically one character. This one is highly recommended by the Harms boys and the Harms mama.

We’re looking forward to starting Brian’s Winter next.

By KimHarms

Kim Harms is an author, speaker, and part-time library assistant with two decades of freelance writing experience. She has a degree in English from Iowa State University. She and her husband Corey have three super-awesome sons and one crazy dog. A two-time breast cancer survivor, her first book, Life Reconstructed: Navigating the World of Mastectomies and Breast Reconstruction (Familius), is a guide for women walking the breast cancer road. She is currently working on her second book, a devotional for women going through breast cancer.


  1. What a great story of sharing a book to compliment experience! When I was teaching I used to read Hatchet aloud to my science classes every year. My students always loved it. I hope you all enjoy Brian’s Winter. There is also a third book in the series, but the title is escaping me.

  2. Is that your kids, and your primitive camp, in the photo at the top of this post? It looks just like the ocean … except surrounded by nicer trees. (In New England, the beaches have no shade, it gets sweltering in the summer.) The water is deep blue and goes on further than the eye can see.

    Good on you for taking your kids into the wilderness and roughing it! There’s so much more to life than video games and text messages, and it’s a sad thing that a lot of people aren’t being exposed to much of it. Enjoying nature and the outdoors helps ground people, it gives them a healthy way to deal with stress, and a reason to exercise. Plus, sleeping in the dirt is probably better for their immune systems than antibacterial wipes. 😉

    1. That is a photo of my kids. It’s a mile or two beyond where we camped. It was such a pretty spot overlooking the trees and Lake Superior.

      My boys are so fortunate to have a dad who loves outdoor adventure, so I see many more trips like this in our future. My husband and I have gone on a few of these kinds of trips on our own, but this was the first time we brought the kids. The first time I went backpacking, I almost had to be dragged kicking and screaming and then I found that I really love it 🙂

      You are right about there being so much more to life than electronic devices. My kids have those, and they love to play their video games, but they would choose a wilderness adventure over an electronic adventure.

      Thanks for the comment. If you know of any great backpacking trails Corey and I should look into, let me know.

      1. I know some fantastic backpacking trails, and a few that are great for kids, but none of them are in your time zone. 🙁

        But if you ever visit the Northwest…

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