Back in the day, my husband and I were what you might call the outdoorsy types. Most good-weather weekends found us hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, or car camping. I even trekked up onto a glacial slope of Mt. Rainier with him once and spent the night in a tent dug into a snowbank, which was great fun until precisely 5:03 a.m. when we emerged from our sleeping bags and promptly froze half to death.
When I was pregnant with my first son, we went on what I didn't realize at the time was going to be our last hike for a long, long time. Soon I was bulbous and ungainly and had no desire for the discomfort of sleeping on the ground (or lumbering in and out of the tent 50 trillion times to pee), and then all of a sudden we were parents.
Our outdoorsy days were over, it seemed.
I know lots and lots of people manage to hike and camp with their babies and toddlers just fine, but to me, anything longer than a short mosey seemed overly fraught with complications. We suffered through one unhappy day hike with Riley when he was a baby where we lugged him in the backpack carrier—which was stuffed with bottles, rattles, diapers, snacks, clothes, and so on—and he started crying about 10 minutes in and didn't stop until we were back at the car. After that, we stuck to neighborhood walks and park visits.
By the time he started getting old enough to tolerate longer walks, damned if I didn't go ahead and get myself knocked up again, and then we had two little booger factories. Every time we talked about going camping as a family, I pictured a scenario that involved one of us chasing our toddler around a campfire while the other pried pinecones out of the infant's mouth. Or grimly pushing a loaded stroller along a wooded path, wondering how in the heck I was going to get both kids to sleep in a freaking tent.
Backpacking was just another hobby that got taken out in the collateral damage of raising kids. Sort of like, oh, reading more than one book per month, or getting manicures, or pooping in solitude.
A few weeks ago, in a desperate attempt to escape the cabin fever brought on by Seattle's miserable spring weather, my husband proposed a hike with the kids. I shrugged—what did we have to lose?—and we zipped up their rain jackets and hit the trail.
And wonder of wonders, they did great.
Sure, there was some whining to contend with, and we quickly learned that hiking with small children means letting go of any preconceived ideas about destinations or timelines, but it was amazing. They ran, they exclaimed over bugs, they looked for animal tracks in the mud, and it was wonderful.
We've been hiking every weekend since. If we bring along a snack and some drinks, they're good for at least a couple hours of walking. They love it. We love it.
I feel like we've gotten back a piece of our pre-kid lifestyle, and it's made even richer and more enjoyable to share it with our boys. We may not be quite ready to hike into the wilderness for a three-day backcountry excursion yet, but that doesn't feel quite so far off, either.
People always talk about the loss of babies growing up, and I understand that with all my heart. But it's also true that there's so much to be gained. There's a whole beautiful road ahead and I swear the path gets a bit wider every month.