Yes that’s my baby in my backpack . . .
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, one of the first things I had to do was cancel a yoga retreat in Costa Rica I had signed up to attend. Upon doing the math in my head I figured if I was pregnant in August, there was no way I could join in April. This, my friends, is a foreshadowing of how I thought my life would be – having to sacrifice my outdoor adventures or travels for my child.
This baby wasn’t even born yet and she already seemed like she was ruining my life.
Up until 7 years ago, the most outdoor experiences I was exposed to consisted of tanning in my back yard and beach trips. I had tried camping, hiking, rock climbing, and a week-long canoe trip when I lived in Alabama (where I grew up) and hated every moment. My idea of a retreat was being sedentary on a beach, and if it involved bug spray or boots that didn’t have heels, I was out.
Fast forward to my life in Colorado where I was introduced to hiking 14ers with my husband one random summer Sunday. He chose Grey’s and Torrey’s peaks because they were close to Denver and one could hike two mountains in one attempt if the weather held. At the trailhead, I was the girl in yoga pants, a small backpack, and fleece jacket, wearing tennis shoes.
The hike was grueling, but the views were amazing once we finally hit the summit. I overheard a woman commenting how this was her 39th peak and I looked at my husband and asked, “How many of these peaks over 14,000 feet are there in Colorado?” When he told me 58, I knew immediately I had to hike them all.
Thus began my love affair with the outdoors. I began hiking every weekend I could in the summer in my quest to stand atop each 14er.
That summer of 2009 I completed eight. When I became pregnant in 2012 I worried that having a child would slow me down. We have no family in town, but I do have flight benefits being a flight attendant. The summer after my daughter was born I flew my mom and dad out several times just to watch my daughter so I could be outdoors. Pumping enough milk for the weekend trips, plus then pumping on an 8-hour hike proved challenging, but somehow I managed. Who flies their parents into town so they can spend 14-hours outside climbing, sleeping in a tent, and eating trail mix? You could say I’m a wee bit crazy and obsessed.
Which is exactly what people think of me now (I’m pretty sure) when they see me hiking with my toddler. Logistically, I can’t fly my parents in every weekend, but I obviously wanted to continue spending time outside. I also wanted to bring Charlotte along on my adventures so she could come to appreciate what I never had (Alabama is a little lacking in the mountain department, so my parents didn’t really get us out too much, except for the occasional trip to the ocean).
What kick started as a day hike up Table Mountain in Golden before my maternity leave ended evolved into a routine of monthly adventures.
Make no mistake, being a mountain mama can be a logistical nightmare. A 5-mile hike that might take me 2.5-3 hours alone, will take 4-5 with her in a carrier on my back. I alternate between using a Deuter kid comfort II and the ergo baby depending on the length of my hike. I’ve taken several solo hikes with her, but it’s obviously easier if I go with someone who can help carry supplies like water and snacks.
At the end of last year, I started taking her on snowshoe excursions, which requires more layers, hand warmers, googles, snow boots and a willingness to turn around if the weather looks bad. When I adventure with my daughter, our time together is really her time and I let her dictate how far she’s willing to go. On a recent snow shoe hike to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park, the winds were bad at the lake when we arrived and temperatures dipped well into the teens, leading my daughter to start whining and crying. I practically ran back towards the car in retreat.
When people see me carrying my child on my back, I receive nothing but support from fellow trail blazers. Everyone compliments me on how hard I’m working and what a wonderful gift I’m providing my daughter. To have her out and about seeing moose in fields and birds in trees is a delight. I want her to grow up with a respect for nature and appreciate the solitude that comes from being outside. I was never taught how to build a fire, to make a snow cave, what survival tools one needs or how to raise a tent. I don’t want her growing up sheltered, like I was. When we are camping, there is no television or iPad to distract her and she’s learning how to climb up rocks and play with sticks and roast marshmallows over a fire.
Yes, it’s a huge hassle bringing my daughter on my adventures because of the planning and care required, but I hope one day she will look back on our photos and remember our sacred time together.
Before the road closed this September I took my daughter up Mt. Evans, a 14er in the Front Range. We drove to the parking lot near the top then walked the remaining 300 feet or so to the summit. She played with some snow up there, we took photos together and then we headed back down to the summit lake. I set up the camera on the timer and captured an amazing photo of us just after we spent time skipping rocks. Right after this photo was taken she completely melted down, projectile vomited raspberries all over the back of my car and herself, and cried herself to sleep on the drive home. I say this to remind you there’s always a good story and little adventure behind every perfect picture.