When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest from Nebraska a little over 7 years ago, we immediately fell in love with the outdoors. We were raring to explore the extinct volcanic peaks like Mt Hood and lose ourselves in acres upon acres of ancient trees. After a couple of visits to REI and some crazy-crowded hikes on a sunny weekend to break us in, we quickly jumped into backpacking. From the months of July through September, our incredibly short summer window, Curt and I (and our doggies) spent every free weekend hiking or backpacking. The most we ever spent camping was two nights, due to our school and work schedules, but just enough to get away from the business of life and unwind in some of the most beautiful natural settings. I’ll be honest, I hate camping in the middle of the woods, so most of our trips were to spots with worthy viewpoints or some type of body of water, and most were within a distance that little wiener dog feet could travel without getting too sore.
Of course, that all changed when Laird was born. No longer did we have the energy, desire or time to pack up all of our gear and a baby into the middle of the forest. And so we stopped backpacking. It wasn’t a conscious decision, we just stopped doing it. Instead, we became car campers. After all, it suited us well; we still got to enjoy the outdoors and had everything we needed in the trunk of our car. Yet, even though it was much simpler and equally as fun, I still yearned for more freedom. Freedom from noise, freedom from distraction, freedom from people.
This summer, however, we met another couple in our church who backpack with their two kids (ages 5 and 2). “What?! People still backpack with their kids? How are we not doing this?!!” were thoughts flying through my head. I immediately started picking their brains about the logistics of it all and we soon planned our first “trial” backpacking trip. Mainly a test to see how far Laird could walk, we headed out on just a short 2 or so miles to our camping spot on a drizzly Saturday morning, spent the night and returned the next day. It wasn’t idealic weather conditions, but we all had fun and the kids did great.
We headed out again this past weekend to Goat Rocks Wilderness Area in Washington, a place I’ve been wanting to visit since we arrived here. Stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get out of town on friday night, I wondered whether this short two-night trip would be worth it. And I had pretty much convinced myself that it wasn’t as we pulled into our car-camping spot that night just after 10:00 pm with a screaming baby and irritated toddler in the back seat. We settled in for the night after listening to the blaring mix of 80’s classic rock and Tracy Chapman coming from our neighboring campers, which served as a reminder of why we were backpacking.
The next morning was sunny and warm and we headed to the trailhead with 4 kids in tow. It’s mind-blowing for me to even write this, but Laird (just shy of 3 years old) and our friend’s daughter, Hannah (5), hiked about 5.5 miles…entirely on their own. It’ll be a sad day when bribing kids with candy no longer works, as that along with peer-pressure are probably the only reasons Laird made it up that far without being carried.
We ate lunch at Snowgrass Flats and took in amazing panoramic views before heading a little further to find our campsite. After setting up camp and getting some water, we chilled out for a bit. Incredibly, the 3 kids still had enough energy to run around and wrestle in the tent. In fact, we continued up the trail an additional half a mile to get a better view of the mountains and valleys. It was just as I pictured. Simply breathtaking.
When we got back to our campsite, Curt and Ian started a fire to ward off the incredibly-annoying mosquitos and we all had dinner around the fire. After smores, we put our kids to bed and just enjoyed some quiet time around the fire. There were no other noises, but the sound of the creek nearby. There were no cell phones or internet. There were no other people. Just us and the stars. Yes, this was totally worth it.
The next morning we ate our oatmeal by the fire and hung out on the snow bank by the creek. I wasn’t ready to go yet. Camping, rather backpacking, isn’t for everyone. Why would you subject yourself to hiking with a heavy load on your back, dealing with hoards of mosquitos and just being filthy? Let alone with kids? For me, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing nature untouched and creating memories with the people I love within this setting.
As we packed up our gear and headed back down the trail to our car, all I could think of was Laird and Leini. How I hoped that Laird would somehow remember this little trip we took and will both have fond memories of our future backpacking trips. More than anything, I hope they will also grow to love the outdoors and to love nature, just as much as we do.
Laird’s poor little legs finally reached their aching point with just about a mile and a half left to go. Curt, our sherpa, gave him a short boost on his shoulders and inspired him to run the last quarter-mile back to the car by bribing him with….ice cream. 🙂