Posts Tagged With: Backpacking

Backpacking: Before and After

For those who have been curious about how baby backpacking has changed how we do trips, here you go!

Before:

Thursday night e-mails:

Me:    Want to go backpacking after work on Friday?

Sean:  Sure, where to?

Me:    I don’t know. Let’s head north and figure it out on the way.

We check the weather, but it doesn’t really matter, because we’ll go rain or shine. We grab our gear, which is always packed and ready, and leave about 7pm on Friday after a quick run to the supermarket for supplies. We pull into a campground around 11pm, and take out the spare tent to grab a few hours of sleep. The next morning we are up early, and head into the woods. We aren’t quite sure where we will camp, but plan to wing it and crash along the trail somewhere.  I hoist my 25 lb pack that includes a book to read and a flask of something to drink by starlight. We hike until we are tired, about 12 miles in 6 hours over a couple of 4k peaks, and then find a slightly uneven, but passable, campsite along a wooded ridge. We cook a fancy camp stove meal. As the sun sets, we night hike out to a scenic view and talk long after the stars come out.  The next morning, we sleep until the sun gets too hot on our tent, then we loop back along the trail to our car. On the way home we stop at a pub for some sweet potato fries and a frosty brew. We get home about 9pm, and roll into bed to be ready for work in the morning.

After:

May E-mails:

Me: Hey, so we have a few weekends in July on the calendar to go backpacking. What are you thinking?

Sean:  Provides list of 5 different alternatives includes mileage and elevation estimates cross referenced with cell coverage charts.

We spend a month discussing backpacking routes that meet the criteria:  not a lot of elevation, 2-3 miles per day, near something interesting like a river or other feature, plenty of room for the ginormous tent and easy bailout routes. We spend the week prior to the trip packing and organizing the gear, which has been scattered all over the house and garage because we haven’t really had time to put it back together after the last trip. We obsess over the weather reports, fingers crossed for a warm sunny forecast. We spend days counting how many diapers he uses, how many bottles he is down to, how many calories of food needs. We vacuum seal his formula and other meals. Finally, we leave on a Saturday morning around 10 am, after 3 hours of last-minute packing in which we stuff half the nursery into the baby carrier. We fill a heavy thermos with hot water for bottles. Because I will carry the Mancub and all his gear, and have little room for anything else, Sean will have to carry both my clothing and the group gear, in addition to his own stuff. The dog has the honor of packing out dirty diapers.

We drive north, and time our hike to start after the Mancub gets lunch and a diaper change in the back of the car. I hoist my 40 lb pack on my back, and slowly stagger up the trail. We hike for 3 hours (including a 40 minute break for baby bottle and playtime) and get to our campsite, which is 2.5 miles up a fairly level trail. We are tired, and Sean hurries to set up the tent so the kiddo can have a “safe space” to play without getting eaten alive by mosquitos.  We play a little in the stream near our site, cook a quick pasta dinner and fall asleep as the sun sets. Most of our conversation sounds like this: “Hey, is that a stick? What are you doing with that stick? No, no mouth! Let’s look at this leaf. Do you like this leaf? Wow, it’s so pretty. Look at the frog. What’s that silly frog doing?  No, no mouth!”

We wake the next morning at 5am when the Mancub body-slams my head and clocks Sean with a water bottle. We spend the morning organizing and repacking all the gear that has been taken apart and flung around the tent. We play a little more in the stream by our site. At 11am, we pack up and head back down the trail, taking several stops to explore the stream along the way and do snacks and bottles. The Mancub sleeps for much of the hike.  We are off the trail around 1:30pm, and stop for a quick slice of pizza. We get back home in time to throw all our gear in a pile on the floor or scatter it around the garage, and stay on schedule for dinner and bath time. As darkness falls, we collapse in bed, exhausted (and happy).

Are we crazy to do that much work for such short trips? Perhaps a little bit. But we are having too much fun exploring the world with our little guy to care…

Categories: Backpacking, Our Story, Toddlers, Trip Planning | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Babypacking

I like this picture because it makes me look like I hike much faster than I actually do. Photo Sean Donohue 2011

There’s a cold wind blowing outside that signals the end of our tenting season for the year, and is making me think fondly back to our first family camping trip in September, the last time it was warm enough to wear shorts in the woods. I’ll be posting a story soon about our last attempt at camping out which resulted in a long drive home late at night, but in the meantime, we are packing up our summer gear, putting away the canoes and kayaks, and starting the traditional winter trip planning season, where we pour over maps and dream about long summer days on the water. This next year we will have the added excitement of introducing the Kiddo to the canoe. In the meantime, we have a bunch of day hikes, ski trips and rustic cabin camping to keep us busy until iceout. Bring it on!

 

Categories: Backpacking, Infants, Our Story | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

After Irene

Washed out walkway along the Swift River

A few weeks ago, tropical storm Irene blasted its way through New England. Part of its path directly crossed some of our favorite wilderness areas around the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, and a number of roads were closed for a few weeks while crews repaired washouts from the storm. People were getting concerned, since we are approaching leaf-peeping season and the state desperately needs the tourism activity to maintain livelihoods. Over the past few days these roads have re-opened, and we took a little jaunt north to see how things were looking along the Pemigewasset Wilderness. We are planning to do a little backpacking trip with the kid in this area in the next few weeks, so were anxious to see what trailheads are re-opened, and if our planned campsite has washed away.

While the roads seem to be repaired and back to normal, a few areas are lower on the repair lists, including this path along the Swift river.  We discovered that a number of key bridges have washed out on the trails we were originally planning to trek along, so we are going back to research mode and looking for another spot to head out to next week. For the backpacking trip we need a trail that will bring us a few miles in, provide  access to water and tentspace, and be an easy enough hike that we can do it with a baby in a carrier (me) and an overloaded pack (Sean). More on that later…

Categories: Backpacking, Our Story, Trip Planning | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration: The Chukchi Sea at Toddler Speed

        Erin Mckittrick isn’t afraid of a little hardship.  In 2007, along with her partner Hig, she travelled the 4000 miles from Seattle, Washington to the Aleutian islands, Alaska using only non-motorized transport. Pioneers of “packrafting”, they used small inflatable rafts to ferry themselves and supplies along the coast , and hiked or skied many thousands of miles through remote terrain to reach their goal. By the end of the journey, Erin discovered she was pregnant, and stage two of their adventurous life had begun.  The duo have a greater purpose than just adventure in their outings; they formed the nonprofit organization Ground Truth Trekking as a vehicle to bring awareness to critical environmental issues, and use their expeditions to visit and talk about habitat that is on the verge of being impacted by coal mining and other human endeavors.  For them, having children couldn’t stop their expeditions. Their larger goal was too important.
          In the summer of 2010, they spent a month travelling along the Chuckchi Sea. Erin was 6 months pregnant with their second child during the journey, and carried their toddler, Katmai, on her back as they bushwhacked through thick brush and climbed scree slopes. Bear tracks, and the bear that made them, feature heavily in the video clip, and I can’t help but shiver a little when Katmai stands alongside the giant tracks in the sand. But a larger part of me envies Katmai; he will grow up with physical knowledge of  a wild and untamed landscape, and his earliest memories will be of sitting with his parents under the stars, watching them passionately pursue their dreams for a better world.
          On September 15, they are leaving for their next big expedition. For  two months, they will be  living on the ice of the Malaspina Glacier with a 7 month old baby and a 2 year old. They will have to carry all their supplies with them, as they are too far out for resupply stops other than a few plane drops. They will have to watch for grizzlies and extreme weather, as well as maintaining the basic needs of the family. Among it all, they will investigate the impact of global warming on this fragile ecosystem.
          Read more about their journey and other stories from the family expeditions here.
         Or, check out their book about their amazing journey north.

Categories: Backpacking, Inspiration, Outdoor Life, Toddlers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration: The Crawfords Hike the Wonderland Trail

I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac, but with this pregnancy I’ve often found myself up late at night, wandering around the thicket of the interwebs. Among other research, I’ve been searching for examples of familes who have managed to maintain an adventurous lifestyle with their children. One of the first family adventures I came across is the tale of Ben and Kami Crawford, who backpacked the 93 mile Wonderland Trail with their 4 children ages 2,4,6 and 8. It took them 12 days to hike the trail, which loops around the base of Mt. Ranier, during which time they gained and lost around 20,000 feet in elevation. There are a few hairy moments; morale flagged during the constant rain mid-trip, a few dicey suspension bridge crossings had me squirming a little, and I can’t help but think about what I would do differently in terms of preparedness for extreme conditions. But overall, they had a great trip and I find it heartening to see an example that negates all the comments I’ve been getting about how we’ll never be able to leave the house again after we have kids.  You can watch all 9 narrated slideshows of their trip here.

Categories: Backpacking, Inspiration, School Age, Toddlers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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