Our entire family enjoys being outside. We also have very different ability levels right now: A dad, a postpartum mom, 8 and 4 year old daughters, and a 3 month old baby. This summer is the perfect time for us to employ one of our fall-back techniques for outside activity that everyone is happy with: Divide & Conquer.
Right now we divide in the extreme. I am not keen on hiking 5 or 10 miles or thousands of feet of elevation change: my pelvis and my nursing body will not enjoy it, and in fact I could do serious damage to my body trying to push too hard too soon. However, my 8 year old is champing at the bit trying to get out and about this summer, as is my husband. Our 4-year old is in a time of transition: half the time she wants to keep up with her big sister and tackle the big hikes, half the time, she’s more content to sit on a rock and play with spiders (!) while I nurse the baby.
Divide & Conquer Overnighter
At the [repeated] request of our 8 year old, we planned a Daddy-daughter backpacking trip! With a newborn, and recently having mastitis and a nasty infected bug bite (thanks, 2020!), I have had zero interest in actually backpacking myself. However, our daughters have been planning this trip that would coincide with my elder daughters’ birthday (7 turning 8!) for months. They have planned route, looked at maps, checked the weather, even written down menus; we couldn’t not go, but we couldn’t go together.
In planning the trip, we made a major last-minute route shift. Last minute as in, the morning the hikers were leaving. We try to avoid making major changes too close to leaving, however, after gauging our kids’ moods and energy, we decided our original route was not gong to be ideal. We moved from a short-ish hike with a lot of elevation gain to a spectacular alpine lake (4ish miles, 2000+ feet elevation gain) where you really had to make it all the way to the lake or else be camping on a treacherously steep slope, to a hike that has a trail up a more gradual canyon, with multiple options for camping and a river the entire route. The latter has less spectacular end point, but is in and out of meadows and forest, and is gorgeous in its own right.
Normally, with the two of us parents, we wouldn’t bat an eye at the first hike, since if one girl got tired, we had two adults to help carry, encourage, and cajol the kids and share the load. However, with only one adult we thought it best to increase our chances of a totally happy hike for both girls, and went for the gentler hike, albeit missing out on the lake.
Backpacking with children is amazing, and is a really special time for my husband to spend with his daughters. We do take special precautions for this kind of activity: both girls are drilled on using the whistles they have attached to themselves, know basic bear and dog safety protocols, and both know how to use our personal locator beacon (we use a SPOT locator) in case something were to happen to dad. On the fun side, they both get to pick snacks, and they also got to select their dinner and breakfast foods. We generally aren’t hugely into freeze-dried backpacking meals as we are pretty good back-country cooks; however, for ease and since one adult was carrying 4 meals for 3 people (kids eat a LOT!), we packed backpackers pantry and alpineaire meals.
We involve the girls as much as we can in terms of packing clothes, safety items, and route planning. This greatly increases their commitment to the hike, and as they become increasingly familiar with trail tools and necessities, it builds their confidence.
Final trip report: Both girls had a blast! My husband had a blast! I had a delightfully quiet weekend with just the baby, and everyone came back together excited for the next backpacking trip, planned for later September or early October.
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