Twelve years ago that morning we had been in a hotel in Vegas, me flipping through the Yellow Pages and calling wedding chapels at 9 in the morning. Twelve years later we were in a tent under the ponderosas back from the rim near Bryce Canyon, sun coming up slowly on a cold and clear morning. After his own breakfast, I slid Little Bear out across the pine needles to help me make coffee and give M another 45 minutes of sleep.
We had been worried about camping on this trip, as due to weather, lassitude, and fear of bears he hadn’t spent a night in a tent, at all. LB exceeded our expectations each and every night camping, setting a personal best of 9 continuous hours of sleep during his first night backpacking. Wrapped in a fleece hoody, fleece hunting, and the fleece and Climashield sleeping bag I made for him temps down a little below freezing were not just tolerable, he seemed to enjoy them.
That morning we had a hike planned, and the first outright cerulean forecast of the trip, but we were also on baby time and had the wisdom of five days of road tripping to give us patience. We spent a bit of time in the visitor center staring at bright lights, and I got us second breakfast in frozen burritos from the camp store when we went into a marathon mid-morning feed at the trailhead. Eventually all things will stay on schedule, and eventually we were off.
The previous days of hiking had made it clear that LB had outgrown the rear facing sling carry we’d been relying on since birth. He got frustrated not being able to look ahead, and was too big and had too much leg power to make the sling carry stable. Surprisingly I nailed the tension for the new, forward carry on the first try, and it proved to be a big hit. Pictures cannot capture the enthusiastic limb waving which ensued and went on for the first few hours.
It is easy to overlook Bryce because the popular trails are so crowded, Ruby’s is so ugly, and even the more remote trails are never very far from a road, but none of that makes the scenery any less worthwhile. The trails in Bryce were built with no utility in mind save tourists, initially on horseback, so they are all well graded, well groomed, and tend to serpentine through the landscape maximizing scenic potential with only modest regard for getting from A to B in any manner of good time. In short, very fun meandering. We had also been reminded, by our utterly trailless backpack with the heavy kid, that good trails are occasionally very welcome.
Hiking in the wrap has always been the most reliable sleep-inducer for Little Bear. The visual stimulus of facing forward, and having more active neurons to put the view to use, kept him very awake for a long time, but he eventually gave in to the rhythm.
We had also learned that for him being carried in the wrap was real work, therefore we brought along the ridgerest and every big person break for sitting was accompanied by an infant break for laying flat, wiggling, and staring at ones feet.
Seven miles can take most of the day this way, and with our late start the shadows were growing the wind getting cold by the time we arrived at the final uphill. Of course this is when he had a huge crap which got out the diaper and soiled his clothes and the wrap. An immediate wet wipe pitstop in a cold place did not put him in a good mood, which I fixed as best I could by carrying him up the last mile. Which given his 80th+ percentile dash to 3 months old is good exercise for everyone now.
LB genuinely prefers to be outside hiking around, but doing it near home or a 17 hour drive away is to him still quite immaterial. For us it was invaluable; we proved that we could do it, and do it well with a minimum of struggling. I’ve done dayhikes with more miles than we hiked that whole week, but I don’t mind the difference. Continuing to cover the west with my soon-to-be washed away tracks lacks the interest and challenge that bringing him along for a few miles does. And every day I am grateful that I have such a good partner for it.