One of the most significant moments in parenting, for us 21st century types for whom proliferation of the species is both an abstraction and a choice, is mourning the trappings of your pre-kid life as they are filed and filtered away, never to be seen again. With an infant around your life will become totally different, and it will do so irrevocably. For M and I one of the last things we’re slowly letting slip through our grasp is the old way of backpacking. We’ve bludgeoned ourselves, repeatedly, over the past two years and while the trips have always been satisfying they’ve also been hard, in a way that isn’t sustainable.
I just can’t carry a 45-50 pound pack at 3mph, and I can’t fit 20 miles of backpacking into a day that also needs walk breaks, rock throwing breaks, diaper changes, circumambulatory snacks, and sleeping in as much as possible. I just can’t do it.
Thankfully length out is a perfect substitute for miles walked, when family is involved, and I can do 10 miles a day with a 50 pound pack. Though that is still pretty tough. I still think that most any reasonably fit and more-than-reasonably organized and prepared person can backpack 20+ mpd as little more than a neophyte, provided they don’t take too much stuff and are efficient. It’s a message I’ve hammered out loud for years not because I had faith in it’s universal applicability, but because I did and do still see it as an essential antidote to the accidental backpackers inevitable first experience of backpacking as a slog that never gets anywhere fast. Having possible distance at your command opens up route possibilities in tough permit areas and short vacation weeks. It increased safety, and reduces the psychological burden many feel when in the wilderness.
This last part isn’t always a good thing. For us, now, we want to be as immersed as circumstance allows, and circumstance has us maxed at 10 miles per day.
Taking two and a half days to descend a drainage does more than facilitate proper appreciation of each lake, beach, and stream along the way. Such time allows for extended contemplation of scale and how crawling little humans fit into it. Backpacking with a toddler isn’t just hard because they’re heavy, and squirmy, and capricious in their ability to caretake themselves. It’s hard because for parents used to walls and fenced yards and playgrounds there is no respite, from parenting or from each other. The first half of this trip just felt unrelenting. We argued and were on edge, as the distance loomed ahead and Little Bear struggled to focus on dinner, tripped over roots, got bit by many skeeters, and cried. Thankfully the last half just felt right, a blueprint for the future.