Three weeks ago, The Guy and I started our training for the ultimate goal: an overnight backpacking trip with him this year. I figure it’s best to start small and build my experience up: short hikes with snack breaks, longer day hikes with diaper changes, camping in the house, camping in the yard, car camping, then – dun dun DUN – an overnight backpacking trip.
I’ve been counting down to this day. Babies aren’t supposed to sit in hiking child carriers until they are six months old and have good head and neck control, so The Guy’s definitely been cramping my trail style. He’s a huge baby (90% for weight and height), so carrying him in a ring sling or ergobaby carrier on trail has been killer on my back. So for Christmas – now six months old – we were gifted a shiny new Osprey Poco Plus by my father. Let the games begin.
To channel Sophia from The Golden Girls: “Picture it. Clingman’s Dome. 1985.”
It was mid-October; I was three weeks old. My mother, three weeks post-C-section, hiked to the top of Clingman’s Dome to get a picture with me on the tallest peak in Tennessee and the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi, clocking in at 6,643 feet. Afterwards, she tent camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my father’s family on their annual camping trip.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present Firestarter’s mom, the OG badass of my family:
I now have a child of my own. I also had a C-section. I did not hike up the tallest peak in Tennessee and then tent camp in mid-October in the Smokies with a three-week-old. I apparently am not as tough as my mother, but I knew this already.
Instead, last Saturday, Firestarter, ThrillBilly, and nine-week-old baby Henry (FireBilly? ThrillStarter?) camped in absolute comfort and ease at Chickasaw State Park.
We were fortunately gifted an older work truck. With the money we’ve been saving up, we purchased a used slide-in camper for it. We are planning a two+ week trip out West to introduce Henry to Bill’s family in Albuquerque, and to see friends and sites on a lazy path up to Oregon.
Traveling for an extended time with an infant – even in a fancy camper – brings its own challenges, so ThrillBilly and I decided to do a few trial runs. The first was a brief overnighter in a state park just outside of Jackson, Tennessee.
Bring cash smaller than a $20 to buy firewood within the park
Remember cooking add-ins like olive oil and spices
Make sure the fridge actually cools
Do not fry hamburgers in the skillet (because you forgot small bills for firewood and had no charcoal for the campsite grill) in such an enclosed space unless you want hot grease spattering over everything within a 3-ft radius
Having an awesome dog who protects her brother from things that go bump in the night
No major meltdowns
Remembering the hammock
All electric and water worked without a hitch
I know this is glamping, and I am craving a backpacking trip, but I also crave every moment I can get with my family. A family backpacking trip will happen when Henry is older. (When do babies take their first steps and have enough balance for a pack? Don’t worry, it would be 10 liters or less… )
I’ve been on hiatus since September, but now I’m back – with a baby in tow!
Several people have told me something along the lines of, “Now that you have a baby, you won’t be able to do all your hobbies anymore. Say goodbye to [hiking, backpacking, climbing, etc.].” I smile and nod and completely ignore them. I can still do all the things I love – I just have to transform them to work for my new setup.
Yes, it’s September. No, it’s not fall – yet. And in Tennessee, early September still means temperatures into the 90s some days. It can be hard to motivate yourself to hike when stepping outside for more than 30 seconds leaves you drenched in sweat. Fortunately for those of us in the Nashville area, we’ve got the Percy Warner Park trail system.