The summer is nearly over, and I still haven’t hiked the Wasatch. Or Sneffel’s Highline trail. In fact, I’ve only done the entire Jud Wiebe once, and have gotten only three-quarters of the way up Bear Creek! It’s a summertime travesty.
I do, at least, have a substantial, if not sizeable, excuse. She’s 15 pounds and is typically found hanging off my hip, and as it turns out, she is not the best hiking partner. She must be covered head-to-toe with protective clothing, and yet loves to pull off her sun hat and toss it onto the ground (usually three switchbacks ago.) She must not be caught in a rain storm. She snacks frequently. She requires tons of stuff. She hates mosquitoes more than I do.
I have tried to hike with my baby this summer, and while I feel I’ve given the effort my best, the endeavor to venture into the wild with an infant has proven challenging. Alright, sometimes downright maddening. Halfway up the sunny first stretch of the Jud Wiebe in early July, the slow moving Marti-Elodie train was passed by a girlfriend. “Ha, I wondered who that was up here, with all the stuff,” Sarah said as she cruised by. Yes, she pointed out loud and clear that my days of running the Wiebe with nothing but a water bottle – if that – are long gone. I had a backpack overflowing with ridiculous items like sippy cups, binkies and baby wipes. Plus, there was a drooling baby hanging from my chest like a starfish. I was weighted down, to say the least.
Later, after biting flies had sent us scrambling back down the trail before we’d even gotten halfway to the lookout rock, another girlfriend passed us by. “Ha, let me help you out there, Elle,” Elyse said, fiddling with the baby’s sunglasses. Glancing down and around the absurdly wide-brimmed sun hat she wore, I wondered how long her sunglasses had been protecting her chin from the sun’s harmful rays.
A few weeks ago, I loaded her into a borrowed, I-mean-business baby backpack and ventured from our home in the Meadows to… drum roll please… U.S. Bank in the Mountain Village core. On the way a friend stopped to say hello. “Where you ladies going? Up to the top of the Gondola? Jurassic Trail? Prospect Basin?” he wondered, eyeing the massive metal frame baby carrier Elle’s little head was just barely poking out from. “No,” I said sheepishly. “We’re just going to the bank.”
I had always imagined my born-in-the-heart-of-winter baby would be that smiling, babbling, happy little hiker come her first summertime. Of course, I’m becoming accustomed to things not going how you think they will in parenthood… and the truth is, it’s not Elodie who struggles with the prospect of hiking, it’s me. I set out with the best of intentions. I want to instill in my daughter a deep love and respect for her incredibly big and breathtaking backyard, nurtured through frequent visits with Mother Nature on the tracks and trails around Telluride. So I pack everything I can think of, dress her in the most appropriate duds for a day in the outdoors, and we set out. Things are good for a while. She’s comfortable in whatever baby carrier has been chosen for the day. The weather’s fine. I’m happy. We talk about aspen trees and wildflowers, listen to streams and occasionally stop to pat Eddy the dog.
But then, inevitably, the sun breaks out from behind the clouds and it gets hot. Or the sun goes behind a cloud and it gets cold. The wind picks up and spits dust in our eyes, or the breeze disappears and hungry bugs materialize in a buzzing swarm around us. (Okay, its just a few bugs, but it seems like they all want to bite the baby.)
These are things that wouldn’t have entered my hiking consciousness prior to Elodie. Now, a little blast of wind or heat, a buzzing in the ear from an errant mosquito, or any other slight discomfort gets that internal mother gibberish going. She’s freezing! She’s overheating! She’s itchy! She’s uncomfortable! All of which leads to; She hates hiking! She will grow up to be a child who only plays video games! Later in life she’ll tell therapists how her mother ruined nature for her, with these insufferable outings! Meanwhile, this dialogue with myself has convinced me that we must turn around and seek shelter from this wind (breeze) blazing heat (sunshine) and intense bugginess (one mosquito bite.)
From the cool (but not too cool) and shady comfort of our living room, the severity of these hiking situations is reduced from their once biblical proportions to their reality, which is that being a mom outside of your motherly, full of fuzzy blankets comfort zone can be stressful. But it is, perhaps, a good thing to be tested once in a while. Despite my best efforts to protect her, my child will, inevitably, get cold. Or too hot. Or will be thirsty and itching from too many bug bites. And on top of that, she’ll have skinned knees, ticks in her ears, and blisters. And probably worse, but I don’t want to go there just yet. In spite of all of this, she will likely not grow up to despise hiking – this I know, at least when my rational mother brain does the thinking. Those minor bumps in the trail are simply part of the great adventure of growing up in the outdoors; This is, at least, what I tell myself as I’m loading her back into the backpack for yet another Jud Wiebe attempt. As we discovered last week, the Wiebe is actually doable, even enjoyable, with a six-month-old. I think we’ll hold off on the Wasatch and Highline, though. We haven’t gotten that comfortable outside our indoor comfort zone.