From Sea to Shining Sea: Travels with Our Nine-Month-Old Baby.
We got mixed reactions when we told people we were driving across the country with our nine-month old baby. Grandparents’ faces paled. “Better you than me,” said a coworker. “What an adventure!” wrote another Hike it Baby mother.
I love planning trips. This would be our third drive across the country, and I started researching possible routes a year in advance, while I was still pregnant. The possibilities were endless, but so were the constraints. Which states hadn’t we visited yet? Which national parks were on our bucket list? Which hikes were doable with a baby? How many hours a day could a baby sit in the car? How do we fit clothing for four seasons into a Subaru Impreza? How will we change diapers on the side of the road if it’s snowing outside? How will we cook dinner in hotel rooms?
We worked each problem meticulously, researching roof carriers, back seat organizational systems, and travel cookware, pouring over maps of rest areas and playgrounds, and reading through descriptions of short hikes with great views.
We were off!
On October 28, the three of us bid farewell to our San Francisco apartment. Armed only with extensive research and a mental preparation for spontaneity, we set out on a month-long journey eastward, assuring our slightly skeptical family waiting in Boston that we’d definitely make it by Thanksgiving.
It only took a couple of days to fall into a comfortable routine. In the morning, we scavenged the hotel breakfast room for fruit and cereal for the little one. By the time we were all dressed, fed, and packed, it would be time for a morning nap, which meant a pretty solid hour and a half of driving. When the little one woke up, we’d pull off somewhere in the middle of nowhere to change a diaper in the hatchback trunk and breastfeed in the backseat. Playing with toys and reading books got us another half hour or so of driving to the day’s main destination – usually hiking – where we could spend a couple of hours.
Then it was lunch in the trunk, and another hour or two of driving to a hotel during an afternoon nap. If driving and naps didn’t line up perfectly, we’d stop at the nearest playground for half an hour to get out some extra energy. Once at a hotel, we’d pull out all our toys and crawl laps around the room, exploring all the corners, looking in the mirrors, and opening and closing all the drawers, while dinner was cooking in the electric pot we set up in the bathroom. The little one ate in her hook-on high chair, took a bath in her inflatable tub, and went to sleep in her travel crib. My husband and I spent the next hour sitting on the hotel bed in the dark, posting pictures online and researching the next day’s route.
Finding Opportunities to Hike.
We hiked or walked outdoors in almost every state we drove through: Torrey Pines State Reserve and Joshua Tree National Park in California; South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona; El Malpais National Monument, Sandia Peak, Tent Rocks National Monument, and White Sands National Monument in New Mexico; Enchanted Rock, Fredericksburg, and San Antonio in Texas; the French Quarter and City Park in New Orleans, Louisiana; Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia; the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia; the Red Mill and the Skyland Association botanical garden in New Jersey; Monument Mountain in Massachusetts. We played on playgrounds in California, Louisiana, Alabama, and South Carolina. We hiked in 80F surrounded by cacti, on dirt trails and on solid rock, in 24F with 50 mph gusts of wind surrounded by red and orange fall colors, and in 26F with nearly a foot of snow on the trail.
I carried my little one on my back in an Onya Baby carrier and used hiking poles for support, and my husband carried our food, water, and extra clothing. We seemed to be a bit of a spectacle on certain hikes, especially clambering up rocks in the slot canyon at Tent Rocks, where passing hikers expressed their shock that we managed to do the hike with a baby on board. For us, the technical hiking made it the most memorable hike of the trip!
Connecting with other HiB Families.
As we were passing through each state, I contacted local Hike it Baby branches to ask about hiking suggestions. We got great tips from every single local community, and even had a chance to hike with the Atlanta branch at Stone Mountain! That hike was a real treat for us, because spending time with locals always gives more soul to traveling.
27 days and 4,800 miles later, we arrived in the Boston suburbs on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. By that point we had accrued an excited following on Facebook who cheered us on as we reached our final destination. Our little cross country baby has now visited 17 states, has experienced deserts, mountains, oceans, cities, snow and rain before 10 months of age, and is ready for more adventures to come. As for us, we’ve learned that home is wherever the three of us are, and you’re never too young to go on an adventure.