I loved hiking ever since I was a child. My parents would take me beautiful places out in the middle-of-nowhere and teach me about nature. They are some of my most cherished memories. I can’t help but smile when I think of going to Yellowstone as a little girl. My dad put me on his shoulders when I got tired and kept walking so I wouldn’t miss anything. Our hikes were quality family time, no distractions or stress. Just love and happiness. Hiking was also something my husband Michael and I bonded over when we first started dating. We met in Hawaii and spent almost every weekend hiking in Volcanoes National Park or strolling along a new beach. I knew before my son was born that we would take him out into nature as much as possible as well. It was pretty much inevitable with two geology-nerd parents.
It all began when my son was 3-days-old. I put him in a cheap carrier I bought randomly at a bargain store and we took him for a walk around the block. Jack fell asleep instantly as we enjoyed the California sunshine. After that I bought a stretchy wrap and wore him for daily walks through the neighborhood as part of my postpartum recovery. I looked forward to it each day. It was a foolproof way to get him to take a long nap, plus I got out of the house! Walking everyday not only helped with my physical recovery (like being below pre-pregnancy weight within 5 months of giving birth), but it helped tremendously with the mental recovery. You can very easily feel like you are losing your identity when you become a mom. Everything is about the baby and there is not much time for your needs. Our daily walks were time for me to decompress. Time to not worry about if he is gaining enough weight or if might have silent acid reflux. It was my “me-time”. Time to think about how I might like to get my haircut soon. Time to wonder how much my temp replacement at work is messing up all my files. Time to think about how much I miss date nights with my husband.
Even if it was just an hour, I needed it in order to be a good mom. It was the one thing I could for myself each day, and I looked forward to it. I would have not survived being a new mom without babywearing walks. Sure, he could have been in a stroller, but for me, that put him too far away. I liked the freedom of having both hands free to do something else, but still know he was close and safe.
Over time, I bought more carriers (probably too many) and ventured out of our neighborhood. We were lucky enough to live next to the amazing Alum Rock Park and soon began exploring its vast network of trails several times a week. And almost every weekend was more adventures with dad. Michael loves wearing too, it’s his time to catch-up on all the snuggles he misses during the day at work. We took a stroll around Sonoma while we learned about the Bear Flag Revolt. We checked out the Big Foot Discovery Museum and had a hike to look for a Sasquatch in the Santa Cruz mountains. We hiked through the Almaden Quicksilver County Park to learn about mercury mining it the Silicon Valley. We had a peaceful walk along the beach at Lake Tahoe. We explored the historic cattle ranches and light house at Point Reyes. Most of these places can’t be reach with strollers. And it would have been sad to leave Jack with a sitter and miss out on this bonding time with his dad. These experiences forged a deep family bond. All this before he was even one-year- old! I know he won’t remember any of it, but my husband and I always will.
Recently, hiking helped us through the hardest challenge we’ve had as a family so far. A few months ago we realized that we needed to leave California. There were better opportunities for our family to thrive else where, so we made the difficult decision to move to my home state, Oregon. We were sad to take Jack away from his friends and family, but we knew it was the best. Before we left, we decided to give California one big final send off—a trip to Yosemite. We planned camping trip the weekend before we moved. It was magical! Half Dome literally took my breath away when we drove into the valley. We hiked several miles everyday and soaked in all the indescribable beauty. My favorite memory is hiking up Vernal Falls with Jack sleeping sweetly on my chest. He woke up when we got to the top, so I sat down to nurse him as I explained to him how waterfalls and rivers form. We all gazed out over the valley and soaked in the glory of nature. Jack even walked some of the way back by himself. I will never forget the site of my boys holding hands as they walked down the trail together for the first time. It was truly the perfect way to say good-bye to California, and it couldn’t have happened without babywearing.
A few weeks later we were settled in Oregon, and Jack was getting a little antsy from being stuck inside while I unpacked. So I decided to join a local group I heard about from a friend, Hike It Baby. I figured it would be a great way for Jack to meet some new friends and explore his new home. We have only been to a few events so far, but it’s been wonderful. We just went on a stroll through the Test Rose Garden and met several awesome families. I told Jack that we were moving to the City of Rose, and it was wonderful to show him the beautiful flowers in person. There are several family hiking events this summer that I know Michael will love. He misses California, but I hope to show him that his new home is just as spectacular. Plus it is still a great way for me to stay in shape and get some “me time’, too.
Babywearing and hiking have become an integral part of our family’s wellbeing. And as much as we have seen so far, it is only the beginning! There is still so much of the world to see. We have a big list of places we plan on taking Jack and any other future children. I know one day that Jack will no longer want to be worn and I will have to sell my carriers. But that’s okay. It will still be just as magical to hike along side my teenager. And one-day I hope we are blessed with grandchildren to wear on hikes and continue our family tradition.