Friday, August 6, 2010

The Demise and Rise of Adventure

I'm planning our family's first camping trip. I got a crazy idea earlier this summer that this would be the summer to initiate my kids into the world of hiking and camping. It seemed like a good idea; they are 6 and 4, out of diapers and on their way to being independent little people. They've shown some interest and I've been waiting for years to finally get back out there. My husband and I used to hike and camp quite a bit. We were pretty adventurous at times; hiking or snow-shoeing as many national parks as we could get to, driving our old Discovery on caravan trails in Hollister, and rafting the Gauley and Snake rivers. We spent most of our honeymoon hiking or off-roading our way around the islands of Hawaii. We were never crazy cliffhangers, but we had a good sense of adventure. And then we had kids.

One of our best and most amazing hikes was the Paintbrush/Cascade Canyon in the Tetons, almost exactly 8 years ago. It was a completely unplanned day of adventure. Sitting around breakfast that morning, my brother, my husband, and I made a last minute decision to day-hike a trail that some split into two days. By mid-morning we were on our way for an 8 hour, 18 mile hike crossing the Paintbrush Divide at an elevation of 10,700 feet. Looking back, that still remains one of the best experiences I've ever had and it was completely spur of the moment. Two years later we were hiking Olympic National Park, this time with a 9 month old in a back-pack. But something was definitely different; the feeding and sleeping schedule of a baby was killing our sense of adventure. We found ourselves saying, "Wouldn't it just be easier to take the shorter trail". Our sense of adventure was dying as our reality of parenthood was coming to life.

I packed away the camping gear, not being able to fathom a pack-n-play in a tent, but we continued to get out for day hikes here and there with our first son. Eventually he outgrew the backpack and we had another baby. We tried a little local hike when our kids were 3 and 1, and about 100 yards into the trail, my 3 year old announced that his legs "could not move another step". He refused to go on even with the promise of treats and we ended up carrying him back to the car. That's when the hiking boots got packed away with any last bit of adventure we might have had.

But realizing some of the things we gave up to raise our babies, has renewed some interest in adventure. I'm trying to resuscitate our sense of adventure. Maybe it didn't die, but just went dormant. Endangered, but not extinct. I hope so because I'm ready to dust off the gear and try again. I know it won't be the same as before kids; it can't be the same. My more mature parent-self now shudders at the thought that my younger-self took off on an 18 mile hike late in the morning with no plan for getting stuck on the trail past dark. Now my adventures require much more thought and planning, as evidenced by the large pile of equipment sitting in my garage waiting to be crammed into the car. I'm still not exactly sure how this camping trip is going to go, but its a start. And good or bad, it will be an adventure.

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