For the past eight years, Pete and I have spent several weeks during each summer traveling and exploring the United States. Two years ago, when our daughter Ella was born, venturing to the great outdoors became more challenging as planning and preparing for the unexpected and expected needs of an infant and toddler trumped our fly by outdoor adventures. We have learned and grown much over the past seven vacations, three camping trips, and numerous flights to visit family. We have learned there is a very fine line between pushing your child a little outside their comfort zone, and pushing them beyond the joy of adventure and into the disgust of exhaustion, hunger, dehydration, and sleep deprivation. Although, it sounds simple, crossing over into the latter state, comes quicker and more regretful than you may plan or prepare for. Here is how we spent our latest trip exploring both Grand Teton National Park and Glacer National Park.
Pete, an avid runner and in great condition, allowed him the opportunity to add challenge into our family adventures by easily carting around our 24 pound 2 yr old. While in the Tetons, we decided to spend our one full day, hiking up Cascade Canyon. Our traditional and by far favorite hike in the park. Although we were unable to make it to the top of the canyon due to snow pack, and my own fatigue, we were able to hike a total of 11 miles that day. The trek itself took us about 6 hours as we began the flat hike around Jenny Lake allowing Ella to trompe through the woods and run along the trail herself totaling around one mile on her own two feet. Beginning the hike in the mid morning, and after a good 45 minutes of walking she was ready to have a snack int the pack, followed by a nap. This allowed Pete and I the opportunity to pick up the pace covering a solid three or so miles in a much shorter period of time. Once in the thick of the canyon we were able to stop for a brief lunch, play time, and some more solo hiking for Ella. I have learned that it is usually time to turn around when the first melt down begins to occur. At this point, I know fatigue is settling in, and it serves as a warning that more will follow if we don’t clue in to her “I’ve had it” request. I also am aware, that in a total of about 6 hrs we can usually cover 10-12 miles depending on the uphill terrain and the two short naps we count on somewhere in the mix. We usually have to stop about three times to let Ella out for snacks and run around time but really try to do most of our feeding with her in the pack and on the move. Using the nap time to hike faster, allows us to get a good workout and cover more terrain before our turn around cue chimes in. We also plan for a beginning, middle, and ending walking period for her as her two feet desire to move too. This process was repeated in Glacer as we spent another full day trekking up miles of switchbacks to breathtaking views of waterfalls, mountain goat, and wild flowers. The last day, we wanted Ella to be able to move as much as possible so we picked a shorter and more “kid freindly” hike allowing her to walking a whopping 2 ½ miles to a cool and crisp glacer lake. Quintessential views and terrain to Glacer National Park. Ella loved hiking on her own and feeling the accomplishment and pride that she too could hike just like her parents do. I do believe this is so important in helping our kids grow fond of what the outdoors have to offer. We made sure to talk about the animals and the things we saw along the way, using our time together as a learning experience and a memorable moment.
Our second day in Glacer was spent biking 22 miles of the park’s famous road leading up a gradual incline to the top of breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and streaming waterfalls. The uphill climb took around 3 ½ hours with stops for picture taking, rests, and road construction. Pete carted Ella on the back of his bike in the trailer that was conveniently used for both biking and running. She tends to love this more than the hiking backpack as there is more room to move around and therefore more room for toys and snacks. Because the trailer is inclosed she is protected from weather changes and some of the intensity the sun offers during the middle of the day. I load her up with snacks, toys, and water during the trek. Although buckled in, she is still able to sleep sitting somewhat upright and play without too much assistance. On this particular trip, I even threw play dough in for the ride. But most importantly, we keep our phones charged and on hand for those last few miles when a 30 minute Winnie the Pooh clip is essential for getting us home!
We ended our week-long trip with a half marathon up and down the main road in Glacer National Park. Ella was a total trooper as she buckled down for yet another 2 yr ride along the road. This time instead of being pulled by our bikes, she was pushed in the trailer up and down the canyon. We purposely timed this run to coincide with her nap which worked perfectly, as she snored her way threw our huffs and puffs.
Pete and I love the outdoors. We love hiking, biking, running, and getting out in nature whenever we have the free time. But there is nothing more special than doing it with the little life we created and the being we love more than fresh air itself. Making Ella a part of our outdoor adventures is challenging and often exhausting, but worth more than a picture could capture. May you find adventure with your family this summer!