We were about to head out on our first backpacking trip with our 9-month old daughter. Everything that can go wrong, and right, made it both terrifying and exhilarating. But our commitment to maintaining an outdoor lifestyle ultimately lead us back up the mountain.
We did only one test-run in a tent the weekend before, but we’d been planning for months. The great thing about little ones who are nursing is you don’t have to pack any food. Our biggest decision was cloth or disposable diapers, and even that was made easier as we started potty-training at 6 months, so we “saved” a lot of diapers. (Funny, the things you get excited about as a parent.)
Destination: Lake Solitude for four nights (and fingers crossed). While we are adventurous, we know our limits, so with the help of a mule, we were able to pack in our little human and all the gear. The last mile got tough as I started to fight some altitude sickness. By the time we got our campsite set up, I could barely see straight with a pounding headache and severe nausea. With it came instant panic.
“If I can’t keep water down, how will I nurse?” I thought. “What if we have to pack out in the morning? What if our baby starves?”
We always apply the worst-case scenario, right?
Relief. I started feeling better a couple hours later, just in time to sit by the campfire and watch the sun set over the lake. The air was crisp and quiet. No text messages or laundry to get done, no emails or bills to pay. With dirt under our feet, salt (the polite way of saying dried sweat) on our bodies and our sweet baby girl asleep on my chest, I felt relaxed for the first time in months — a beautiful reminder of why we went through all the work to get there in the first place. My heart was full.
The next day was amazing. While climbing up to some glacial lakes, we experienced rain, wind and a glorious rainbow. Worried thoughts occupied my mind at different times. But undeniable was the deep feeling of pride for taking on a quest that scared me — not for physical fear, but more afraid that I might not be enough, that I might not be able to handle the situation or the unknown. Enlightening to see the pattern: fear of the unfamiliar, vulnerability if I am not good enough and pain if I fail (maybe they won’t love me as much). Empowering was my courage to overcome the fear.
The best day was yet to come. We woke up to pouring rain, a beautiful sound on the top of the tent but not ideal for adventuring with a baby. So we just stayed… for hours. Likely the first and only time I laid, without one agenda of “to do’s” building in my head. I was present with my husband and our little girl. We made funny faces, sang songs, giggled, loved. How often do we just sit in the moment and relish it, feeling the warmth of the people we are with?
This was my moment. It is etched in my memory, a moment in time that will last a lifetime. I learned that being present is the most valuable feeling.
Another great day and we were on our way out.
These are the highlights I remember most from our first backcountry adventure with a baby over three years ago: the feelings of panic, pride and being present. All powerful emotions that created lasting memories. And the reality is, I remember feeling judged on the trail as a parent. But I take pride in having the courage to overcome my fear and not let other people’s interpretation of my actions define my experience. Judgment is someone else’s interpretation of your situation. Don’t ever let that stop you.
You are the creator and the definer of your experience, so make it outstanding.
Lissa Bertalot is a trail volunteer for the Sheridan Community Land Trust.