Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Confessions of a far from perfect mountain mama

You're out in the mountains hiking along when you come across another group on the hiking trail with a gaggle of happy tots and children.  Each of the kids is wearing their own little backpack and they are walking along picking up stones, bending to look at flowers, with at least one of the kids carrying a stick that they pulled out of the forest.  

It looks so perfect, so effort-less, so stress-free.  The kids are happy, the parents are happy, and there's usually at least a couple families that have joined together for the venture so the kids each have a playmate to chase along the trail.  I used to admire these families even before I had a child of my own and dreamed of the day when we'd be just like them.  And some days, to the passer-by on the trail, we probably are one of those families.  We've had great trips enshrouded in bliss and we've been that group with multiple Chariots and toddlers taking over the trail on our way to our back-country campsite.  Other times however, it is very evident (especially to us) that we have so much to learn and so far to go. 

Confession one - forgetful Mama:

I am extremely organized and don't usually forget much.  I do have to confess however to forgetting our son's sippy cup on at least one occasion in the mountains and to having left almost all of his juice boxes back in the car on a backpacking trip we did this last summer.  I've also forgotten diapers, wipes, and a bag for soiled diapers on at least a couple occasions.  The worst forgetful day was when I forgot our lunch by the back door at home.  We got to the parking lot and I realized that other than a few snacks in the diaper bag, I had nothing.

Perfect day in the mountains with my son - even without lunch

Confession two - the baby launch:

Last winter we took our son cross-country skiing with us in his Chariot (back-country stroller) that was fitted with skis.  (see photos below)  All good and he was always well bundled against the cold.  Our error however was not always buckling him into the Chariot.  

On at least a few trips, my husband fell while navigating a steep down-hill section and I'm sure you can figure out where the title "baby launch" comes from.  To our credit, I'm not sure buckling our son in would have  been much better.  The one time he was buckled in and the Chariot tipped, he was trapped in it with his face in the cold snow and there was nothing he could do until my husband got the Chariot turned over again. 

If you've never tried skiing with a Chariot, what you need to understand is that they are great on groomed terrain but very tippy in soft backcountry conditions.  Even the greatest and most experienced skier can tip a Chariot if there is too much snow and the trail is uneven.  It is also very hard to get the Chariot turned over again once it's fallen over.  The skier pulling it is attached by a waste belt and then there's the matter of maneuvering through deep snow in skis.   

We've bought a pulk for this season and are hoping it gives us more freedom on backcountry trails.  And we do plan to buckle our son in.

Pulling our son in his Chariot

 Confession three - the less than helpful wife:

As implied by the title, I am at times less than helpful on the trail. I've stood by and watched as my son's child carrier has fallen over (yes, really), and I wasn't always right behind when the Chariot tipped while skiing.  At least once I was myself also fallen somewhere further back on the same hill, but there were times when I was further ahead down the trail oblivious to any drama behind me.

Usually he's upright.

Confession four - summit fever:

Yes, I have a toddler and still need to get to the summit.  I've left friends and their babies behind and I've left my own son behind either with my husband or other friends on our hike who had no such passion to reach the cold windy summit. The worst thing I've done is continue on further when cross-country skiing to get views of a lake that we couldn't get the Chariot to due to the deep snow. My son screamed the whole time I was gone and my husband had to wait for me to get back to turn around for the car.

Yay for the friends who had lunch with my son while Mommy AND Daddy tagged the summit of Moose Mountain last spring

Me on top of Moose Mountain after leaving our son with friends behind

Confession five - mountain princess:

That would be me - the princess.  I don't really like camping and my husband knows he's going to be doing a lot of the work himself.  What I love is hiking!  But then I want to come home for a shower, a nice meal, and a warm comfortable bed.  I will spend a whole day packing for a big camping trip and I'll clean everything up when we get home.  I just don't want to do most of the work when we are at the campsite.  I've never actually set a tent up by myself and I'm kind of scared of back-country stoves.  I have a couple girlfriends who could go camping with the kids by themselves and they would rock it!  They are my heroes.  I have much to learn from strong women like that.

Mighty Mountain Women

Now that I've shared some of my dirty secrets with you and let you into the not so perfect world of my family's adventures I'd love to hear your comments.  What are your confessions?  We all have them.


  1. Hey Tanya, I think it's great that you can actually confess some of the things you wished you hadn't done or had done while hiking in the mountains with Noah.
    You are just as strong as these other women who love to camp and can do it 'perfectly.'
    I bet Noah will thank you many times when he's older for taking him on so many hiking and camping outings. I loved camping and hiking when I was a little girl and a teenager but my parents did not. Not to blame them or anything but they sent me away for camp for several weeks at a time during the Summer so I could enjoy my passion. It would have been extra special to go with my family.
    Your blog has encouraged me to take my son Evan camping and hiking in the very near future.
    Keep it up Mountain Mama!


  2. Thanks Deb. I wanted to write this article to encourage other families that they could get out there too, even if they don't have it 100% together yet or have it all figured out. It's challenging taking kids to the mountains but if it's your passion, then you give it your all.

  3. Tanya - amazing post (and I feel the same things all.the.time!) I am going to do a blog post next week about what to do when your kids lose it on adventures - want to pitch in??? (email, FB comment or twitter me! ;))

    And we have experienced same thing with the Chariot - taken it back country skiing and discovered it does NOT do turns going down hill at.all. Definitely flipped! I'll be curious about your new alternative for backcountry!! And definitely not brought enough food and definitely not dressed kids warm enough and have definitely forgotten kids COATS (hello Mom of the Year! ;) HA!) Keep on writing!!!

  4. What to do when kids lose it on adventures. I can't wait to hear your suggestions. That was going to be one of my confessions too. Number 6 - not carrying my 39lb child myself, number 7 - letting him run with sticks, and number 8 - our child has tantrums on the trail. For us, the tantrums always occur when he doesn't want to walk anymore and wants to be carried. So we pick him up, put him back in his carrier, back in the chariot, or up on my husband's shoulders. End of battle usually. We also like to bring Grandma along on toddler hikes. She is great at hiking Noah's pace (unlike Mommy)and is content to sit in a meadow with him and just look at the flowers. Finally, we try to motivate Noah further with comments like, "just walk to the bridge up ahead", or "look at that tree, come come...".

  5. We've all done not so perfect things on the trail - if someone out there professes never to have messed up my bet that they haven't been out for longer than 5 minutes. From missing jackets at the ski hill to running out of food to waking up your child in order to hike, we've all been there... and keep going there. I also know the misadventures make some of the best stories. All we can do is try our best and limit those not so perfect times.

  6. As the day goes on I keep thinking of more funny misadventures. Some with signs to prove it. Watch for confessions part two coming sometime this or next week. I have lots of great photos to go with the next article.

  7. I love this post. We always manage to feel inadequate when we realize we've forgotten a snack or water or bandaids when we head out with the kids. I always figure though that is we expected it to be perfect every time then we definitely would NEVER get out the times we do!

  8. I hope I'm not invading a private blog, but I'm enjoying reading this (as a mom of a 3 year old and a 16month old)and have always loved the mountains but have to confess to not being as good at getting out as I would like to be. Sometimes all the preliminary organization ('cause really, Mom's the one who does it all), the tantrums and fights don't feel worth it - until you actually get there and are doing it. I'd love to read the what to do it when kids lose it post. Thanks for sharing the stories and the inspiration.

  9. Kathy, trust me, we have many days where it doesn't seem worth it. Today was one of them - watch for THAT story next week. I need to write a story soon on why we DO persevere. Mostly I think it's cause we want to get out and can't always leave our son with Grandma. Hence, we find ways to take our son with us. Often it's enjoyable but there are times when it's ever so frustrating. We don't focus on the whole, just get them out to enjoy nature. We are driven to pursue adventure and often hardcore adventure so it's challenging. Anyway, don't give up. And this is most certainly NOT a private blog. Please follow it and enjoy.

  10. Also Kathy, check out my facebook page. There's many photo albums on there that focus on easy hikes with toddlers that we have really enjoyed. Each photo has a link to trail information. There's a winter photo album too with hikes and soon to include skating, sledding and skiing.