To wander. To explore, travel, experience. It brings me life. I wander through forest, down ravines, across meadows, along beaches, over rocks and logs, scramble up bluffs. If I’m outside, I’m happy. So naturally my kids were going to love the outdoors as well. But with a wonderful husband that doesn’t particularly enjoy being outside I wasn’t sure how much I could accomplish.
I dragged them camping and spent summer days playing in the creek with them. But it was a June day in 2006 hiking in the Gila National Forest that I caught a glimpse of what could be. I had dragged the family camping in New Mexico and the four of us were hiking. After a few hours my 10 year daughter was hot and tired and wanted to turn back. My husband, feeling the same, quickly volunteered to go with her. But my six year old son was having a great time. So the two of us continued. Nathan never complained, never slowed, and was loving every moment. We turned back only when we were down to half our water…he could have gone on forever. It hit me. This kid has the gene. The wanderlust gene. The love of the outdoors. Maybe I was onto something. This picture tells a pretty accurate story of that hike in ’06.
A few months later I went backpacking for the first time in my life. With a girlfriend who also didn’t know what she was doing. We hiked the Butterfield Trail in NW Arkansas with borrowed packs and giant sleeping bags. But we had an amazing weekend. The next fall I set out again…this time with Nathan. Just a mom and a 7 year old. Lots of stuff went wrong. I had to carry most everything. We got lost…for 24 hours. My legs turned to mush. But we survived, gained confidence, learned from our mistakes, made memories, and began years of backpacking and traveling together.
I hope to chronicle some of these trips. Perhaps encourage someone else to take a trip. Expose their kids to the beauty and peace outdoors. To the sense of accomplishment that inevitably comes with backpacking. My youngest daughter now comes with us, and we’ve added the discovery of international travel to our wanderings. I know that more trips and adventures (and misadventures) are to come, so I hope to chronicle those as well. What I have learned is satisfying in itself, but what my kids have learned backpacking, sleeping in pitch black night, hiking in the rain, making fires, riding subways, eating strange foods, being out of their comfort zone, seeing new cultures…this makes all of our adventures truly gratifying.
As Walt Whitman wrote, “You must travel it for yourself.“